A to Z Blogging Challenge · Cooperstown · people


Dear Kim,

Onward to the letter O!

Open — I like open spaces, open people, open doors. In yoga, it’s the classes where we focus on opening up — the shoulders, the chest, the hips — that I feel the tears come.

Opera — I went to my first opera this summer. My daughter Mary is working at the Glimmerglass Opera this summer as an apprentice in Front-of-House. Yes, we have a professional opera company not far from the small rural town where I live.

The Glimmerglass Opera Theater (aka Alice Busch Opera Theater)

Since Mary is there, I started taking a little more interest in the opera people who come into the gym for memberships. “What do you do at the opera?” I would ask as they sat across the desk from me completing the necessaries for membership. They would tell me. I would promptly forget.

One day, I was having just such a conversation when the man asked, “Do you enjoy the opera?”

“Um,” I said, “I’ve never gone. I don’t think it’s my cup of tea.”

“You should go,” he insisted. “Try The Sound of Music.” They do one musical theater production each summer in addition to the operas.

“I’ve seen The Sound of Music so many times,” I replied.

“But you’ve never seen it unmiked and with a full orchestra,” he said.


I asked Mary to get me a ticket to the show. I went and loved it.

A few days after my opera visit, I saw the guy at the gym who had talked me into it. “I went to The Sound of Music,” I told him. “I really enjoyed it!”

“What did you like about it?” he asked.

I told him I liked the orchestra. I told him that I thought the young woman who played Liesl was amazing. Then I told him how much I liked the dancing.

“Oh!” he said, bringing his hand up to his heart. “That’s what I do.”

I looked him up. He was, indeed, the chief choreographer.

And it turns out I may actually like opera. I now have tickets to two more shows.

Old — I was going to say that I don’t like growing old — the aches and pains of it — but I really LOVE the older people who come in the gym where I work. Recently, an 84 year old woman joined and she’s been trying all the different classes we offer. “I don’t want to do those old people classes,” she said to me, so she signs up for Spin or Zumba Dance. More than once, I’ve seen her watching people climb the high wall. “I don’t think I’m quite ready for that,” she said the other day, “but maybe next year.” When I’m 84, I want to be like her.

There are so many other O’s that I like: the ocean, orchids, being outdoors, and October, to name a few.

I don’t like overbearing, overly-opinionated, offensive oafs. Enough said.

Thanks always for your encouragement.



The Wrong Side

[the class of persons who had been imported as slaves] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect

Chief Justive Roger Taney in his majority decision on Scott vs Sandford, aka the Dred Scott case

A few years ago I started researching the history of Cooperstown. This meant spending delightful hours at a research library, reading book after book on the area, noticing all the historical plaques on buildings and around town, and, of course, googling and following subsequent rabbit trails.

One of the surprising things I learned was that a Supreme Court justice considered Cooperstown his home. To me, this was bigger than baseball. Bigger than the wealthy people who vacationed here. Bigger than James Fenimore Cooper’s awful books.

68 Main Street, Cooperstown

A Supreme Court justice! Holy crow, right?!

We named a street for him in the village.

His tiny lawyer’s office is now on display at the Farmers’ Museum.

Why, then, had I never heard about this man?

It took all of one Google search and I had my answer. At the end of the first paragraph of Samuel Nelson’s Wikipedia write-up, it says, “He concurred on the 1857 Dred Scott decision…”

Dred Scott is arguably one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made. The majority decision held, basically, that slaves had no rights. While Justice Nelson concurred with the majority, he based his decision on the fact that he believed that the question of slavery was one that each state needed to decide for itself.

Regardless of his reasoning, Justice Nelson was on the wrong side of history. A few years later, the country was in a civil war, and some 620,000 lives later, the majority ruling in that case was irrelevant.

I thought a lot about Justice Nelson during the most recent impeachment trial.

I was reading a story about senators being censured for their votes in that impeachment and ran across this regarding Pat Toomey, senator from Pennsylvania:

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he’s doing,” Washington County GOP Chair Dave Ball told KDKA. “We sent him there to represent us.”

Fox News

People can be caught up in what feels like a righteous movement and still be dead wrong. Think about the Roman Catholic church and Galileo.

I wanted to write Washington County GOP Chair Dave Ball and ask him, “Did you really mean that? Is that how you feel about all trials? Don’t you want people to have consciences and make rational decisions based on the evidence they hear? Are you going to regret those words?”

I imagine that Samuel Nelson may have rued his decision. At least I like to think he would have.

I love the way The Farmers’ Museum handled it. Inside Samuel Nelson’s lawyer’s office is a display explaining Dred Scott because it was probably the most important case he heard — and his worst decision.


No Crying in Baseball

A few days before everything shut down, we went to dinner at the Doubleday Cafe to remember my father on his birthday.  It had been his favorite restaurant.

My son’s girlfriend works with a tourism group in Cooperstown. She told us that night, “They said if the Dreams Park closes, it will kill Cooperstown.” The Dreams Park hosts over 100 Little League teams every week over the summer for tournaments and a Cooperstown experience.

Two days after our dinner, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced they were closing until further notice due to the pandemic.

The next week, Governor Cuomo put the state on “pause.” All non-essential businesses closed.

A week later, the Dreams Park announced that they were closing for the summer of 2020.

Last week the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the Induction Ceremony for Derek Jeter would be postponed until 2021.

On the day before the announcement, USA Today ran this headline:

Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony expected to be postponed, as Cooperstown weeps

Without downplaying the economic hardship — and it IS a HUGE economic hardship on the community — can I show you what Cooperstown is REALLY doing? It isn’t weeping.

1. Cooperstown is working. More than baseball, the backbone of this community is medicine. Bassett Medical Center is a teaching hospital that has received national recognition for its care to rural communities. What started in a fieldstone building in Cooperstown is now the Bassett Healthcare Network: six hospitals and a large number of smaller clinics covering eight counties. The people at Bassett worked hard to prepare for this pandemic and have worked hard throughout.

2. Cooperstown is showing appreciation. Signs like this one started showing up in yards around the village.

The flip side thanks our first responders.

And people haven’t stopped there. People have made their own signs. They leave their front porch lights on during the night as a thank-you to all the essential workers who haven’t “paused” but have been working harder than ever.

3. Cooperstown is maintaining a sense of humor. Andrew Solomon in his book about depression said, “A sense of humor is the best indicator that you will recover.” I know this isn’t depression, but a sense of humor has a way of steadying the boat in any storm.

The other evening I was feeling a little grumpy and irritable. Mary asked about going for a walk and I reluctantly agreed to “just a short one.”

Two blocks in and we were at Lakefront Park where I saw this:

I burst out laughing. “Let’s go see if James Fenimore Cooper is wearing one, too,” I said, and we raced to Cooper Park.

There he was, wearing a mask and holding a bottle of hand sanitizer on his lap.

“Let’s go check The Sandlot Kid,” Mary said, and we hurried up Main Street to Doubleday parking lot.

He, too, was protected — as was the WWI Doughboy statue:
My short walk turned out to be longer than intended, but my spirits were so much lighter having seen Cooperstown lean into the new face mask mandate.

4. Cooperstown is mourning. I first noticed the flag at half-staff at the empty high school one cold rainy morning when I dropped off school work for my daughter.

The flag on Main Street is at half-staff as well. Cooperstown recognizes the deep sadness and loss that people are experiencing.

While Cooperstown itself has not suffered many deaths from coronavirus (4 according to the Johns Hopkins map today 5/6/2020), the entire population of Cooperstown has been lost at least twelve times over in the state. The number of deaths in the country couldn’t fit into Yankee Stadium. It’s a sobering thought. I think that’s why it was a unanimous decision at the Hall of Fame to postpone the induction ceremony this year. In addition to all the safety concerns, Derek Jeter played for the New York Yankees. His fans have lost family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends to this terrible pandemic. It’s no time for celebration. Today we mourn. Next year we will celebrate.

5. Cooperstown is pulling together. “Support local business!” is the rallying cry. I know I’m not alone. As a family we have chosen to spend our stimulus check at local businesses. We “dine out” — aka take-out — from local restaurants once a week. The waiting area at the restaurant we ordered from last night was hopping — spread out, of course, but hopping.

At Easter, I called the local chocolatier and arranged to purchase homemade fudge from her for our Easter baskets. It was a luxury, I know, but if my buying fudge can help one woman stay in business until business-as-usual returns, I’ll buy fudge.

Some businesses have signs in their windows offering video-shopping. Other businesses have simply chosen not to reopen this summer.

It’s going to be a tough year.

But I’m confident we’ll get through.

The other signs that have sprung up around town are these:

Cooperstown will pull together for them, too. Whether it’s a graduation parade in cars down Main Street or some other way to honor and recognize them, we’ll do it.

Safely, of course.


All these closures, cancellations, and postponements won’t kill Cooperstown.

In the wake of the Great Depression, the idea for a baseball museum in Cooperstown was born. At the time no one could imagine where that would take this little village.

It makes me curious as to what could be around the next corner.


A to Z Blogging Challenge · Cooperstown

Blessed are the Nameless

Early in the year I began researching the Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium, a building in Cooperstown where I spent many happy hours as a youth. In 1986, the new Clark Sports Center, located on the outskirts of town, opened and replaced my beloved gym. The old building was converted to offices for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I went in once for a meeting with a Hall of Fame person. He saw me looking around, trying to orient myself to where I was in the old building.

“I think we’re sitting in the girls’ locker room,” he said.

I think he was right.

But I digress.

Research, I have discovered, is like wandering through an extensive cave system with people waiting at various junctures throughout. Each person has a story. If I listen, and follow their story, I may not end up where I was originally headed, but I always end up somewhere interesting.


I started researching Alfred Corning Clark. It seemed the logical first step.

Research today is a far cry from research when I was in college. While I still miss the old card catalog at the library, where my fingers walked through names and topics, now I often sit in the comfort of my living room, while my father is reading out loud or doing a word-find, and type search terms in various sites. It’s pretty amazing how much is available.

Well, Alfred Corning Clark led me to Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark. In the old newspapers, that’s how they refer to her.  Even as a widow. When she remarried, her new name was Mrs. Henry Codman Potter.

Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark

Somewhere along the line, though, in the vast web of local history, I ran across a man named Strong Comstock. I confess, I liked his name. I could picture a young mother giving birth to a sickly child and naming him Strong, willing him to live up to that name. Or a woman giving birth to such a robust baby that the name was obvious — Strong. However, neither of those theories was correct. Strong Comstock’s first name was a family name. It had been passed down through generations, mostly as a middle name. “Strong” became a family name when Nathan Comstock married Bethiah Strong in the early 18th century.

I jotted down his name, just like I’ve jotted down other names that I find interesting.

Once I encountered a young woman named Orchestra Stevens, born in 1800, died in 1822. I really want to know why her parents, Josiah and Mary, named her Orchestra. Did they love music? Did they dream of hearing an orchestra? She was the fifth of nine children, the rest of whom have more mundane names — Lucy, Betsey, Catharine, Josiah, etc. Some day I’ll pursue her story.

In the old newspapers Strong Comstock’s wife is called Mrs. Strong Comstock. Not even her obituary revealed her name, though it told me a lot more about her.

She died in Cooperstown in 1894. Two weeks later Strong Comstock moved from Cooperstown to Danbury, Connecticut.

I didn’t learn Mrs. Strong Comstock’s name until I searched her husband on Ancestry. She was Mary Jane Atwood.

Ah, the opaque cloak of a husband’s name.

Which brings me back to Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark.

As I researched, I found places where she had signed her name — Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark. I read any number of accounts of good, generous things she had done — all credited to Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark.

It wasn’t really a question of knowing her name. I already knew it. I’ve walked past this plaque a thousand times:

“Erected for the benefit of the citizens of the Village of Cooperstown by Elizabeth Scriven Clark and given to the village by Robert Sterling Clark”

It’s on the library building —

She did indeed build the building for the people of Cooperstown.

Her son, Robert, gave it to the village in a purge of all things Cooperstown. I don’t think that negates the generosity of the gift, though. It certainly doesn’t explain the plaque.

Nicholas Fox Weber, author of The Clarks of Cooperstown, made Robert Sterling Clark seem almost spiteful in the wording of the plaque, “Sterling saw to it that the … library would be named for their mother, while making it clear which of her sons had funded it.”

I prefer to think better of him, and of the plaque. I think he gave the village a building — a generous act — and he gave his mother her name. The greater gift was to her.

Thomas Merton wrote an essay called “Ishi: A Meditation” about the Yahi tribe in California, a tribe that was totally wiped out by white people. The last surviving member of the tribe, a member referred to as Ishi, died without ever revealing his true name.

In the end, no one ever found a single name of the vanished community. Not even Ishi’s. For Ishi simply means MAN.

Blessed are the Nameless
for they shall receive names
and they shall be known.


Free Parking (again)

Yes, we did it again this year.

Free parking for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

2005 — when we lived in town


I’ve been feeling old.

And grim.

A day at a spa might have been nice, I suppose, if I was a day-at-the-spa kind of person. Honestly, today I’d be happy with a haircut, but even to get away for that is hard. If I have a spare hour, I choose to go to the gym for the endorphin rush of cardio and weights, not the hair salon.

As it turns out, a day of free parking is better than a day at the spa.

The crowd estimate yesterday was 53,000. That’s quite a few, given Cooperstown’s population is around 2,000.

Parking lots were springing up everywhere. Lawns. Driveways. Fields.

My brother mowed a patch in the field in front of his house and attached the “Free Parking” sign to his mailbox.


Cars slowed while the drivers read the sign. Some then zoomed on past, while others rolled down their windows.

“What’s the story here?” they’d ask.

Sometimes I told them the story — We used to live in town down the road from the induction site and gave away parking on our lawn. When we moved, my brother took up the charge at his house outside of town. It’s a fun thing to do. We love Cooperstown, and we want visitors to have a great time here.

Sometimes I answer, “It’s free parking.”

Yesterday a car pulled up and the driver asked about it. I told them it was free.

“What about the shuttle?” he asked.

“That’s free, too,” I said. “We drive you in our vehicle.”

“What about the $30 parking with a shuttle?” they asked.

“That’s a mile down the road on the left,” I said.

“Okay, thanks. That’s the one we want.” And off they went.

Later on the proprietor of the other parking lot drove up and asked my husband, “Why are you doing this?”

“Because it’s fun,” he answered.

It’s life-giving — to us.

The best part comes when they sit with us after the ceremony in the shade of our trees, drink a soda (free) and eat a hot dog (also free), and tell us a little about themselves.

The mother-son duo from Detroit was my favorite yesterday. She was 80-something, and full of spit and vinegar.

“Park behind Ohio,” I had told them when they pulled in, referring to car with Ohio license plates.

“That’s Michigan always. Behind Ohio,” the woman complained.

Later, she told us about her son that almost made the big leagues.

“Not me,” her son had quickly interjected.

“The scout told me,” she continued, “‘If I was looking for a pitcher today, I would sign him, but I’m looking for a big hitter.’ Then he signed that Charlie.”

She rolled her eyes, remembering the day, while her son rolled his eyes, having heard the story a million times.

I laughed.

And smiled.

And felt life renewed within me.

It is more blessed to give than receive.

It is also better than a day at the spa.


Cooperstown · photography

Lakefront Park

I clearly remember that morning.

I had tossed and turned all night. My thoughts were a twisting turning knot of turmoil.

Before dawn, I left the house and drove to the lake.

Water soothes me.

If I lived near the ocean, I’m sure I would have been at the beach, digging my toes into the sand. Instead, I was at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown, walking in dew-laden grass, looking out into the heavy fog that rested on the lake.

As the invisible sun rose and lent a little light, I took a few pictures. The lush green of summer was accentuated by the grayness of the fog.

The fog obscured the distance, but it helped me appreciate what was closest to me.

I haven’t forgotten that lesson.

Cooperstown · photography

The Sidewalk Taken (or, Sidewalks of Cooperstown)

Warning: This is probably one of the most boring posts ever. I walk around town and take pictures of the sidewalks.

“Now this is a sidewalk,” Bud said to me as we started our walk the other day.

We parked at the Clark Sports Center and headed out on the route I usually go around the perimeter of Cooperstown.

Susquehanna Ave
Susquehanna Ave

The sidewalk on Susquehanna is wide and new. Little kids ride their bikes on it, with plenty of room for mom or dad to walk beside them. The fellow in the distance was on his skateboard. It’s not unusual to see friends walking 3 or 4 abreast on it.

This sidewalk used to look like this:

The other side of Susquehanna
The other side of Susquehanna

On the east side of the street, this sidewalk reminds me of what we used to walk on.

I always turn up Walnut Street. There are shorter ways to get downtown, but when I’m going for a walk, I’m not looking for shortcuts. I’m looking for the long-cuts, to prolong the experience.

Walnut Street
Walnut Street

From Walnut, I turn onto Delaware Street. One of the joys of living in a small town is that so many of the houses also contain memories — friends I went to high school with, kids I’ve coached on swim team. The house represents a person or a family, and I treasure them as I walk past.

Delaware Street
Delaware Street

Delaware to Beaver. Beaver Street is a  direct shot between Rte 28 (aka Chestnut) and the hospital. At the juncture of those two roads, it’s really hopping with two gas stations, Price Chopper (the only grocery store in the village) and the new location for a giant CVS.

Beaver Street
Beaver Street

I take a little jig-jag on Chestnut, quickly turning off it onto West Beaver.

Beaver Street
West Beaver Street

West Beaver kind of turns into Maple Street.

Maple Street continued
Maple Street

At the end of Maple Street, I cross Route 28 again — except now it’s Glen Ave. Oh, the joy of small older villages! Streets  take twists and turns and change names — just because they can.

I have to cut through a parking lot here. In the summer, it’s busy, but the rest of the year only a handful of cars park there.

Credit Union parking lot
Credit Union parking lot

On the other side of the parking lot is the top of Main Street. It’s a nice walk down, but tourists don’t know that. They shell out their $2 per person to ride the trolley, which actually is pretty cheap entertainment. The trolley makes a circuit around Cooperstown, and some trolley drivers give spiels about the village which are often full of alternative facts.

Upper Main
Upper Main

Just past the ugliest office building in the history of beautiful small villages, I turn onto Nelson Ave, a street of beautiful homes. It’s another stretch of homes that I identify with people I know or knew.

Nelson Ave
Nelson Ave

From Nelson, I turn onto Lake Street.

Lake Street
Lake Street

Oh, look!  There’s the Otesaga! That’s where the Hall-of-Famers stay for induction weekend.

I walk a long stretch of Lake Street, all the way to where it ends at the Susquehanna River and River Street.

River Street
River Street

One block on River, and I reach Main Street again — but this is lower Main.

Main Street (going east from River Street)
Main Street (going east from River Street)

The sidewalk ends just after crossing the bridge, but that’s okay. I’m heading to “The Path” — no sidewalk at all, but one of my favorite places to walk.

“The Path”

The Path goes along the river, past where Cooperstown’s hanging tree was in the early 1800s (or so I’m told), past the stone bridge (gosh, it’s lovely), past the Sugar Shack (where I suppose someone used to make maple syrup), past a colorful pile of kayaks and canoes, all the way to Mill Street/Brooklyn Ave.

I choose Brooklyn Ave. We used to live here. It is a wonderful street.

Brooklyn Ave
Brooklyn Ave

The sidewalk doesn’t go all the way down Brooklyn Ave. It ends as I leave the village. The condition of the road changes, too. It’s easy to tell where the demarcation between Village of Cooperstown and Town of Middlefield falls.

I walk all the way to the end, back to Susquehanna Ave, but now I’m at the end of Susquehanna that doesn’t have wide new sidewalks. In fact, it has no sidewalk at all, but that doesn’t stop me from walking along the shoulder, back to the gym, and back to my car.

The road taken by me is usually a sidewalk. I love walking.

I love it even more when my husband can join me.




Cooperstown Induction Weekend 2014

My brother told me that they’re expecting upwards of 80,000 people in Cooperstown this weekend.  The population here is usually around 2,000.


That’s an eight plus four zeros.

As Phil Rizzuto used to say, “HOLY COW!”

If you’re coming because you want to see Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Joe Torre all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, you’re here on the right weekend.

I remember when they used to hold the ceremonies downtown.  The little park next to the Baseball Hall of Fame would be so jam-packed full of people that they would spill out onto Main Street, and Church Street, and Fair Street.

They used to hold the ceremonies on the steps of this building.
They used to hold the ceremonies on the steps of this building.

Back in those days, the Hall of Famers freely roamed the streets wearing a ribbon that marked them as a Hall of Famer.  Autographs were free, and many felt honored to be asked.  Cool Papa Bell won my heart with a smile and a signed strip of paper.

My father saved one of those strips by gluing it into a book.
My father saved one of those strips by gluing it into a book.

A number of years ago, though, they moved the ceremony to a field beside the sports center where I work.  It holds a lot more people.  But 80,000? I guarantee this crowd will spill over Susquehanna Ave and down Brooklyn Ave, where we used to live.

So if you’re here because you want to hear the speeches and see some baseball heroes on a Jumbotron, you’re in the right place.

This year, with 80,000 people making their way to Cooperstown, I want to talk to the ones who are the tag-alongs, who aren’t here because of baseball, but because they heard Cooperstown was a charming quaint little town.

To you I want to say, please don’t judge Cooperstown by this weekend.  The people who make Cooperstown Cooperstown are far out-numbered for these few days.  The quaintness that is Cooperstown will be virtually non-existent  this weekend.

Come back in January, when the air is crisp and cold. Parking will be plentiful on Main Street. The beautiful decorations from Christmas may still be up. You won’t have to wait in line at Stagecoach Coffee to get a cuppa.  The doughnuts will be hot, crisp, and fresh out of the fryer at the bakery.

If you go to the Hall of Fame, you’ll be able to stand in the Hall of Fame gallery and read every word on every plaque.  In fact, it will be so quiet in there, that you’ll feel the need to whisper.

And you’ll see the locals — the ones that are hightailing it out of town even as I write these words — greeting each other on Main Street, because everybody knows everybody.  That’s the blessing of a small town.

If you don’t want to wait until January, pick a small town near you, one with a population under 2,000.  Go sit on a park bench or in the local coffee shop.  Watch the people. They clap each other on the shoulder when they meet. They ask about family — spouses, children, parents, grandkids, even the dog. They laugh and reminisce. They talk shop and they even talk baseball sometimes.

But if you’re a crowds-and-baseball kind of person, come on down. Be part of the 80,000.

A panorama including the stage and the field, both of which will be full on Sunday
A panorama including the stage and the field, both of which will be full on Sunday