PUTNAM PLACE PEOPLE: LIFE ON A DEAD END STREET GROWING UP AS AN ONLY CHILD

      Putnam Place is a peninsula that juts off of East Avenue and ends with a view overlooking a swamp and farm fields below with the Tonawanda Creek meandering by in the distance. The street is laid out on a hill with Maple Trees on both sides then a sidewalk with homes. Behind all the homes on one side was a gully and woods, on the other side the hill sloped down to the street below which was Prospect Street. If you drove down Putnam Place from East Avenue and kept going, you would drive off a cliff and into the swamp, which has since been filled in. When the village had debris to dispose of, it was dumped at the end of Putnam Place. Truly a “Dead End” Street. My father, Bernard Nelson Taylor bought 28 Putnam Place for around 4 or 5 thousand dollars in 1945, just after marrying my mother Olive Marion Streeter. 
           They met at a resort in Lake Placid New York where she was working as a waitress and he was on Rest and Recuperation holiday after completing 10 years in the Army. He quit Attica High School in 1932 then joined the Army a few years later. He served in Panama for 6 years then the last 4 years in the Pacific fighting the war. She quit high school in Lancaster Vermont to work at the Gilman Paper Mill before leaving Vermont and getting a job with her girlfriend waiting on tables at Lake Placid. They were married two weeks after they met. I asked why and Mom replied, “He bought me a diamond ring“

    Our home was two story, two bedrooms and one bath on the second level with living room , dining room , kitchen, and den on the ground floor, basement and small back yard. We were the second to
the last home before the end of the street. I lived there until , at 17 years of age I hitch hiked to Rochester New York , found a job and a room to rent for the summer before attending college at Alfred University. Putnam Place was a little community of families from all over. Some were retired, but most were employed at the Attica State Prison which was built in 1930 and was the main industry in Attica. Dairy Farms were the other means of support. Each family that made up the community of Putnam Place were different sizes, nationalities, ages and interests. Most were Catholic and worked at the prison.
           The Parker’s lived in the last house across the street from us.
Mr. Parker and his son worked at the prison. Junior Parker the younger son in his 20’s was blind most of his life and used to walk up and down the street everyday when he wasn’t sitting on the front porch or playing with his Ham Radio. He had friends around the world he communicated with on his Shortwave radio. He played instruments and was very bright. The Lions Club built him a Snack Stand on the corner of Main and Exchange Street where he sold candy bars, sodas, and snacks in the summer time. He read Braille books. I used to walk with him a lot or just sit and talk on his porch. He taught me a lot. He had a job tuning pianos and a nurse would come and drive him to jobs. He had a foot fetish that my Mother thought normal for a blind man…and so did I. He married the Nurse and moved away after his brother died of lung cancer. I remember talking to Mrs. Parker one day about brushing my teeth. Don’t ask…don’t remember why. She mentioned I should always brush my tongue too. I never forgot that. The house was sold and I had left for college.
        Mr. and Mrs. Lewis lived in the last house next door to us. They were retired and she was sickly and bed ridden a lot. A nice woman 
that gave me an Illustrated book of Poems by Robert Lewis Stevenson when I was around 6 or 7 years old and sick in bed with the measles. I still have the book. Mr. Lewis used to yell at us children playing in the street to stay away from his house. He had a big Chestnut tree we used to love to collect nuts from and make necklaces. I found out later that Mrs. Lewis was sick in bed and needed rest…she died of cancer and we visited her corpse laid out on the bed in her home. He sold the house after and a couple with a young daughter moved in. They lived there a few years before reselling the home to a newly married couple I knew well. Mr. Henneberg was also an employee of the prison and one of my scout leaders. I think they had a son…but I was gone then. His wife had nipples the size of half dollars.
        The home on the left is Mr. and Mrs. Lewis’s from 1945…but…in 2004…but same shingles with porch enclosed. Not now.
         Mr. and Mrs. Kline were our other neighbors. Their home was
identical to ours but opposite. Like a Left handed and Right handed homes or looking at your house in a mirror. Frank Kline was a prison guard and his wife Mrs. Kline (never knew her first name) was a stay at home wife with no children. They were Polish with a slight “old world” accent. He was a Bow and Arrow hobbyist and made his own arrows. When I was in Boy Scouts he was my mentor to obtain my Bow and Arrow Merit Badge to become a Star Scout. He taught me how to shoot in his driveway where he had a straw target in the garage we shot at. He took me fishing once down by the Tonawanda Creek. I got a Bow and Arrow set for Christmas and at 11 years old shot a rabbit while hunting but when I returned holding the rabbit by the arrow through his head I proudly showed it to Mr. Kline.
He told me I needed a license to hunt and this was not the season for it…so go bury your rabbit. Mr. Kline, hearing I had a bad tooth ache and it was Sunday so couldn’t go to the dentist, came over with Q-tips and whiskey to swab my tooth and get rid of the pain. It worked.
       When I was around 11 years old, Dad accidentally started a fire in the basement one morning while siphoning gasoline from a 50 gal. drum into a 5 gal. can to put in his 500 gal. gas pump he had installed in the back yard. I was in bed when he yelled up to get out of the house. The smoke was coming up the stairs as I was coming down. I went to Mrs. Kline knocking on her door in my underwear just as the fire trucks pulled up. We cleaned up the smoke damage and repainted the house ourselves. It took over 3 weeks. Mr. Kline was one of many taken hostage by the inmates of Attica Prison during the riots in 1970 when I was living in Boston. He lived through the ordeal with minor injury but mentally was unfit to return to work. They sold the house to Romasser’s, another guard that just married my Math teacher’s daughter, Janet Fox. Mr. Fox had also been my father’s Math teacher in 1932 at Attica High School. Mr. and Mrs. Kline returned to Buffalo to retire near relatives and never to return to Attica.
         Next door to the Kline’s were the Gasman’s.
Mr. Gasman and his wife Edith, had eloped after she graduated from Attica, married then settled in their humble home on Putnam Place when he got a job at the Basket Factory. He took his lunch pail and walked to work Monday- Friday. He died at an early age and was laid out for viewing on the dining room table in the living room of their house. They had an older daughter named Sharon and a younger Son Mike who was a couple of years older than me and brilliant. He designed a wheel for Ford Motor Company as a student of Mechanical Drawing in High School. I think Ford gave him $100 for that. He then rode a bicycle to South America and was sponsored by National Geographic. Later he became a famous architect and alderman in Aspen Colorado where he opened up a sports clothing business with his label.

          Edith went to Batavia, a larger city 11 miles away to become a House Mother at a Dormitory for the Blind School. Her daughter got married and her son was in college at that time. She worked there for years and became very loved by the students. Edith and my Mother were good friends in their retirement. They visited each other a lot, ran errands and shopped. Mom drove Edith to Doctor’s appointments and Senior Citizen dinners until she lost her license due to declining driving skills. Edith was always on her porch when the weather was nice. The neighbors took advantage and would visit her while she enjoyed her porch swing. I always looked forward to visiting her when I returned home. 
       One day I just arrived and Mom was making dinner so I went up the street to visit Edith. We talked about poetry, my travels, her children and grandchildren until we heard this pounding on the door. It was Mom and she was angry. Your supper is getting cold. I thought you were coming home? Needless to say, I ran out the door following at my mad Mother’s heels. Edith and I laughed about it later. Edith, in her wheel chair, was at my Mother’s funeral and told me she lost the best friend she ever had. Edith died just after reaching 100 years old the following year. 

         The Andrews family lived next to the Gasman’s.
Vic, the father, was also a guard at the prison and his wife Marge did a lot of volunteer work for MS and Polio victims. Their middle son Jackie was stricken with polio at 15 year of age and spent a couple of years in bed, therapy, and at home in braces. His older brother Lee went off to work after High School and later got married. Lee accompanied me to the annual Boy Scout “Father and Son”Banquet held at the school. My Dad seldom returned home from work until around 11 p.m. The Postmaster , John McCarthy (spelling) also accompanied me another year. The Andrew’s youngest son named Don. He was my age and my  best friend until first grade when they sent him to the new Catholic School that just opened in Attica. Grade 1-6 near our St Vincent’s church just around the corner on East Avenue. I took my Religious instructions there one class a week.

Mrs. Andrews used to have all the neighborhood children over Saturday mornings to watch cartoon and westerns on the first Television on Putnam Place. We would all sit on the living room floor watching Howdy Doody or Hopalong Cassidy while Marge served us Peanut Butter and brown sugar sandwiches with Kool-Aid. I spent a lot of time at the Andrew’s home. Mom and Marge used to work at the Penny Saver on Wednesday nights assembling the paper for delivery the next day. I was close to Don then. We played Cowboys and Indians together and were Alter boys at St Vincent’s church where we had our First Communion, Confirmation and were members of the Catholic Youth Organization. We both had train sets in our basements. Mine was an American Flyer his was a Lionel. Dad built me a huge table to lay the track and add trestles, road crossings, villages, mountains, and it had my own control station where I could run two trains at once.
The Andrews family with three boys were sports oriented. We all practiced basketball in there driveway, football on the street and baseball in the park. Don played piano and I played the trumpet. Mrs. Andrews passed away a few years after my Dad died in 1972 . Vic retired after the Prison riots, sold the house and moved into a Senior Center where he had a small apartment closer to downtown. He and Mom would have lunch at Burger King when they had coupons. Vic passed away a few years after his move. Then Don died at 67.
Me and Don…Dick Clark and Gary Wise

Sad to see your own classmate pass.

           Next to the Andrew’s house was the Ecks.
         Mr. and Mrs. Eck were retired and old. They were quiet, polite, friendly, and kept to themselves until their house caught fire one day and they became homeless. Everyone chipped in and helped with the reconstruction of the house and within a few months, they were back in their house. I
know they were no longer there when I returned from Vietnam but don’t know what happened to them. 
                    The home next to the Eck’s was the first house on our side of the street as you entered Putnam Place from East Avenue.
It was large and foreboding (for a young boy growing up). There was one woman that owned it and I think her name was Mrs. Graham but I’m not sure. She was stout and matronly. She was friendly but not out going. There were apartments she rented. It was a big three story Victorian as I recall with a side porch and a large front porch. Being on the corner, I passed it everyday on the way to church, school or just going out.  I remember shoveling the front sidewalk for her tenants in the winter. I don’t remember what happened to Mrs. Graham but the place sold to a dynamic personality who was an up and coming lawyer, 
     He had a beautiful wife, wore suspenders, and was pretty dressy for an overweight man with balding head. The house had been in need of a good paint job and repairs. They fixed it up nice and spent some money. I’m not sure if they continued to rent apartments or restored the house to what it was before. Eventually they left and the house went back into apartments and disrepair.
         Across Putnam Place, on the other corner, was another large Victorian type three story home with a large yard.
         This yard was played in a lot by the “Putnam Place Children” . When I was around 8-9 years old, the Walsh family still occupied the upstairs apartment. Mr. Walsh had passed away from lung cancer and smoking I believe.   Phyllis, his wife and Mother of Chuck, Marilyn (my babysitter), Judy, Bonnie and then Pattie, in that order. She worked as a switchboard operator at the phone company downtown near the Tonawanda Creek on Main Street. We didn’t have dial phones. It was just a black phone you picked up and the operator, Phyllis would come on the line …David, who would you like to call? It was much more personal than “Press One for ?” . Our number was 600. Phyllis had her hands full with four teenage daughters with raging hormones and home alone a lot. They moved after Chuck left to join the service to a smaller apartment up the street on East Avenue. I noted many intimate parties taking place in their new third floor apartment when I would deliver the newspaper there after school.
            While on Putnam Place I was close to Bonnie. We would sit in her front yard in the summer and play Monopoly for hours or hang out in the “gully” behind my house with others from around the
neighborhoods. Many summers were spent in the “woods” behind my house. We had a “Tarzan” rope hung so we could swing across the gully…for hours. Mr. Kelner, from Walnut Street on the other side of the gully, cut the tree branch down one day. He deemed it dangerous? Bonnie and Linda Hollenbeck hung around with a“James Dean” gang with jeans, black leather jackets, white T-shirts
with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve at the shoulder. They were called the “Hoods”. Both Bonnie and Linda ended up at “Father Baker’s” in Buffalo where all “bad” girls went to have and give away
their baby’s for adoption. No one ever talked about that. I got Chuck Walsh’s metal cot and mattress he used to sleep on for my first bed when he left for the service. I was out of the crib.
               After the Walsh’s moved out the Polly’s moved in. They came up from Elmira as did a lot of guards at the prison. It was transient job and many were transferred around the different NY State Prisons for different reasons. Mr. and Mrs. Polly were wonderful people. Theo was his name. His oldest son Jim was ahead of me in school , then Lou Ann (I had a crush on her) was a grade below with Tommy. I can’t remember the youngest daughter’s name. I used to go on outings with the family and remember having a great time playing in that big yard. Jim was a good baseball player in High School and Tommy was too. I think Jim played football too. The Polly’s eventually moved over to
another big Victorian home on Main Street next to the Attica Public Library.
 Stuart Kelsey, Bonnie Walsh, Me, Don Andrews, Dick Friday, Warren Wind.
       When you came down Putnam Place from that big house…there was a smaller home tucked away from the street that the Satlers lived in.

         They were a retired elderly couple that were quiet friendly and nice to everyone. I delivered paper to them too.

           I think I had worked every paper route in town as a helper or fill in until I bought my own route from Lloyd Jury. He was a year ahead of me and charged me $10 for the longest route in town. It started at Dick Young’s Soda Shop down on the corner of Market and Main then
came up Main to Exchange. I had a hundred papers to deliver. The route went 2 miles out Exchange Street and up the hill past the Prison. I delivered to the Main Gate at the Prison but no one, other
than the Gate Keeper was allowed reading material even though some would drop a rope off the guard tower with a can attached. I would take out the money and he would pull up his paper then I would walk along the wall to Hunt Boulevard where other prison employees lived. There was the Chef, Mr. Joyce, the Priest, the Photographer and chauffeur for the Warden, other guards and my Grandfather, Adam Volk. Grandma would have cookies and lemonade waiting in the summer and Hot Chocolate in the winter.
       I walked or road my bike around the back of the homes where they all took there deliveries. It was tough in three feet of snow sometimes, blizzards, rain , etc. On real bad days I had to take my Toboggan and pull it the entire route of 5 miles. I then went up Dunbar Road to the Reading family then back out Exchange street to the Wheeler’s…then down Dunbar toDisenger’s and Judge Steven’s  house before crossing the bridge over our summer swimming hole in the Tonawanda Creek and on to Creek Road. There I went out toward Varysburg to the Swab farm…my furthest point. I then came back the Creek Road to the Petri’s (where Lloyd Jury now worked doing chores on the farm), the Welker’s and a few others before arriving back at Dick’s Soda Shop where I started.
        I had this route, and added my own TV Guide route, for two years. Christmas I would get $100 in tips but usually only received about $10 a week in tips and pay for the deliveries. I also sold door to door as a representative of the Junior Sales Club of America. I offered wrapping Paper , Greeting Cards, Pot Holders (I made), and other things all for points which gave me prizes…baseball bat, model airplane, etc. 
         Next to the Satlers across from the Andrew’s home was the Stortz family. Their were three apartments in their large Victorian style home situated half way down Putnam Place . The focus of Putnam Place. They had a large yard then with a large tree and swing, a hill behind for sledding in the winter and a large Apple tree to climb. The Stortz’s had 6 children and made the front page of the news with such a large tax deduction on April 15th. I still have the article and photo’s.
         Yard’s were a big deal then. Children played outside all the time. We played hockey on bikes in the street using croquet mallets and ball while racing up and down one team against another. The advantage of a “Dead End Street” meant there was no traffic to speak of , so the street was our playground. We had bonfires every fall, played baseball, football, and just hung out there on the porches.
           Harrison Stortz sold windows for home improvement before opening up a Western Auto Hardware store on Market street just a few doors down from Dick Young’s soda fountain. His wife Irene was needless to say, home with her hands full. The children: Steve, a year younger than me, then Doug, Harry, Ellen, Michael, and Mary Jane slept in bunk beds and all used one bathroom. I spent many nights staying over at their house and ate many meals at there family table
on Melmac plastic dishware. Irene used to make me take a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil and a One a Day Vitamin in the morning when I stayed over. We played Cowboys and Indians , Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, Capture the flag, etc. The best was the winter’s in their back yard where ALL the neighborhood children would come to slide their, sleds or toboggans or flying saucers , cardboard, whatever …down the hill until late at night when the stars would come out and we would
lay on our backs and make snow angels while imagining what was in that sky.

Me and My New Wooden Sled

       The Stortz’s had a summer get away they called the Piccadilly. It was a retreat in the woods where we would all go for a week of fun and picnics. They also rented a cottage on Silver Lake where even my parents would join us for Sunday outing. My dad swam across the Lake one day and back. Took him an hour. There was a roller skating rink and a small amusement park there we all thought was the greatest thing we knew of at the time. Steve Stortz and I were good friends and went fishing, swimming , camping,hunting and hiking together.
We hitch hiked a lot too and would  dream of getting out of Attica and hitch hiking the world.
      He got Malaria in Vietnam then after recuperating he ended up in Alaska forever. Doug died of the mental disease where you here voices and have to be institutionalized. Harry owns some storage faculties in Florida where the family moved and the father passed away. Irene, the Mother was living in Georgia last I wrote her. Mary Jane was the only one who would return to Attica and visit my Mother , Mrs.Gasman and Putnam Place. Never found out what happened to Mike or Ellen.
        The Wind’s were the next door neighbor to the Stortz’s.  

       Mr Wind was a guard at the prison and his wife stayed home I believe. They were reserved and a quiet couple with three children. Paul the oldest, Warren who was my age, and Elaine. They were true Catholics and all the children went to Catholic school. I heard Elaine became a nun. Warren didn’t. He was destined to be his own man. He started a “Stamp Club” for the few of us that collected stamps. Warren arranged for us to have weekly meetings at the Historical Society where we could trade and compare stamps. He also contracted with Father Colagan to fix up the rectory next to St Vincent’s. He hired me to help him. He was only 12 or 13 years old but he put up Crown molding and we painted the few rooms as you entered into the house. He converted his bike to a tandem bike, collected butterflies, had a garden out back of his home with his father, was very mechanically inclined and had the biggest “shawanz “ of any of us guys.
       Yes we all compared our masculinity…poor Pete Austin. Steve Stortz found some old Nudist magazines in his Aunt Mame’s garage on Prospect Street just behind Stortz’s house at the bottom of the hill. Our “gang” hid them in the gully where we would all go and spend hours looking and discussing sex. We had no idea of anything except “jerking” off gave us pleasure and Sear’s Catalog’s lingerie section was getting old. We hadn’t even reached puberty yet. When sperm came out of me I ran to confession. I thought I really would go blind. Our parents never discussed anything so it was the “hood’s in Attica that told us what to do and where to get rubbers. By 13-14 years old we knew what to do and who to do it with but finding a place was always a problem. Night time helped hide us when we would sneak away from a school function and go out back. The woods was always a good place too. Then when the “girls’ started babysitting…all the bars came down and the word would go out. I liked to keep it to myself. Once we started driving cars, we found more opportunity but few had there own cars so we had to use others or double date and chip in for the gas.           Warren Wind was working in Rochester as a salesman when I returned from Vietnam. He died in his 40’s from AIDES, the Wind’s sold their home and moved after that. 
The Lippold’s were the next to the last house on Putnam Place and lived across the street from us.
       They had two children. Chuck the oldest , who I saw a few years ago at the American Legion. He looked great and was retired . He rode a bike around Attica to keep in shape and was very religious as was the Lippold family. He had a sister Joanie , who was older than me. Mrs Lippold, raised Chickens for eggs and when it was time I watched her chop the head of the chicken. It ran headless all around the back yard where she also had a big garden. She gave me a plot to clear the rocks and till the soil for my 4 H project. My garden was a failure.
        The Lippold’s  had a dog named Mickey. It was a black Sheppard. It would bark a lot if you came near the house. One day my mother sent me over with some meat scraps to give to Mrs. Lippold to give the dog but the dog was out and wanted the scraps now. I was short so raised them up over my head trying to knock on the door when Mickey decided to eat me instead. Well he bit my leg and I gave him the scraps. When I was 10 years old my father took me to Buffalo to pick out my own dog from a litter of German Sheppard puppies. I named him Sir Mickey Nelson Taylor the first. He had papers and was a purebred so Mickey just didn’t seem enough for a purebred.
         My Dad was a doer. He never hired anyone to do a job for him. He put in our lawn, a paved driveway, extended our backyard with loads of dirt from the Village, then built a garage with a “Breezeway” and office overhead, raised the roof and extended the bedrooms, rebuild
and decorated the kitchen twice, enclosed the front porch, added a downstairs bedroom, rebuilt two cars, did all the automotive work, plumbing , electrical, etc, etc. etc. Where he found time to work 6
days a week, keep a mistress, and manage his own family is beyond me. Mr. Lippold was a carpenter and he did assist my dad when he had the roof off the house. It never rained the entire time…and it
took over 10 days. Mrs Lippold gave me a St Christopher’s medal to wear for protection when I left for Vietnam. She had been Captain of the Girl’s Basketball team at Attica H.S in 1937.  
          I held a “faire” in my back yard and sold hot dogs , pop corn and lemonade from the front porch. I put on a Magic show there and we played bad mitten all summer when we weren’t skinny dipping in the Creek, camping, hiking, tending a “trap line”, hunting, sledding,
fishing, playing in the park, riding our bikes, baseball, football, YMCA, outings to West Point for a weekend, off to Cleveland for a baseball game, canoeing up the Genesee river to Rochester, going on
“freeze outs” for a weekend, playing in the High School band, off to Crystal Beach in Canada, marching in parades, delivering newspapers, …it was my wonderful life on Putnam Place.
        The people of my Putnam Place are all gone now but what they gave this only child growing up was so special. I got a lot of attention and gifts being an Only Child but didn’t get a lot of love. I seldom saw my parents kiss or touch each other and never hug. I seldom got hugged or kissed but I got a lot of spankings. I knew my parents loved me but Dad never knew love or how to show it. Mom did a little. I threw a lot of temper tantrums and was spoiled a bit but the people of Putnam Place humbled me. They were my family and I will always thank them for helping me to be who I am today. Putnam Place may be a “Dead End” street for some but for me it was the gateway to the WORLD.

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