Susan Avery Bick Remembers Life on Buckley Road

Posted on May 1, 2012

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Just a couple weeks ago, I had the great fortune to come into possession of an original manuscript written by Susan Avery Bick, which she completed just a few months before she passed away entitled “When It Was Country”* This and many photos and remembrances were in the possession of her son, Robert Bick, Town Assessor. Much of it I will quote in her own words. First let’s hear about her ancestors and early life on Buckley Road which we know was a respelled version of a family named Bulky, early settlers in the Clay area.

Susan was born in Syracuse General Hospital in 1937 and brought up in a house built in 1829 and purchased by her grandfather, Lewis Avery, in 1894. He was only 16 years old and had worked on it as a hired hand since he was 14 when his father passed away. Lewis took care of his Mother, brothers and sisters. His Mother’s family lived on Court Street in Syracuse and were in the salt business. He married Anna Harroum in 1897 and brought her to the house where they raised five children: Charlotte, Mary, Helen, Ruth and Austin, Susan’s Father.

Susan’s Aunt Charlotte and Cousin Barbara lived in the house in the 1920’s so when her Father, Austin Frederick Avery, married Jeannette Helene Dudley, Grandpa Lewis added an addition and new windows to the house. Much thought went into his plan, lots of warmth from the sun and sunlight to shine throughout it. I porch was added for summer use. He owned houses around the county and as his daughters married, he gave them each a house. They would pay him $100 a year for his lifetime and then the houses would be theirs. Austin got the farm and paid him $1000 a year for his lifetime. Here Susan’s sister Judy was born in 1935 and Susan in 1937.

Susan writes: “Buckley Road was a perfectly wonderful place to be a child in the late 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Having lived on the road since birth, it was special. In part, this was due to the family unit I was born into. Farms were the economy of Buckley Road. Fresh air and land surrounded us. The majority of the farms raised vegetables and flowers. Dairy farms only counted for two from Will and Baumer Candle Company to Taft Road. Maple trees arched over the road creating an umbrella. Farms extended from Buckley Road to North Syracuse and Mattydale to the Southeast and Liverpool and Clay to the Northwest. I was privileged to have Grandparents living on either side of our home. Grandpa Avery used his horses to move the barn to the backyard. He moved the hired hand’s house under the oak tree down in the field to the place where the barn had stood”

“Our home, including the other original homes on Buckley Road down to Melvins’ cobblestone home were tenant houses belonging to the red brick home located where the Comfort Inn now stands. This area was owned by a man named Harry Garret. Years passed and the tenant homes were sold to families that moved into the area. Buckley Road was peaceful and quiet. You knew each vehicle that drove by the house. There were no housing developments or businesses, just farm homes with space in between.”

“Ward and Myrtle Smith lived on the corner of Buckley and 7th North in the same building that was Smith’s Restaurant. Smiths was famous for their wonderfully delicious fish dinners which included bread, cabbage salad, French fries or German potato salad. Mrs. Reck used to prepare the food and a great cook she was. She seemed to always cook everything to perfection. The primary waitress was Mame Scherer. She was a special lady, very kind and an excellent waitress as I recall. Dinners for adults were 50 cents each.”

“The family that lived across from Smiths was in the noodle business as well as farming. During WWII, they sold their farm to Mr. and Mrs. Tony Emmi. Just down the road was Wagner’s dairy farm where many people bought their milk. They had a large herd of cows and many bloodhounds who would howl at night and could be heard for miles. The NYS Thruway went through his farm and the remaining sold for the Hotel Syracuse Country House. In the 1950’s Al Wagner moved to Melvin drive. Across from them were Louie and Lil Ranger. Louie ran the farm and Lil the florist business. I spent many hours helping her in the greenhouse arranging bouquets and would bring some home to Mother. Within a stone’s throw was Asel Melvin’s home; a beautiful brick building with a two-store sun porch on the back facing the fields to the west. There were many sheds, open garages and a large barn on the property too.”

“Winter time found the neighborhood children ice skating behind the house or sliding on one of the two hillsides on either side of the house. I should mention, everyone in the immediate area had the best tasting well water until the building of the Thruway began in the 1950’s cutting away land for the roadbed, cutting the vein of water that provided our well water. Water was not so good after that and it ended our skating pond and one of our hillsides for skiing. A detour for the Thruway bridge was to be built across our yard and Grandpa Avery’s. The beautiful maples had to be cut down. Each day the contractor marked the trees to be cut down and after dark, Grandma Avery would go out and remove the marks. Finally after a month, they marked and cut the trees first thing in the morning.”

“Across from Melvin’s was Lewis and Anna Avery, my grandparents. Sometimes after school, I’d visist Grandma. She always had special goodies for us. Among my favorites wer red current jelly tarts or fried cakes. Her kitchen always smelled like a bakery. And, Grandpa would be ready to play billiards. Next would be our home and following that was Minnie and William Dudley, my other grandparents. This was one of my favorite spots to visit.”

This, then is the Buckley Road of Susan’s childhood on Buckley Road. There is much more from her manuscript for later articles as we remember times past.

*From “When It Was Country” original manuscript by Susan Avery Bick, permission from Robert Bick, Susan’s son.

Dorothy Heller, Historian

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