We avoided the NY Thruway and instead took Route 20, a scenic byway. This lead us through more rural, pastoral lands and small, historic towns like Peterboro, established 1795 and once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Although it offered great views, this route was a bit nerve racking this time of year, since it involved steep mountain roads with soft shoulders and remnants of snow. And by the time we entered Madison County, the skies were producing snow flurries!
Mom baked a cake for Aunt Laurie's 60th b-day. Can you tell I helped with the candles?
We visited Chittenango, NY, known as Emerald City, a reference to the fact it is the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz. And the village certainly does its best to capitalize on this notoriety. From the All Things Oz Museum to the Yellow Brick Road Casino (owned/operated by the Oneida Indian Nation and frequented by Aunt Laurie, along with Turning Stone Casino). When we were there, the village was decorated with pinwheels, representative of the magic wand of Glinda the Good Witch. And each first weekend in June since 1978 the village sponsors Oz-Stravaganza, which in all prior years included appearances by the little people who played Munchkins. Unfortunately, the last of the Munchkins passed away in 2018, so Aunt Laurie will no longer be able to get her annual autograph from the LolliPop Kid. We did not visit any Oz-themed places. Instead, we focused on Chittenango Falls State Park, marveling at its 167-foot waterfall! Supposedly, these falls cascade over 400-million-year-old bedrock! Absolutely spectacular and breathtaking! It was a good time to view the falls since it has been a very rainy Spring—even the smaller falls were running! We clocked some additional mileage by hiking to and then along the Gorge Trail, an old rail line converted to hiking trail. Along the way, we spied a chipmunk, a whitetail deer, and a cemetery containing graves from the early settlers of Fenner, a town established in 1823. The birds were busy foraging and making nests. Even a snake was out on this lovely Spring day, one of the few days during our 3-week visit that included warm temps, sunny skies, and no precipitation! We completed our day of hiking by visiting Chittenango Landing Historic Site in Old Erie Canal State Park, which is the home of the only recovered/reconstructed dry dock along the Erie Canal.
The very junior version Chittenango Falls--like a trickle compared to the main Falls
A snake slithering in the sunshine
We went to Destiny Mall in Syracuse, NY. The mall itself is very cool and absolutely HUGE. It offers 3 floors of retail and contains several fun restaurants like Dave & Buster’s, Texas de Brazil, and Margaritaville, just to name a few. (Wish we realized beforehand how many restaurant options were available at the mall. We ate earlier at a new-style, next generation Golden Corral, which is considerably more open and airy, is not as cafeteria-style looking, and no longer has self-seating.) What makes this mall unique is its indoor amusement park with old-school carousel, go-karts, escape room, arcade, suspended rope climbing course, laser tag, mirror maze, and comedy club. It was like a mini Mall of America! It was also reminiscent to Mom of the Bergen Mall in Paramus, NJ, circa 1966, but on a much grander, more exciting scale. (The Bergen Mall of her childhood contained a section of kiddie rides like the merry-go-round, whip, and train.) Anyway, we got a fine “Welcome Back to the East Coast” when we attended a viewing of the movie “Unplanned” at the Destiny Mall’s Regal Theater--$11.50/
ticket, and a matinee to boot! (Last movie we viewed in TX cost only $6.75/ticket for a matinee). We left the Mall in time to see a beautiful sunset.
We had passed by the Oneida Community Mansion House umpteen times through the years, but we neglected to ever take a tour. This time we made a point of visiting. Like the Amana Colonies we visited in Iowa, Oneida Community is another example of utopian communal living. Started in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes, Oneida Community was a byproduct of the Second Great Awakening, when religious leaders were developing new interpretations of Christianity. Its members, known as Perfectionists, strived to emulate the lifestyles of early Christians described in the New Testament. They shared labor and property, like many other utopian communes. But here’s the twist: Perfectionists were quite socially progressive. They believed in complex marriage, wherein all Perfectionist men were husbands to all the women in the community, and all the women in the community were wives to all the Perfectionist men. (Apparently, they based this concept on a quote in the Gospel of Matthew within the New Testament.) However, sex only occurred when and if both partners were mutually agreeable to it. Despite this lovefest atmosphere, there were no pregnancies during the first 20 years the Community existed. This outcome was deliberate and achieved by men practicing “male continence”, wherein they would ensure they pleasured their female partner, but would not personally have an orgasm (Good thing I knew about the birds and the bees before we took this tour!). Anyhow, once the Community deemed itself ready for children, their selective breeding program took effect. Known as stirpiculture, members who were deemed most spiritually fit were encouraged to produce children with each other. (This was a very calculating bunch of folks!) Children were raised collectively (think of Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village”) rather than exclusively by birth parents (think Rick Santorum’s book “It Takes a Family”). The Mansion House, build in phases between 1862 and 1878, was home for approximately 240 adults and 60 offspring. The complex is now designated as a National Historic Landmark. (Art Restoration students from Cornell University were busy beavers when we visited. Hence, it was tough to get photos that didn't include ladders, caution tape, or paint cans!)
Perfectionists believed in equal rights for women, with women having a say in how the commune, as well as its collectively-owned businesses, operated. Some women even served as Board of Directors for these businesses. The commune came to an end in 1881. However, the businesses Oneida Community started remained robust for well over 100 years. Many of you, like my Mom, might even have flatware/silverware that was manufactured right in Sherrill, NY by the Oneida Community (Oneida Ltd).
Advertisements for Oneida flatware/silverware
This artwork by Perfectionist offspring Jessie Catherine Kinsley is amazing! She devised this medium called braiding, borne from her love of colonial rugs. Left is the full piece, right is some detail.
Well, its been a busy but interesting visit here in Central NY State, but it’s time to cut loose. I’ll talk to you again real soon!