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4. Voices of Geneseo

Geneseo Through The Ages

Geneseo Main Street Homecoming 1950s.

VOICES OF GENESEO:

This map captures the voices of many people throughout time in shared and changing landscapes. From diaries, to interviews, to creative writing, “Voices of Geneseo” shows the variety of experiences lived by those who have grown up in Geneseo, have moved into the town, commute, or simply pass through as students.

 

DIARIES:

Four unique voices from diary entries highlight particular locations where we can notice that Geneseo and the Valley has been experienced in unique ways by four different types of people who interact with the land: a hunter, a farmer, a student, and a woman. Despite their different backgrounds and professions, Geneseo has served as a beacon, drawing people in for political, educational, and social purposes. Alida K. Fitzhugh chronicles her time during the historic Genesee Valley Hunt from the fall of 1891-1893. She talks about multiple taverns, trails, and scenic locations in the valley and her positive experiences as she rode horses, jumped fences, and sought adventure. Jennie Mather was a resident of nearby Livonia in 1867. Her voice gives us the perspective of a woman whose life was filled with “visits” to Geneseo. Through her retellings, we see Geneseo as a place of adventure, festivals, and family centered events. Maude Wiard was a student of the Geneseo Normal School in 1908, Maude Wiard. Eccentric and silly, her diary of “Commencement Activities” from Geneseo takes us through the lifestyle of a junior student before Geneseo became a State University. Sheffield Peabody was a farmer who chronicled his life in Springwater, NY between 1849 and 1914. In many ways his life was typical of his peers: he struggled to make a living at a time when American agriculture favored railroads, food processors, and ever-larger farms. His diary allows us to grasp what it was like to be a typical farmer living in Western New York during this time.

 

TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEWS:

These are contemporary voices of Geneseo. The stories collected overlap with other accounts of the same places. Robert Kelsey is a man in his 80s who has grown up in the town of Geneseo. He began his experience with the NY Army National Guard Armory as a child, as his father was the superintendent of the village for 35 years. Out of high school, he joined the National Guard at seventeen, and he worked his way up until he eventually had command of the unit in Geneseo for five years. Beverly Rex-Burley is a faculty member of Geneseo, and commutes from Dansville everyday. She’s been a part of the Geneseo community for over twenty years. She followed the footsteps of her family members and applied to be a student at the school, graduating in 1983. With her studies she began an internship. She took a break when she moved to Germany with her husband, but ultimately returned the valley a few years later. When she applied to work in Student Accounts, she was hired, and has continued her journey as a Geneseo faculty member ever since. Aime Alden is woman who grew up in Geneseo, graduating from high school in 1973. Her parents before her grew up in the town and she relates stories they have told her. She recounts growing up in a different time period and notes the changes the town has undergone over her lifetime. In this way, Geneseo is a place that draws people in for multiple reasons. It’s a place that can be called home, whether one’s roots are founded in this place or because it’s an integral part of their live.

 

ADAPTED INTERVIEWS:

Heard @ Geneseo is a organization that conducts service learning projects through gathering oral history from elderly Geneseo residents. We sifted through the interviews, looking for people whose stories and experiences could be geolocated to places in or near the town. We have transcribed the formats to make them consistent and have shortened the interviews to optimize their relevance to Geneseo. Catherine Robin, Ethel Rost, Elizabeth Adams, Marion Roecker, and Stanley Rutherford are all older people living in Geneseo who were kind enough to share their different walks of life with the organization’s interviewers. Catherine Robin tells her experience of moving into town. She grew up in Dansville but moved to Geneseo, despite it being a college town. Ethel Rost talks about living in Geneseo with her husband and her children. She shares how she and her husband met and what brought both of them to Geneseo. Elizabeth Adams is an elderly woman who offered stories of her early life and family photos. Marion Roecker shares biology classes were like in Geneseo when she attended.  She also talks about her husband and how her husband worked in the Bailey Science Building and that he would take students on field trips. Dr. Stanley Rutherford briefly tells some changes of the Geneseo landscape over time.He speculates the impacts it had on the town.

 

CREATIVE WRITING:

We chose to write passages about Geneseo that we’ve not only had our own experiences in but that overlapped with places mentioned in interviews. This way, our voices capture how these places, though changing over time, are still significant in Geneseo. We chose places and experiences that are places of gathering, experiences shared by many. Jordan chose The Knight Spot, once called The Hub, and also wrote about the nature in Geneseo. Megan wrote on Aunt Cookie’s, a store that has stolen the hearts and stomachs of Geneseo-goers. Danielle covered Buzzo’s Music Shop which was mentioned in interviews because it was and still is a place that students and townspeople have a deep interest in. These places and experiences have carried significance through time and always will.