‘Out of the Past’ looks at highlights in March from years ago

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 29 March 2017 at 9:30 am

A crackdown on pinball, survivors of a sunken ship, a failed bank in Medina, and an outbreak of ‘religious mania’

Editor’s Note: County Historian Matthew Ballard has a new monthly column, “Out of the Past,” that lists interesting events happenings from various milestone years (50 years ago, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, and 200).

75 Years Ago – 1942

March 5th

The U.S. State Department announces that George D. Lamont will serve as consul to French Guiana. Lamont was formerly serving as consul at Canton, China.

March 12th

Mr. and Mrs. Fay Hollenbeck of Gaines receive a phone call from their son Louis Hollenbeck, a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Jacob Jones, the destroyer sunk by German torpedoes on February 27, 1942 off the coast of New Jersey. Hollenbeck was one of 11 survivors from the crew of roughly 150.

March 19th

Orleans County receives word of the first local casualties of the war when the parents of Alfred J. Skinner of Medina and James Zazzara of Holley are notified that their sons are missing in action. Both men were aboard the U.S.S. Houston when it was sunk on February 28, 1942 during the Battle of Sunda Strait in the Pacific Theater. It would be nearly nine months before the fate of the ship was known.

March 26th

Orleans County District Attorney Russell Scharping issues an order branding all pinball machines illegal, directing their removal from all establishments within the county limits. The act was the result of efforts in New York City to ban the “gambling” machines that offered no pay-off system. Glen and Thomas Calafates of the Mayflower Restaurant in Medina were the first to have their machines confiscated in December and January of the previous year.

100 Years Ago – 1917

March 1st

Rumors were circulating across the county that woman suffragists at Albion wanted the village charter amended so that they could vote for school officers at charter elections.

March 1st

Assemblyman Frank Lattin introduced a bill to amend the village charter in Albion in order to annex the sewage treatment facility constructed on Densmore Street in Gaines.

March 1st

A young boy appeared in a local church the previous Sunday with a box of candy. When the pastor asked where he obtained the candy, the young lad told the minister that he had “won it.” He had placed his pennies in a gambling machine at a candy store and won the prize. The result was a local movement to “suppress the petty gambling devices” in Medina.

March 8th

Erwin King, the man who would eventually be convicted of the murder of Charles Phelps and Margaret Wolcott, was arrested in Cattaraugus County on a charge of perjury.

March 8th

Edward Donaher, 22 of Shelby, was crushed by a falling tree. Expecting the tree to fall in another direction, he was unable to move out of the way in time. While attempting to escape, he stubbed his toe and fell, the tree crushing his chest. It was expected that the young man would succumb to his injuries.

March 15th

William Kelley and Tony Chireco of Rochester are arrested by county sheriff deputies at Fancher. The two are accused of murdering Wesley Webster at a lunch car in the city.

March 22nd

Rumors are circulating that Guy Merrill, Platt LaMont, and Elbert Rowley are forming a new corporation to take over the interest of Morgan & Linson Cold Storage.

March 29th

Edith Ponder, an 18-year-old servant working for a family on Lewiston road, was committed to the Buffalo state hospital after suffering an attack of “religious mania.” The woman was said to be reading the Bible at “unseemly hours” and objected to anyone working on Sunday. The case was of interest to many Christians across the county.

125 Years Ago – 1892

March 3rd

A large pane of glass in the storefront belonging to Allen & Vosler’s meat market was broken by a snowball which was thrown by a young boy named Comerford.

March 3rd

James Farrell and John O’Brien, who are working on the sewers in the western part of Medina, were seriously injured when a dynamite cartridge exploded.

March 10th

A farmer sent a ten-cent stamp to a man claiming to offer advice on how to operate a farm without having to worry about potato bugs. The farmer received the following response, “Plant fruit trees instead of potatoes.”

March 17th

Harry Underhill was injured at Ide’s planing mill at Medina when a saw he was using caught a knot in a piece of wood, sending splinters into his eye. A doctor was summoned and the splinters removed.

March 17th

Nerville L. Cole was elected as president of the Village of Holley without opposition.

150 Years Ago – 1867

March 13th

Notices appear in papers across the country that the First National Bank at Medina failed and closed its doors near the end of February. It was suspected that the failure was due to the bank president’s “wild speculations” in the produce business. The federal treasury agreed to cover outstanding bank notes from the institution.

March 16th

Newspapers report that a man living in Murray, who arrived in the area over fifty years ago, had never once traveled from his home. The farthest distance from home was a single trip to Rochester by packet boat on the canal. He recently attempted to travel by railroad but found the cars to travel far too fast for his liking. The man was a staunch Federalist in his early years and was certain that Thomas Jefferson would have burned all the bibles in the country, but “abstained from it as a matter of policy.”

March 19th

A man named L. Beecher is arrested in Ohio claiming to represent the Orphan Asylum Association of Medina, New York. Detectives found it strange that funds collected to support an institution in New York needed to be sent to an address in Covington, Kentucky.

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