The Year Was 1970

I am a regular reader of a blog called Carpe Diem, which is written by Don Forrester. The blog is not a genealogy- oriented work, but much is written about family and everyday life and one’s comings and goings. Don writes a post every day and usually is posted early in the morning. The massive volume of his work makes me feel inadequate in my small output of work. Click on this link to see a recent offering of Carpe Diem. In a recent post, Don made the following offer, “The year was 1967. Pick up a pen and quickly write down what you remember about 1967. It may surprise you by the number of things that come to mind.” I got out a pencil and paper and soon was transported back to 1967. As I did this, I thought what a great way this would be for us to write part of our own story. So since I did 1967, I decided on 1970 which was a big year also for me.

While I could not sing or play an instrument, I could certainly tune in a radio or play a phonograph. Music has always been part of my life, and 1970 had plenty of good music to enjoy. Ray Stevens was telling anyone who would listen that “Everything is Beautiful.” A music group from Canada named the Guess Who let us know their views in “American Women” and also let us know that there would be “No Sugar Tonight.” The super group Beatles told us about a “Long and Winding Road” ahead of us. However not to worry Simon and Garfunkel built a “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” The song “Spill the Wine” by the musical group War was playing everywhere my college campus in the autumn of that year.

The restored Strand Theater. I remember that is was never a good idea when I was young and attending an afternoon matinee to sit in the rows just in front of the end of the balcony. One never knew if you would be the target of flying missiles of candy. I played it safe and sat underneath the balcony.
All pictures of the Strand Theater courtesy of the The Strand Center for the Arts. Plattsburgh, New York.

When I watch a movie, I like to limit as many distractions as I can. A good movie can show you a world that you may never be able to be a part of, while a great movie places you right smack in the middle of that movie’s world and transcends from being just a movie to shared experience. I saw plenty of movies in 1970 as it was an excellent way for my future wife and me to enjoy each others company. We saw all of our movies at the Strand Theater in downtown Plattsburgh. A perfect date was a movie and a pizza afterward. The movie “Patton” gave me a glimpse of my father’s world in World War 2 since he served in Patton’s Third Army. The movie “Woodstock The Movie” showed me what I had missed by not going. I could not go because I had a full-time job in the summer of Woodstock. Now I think I was the only person of my generation that didn’t go based on the people I have spoken to over the years. “Kelly’s Heroes,” “Mash,” and “Catch 22” where other movies I watched that year. “Love Story” was a popular movie that year, setting all kinds of box office records. I did not enjoy this movie but what do I know? I do remember during it’s sad ending three girls were sitting right behind me bawling their eyes out and making such a scene that I had to laugh. I don’t think they noticed as their wailing never slowed down. One movie that I did not see at the Strand Theater was “A Man Called Horse” starring Richard Harris. I know this because after watching the movie at a drive-in theater near Kingston, New York I managed to stay overnight and slept in my car a 1957 Chevrolet. I did this because the college I went to had no dorms and I was unable to find a place to stay. So I would sleep in my car in a parking lot, or wherever I found a spot. I would shower at the school in the early mornings. I had to do this for a month before I found an apartment I could afford.

Not to be left out I did do a lot of reading. The book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, was a huge hit in 1970. I starting reading it because everyone was talking about it. I am sure I never got anywhere close to reading half of that book. It was not for me. It was a lesson for me not to follow a crowd but to invest time reading books that engaged me. Some of the books that did for me were “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton; “QB Vll” by Leon Uris was one that I particularly enjoyed. Then a powerhouse book titled “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” was a history lesson we all should read. My parents instilled in me the habit of reading by example and making sure I found time to read. The last few years of my father’s life he was disabled at home, and I had to make frequent runs to the public library to get books for him to read. He loved mysteries and westerns. I think he read every one they had before his death.

Was I really that young?

The picture above is my high school diploma with an insert of my senior picture. 1970 was the year I graduated. I was surprised when at the ceremony my name was called to be awarded a small scholarship for college. I had no idea I was to get this award and found out later it was one that the teachers voted on. I was and still am honored by that fact. The celebration that night was simple just some cake and ice cream and not much else. I had a full-time job to report to in the morning to earn money towards college.

While in high school I participated in several sports, wrestling was the most prominent. I also had been on the YMCA swim team, ran some track, and even coached Little League baseball. It was in 1970 in the closing weeks of wrestling season that I injured my back during a match. This injury would follow me through the years and even today makes its’ presence known. But this story could be said for many of us that played a sport.

I am in the orange and black colors of my school.

The best of 1970 was my girlfriend of three years agreed to marry me at some point in the future. A ring was offered and accepted, so all I had to do is try and get her to set a date. That and try to win over her mother (which I never really did) and convince her I was not that bad. We had been dating for about a year when I told her we were going to get married. I can still clearly remember the look on her face and how she laughed. This year will mark 48 years of married life. I knew what I was talking about.

So now you try it. Pick a year in your life and start writing down your memories. I bet you can tell a few stories that your family did not know or perhaps bring back some memories for yourself.



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Tomato Soup Cake

Some New Years Tomato Soup Cake.

I have heard it said that recipes and the wonderful food dishes they create are a real and concrete way to connect past generations of ancestors to the current generation. The one dish that does that for me is Tomato Soup Cake. A quick check of the internet places the origin of this cake in the late 1920s into the early 1930s. Campbell Soup came out with a recipe in the 1940s using, of course, its own can of tomato soup. However, as far as I am concerned, it came out of the kitchen of my Grandmother Pauline Bonnett Deloria. Even today the first taste of Tomato Soup Cake transports me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in the 1960s. That alone would be enough to eat this cake, except it also tastes so good.

After I moved away from my hometown of Plattsburgh, New York my grandmother would bake the cake every time I returned for a visit. One of the best reasons for these visits home would be time spent sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen eating Tomato Soup Cake and talking away the time. How I miss that. The recipe was given to my wife, and she has carried on the tradition  of making Tomato Soup Cake. Our children have all enjoyed the cake. It has been baked for holiday celebrations and even was the cake of preference for some birthdays. I have four grandchildren two which like the cake and two who have thus far refused to try it. I still hold out hope for them. The last few years we have baked the cake for the New Year celebration both as a treat and a way for me to remember my grandmother and the sadly growing list of people who have gone. The best part is the sweet taste of the cake, just like the memories.


Original Recipe from Grandmother Deloria

2                     cups of flour

1 1/3              cups granulated sugar

4tsp               baking powder

11/2tsp            ground allspice

1tsp                 baking soda

1tsp                 ground cinnamon

1/2tsp             ground cloves

1 10 3/4 oz     tomato soup

½ cup              lard

2                      eggs

¼ cup             water

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. Add the baking soda to the soup and stir and let bubble. Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice cloves, and cinnamon in a large bowl to mix. Add the soup mixture, eggs, and water and beat with an electric mixer on low to blend. Increase to high speed and beat for four minuets. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes and check with a toothpick and let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Revised Recipe from Sandra Lyon Moore

1                         spice cake mix

1 10 ¾ oz           can of tomato soup

½ cup                 milk

3                        eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.Mix per cake mix directions add soup with the wet ingredients. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes and check if done with a toothpick.

Also, you can add raisins and or chopped nuts to either recipe. However, it has been our preference not to add these ingredients.






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The Little Book

This was the green well used birthday book that was kept by my wife’s mother.


While my wife Sandy, and I were going through boxes of old pictures that her parents had collected during their lifetime, we found a little green book. The cover title was simply Birthdays. Inside was a wealth of information concerning relatives and friends. We found most if not all the birthdays of relatives that were alive during my wife’s parents lifetime. Also listed were many family friends whose birthdays were to be remembered and noted. The genealogy information contained in this book was plentiful. I found birth dates that ranged from the 1800s and was a little startled to see my birthday listed.

Pages of family records and notes can be found in this book. Parts of some names have been edited out for privacy reasons.

The above image shows some of the information shown throughout this book. You will see under April 16 is listed Sandy’s father with the birth year of 1924. This year will be part of a story I will reveal shortly. Other information found is that cousin Thomas was born at 12:04 AM and weighed seven pounds and 14 ounces. Also listed is Sandy’s cousin Denise who was the person that introduced Sandy and me at a school dance. These pages are typical of what is found throughout the book.

This image shows a funny family story hidden and waiting to be told.

In the image above you will see under May 16 Sandy’s mother Doris Monty Lyon listed. Her name is written in ink and can be read easily. Next to the name faintly written with a pencil is the number 21 which is for the year 1921. For many years Doris had taken off a few years by saying she was born in 1924. She did this because she did not want her husband to know that she was older than him. This deception came to a crashing end when Sandy found her mother’s driver license with the correct date of birth. With this information in her hand, little Sandy went running to her father in the living room with her mother trying to stop her. The secret was out so when I saw the date written in the book obviously well after the original entry I could not help but chuckle.

We all should keep an eye out for these types of finds. Address books, newspaper clippings, baby books, yearbooks, recipe files, funeral cards, greeting cards, letters, school reports, and so many other items that could shed light on our family’s history. Perhaps in this digital age, we all should get a book like this and fill it with as much information as we can. Unlike what we have today that becomes outdated and discarded or erased a book can last many even hundreds of years. Most of us should take a little time away from our screens to make permanent entries in this type of book. Better yet give these as gifts at Christmas and encourage our friends and family to use them. By doing this, we may be laying the groundwork for genealogy finds in the future. Keep in mind the internet will never have everything and most of what it has is just cold records with a few stand-alone facts. The personal and true family history is what we will find in those old boxes of photographs and records. They will in many cases be written by the hands of our parents and grandparents and will show us what to them was important and worth keeping.

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A Picture’s Story

Sandra Lyon Moore, Lake Placid, New York 1971. Note the large white purse.


Where’s my purse? Over the years I have heard that question countless times from my wife. I am amazed at how quickly and often she can forget where she has placed her purse. The above picture is a reminder of a misplaced purse. The image is of my wife taken when we had not been married a full 24 hours yet. She is standing outside the Charcoal Pit a restaurant in Lake Placid of which we are about to dine. I would ask you to note the rather hefty white purse she is carrying. The purse was stuffed with gift envelopes of cash we received at our wedding reception which we had just departed a few hours earlier. We had well over a thousand dollars in the purse, which in 1971 was a fair amount of money. To have the same value today, you would need about $6000 to equal the value of that purse in 1971. It was after a delicious meal and after we were back at our hotel room that perhaps I heard the statement, “Where’s my purse?” for the first time in our marriage. A frantic search was made of our room with me running outside to search the car, but we did not locate the missing purse. It was then we realized we must have left it in the restaurant. With thoughts of the possibility that all of our wedding money would be gone, we drove back to the restaurant. However, we were fortunate the purse which my wife had left on the back of her chair had been turned in with all the contents intact.

The above picture which sparked my memory of this adventure was found in a box of photographs that I am trying to organize. Somehow it was the only picture from that time period that was in the box, and I have no idea how it found itself there. It had no names or dates on the back. So you see even with all my preaching I still have much organization ahead of me. The fact is that is if someone was going through all my pictures say 50 years from now they may have no idea who was in the photograph and most likely no idea of the date or the story behind it. As genealogist and family historians we spend countless hours researching our past and too little time making sure our current family stories are not lost. Take some time to organize a few pictures write up a story or two; our descendants will be thankful.


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Telling Their Story

Standing left to right; Edward Monty and his son Oreon Monty. Sitting left to right; Ida Monty, Joyce (Jicey) Monty, Etta Monty Smith. Picture from the collection of Carl Gonya.

Here is another example of what I call a front porch picture. Pictured is the Edward L Monty family of Beekmantown New York. The picture is taken on their farm. A quick look at the picture shows a family dressed in their finest clothes in a proud pose. Edward Lafayette Monty (1818 – 1904) my wife’s 2nd Great Grandfather is shown standing at a table with a saw in his hand. A horse and wagon are in the background. Flowers in the flower boxes can be seen on the front porch. One of the windows is slightly open to let in fresh air. Ida Bell Monty (1861 – 1879) is next. Since Ida died in 1879, I believe the picture was taken on or before 1879. Joyce (Jicey) Murphy Monty (1817 – 1904) is seated next; she is my wife’s 2nd Great Grandmother. Seated on the end is Etta Monty Smith (1857 – 1942). Standing with his hand on his mother’s shoulder is Oreon Monty (1850 – 1930) who is my wife’s great-grandfather.

Edward was a farmer in the Chazy and Beekmantown area. He married Joyce or Jicey Murphy of Cohoes New York in 1846. The family story is that Joyce made her trip to Beekmantown from Cohoes on horseback with her trunk strapped on. This was no easy journey of over 150 miles over a large sparsely unsettled part of the state. Pictured below is the trunk that Joyce packed her belongings in. They were to be married well over fifty years until death took them just months apart in 1904.

My wife Sandy with her 2nd Great Grandmother Joyce Murphy Monty’s trunk.

Great Grandfather Oreon Monty worked in a sawmill and was also a farmer. He was to work his farm until his death in 1930. Oreon did not marry until he was 41 years old. His bride Emma Craft was fifteen years younger. They formed a marriage that was to last 39 years ending with Oreon’s death. Emma was to live for eight more years. Below is their wedding announcement.

From the Plattsburgh Sentinel; November 6, 1891.

While we may not have pictures of all our great-grandparents, we may have family stories or information that we have found because of our research efforts. It is up to us to tell their story because if we don’t, we can be sure that all or most will be lost within one or two generations. We can make it as simple or complex as we like. I hope the above helps some of you to get started on your family history project. The way I see it is you could have a one-page story about an ancestor or a blank page. Which one do you want to pass down to future generations?



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Letters are Windows to the Past

Smithsonian Institution. Repository: National Postal Museum

My Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair was trying to make a new start in 1918. She had divorced her first husband Abner Bonnett and had just married William LeClair. The envelope shown below housed a letter from her husband Abner pleading for one more chance as he promised to “change his Ways.” They did get back together long enough to have one more child, their sixth before they finally divorced in 1914.


Envelope for letter from Abner to his wife Bessie. Note the simple address used.

In the partially illustrated letter below written October 6, 1918, Bessie seems happy with her new marriage and baby son. In the letter written to her oldest daughter Florence Bonnett Tromblee, who also had a young baby Bessie says in part,

Sunday, Oct. 6th

Dear Florence, baby 

I have just laid baby down, he has been napping _ _ _ _ aches. He is getting fat he will be seven weeks old Wed. I got your letter and was oh so glad to hear you were all well.

Letter written by my Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair.

Bessie also in this letter talks about fixing up their new place with wallpaper and painting the ceilings. She also varnished the icebox and a writing desk. I would guess this letter was written on that newly varnished desk. However, a happy life was to elude Bessie as just fifteen days after writing this letter she was to become a casualty of the Influenza epidemic of 1918 at the young age of 36. This may be the last letter Bessie ever wrote; it is certainly one of the last. This letter was one of a collection of letters I received from Julia Tromblee, the daughter-in-law of the letter’s recipient Florence Tromblee. Julia and I never knew of each other and met when we noticed each others family trees on

Letter concerning Samuel Dakin and his newspaper.

The letter shown above was not written by a relative but was written about a relative. The letter is dated 1825 and concerns Samuel Dakin, a cousin of mine. Samuel and his partner William J Bacon purchased the newspapers the “Utica Sentinel” and the “Columbian Gazette” and combined them into one newspaper. In part the letter says;

“… We feel confident that the paper under their direction will be ably & successfully conducted. The public are deeply interested that the respectability of their public journal should be sustained, and we feel gratified at the prospect, that the varied talents of the editors of the present paper will give to it a character which will entitle it to the most liberal encouragement, and in that belief, we earnestly write to it the patronage support of your friends.”

The letter was signed by many of the leading citizens of Utica, New York at the time. The signatures continue onto another sheet of paper. Many buildings and streets are today named after some of the people who put their names to this letter of endorsement. I was able to get copies of this letter and many others from the Dakin family from the archives at Hamilton College where many from that branch of the family attended.


World War Two letter from Robert Lyon to his mother Alice Slinn Lyon.

The partial letter above is from an extensive collection of letters written mostly by my wife’s father Robert Lyon to his mother during his military service in World War Two. At the time this letter was written he was still stationed stateside. In part the letter says;

“I was going to hi myself to Denver to-night, but as it came out I’m on the litter detail. You see they select a few of the students every night to stay on the post for the next twenty-four hours, to carry wounded soldiers from the train to the hospital. We all hope they don’t appear, but anyway none of the fellows here have ever experienced such a thing yet.”

Robert was to experience such a thing when he found himself in combat in Italy. His letters give great insight as to what he was going through and of his thoughts at the time.

You do not need letters to give you a peep into the past. I have old school report cards, driver licenses, pay stubs, postcards, certificates of achievements, greeting cards, and many other types of written records. Shown below is a birthday card and envelope from my wife’s grandmother to her great-grandmother. Many of these greeting cards have a short message and for many perhaps the only signature they will have of a relative. Besides looking at these old cards is fun.

Birthday card from Ruby Gonya Monty to her mother Lottie.

The next letter illustrated below is part of a four-page letter. This copy of the letter was sent to me by a person that I met due to a DNA match. The letter was written by Page Cole and concerned the family of his wife, Mary Bushey Cole. Mary’s mother Mary Deloria Vincent Bushey Lajoy was my great aunt the sister of my grandfather Willis Deloria. As you can see from Mary’s many different last names she was married many times. Page was writing to a great-granddaughter of Mary who was trying to make sense of the family relationships. In the letter Page is assuring the great-granddaughter that all of Mary’s children were from her first marriage. The letter reads in part;

“Now Mary was the youngest. Mary was born on the 27th of April and was baptized in St. Peters Church in Plattsburgh on the 19th of May 1900. We have the original certificate of baptism, so the three children had to have the same father.” 

Letter written by Page Cole regarding his wife’s Mary’s mother Mary Deloria and family history


From this letter, I learned about Mary Deloria’s first husband, Edward Vincent. I had never heard of him until I read this letter. This was a four-page letter that was full of family history that I knew nothing about. I learned about name changes (not just from marriages) dates of death, and births also ages being lied about and why.

These letters have allowed me to understand better and tell the story of my family. With the exception of the birthday card which came from my wife’s parents papers all the letters shown were from other people and places. Even the collection of war letters from my wife’s father were from other people freely sharing and giving what they had. My wife had no idea that these letters existed until her cousin handed her a large archive box containing these letters. We all must search for and reach out to family and share what we have. By doing this, we will build a better family history.

For Better or for Worse comic strip. Used with permission.


How frail and ephemeral is the material substance of letters, which makes their very survival so hazardous. Print has a permanence of its own, though it may not be much worth preserving, but a letter! Conveyed by uncertain transportation, over which the sender has no control; committed to a single individual who may be careless or inappreciative; left to the mercy of future generations, of families maybe anxious to suppress the past, of the accidents of removals and house-cleanings, or of mere ignorance. How often it has been by the veriest chance that they have survived at all.

Elizabeth Drew





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The Dance

This well worn picture was taken about 1968.

When we go through an old box or album of pictures they can give us reason to laugh or sigh, and even feel a little sad. We get the most out of these pictures when they are of us or were taken by us. We know the background and story that the picture represents. The picture helps to capture the moment so we can recall the events that were taking place all around while the photograph was taken. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes we have to tell its story.

The above picture was taken at a Valentine semi-formal dance at my girlfriend Sandy’s (now my long time wife) high school in Beekmantown, New York. It was what we called a semi-formal dance. I know it was a semi-formal because I am wearing a coat and tie and Sandy is wearing a dress. The area high schools held many dances throughout the year. It was not uncommon that if two schools had an athletic contest, the school that was not hosting the athletic event would host a dance. Students and athletes from both schools would attend the dance. The cost to get into the dance was nominal, and the music was always a live band. Most of the bands were high school students who had gotten together and formed a group. We also had bands from students from the local colleges and from people who did it part time from their regular jobs. Below is news clipping from a 1967 Plattsburgh Press-Republican news article, about a newly formed band.

News article about just one of the many area bands.


It was at a school dance Where I met my wife. We did not go to the same high school as she went to Beekmantown High School and I went to Plattsburgh High School. We were to meet at a dance at a third school called Mount Assumption Institute (MAI). The night we meet I had no intention of going to the dance. I was at home watching television when a good friend came knocking on my door. He had a major crush on a girl at school and he wanted to go to the dance being held at MAI to try and meet up with her. I will admit it took some effort to talk me into going, as the last thing I wanted to do was go out that night. We walked to the dance where he went off to find the girl of his dreams (he had no luck) and I was thinking I would just go home. That’s when a girl who had her school locker next to mine came up and said she had someone she wanted me to meet. That’s when she introduced me to her cousin Sandy. She was cute with freckles and red hair and while I did not know it then I had found my dance partner.

Below is MAI the school where I met my wife. The school closed down a few years ago but has been remodeled into apartments. Funny I can still hear the music.

This was where my wife and I had our first dance.


 Could I Have This Dance

I’ll always remember that magic moment

When I held you close to me

As we moved together, I knew forever

You’re all I’ll ever need

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Would you be my partner every night?

When we’re together it feels so right

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Released 1980

Songwriters; Wayland Holyfield and Bob House


 Happy Valentines Day


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