Niagara Gazette

December 7, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Solemn day leads into festive moments on the island

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Memoirists — Doug was taking a bath, his Mom would tell him later. And Dad, a railroad researcher in Cleveland, would have been surveying his 34th birthday. He didn’t make much of a fuss over himself and surely this day’s news from Hawaii in 1941 would have terminated any plans for celebration.

Japanese planes had attacked Pearl Harbor. It was “our” 9-11 except that it would, eventually, consume the globe. Day of infamy. Years of strife. Moment of triumph. Have 72 years really passed?

Evidently, considering the shrug so many modernists give this significant day. Half the populace can’t even identify it, we’ll wager. How many will remember 9-11 in 2073?

But at our VFW they don’t forget. They’ll salute those who served at noon today, that’s at 2121 Grand Island Blvd. Visitors welcome. Always are. Thanks, soldiers of every service ...


THE BEAT GOES ON: Thereafter, we’re spending a lot of time this weekend invoking our right to peaceably assemble. Shindigging begins with the Tree Gala at the Byblos Resort (formerly Holiday Inn) this afternoon at 3, trees up for bid, Santa on hand, high schoolers helping out.

“One Starry Night,” a Nativity-based Christmas pageant, then concludes a two-night engagement (5 to 8 p.m.) at Trinity United Methodist Church, the big spire that dominated the I-190’s Whitehaven Road interchange until Billy Fuccillo came along.

Sunday afternoon, the Grand Island Historical Society welcomes Islanders and Mainlanders alike to the River Lea Open House, 1 to 4, harpist and refreshments all gratis. Located in Beaver Island State Park, this mini-mansion, once a farm house, frequently felt the footsteps of young Grover Cleveland, who tilled the soil there as a boy and went on to serve as President, not once, but twice.

Sunday evening the Grand Island Community Chorus decks the halls with festive songs starting at 7 p.m., again at Trinity United Methodist, again no charge, not even for the refreshments.

This is the eighth year for Community Chorus, now under the direction of Carolyn Lokken, renowned for her “Bring your Mother to Sing” days at Grand Island High School.

Considering our widely-scattered population over here — we’re the same size as Manhattan, which has buildings with more people than our whole Island — the longevity of the Community Chorus is quite an achievement. The high school’s Madrigal Singers will join in with offerings ranging from the chorale “O Nata Lux” to the latest by Josh Groban and, presciently, “Here We Come A-Caroling.”

Perhaps they’ll serenade Polly on the occasion of HER birthday. As we confessed at a Mainland gathering last week, she’s Jack Benny’s age, and you can say that again.

And look for us Thursday jingling for the Salvation Army in Tops. Drop in, and drop something in, we’re making a list and checking it twice. Come visit. Bring a picture of George Washington. And thank one who served.

Contact Polly and Doug via E-mail at