Straw hat out of season

the Riot of 1922

In the Binghamton (NY) Press on May 1, 1923, page 5, was a story titled Wears A Straw Hat Despite Closed Season. The subtitle: Bold young man braves chilly weather by parading in summer regalia, anticipating official date by 14 days.

“Although the roll call at the State [mental] hospital last night shows no one was absent, persons on Chenango street who were trying to keep warm by slapping their hands to their sides and turning up their coat collars, doubted the sanity of the man who appeared among them…

“Two young men of an inquisitive nature trailed the young man wearing that thatched covering…

“He was wearing clothing of light material, a white shirt and collar,  silk socks, and Oxford shoes.”

I wonder if he used Elkay’s Straw Hat Cleaner, which “makes the old straw hat look like new.” Back in 1914, a season’s supply went for 19 cents.

Michael J. Leo at 79 Court Street had a “clearaway” of its silk and straw hats, regularly $4.95 to $6.95, selling for only $3.95 in 1925.


Walter Ayres provided the graphic and pointed to a Wikipedia story about the Straw Hat Riot.

“The Straw Hat Riot of 1922 was a riot that occurred in New York City at the end of the summer as a result of unwritten rules in men’s fashions at the time, and a tradition of taunting people who had failed to stop wearing straw hats after autumn began. Originating as a series of minor riots, it spread due to men wearing straw hats past the unofficial date that was deemed socially acceptable, September 15. It lasted eight days, leading to many arrests and some injuries.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not also noted the event. “Men who continued wearing straw hats after September 15 were mocked for their fashion faux pas. It was so common for a young passerby to forcibly remove a hat from someone’s head and crush it with his foot that newspapers cautioned people when September 15 was approaching.”

This hurts my non-straw-hatted head.

One of my Civil War ancestors

Freedom Has No Color

I’ve discovered I have at least TWO great-great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War, one each on each of my parents’ lines. In honor of the beginning and end of the war (April 12, 1861-spring 1865), I will revisit one of my Civil War ancestors, James Archer, with a greater understanding.

In 2018, I ordered the book African American Freedom Journey in New York and Related Sites, 1823-1870: Freedom Knows No Color by Harry Bradshaw Matthews, Associate Dean and Director, Office of Intercultural Affairs at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. At some point before COVID, I spoke briefly with the professor on the telephone, who clarified a genealogical question for me.

The book has 143 pages of a narrative about the struggle for freedom, including that of his ancestor Isaac Killingsworth of Barnwell,  SC.  Then it contains over 200 pages of appendices that were particularly useful to my research.

When slavery was finally abolished in 1827 in New York State, there was a public celebration in Cooperstown on July 5 of that year. Frederick Douglass’ famous speech What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? was given on July 5, 1852.

There were many other efforts to end disenfranchisement, discrimination, and oppression in the Empire State. The black press, such as The Colored American, often fueled these endeavors.

Black people had no organized opportunity to fight when the Civil War broke out in 1861. By 1863, however, entities were able to recruit black soldiers. New York was one of the slower states to take action because of Governor Horatio Seymour’s resistance. Finally, by November 1863, “enlisting colored troops in New York” began, purportedly with black soldiers receiving the same bounties as white volunteers.

Changing attitudes

This occurred not long after the New York Draft Riots of July 1863, when black people were often the target of violence. This showed a remarkable turnaround in attitude.

Professor Matthews quotes from the Tribune of December 5, 1863. “New York City, so recently the theatre of mob violence, in which hatred of the Negro seemed to be the uppermost idea – this city, so long considered free from the intrusion of colored troops, and the only place in the loyal States where it was possible to raise a spirit of opposition to them, has exceeded its hospitality to the 2d Regiment of United States Colored Troops.” [NY 20th was the first, the NY 26th, the second.]


At this point, my great-great-grandfather, James Archer,  joined the NY 26th (Colored) Regiment. He enlisted on December 29, 1863, in Binghamton, NY, at the age of 29. The troops were first quartered at Riker’s Island. The 26th included soldiers from the West Indies.

The regiment fought several important battles in South Carolina in 1864, including at John’s Island, James Island, Honey Hill, and Beaufort.

But James was not the only member of his extended family in the NY 26th. His brother-in-law, William Bell, who was about 30,  also signed up.  James had two small children, Morgan and James Edward. I believe William also had a young son,  Martin.

Because New York was so slow in accepting black recruits, some folks joined regiments in other states, such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Indeed, Henry Bell, William’s 22-year-old brother, joined the Massachusetts 54th in March 1863. This group was presented in the movie Glory; about 42% of that regiment was killed or wounded.

James was made a corporal in April 1864. He was sick in a hospital starting September 16 in Beaufort; I don’t know the cause, but I suspect it involved mosquitos. Indeed, more people died from disease than gunfire in the NY 26th.

Coming home

Still, James, William, and Henry all made it home safely. The 1865 New York State Census shows that their household in Binghamton usually consisted of the patriarch Edward Bell, whose wife Phillis Wagner had died that year; his sons William and Henry; his daughters Francelia, 19, and Harriet (Archer); Edward’s son-in-law James Archer, and the three grandchildren.

But James and probably William were still in South Carolina until they were mustered out in August 1865. This was likely true of Henry as well.

I don’t know the identities of the three men pictured, which was in possession of one of my sisters and my mom before that.  I believe the guy on the left is James Archer, who had hazel eyes. Could the other guys be William on the right and Henry in the middle?

James and his wife Harriet, whom he married in 1856, had two more children, Lillian (b. 1866) and Frederick (b. 1869), after the war. He worked as a potter, a worker in a tin shop, and a general laborer.

An act in 1890 finally allowed black soldiers to receive the same benefits as their white counterparts. James Archer was listed as an “invalid ex-Union soldier,” though it did not specify his ailment.

James in the 1910 Census

In 1910, James Archie, a name variant that also shows up in other records, was a black male, 74 (though actually 76), living at 13 Maple Street, Binghamton, NY. This house was purchased in 1882 and owned free and clear, without a mortgage. He was married to Harriet Archie for 53 years at that point. James still could not read or write.

James Archer died in March 1912. He was buried at Binghamton’s Spring Forest Cemetery. His gravestone is about 250 meters from the house where he passed away. As noted previously, the only daughter of James Archer and Harriet Bell was Lillian Archer. She married Edward Yates (b. 1851) in 1893, and they had at least five children, four of whom survived to adulthood.

Edward Yates died in March 1911. Lillian (d. 1938) then married Maurice Holland (1856-1943) in July of that year. Lillian’s oldest surviving daughter, Gertrude Yates (1897-1982), married Clarence Williams (1886-1958) and had a daughter, also named Gertrude (1927-2011).

The younger Gertrude, who would eventually go by Trudy, married Leslie H. Green (1926-2000) in March 1950. They had three children, of which I am the oldest.

Where would you be if you weren’t where you are?  

that “third place”

Jeanne Beanne, who I know IRL, asked some Ask Roger Anything questions.

Where would you be if you weren’t where you are?  

What a metaphysical query!

Several points in my life are, if not this, then that.  One was made for me, as I’ve mentioned. If my mother didn’t work outside the home at McLean’s in downtown Binghamton, NY, I would have gone to Oak Street Elementary School. So I wouldn’t have met Karen, Carol, Bill, Lois, Bernie, and others, with whom I went to Daniel Dickinson, then Binghamton Central HS, until seventh grade. It would have totally changed the dynamics of our relationships.

I wouldn’t have met Ray at Dickinson until seventh grade and likely wouldn’t have been in Cub Scouts, with Ray’s mom as our den mother. Probably, I wouldn’t have met Dave at all.

If I wasn’t watching JEOPARDY with my great-aunt Deana every day at noontime, I might not have become obsessed with the program so much that I tried out for the show in 1998, made the cut, and won a game.

If I hadn’t attended New Paltz college, I wouldn’t have met Mark, who turned me onto comic books. So we wouldn’t have gone to the Crystal Cave comic book store, where I met Raoul and Tom, who I would later work with at FantaCo in Albany. Also, Mark introduced me to the Okie.

The Wanderer

1977 was pretty chaotic. Still, I met friends Deborah in NYC and Judy in New Paltz. Judy and her friend Jendy would be pivotal in my going to library school at UAlbany in 1990.

And if Mark and MK52 had not moved to Schenectady, I wouldn’t have crashed with them there from December 1977 to  March 1978 and ended up working at the Schenectady Arts Council, whose offices were in the run-down Proctor’s Theatre.

If  I didn’t know Nancy at SAC, I wouldn’t have met Shazrak, with whom I moved to Albany, in 1979. In May 1980, I worked at FantaCo.

I’ve mentioned this before, but FantaCo was that “third place”  –  not just a retail store, mail order place, publisher, and comic book convention purveyor, but a gathering place of people interested in art, music, and popular culture. Besides Raoul and Tom, there was Mitch, Hank, Rocco, Marky, Augustus, Sinisa,  Mayor, Peter, and one other, who bears special mention.

I met artists and writers like Fred, Bill, Steve B, the Pinis, and members of the band Blotto. I’m still friends with at least one of the customers, ADD, and others still remember me from the place.

I met Debby through Mitch. She introduced me to lots of other people. Though she didn’t play, she was indirectly responsible for my playing racquetball from 1983 to 2010 at the YMCA, where I met even more folks.

Walter, a customer turned FantaCo employee, was even more of a person who interacted with many others, many of whom I know today. He was also the epicenter of the hearts game.


Being in Albany meant going to church in Albany and all the connections I made at church #1, then church #2. I wrote about the drama and trauma of leaving church #1  here.

I could write much more about other jobs and volunteer organizations and their impact.

Then there are the romantic relationships, which would take several book chapters. Suffice it to say that there were things said or left unsaid, things done or should have been done, that altered that trajectory in many ways.

Three things that manifested in your life that you did not expect.

Comic books, JEOPARDY, and being a librarian. Being a dad was a “well, maybe, if…” thing.

How have they changed your path? And purpose?

They’ve definitely changed my path. I don’t know that my purpose, which to be, for lack a better word, useful, has fundamentally changed, even when the circumstances did.

Coke or Pepsi?  Lol

Diet cherry Pepsi.

Friend Karen, 46 hours my junior


Karen (center)

If I remember correctly, my friend Karen was born c. 1 pm on March 9, and I was born c. 3 pm (actually 3:15) on March 7. So I’m SO much older than she is.

However, she was the youngest of four, and I was the eldest of three. She was often fearless.

mentioned how I ratted her out on a local TV kiddie show because she used to snap my suspenders when we were in kindergarten. Her sister told me this story at their mother’s wake in 2012; I have no recollection.

What I do recall is that her musical interests were forged before mine were. She was buying the Kinks’ latest single at Philadelphia Sales, a store less than two blocks from our elementary/junior high school, Daniel Dickinson before I knew who the Kinks were.

We had a class newsletter in sixth grade, per our teacher Mr. Peca’s suggestion. Karen wrote a fantastical story about winning tickets to attend a Beatles concert.

Our seventh grade, Mr. Stone, our history teacher, was telling the class about a new band called The Cream. Karen said to him, “It’s not The Cream, it’s Cream.” Either way, I had never heard of them at that time.

She was part of that coterie of friends – Bill, Lois, Karen, Carol, and Ray, in that geographic order, I often walked home after school.

High School

When we were in tenth grade at Binghamton Central High School, she ran for secretary of the General Organization, the student government body. For some reason, the candidates couldn’t give their own speeches. I gave a barnburner of an address from all reports, and she won.

The next year, I ran for GO president, and they changed the rules so that I had to give my own speech. I’m told my talk for Karen was MUCH better than the one I shared on my behalf.

Karen was the one who initially made friends in high school with a group of like-minded kids from other junior high schools. We created a club in school called the Contemporary Issues Forum. Outside of school, we were Holiday Unlimited, with the motto, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

More Music

Karen worked at a record store in nearby Johnson City before working at the first of four record labels over a four-decade career.

When John Lennon died in 1980, she was the first person I called. Her label was promoting the album, which thrilled her tremendously.

She tells great, detailed stories about being in the music business.  When promoting Robbie Robertson’s eponymous first solo album in 1987, she had to deal with a 24-year-old program director who didn’t know who Robertson was. He also didn’t know The Last Waltz, the legendary concert film by Martin Scorsese and the album, which came out in 1978.

When she showed up at my annual hearts party in 2017, she regaled my friends with stories about singing Will The Circle Be Unbroken in an elevator with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.  Or looking all over Manhattan for marmite to give Paul McCartney.

At her retirement party in 2019, her co-workers shared her drive to get a radio station to play this record or a story to carry that album. “Unrelenting” was the most common description of her approach. She loved music and turned me on to more artists than any three other people.

World traveler

Friend Karen has been to so many countries I’ve lost track. She’s gone everywhere, from Cuba to Croatia, Morocco to Malaysia, Italy to India, and plenty of places in the US. She takes lots of photos and often writes remarkable narratives that she ought to put in a book. (I’ve told her this more than once.)

We often see each other in Binghamton when we both happen to be there. Lately, though, she’s occasionally visiting her friends, most recently this past October. She is fiercely loyal to her friends.

I can tell more, but that should suffice for the nonce.

How terribly strange to be 70

Psalm 90:10

RogerGreenBirthdayCartoon490How terribly strange to be 70. I’ve used that title twice before in this blog, and you can probably guess when in 2011: on October 13 and November 5.

Now, I’M three score and ten, which is old. Or at least oldish.

Psalm 90:10 in the King James Version reads, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In case you don’t recognize the artist, the work was created by my friend  Fred Hembeck in 2007. Fred gave me the original black and white piece, on which he indicated, “54 ROCKS!”  He’s a full five weeks older than I am.  I believe I’ll use this illustration every five years, just because.

The home church

Sister Leslie took the photo on her phone. It was when we visited Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church at the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets in Binghamton, NY, on October 9, 2022.

The room used to be the Sunday School room when I was a kid. My paternal grandmother, Agatha Helen (Walker) Green (1902-1964), taught me. Now, the room is used as a memorial to the Departed Loved Ones of the church.

On the wall, along with photos of Mrs. Armstrong (left of center), and Mr. Woodward, is my Grandma Green, more or less hovering over my head. I don’t THINK that was the photographer’s intent, but it’s a rather cool effect.

Not incidentally, the church – specifically, my father’s cousin Ruth – requested a picture of my parents for the wall. My sisters and I ought to work on that.

Anyway, it’s my birthday, divisible by five (and seven and two), no less, so that’s enough for today.

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