Tag Archives: Rochester NY

Musings on newspapers, news, and neighbors

From the Rochester Union and Advertiser, 12 June 1860

One of the things that I love about doing research is that old newspapers offer not only unique stories and old advertisements, but a look into how publications viewed their job as purveyors of the news.

This clipping, from the Rochester Union and Advertiser, 12 June 1860, caught my eye. I’d posted it on my Facebook page last year, but came across it again today and have been musing on it all morning.

It appears that a rival newspaper had printed a story about two young people planning to elope, who in the end gave up their plan and returned home without incident. The Rochester Union and Advertiser noted that while they had the story several days earlier (before the Democrat *), the Rochester Union and Advertiser chose not to run it, in order to avoid embarrassment to the parties involved – who appear to be young. Their reason? Continue reading

A history of the Charlotte lighthouse

The historical marker at the Charlotte cemetery, citing its notable residents, including the first lighthouse keeper.

The historical marker at the Charlotte cemetery, citing its notable residents, including the first lighthouse keeper.

If there’s a cemetery tour happening in Rochester, you can be sure I’m there. For anyone interested in local history, there’s no better place to find unusual stories and bits of trivia, and I’m fascinated by the history buried all around us. (Plus, I’m writing a book about people buried in Rochester who changed, intrigued or just amused the world, so I’m always on the lookout for more stories.)

A few weeks ago, the City of Rochester hosted the annual Genesee River Romance weekend  celebrating the Genesee River and its surrounding trail and gorge system. In 2014, I took full advantage of the weekend of events that include tours of the old subway and aqueducts, the Rundel Library, the Falls, and cemeteries. Somehow, I missed the adverts for this year’s event, so I only had time to catch one thing: the tour of Charlotte Cemetery…

You can read the rest of the story at RochesterSubway.com.

Caledonia Jane Doe identified, and the next chapter of her story begins

In 1979, the body of a young girl was found in a cornfield in Caledonia, NY. She had been shot in the head and in the back. She remained unidentified for more than 30 years. Today, she was identified as Tammy Jo Alexander.

In 1979, the body of a young girl was found in a cornfield in Caledonia, NY. She had been shot in the head and in the back. She remained unidentified for more than 30 years. Today, she was identified as Tammy Jo Alexander.

In November 1979, the body of a young girl was found in a field in Caledonia, NY. She had been shot and dragged into the field, and then shot again. For more than 30 years, she remained unidentified and her case unsolved.

Until today. Her case is still unsolved, but we now know that the girl is Tammy Jo Alexander, a teenager from Brooksville, Florida who was last seen in 1977.

For three decades, the Livingston County Sheriff Department has followed thousands and thousands and thousands of leads, never giving up in their attempt to identify the young woman and track down her killer.

According to news reports, a girl who went to high school with Tammy Jo contacted Florida authorities to ask if anyone had ever reported her missing. Apparently, no one had. Ever. With that new missing person report, police in New York were able to heat up their investigation and, using DNA from Tammy Jo’s sister, identify their Jane Doe.

With a name, I can search for information. Here’s Tammy Jo Alexander, c. 1977, the year she went missing and two years before her body was found in Caledonia. She was 13 years old when she disappeared from Florida.

Tammy Jo Alexander, c. 1977, the year she went missing and two years before her body was found in Caledonia. She was 13 years old when she disappeared from Florida.

I mused about the case of Caledonia Jane Doe back in 2010 on my blog, when I was reflecting on my own life, my own wasted opportunities, my own sense of going through the motions of life rather than living them. Her story haunted me; Who was she? Where did she come from? Were her parents looking for her? And what would she be doing right now if she hadn’t met with such a tragic end?

My goal, at the time, was to research and then write about her story. I didn’t have any hope of solving a case or even shedding light on it. I just felt like there was  story to tell and I should tell it. Over the almost two decades I’ve spent writing, I’ve done countless feature stories for magazines and newspapers. I’ve interviewed celebrities and regular folks. I tell stories, often stories people can’t tell themselves.

But when I started researching Jane Doe, I quickly realized that I was out of my element. No person to interview. No name to Google. Almost no place to begin and, if I’m being totally honest, no idea where to start. I’d never researched a police case before, and I wasn’t familiar with places to even begin, or what to do with the information once I found it.

So rather than charging full steam ahead – which is what I felt like I should do – I put the folder on the desk and moved on to other things. But I never forgot about her.

Over the last few years, I’ve got more savvy about researching local history and genealogy, developed better techniques for managing mountains of information, newspaper clippings and notes (I love paper, so my filing system involves lots of folders and boxes). I dove headfirst into stories about women in the Rochester area in the 19th century (Emma Moore and Sarah Bardwell being chief), and while I never forgot about her, Caledonia Jane Doe stayed on the desk.

But I confess that as I watched the press conference today in which the Livingston County Sheriff announced that they had identified Caledonia Jane Joe as Tammy Jo Alexander, I felt a twinge of regret that five years ago I didn’t stick with my own research.

The important thing is that the unidentified body found in the cornfield thirty five years ago now has a name. Her headstone will have a name and my folder labeled “Caledonia Jane Doe” will be replaced with a new one labeled “Tammy Jo Alexander”. My curiosity is piqued again. Why did her family not report her disappearance? Where was she in the two years from when she was last seen in Florida to the time she was found in Caledonia? Her story is still waiting to be told.

50 thoughts on turning 50: #15 Greetings from your alternate reality

sheldon and penny big bang dancing alternate universe

Bandit and I went for a walk this week with my new friend Beth.  I met her a few years ago when I interviewed her for a pet magazine, and although we’ve kept in touch on Facebook, I confess that when she asked if Bandit and I wanted to go for a walk with her, I was afraid she’d find me boring in person. I suggested we go to Mt. Hope Cemetery, where I knew Bandit could meander about on a long leash and we’d have a nice walk.

I also knew that I’d have something to talk about, seeing as how I’m obsessed with a few of the residents at Mt. Hope and have been researching their histories. If I wasn’t interesting, maybe they would be. (You remember Emma Moore and Sarah Bardwell?)

Yes, I babbled.

But fortunately, Beth not only enjoyed the stories, she had a few of her own. And they were more interesting than mine, by a mile. Continue reading

If you tell me take it up with customer service … that’s exactly what I’m going to do

Understand that I’m not normally a customer service complainer.  Like I write in the letter that follows, I make it a point when I shop to seek out employees who are doing a good job and fill out a customer service card or at least stop a manager and tell them. When you look for good customer service, you find good customer service. And the bad employees often get the attention, while the good ones do their job in obscurity.

But I had an unpleasant experience today at my local megagrocery store, and when the cashier told me I could “take it up with customer service” I can only assume that’s what he actually wanted me to do. In the interests of fairness, I’ve deleted the name of the store and the employees in this post. It could be any store, any where. But you know where I was.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear ***** Customer Service,

I am generally not a shopping complainer. In fact, I make it a point when I shop at your stores to find an employee who is doing a good job and leave a comment in the box or tell a manager what a good job their staff is doing. I figure if you want a pleasant shopping experience you should look for it. But my experience today at the ***** store was unpleasant enough to feel like I needed to bring it to your attention.

I don’t normally shop at that store. My preferred store – for a variety of reasons – is the ***** Rd store. But I needed some essential oils and thought ***** would offer me the most choice.

Saturday at the ***** ***** isn’t the optimal time to shop. But I was pleasantly – and most gratefully, I might add – surprised by the fantastic employees on the floor in the departments where I shopped. From ***** at the Tea Bar to the man stocking the shelves in the specialty foods section to the employees in health and beauty to the chef I grabbed as he walked by. They were all friendly, helpful and not in the least fazed by the Saturday morning chaos around them.

But when I got to the check out, it was a different story. My cashier was friendly and laid back enough, but when I pointed out that he was ringing up the wrong prices and quantities for my items, things went south. Continue reading

Handgun lesson #1 – don’t point the gun at anyone, even if it’s not loaded

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Last week my sister and I went to Beikirch’s to play with … er … look at … the guns. I’ve had my pistol permit for almost two years but just haven’t really been motivated to get my own pistol.

I’m not afraid of guns. I grew up around them, my father being a cop and all. And I’ve shot guns before. But it’s different when it’s your gun, something you need to actually know how to operate and clean and store safely, not just shoot and hand back to its owner when you’re tired of playing with it.

Now that my sister is a handgun instructor, we thought we’d have some fun and go look at guns. It’s a daunting process, even when you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing.  Poor Mark at the gun shop; he was overwhelmed by one woman with too much info and one with absolutely zero (that was me!).

So today I had an hour long lesson with Dave Jenkins from Rochester Personal Defense here in Rochester. We went to the gun club and for an hour he explained how a gun works, what I should be looking for in my own gun, answered my stupid questions, and then let me shoot a couple of his guns.

I learned a lot. I always knew that shooting was more than pulling the trigger; I’ve shot rifles and pistols before. But I forgot how easy it is to pull the trigger and then turn around and say, “Hey! Wow! Did you see that?” while waving the gun around. Oops. Good thing Dave only put one bullet in at a time. (“This isn’t the first time I’ve done this,” he said with a smile.)

When my sister and I were looking at guns last week, I was unable to pull the slide on one. I mean, literally, physically unable to muscle the thing back while holding the gun. Today I learned that I also need to be able to push the safety thingy up at the same time. The thumb on my right hand doesn’t want to cooperate; there was another gun I simply couldn’t work because I couldn’t push up with my thumb and then slide the … slide thing. (I’ll learn the actual terms when I take another class, I promise.) My thumb still hurts.

Dave explained that that just helps us eliminate some guns. Other things to consider are purpose (will I carry it for protection? go target shooting? both?), the grip, how it feels in my hand, and can I operate it. Clearly, some I can’t.

I got to shoot the Glock 19 and managed to get most of the bullets in one area of the paper without hurting myself, Dave, or the guy shooting next to us. I also shot a Smith and Wesson revolver.

I’d forgotten what a powerful experience it is to actually shoot a gun. It’s not like on TV; the gun BOOMS and kicks back and sends a bullet at a gazillion miles an hour into a target. I think every elementary school kid should shoot a gun if only to show them that guns are not toys and that what they see on TV is nothing like reality. Shooting a gun – even holding a gun – is not a game.

At the same time, it was a really cathartic experience. I called it “yo-gun”, because I had to focus and steady myself and breathe and then … WHAM! Yeah, I did that. Boom!

There are a lot of rules, too. Don’t point the gun at someone, even if there aren’t any bullets in it. When the buzzer sounds, get behind the red line. Don’t point the gun at anyone. Don’t point the muzzle in the air. Don’t take your ear protection off or your ears will be ringing for a long time. (If you can’t hear with them on, pretend like you can.) Don’t point the gun at anyone.

Oh, and don’t point the gun at anyone.

It’s a lot to take in and well worth the $35 Dave charges for a consultation like this. (Thanks, Jackie!) Out of the hour, I only spent about 15 minutes shooting, but I was prepared for the experience and felt much more comfortable handling the gun. Dave explained how the gun should fit in my hand and how it actually fires a bullet. Plus, I got to try a couple of guns to see what felt good in my hand. Next time, Dave said I can shoot more and try some other guns. Since buying a gun is such a big investment, this is a great way to ease myself into shooting without making a huge investment in a gun I can’t shoot or won’t carry.

You can learn more about guns, especially programs for women (one of their main focuses), at Rochester Personal Defense’s website, www.safeinrochester.com.

And with this little outing, I think I can close out my Year of Adventure!

I go to a new magazine meeting and I don’t even break anything! (But I do use up all of my words & spill something)

I went to a meeting tonight for a new magazine starting in Rochester  – ooo, I’m so excited! It’s Rochester Animal Magazine! And I’ve been asked to do some writing!

The meeting tonight was to talk about the first issue, hand out story assignments, and get the ball rolling. These are professional people who know their stuff; it’s the same publisher that does Rochester Women Magazine.

I tried to be on my best behavior. Honest, I did. But as you know, I rarely go out in public when I don’t: a) hurt myself; b) embarrass myself; c) talk too much; or d) all of the above.

The meeting was held at A Barker’s Dozen, a dog barkery in Webster. Super cool place. But it’s  not a huge place; there were maybe a dozen people there so we settled in around two small tables and squeezed in some chairs. When I sat down on a bench that was in front of a bookcase, Gabriella, who owns the barkery, said, “Just don’t spill the water.”

Water? Water? What water? I thought there might be a bowl of dog water under the bench for her dog Andrea. So I watched where I put my feet and sat down.

About half hour into the meeting, someone noticed that there was a huge river of water running across the floor. Did Andrea the dog pee? Nope. Was the air conditioning leaking? Nope. When Joanne sat down she knocked over the vase of flowers that were on the bench.

Oh, that water! Me and my big butt.

At least I didn’t break anything. I’ve been on a streak this week: four glasses and a bowl. Plus Bailey broke a bowl today. Given the amount of glass (bakery cases) there was potential for some serious damage. People, this is the reason I don’t go out very often.

Well, that and my big mouth.

I read somewhere that women use about 40,000 words a day. Since I’m at home alone most of the time, I save up my words and then, when I go out in public, I use them up. That means that I have a huge store of words, so whenever I open my mouth, words fall out, usually in no particular order and without a filter. And today was no exception.

Fortunately, the meeting was wrapping up just as I was warming up, so I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much. But I still have a bank of works that I need to use. (Happy hour, anyone?)

You can learn more about Rochester Animal Magazine on their website. For the inaugural issue, I’ll be doing a cover story on a local celeb and her pets, and Bandit may even make his magazine debut! This is a super high quality magazine done by folks who are experienced professionals. If you’re interested in advertising, check out the magazine’s media kit.