A life long resident of Rossie has been very gracious in sharing his memories of the early 1930s & 1940s in Rossie. Elwood M. Simons is a very prominent & active resident of Rossie. He is the town historian, a member of the planning board & he is on the board of directors for the Rossie Community Center,Inc.
Elwood was town justice for 14 years. He taught English in the Pulaski School where he was chairman of the English Dept. He also taught in Massena & Watertown.
Elwood was born at the Whalen Maternity Home in Gouvereur, which was operated by Etta Whalen, who was a family friend. When he was brought home the water was over the road from Gibson's Store to the factory hill. His father had to row Elwood & his mother throught the flooded stretch in a boat.
Elwood is a fifth generation Rossie resident. He lives in the home built by Simeon Simons , who was the first Simons to the area. There are sixth & seventh generatoins of Simons in the community.
Elwood began our recent interview by telling of where the businesses were & who operated them.
Where Jack Walsh lives was once the post office & Jim Mullin's store. The post office was on the right hand side. Roseanne Phalen was the post mistress. The mail arrived about 7:30 in the eveing & the folks of Rossie would grather at the post office to vist while they waited for their mail. Elmer Spragues, who lived in sight of the post office, had a big long haired gray & tan dog. Every eveing Mr. Sprague would send the dog to fetch the paper. The dog would arrive at the post office , get the paper, & return it to his master. While the men would gather in the post office. The women would sit in their cars & vist back & forth or a few would go upstairs & vist with Roseanne.
On the left side of the building, next to the post office, was a dry goods store, operated by Jim Mullin. Elwood's father , Murry C. Simons, often took Elwood with him to Mullin's store. When Elwood needed a new pair of boots or "buckle overshoes" his father would take him there to buy a pair. In those days a kid didn't get to pick what he wanted for boots or choose the color he wanted. His father always selected the boots & Elwood tried them on & his father would ask but one question, "do they fit or don't they?" As he tried on the boots, every one pinched the toes to be sure of the fit & that he had extra room in them for growing feet.Besides the boots, the store carried a big variety of dry goods, including things such as socks, underwear & mens handkerchiefs. The store had a small retangular area for the customers. The rest of the area was cordoned off by a railing. No one ever went over or under the railing.
On the riverbank , opposite the post office & Mullin's store , was another store operated by Paul & Hazel Gibson. Elwood said that he doesn't remember it from his own childhood , but before Mr. Gibson owned the store , it was a blacksmith shop & feed srore which was operated by Mrs. Eleanor Jones's father , Fred Manning.
In Mr. Gibson's store was a huge rack of cookies & when anyone ordered a dozen cookies Mr Gibson would come in from pumping gasoline or kerosene. He'd then reach right into the rack of cookies to fill the order. Elwood said Mr Gibson carved the best blongna with the biggest knife that he ever seen. He said the knife looked more like a weapon the a knife.
Elwood recalls spending evening at the store with his father.
Jimmy Walsh, George Phalen & Raymon Stevenson were always the first three men to grather at the store. Ofter men would come drifting in to sit & listen or to join in the conversation. Elwood father always said "he went to listen & learn from the older men on what they knew about farming." One women used to say that "her husband didn't go to learn anything but to tell everyone everything that he knew.
The men would sit out on the porch or grather around the stove depending on the weather. They'd talk about everything from politics to farming to the local gossip. The farmers especially shared ideas on how to treat sick animals because at the time the farmers didn't call veterinarians to care for the sick livestock.
At night the store was classified as a "man's world." Elwood said his mother Virgie Simons, always commented that "she refused to shop or 'parade' around in front of the men folk." It was unheard of for the men folk to mix together during the 1930s, She always shopped during the day with the other ladies of the community.
Elmer Sprague married Grace Rhudes of Antwerp & they lived in a big house with a copola. The house was connected with the business that Sprague's operated. It was in the shape of a big horse shoe.
Mr Sprague ran a car dealership. You could exit the house & enter right into the showroom. From the showroom you could enter a big dance hall that was upstairs. The hall was also used as a voting place. In the middle of the U-shape were the gas pumps. Elwood said that during those days a dollar would buy you five gallons of gas. Jack Walsh told Elwood that the gas staion had a flying horse sign, & that you could buy Sucony Vacuum Service maps. The Sprages raised chickens & a cow in the back. They also operated a sawmill.
Elmer Sprague also had a "snowmobile." It was a model A ford with tracks in the back & skis on the front. Elwood's first connection with the snowmobile was when his Aunt Leah & Uncle Otto visted fron Boston. They couldn't get back to Hammond to catch the train so Elwoods father got Mr. Sprague to take them to the train aboard the snowmobile .
Across from Elmer's was a store operated by Leon & Ada Burtis . Here the men wpould gather & play cards on the on the counter in the back. Once there was a Penny Supper held at the store for the church. Food was spread out on the counter.
Across from where Charlie Gardner now lives, was a telephone office which was run by Eva Mullin & her daughter , Margaret. During this era , the telephone service was used only used part time though what was known as "Central."
There were only two lines out of Rossie, one long distance from Gouverneur & a second long distance line from Hammond. The hours for useing the telephone were usually from 9am. to 9pm. unless an emergency arose. On Sunday , depending on church services in the Catholic Church, the telephone could be used for about an hour.
There were eight to ten people on a party line. You only called the parties on your own line. You rang one long ring for central & everyone answered on the one short ring. Elwood said it was commonn for Helen Turnbull to call her mother, Lena Sigourney, & her mother-in-law, Leila Turnbull, every morning or for Zella Gibson to call her mother , Louise Perry, & her mother-in-law , Lill Gibson.
He said the women usually used the telephone because the men didn't have the time during the day unless it was an emergency. The conversations usually centered around the women's daily chores, such as laundering, cooking & cleaning. The conversations were often dull. During a sickness or an emergency Eva slep near the telephone. You didn't even need to know a number, just ring up central & ask for Bill Evens or anyone else. And the call was placed. The telephone office was over a foot-bridge which the local kids loved walking back & forth across.
Elwood walked to & from a one roomed schoolhouse, which is still stands on the hill above the Presbyterian Church. His school day companions were Alger, Alton, Joyce & Katherine Gibson , whom he has stayed in touch with all his life. Sometimes Vernon, Iona & junior Stowell walked with them. They always walked unless the weather was extremely bad. He went to Rossie's School Dritrict # 1 for seven years. Edna Stevenson was his only teacher all through the grades to seveth grade. He graduated from District # 1 with one ofter classmate, Frances Gibson. The school system never allowed anyone to skip a grade & both he & Frances took the state Regents at the end of sixth grade. Regents were in spelling , Geography & silent reading. He said he felt that they knew more by the time they reached seventh grade than most 12th grader's know today. Elwood went to high school at the end of seventh grade.
If the weather was real cold , they stop at Benny & Maggie Wiggans, to get warm. Beween his house & the school there was a cheese factory operated by Windield Goodison. On his way home from school in the late afternoons he would stop & enjoy fresh cheese curd.
Elwood noted that Goodison's cheese factory had two vats for cheese & one usually always had fresh cheese curd in it . He'd dip his hand into fresh curd & take it out a handfull. One thing that always fasinated him was the big bailer, with a furnace beneath it. Another big room held many shelves of aged cheese.
Several area farmers used this factory to deliver their milk. Usually there would be eight to ten farmers lined up to unload their station cans. An added note here to explain the difference between station cans & milk cans . The stations cans were larger & broader with two handles (ears) half ways down the side of the can. Double tongs that looked liked big ice tongs , would swing out on a rope with a crank & pick up the cans. after the milk was weighted , the milk was then poured into a funnel that emptied into the vats . Elwood remembers many of the farmers who where there at the same time as he & his father were. The farmers either arrived every morning with a horse & milk wagon or an old truck. Some of these farmers were Raymon Hunter, Fred Hazeton, Roscoe Stowell, William Turnbull, John Turnbull & Will Rexford. These farmers were all from Elwood's road.
Elwood said that there were three cheese factories in Rossie all operating at the same time. A factory at the corner South Hammond & the Rossie road was operated by Win Goodison's brother, Archie . The third factory was located at the corner of of the Lead Mine road.(River road) & the Main road. Wallace Breckenridge & his wife Effie Phalen Breckenridge ran this factory. They made different kinds of cheese , such as sage cheese. All the factorys were located at the corners of roads, making access easier for the famers. Mary Fleming ,granmother of Margorie Mc Cullough, did the weight slips for Win Goodison's Factory. She also made out the check for the famers.
There was a variety of events held in the upstairs room of the Rossie Hotel. It was one of the finest dancehalls around . The dance hall had a supension floor.
One big event was the Medicine shows which had a variety of events . There were magic shows , movies, such as "Rin Tin Tin,"& popcorn with prizes . Elwood was about five years old when he watched " the Crucifixion of Christ" & a lady's sobbing during the movie scared the daylights out of him. The medicine show always had a variety of bottles for sale , with a different medicines for diffrenct ailments.
Elwood said that one of the funniest times was when Stanley Gibson sang a song called " The Green Grass Grew All Around" Stan was about 15 & couldn't carry a tune at all. People laughted for weeks over Stan's Performance. One show was held in a tent in Leo Mullin's field . It cost 25 cents to see the show . Elwood said his famiily went twice, once during the week & again on Saturday night. He said nealy evarly family attended. It was the greatest enterainment for eveyone around the area.