Anti-Catholic Bigotry Finessed
Nativity of the BVM Church moves to Main Street. Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo trolley line left behind on Erie Street.
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr. Beware: There is humor here.
Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini Qui fecit caelum et terram.
Our help is in the name of the Lord. Who has made heaven and earth.
After the Celebrant recites his Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti (I confess to God...that I have sinned...), the Altar Boys responded: Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et, dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam aeternam.
May almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.
(There is an author discovery process going on here. I noted earlier that I would introduce all but the first chapter of this story with the Altar Boy's responses to the Priest-Celebrant's intonations at Mass. The passage above includes the celebrant's Confiteor, the "I Confess" passage, right after the beginning of Mass as the Celebrant prepares for what is to come. The Altar Boy is responding, Misereatur tui...., not just for himself but for all those present at Mass including himself. I learned as I went back into an old Missal to make sure that my memory did not play tricks on me, that the pronouns in the Latin, after the Misereatur, are tui, tuis, and te, all Latin forms of a word translatable to the English word "you." What the Altar Boy is doing, on behalf of those assembled, is forgiving the Priest. In all my days of serving at Mass, that fact had escaped me. I cannot now recreate the relationship I had with the Pastor in the context of forgiving him. Readers may appreciate this as they get a little further into the story.)
My interest in the Sisters during the short period, at the most two years, of attending the old Catholic church was born of curiosity. Their garb, known as "habits," and their togetherness marked them for my examination during Mass.
That first Catholic church in Brockport faced on Erie Street. Down the center of Erie Street (brick pavement) were tracks which carried the trolley that operated between Rochester, New York some 18 miles to the east, and Lockport, New York, some 40 miles to the west. The trolley entered Brockport on State Street from the east, originating in Rochester and stopping in Spencerport before arriving in Brockport. The streets of our little village ended on Main Street and even if a street was exactly opposite, it always took on a different name in the crossover. So, the trolley exited Brockport to the west on Erie Street though it had arrived from the east on State Street. Same street as far as those tracks were concerned. Automobile drivers who become frustrated looking for a street that they are actually already on should avoid Brockport.
That trolley interested me and occasionally one went by when Sunday Mass was letting out. As I see my youngest grandchildren in comparable settings today, I have a flashback to that first Catholic Church. I was certain that the trolleys went by for my benefit. William Reed Gordon wrote the story of this trolley line in 1963. It existed as The Buffalo, Lockport and Rochester Railway from 1908-1919 and as the Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo Railroad Corp. from 1919-1931. Mr. Gordon recounted a large number of wrecks and even more 'incidents' during those years. Although the General Railway Signal Company was a major success located in Rochester, selling equipment to the "steam" locomotive rail lines as they were dubbed by their electrified trolley competitors, the latter shunned automated signal equipment. Its motormen ran on "train instructions."
In Illustration Five, the rear of the trolley line's Car 501 is pictured headed east for Rochester on State Street in Brockport, New York. The light toned brick building on the left houses the Strand Theatre along its entire second story. The theatre entrance was on Main Street in the foreground out of the camera's view. Visible in the left foreground is the establishment I knew as Matheos Brothers' soda fountain. Closer examination of this view taken from William Reed Gordon's 1963 book on this trolley line shows that the sign is advertising ICE CREAM. One of the storefronts down the tracks toward the trolley car was the early home of one of the first electric appliance dealers in Brockport. To the right and not visible on the opposite corner of State and Main (southeast corner) from the Strand is St. Luke's Episcopal Church. I attended my first Cub Scout meetings in their gym.
Long vertical cobwebs rose from the original Catholic church's altar, reaching gracefully skyward. Those too were tracks that interested me. Silvery dust shimmered on them when the light in the nave was just right. My eyes were often riveted on that area above the altar. Dad had told me that the collection money went to heaven. After the ushers took the cash and envelopes back into the sacristy, I tried very hard to detect the collection's progress toward heaven. I never did see it, but never stopped looking.
It developed rather quickly that this, my first Catholic Church of many, was soon going to be the "old" church because a new one was to be built up on Main Street in the midst of Brockport's cluster of leading homesteads. I learned later that it was going to be built across from the Morgan home (my name for it; townspeople knew it as the Manning house) by then the home of the sister of Brockport's leading citizen, Gifford Morgan. That home was a large, well gabled, brick home built along Victorian lines. The Morgan house was at the southeast corner of Main and South Street. The new Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church would be built at the southwest corner of Main Street and Monroe Avenue. Monroe Avenue and South Street almost met at Main Street. These two central village edifices, the Catholic Church, and the home of the leading citizen of the village, would almost directly face each other across Main Street.
The new church construction was delayed a bit, first because there was a question about whether the property owners would ever be amenable to a sale that would lead to construction of a Catholic Church. It was probably acceptable to an earlier generation of townspeople when Father Michael Walsh, the founding pastor for the original church in 1851, decided to build his church down in the business section of town. He and his small band of parishioners chose a street that the builders of the trolley line in 1908 would decide was good for passenger traffic. The Sisters of St. Joseph located their first convent and school across Utica Street from that church on the southwest corner of Utica and Erie. Father Story, was the first priest to have a long pastorate in Brockport. He and the Sisters of St. Joseph later located Brockport's eight grade brick school on a lot adjacent to the back of the old church on the northeast corner of Utica and Holley Street.
Though it caused some delay, the new church's property matter was finessed rather neatly. Dr. John Hazen, our family physician while I lived in Brockport, agreed to buy the property. Now, Dr. Hazen was not a Catholic and he was also not a bigot. He readily agreed to buy, and then to re-sell the property to the church. Its original wood dwelling would be used as a temporary Rectory. Father Krieg. Michael J. (for Joseph) Krieg became Nativity of the BVM's second pastor in 1917, having been assigned by the Diocese of Rochester as the permanent pastor after the death of Father Story. Father Krieg officiated at the wedding of my Mother and Dad in 1920. Father Story had passed away in 1914.
The Dailey family has a large plot in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester New York. Eleven caskets were transferred there on July 20, 1917, a date marking the opening of the plot. A most telling message there is found in the grave markers of my father's father and mother, two brothers and sister. These reveal 1918-1921 as an extraordinary death period. Riverside Cemetery is the next cemetery down the Genesee River, adjacent to Holy Sepulchre. In Riverside, lies my mother's mother who passed away in 1918. My mother is also there, having separated from my father in the early 1940s due to Dad's alcoholism.
In 1925, Father Krieg began the process of pledges and mortgages to build the new church up on Main Street. I recall attending a ceremony in the temporary Rectory, an imposing family home, which was to be torn down to make way for the new church. To be constructed of Ohio sandstone, the Church cornerstone was laid in 1926 and the first Mass celebrated in 1927.
The stock market crash of the fall of 1929, the almost immediate failure of the Brockport State Bank of Commerce, and some terribly cold and snowy winters all hit Brockport in last years of a decade known as the Roaring Twenties.
The prosperity of 1926-1928 had been like an addict's high. Banks had so much money they begged the citizens to borrow. The stock market was going up, up, up. My Dad borrowed on his family home and while operating the town's leading coal and produce business, was on the phone constantly to Rochester and his broker in the commodities market. Wheat, beans, barley, oats. Dad went broke before the crash of '29. So did others. Banks began to discover that the collateral for some mortgages would not cover the principal of the loan. Late one year, two carloads of cabbage showed up on the Dailey Coal and Produce Company at its Park Avenue siding on the New York Central Railroad. I asked Dad what he was going to do with the cabbage and why it arrived so late in the season. Dad said simply, "I got out of the market too late." A couple of years later, his brother and a cousin built a sauerkraut plant in Albion, New York. The Dailey boys had learned something from father William.
Illustration Six is a photo of the original Dailey business in Brockport. The office in front was just across the tracks from Brockport's New York Central train station. This view looks east toward Rochester.
Not pictured, either because it was out of the camera's view to the left or because it was not yet there, is a large cylindrical coal storage and delivery tank with chutes on its periphery to handle eight different sectors containing various kinds or grades of coal or coke. This tank would be filled with a conveyor parked next to and feeding from a coal car. Although one sign advertises wood as a product, by my time in the twenties, wood was no longer a product. In front of the office, platform scales and bins are revealed. These bins were used to offload coal if the load was overweight to the customer order (tons was the unit of measure). From these same bins, coal would be added to the load if the load were too light. Each vehicle had a "no load" weight so the customer received the difference between the loaded weight and the "no load" weight standard for that vehicle. A mix of trucks and wagons was used for a time. If a wagon was being used, the team of horses did not stand on the platform scales. By my time in visiting the office with Mother or Dad, the platform scales and small coal bins had been moved to the right side of the little office building and the building itself had a facing of sandstone and was a bit larger. Mother did some bookkeeping for the business and I would play office, using the typewriter or a marvelous machine that embossed checks in red ink. After the last fire in the stalls, the low building on the left in this picture no longer existed. Very likely, this space was then used for the new coal tank.
The freight cars on the siding that went deepest into the property are shown alongside the grain elevators for unloading or loading. Produce was both a buy and sell proposition which the commodity markets simply mirrored. There were three deep grain bins in this elevator building and a sorting conveyor for apples or pears on its south side, the right side in this picture. The numerous wagons in this photo appear to be full of cabbage. One sign advertises, "Buffalo Gluten Feed and Wheat Bran For Sale Here." That product was no longer handled in the twenties.
Beans and wheat used two shafts when I used to jump in them and the third held a crop of the season that might change season to season. Barley was handled before my time. Looking across the tracks northwest from the Dailey Coal and Produce office, one could see that behind the train station to the north was the Stull Lumber Company. Lumber companies always impressed me because they were so big and the wood smelled so good. Mr. Eugene Stull, a member of that family, became my history teacher and my favorite teacher in Brockport High School.
Father Krieg was building his new church amid this financial frenzy. He could borrow without much resistance but still had to furnish collateral. What collateral could he offer but the ability of his parishioners to put money in the collection basket? He got the money to build his new church. It was built through two of the coldest winters recorded in Brockport. The facing coats of mortar, on the high inside vertical walls of the new church, were left mottled with unsightly streaks left by the salt added to enable those walls to cure properly.
In an irony of the times in the years just after the new church was consecrated, there was a run on Brockport's only remaining bank, the First National Bank of Brockport. Father Krieg, by then not just a pillar of the church but a pillar of the town's financial community and holder of one of the largest bank mortgages, went down to the bank. He got up on a soapbox and gave the sermon of his life. The townspeople listened and the run on the bank was voluntarily terminated. The bank was saved for the time. Later, in President Roosevelt's 1933 bank moratorium, the bank did not reopen as such but the depositors in that later situation were given some recourse. Father Krieg was a leader and undertook many fine initiatives in the village.
While Father Krieg had many talents, he was not a man of great empathy. Even after the depression really set in, beginning in 1930 and 1931, he was still posting in the vestibule of the new church the names of those who were overdue on pew rent. That mortgage would be paid off.
I served many weekday morning Masses for Father Krieg. Making my way a mile through heavy unplowed winter snow was the easy part. Early Mass at 6: a.m. weekdays came a little before the horse-drawn sidewalk plows came by. Father was very demanding. The wine and water cruets were to be handed to him free of my fingers on their handles. The altar stairs were steep and the altar table rose like a mountain plateau above my head. The lady who donated that brass Mass Book cradle with the lead bottom was not a young altar boy's friend. I prayed each day that I would have the strength to lift the Book to the altar when changing it from the Epistle to the Gospel side. The lead altar boy would always kneel on the right on the lowest altar step. Father had a small, single mallet, five-tone xylophone in a mahogany box with a velvet lining. It was placed just to the right of the lead altar boy. A single announcement tone was to be struck at the beginning of the Eucharist, chime bar 2. The tones for the end of the Preface required more dexterity with the mallet on the chime bars, striking 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5 in rapid order. This signified that the most solemn part of the Mass was about to begin. Another single tone was struck as the celebrant put his hands flat over the chalice to begin this most solemn act. During the Consecration, the chime bars were struck in stately cadence, with chime bars 1-3-5 to be struck for the elevation of the host and chime bars 5-3-1 for the elevation of the chalice. There were just five metal bars, one for each tone. Precision was required. If my fingers were to direct the mallet to the wrong tone for the specific Mass event, it would be distracting to everyone present.
One day my fingers betrayed me by wandering too close to those cruet handles as I was serving water and wine to Father at the Offertory. Father gave me a resounding slap across the face. My Dad later explained that Father Krieg had ulcers and the anticipation of his sacred duty with the altar wine made him grouchy. I accepted what Dad said and did not let it interfere with my relationship with the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was old enough, though, to sense that Dad was "reaching" for an explanation.
Attendance at early Mass on weekdays consisted of five or six ladies and no men. The ladies were very old and may have been praying for departed men. Some may have been thanking God for departed men. One lady who was always present, never missed. She wandered from place to place in the Church all during Mass .No one ever satisfied my curiosity about the lady. Direct experience with old age suggests that she had a senile dementia before that term gained recognition.
One relief, at least for an Altar Boy, to Father Krieg's severe demeanor came to us about 1928 or 1929. A very young Assistant Priest was assigned to the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was assigned to serve Father Haughey's Christmas Day Masses. Father took the first scheduled Mass of Christmas Day at 7: a.m. and then celebrated two more Masses in quick succession. Thus, he fulfilled his obligation to celebrate three Masses on Christmas Day. My recollection is that the first Mass replete with Sermon, collection and so on took about 45 minutes and his next two Masses, unannounced schedule-wise, took about 15 minutes apiece. I served all three, alone, except for a few of the devout parishioners who would stay in church any time Mass was being celebrated. Father had to complete his obligation before commencement of Father Krieg's regular 9 a.m. Mass and he did. His Latin had a distinct Irish brogue to it, a sound I had not experienced before. It went well. The Irish voice, in English or in Latin, had a nice song quality that I enjoyed. After Mass, Father Haughey thanked me and gave me a dollar bill. I was astounded but not too shocked to keep it and thank him profusely. There was a man a boy could love. Unfortunately for pupils and Altar Boys (and parishioners), Father Haughey's assignment came to an end quickly. He cracked a few jokes during his sermons and that was just too much for Father Krieg.
The next illustration is taken from the cover of a booklet first published in 1961 by Franklin X. McCormick of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The trio is in the Sacristy, and all wear a smile as they realize that one boy has on a cassock and surplice intended for a much smaller boy.
My Times With the Sisters and Other Events, 134 pages, ISBN 0966625110; can be ordered through your local bookstore. Cover Price is $9.50.