Submitted by Kevin Bamerick
Sixty years ago, on Aug. 22, 1956, the Americanization League of Syracuse and Onondaga County, Inc. held its monthly club outing, a picnic at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Bamerick located at 104 Parkway Drive, North Syracuse. This was my parents’ home until 1990 when they sold the property to the Village of North Syracuse Housing Authority to build the Maloney Manor senior residence.
The Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper (08/23/1956) ran a story headlined “Meal under the apple tree for Americanization League” with an accompanying photograph showing my grandfather, William H. Bamerick, with Mrs. P. Augustus Hopkins (Florence) serving food to Mrs. Thomas P. Murphy and the retired Rev. Msgr. Charles F. McEvoy. The news photo’s clarity was lost from reproduction, though the history of the AL is clear.
The Americanization League, located at 717 S. Warren St. in Syracuse, assisted persons who immigrated to the US to become naturalized citizens. My grandfather Will was the league president then and Ms. Alice Murphy the executive secretary. In 1956, she was awarded “Woman of the Year Citizenship” by the Herald-Journal newspaper. Alice attended with her mother, Mrs. Th. P. Murphy and her brother, Rev. Thomas J. Murphy, associate pastor St. Paul‘s Church in Oswego.
Father Murphy was a schoolmate friend of my father ,having played football together in their childhood neighborhood of the Stolp-Strathmore area in the city. The Murphy family and my grandparents were devout parishioners of Most Holy Rosary Roman Catholic church. Fr. Murphy would later become pastor of St. Rose of Lima (1965-78). Rev. Msgr. James Kennedy, current pastor at St. Rose, remembered Rev. McEvoy as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church on Midland Ave in Syracuse. Fr. Kennedy recalled the McEvoy family farm in Cortland.
My mother Ellen Jane remembers my grandfather Will acting as a police cop in parking a long line cars on the front yard and across the street on the grass of Bill and Ginny Knodel’s lot at 107 Parkway. My grandfather had recently retired as justice of special sessions, otherwise known as a city police court judge. One of the members of the Americanization League Committee was Onondaga County Sheriff Albert E. Stone. One can only imagine Stone’s remark to my grandfather upon driving down Parkway Drive’s hill to see him standing in the road directing traffic. I am sure there was not room to leave a bicycle when he was finished.
A walk up the stone circular driveway to the house’s flagstone sidewalk, past a low row of ivy covered retaining wall, would have placed you at the entrance of the house. AL members would have greeted guests, directing them out onto the backyard to the apple tree where tables and chairs were set up for the picnic. The large treed lot had five apple trees, three in the back yard and two in the front, amongst manicured perennial gardens created by the prior owners for the Knodels or per my maternal grandfather, Bert Darrow of Eastwood.
My mother told of how my father and Bill Knodel barbequed the hot dogs and hamburgers and distributed them from a serving table setup under the climbing rose arbor. There was no picture of this; however, there was a Kodachrome of the two standing in front of my father’s 1955 Chevrolet white sedan. The next slide pictured my mother and dad being in love. The vehicle was his company car for working as an adjuster for the Insurance Company of North America.
The League outing was emceed by my grandfather. The 08/23/56 P-S story reported Will “had plenty of playful coaching coming from his wife,” my nana Fanny. “On demand he introduced members of his family,” three of his four sons, their spouses and children. There was no doubt a pre-meal prayer, which most likely was offered by Rev. McEvoy. Alice Murphy might have repeated her Lenten prayer: “Love one another as I have loved you. What you do for a friend is your power. What you suffer for a friend is your love.” She routinely said her “life had been made rich by [her] experience in the League.”
“Fifty persons attended the outing; 20 from racial backgrounds” reported the Post-Standard. The Americanization League treated everyone with dignity subject to no boundaries, no race, creed or nationality. Longstanding members of the AL and friends of my grandfather were P. Augustus Hopkins, attorney for the Onondaga County Welfare Department; Clarence J. Foertch, lawyer and esquire Edmund B. Tyminski. My grandfather’s law firm partners present would have been Charles Bramley and George Cool.
Two AL members, board of education employees were William Dixon, deputy superintendent in-charge and Ms. Helen Hewitt, head of adult education. One AL member, “Mrs. Anna Megnin, would assist the German immigrants with English translations,” recalled her grandson William, Jr., of Bridgeport. Anna and her husband Carl were both from Germany, as was her sister Emily and husband Bill Wochele. The families lived next to each other in Lyncourt and the men were factory workers at the Easy Washer Co. of Syracuse.
The Post-Standard reported “an evening feature song fest was lead by Anna, Emily and P. Augustus Hopkins as star songsters.” Yes, I can hear Anna and Emily singing the lyrics of the Andrews sisters — “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anybody else but me.”