All-American Diner Tour: Gram’s Diner in Adams, New York

Located in downtown Adams, New York near Sandy Creek, Gram’s is a modern diner with a contemporary style. According to the Watertown Daily Times, Gram’s has been open for decades, with a handmade, wooden sign above the door (you can see old photos in this article). New owners took over Gram’s in 2013 and updated its decor to give it a fresh new look.

When I visited, I was impressed with the diner’s cleanliness, bright atmosphere, and local pride, but not its wait time. I made the mistake of waiting to be seated and was left standing by the register for quite some time before I realized I could just seat myself. I decided to take a spot at the counter. Even as the only person at the counter, it took at least ten to fifteen minutes before I even got a menu. Despite feeling invisible, my omelet was good (loaded with meat), and they offered a wide selection of toast.

Gram’s no-frills menu includes the usual eggs, omelets, pancakes, and French toast. You won’t find many surprises on their lunch and dinner menu either. Their dinner menu is divided into four categories: steaks, chicken, Italian, and seafood, with four offerings a piece. They do have deep fried cheese curds, which is more commonly found in the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin.  They also offer bacon cheeseburger poutine for $9.

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Are We Too Politically Correct to Accurately Portray the Past?

Last weekend, I attended the 14th Annual Marilla Civil War Days in western New York. I haven’t been to a Civil War reenactment since I briefly participated at the Gettysburg reenactment in 2009 (aw yea, check it out ladies—->).

The event website promised a unique experience (“The Civil War Days event is nowhere close to your typical reenactment. We have been known for barn burnings, ground charges, falling trees & buildings and much more!”). Suffice to say, only one of those things happened while I was there. I left disappointed, but not only because nothing caught on fire.

I thought the purpose of reenacting was not just to have fun and dress up for the day but to educate the public and commemorate the American soldiers who fought on both sides.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: Nothing I’m about to say is meant to disparage the men and women who have a passion for history, the Civil War, and historical reenacting. I love all those things, and am happy to find people who share those interests. I wish more would become involved in these events.

However, there were a number of things that left me shaking my head.

  • Where were the horses? Horses were the primary means of transportation for wagons, cannon, officers, and mounted troops during the Civil War. Not. One. Single. Horse.
  • The Confederates used what I was told was a 30-pound cannon. The 4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifle was a siege cannon that wasn’t used in the field. Historically, Confederates used two at the Battle of Fredericksburg in defensive positions but their barrels burst.
  • I saw women reenactors dressed up as soldiers and fighting in infantry units.
  • I saw African American reenactors (one with a huge Afro) fighting with white troops in a Union regiment.
  • I saw some reenactors wearing obviously modern clothing (including sneakers).

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Civil War Ballads: The Opinions of Paddy Magee

Like “Paddy’s Lamentation,” “The Opinions of Paddy Magee” expresses the opinion of an Irish immigrant during the American Civil War. Unlike Paddy’s Lamentation, however, this song celebrates the contributions United States citizens made during the Irish Potato Famine and suggests Irishmen repay that debt by fighting to preserve the Union. David Kincaid recorded this song for his album The Irish Volunteer (1998).

I’m Paddy Magee, sir, from Ballinahee, sir,
In an illigant ship I come over the say;
Father Donahoe sent me, my passage he lent me–
Sure, only for that, I’d a walked all the way!
He talked of America’s freedom and glory;
“Begorra,” says I, “that’s the counthry for me!”
So, to ind a long story, I’ve now come before ye,
To give the opinions of Paddy Magee.

Whin Ireland was needing, and famine was feeding,
And thousands were dying for something to ate,
‘Twas America’s daughters that sent over the waters
The ships that were loaded with corn and whate:
And Irishmen sure will forever remember,
The vessels that carried the flag of the free;
And the land that befriended, they’ll die to defend it,
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

John Bull, ye ould divil,
Ye’d betther keep civil!
Remimber the story of ‘Seventy-six,
Whin Washington glorious he slathered the Tories;
Away from Columbia you then cut your sticks.
And if once again you’re inclined to be meddling,
There’s a city that’s called New Orleans, d’ye see,
Where Hickory Jackson he drove off the Saxon–
Now that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

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All-American Diner Tour: Market Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Park Street north of Destiny Mall and adjacent to the Syracuse Farmer’s Market, the Market Diner is rock ‘n’ roll-themed with a cafe-like atmosphere. Owned by the Marinos family since 1974.

The CNY Regional Market is a sprawling flea market in central Syracuse, open on Saturday and Sunday, and Thursday May through November. Many folks stop at the Market Diner to fuel up for a morning or afternoon of browsing through endless tables of junk (I mean, er… treasures), though it is not exclusively tied to the market. When a friend and I visited, I ordered an omelet with toast and a bowl of grits. Grits are usually iffy this far north, but these weren’t too bad.

Despite being quite crowded that morning, we were seated, put in our order, and received our food in a timely manner.

The Market Diner has a traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with a few custom items, most notably the State Fair Sausage Sub. The sub comes with Gianelli sausage, onions, peppers, and provolone on a grilled sub roll for $7.99. Nonna’s Double Meat Lasagna, Zelma’s Meatloaf (“Famous for our HUGE portions served with smothered in Silky gravy with soup or salad and two sides”), and Niko’s Pot Roast, each for $10.99, are also available.

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Battle of Carillon Reenactment at Fort Ticonderoga, New York

Last weekend, Fort Ticonderoga commemorated the 259th anniversary of the Battle of Carillon with a series of events called “Montcalm’s Cross,” after French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. The battle was fought on July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War. It was the bloodiest battle of the Seven Years War fought in North America, with over 3,000 casualties. French losses were about 400, while more than 2,000 were British. Music is the “March Du Regiment Saintonge” by Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums. Watch in HD for full effect.

Artillery Demonstration at Fort Ticonderoga, New York

Alternatively held by the French, British, and Americans, today Fort Ticonderoga is a premier museum of eighteenth and early nineteenth century military history. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War.

Daily artillery demonstrations educate visitors on eighteenth century artillery drills. Artillerists were trained to keep firing for up to 24 hours! I took this video on my recent trip to see the annual Battle of Carillon reenactment.

Happy Valley Ghost Town Cemeteries

Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area in Oswego County, New York holds a secret: in the 1800s, this area was home to a hamlet called Happy Valley. Little remains of this once thriving community. During the Great Depression, the government bought up foreclosed farms to form the basis of this game reserve.

The area is covered in marshy terrain and pine forest. In summer, biting flies and mosquitoes swarm the lowlands. Several unimproved, dirt roads travel through the area. A few wells, foundations, and stone walls remain.

Most commonly, the curious visit Fraicheur Cemetery, established in 1850 and christened after the original French name for the area. Headstones date from the mid-to-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Preservationists have preserved and repaired over a dozen headstones.

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