2013, Sahalie Publishing

2013, Sahalie Publishing
256 pages, over 100 pictures

Limited edition...

The Brass Bell can be purchased online at Sahalie Publishing and Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back When We Were Kids

Some of my favorite stories from Cherry Road School alumni involve walking to and from school. Everyone seems to remember slogging home for lunch and back again in all kinds of weather. Kids were tough then, no parents waiting out front in cars. At best we had bikes, left unlocked in the bike-rack out front, sometimes for days at a time.
Many old-timers also remember lunches made and served by mothers in the cafeteria (gym) as a way to earn money for the senior trip. Those delicious meals are remembered fondly, and it's clear the mothers prepared these dishes with care. What a treat it must have been not to have to walk home in the snow and wind and back again, instead to spend a winter's lunchtime with friends and their mothers in the cafeteria.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have some of those recipes for a Cherry Road School cookbook?

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Visit to Central New York

There's nothing like a visit back home during the month of October. I had worried the leaves would all have fallen, ground to mush in the onslaught of pre-winter rain by the time I arrived on the 13th. My fears were unfounded. Driving along Route 20 on my way to a luncheon with Cherry Road School alumni, the second day of my 10-day visit, I could hardly keep my eyes on the road. The explosion of fall colors blanketing the rolling hills of my beloved homeland reminded me, once again, of why I risk life and limb and infectious disease to ride on the silver bird in order to come back one more time.
During my visit I took my parents on rides through the countryside of each Finger Lake. The day we drove all the way around Cayuga Lake, we visited McKenzie-Childs, treated ourselves to lunch at the Aurora Inn. The day we drove around Seneca Lake, I asked my dad why there are so many brick houses in this part of the country. He wasn't sure. If any of you have an idea, or know the answer to this question, I'd love to know. (Even in Westvale, many of the first houses, at least two of the Parsons/Jerome houses, were made of brick.) It was snowing in Penn Yan when we stopped there on a visit to Keuka Lake.
During our rides, my father, who grew up on Cherry Road, running through the farm fields to his grandparents house on the corner of Parsons Drive and W. Genesee, shared some of what he could remember about Westvale in the 1930s. He remembered his older brother, David, plowing the potato fields with a team of horses; he remembered his grandmother Allain Parsons holding him on her lap and reading him the comics; he remembered the times right before they all signed up to fight in the war, hanging out with the MacArdle boys and Eddy Vynal at the gas station on the corner of Maple Drive and W. Genesee.
I, too, remember hanging out at MacArdle's as a small girl with my dad and his buddies. This would have been after the war. Thankfully they all made it back alive. I'd sit on the soda pop machine and drink orange Ne-hi, while my dad and the others talked upstairs. They'd climb the rickety old stairs above the "pit." My father would tell me to stay right there. So happy to be with my Dad, I'd do what he said.
The next corner over, on Cherry Road, my friend Vicki lived in an upstairs apartment with her parents over her grandmother's house, Lydia Hicks. Lydia and my Grandmother, Grace Parsons, had been friends and playmates as girls. When I was a kid there was a dirt sidewalk that ran along the edge of W. Genesee. We kids were always warned to stay way over to the side of the road. Nevertheless, I remember we pretty much had free rein to wander around the neighborhood. One day my younger sister, at the age of three, pushed the giant baby carriage over to Aunt Marion's house on Cherry Road, giving everyone quite a scare and a story to tell for fifty-some years.
If any of the followers of this project have any of your own neighborhood stories to share, please feel free to share via a "comment" or contact me directly:
---Put "Cherry Road Project" in your subject line.
Work on the Cherry Road School history book will begin in January.

Monday, September 28, 2009


They say Time heals all wounds. I've discovered, over time, that time also changes all things. During my last visit I got to go inside and see the old farmhouse where I had lived as a child. I also visited my grandparents' old house in Skaneateles, and walked around the yard at Aunt Marion (Parsons') house on Cherry Road.
Like all people, I had kept the images of these historic places (my historic places) alive in my mind as they were back then. In the process, the houses became bigger and the images of each room and the events that took place there became more important for me.
Unaware of just how much the sands of time does wrought change upon a house, I visited each place expecting a long-awaited glimpse into the past. Maybe I would even find Marion or Grandma Grace waiting for me there...just maybe. If they weren't there, I'd have to accept the fact that they are gone.
To my surprise, each house is now unrecognizable, no longer the house that lived a life with the people who lived there in the 1880s, the early nineteen hundreds, the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. By now, several generations of different families have lived out their lives in these houses. With each passing generation, walls were torn down, put up, turned this way and that. Additions were added. Even a stairway was covered and hidden so that the current owners had no idea that once there was a long wooden stairway that one little girl named Nancy like to slide down in her pajamas with feet, listen to the adults talking softly in the livingroom.
Without the memories of those that lived here before, the lives lived inside of houses and school buildings will be lost to those who live and learn there today. I've come to understand that change is predictable and sometimes productive. But shared memories can keep the lessons and the accomplishments of the past alive. You know how they say, "If only these walls could talk?" Walls can't talk, but we who were once there can talk for them.
I heard recently that the owners of the old farmhouse are going to see if they can find the old staircase.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Visit to Syracuse

I'll be in town for a visit in mid-October. If any Cherry Road Alumni or Westvale denizens would be interested in meeting with me to share historical information, stories, or participate in an oral interview about your personal history at CRS and/or Westvale, please contact me.
The purpose of my visit from Oregon is to see the folks, so I don't have lots and lots of extra time, but I'd love to meet with anyone who has a tidbit or a picture to share. Actual writing on the book will begin after the first of the year (as soon as I meet deadline for the educator book I'm working on now) and so now is the time to gather facts and rememberances.
Thanks to those of you who have gotten in touch and "shared." I also want to thank the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society for their diligent support.
Contact Nancy "Camille" at: 503.914.9515 (mobile phone).
I arrive in Syracuse on the 13th and depart on the 22nd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Having trouble signing in?
We still want to hear from you! Here are two solutions: you may contact me, the moderator, and I will help trouble-shoot whatever problems you might be having registering for Blogger. Or, if you don't really want to blog, but have information to share, contact me and I'll post the information on this blog for you.
For help, contact: schoolhouse2@comcast.net
My name is Nancy Cole, though I mostly go by "Camille," a nom de plume that stuck over 30 years ago. I am Marion Parsons' great neice and am coordinating this project in her honor.

I understand there were some alumni gatherings this summer. Welcome to those of you who found out about the project and the blog at your reunion gathering.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Results Are In!

Thanks to all of you who took the recent survey. We posted several questions to try and get an idea of what our project followers would most like to see in a book about Cherry Road School. The majority of respondants said they would most like a chronilogical history of Cherry Road School and also a history of the Westvale neighborhood.

I'd like to encourage anyone who may have any historical documentation or general information to share with the project, to please contact us. And again, thanks to those who took the survey.

And, it's not too late to get in touch! Actual writing on the book will not begin until January, 2010.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Traits of a Good Teacher

What does it mean to be a "good teacher?" Marion Parsons was the kind of educators who, more than 30 years after her death, still inspires former students and people whose lives she touched.

This morning I was reading our introductory piece about the Cherry Road School project on the Historical Society page, about how Miss Parsons embodied the kind of teacher that students never forget, about all the cards and letters she would receive from former students years after her retirement. Then I began to reflect on what is a good teacher? We hear so many stories in the news about what's not working in education today.

If you are visiting this blog, there was probably something about Cherry Road School that affected your life in a positive way.

Please share. Please click on the "Comment" following this post and share what you believe are the characteristics of a "good teacher." We want to hear from all of you! No answer is wrong. Every response is a contribution to this online community of people who were touched by a special school in a unique American neighborhood.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Martha Parsons Remembers-Part II

When the fire started, we three Parsons girls were at the little one room school on Terry Road. One of the boys thought he saw 'something' and got permission to sharpen his pencil so he could go to the window, enabling him to report a fire to the east. At first it was thought to be Babcock's barn on fire, Babcock's being the only buildings between the school and the Parsons farm at that time. The children begged to go to the fire and after much persuasion the teacher, Miss Allen, agreed, providing the children would promise to stay back from it. However, as soon as they saw it was the Parsons barn, the older boys, my cousin Herbert Parsons among them, raced to the fire, and my sister Grace followed. When Miss Allen tried to call her back, she said, with great emphasis, "I'm going home to comfort my mother."

Our Grandmother Parsons brick house about a quarter mile to the west [today, this is the Jim & Susan Jerome place...still in the family] was vacant, so our family lived there for the winter while the new house and barn were built on practically the same foundation as the old ones.

In the 1930s the old barn was demolished to make way for the houses on newly built Parsons Drive. The house still stands. [Corner of Parsons Drive and W. Genesee.]

Where there were open fields and orchards when I was a girl and young woman there are streets lined with houses, changing the whole area from farmlands to a Syracuse Suburb called Westvale.

Dear Readers~ If you have any knowledge of events or people around this time in Westvale, we would love to hear from you. Send your stories privately to the list moderator, or post as a comment to this posting, or any of the other postings that may jog your memory. Again, we would love to hear from you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Martha Parsons Remembers the Fire-Part I

In 1975, Martha Parsons, the youngest daughter of Willis Parsons, and Marion Parsons' younger sister, wrote some of her memories of life on the Parsons' farm--the re-built house still stands on the corner of Parsons Drive and W. Genesee--and what she remembered about the history of the farm and the area. Here is some of what she wrote:
In the Spring of 1890 my father, Willis A. Parsons, purchased from Burritt Chaffee a sixty acre farm located on the east midway between what is now Maple Road and Cherry Road, and on the west by what is now Parsons Drive, then a lane used for farm purposes. In August of that year I was born in this house. My older sisters (Grace and Marion) were born in a house on our grandfather's (Edwin C. Parsons) farm on Onondaga Road.
On the 10th of September, 1897, a crew came with a steam engine to fill the silo with ensilage from the corn raised on the farm. There had been a long dry spell, so when the steam engine blew up about 10 o'clock in the morning for lack of water (probably the engineer's carelessness) and the flames shot into the hay-filled barn, the fire spread rapidly. Soon the house caught fire, and little was saved from the barn or the rear of the house, but much was saved from the front of the house thanks to the efforts of neighbors and passersby. The County Fair was being held that day, and at that hour many people on their way to it hitched their horses to the roadside fences and rushed to help. There were no Volunteer Fire Companies, no telephones to summon them had they existed, no water except what was pumped from the well by hand, or had accumulated in the cistern from rain running off the roof.
(Watch this site for the next installment to be posted next week. What happens to the house and the Parsons family?)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Please take Survey Poll

Dear Friends~
There is still plenty of time to take the survey! Located on the righthand side of the page, please select the items you would most like to see covered in a book about the history of Cherry Road School.
So far the results indicate that most of you would most like to see a chronilogical history of the school and a history of Westvale. We hope to hear from everyone.
Thank you for your participation!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Alumni Remembers Miss Parsons

Thank you for the effort you are putting forth to bring this history into a full circle --I read with great interest and new found knowledge of this small and great community that I came from ---- while many friendships have come and gone their are a few that after 70 years still prevail --especially thanks to the internet and persistent friends who keep in touch ...
I think that is one of the things that a small community imparts on the soul!!! In today's world I marvel at the simplicity from which we come --and that somehow imparts a responsibility that we rise to --- in memory of friendships -- good friends, caring teachers who inspite of our shortcomings gave us a road map that I think today we follow even if unknown to us!!! When I think of Miss Parsons I am reminded of how much respect I held for her-- I think I was quite in awe-- my friend and I stopped in one day to say hello and she was so gracious -- my friend lived across the street from her on Cherry Rd and we were so young and curious !!!!! It brings a smile to my face as I remember gentle kindness and a bit of humor in here eyes --for some reason I remember those eyes -- while it was a quick visit I remember gracious warmth !!!!
Best wishes,Pat Hanrahan Hembach '49

Monday, July 6, 2009

Aunt Marion Tribute

I remember visiting my two great aunts; Marion and Martha, respectively back when I was five years of age. It was the summer of 1966 in July. My parents and my three older brothers were at the house on 303 Cherry Road on a humid mid -summer afternoon. I was playing with my brothers (George, Mark, and Phil) in the backyard while my parents and great aunts were preparing a picnic. My brothers and I were playing a game of "whiffleball" which is like baseball. The most significant difference is that the ball and bat are made of plastic. I recall the specific game that we were playing was "home run derby". My brothers were hitting the ball extremely well to the far reaches of the backyard. We rotated our turn at bat every ten pitches with the goal of hitting the whiffleball as far as possible. All three of my brothers were hitting the ball with consistent success during their batting turn as evidenced by the ball traveling over the heads of my brothers and I that were playing outfield. However, I could not hit the ball beyond the pitcher no matter how hard I tried at every swing of the bat. I succumbed to crying like a baby seeking its milk bottle after several rounds of inability to hit the ball like my brothers.
Aunt Marion apparently heard my cries of frustration as she approached the backyard with a confident gait. She directed me to join her on the porch located on the south end of the house. My great aunt held my hand as we walked over and sat in the chair on the porch without any interruption from other family members. Her voice was strong yet supportively firm as she addressed my despair over the lack of hitting the whiffleball. She emphasized that it was only a game and not to be too critical and expect to be like "Babe Ruth" hitting the ball. Aunt Marion stated that "someday, sooner than later, you'll be hitting that ball as well as your older brothers and quite possibly, even farther. You've to be patient with yourself for the time being and realize that in time with hard work and natural physical growth, your day as a ball player or anything that you do will be rewarding and looked upon as a success if you show passion and love for what you do."
The message that I received from my aunt some 43 years ago still resonates to this day. We, as people, can lead a better life for ourselves, family, and friends if we slow down and be patient with the process of anything involving personal growth opportunities within the journey of life. I believe that a passion for something is developed if you genuinely enjoy what you do for a living. I try to incorporate this message of wisdom to the people that I serve whom are recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.
My great aunt Marion certainly laid some bricks in my foundation as a young boy with respect to approaching life in a positive outlook. It is with great honor for my great aunt Marion to be able to share this short but everlasting story. May your journey in this life be filled with happiness. Respectfully, Jay Cole, a proud great nephew of Marion Parsons.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's Coming on this Blog

Dear Friends~

We've had lots of vistors, some alumni, some family, and some interested historians. In the coming weeks and months, I will be inviting "Guest Authors" to contribute to the Cherry Road School History blog........They will share memories about their time at Cherry Road, Miss Parsons, Westvale, or maybe even about what their lives have been like since they left Cherry Road and Westvale.

Our first Guest Author will be my cousin, Jay Cole. He is going to share a memory from his childhood about our Great Aunt Marion. All our cousins have many wonderful stories about our Aunt Marion, who was in many ways, though she never had children of her own, the matriarch of our family. In the same way, she was more than just the long-time principal of Cherry Road School. She was a guiding force in many lives.
So if you are a cousin, historian, or an alumni, and you would like to be a Guest Author, please let us know and we'll be in touch to get you signed on to the blog.
Thank you everyone for following the site, contributing archives, and sharing your stories about Cherry Road school and the olden days in Westvale.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Parsons/Jerome Cousins

When Marion Parsons and her sisters, Grace and Martha, were growing up on their father's fruit farm on the Genesee Turnpike, their closest friends were their cousins. The Parsons family was large, as many were in those days, and so there were plenty of cousins to play with in the orchards and go to school with at the little Terry Road Schoolhouse.

To give you a little bit of background on this extended family who populated much of what is called Westvale today, let's take another quick look at Edwin and Julia Parsons. (You can see a picture of their house and learn more about them in an earlier post on this blog.) Edwin and Julia came to the Syracuse area from Northampton, Mass. in the early to mid 1800s. They had six children. One of those children was Willis Parsons, and he was Marion Parsons' father. Another of Edwin and Julia's children was Francis, and another, Mary Amelia.

The Parsons girls, Marion, Grace, and Martha, were particularly close with their cousins Laura, Bess, and Charles F., (yes, they all called him Charles F.) and remained close to all of them until the end of their lives. In their later years, they played bridge, enjoyed summer picnics, and visited each other regularly. Laura, Bess, and Charles F.'s parents were Francis Parsons and Sarah Jerome Parsons.

They were also close, all of their lives, with Ned, Harry, and Julia Jerome, whose parents were Mary Amelia Parsons and James Schuyler Jerome. As the Parsons/Jerome cousins grew up, most of them stayed close to home. Marion founded Cherry Road School. Laura and Bess were both respected professionals in the Syracuse area. Ned and Harry Jerome founded the Jerome Dairy, the only farm to last across many generations of this family.

Though many of the Parsons farms are long gone and where there were once orchards, fields, and farm roads, now there are houses and streets. But Cherry Road School thrives and so does the Jerome Dairy.

The Parsons and Jerome cousins' friendship and love for one another endured their entire lives. I believe it was that same loyalty to family and community that helped lay a strong foundation for the school and the dairy, two of the flagship organizations of the Westvale community.

Pictures above are:
Left: Harry Jerome (One of the founders of the Jerome Diary)
Right: Laura and Bess Parsons

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From the Moderator

Maybe some of you are wondering why I got started with this project in the first place. Well, one day, several years ago, I visited the Cherry Road School website to see what they had to say about my Aunt Marion. I was surprised to discover that the answer was, not much at all. Then I Googled Marion Parsons and nothing came up. Then it dawned on me that there were no public records of Marion to speak of and certainly nothing contemporary in cyberspace. I began to realize that the story of Marion Parsons and the little one room schoolhouse in the chicken-coop in my great grandfather's cherry orchard would soon be lost unless I did something about it.
I've been sort of the unofficial family historian for the last 30 years and a number of documents, pictures, and letters have been put into my care. I've saved them and even started working on a project like this a long time ago. But life happens and I was busy raising my daughter and working.
Now that I'm back on the project, I've discovered something. You see, I've always thought that my Great Aunt Marion was, well, just my Aunt Marion. Also, she was Aunt Marion to my siblings, cousins, and my father and his siblings. Marion never had any children of her own. But what I've discovered is that she is not just my Aunt Marion, she is everyone's Miss Parsons.
I got a call the other day from a Cherry Road School Alumni who had graduated 8th grade there sometime around 1945. She said to me, "She inspired everyone to be their best, because you never wanted to disappoint Miss Parsons." That brought tears to my eyes because I know only too well how true that is. I've remembered vividly my whole life the time I let her down. I'll never get over it, but each time I think about it, I learn something new.
If anyone following this blog would like to be a Guest Blogger, if you have a story to tell, please contact me at: schoolhouse2@comcast.net and we'll make arrangements. Put "Cherry Road" in the subject line of the email.
Thank you one and all for participating. I look forward to any "comments" anyone would like to leave.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Marion Parsons' Family

Marion Parsons was the middle child of three girls born to Willis and Mary Anna Parsons during the 1880s. Born in 1888, in this picture Marion stands next to her mother, Mary Anna. To her left, standing in the middle at the back, is eldest sister, Grace Parsons. The little girl sitting in the front of the family photo is Martha, the youngest of the Parsons sisters.

All three of the Parsons girls had successful professional careers as adults. All three were educators, Grace taught art, Martha taught Home Economics, and of course, Marion founded and directed Cherry Road School.

Father Willis was a successful fruit farmer. (Many of the Parsons' clan--children of Edwin and Julia--farmed the Westvale area. Willis's nephews, Harry and Ned Jerome, were the founding owners of Jerome Dairy). Willis served as the president of the Fruit Growers Association for many years.

Mother Mary Anna died when Marion was about thirteen years old. Her death was very hard on all three of the girls who adored their mother. It was probably at that time that the Parsons girls learned to be self-reliant. Marion took on a leadership role with the sisters, looking after Martha, and filling in as the eldest sister when Grace went off to college at Alfred University, not long after their mother's death.

Mary Anna died shortly after this family portrait was taken in 1900.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Parsons Family

Let's start at the beginning. Marion's family migrated to the Syracuse area from Northampton, Mass. sometime in the mid 1800s. The Parsons ancestor who came to this country circa 1630 from England was Cornet Joseph Parsons. He married Mary Bliss . Marion's family are decendents of the eldest of Joseph and Mary's 13 children. Edwin Clarke Parsons and Julia Armstrong Parsons settled first in a brick house on Onondaga Road, where Marion's oldest sister, Grace (my grandmother) was born. Then they settled in another brick house located on W. Genesee Street. The house is still in the family and is owned today by Geddes Historian, Jim Jerome. Can you imagine owning and living in the very house once lived in by your great great great grandparents? Not only does Jim and his family live in the family homestead, he has managed to keep, maintain, and make industry out of all the property that originally belonged to the house.

When fire destroyed the house where Marion grew up in the late 1800s, she and her family lived for a while in this house, her grandparents, Edwin and Julia's house, while the house at 2709 W. Genesee St. was being rebuilt.

This is a picture of the house today. Though there have been many improvements, Jim and his wife have maintained the style and look of the 19th century home.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The house where Miss Parsons grew up

This is a picture of the farmhouse where Marion Parsons grew up. It stands today, rebuilt after a fire in the late 1880's, on the corner of W. Genesee Street and Parsons Drive. Marion is in the picture, the 3rd person from the left. Isn't it amazing to see her as a little girl in the long skirt? Little did she know then that she would affect the lives of so many other little girls (and boys) of that age. Little did she know that would be her legacy.

If anyone has any pictures from this time in this area and you'd like to share them, please contact the Geddes Historical Society, as they are always on the look-out to add pictures to their collection.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The Cherry Road School Project is collecting stories, memories, artifacts, and any related information on the history of Cherry Road School from alumni, family, retired teachers and staff, neighbors, and anyone who might have something to share.
If you have something you would like to share, you can do so by commenting on this site, or by contacting the project coordinator, Nancy "Camille" Cole: schoolhouse2@comcast.net
She will get back to you promptly.