"A carnation for the lady, cigar for the gents, candy for the kiddies..."
as the old poem goes.
The atmosphere was much the same as it was 100 years ago as Dunham's launched a celebration to commemorate 100 successful years in business Saturday, March 19, at their store in Wellsboro.
Dunham's Department store also marked the auspicious occasion with a ribbon cutting ceremony. A business that has been operation in the same location for a century is something to celebrate for the town of Wellsboro, or any town for that matter. Welcoming the group of assembled citizens was owner John Dunham, as he kicked off the ceremony by sharing a short history of the family-owned business. Following his speech, his wife Nancy also shared her thanks to the crowd before introducing Mary Worthington, executive director of the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce. Worthington spoke briefly about the relationship the Dunham's family has in the community, and the consistent friendship with the Chamber. Ending her brief dissertation, she wished the local business "success for the next 100 years."
Introduced next was Pennsylvania state representative Matthew Baker who spoke warmly about both the Dunham family and the long-standing business. Baker commented, "They are a great representation of the town," and "an honor to have in the community. To measure the success of the business, look at the name above the business." Considering that one's name is everything, the Baker pointed out how the Dunham's name "stands for integrity," and remains steadfast on the front of the building. Congratulating the family on their success, Baker next read a citation from the House of Representatives. The Dunham's daughter, Ann Dunham-Rawson, introduced three loyal 50-year veteran employees to cut the ribbon.
Ruth Neal, Betty Mallow and Betty Davis, resplendent in matching red outfits, had the honor of clipping the ribbon in front of the store as the excited crowd cheered them on.
Celebrating a "Century of Service," many giveaways were awarded to the Saturday shoppers including daffodils to all women, balloons to children and various mementoes to all. Complimentary beverages and donuts in the coffee shop were offered after the ceremony, as eager guests and shoppers lined up outside Dunham's doors.
Eager to save 20 percent on purchases throughout Saturday, shoppers
were also treated to many special savings. Shoppers also had the opportunity
to register for several drawings, including the chance to receive an exclusive
Boyd's Bear "Daffodils R. Hope" representing the ACS Daffodil Days. Musical
entertainment was provided by the "Barbershop Quartet" along with "Spare
Parts Dixieland Jazz Band."
The long and cherished history of the Dunham's family and business originated in 1905 when Roy and Fannie Dunham arrived in Wellsboro and contributed half of the interest to purchase a grocery store in the center of town. Basing their professional creed on the motto of "our family serving your family," the business is built on family tradition and legacy. Beginning as a humble grocery store, the variety of goods sold within the doors soon grew to encompass dry goods, household items, hardware, clothes, shoes and farm supplies. Rebuilding and expanding the business after an unfortunate fire in 1913 that severely damaging the store; the original entrepreneurs Roy and Fannie reinforced their commitment to serve the community. Continuing to run the business with the same values and courteous service that the store was founded on 100 years ago, the Dunham's family strives to maintain excellence and tradition.The business remains successful due to its ability to adapt, as well as remaining community-oriented.
Copyright © 2005 Wellsboro Gazette
25 East Avenue, Wellsboro, PA 16901
Wellsboro Shoe Hospital (Louis & Vera Jurkow Syracuse, owners)
By Betty Frazier
Cobbler! Most people today would associate the word with a dessert, apple, berry or peach. Very few remember “cobbler” as an artisan of a craft almost lost in the advance of time.
There was a time when cobblers played an important part in the lives of all who dressed their feet with wearing apparel known as shoes.
The head of the house, way back when in the good old days was in charge of cobbling the shoes for their family and it was a craft as important as any of the other tasks performed by the family members. Long before crafts became popular as they are today, they were a necessity of daily living.
There was usually a village cobbler who not only repaired but made shoes by hand, cutting shaping, and assembling the parts. Much of the shaping required a “last”, a wooden or metal form shaped like a human foot. The last was attached to a bench which held the tools and the cobbler as well.
There were very few low cut shoes as seen today. Even dress shoes were ankle high and many of them were fastened with buttons, thus “high buttoned” shoes. These required a hook to secure the buttons. Buckles, laces and today’s velcro eventually replaced buttons.
But as with everything, time makes many changes. With so many synthetics replacing the need for leather; cobblers have all but disappeared. Only now and then will you find a shoe repair shop.
For Vera Syracuse of Wellsboro, a very sprightly lady, the clean fragrance of leather opens the door of nostalgia for she worked for many years along side her husband, Louis, in his operation of the Wellsboro Shoe Hospital.
Both Louie and Vera has experience in the shoe industry when they resided in Rochester, NY. Vera had been with the Utz-Dunn-Conel shoe-making factory prior to her marriage, and before moving to Wellsboro in 1930 had been employed by Eastman Kodak.
Vera said, “Louie started as an apprentice in the shoe repair business and following their marriage on Sept. 6, 1929, he was encouraged to open his own business.”
Louie came to Wellsboro, liked it, and found there was a need for such business, much more than in the city where so many repair shops were in operation.
He came to Wellsboro alone at first and lived in what many long-time residents know to be the Ashley House on upper East Ave.
Ashley was in the shoe business with Joe Mertz in what is now the Bulas Jewelry Store. In a short time, Louie was established in his venture at the rear of Mertz Shoe Store and would become a well-respected Main Street business.
“Louie was a very shy person,” said Vera, “explaining he had grown up, the only boy in a family of seven sisters.” It would appear that he was outnumbered in girlish conversation, which may have accounted for his shyness.
Vera said, “I was the only girl he had ever dated.”
As time changed the face of Main Street, Louie moved his business up the street next to The Wellsboro Agitator. When the Agitator closed its doors, The Wellsboro Gazette moved in and became the Syracuse’s new neighbors.
Today the store is part of Davis Furniture Store. It had been Lush’s Furniture Store in the early days of the Wellsboro Shoe Hospital.
Louie had the most modern machines available which he leased from United Shoe Co., Johnson City, NY. He spent long hours in the fine art of gluing and pressing, making the old look and wear like new.
“Our daughter, Lorraine, was born shortly after moving to Wellsboro, and after she was in school I went to work for the Corning Glass Works,” Vera said. “However, Louie was working from 6 am to 11 pm and we decided after about two years I would leave the factory and help him.”
“I waited on customers, did the leather sewing, shoes, gym bags, luggage, and handbags. Louie did all the intricate shoe repair work.”
“In those days,” she added, “soles and heels for men’s shoes were $3.50 a pair and about $2 to $2.50 for ladies.” Today they run about $25.
“We had about 500 customers drawing from an area of about 10,000 people. The Senior Mr. Eberle of Eberle Tannery, Westfield, always let Louie go in the workplace and select his own leather and was happy to make sure that Louie always got prime leather,” she remarked.
“Louie loved his work and he made his shoes with a natural flexibility, which added to the comfort of newly repaired shoes,” she said proudly. “We also sold Red Wing work shoes from a supple catalog.”
“I can remember we had a local mute boy who worked for us for about five or six years. He had learned the shoe repair business at a trade school and his mother came to see us to ask if we would hire him. Louie was a little reluctant at first as he was so busy and didn’t know it he would have the time to train him. He did, however, and this young man became very good help for us. He married and left the area, and we missed him. We communicated by writing our instructions for him and it worked out very well.”
During the war, leather went into the manufacture of army boots, and because of the shortage more people had their old shoes repaired.
In the depression years a new idea emerged which possibly was the forerunner of the “do it yourself” home permanents, home shoe repair kits. Made from rubber, one had only to cut, shape, and then glue a piece to the shoe. Very inexpensive, they were a boon to those who might have otherwise been reduced to using cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes.
New shoes were a very special treat and were kind of a status symbol. The proud owner of new shoes could be compared to owning a new car in today’s era. Many kids went barefoot during the summer months and shoes were reserved for Sunday best and special occasions. New shoes at the beginning of the school year were on the same level as a new bonnet for Easter. What people pay for a pair of sneakers today would have outfitted the feet of several children in the families of yesteryear.
“Louie died in 1955, a young man compared to today’s standards,” Vera said. “I advertised the business in an out-of-town paper, and Alex Rustomian took over the operation. However, he was severely injured in an accident and once again the shop was without an operator.”
“Eventually the business was sold to Frank Letawa of Blossburg and I continued to help him for about 16 years, working three days a week. Ill health forced him to sell the business.”
“Our daughter never worked in the shop for us. For awhile after she graduated from college, she taught school in Elmira, NY. Her husband, who got his start at The Wellsboro Agitator, is today a printer at Cornell University. They reside in Chemung, NY.”
Vera lives in the home which she and Louie bought many years ago and loved. She rents the upstairs and has had many, many very wonderful tenants during the years. Never idle, she does beautiful needlework which fills her home to overflowing, though she is a very generous giver. Her home is filled with very healthy plants which shows she has a proficient green thumb.
Vera spends part of nearly every day enjoying the company of those who find so much pleasure and companionship as the Hospitality House and is considered one of its most valued volunteers.
She also loved to travel. Her energy, cheerful outlook on life and her sunny disposition make her a very popular addition to wherever she is. They apparently reflect the happy days when she worked alongside her husband, Louie, the cobbler!
|Mansfield Gazette, 15 March 2006
Vera Syracuse celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, March 10 (2006) at The Green Home, with a cake provided by friends from St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Wellsboro. Also joining the group were her daughter, Lorraine Talbot, and son-in-l;aw Charles Talbot of Chemung, NY. Syracuse was born the daughter of Jacy and Mary JURKOW in Austria. she was married to the late Louis Syracuse, with whom she operated the Wellsboro Shoe Hospital for many years. "I want to thank you all for doing this," said Vera, who also worked at the Wellsboro Senior Center for many years, as she wiped tears from her eyes at Friday's party. "It's so unexpected."
The First National Bank which came into being in Civil War times, parallels in its expanding business and influence, the growth in population and wealth of Wellsboro and surrounding area. Begun by the Robinson Brothers in their store as a neighborly service before, it soon became an important part of their business. There was a bank in Tioga and some local banking was done in Harrisburg, but even Tioga was a great distance from Wellsboro in 1860.
As lumber and sawmill operations were growing rapidly in the area and a primitive railroad from Corning to Blossburg gave impetus to the coal industry, money began to reach Wellsboro, so the Robinsons with William Bache, another of the town’s leading men with manifold business interests decided that further growth of the community would require adequate banking and credit facilities, so the bank was organized with the then formidable sum of $50,000 capital, the Robinsons subscribing for 420 or the 500 shares.
The Articles of Association were signed by Chester Robinson, John L. Robinson, William Bache, John W. Bailey, Henry W. Williams, John R. Bowen, Hugh Young, and E.B. Campbell. William Bache was made president and John L. Robinson cashier. On the opening day of the bank, May 17, 1864, nine persons made deposits amounting to $5,030.08, with Hugh Young as the first depositor.
The business grew modestly at first, but steadily, and in less than a year capital was increased to $100,000. By 1870 deposits reached $62,000, circulation $88,000, and the surplus had grown to $50,000 with $3,000 in undivided profits, prosperity resulting from the interest of the lumbering companies in hemlock, and the consequent settling up of tanneries in the county. Mining, too, played an important part in the growth of the banks business, because in the new town of Antrim the first year the railroad opened, 11,366 tons of coal were mined.
By the end of the first decade of the bank’s existence, the population of Wellsboro had doubled and stood at 1500. The town’s boundaries were then changed to include more territory and many new kinds of business projects had developed as well as churches and the public schools. William Bache resigned as president of First National in 1872 and was succeeded by John L. Robinson. Mr. Robinson’s son Eugene was made cashier.
The Robinson residence stood next to the bank the present office of the County Superintendent of Schools. Next to the Robinsons’ was the home of Judge Henry W. Williams.
By 1885 First National Bank deposits reached $211,348, and five years later stood at $250,000.
Wellsboro Agitator, February 20, 1958
Bank Robbery was Sensational Event
Catastrophe overtook the First National Bank September 16, 1874, when a gang of professional burglars armed with dark lanterns and pistols, entered the Robinson residence through a kitchen window, and after assembling all members of the household in a second floor bedroom which was occupied by Mrs. Azubah Smith, a young widow who resided at the home of her father, announced that their motive was robbery, not murder, and nobody would be hurt if everyone kept quiet. They handcuffed the members of the family and tied Mrs. Smith and the maid back to back on two chairs. Mr. Robinson was gagged and Eugene, manacled and blindfolded, was taken to the bank next door, and with three pistols pointed at his head and threats of death if he made an out-cry, was forced to open the vault from which the burglars scooped into an old tobacco tub $30,00 in negotiable bonds, $10,000 in registered bonds, and $20,000 in non-negotiable securities.
Members of the gang were left in the house to guard against possible miscarriage of the robbers’ plans, and the one who held the Robinson family captive showed some semblance of humanity when he yielded to Mrs. Smith’s importunities that her mother be permitted to lie down, since she was suffering a heart attack. He even went to another part of the house and secured medicine for Mrs. Robinson, placing it within her reach and leaving her hands free so that she could reach it and though he took Mrs. Smith’s diamond rings, he threw them under the bed so that she might recover them later. Mrs. Smith evidently a young woman of some spirit, rebuked her captor and threatened him with the later vengeance of Providence for his part in the nefarious proceedings. Mrs. Smith remained in the Robinson home until her death and those who as children knew the stately, majestic lady who dropped her r’s when she spoke after the manner of a New Yorker, used to wonder if the contemporary oral version of the robbery handed down by their grandparents were true in its claim that the bold robber kissed her when he departed. The history of Tioga County does not record this incident, but after a hundred years it does not detract from the story.
Their purpose accomplished the robbers returned the cashier to the room with his family, bound him and his father also back to back on two chairs and departed, cautioning their victims against making a disturbance.
After a long period of silence Mrs. Robinson, whose hands were free
although her ankles were shackled, managed to get close enough to her husband
to get his knife from his pocket and cut the cords that bound the four
to chairs. Eugene Robinson went in the dark to the room of the handyman
who was employed at the home and the bank and who had slept through the
excitement, wanting to send the servant to the home of Judge Williams next
door for aid, but the terrified man refused to go although he did agree
to accompany the cashier who was still handcuffed.