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Interview with Helen Land

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Land, Helen ; Caganek, Anna


Helen Land talks about her birth and upbringing in Binghamton, NY and how the town has changed over the years. She reminisced about growing up in Binghamton, and discusses taking dance classes, attending church picnics, family outings, and attending school. She talks about the Bennett Family, Ross Park, Recreation Park, old trolley cars, electrification in homes, local businesses, hotels, entertainment, and mentions various people of Binghamton. She also discusses her marriage to a man from Canada and losing her citizenship, and her difficulty in getting her citizenship back.




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Is Part Of

Broome County Oral History Project


47:47 Minutes ; 26:22 Minutes


Broome County Oral History Project

Interview with: Mrs. Helen Land

Interviewed by: Anna Caganek

Date of interview: 1 May 1978

Anna: Mrs. Land, tell me experiences.

Mrs. Land: I was born in Binghamton, NY, 20th of June 1897 at Mill St. I lived there for a few months because the landlord had stipulated that he won't have no children—I think I was very vocal, so then we were asked to find some other place to move. We moved to Walnut St. and there my mother died when I was one year and a half old (1 ½ years) and from there I moved to Lincoln Ave. where my father and I lived with my father's brother and his wife and three children.

His wife was a saint to take a year and a half old child in there with her three children and bring me up. I lived on Lincoln Ave. until I was 18 years old, and at that time I had gone to St. John Ave. School up to the 4th grade—then I transferred to Laurel Ave. school which is now Horace Mann. I had gone there to the 8th grade and then I had traveled to Binghamton Central High School where I had my freshman, sophomore years—and from there I went over to my junior and senior years which were spent at the Washington St. School which is now the Police Station, I believe while they were building the new building, which is now the old building. 

I just, guess I just led the normal life of a high school girl and everything was very, very circumspect in those days. We had street cars but we didn't patronize them—we walked back and forth—if you had only a couple miles to walk, you didn't bother with streetcars. Our entertainments were very mild. We had parties in the evening but they were strictly supervised—they were generally in homes of our friends, from eight ’til maybe ten o'clock at night. On weekends we were lucky—we could go to Ross Park and see the entertainment over there. They, it was sponsored by the Street Railway Company. It was a beautiful park, up there—they had benches all up in the woods and it was desirable to get there early so you would get a good seat. The benches would hold six to eight people—then there was another bench for our feet, everything was very comfortable. The vaudeville acts—there would be six or seven of them—and they were really very first class entertainment—it was things that people later on became prominent in movies and I think it was probably before any of them became television stars—but, they, we did get some of the movies, also, the Casino was under the sponsorship—was owned by the City Railway. That was a lovely place to go, but that cost more, it was twenty five cents round trip—to go to Ross Park it was only a nickel, one way and we, I was married quite young and we had very nice places to go then to eat. We had our, my friends and I would go to the various places for lunch. I remember Fowler’s had the most beautiful lunch for 60¢, you wouldn't believe it—there was no tipping there and you could go and you could go and get a chicken salad and homemade rolls and butter and homemade chocolate cake. Fowler’s was famous for Emily Napp’s chocolate cake. The Arlington Hotel had a lovely dining room—the Bennett Hotel had a very nice dining room and there was a very nice place known, as the Grill on Washington Street—it was upstairs over the Walter Miller Store. It was a very small place, but the food was excellent and the people use to like to go there after they’ve been to the theater at night. 

We had very good entertainment here—it wasn’t every night—it wasn’t like a movie or anything like that. We had Sousa's band, would come here and Walter Damrosch's band—they appeared at the old Stone Opera House and it was quite a nice place to go and very well patronized. When I was in high school there was a dancing class conducted at the Monday Afternoon Club by Professor Lamoreaux and his wife on Thursday afternoon. The girls came with silk stockings on and they carried their dancing in bags because we didn’t dance in the same shoes that we had worn to school—but, you always knew when it was dancing lesson day because the girls changed from the Buster Brown ribbed lyle stockings to silk stockings, and that was a very nice to go—you bought a ticket from them, I think it was $6.00 for 12 lessons—you sat around the floor, there—Mrs. Lamoureaux saw that there were no wallflowers—you would sit there hoping somebody would ask you to dance, and he would be chasing after the most popular girl—Mrs. Lamoureaux would come after him and make him come and dance with you—he was a little reluctant to do—but as I say it was a very quiet period in which to live and there was no, as I remember, there was no vandalism, no anything, people sat on front porches at night—called back and forth across the street to the neighbors, there was no familiarity.

We lived in the same neighborhood, as I say, I've lived these for 18 years, as I say there was no moving—everybody owned his own home there, but there was no familiarity, always addressed your neighbors as Mr. and Mrs.—never said, “Hello, Fred,” or, “Hello, Minnie”—it was always, “Mr. and Mrs. Barnum.” We also got in on all the church picnics because there was a very a large church membership, there was Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and then, one family of Universalists moved in the neighborhood—they were looked down on because they mowed their lawn on Sunday, and that was not considered the thing to do. You mowed your lawn through the week—you did not mow it on Sunday—but we found out they were good Christian people. The father was a lawyer and he was President of the Board of Education so we decided that maybe mowing the lawn on Sunday was not a Cardinal Sin but we got in all on all the church picnics because we would interchange and you would go to the Lutheran Picnic and in turn you would ask them to come to your Presbyterian Picnic and that way our summers were very nicely taken care of. We played croquet in the afternoon and we went skating. There was a skating rink over on Conklin Ave.—it was called Lyons Skating Rink and although we lived on Lincoln Ave. that was probably a good two mile walk to Lyons Skating Rink, it might have been longer, but we always walked—we would never think of taking a streetcar and transfer going up there and sometimes we would go twice a day—we would go on Saturday—we'd go in the morning and for 15¢ you could get a very nice ham sandwich and a bottle of ginger ale, they also, the people who owned Lyons Skating Rink, ran the George Hull Ice Cream Company and Confectionery Store on Court St. but we seldom spent 15¢. We would walk home and get our dinner and then walk back again in the afternoon. Our entertainments were not expensive but they were really very enjoyable.

I have one daughter and two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. I have enjoyed having them brought up in the same neighborhood that I was, for as I went to St. John Ave. School, that had turned into Alexander Hamilton, when they went there—they followed us by going to West Junior, which was not in existence when I was young. I had gone to Horace Mann, but then they went to Central High School and my daughter went to Sweet Briar College. My grandson went to Wittenberg College in Ohio. My granddaughter went to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs and I have one great-grandchild. We are all living approximately the same area that we did when we were brought up and that is very nice because, I have forgotten the generation has gone by so quickly. I think, I really say, I knew your grandmother well, then I'd say it was your great-grandmother that I knew, that I was in school with. My husband died in 1948 and I had my own apartment until I just felt a little inadequate to coping with that. I was fortunate enough to be admitted in the Good Shepherd Fairview Home. I was still ambulatory and able to take care of my own room and make my own bed and change my own bed and I'm getting marvelous care and treatment here, I have a beautiful room, nobody could really find any fault with it. I am a very happy, 80 year old great-grandmother who’s about to be 81. It has not been a very productive life, but it has been an extremely happy one. 

I used to go to my grandfather's in Greene. Father took me up there every Sunday on the Utica Train and we would leave here, early in the morning, sometimes very early in the morning, and I can remember traveling with the minimum of fare until I was about seven years old. One day the conductor said to my father, "How old is that child?” Father said, "Seven.” You'll have to pay, half fare for her now—then when I got to be 12 or 13 they discovered that I should be paying full fare. My maternal grandmother, grandfather lived on Wilson St. Father used to take me there Sunday afternoons to call on him. We used to have to cross the railroad tracks at Jarvis St. and I was terrified of those tracks. I don't know how many tracks there were—seems to me there were 8 or 10 of them there. I don't suppose there were that many, but there was a flagman there at Jarvis St., and he, if there was a train coming or going, he would come out with his little flag and wave it. I was not very speedy, I was bowlegged, and it was very hard for me to run and when we got half across I wanted to stay with the flagman until all the flags were clear. We went to Lily Lake which is now State Park—before the days of automobiles, you hired a horse and buggy from Seamon's or Sigler's Delivery Stables and sometimes, there were, I believe there were two four seated ones, but you had to get your name in early if you wanted the four seated ones—you took your whole family up to Lily Lake or a picnic and you took all equivalents for a beautiful picnic up there. 

There were no colleges here in Binghamton, such as the Broome Community College and State University but Cortland Normal was near and Oneonta Normal wasn't too far. My mother was a graduate of Oneonta Normal—she taught school—my grandmother, my maternal grandmother taught school. My paternal grandmother went to Cazenovia Seminary and she never taught school. They must have given them a wonderful education in the little school they had then but I suppose the Cazenovia Seminary School was equivalent to a prep school—today a boarding school, because she was certainly a very literate woman and a very accomplished artist. I had no skills, whatsoever. I've always said that if my mother had lived I would have learned to cook and to sew and to do everything because according to legend, my mother was very clever. I always meet with the retort, “but I guess if you wanted to you could have learned how.” Apparently, I let someone else do it for me. I lived a good long life letting somebody else do things, and I'm continuing to do so.

Anna: What did your husband do?

Mrs. Land: He was the Secretary of Kilmer and Co-Secretary of Binghamton Press—also, he was a Canadian. I did have one jolting experience. I did not know, well in fact, it wasn't true when I married him I didn't lose my American citizenship, although he was a Canadian citizen. L went to be a character witness back in 1940, I guess for a Canadian who wanted to get her American citizenship. I found out I lost my citizenship in marrying an Canadian—I protested vigorously and I had stapled to my Marriage Certificate a notice in the paper that people marrying friendly aliens between April 1917 and October 1922 did not lose their citizenship. I had married at that time—I had been married in October 1917 which gave me a perfectly clear footing but that ruling had been rescinded so, I was voting illegally but I didn't it know it, so, I had to go and be repatriated to the hilarity of all my friends. I think they thought my husband was a Secretary of the Press, they thought it was a good joke to put great big headlines that I was repatriated and all of my friends came to me and said, "What do you mean? You were born here, how come you had to be repatriated?" Miss Eleanor Smith, who was the County Clerk at that time, said, "Don't feel so badly, there are many people voting illegally, they don't realize that the law was rescinded." I said, “Well, it certainly humiliated me very much,” publicized that, as I say I've had a very—

At the time I was born was the one, I think McKinley had just come into the office. I remember, although I was between three and four, I think, he was assassinated in 1901. This was before I went to school but I can remember all the publicity about it. Of course, before the days of television and radio and things of that sort, but there were pictures in the newspaper and the assassin had worn his hands wrapped up in a handkerchief. We went around the neighborhood with our hands wrapped in a handkerchief and banged, banged at everybody around there before we went to school. I say, I've been a lifelong Republican, but I'm a kind of freelancer—I vote more for the man than I do for the party. I've been that way all my life.

Anna: Can you think of anything else?

Mrs. Land: My daughter has been active in all the things I didn't do, she seems to have done. I was on the board of the Girl's Club for many years and I enjoyed that—I was on the health board on YWCA and to the amusement of my family, I was also on the Municipal Recreation Board, they never could understand why I was on that. I was on the, that Family Children Services and I've enjoyed all of these because they were my friends, who were on the boards, and we all thought alike. I've seen many of the people come and go, and here I have many friends, there are 19 members from my church in this home where I live now, the West Presbyterian Church, there are 19 members here. The Circle came the other day and put out a lovely tea for us. I was surprised, to find there was so many members here, but we are really kind of like a family here, and didn't—people said, “It will take you a long time to adjust.” It wasn't a question of adjusting, because I knew many people in here, and I, just felt how lucky I was to have my meals prepared for me, and, cleaning and to have everything done for me.

My daughter and grandchildren are very active in the church. They live here, my great-grandson is the 7th generation, in that, church and anyway my daughter is a member here at Fairview. Today, the receptionists came in and brought me a dear little wicker basket, saying, “Happy May Time, Dear Grandma Land,” from one of the Board members whom I love dearly, friend of my daughter’s, Mrs. Williams. Mrs. Williams always remembers to bring me little things, seasonal things. She brought me a beautiful bouquet of forsythias before anyone else got the snow off their bushes, and I watched that flower blossom.

Father was born in Smithville Flats and although he had, apparently, only a—the schooling from the Village School, he was, an extremely literate man. He, I'm amazed because his formal education, must have been very limited, but he was an appreciative man. He would appreciate the art, and he always saw that I had the, very best reading material and also being an only child he indulged me, in my sartorial department. I always had beautiful clothes, I think he probably deprived himself to get me all decked out to go. He was 85 and you see he was only 30 years old when Mother died. And he had never remarried, he devoted his life to raising me. And he had the time when he and Mother were married, he was Superintendent of the Prudential Insurance in Oneonta. 

I never did know why he came to Binghamton, they came, here before I was born. They were married in 1893 and 1897 I was born. After they came back here he was working for the Prudential as an sgent for, a while, but I think Father never found out what he really wanted to be. I think had Mother lived she would have stirred him more. He was a clerk in a grocery store. Oh I remember that—we never mentioned money, it seemed vulgar to talk about prices of things—but I remember my uncle saying to my father who was, 8 years his junior, “Fred, what did you pay for that coat of Helen’s?” And Father would say, “20 dollars.” My father at that time was making 12 dollars a week and then he got a raise for 14 dollars. He was always very thrifty, very. However when Walter Damrosch or Sousa's Band came here those tickets were 3 dollars, apiece, and he always took me to all the concerts that came along. How he managed it I don’t know but he was a wonderful thrifty man and he could not stand charge accounts, he thought those were the, invention of the devil, and all of my friends in school would go in, and said, “Charge it to Mr. So and So.” Father and I felt very humiliated. I think 14 and 15 year old girls are very sensitive and I felt that it was really very low class, to have to go and pay cash for anything, so I contrived a little system of my own. 

The Credit man at McLean’s Department Store was a neighbor, of ours, Mr. Dennis, and he knew Father very well, so one day I went to the Credit Department, said to Mr. Bennett, “Father wants to open an account here,” and he said, “That would be very nice, Helen,” having known me—so he made out the account or put it on the book that Fred Paka of 7 Lincoln Ave. had an account. I knew that, that, wouldn't go over with Father, so I wanted to get some stockings, silk stockings, and Father thought that was an extravagance, all the other, girls wore silk stockings to Dancing School, but he thought the lyle were enough, those were Buster Brown stockings at 25¢ a pair. So I told him that I needed stockings, badly, that I, had to have 4 pair, he gave me a dollar, I had the dollar, I was, always very careful, I had the dollar in the drawer of my dresser, then I went with some friends into McLean’s and I ordered one pair, of silk stockings, which were a dollar, charged to Mr. Fred Paka, of 7 Lincoln Ave. The next day I came home and went to the Credit Dept. and I wanted to pay Mr. Fred's bill and they said, why, he had only been charged the day before, and I said I hadn't realized that but anyway I want to pay the bill, so I put down my dollar, and a couple of nights after, Father said, “Where were those stockings you bought?” And I said, “They’re in my room.” He said, “I’d like to see them.” I think he, was a little suspicious, and I said, “Well they’re like the, other, ones, that I always get.” He said, “Well let me see them,” and I said, “I wonder where which drawer I put them?” And he said, “You didn't by any chance buy a pair of silk stockings with the dollar?” and I said, “Yes I did, all the other, girls have silk stockings.”

Well this went on for a year, my going in and charging, things. In fact up to the time when I was married, I went in and charged things to my father, but I always had the money before I charged it. And I think that the bookkeepers in McLean’s must have hated me, because, they would have to post it one day and the next day, I would go in to pay the bill. And I lived in such terror that the bill would be sent to my father, and he would find out that he owed money, because he had a regular sensation about owing money.

A druggist neighbor of his—ah—Father lived on Crandall St. last years of his life, and around the corner Mr. Barnam had a drugstore and he told me that Father came in one night to buy a magazine and it was on a Saturday night and Mr. Barnam had locked up and didn’t have, any change, Father gave him a dollar and he says, “you can pay Monday or any time.” Father said, “No I don’t owe anybody overnight for anything,” and he said he wouldn’t take the magazine. Well that’s the way he was brought up, you either had it or you didn't. But I said my poor, father never knew that he had an account in McLean’s from 1911 to the time he died, 1915, so I was scheming.

My aunt taught in Central High School and that embarrassed me, terribly, Mother’s sister, and I didn't want people to know, that she was my aunt, she was 17 years younger than my mother, only 11 years older than I was, but in a town like this, everybody knows who’s related to who, and finally people started asking me, if she was related, to me. I said, “No, no, not at all.” Well I was in her Biology class. I think that’s why she resigned and went to Brockport, and taught out there, because I gave her a very hard time, I’d become conveniently deaf and didn’t have my lessons prepared properly, I took full advantage of everything. In fact the principal called me to his, office, one day and said, “Your aunt”—I was very well behaved in everybody’s class but hers—he said, “Your aunt tells me she is, having a little difficulty here with you.” 

“My aunt, what do you mean?”

And he said, “Look don’t tell me that she is not your aunt, I know she is. I have a sister going to school in here and if you think it’s any, treat to us, to have our relatives going where we're teaching, you got another guess coming.” I don’t know why she should spread a story like that, but I never gave in that I was related to her and at the end, of the year, she resigned and went to Brockport Normal, where she, was very happy.

Anna: Why did you deny her?

Mrs. Land: Well because she was bossy and she was only ten years older than I, and I didn't think she had any right to push me around. And I was a brat, that was the whole thing, I never had any trouble with any of the other teachers, and, but I just wasn’t going to be pushed around. But I did, I do think that, scholastically what I learned that year, in the 4 years in the Central High, I can’t be grateful enough to the marvelous, teachers we had. Our English teachers, our Latin teachers, our German teachers. We were perfectionists. If your assignment wasn't done you jolly well stayed, after school that night.

Anna: Do you remember some of the names?

Mrs. Land: Oh yes I remember, them very well. Fraulein Meyer was my German teacher, and Professor Greenwood, Julius Greenwood, was my English teacher, and I owe, I owe him so much, because he was such a perfectionist. And my Latin teacher, I had a teacher that I referred to as Caesar Brown, and then later on I had Miss Rogers, and I had Professor Williams in American History and I had Elizabeth Bump in Ancient History, and Miss Frink in Geometry. I had Professor Dan Mills who was an excellent Mathematician. I had him. I loved German. I don’t know why it seemed to come easily to me, but I knew Fraulein Meyer.

Anna: You never—I don’t know if she was teaching at the school then—Minka Beaukmann?

Mrs. Land: Oh no, no, Minka Beaukmann wasn’t teaching there when I was there—she came after—

Anna: But you, do you remember her?

Mrs. Land: Oh yes, certainly—

Anna: You do?

Mrs. Land: I knew the, the whole Beaukmnann Family.

Anna: You did! She was one of my best friends in the world.

Mrs. Land: Well, do you know Kathryn Maloney, by any chance? Well Kathryn is one of my best friends in the whole world! It’s a small world, isn’t it?

Anna: You could tell her—

Mrs. Land: I will!

Anna: —that I worked for Minka, and helped her out. She was wonderful—

Mrs. Land: I will.

Anna: Minka Beaukmann was a wonderful friend—

Mrs. Land: When I was a little girl—

Anna: —one of the best friends I ever had.

Mrs. Land: Well Charlotte Beaukmann, her older sister, I had her junior Endeavor class at West Presbyterian Church—

Anna: What school did she teach in?

Mrs. Land: She didn’t teach in the school, she stayed home and kept house for Eda and Minka.

Anna: Minka taught—what did she teach?

Mrs. Land: I’m not sure of that—I didn’t cross their teaching horizons. But Charlotte Beaukmann, and Henry Beaukmann was the only boy, and they lived at 28 Lincoln Ave, and my daughter lived at 29 when she was married. They bought 29, and that’s where my little great-grandson was born.

Anna: You knew Minka!

Mrs. Land: Oh yes, I know the whole family. And Kathryn Maloney just loved her. Well it’s a small world. And dear Kathryn comes to see me now, and she brought me—

Anna: She does! Please say hello to her.

Mrs. Land: —I will. And she brought me two pounds of soft-center [inaudible] the other day, and I said, “Kathryn, you just must not do that.” Every time she comes, she’s bringing something, and I said, “It embarrasses me to have you.” 

[intermittently inaudible, 39m10s-41m47s]

Mrs. Land: When I was little, you see, Davis St. hadn't been cut through, that was the Bennett Estate, and Mrs. Bennett had been left a widow, and I read in the paper today, I didn't realize that her husband was killed in 1900 with one of the very first automobiles we had here in Binghamton. It got out of control, and his name was Fred Bennett, and he left this beautiful Estate which was between Lincoln Ave. and West Seminary Ave., and all of that going down as far as Laurel Ave. was part of the Bennett Estate. But the stipulation was that she was not to be married. 

She was a very beautiful young woman, young widow. And she had many suitors, but this home was absolutely beautiful. And finally she succumbed to the wooing of Dr. Wagner, he was the head of our State Hospital here, and she left this home and went to live at the State Hospital with Dr. Wagner. And her children by that time were grown, she had 2 daughters and a son, and they were grown all the way, and that home was allowed to go in just a ruin, this beautiful brick home it was, facing Chestnut St. It was the top of Davis St., but the west side was on West Seminary Ave. You drove in there, and we were forbidden as children to go and play there. There was a picket fence that came down as Lincoln Ave. But we went there, we would go and peek in the windows, and these gorgeous windows and tier glass mirrors from the ceilings to the floor in there and they had a watchman type of man, who would control the Estate. But in those days there was no vandalism, nobody broke in, and nobody desecrated those things.

And today kids would be in it, and as a child, when I lived on Lincoln Ave., 6 Lincoln Ave., up until Millard Ave., that was all green houses to show you the beauty of the Estate.

Well there was a Mr. Davis here who was a friend of Fred Bennett. And his Father who was Abel Bennett and I believe he was the First Major Of Binghamton, I'm not sure about that. But Mr. Davis who was Paul Titchner’s, Titchner’s grandfather, maternal grandfather, was a great friend of Fred Davis, Abel Bennett’s, son. And they cut through Davis St. and named it for Paul Titchner’s, grandfather, and the other day one of the Paul Titchner’s daughters said to me, “Where was, did the Moreses used to live? What was the name of the street they used to live on?” And I said, “Jean, that street was named after your great-grandfather and don’t be saying, ‘What’s the name of that street?’” 

“It was named after my great-grandfather?”

I said, “It certainly was.” Davis Street was named for him, but when I was young Bennett Park was a place to go. There was no entertainment over there, like Ross Park, but it was beautiful, the woods were nice, over there and there were picnic tables and you could go over there and, have your picnic lunch and it was a very nice place, for families to go to, to go around, they would sit there at night , and it was a, nice place to go.

I lived at Lincoln Ave., 7 Lincoln Ave. We had, wooden sidewalks then there were, were no cement walks then and, between 7 and 9 Lincoln Ave. there was a little lamppost out there and there was a little man, midget man that used to come down the street, every night with a little, ladder over his shoulder and a torch in his, hand, and he would put this little ladder up against this little, lamppost, and climb up on it and light that lamp. That was before, the days of arclights, electric lights or anything else. And I would look over the windowsill and watch for him to come, every night, cause it was really—I was afraid of him, there was something about him, he was as I say a malformed little fellow and he, carried this little ladder over his shoulder with his arm between it, and he'd put this against the lamppost, and I don't suppose the lamppost was more than 6 feet tall, but he would climb up on that and, light that lamp. And oh I could remember, when electric lights went in, that was considered something.

We had only gas in the house, that was on the first floor, you used kerosene lamps on the second floor, very few families had them. Although I know that in 1912 some private homes, some families were fixed for electricity, but very few, most of them depended on gas. These Wellspot burners which were very perishable, and if you were sent to the store to get one you prayed you wouldn’t drop it on the way home, but in those days I had a, friend, who had electricity in the house, and you took a basket of burned out bulbs, and took them over to the Electric Light Company on Washington St., and they replaced them with new bulbs.

That didn't last very long, that was the days you did things like that. I do remember that the trolley cars went out of existence in 1932—they were replaced by buses—because I was over in Canada for the Summer and I had a letter from my father saying they took a ride on the last trolley.

Today we used to ride from Leroy St. and Chestnut St. We took a streetcar on a terribly hot night, it would take us to the State Hospital Hill for a nickel and you would go up there, and they would turn the seats, these were open air streetcars and they would turn, turn the seats, and you'd have to get out, and for another nickel, you would ride back, from the Hospital Hill, down to Chestnut and Leroy Streets. That would give you a real nice outing. Oh our entertainments were very inexpensive.

My father was a bookkeeper for Grayson and Carr’s Groceries and Meats at the corner of Main and Edwards St., 106 and 108 Main. After Father died I was going through his desk and I found a statement, that he made up, he used to go to the store in the morning, when in summer the men came in with the produce, with berries, and vegetables like that. Father would go down half past four in the morning to meet them there and then he would ride around with a horse and buggy. Then he would take orders, and he would ride back to the store, and put up the groceries and meat, and go back and deliver it. And some of these people would pay cash, and some had weekly statements, and some had monthly statements.

Father would come home at 6 o’clock at night, had his supper and go right up to his desk and sit down, make out these statements, he'd be working ’til 12 or 1 o’clock, the most beautiful penmanship you have ever seen, and he would be making out these, statements. Well I found a statement, I think it was in 1906, and, it had the prices of things there. A pound of butter, 12¢, and coffee was 28¢ a pound, rib roast of beef $1.12 for 2 or 3 pounds. Father was a great coffee drinker up to the day he, died, and all the give away things in those days. Here we have a this-and-that shop, Hershey Bars now, 20 cents I buy 5 of these bars, 5 for a dollar. My father is turning in his grave, oh I just can’t believe it, I do not see how they can feed their families, but that’s now.

Anna: I go to the St. Patrick’s Cemetery, it’s near the Slovak Cemetery, and that’s where all my folks, my family are buried. My grandmother Anna Mrlak, my father Stephen Torony, and my dear brother Robert Torony who was injured playing football, he has a monument of his own features carved out of stone. 

Mrs. Land: Who did it? 

Anna: An old man in Barre, Vermont. He was only 24 years old, he was a wonderful, good boy, loved by all. When he died there were 150 cars at his funeral, and the whole city didn’t work that day—a Tribute to Bob Torony the Great Football Hero, died Jan. 1932. I never got over it.

Mrs. Land: Oh no, you don’t. Well Rick Cooper, Edgar Cooper’s son—

Anna: Ricky was in the next room to Bob’s in the New York Hospital. And they both died of the same sickness. We knew the Cooper family and we went to see them in New York. He, Rick is buried in the Chenango Valley Cemetery in Hillcrest. My daughter Irene lives near there. 

Mrs. Land: That’s very interesting, because you can’t get Vermont granite today for your brother’s monument.

Anna: The man that made it said the longer it stays, the more it will look like him (Bob). It sure was a tragedy. 

Mrs. Land: Well you wonder why those things happen. 

Anna: Thanks for a wonderful interview, Mrs. Land.

Streaming Audio

Date of Interview



Caganek, Anna


Land, Helen


47:47 Minutes ; 26:22 Minutes

Date of Digitization



Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Land, Helen -- Interviews; Broome County (N.Y.) -- History; Binghamton (N.Y.); Electrification; Citizenship; Trolley cars; Bennett Family; Recreation Park; Ross Park; Dance class

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.



Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

The Broome County Oral History Project was conceived and administered by the Senior Services Unit of the Office for the Aging. Funding for this project was provided by the Broome County Office of Employment and Training (C.E.T.A.), with additional funding from the Senior Service Unit of the National Council on Aging and Broome… More

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“Interview with Helen Land,” Digital Collections, accessed July 13, 2024,