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Remember when?

October 5, 2011
RIPLEY — Imagine riding in a covered wagon in the early 1800s to a part of northeast North America, a little town called Quincy, N.Y. Ripley is present day Quincy.

According to local history specialist Arthur Kinney, at that time, Jamestown was called Rapids, while Westfield was named Crossroads. Main Street was simply Buffalo/Erie Road.

Kinney hosted an interactive trip down memory lane on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at Ripley’s Free Library.

“I wanted us to begin with the question, ‘What was Ripley like in the pioneer days?’” Kinney said. “After the first few pioneers had arrived, then there started to be a steady stream of people coming.”

He described full wagons with men walking on each side and women and elderly family members riding inside. Sometimes there was only one family, and sometimes several people would travel together. Some even brought their chickens and cows.

As more people arrived, the town was finally established in 1816. The population grew and nearly 100 years later, there were 2,414 people in the town of Ripley.

Ripley resident Marion Pell remembers graduating with 14 other classmates in 1946, a low number due to students joining the military during World War II. Her parents owned a fruit farm and grew vegetables at home. At this time, Americans were issued ration stamps for food, gas and other commonplace items.

As Kinney asked the audience to recall some of the items they remembered being rationed, a woman yelled, “Coffee” to which several people responded with laughter.

“We got one good pair of shoes for school and the rest of them were canvas.” Pell said.

Kinney stood at the front of the room and listed businesses that existed in Ripley during the mid-twentieth century and asked audience members to comment.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a roller-skating rink named Caldwell’s and a bowling alley near the train tracks on State Street. A gas station was also once connected to Meeder’s Restaurant.

Several audience members recalled the fire which occurred on New Year’s Day in 1965. It destroyed appliance store HepCo and Patterson’s, a store above which dances and plays often took place.

One listener said he remembered blue flames from television sets exploding before the front wall of the buildings collapsed onto Main Street. Due to low water pressure in Ripley at the time, the fire destroyed much of the buildings before the Westfield Fire Department arrived.

Two years later, Ripley’s 150th anniversary was celebrated.

“It was a time when the town really came together,” Dorothy Luke, who was born and raised in her parents’ home on Main Street, said.

”Everyone was born at home back then,” Pell said.

It was a time when doctors visited homes rather than practicing medicine at a centralized location. Calling the doctor’s office to schedule an appointment never happened.

People in Ripley used the trolley system that ran along Lake Erie to get to Westfield and the surrounding areas. One audience member mentioned troops of actors and performers passing through town.

Linda Lamaye, a member of the Ripley Library’s Friends of the Library group, is currently working on a project about the history of Ripley for the children and families of the town. For more information, call the Ripley library at 736-3913.

Kinney will also be hosting a second installment of the meeting on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. at the library. Those attending are asked to bring memories and photos of Ripley from the past to discuss and “Illustrate the town of Ripley back when.”

Article Photos

Photo by correspondent Katie Atkins
Arthur Kinney talks about the history of Ripley during an intera Trip Down Memory Lane Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Ripley Free Library.



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