'As I Remember It': Life on Allen Street

Ione Nicholson Tracy

January 17, 1993

The following was written by Ione Nicholson Tracy. It is entitled "As I Remember It," and is a recollection of growing up on Syracuse's Allen Street in the University section in the early and mid-1900's. Tracy, who lives in Jamesville and Skaneateles, has worked at The Herald and The Post-Standard, in local television in the early 1950s, and had her own radio talk show. She has just completed her autobiography, entitled "Remembrance of Things Past."

We lived in a large seven bedroom house at 315 Allen Street, Syracuse, New York. My father, Walter W. Nicholson, planned and had the house built to his specifications in 1911.  I came to it as a baby in 1912 and lived there until my marriage in 1935.  He was the Commissioner of Public Safety when I was little. I had four brothers, all much older than I.  Two of them left when I was only three years old, one to go to the United States Naval Academy and the other to the University of Michigan.  Later both of them served in World War I.

Mother had a rose garden in the back yard, as well as other flowers, including lots of lilies of the valley.  A grape arbor yielded delicious Concord grapes and little sweet red ones.  A gardener planted vegetables, including corn, in an area below the back hedge.  This section was bordered by currant bushes and Mother would pay me and the children in the neighborhood a penny a box to pick them.

There were only four houses on our side of the street.  Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Savage, an elderly couple, lived in the house next to us to the south.  He was the owner, I believe, of a stationery store in downtown Syracuse.  To the north were Mr. and Mrs. Roy Carpenter with three boys, and then Mr. and Mrs. Sanford with two girls and a boy.

I remember five houses on the west side of the street but the names of only three families.  At the corner of Lexington Avenue lived Mr. and Mrs. Walter Stone.  He was mayor of the city at that time.  They had two grown girls who took care of me occasionally.  Then there were the Harneys, with two boys.  Mr. Harney and later the boys operated Harney's Men's Shop.  The younger one, Irving, was my brother Nick's age, eleven years older than I. The two of them were close friends through all their lives.  Many years later, when I was grown and met Irv at parties, he'd embarrass me by saying, "I remember changing your diapers."

Across the street from the Savages was the Meatyard's house.  He was the owner of Meatyard's grocery store.  A new house toward the south was being built next to them.  One night there was a terrible storm.  It blew in the glass window in the little front room where I slept when I was young.  My father and brother Charles rushed in, in the middle of the night, and took me to another room.  Then they nailed some boards across the window to keep the wind and rain out.  We were very surprised in the morning to discover the partially built house blown over to lean against the Meatyard's house.  The report I remember was that Mr. and Mrs. Meatyard didn't even know it had happened until they went downstairs and discovered the living room chandelier on the floor and the house leaning against theirs.  The Meatyard's had a baby girl, Annette, born when I was about five years old.

All of the houses were at the north end of Allen Street.  There were open lots toward Genesee Street. Lexington ended at Allen.  Beyond it to the east was a long hill, great for sledding in the winter.  Fayette Street, down below the 200 block where Allen Street ended, was not yet a street, only trolley tracks.  At the bottom of the slope to the east, the tracks turned south toward Genesee Street on what is now Ellis Street.  At the corner where the trolley turned there was a shuttle trolley that went up the hill and down again for the people who lived up there.  It was free and we kids used to ride it up and down the hill. Also at the corner was a small pond full of pollywogs and frogs.

Down a steep hill beyond Fayette trolley tracks and parallel to them was the Erie Canal.  I remember my brothers being warned never to go in it.  But I recall a couple of times when they came home soaking wet.  So I think they did go in it.  I saw it only once, when a nurse girl took me down as she hung tight to my hand.  It is now Erie Boulevard.

Behind our house was a long, gentle slope that went down to the trolley tracks where they turned toward Genesee Street.  Then there was a hill going up.  In the distance we could see the first Onondaga Country Club, built in 1898, all open land.

At the corner of Genesee and Allen were big open fields.  There was a path cutting kitty-corner across the one on the right so I could reach my friends the Bestables easily.  Theirs was the first house on Genesee from the corner of Allen, a large rambling house, probably at one time a farm.  There was an open field next to it, then the Bradley's house.  It too was large, and there was a big barn at the side, great for playing.  Down behind were fields of corn, vegetables and fruits.  Across Genesee from the Bradleys was another big, formal house, at the corner of Cambridge, where Grandma Bastable lived.  She was the owner of the Bastable block and theater in downtown Syracuse, which burned down in 1923 and where the State Tower Building now stands.

Also on Genesee Street, at the southwest corner of Allen, was a big stone house occupied by a family by the name of Pennock.  There were no young children living there.  I remember they were nice to us kids on Halloween and had candy or hot chocolate.  This was long before the trick or treat era.  It was usually just trick - soap the windows or stick a toothpick in the doorbell to make it keep ringing.  But we never did any tricks at the Pennock's house.

There were several nice houses toward the south on Allen Street, in the 400 to 600 blocks.  On the left side of Genesee to the east beyond Allen Street, were two big homes where the Danns lived.  Grandma and Grandpa lived in one, and the father and four children lived in the other.  Their mother was dead and they were taken care of by a nurse/governess who seemed awfully stern and scared me.  There was a cross-lots path from behind the Savage's house to the Dann's back yard, so we could go back and forth without going all the way around the corner.  For several years, beginning in the '50s, it served as the Jewish Community Center.

The neighborhood that I grew up in was all very open, so different from what it is now.  Others may not agree, but this is the way I remember it.

On the cover: A winter scene provides the backdrop to Ione Nicholson Tracy's childhood home at 315 Allen St., Syracuse.

Copyright, 1993, The Herald Company

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