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Welch’s ‘lost’ plant

Buzzings from BeeLines

April 11, 2012
By Marybelle Beigh - Current Westfield Historian (westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net) , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

On Friday, March 23, 2012, the historian office phone rang, showing an unusual phone number from Ontario, Canada.

"Parkview and Historian Office; this is Marybelle Beigh," I answered. "How may I help you?"

"My name is Ken Ridd, and I have a photo from the 1950s that I want to be sure shows the Welch plant in Westfield with the water tank," the gravel-sounding voice replied. "Welch's has not answered my request for a photo, and haven't even bothered to reply at all," he continued, with frustration in his voice. "And I have not been able to locate any other photos by computer or any other ways, either. Would you be able to help me, please?"

Thanking him for his call, and assuring him that I remember the water tank on the Welch plant from my childhood, I asked him if he would be able to scan his photo into the computer and send it to me by email. Then I would compare his photo with the photo archives in the historian office, or if none were satisfactory, I would access the photo archives at the Patterson Library.

Ridd said he would immediately scan and send a copy of his photo and asked that when I found a photo to please provide him with information regarding where he might also access the photo himself.

Within a short time, Ridd's email appeared with attached photo, which was downloaded and printed. In his email, he gave a few more bits of information, "The date at the bottom right of the photo is not the date the photo was taken." His photo is a photo, taken on a digital camera on March 10, 2010, of an early 1950s photo and is rather blurred.

Fact Box

Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.

Beigh can be reached at westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

"The photo was taken between 1952-55," Ridd adds. "The truck is a 1952 Autocar, and we hauled a lot of fruit out of Jordan and Vineland stations at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, to different points in the USA. If you need any more info please just ask. Thank You Ken Ridd." He provided his phone number as well.

The photo definitely showed part of the Welch Plant no. 2 with a portion of the water tank on top, and the cab and front of a large tractor-trailer truck under an unloading canopy. The company name on the truck was blurred but "WEEKS" could be made out on the cab door. There also appeared to be some handwriting at the bottom of the photo.

After finding no suitable postcard photos of the Welch Plant no. 2 from 1950s time frame, the Chazanof book about Welch's Grape Juice was consulted. It contained one photo of the Welch Plant no. 2 viewed from the rear or west side taken in 1913 when an addition to the plant was under construction, and showing the water tank and a Welch Grape Juice sign on the top of the main plant. This photo was sent to Ken Ridd with an email asking about the handwriting on the photo.

Ridd replied that the writing had been done by his son as a "young lad ... working on writing his name." He added a lot more information about the truck, "owned by Weeks Produce Lt. the company we both worked for." "We" refers to himself, "Ken, I was born in 1938 Sept. My brothers name is Ron ... born in 1934 May ... started off going to Weeks as young boys to ride in the trucks and help the drivers with ... deliveries ... to corner grocery stores throughout the Toronto area ... in the morning, and in the afternoon ... went (to) Niagara on the Lake to pick up whatever was in season ... all the work done with five ton trucks ... not till 1952 when Weeks bought the tractor trailer ... never drove the Autocar myself ... still too young ... Ron did the driving ... with ... Frank ... who taught Ron to drive the Autocar."

On Monday, March 26, 2012, another photo of the Welch Plant no. 2 was located in a Welch Grape Juice Centennial booklet insert to the Westfield Republican of March 26, 1969. As I stared at the aerial photo, it made no sense, as the Nickel Plate tracks and North Portage Street were not where they should be. So I cut it out of the paper, scanned the photo into my computer, then flipped it horizontally, and finally it made sense. They had printed the negative from the wrong side in the newspaper. This photo had been taken at least a year or two prior to 1969, and was from the perspective that showed the unloading structures, white-colored plant no. 2, and the water tank that confirmed Ridd's 1952-55 photo. This photo was also sent to Ken Ridd.

Later on the 26th, Ken and Ron confirmed receiving both photos. Ron wanted to find out some more information regarding the route he was required to drive with the large tractor-trailer truck since it was unable to come up from Route 5 via North Portage - then Route 17- because one of the bridges had ironwork over the road that the truck's trailer could not clear. After some discussion in a later phone call, we decided that the large trucks were probably routed up McKinley Road, from Route 5 to Route 20, then into Westfield past the hospital - the Westfield Academy and Central School was not yet built where it is now located - turning right onto Colburn, then curving around onto Jefferson Street. This would give the truck a direct shot into the entrance to Welch Plant no. 2's unloading docks, across from where Jefferson junctions North Portage at the base of the bridge over the Nickel Plate tracks.

If anyone has further information about this semi-truck routing prior to the 1980 rebuild of the North Portage bridges over the New York Central and Nickel Plate tracks, contact the Westfield Historian, and the information will be provided to Ken and Ron Ridd. Thank you very much.

 
 
 

 

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