Family history and snakes in the woodpile

What a strange day.

The reader probably needs a little context here, so let’s rewind the tape. . . 

My grandparents lived in Buffalo, New York.  Grandparents on my mother’s side were gone before I was born.  On my father’s side, after many years of hard work and saving, my grandparents bought the Norwalk Avenue house and lived there for many years.  After World War II, a distant cousin, Erwin, lived with them and worked in the family business.  To support the family, Grandpa rented space in the Broadway Market where he retailed bread and other baked goods.  With determination and a little luck, the business provided a good living for my grandparents and Erwin.  For two summers during my pre-teen years, I lived in Buffalo with my grandparents, worked in the business and learned the fundamentals of capitalism.  It was pretty basic stuff — buy the bread, sell the bread, count the money and pay the bills.  On a good day, there was a little money left for profit.  During my many years of corporate life, surprisingly few executives understood this concept.  But that’s a discussion for another day. . .

Around mid-morning, we left the coach for Buffalo.  The first stop was my grandparents house and I was happy to find the house and neighborhood were being maintained.  We then headed for the Broadway Market via the daily bus route I took as a kid.  What a disappointment.  The once prosperous neighborhoods now contained boarded-up crack houses and abandoned businesses.  Except for the building itself, there was nothing familiar about the Broadway Market.  The character of the market I knew was gone and in the interest of personal safety we quickly left the area.

Next stop was the cemetery to locate my grandparents.  Not really knowing where they were buried, we started to a systematic search that yielded nothing after two hours.  By now, it was time to meet my uncle Marvin, aunt Dorthy and cousin Morrie at their tennis club.  Hopefully, they could give us a clue where to find the missing grandparents.

I was very glad to spend some time with my family and the visit certainly revealed new insights into the early years of my parents marriage.  Between the documents mom kept and conversations with family members, I can now piece together why my father abruptly left Buffalo.  This one visit today clarified some issues and I am now satisfied the truth has been revealed.  There is no doubt Dad made the right decision to leave Buffalo and I am forever in his debt.

After the visit, we returned to the cemetery and Jeanne eventually located the missing grandparents.  I now know where they are and have pictures of the headstones.  So much for a day of nostalgia.  A word of warning for readers who want to poke into their family history: there can be snakes in the woodpile.

We returned to the coach, grilled some chicken and went for a walk.  The grounds were much larger than we thought and include a lake, playgrounds, restaurant and group camping areas.  On our walk, we helped some campers free a snake from the trunk of their car.  Another warning: don’t use the trunk of your car to transport firewood, there can be snakes in the woodpile.