Last month, and on a warm August weekend, the Town of Richford and the Richford Congregational Church held a community celebration at Rawley Park, the Congregational Church, and at the Graded School to celebrate their bicentennial. The event, according to Planning Committee Chairperson Carol Mott, ended up with a good turnout, and was a fun day for reminiscing with friends and family. She noted that 200 guests attended the weekend-long event.
Saturday’s activities included Opening Ceremonies, a picnic lunch, a performance by Valley Harmony, a rededication of Rawley Park, games for kids, a Sock Hop, music by the Richford Congregational Church Choir, and a performance by Thee KinFolk Band.
Barb Birdsall Miller also reminisced about life in the 1950s in Richford, and talked about the town’s interesting past.
Barb noted that in 1821 two of the first settlers, Ezekiel Rich and Stephen Wells, had the square surveyed and deeded in the center of town for the purpose of public use. It was the Public Square until 1959, and when the state put Route 38 through the center of the park.
In 1921 the land on the North side of the driveway at Rawley Park was donated to the town by Hiram Rawley, the land south of the driveway was acquired in 2003.
Barb then went on to talk about things she remembered from the 1950s and while growing up in the village.
She recalled Doctor Hartnagle, and how he made house calls, delivered a lot of babies, and gave folks those little brown pills when they had colds.
She also recalled roller-skating on the concrete pad at the old Borden Milk plant on the back street. She even mentioned the old metal skates that clamped onto your shoes back then.
There were television shows, like Kukla Fran and Ollie, and Kiddies Day, an event that started in approximately 1958.
There were also baseball games at Rawley Park. Barb stated that for many years Richford had a great team. She noted that Don Yaple was manager, and Frank Brind was the official scorekeeper. Other local players included Ed Brind, Elwood Mathewson, Ebb Conrad, Marvin Satterly, Butch Yaple, Paul Talcott, Dick Echorst, and Bill Head.
Other memories included Barb’s talks about Black Bridge being a cooling off spot in the summer, and walking to Hubbard or Costello store to catch the school bus in the fall.
And Richford was thriving in the 1950s, Barb noted. She offered a memory of Joe Mars, the owner of the Richford Hotel at that time. The hotel, she noted, was on the corner in Richford since 1821 and contained a floating ballroom on the third floor.
Mrs. Hubbard and her son, Ward, had a grocery store on the other side of the four corners in Richford.
Across the street was the Rawley Building, a brick three-story building with apartments on the second and third floor; there were three businesses on the first floor – the Bert and Velia Rogers Variety store, the Post Office, and the TV and Appliance store owned by Royal B. Kuykendoll. Al Levy ran a hardware store and a machine stop, in which the Levy family lived upstairs.
The Richford Congregational Church, built in 1821, was a part of the inspiration behind the 200th Anniversary celebration. Activities over the August weekend celebration included tours of the church and the old cemetery, where some of Richford’s founding fathers are buried.
Across the street was Cora Costello and daughter Alberta’s grocery store. Helen Echorst and her son, Tarzie, had the garage and gas station; Sid and Alice Smith owned the local Funeral Parlor.
Barb also recalled the grocery store, owned by John and Eugenia Hadlock, that sat on the corner of Route 79 where the Tastee Treat is now located; across the street was Ernie Dane’s Garage.
There was an American Legion, according to Barb, where Mike Kunik now lives, and the Graded School that served first, second, and third graders on the first floor and fourth, fifth and sixth graders on the second floor. The school is now home to the Historical Society.
As for the school’s history, when it was open Mrs. Gormel and Mrs. Klute were teachers there. After the school closed, The Odd Fellows and Rebekah acquired the old school and held their meetings there for many years. The school was turned over to the Town when the group disbanded.
Over at Mill Street, The Odd Fellows and Rebekah purchased The W.W. Tool factory in 1922. The group would host plays on the first floor as well as dinners and dances, and meetings were held on the second floor.
Across the street was Leon Herrick’s Radio Repair shot. The Railroad Station was still operational at that time, and the Clarks Seed Farm Office and Storage was still operational with Lou Hardison as manager, Jim Searles and Herschel Emerson worked there as well.
Barb displayed a map and photos for guests to enjoy throughout the event.
“I [hope that] some of you have remembered what it was like in the village of Richford in the 1950s,” Barb added.
She also thanked the Town, the Richford Congregational Church, and all of the local businesses and individuals that donated to make the mid-August celebration a success. The organizers also extend thanks to the 70-plus volunteers that helped out with the event.
Door prizes were drawn every half hour, and a photo tent and open house at the Richford Historical Society took place along with tours of the church and the churchyard cemetery, which includes the new memorial for Augustus VanBuren.
On Sunday, a worship service was held at the church. The sermon was “Walk in the Old Paths” based on Jeremiah 6:16.
Additional thanks were extended to the Bicentennial Jubilee planning committee; the Town of Richford; the Richford Congregational Church; the Richford Historical Society; Mike Sheldon for the church history; Town Historian Debbie Paul Williams; David Cooley for the Van Buren memorial stone; Peggy Andersen, Janice Merrill, Steve Kotula and Lane Painter, cemetery history and restoration; The Independent Print Company; Mirabito; Thee KinFolk Band; Girl Scout Troop 40276 and Boy Scout Troop 30; Valley Harmony; The Red Rooster Diner; Ken and Carol Mott; and Tioga County’s Emergency Management.
“It was good to see everyone enjoying the day,” said Carol, “And we appreciate all the volunteers and everyone that came out to support the event.”