Bisonalities Again


A quarterly Newsletter dedicated to the Alumni of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools
April 2012------------------------------------------ Spring Issue ------------------------ Volume 13 - Number 3
     Cat's Corner
     Letters to the Editor
     My stroll back in time - Part II of III, by Anita Breitweiser Palmer - FLBHS Class of 1962
     Wintry Thanksgiving 1956 by Howard Markham, WHC Class of 1955

Welcome to the Bisonalities, Again, a newsletter dedicated to the alumni (students, teachers, and administrators) of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools. This newsletter will be issued quarterly. New issues will be posted for viewing on the Web site on, or about January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

The Bisonalities, Again Web site may be viewed by going to:

The success of this newsletter will depend on you. I need contributors. Do you have an interesting article, a nostalgia item, a real life story, or a picture you would like to share with other alumni? Do you have a snail-mail or an e-mail address of one of your former classmates? If you do, please send it to me at the following e-mail address:
or at my snail-mail address:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
Tel: (301) 535-9263
Fax: (301) 375-9250

Please, NO handwritten submissions.

The Bisonalities, Again Newsletter is available to any and all alumni, teachers, and administrators of Waterford or Fort LeBoeuf High Schools on the Web site, free.

If you know an alumnus, teacher, or administrator who would be interested, tell them about the Web site. None of the material in this newsletter has a copyright unless otherwise noted. If you wish to make copies of this newsletter and distribute it to other Alumni or friends, please feel free to do so.

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I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Bob Catlin - Class of 1956

Cat's Corner

You are reading this issue of the Newsletter a little late. Nancy and I just spent three months "snowbirding," for the first time, with my sister, Barbara (WHS Class of 1952) in New Port Richey, Florida.

What a great three months we had. We were able to spend a good deal of time with my brother, Leslie (FLBHS 1956), who I have seen rarely in the past 20 years since he moved to Florida and of course with my sister, who we normally get to see only once or twice a year.

While in Florida, Steve and Susan Graham had another “GATHERING OF THE THUNDERING HERD” at their house in Land O'Lakes. Like last years “gathering” it was an outstanding success. We had a turnout of 36 alumni. Attendees included alumni from the classes of 1952 through 1960. Everyone had a great time enjoying the great food and the extraordinary hospitality of Steve and Susan. Nancy Dorman Swanson (WHS Class of 1955) did a great job of organizing the event.

A sad part of the trip was that I lost another friend, Clarence Kibbe, WHS class of 1954, husband of Marlene (Myers) Kibbe, FLBHS class of 1956. Steve and Susan and Nancy and I rode together and attended his Memorial service in St. Cloud. Sally (Fox) (Class of 1956) and Sonny Hayes, snowbirding in Florida, also attended the Memorial service.

Nancy and I also got together with Dick and Vera Powell (class of 1954 and 1956 respectively) for dinner while they were vacationing in Florida.

In February I was also able to get together with several guys that I had worked with at the Department of State who retired here in Florida. Several I had not seen in the 17 years since I retired, the first time.

All in all, it was a really great three months away from the winter weather.

The one-liners found in this issue were received from my brother, Ernie (WHS Class of 1947) and are called "Blessed are the Whackadoodles, for they let in the light."

God must love stupid people; He made so many.
Ashley Taylor Clark FLBHS 12/20/2011
Richard Blass FLBHS 12/29/2011
Patricia Weaver Taha FLBHS 01/13/2012
Debra Phelps Finney FLBSD 01/18/2012
Clarence Kibbe WHS 01/18/2012
Jenny Sokolowski Saunders FLBHS 01/23/2012
Larry Robertson FLBHS 01/26/2012
Margaret Podlasek Will WHS 02/04/2012
Harry Thomas FLBHS 03/28/2012
Letters to the Editor

The following was received from Wes Nicklas, WHS class of 1954:


When I was in fifth or sixth grade in Waterford Elementary I bored my classmates by telling them how great my Grandfather was. In fact he was about the best person I ever knew and smart as well.

Rather than tell his life story, consider a few items about the sugar bush. It was located on his farm about two miles southwest of the 6N and Route 19 intersection. I forget the name of this gravel road. The story is kinda in three parts.

First, part: The sugar house was located downhill from the sugar bush. This way the horses could haul downhill when the tank was loaded and uphill with an empty tank. He burned wood which was free and fed a sort of sophisticated evaporator.

He was always encouraging me to hang out with him and when I was nine he had me spend the night with him in the sugar house. We slept on a plank bunk and he fed the fire all night.

My kids liked the part about what we had for breakfast. Bread toasted in the fire and boiled eggs from the henhouse. The eggs were boiled in the sap but no one asked me if they were washed.

When the market price rose to $3.50 per gallon it troubled his Christian conscience to take advantage of this. What would he say now at a price maybe ten times this 1945 price?


The following announcement was received from Marlene Kibbe on February 21, 2012.

Marlene (Myers) Kibbe (FLBHS Class of 1956) has announced that a memorial service will be held for her late husband, Clarence, on May 5, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. in the Summit United Methodist Church, 1510 Townhall Road, Erie, PA 16509; telephone (814) 864-3271.

Clarence passed away on January 18, 2012, in St. Cloud, Florida after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson's disease.

Please mark your calendars.

The following was received from Joe Leech, FLBHS Class of 1956:


Two items you may want to use. It's hard to focus on the screen; eyes are really sensitive to light and hurt, and as you read on, you'll see why. Make corrections as you wish.

First... “Gathering of the Thundering Herd” ... and aftermath.

Another “Gathering” was held in February at the home of Steve and Susan Graham and it was great to see so many of the “herd” (and spouses ... or is that “the spice gals”) from home.

While possibly educationally the more modern schools have a “leg up” on the teaching technologies that we had, it's hard to see how the newer ways could be any better. I think it's been proven that one of the key elements to learning is the relationship factor between the student and the teacher, and there's little doubt that most of us had at least one good solid relationship. But the relationship with the teachers is not what the gathering was about, but instead the relationship(s) we had with each other. True, the “townies' and the “commuters” didn't have the tight geographic connection, but we were all together in a large number of our classes and homeroom. There were not 20 extra circular sports or activities, and usually at least one bound us together and formed the friendships that keep us together today. Our “reunions” are not a gathering of strangers where “small talk” is about the only thing we have to share, but we have a common bond of memories ... some favorable, some we'd rather forget, or some we laugh at today.

I had a little after effect of this gathering; one I'll be anxious to soon forget.

Later in the afternoon of “the gathering” I noted my face starting to numb slightly. Normally, this is my personal warning sign that I've had “one too many,” but I thought this was strange because all I'd had was one beer. But a few days before I'd had a root canal procedure and I thought there might be some latent effect of the pain killer, although there was no old Novocain used but a newer medication, and at the time, I had no residual effect. Strange!

That was the 9th. I awoke the next morning (my birthday on the 10th) to find the entire left side of my face paralyzed. Obviously concerned, I called my primary care physician and described all my symptoms. He thought most likely Bell's palsy which I'd never heard of, but sent me to the ER for a CT scan to rule out stroke. I did, they did. No stroke ... thank heaven. But Bell's ... yes. I'd never heard of it. As they told me at the hospital they see about five new cases a week through there. Now some 17 days “in to” it and having done quite a bit of research, I've learned what many of you might already know ... no positive link of cause and effect; no necessary correlation with age, gender, etc., and no reliable known cure, either in conventional medicine or alternative treatments. Just wait it out and treat symptoms as well as possible. Most common side effect, and it is rather painful, is that with paralysis comes the inability to blink the eye which results in dry eye socket and this can be very painful. It's “No More Tears” or other drops about every 30 minutes or keep the eye taped shut and plenty of Tylenol. As to normal speech ... forget it. God found a way to shut me up for a while ... which is hard as I still work and earn my “retirement” as an insurance sales broker. We're sorta now reverting to income Plan B which is via Internet and the written word, websites, etc. Our latest is Anyway, that's a few thoughts about “the gathering” and I wonder who else, if anyone among the group has had “Bells”... I'm told recovery is 99% most likely, but can take 1-6 months.

I was sending this to you Cat, but I also think many of us use Facebook, and I wonder if we have a group there for the “Bison” alumni, it might be a good idea to start one. If any of the readers have a FB page, please add me as a friend and be sure and let me know your birthday.

In wrapping this little update up, again, we'd like to say Thank You to Steve and Susan for their hospitality.

Item #2.

Fort LeBoeuf and yes, before.

Before our class graduated from “Fort LeBoeuf” High School, many of the readers of Bisonalities Again were graduates of the old Waterford High School, in fact, among the recent “gathering” of the herd, we had a few present such as Del and Bobbie Shields.

A few nights ago, Ruth Ann and I were watching “Wheel of Fortune” and a contestant asked Pat, “Can I have an E?” and he replied in essence, I think you can, if you ask permission. Well, this lead to a short discussion with Ruth Ann and me between the words of “can' and “may” ... and went back quit a few years before graduation. We were not sure whether it took us back to 7th or 8th grade, but we WERE sure it was the teaching of Mrs. Carter (did she ever smile?), the “Plain English Handbook” (5' x 7”, gray paperback cover.. we all bought our own copy). Diagramming sentences and the like. We were in the Junior High building then. We had Ellen Johnson, too, and then we moved across the hall for Math with Mr. Carnahan. Dorothy Edwards taught “health.” We learned poetry from Mrs. Carter had her saying to the class after some of us complained, would be “It rains on the just and the unjust.” Then there was Jake Russell and his sitting on student desks, and the things he got away with in some of the female student “relationships” then, which we probably thought nothing of, would get him fired in a heartbeat in todays “Educational” system! Wow, if Pat W was only alive today to share some of HER experiences with Jake. Anyone go back farther to Waterford Elementary and Mr. Carroll and getting a swat cross the knuckles with a 12” ruler for some infraction?

Bisonalities seems to be running out of steam and “content” for much of the paper as it relates to the senior years and Senior High. Who might have a special recollection of an earlier time like Mrs. Carter? For my money, we got a damn good education in the basics back then ... Reading ... certainly … Writing ... Yes, and Arithmetic, on though Algebra 1 and 2, Plane Geometry, and Trig. Anyone wonder if this was a great fundamental? Just ask (Dr. Al Hazen) where his roots came from!

I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.
My stroll back in time
By Anita Breitweiser Palmer
FLBHS Class of 1962

Part II of III

My House

My House

The House I grew up in

Just as I turned five in 1949, I started school. All the other children in my first grade class were six years old and some almost seven. Waterford had no kindergarten at that time, and since my dad taught me to read, mom enrolled me early.

Elementary School

Wooden four-room elementary school

I started school in the old wooden four-room school house on East 4th Street in Waterford. I attended first grade with Mrs. Sexton; second grade with Mrs. Luba Lewis; and fifth grade with Miss Roberts. Third and fourth grades were held in the old Methodist church that stood on the north east corner of 4th and Cherry Streets. My third grade teacher was Miss Rockwood, and fourth, if I remember correctly, was Dorothy Pulling.

Methodist Church

Old Methodist Church East 4th

Then, during my fifth grade year the old Waterford Academy High School was torn down and the new elementary school was built. I attended sixth grade there.

The picture below was taken from the May 1955 “Erie County Public Schools Bulletin,” along with the below notation.




Being younger than the rest of the children I was always the baby, according to the other kids that were a year and some almost two years older than me, so I was pretty much ignored. When I reached 5th grade Mom had me held back to the grade that was my own age.

I remember playing the game Annie Annie Over, which consisted of throwing a ball over the back cloak room roof and yelling Annie Annie Over. If you caught the ball before it hit the ground you ran around the school to the other side and hit one of the other players with the ball. When you did you changed sides. I also loved playing Jacks and jump rope.

Remember how decorative the report cards were back then, with its borders and leaves.

Report Card

I lost my front teeth in the first grade at that old school. The play ground had teeter totters and when someone else was on them we would stand behind them and push it down. When it came back up it hit my chin and knocked out all my top front teeth. What a bloody mess I was. I was never one to cry in front of anyone, so I bravely held my tears, lined up to go back into the classroom with all the kids staring at me. When I was seated at my deck, I told the teacher I just didn't feel good as blood gushed from my mouth. I then ran home and bawled my eye's out.

I remember the first fire drill we had in the first grade. I thought it was a real fire so when we filed out I ran home and told mom the school was on fire. I remember how embarrassed I was when she had to walk me back to school and explain to the teacher why I left the school yard.

All of you that are around my age will remember the civil defense drills at school during the red scare of the 50's. We had to duck under our desks and cover our heads in case we were attacked. Now looking back, how would that maneuver save our lives if we were bombed?

We were given stamp folders and encouraged to buy savings bonds to help fight the Korean War. Each stamp was 10 cents and when the folder was full you had $18.70 to buy a bond. When it reaches maturity in 9 years and 8 months you will have the grand total of $54.65. That's where my quarter a week grade school allowance went. I had to buy two stamps and then I could have the left over nickel, which at least back then would buy a good sized candy bar or a bag full of penny candy. I also have a little booklet that was handed out at school compliments of the Waterford Electric Co. It's an index of what to do in case we were attacked; air raid precautions, blackout info, bombs and how to fight them (yes that was really a chapter) are some of the topics.

War Stamps               War Stamps

Five weeks worth of my allowance that didn't help to fight any war

During the winter, when I was quite young, between the ages of five and fourteen, most of the kids from the east side of town would sled ride either (when we were very young) in Alfred McLallan's pasture behind his dairy barn, on the far side of East 1st street (First Alley Street was not there at that time.). The gate to the pasture was in the alley behind the duplex on the south west side of East 1st Street. The barbed wire fence from the wooden gate ran the perimeter of the pasture from Flatt Road to Black's Bridge. There was, at that time, a long sloping hill with a frozen pond at the bottom that was great for sledding.

My story could have very easily ended in that pasture one winter when I was five or six. The sledding hill was just over the barbed wire fence behind Colegrove's house (seven houses up East 1st Street from the alley). My friend Linda Colegrove and I were sliding on the pond in our boots. I went through the ice into freezing water that was over my head. I bobbed to the surface and grabbed onto the ice. Every time I would grab the ice it would break off. Linda was frightened and started to run home, then she turned around and came back took my hand and pulled me out enough that I could climb out the rest of the way. Then she ran home.

I was so cold and my clothes were freezing in the wind so quickly I could hardly walk, much less climb over the barbed wire fence. God must have been with me that day; I managed to walk clear down to the big wood gate behind the barn to get out of the pasture. I remember walking up the alley past Finney's house wondering if I was going to make it the rest of the way home or if I was going to freeze to death right there in the alley.

Linda and Anita
Linda and I were three in this photo, so I was 2-3 yrs older than this when I fell threw the ice

When we were older, we would go to Brickyard hill to ride. Back then there were no houses on the whole hill, and little to no traffic. It was the best for sliding. This hill was used by most of the kids in town. We could sled ride into the night, 'till you couldn't see any more. Parents didn't worry so much then if you didn't come home at dark. Usually we were all told, “when the streetlights came on, come home.”

When Linda and I were five years old, we swiped a five dollar bill from my mother's purse and went to Freddie Robert's dairy store, which was on the north corner of East 2nd and Main Street. He made the ice cream right there in his store that was so tasty. Anyway, Freddie was behind the counter. I held up the five and asked him, “How many ice cream cones will this buy?” His answer was, “Do you know your telephone number?” Silly girl, I gave it to him. He apparently could not reach my mother so he called Linda's mother. She came down to the store with a switch. She switched our behinds good all the way home. Back then if your child and someone else's child got in trouble you both got punished together. I remember getting spanked by Linda's mother Marion a couple times, and mom spanked Linda a few times, too. That wouldn't fly today.

Linda and I had been friends since we were two or three, we met in Sunday school and we both lived on East 1st street. She was about seven houses east from my house, and we were practically in-separable until she moved to New York State in the seventh grade. We slept over at each other's house many times. Then when Dottie Edwards moved into the house next door to Linda the three of us were like the three musketeers, Linda the youngest, me in the middle then Dottie the oldest. I remember crying for days after Linda moved. Thanks to the Bisonalities Again Web site, she found my email address and we connected again a little over a year ago, and we were able to get together for a couple hours last spring. She is a retired school teacher from Huntington, Indiana. Dottie and I still see each other on occasion. Right now we are due for a lunch get-together; I will have to call her.

The best thing about living in or near to your home town is being able to see and keep in close touch with friends you grew up with. A good sized group of us 1962 grads get together once a month for lunch, we have good times reminiscing.

Being 'over the hill' is much better than being under it!
Wintry Thanksgiving 1956
By Howard Markham
WHS Class of 1955

I recently came across an article from the November 28, 1992 Erie Times, “Erie's 'routine' Thanksgiving, 1956”. My mother sent it to me in 1992. It has prompted me to jot down my own memory of that Thanksgiving.

Being away in the Boston area in 1956 for my second year in college, I was most homesick to get back to Waterford for Thanksgiving with my family. Thanksgiving was on November 22nd that year, which is also my birthday. I left Boston on Wednesday, the day before the holiday, by Greyhound bus. It would be an overnight trip through the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, then across New York on the New York Thruway to Buffalo. In Buffalo, I would transfer to a bus to Erie, and in Erie I would transfer to a bus to Pittsburgh, passing through Waterford on Route 19. I would be getting into Waterford mid-day, in time for my father to take me out to the farm on Bagdad Road for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't think I told anybody I was coming-I wanted to surprise them.

The trip was uneventful until we got near Buffalo, when it began snowing. It was the middle of the night when the bus to Erie left Buffalo. By that time it was snowing heavily and beginning to accumulate on the roads. About half way to Erie, we got stuck. After an hour or two the plows came through and the bus was able to continue the trip to Erie. We got to the Erie bus station on North Park Row on the square near Gannon College in the early afternoon. It was still snowing heavily and the city seemed almost deserted. Nevertheless, around 4 o'clock the bus to Pittsburgh decided to go for it. We were able to navigate the streets of Erie until we came to the steep hill on Peach Street through Kearsarge. The bus could not get up the hill.

I got off the bus-I'm not sure what I was thinking, except that I wasn't going to get to Waterford on that bus that day-and began walking south up the hill, which was now US 19, vaguely imagining I might be able to hitchhike a ride. I had relatives in Erie I could have stayed with if I wasn't able to get out of town. Miraculously, after only a few minutes, a Cadillac with chains picked me up! The driver, a middle aged man reeking of alcohol, from which he must have derived the courage to brave the storm, was himself headed for Pittsburgh, as I recall. We got to Waterford without any trouble. I don't remember seeing any other cars on 19. It was about 6 pm when I called my father from the phone booth on the corner of the park. They were amazed to hear that I was in town. Also amazing in retrospect, my father was able to drive into Waterford through the snow, pick me up, and take me out to the farm. I don't remember whether they had already had Thanksgiving dinner, but there was plenty of turkey left and we had a nice family meal and birthday observance after I got there. My homesickness melted away.

The article my mother sent me about that Thanksgiving was written by a man who had been a twelve year old living in Erie at the time. In the article, he quotes the headlines from the November 23, 1956 Erie Times, “EMERGENCY: 24 INCH SNOW PARALYZES CITY”. Of the storm, he says that, like Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it remains frozen in the minds of those who experienced it. In my case, and for my family, he was certainly right! My mother's handwritten note on the clipping says, “I'll never forget that day and eve!” He also noted that the newspaper that day, a Friday, carried a statement from Archbishop Gannon: “All Catholics may eat meat today-Friday-if they have no other nourishing foods in their homes.”

I was part of a couple of car trips home at Christmas that year and after, with other students from Erie and Buffalo. We also drove across New York at night in snow, but we were never in such heavy snow as that Thanksgiving in 1956-the plows were able to keep up and we never got delayed by it. In the 1950s the NY Thruway was new and the traffic was pretty light late at night, so if you were a decent driver in snow, as everybody from Waterford and Erie was, you could manage pretty well. I have always enjoyed driving in snow in a car that's running well and where the traffic is not complicating things.

Having lived in Washington, DC and Virginia since 1960, I haven't seen much of that kind of winter for a long time. (I hear that they're not so common in Waterford any more either.) But there are two occasions that stand out. After my mother's funeral in 1997, the family was having lunch the next day at my sister Diane's near Mill Village when it began to snow pretty steadily. I decided I had better leave while I could. I was the last car to get over the big hill on 6N between Lowry's corners (6N and 19) and Edinboro. Then, in about 2006, I drove the 100 miles from Washington to my home east of Charlottesville, Virginia in a snowstorm, and was one of the last cars able to get through our back roads to the house. Both drives brought back memories of a Waterford Thanksgiving thirty and forty years earlier.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up three thousand times the memory.
See you all next issue!

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