Delish! Rochester meat hot sauce: Part 1

Today, we’re going to take a break from serious, theological discussions with some Rochester-style frivolity.

In some previous posts, I wrote about Rochester, New York’s unique contributions to haute cuisine; the delectable Garbage Plate (see here) and the indescribably delicious Zweigle’s brand, pop-open hot dogs (see here). In Rochester, one of the mandatory accoutrements to a “plate,” a burger, or a Zweigle’s hot dog is Rochester meat hot sauce. Nope, we’re not talkin’ chili, folks. We’re talkin’ meat hot sauce.

It’s reported that Rochester meat hot sauce originated with local greasy spoon diner, Nick Tahou Hots, home of the original “Garbage Plate.”

My first experience with Rochester meat hot sauce was back in the late-1960s when our family would pick up burgers to-go at Don & Bob’s (see photo far below) on Monroe Avenue. I witnessed other customers asking for hot sauce on their burger and was curious enough to try it myself. Are you kidding me?!?!?! So delicious! Absolutely NO ketchup or mustard for me on my burger or Zweigle’s white hot. Just meat hot sauce and chopped onions.

Every Rochester burger joint has its own version of the meat hot sauce, some are better than others. The common ingredients are finely-ground, ground beef with cayenne pepper, a little cinnamon, and lots of other spices and seasonings. Some use tomato paste or sauce, others don’t. The hotness meter varies widely from joint to joint, but I like hot, spicy food so that’s never a problem. Savvy Rochesterians avoid local McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s franchises because they don’t have meat hot sauce for their pre-fab burgers.

Some of the Rochester burger joints sell jars of their meat hot sauce over the counter. You can even buy jars of Rochester meat hot sauce at the local supermarkets. Put a few spoonfuls in a cup, heat it up in the microwave for 15 seconds, and voilà, it’s just like being at a local burger joint. Pictured are jars of Momma K’s, Coach Tony’s, and Don’s Original meat hot sauce. A few thoughts on each one:

Momma K’s: No zing to this one. Tastes like “Sloppy Joe” sauce. Strictly for the ladies…er, I mean for more delicate palates.

Coach Tony’s: Has a real meaty, “hamburger-y” taste with LOTS of zing. May be too overpowering for meat hot sauce novices.

Don’s Original: Delicious flavor. My favorite of the three. Takes me back to my introduction to meat hot sauce at Don & Bob’s. More of a tomato-y base than Coach Tony’s and a slightly less-powerful kick.

Also available around town are Steve T’s, Zweigle’s, and Uncle Timmy’s versions. We’ll sample those three in our upcoming part two installment.

Click on the link below to view the various Rochester meat hot sauces available online from NY Style Deli:

If you google “Rochester Meat Hot Sauce” you’ll also find many make-at-home recipes.

Postscript: Other local greasy spoon diners owned by Greek families in the area serve their version of meat hot sauce as a breakfast and lunch accoutrement. My perfect breakfast: two eggs, sunny-side-up, rye toast, home fries, and a small bowl of meat hot sauce on the side. I understand that the idea of meat hot sauce over eggs at 8:00 a.m. in the morning can be a little daunting for the uninitiated, but trust me on this one.

Disclaimer: This post is for entertainment and informational purposes only. I take no responsibility for any subsequent, health-related issues. 🥵

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Above: An original “Garbage Plate” served at Nick Tahou Hots is comprised of two hot dogs or burgers over home fries and macaroni salad, all smothered with a generous helping of Nick’s meat hot sauce and chopped onions. For calorie counters, that’s 1700 calories and a whopping 88 grams of fat.

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Above: Don & Bob’s at 2545 Monroe Avenue, circa 2001. Rochester’s one-time premier burger joint opened in 1954 and finally closed in 2001.

Odds and Ends

I’m a nerdy blogger and part of being a nerdy blogger is scheduling out my posts a couple of weeks ahead of time. I usually have 8-12 drafts in the queue that I’ll occasionally fiddle with and fine-tune before they’re finally published. I use a two-week, revolving “blog plan” sheet to keep it all straight and at the bottom of the sheet, I jot down ideas for new posts. I’ve accumulated a number of frivolous-type ideas that just keep getting pushed aside week after week, so I thought I’d finally publish them as a collection of “odds and ends” in a rare Sunday post:

Hot Sauce

Capture101Buffalo Chicken Wings are THE THING here in Western New York. Many, many years ago, I used to cook up my own wings in a mini-fryer and serve them with the standard Buffalo sauce – Frank’s Red Hot and melted butter – with Blue Cheese dressing on the side as a dip. I eventually created my own sauce concept, mixing Frank’s with Ranch dressing (heartier Ranch dressing actually tastes better than Blue Cheese in this combo) and eliminating the need for dip. I recently discovered something very similar to my old sauce at Tops supermarket; Creamy Ranch Buffalo Wing Sauce made by Moore’s Marinades and Sauces down in Birmingham, Alabama. Good stuff! But chicken wings are definitely not part of a healthy diet plan (just one fried chicken wing has about 100 calories and 7 grams of fat).

Trite sayings

Trite sayings come and go. At one time, EVERYONE was repeating the dismissive, “Whatever,” and the incredulous, “Really?” A decade ago, I sat near a woman at work who regularly used the annoyingly fatalistic phrase, “It is what it is.” She must have said that five or six times a day, every day!!!

New Yorkers – Hurry Up and Wait

We New Yorkers are notorious for being punctual to a fault. Twenty-years ago, our little family went on a 3-day cruise in the Caribbean. On the last day of the cruise, all passengers were told to report to the ship’s auditorium at 9 a.m. sharp for disembarkation instructions. We got there at about 8:45 along with a few other families. The ship’s officer in charge of the disembarkation was standing on stage and knowingly asked if we were all from New York. Here in New York, if a customer gets a little too friendly and chatty with the clerk at the grocery checkout, the rest of the people in line start going crazy. Or what about the older women at the checkout who always insist on meticulously picking out the exact change from their circa-1960, little change purse. It’s 2020! Get a debit card, ladies! Ach. We New Yorkers can be very impatient fools.

Walking in Winter

One of my fitness goals is to walk 10,000 steps every day, although I’m actually averaging only about 8K/day currently. It’s very difficult and dangerous walking in Rochester during the Winter with all of the snow and ice on the roads and the freezing temperatures. I’ve slipped and slid many times, but haven’t fallen. Yet. I need to seriously think about an alternative on bad days, like driving to the mall and doing my walking inside. My sister’s elderly mother-in-law was hit by a USPS truck and seriously injured while exercise-walking in the street during the Winter.

Sports teams

The last time I wrote about one of my sports teams was October 1st, when I was whining about the end of another terrible season by the San Diego Padres. What’s going on with my other favorite teams? After a very encouraging 12-4 record in 2018, the Los Angeles Chargers (football) sank like a rock in 2019, going 5-11. The Bolts have finally turned the page on 38-year-old QB, Philip Rivers. The New York Knicks (basketball) weren’t able to sign any marquee free agents in the offseason. After an abysmal start, Knicks management fired head coach, David Fizdale, and the team is currently limping along with a 17-38 record at the All-Star break, on its way to another atrocious finish. In contrast, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers (hockey) have put together a very decent 17-11-4 season to this point and seem to be on their way to the conference playoffs in early-March as a top-seed. Meanwhile, the Padres are currently going through the motions in the Cactus League in preparation for what figures to be another sub-.500 season. The first spring training game is slated for this coming Saturday, February 22nd, against Seattle.

New Yorkers Redux

A U.S. Census report published in December showed that New York State is once again leading all other states in net population loss. The exodus is especially manifest here in Western New York. The region was once an economic powerhouse, and taxes spiraled through the roof to keep pace with the growth and development. Fifty-years later, the manufacturing jobs are pretty much gone, but the outrageously high taxes remain. Bureaucracy, once created, will fight tooth and claw to ensure its survival. Besides the economic miasma, we get more snow here than any other region in the country. No company would consider moving here. When students graduate from the local colleges, they must leave the region to find work.

The Rochester Mafia Wars: The A-Team vs. the B-Team???

The Rochester Mob Wars
By Blair T. Kenny
Blair Publishing, 2017, 208 pp.

3 Stars

A few weeks ago, I published a post about the former boss of the Rochester Mafia, Frank Valenti (see here). Writing that post further stoked my curiosity, prompting me to check our local library system for more information on the Rochester Mafia crime syndicate and I found this book, “The Rochester Mob Wars.” The title refers to the internecine “squabbling” between the two factions of the Rochester Mafia during the 1970s and 80s. The warring factions were dubbed the “A-Team” and the “B-Team” by the police and media and we Rochesterians had a lot of trouble keeping it all straight.

Here’s a brief summary: Frank Valenti had seized control of the Rochester Mafia in 1964. But his underlings eventually decided that Frank was skimming too much off the top and forced him to “retire” in 1972. The new boss, Samuel “Red” Russotti, and his lieutenants were later arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 1973 on murder charges. Russotti appointed Thomas Didio as the acting boss in the interim. Didio was thought to be more brawn than brains and Russotti counted on manipulating his stand-in from his prison cell. But Didio had a mind of his own and regularly ignored Russotti’s instructions. Much of the disloyalty stemmed from the fact that Didio and his close comrades were still faithful to the ousted Valenti.

In 1977, Russotti’s supporters met with Didio and a few of his lieutenants at the Blue Gardenia Restaurant and told the acting boss he was “all done” and gave him a thorough beating just to make sure there were no misunderstandings. In early-1978, Russotti and his lieutenants, Rene Piccarreto and Salvatore “Sammy G” Gingello were released from prison after it was discovered the Rochester police had manufactured evidence leading to their convictions. Russotti was back in Rochester, but the local mob was divided. Didio and his followers (the B-Team) declared war on the Russotti faction (the A-Team), with the support of the Valenti brothers, Frank and Stan (Stan had been the Don of the Rochester mob in the 1950s). At stake were the many lucrative gambling joints in the city. In April 1978, Gingello was murdered by the B-Team and in retaliation, Didio was killed by the A-Team in July. What followed was an all-out war between the two factions in the streets of Rochester, including numerous murders, shootings, and bombings. Of course, the Rochester police weren’t standing still through all of this. In 1980, the B-Team leaders were convicted and sent to jail for various crimes, followed by the A-Team leadership in 1984. In 1988, the remaining A-Team leaders were sent up the river and the Mafia was effectively eliminated in Rochester.

This book is self-published and the author is clearly not professional writer. He would have greatly benefited from a skilled editor. At times, the information is not presented chronologically and is often redundant. With those criticism’s aside, Kenny deserves kudos for digging up all of this information from old Rochester newspapers. Like most Rochesterians, I could not explain who constituted the A-Team or the B-Team and the details of what they were fighting about, but after reading this book it’s all pretty clear to me now.

Above: A Google Earth satellite view of the sprawling former hilltop estate of Constenze “Stan” Valenti (1926-2001) at 6714 State Road 96, Victor, New York. Stan Valenti was kingpin of the Rochester Mafia in the late 1950s. His brother, Frank, eventually became “Boss” of the local Mafia operations from 1964 to 1972, but Stan remained a powerful and respected figure in the Rochester mob.

Above: A sign at the bottom of Stan Valenti’s former hilltop estate discourages curiosity seekers and unwelcome visitors.

Personal trivia: The house above, located on Tarrington Road in Rochester, was once home to Vincent J. Rallo, an insurance broker and member of the Rochester Mafia. In March 1981, Rallo pled guilty to two counts of arson and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program. His testimony was key to the investigation of the A-Team bosses, leading to their arrests and convictions in 1984. Following his testimony, Rallo and his family disappeared. My parents’ house where I grew up was immediately behind the Rallo house on the next street over.

Okay, that’s enough jabbering! Somebody get on the phone and order the pizza!

Billboard makes whimsy of eternity

Every Wednesday, I must drive into downtown Rochester for a “career transition” training class. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along Interstate 490 West into the city when I noticed the new billboard pictured above near the intersection of Winton Road and East Avenue.


I’m sure this advertisement evokes a chuckle from the tens of thousands of unbelieving commuters who pass by every day. But salvation is no joking matter. Your life could end today.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

Before I accepted Christ, I struggled with the idea of all of the things that I would have to “give up” in order to be a Christian. Boy, did I have a misconception. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not the morally self-righteous. Acknowledge your helplessness and inability to live a moral life, turn from your rebellion against God, and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The Lord will then help you to live a life that’s pleasing to Him.

What can compare to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ? Treasuring the temporal pleasures of this world over eternal life in Jesus Christ is irrational insanity. Who would choose a single, discarded, maggot-infested corn husk for their meal over a thirty-day, sumptuous banquet feast? Does not compute.

Friends, I don’t get all flustered and outraged over a billboard such as this. Unbelievers do what unbelievers do. Perhaps this billboard is valuable because at least it will get people thinking about their souls and eternal judgement. However, your salvation is nothing to joke about. Every soul is either going to Heaven or Hell and only those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone are going to Heaven. What’s going to happen to you after you die? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior!

Rochester mob boss, Frank Valenti’s restaurant, The Quill Room @ 123 State Street

When I was growing up back in the 1960s, the Mafia was very much a “normal” part of society. In Rochester, everybody in town knew the name of Frank Valenti, the local Mafia kingpin. Most of the illegal gambling, extortion, loan sharking, insurance fraud, arson, narcotics, prostitution, and weapons trafficking in the city flowed through Frank and his “organization.” If anyone tried to circumvent the “system,” they could expect to be “contacted” by Frank’s men.

Stanley Valenti and his brother, Frank, rose to the top of the Rochester Mafia in the late 1950s, but both were arrested at the home of mobster, Joseph Barbara, during the infamous Apalachin Conference in 1957. Frank beat the rap, but cooled his jets in Pittsburgh. In the Valentis’ absence, Jake Russo took over the Rochester mob.

Stefano Magaddino in nearby Buffalo oversaw all of Western New York as part of the Bonanno family crime syndicate, and he believed Russo was holding back on profits from the gambling operations in Rochester. When he put the squeeze on Russo, the Rochester boss threatened to go over his head directly to the Bonanno family in New York City. That was a mistake. No one threatened Steve “The Undertaker” Magaddino and got away with it.

Meanwhile, Frank Valenti had returned to Rochester and opened a restaurant at 123 State Street named The Quill Room. On September 12, 1964, Russo left his house telling his wife he was going to the restaurant for a meeting with Valenti, but was never seen or heard from again. In an interview recorded forty-plus years later, former Rochester mob consigliere, Rene Piccarreto Sr., stated that Russo had been murdered by Valenti’s thugs in the basement of The Quill Room on the orders of Magaddino. The photo above shows Valenti entering The Quill Room sometime during the 1960s, adjoined by a photo I recently took of the same property.

With the death of Russo, Valenti was back on top as the mob kingpin in Rochester and continued in that role until 1972, when he was forced out after being accused of skimming too much off the top himself. The pro-Valenti and anti-Valenti factions subsequently battled it out in a series of bloody encounters throughout the 1970s while Valenti watched from the sidelines in the penitentiary and then as a retiree down in Arizona. Frank Valenti died in Sugarland, Texas in 2008 at the age of 97.

Many of these Italian-American Mafioso characters were dedicated Roman Catholics. They attended mass on Sunday and made sure their children were baptized, confirmed, and educated in Catholic schools. They were “able” to compartmentalize their “business” from their “personal” lives, not an unusual phenomenon within Catholic culture. Many Catholics were used to “living like the devil” on Saturday night and piously attending mass on Sunday morning. The mobsters’ parish priests knew what the men did for a living, their names appeared periodically in the Rochester papers, but their attitude, expressed by a New York City priest in regards to his mob boss parishioner, was, “He stays out of my business and I stay out of his.”

The history of the Roman Catholic church is filled with such worldly (and deadly) pragmatism. There was no genuine repentance. There was no Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Frank Valenti and his lieutenants were all baptized and taught the Roman Catholic religion. Some would say they “did the best they could” in the dog-eat-dog milieu they were raised in, but Jesus Christ was not a part of these men’s lives.

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Was Rochester mobster Jake Russo strangled in this restaurant basement?

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An afternoon at the “Oxbow” on the Erie Canal

Way back in the late-1970s, my wife and I lived in an apartment in Fairport, N.Y. near Rochester, and I used to enjoy running along the nearby Erie Canal in warmer weather and cross country skiing along the canal in the winter. One day, I was traversing the canal path between Fairport and Pittsford and came upon a section of the canal that was unusually wide and I was surprised to see a string of small cottages lining the opposite canal bank and a couple of islands in the water. Wow! As a lifelong Rochesterian, I thought I was pretty familiar with the Erie Canal, but I was completely unaware of this unique, little community. I put it out of my mind for decades, but lately, with the help of the internet and some hiking shoes, I’ve been able to do some investigating.

The Erie Canal originally had many twists and turns. This particular section was coined the “Oxbow” because of its “U” shape. Ensuing projects to straighten, deepen, and widen the canal resulted in a “lake” at the Oxbow, making it a prime spot for those seeking a recreation haven. By the late 1880s, a number of summer cottages had been erected along the southern bank of the canal at the Oxbow.

A relatively recent local newspaper article (see far below) states that by the end of the 19th-century, the Oxbow had become a “popular spot for local businesses and organizations to have picnics and baseball games. Early in the 20th century more cottages were built, and the trend accelerated with the Barge Canal construction project. By 1918, the Oxbow was a full-fledged vacation spot for people from Perinton, East Rochester, Penfield and beyond. Many of the simple cottages were constructed from the lumber of dismantled railroad box cars.”* The number of cottages on the Erie at the Oxbow eventually grew to sixty.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when people were forced to make do with less, the small and unpretentious cottages were converted to year-round dwellings, but the lack of sewers and other amenities made life on the canal bank difficult. Kids who lived on the Oxbow were looked down upon by their classmates at school. The Oxbow “lake” was also becoming smaller. In the 1940s, New York State began depositing the silt that had been dredged from the canal bottom into the lake, eventually creating two islands that can be seen today. In the 1960s, families began to leave the Oxbow and, one by one, the abandoned, derelict cottages either crumbled or were destroyed by suspicious fires. The last resident of the Oxbow, Florence Rutter, died in 2012. Her cottage, the last of the sixty, burnt to the ground in 2014.

Today, there’s only a few traces left of the Oxbow community. Remnants of the Oxbow Road still exist along with some of the old telephone and power lines (see photos below). The disappearance of this once-thriving community-within-a-community reminded me of how fleeting and impermanent this life is.

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” – James 4:14


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A modern map showing the Oxbow “lake” and islands, dubbed “Coyote Island” and “Snake Island” by the locals. Sixty cottages on Oxbow Road once lined the canal bank. I took the photos below as I walked the old Oxbow Road.

My wife and our dog, Gracie, stand on the remains of Oxbow Road near an old telephone/power line pole.

A couple of telephone/power line poles are some of the last remnants of the Oxbow community.

Taken from Oxbow Road looking south. Cottages would have been on the left and that’s Coyote Island on the right.

This piece of land jutting out perpendicularly into the canal is probably the foundation of a small former cottage

This carved out rock once served as a planter for an Oxbow resident.

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Above: Florence Rutter’s residence at 27 Oxbow Road, the last cottage standing at the Oxbow, was destroyed by fire in 2014.

HISTORY: The Oxbow: From vacation spot to ashes

Intensely proud of “McQ”?

You see all kinds of bumper stickers on cars, but here in Rochester, N.Y., you’ll often see one or both of the ovals shown in the photo above left; OLM and McQ.

“OLM” stands for Our Lady of Mercy High School, while “McQ” stands for McQuaid Jesuit High School. Alumni and parents and grandparents of Mercy and McQuaid students drive around town proudly displaying the oval stickers. They’re a VERY common sight on the backs of cars here in Rochester.

Back when I was in high school in the early-1970s, there were several Catholic high schools in the area. There was McQuaid and Aquinas for boys and Mercy, St. Agnes, and Nazareth Academy for girls. Bishop Kearney (my high school*) and Cardinal Mooney were semi-coed with classes for the boys on one side of the school and classes for girls on the other side. King’s Prep was for boys contemplating the priesthood. St. Agnes, Nazareth, Cardinal Mooney, and King’s Prep have since shut down and Aquinas has switched to coed education.

McQuaid Jesuit Middle School and High School, named after the first Catholic bishop of Rochester, Bernard J. McQuaid (d. 1909), was founded in 1954 and since then has been considered Rochester’s most elite and prestigious secondary school and a launching pad to advanced education and a lucrative, professional career. Numerous doctors, lawyers, and other area professionals are alumnus of McQuaid. There are currently around 900 boys enrolled at McQuaid, 300 in the middle school and 600 in the high school. The school’s current tuition is $13,600 per year. Yes, that’s thirteen-thousand and six-hundred dollars for one year of high school! Tuition at all-girls Our Lady of Mercy is $14,200 per year.

As the scandal of priest sexual abuse began making headlines in the Rochester newspaper, many in the area were convinced that the Jesuits of McQuaid were above such sordidness. One of our grand-nephews was attending McQuaid several years ago and when my wife raised a concern to our niece, she replied emphatically, “The teachers at McQuaid are Jesuits. They don’t do that kind of thing.”

However, last January, the newspaper began publishing reports that several of the Jesuit teachers and administrators at McQuaid had been sexually abusing students. See here. Two weeks ago, allegations were brought forward that McQuaid’s most famous teacher, Jesuit priest William O’Malley, had regularly abused at least one student during his tenure there.

Catholic parents and grandparents of McQuaid students proudly drive around town with “McQ” ovals on the back of their cars, advertising that their son or grandson is attending the most prestigious and academically elite high school in Rochester. But what are those boys learning in that school? Are they learning about Jesus Christ of the Bible and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone? I can guarantee you that they are NOT. Are any of McQuaid’s students going to school each day fearing the advances of predatory, celibate Jesuit priests? I don’t know if that’s the case currently, but it was surely the case in the past, as we’re only now finding out.

*I almost referred to my old Catholic high school, Bishop Kearney, as my “alma mater.” But I see that “alma mater” actually means “nourishing mother” and that phrase certainly doesn’t describe BK, where I never heard the Gospel and where predatory Irish Christian Brothers prowled the hallways.

Above: McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, N.Y. No sign of the Gospel in its classrooms.

History in my own backyard

Sometimes we get so wound up in our daily routines, that we overlook or don’t appreciate some of the amazing things around us. We’ve all heard of the scenario of tourists coming from hundreds of miles away to check out something the locals have never bothered with. Our humble home is located about 1.5 miles north of the Erie Canal where it runs through the Village of Pittsford, New York. The canal was originally built in the early-19th century, mainly for commerce, but it’s now used exclusively as a resource for recreational boaters as well as walkers, runners, and bicyclists.

The Erie Canal played a huge part in the early development of the Rochester region and New York State in general. There were discussions of a canal linking the port of New York City with the expanding western frontier as far back as the 1790s, but it was Governor DeWitt Clinton who finally made the dream a reality. Plans were drawn up to link the Hudson River with Lake Erie over a 360 mile stretch that included several very daunting engineering challenges. Construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1825. Rochester was a small, frontier village when it was first incorporated in 1817, but the Erie Canal transformed it into the nation’s very first “boom town.” The Upper Falls of the Genesee River provided an ideal location for water-powered grist mills and newly-settled farmers throughout the region hauled their grain to the mills where it was processed into flour and transported via canal to New York City. The river would later be harnessed as a power source, enabling Rochester to outpace other nearby communities and become a burgeoning manufacturing center. The village of Pittsford, located nine miles southeast of Rochester, and originally settled in 1796, was also situated along the path of the Erie Canal, but it largely remained a sleepy, agricultural hamlet compared to its industrious neighbor to the west.

Rochester was once known as the center of the “Burned Over District” as numerous itinerant ministers traveled from town to town along the canal, preaching the Gospel and planting churches. Charles G. Finney,* a Wesleyan Arminian and Pelagian who popularized the “anxious bench” (precursor to today’s altar call), gained his notoriety with his well-attended Rochester revivals in 1830-31. The religious fervor in the area was part of what American historians refer to as the Second Great Awakening (1790-1840).

Railroads began to compete with the canal for commerce in the 1830s, but the Erie Canal, with its lower costs and ongoing expansions, remained competitive until after the Civil War. The canal underwent a major reconstruction and enlargement in 1918 in order to accommodate large barges and the new route entirely bypassed the old canal pathway that ran directly through Rochester. In 1927, innovative city leaders authorized the construction of a trolley line in the bed of the former canal path. The old canal aqueduct over the Genesee River and the 1.5-mile-long canal bed that ran through the city center were roofed-over by Broad Street and the trolley line became known as the Rochester Subway, which was utilized until 1956. Interstates 590 and 490 now traverse the former canal and trolley path from Monroe Avenue in Brighton (near Tom Wahl’s restaurant) to the east bank of the Genesee River. Careful observers can still spot vestiges of the old canal and subway system as they drive along the 490 interstate through the east side of the city.

The enlarged Erie Canal runs through Pittsford Village along the same route as the original 1825 canal. It’s such a nice resource. My wife and I have taken many walks along the peaceful canal over the years. There are several shops, restaurants, and small parks along the canal at Schoen Place. One would think there would be even more “gentle” development and public accessibility along such a great resource, but short-sighted planning is a consistent characteristic among civic leaders in Rochester and Monroe County. The vast majority of property that abuts the canal is privately owned.

The Phoenix Hotel (c. 1820) in Pittsford was originally built as a stagecoach inn, but subsequently also served those traveling on the nearby Erie Canal. Anti-Mason activist, William Morgan, was fed a meal here before he was spirited away and murdered. The Marquis de Lafayette spent the night as a hotel guest.

Old Lock 62, abandoned after the Erie Canal was rerouted in 1918, sits silently behind the Pittsford Plaza shopping center.

A portion of old Lock 65 along Interstate 490 attests to the route having once been the path of the Erie Canal through the city of Rochester.

The Genesee Aqueduct once carried the Erie Canal and, later, the trolley cars of the Rochester Subway over the Genesee River in Downtown Rochester. The “roof” over the 1.5-mile underground portion of the subway system became Broad Street.

The “Sam Patch,” a tour boat designed to resemble an old canal packet boat, navigates the Erie Canal at night at the Port of Pittsford.

*For more on revivalist, Charles G. Finney, see “The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney” here.

Play ball, hang up the skates, and put away the basketball

Yup, I know it’s Throwback Thursday and I’ve already re-published a post from the past, but today is also Opening Day, so let’s shout out a loud…

Play ball!!!

Yes, today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball as the San Diego Padres begin a four-game homestand at Petco Park against their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants. This is a special year for the Padres as they will be celebrating their 50th season. Over the last decade, the Opening Day hopes of realistic Padres fans centered around a .500 season finish, but with the acquisition of 3rd base slugger, Manny Machado (photo left), on February 19th, the team and the fans are beginning to set their sights higher. But let’s not get carried away. Although the Padres have the best farm system in the Majors, it will take some time for the young blue chippers to mature. Look for the Padres to start competing for the NL West next season. But this year we can all cheer the slugging “El Ministro de Defensa”!

Below are the Padres’ expected Opening Day starters:

  • C – Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia
  • 1B – Eric Hosmer
  • 2B – Ian Kinsler
  • 3B – Manny Machado
  • SS – Fernando Tatis, Jr. – a 20-year-old, blue chipper who has improbably been promoted from Double-A straight to the Majors based upon his outstanding Spring Training
  • LF – Wil Meyers
  • CF – Manuel Margot or Franchy Cordero
  • RF – Hunter Renfroe or Franmil Reyes
  • P – Eric Lauer

While the season ends for another team…

I had no interest in ice hockey for fifty-three years, although the sport is very popular here in Rochester. However, nine years ago on a whim I started following the Rochester Institute of Technology (my alma mater) Men’s Hockey Team. It’s the only Division I college team in Rochester and home games are broadcast on cable TV. This past season, Coach Wayne Wilson led the club to 15-14-4 overall and 13-11-4 Atlantic Conference records, certainly not a great year, but good enough for the #5 seed in the conference’s postseason tournament. Two weekends ago, the Tigers took the postseason quarterfinal series 2 games to 1 against #4 seed, Sacred Heart (Argh, what a name!). However, this past Friday night in the semi-finals, RIT lost to #6 seed, Niagara, 1-0, in overtime. Season over. Shout-out to graduating seniors, Abbot Girduckis, Mark Logan, Christian Short, Gabe Valenzuela, and Erik Brown (photo right), RIT’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.

…while this team limps to the finish line.

The hapless New York Knicks are at the tail-end of their season with a 14-60 record and 8 games left to play. The Knicks have a very good chance of beating the franchise record of least amount of wins in a season; 17. With tons of cap space after jettisoning Porzingis and Hardaway, can the lowly Knicks lure free agents, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in the offseason?

UPDATE: “Jesus Saves” billboard changed to advertisement for fish fry in time for Lent

Back on February 21st, I posted about the mammoth “Jesus Saves” billboard (photo left) that sat along Route 490, the busiest interstate highway in Greater Rochester, New York. See the post here.

While I was driving to work two weeks ago, I noticed that the billboard had been changed. What new advertisement had gone up in place of “Jesus Saves”? I’ll give you a clue: Rochester has a large Catholic population and Lent began last week. That’s right, a new billboard went up advertising local fast-food restaurant chain, Bill Grays, and its self-proclaimed “Rochester’s Best Fish Fry” (photo right).

Fish fries on Fridays are hugely popular here in Rochester because of the large Catholic population. Prior to 1966, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays throughout the entire year under threat of soul-damning mortal sin. But after 1966, the obligatory abstention was lifted by the U.S. Catholic bishops EXCEPT for Fridays during Lent. For more historical background, see my post on the subject here.

Isn’t it quite ironic that a billboard proclaiming that “Jesus Saves” with a reference to John 3:16 is followed by an advertisement seeking to profit off of Catholic legalism? It reminds me of how the simple Gospel of the early church was gradually institutionalized into sacramental ritualism and legalism.

Postscript: I had taken the photo of the “Jesus Saves” billboard one-handed with my iPhone through the windshield as I was driving my car at 60 mph. Very dumb. For the photo of the Bill Gray’s fish fry billboard, I exited the expressway, drove through the city neighborhood to as close to the billboard as possible, parked the car and took the photo. Much safer that way and much better quality.

A photo of Bill Gray’s fish fry plate, which includes a piece of fried haddock, french fries, a roll, and cole slaw for $13.69. Haddock ain’t cheap, folks.