Several little blocks of Binghamton

Valley Street park

several small blocksThis is also for you, Carla.

Here’s a map of part of Binghamton, NY. My life growing up, for the most part, was contained in several little blocks. The borders were Prospect Street to the north, Clinton Street to the south, Front Street to the east, and the end of Spring Forest Cemetery, that big green area at Prospect and Mygatt, to the west.

Let’s start at 5 Gaines Street, where I grew up. Gaines St is that one little block between Oak and Front. It is not to be confused to the more interesting block just south, which is Winding Way.

Here’s the Zillow page for 5 Gaines Street. It is brown. and has been for some decades. But when we lived there, it had a GREEN asbestos siding. (The Greenes, at 13 Gaines, had a white house with green trim.)

But looking at pictures at that property, and more so the Realtor pics 4 and 5, there are several things striking. One is that back yard is terribly small. When we would play kickball, the ball might slice over the fence to the rear of the property line.

That fence was wooden, and the property felt as though we were in the woods, going downhill, a gorge, really. Someone’s filled in that ravine and put parking spaces back there. When did THAT happen? Maybe when some of those Front Street properties were renovated in 2016. Next time I’m in town, I’ll have to see this in person.

On Front St, near the corner of Prospect, was the G and H Diner. We ate there a lot, especially during the six-year period when dad was working nights. Or so I recall. Their homemade pies were particularly fabulous.

Recreation

I had to look up the name of the miniature golf course at 296 Front Street. It was called Front Street Miniature Golf and it was just south of this white behemoth of a building called Cutler Ice. We played minigolf a lot in good weather. I guess it closed around 1968 after about 35 years in business.

We used to play in Valley Street park, the small green area off Front Street. It was your standard playground near the street, but a baseball or softball field farther in. I have two specific memories there.

One was a pickup game of involved playing tackle football. Mike, on our team, caught the kickoff and was slowed by a couple of guys on the other team. But he was big and strong, not easy to bring down. When he was finally tackled, the opponents discovered he didn’t have the ball. In the scrum, he had handed the ball to me, and I scored without anyone noticing. Later that game, we did almost the same thing. This time, someone eventually saw that I had the ball, too late to catch me.

The other event was a baseball game. I was pitching to this girl named Aline, a couple of years older than I. She smashed the ball right back to me, striking me in the left temple and knocking me out cold. When I was revived, I walked home. My mom called the doctor, who said I might have a concussion. The protocol at the time was to not let me go to sleep for a time, lest I die. So my mom kept waking me up all night. And I didn’t die.

Les Green was a “rare folk singer”

I figured Ed Link and Les Green met at one of Link’s business locations by the airport or maybe elsewhere, or through Link’s involvement with his charitable foundation

Les Green is rare folk singerI will always remember a visit c. 1985 I made to Charlotte, NC, where my late dad Les Green lived since 1974. I was SHOCKED to discover that he talked about me to his colleagues about how smart I was, how I would look up things I didn’t know. He talked about me? He LIKED my intellectual curiosity? I had always thought that it had annoyed him.

It was an intellectual curiosity that led me to this photo. You may recall this post from February, featuring a photo of my late mother, my sister Marcia and me standing in the driveway of 5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY. It was almost certainly taken by my dad.

I posted the photo on one Facebook group, trying to identify the building in the background. It is a red brick factory that never had particularly identifiable signage that my sisters and I could recall. I since learned that early in the 20th century, it was the home of Star Electric. In 1918 it became Barnes-Smith Co. cigar manufacturers. After being the Bonnie Silk Mill in the 1920s and ’30s, it was one of the first plants of Link Aviation.

WHAT? My father often spoke of his admiration of and affection for Ed Link, who was “a pioneer in aviation, underwater archaeology, and submersibles. He is best known for inventing the flight simulator, commercialized in 1929.”

I figured they met at one of his locations by the airport or maybe elsewhere, or through Link’s involvement with the charitable foundation he and his wife started. Could they have met on the street where I lived?

In the comments, a woman named Kathi, who had attended the same church I did, posted “this awesome pic that was in the Binghamton Press of your dad, me, and my cousin Butch.” My father cropped this specific photo and used it in fliers promoting his singing gigs in the area for a number of years.

My curiosity about the factory across the street led to the source of the graphic for the Les Green one-man PR machine. Dad would have been 93 tomorrow.

Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY

We were always getting the Greenes’ mail, and vice versa.

Roger.Marcia.Trudy
Roger, Marcia and Trudy Green in the driveway of 5 Gaines St, Binghamton, NY – the fence for 1 Gaines St is to the right
I grew up at 5 Gaines Street in the city of Binghamton, New York in the 1950s and ’60s. It was only a one-block street, yet it was heavily traveled.

Let me describe the odd (south) side of the street when I grew up. At the corner of Front Street was O’Leary’s store. That’s where I would go to buy my father’s Winston cigarettes.

1 Gaines, a gray building, had a couple different families there. The guy at the latter house decided to take down an old tree. My father told the guy that the tree was going to crash into their house. The guy told my dad, essentially, MYOB. My dad was right.

5 Gaines was a small two-family dwelling with green asbestos covering. My parents and I lived upstairs for a time but we moved downstairs before my sister Leslie was born. My father’s parents, McKinley and Agatha, moved upstairs.

11 Gaines was yellow and had a huge lot that included chickens and a pretty large garden. When my sisters and I played in our back yard, our balls, Frisbees, et al inevitably went over the fence and we had to climb it to retrieve our stuff without being caught by their dogs. The Saliby (sp) family lived there. There was a boy named Mike.

13 Gaines was white with green trim and had the Greenes living there. We played with Danny, roughly the age of my younger sister. We were always getting their mail, and vice versa.

We really didn’t see the folks at 15 Gaines. There was a usually abandoned store on the corner of Oak Street.

On the north side, Ryan’s bar was at the corner of Front Street. The factory across the street went through so many owners I no longer remember any specific business. I know my sister Leslie had friends across the street.

Why was the road so busy? Canny’s trucking was on Spring Forest Avenue. The vehicles would turn right on Oak, then left onto Gaines before going left or occasionally right on Front.

I believe some rascally children would hit the trailer part of the vehicles with snowballs each winter. Occasionally, the truck driver would stop, and the kids would scatter.

For ABC Wednesday