End of the Line – Rochester Subway DVD

The End of the Line – Rochester’s Subway: The story of the smallest city in America to build and abandon a subway
Directed by James P. Harte and Frederick Armstrong
Animatus Studio, 1994 (original VHS release) and 2005 (DVD release), 45 minutes with 45 minutes of DVD bonus features

5 Stars

Two weeks ago, I posted a short history of the Rochester Subway (see here). The original Erie Canal ran through the center of Rochester, but when state engineers relocated the canal three miles south in the early-1900s, the city was left with a nine-mile-long empty ditch. City fathers decided to create a trolley system including a two-mile underground portion in the city center covered by the newly fabricated Broad Street. The subway opened in 1927 to great fanfare and high expectations, but shut down only 29-years later in 1956 due to dwindling passenger traffic.

In 1994, Rochester filmmaker James P. Harte and animator Frederick Armstrong put together The End of the Line – Rochester’s Subway, a 45-minute docu-history of the subway. It aired on the local PBS station and also on History Channel (which actually presented history documentaries back in the day). The film was available on VHS and of course I purchased a copy.

In 2005, Harte and Armstrong decided to re-release The End of the Line on DVD. In addition to the original 45-minute documentary, the DVD edition also features 45-minutes of bonus features (see below).

Harte and Armstrong did a “decent” job putting together the original documentary twenty-nine years ago. The production quality isn’t top notch by today’s standards, but we must take into account that digital tools for filmmaking have advanced quite a bit in the intervening years. I appreciated the many historic photo stills and film clips the creators were able to gather. The story, narration, and accompanying folksy music score are well-done.

I delayed purchasing the DVD version for 18 years, but I’m so glad I finally did. I appreciated seeing the 45-minute documentary once again and I especially enjoyed viewing the 45-minutes of bonus features for the first time.

DVD copies of The End of the Line – Rochester’s Subway are still available from Animatus Studio at $24.94. Order here. The documentary is also conveniently available on Amazon Prime Video.

DVD Bonus Features:

  • Three docu-shorts that debuted with the 2005 DVD release:
    • The Steel Wheel (10:40) – Take a round trip ride on the subway as it existed in the 1950s
    • Prodigal Son – Rochester Car 60 (13:45) – Footage of the last surviving subway passenger car filmed during its transport from Albany, NY to the Rochester chapter of the NRHS in 1998. Included is an interview with the last surviving subway motorman, Don Espenmiller (d. 2011).
    • Motherless Child – Remnants of the Subway (8:30) – A look at some of the crumbling remains of the subway as they existed in 2005, including “Phantom Run,” a ride through the two-mile-long abandoned Broad Street tunnel.
  • Outtakes
  • Photo Archive – 150 still images

Huh? You mean to tell me lil ol’ Rochester once had a subway?!?!?!

Back in the early-1960s, I was riding in the family station wagon with my Dad as he drove down South Avenue in downtown Rochester, New York. As we approached the corner of Court Street near the Central Library, I spotted a small, boarded up structure and I asked my father what it was. He answered it was a former subway kiosk (similar to the Rochester City Hall subway kiosk pictured above). Huh? Rochester had a subway? Well, that encounter sparked a life-long interest in Rochester’s very humble subway system.

As it was first laid out, the old Erie Canal ran through Rochester’s city center and crossed the Genesee River via an aqueduct.* However, in the early 1900s, state engineers enlarged the canal and the new route bypassed Rochester’s city center three miles to the south. The relocation of the canal left a 9-mile-long empty ditch running through the city. What to do with it? Mayor Hiram Edgerton proposed the empty right-of-way be used as a trolley path and as a belt line connecting the five freight railroads and the three interurban trolleys serving the city. The two-mile segment that extended over the aqueduct and through the city center would be roofed over, creating Broad Street and an “underground” subway portion. Construction of the subway system began in 1922 and was completed in 1927. The cost was $12M ($208M in 2023 dollars), double the original estimate. There were ultimately 22 stations along the route, three underground. The Rochester Subway eventually operated a 12-car fleet built by the Cincinnati Car Company, each with a seating capacity of 56 passengers.

The subway had problems right from the start. The once-popular interurban trolleys were hard-hit by the Great Depression and all three ceased operations by 1931. The subway was inconveniently located one-block south of Main Street, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare. Both the western end and especially the eastern end of the subway were in sparsely populated areas. Critics of the subway quipped that it went from nowhere to nowhere. Funds to maintain the stations and right-of-way were always in short supply. Ridership in the 1930s was around 1.5 million passengers per year. In 1937, Harold S. W. McFarlin, was appointed the city’s Commissioner of Commerce & Railroads and he worked tirelessly to keep the struggling subway system afloat. The subway saw a big increase in ridership during the Second World War and afterwards because of gas rationing. Ridership peaked in 1946 and 1947, with both years seeing more than 5.1 million passengers transported via the subway. But automobile travel soon began eroding passenger numbers. Government initiatives and funding at the time supported new highway systems, not mass transportation. The Rochester Subway ceased operations on June 30, 1956, just 29 years after its opening.

The eastern portion of the open subway bed was subsequently converted to highway in the construction of Interstates 490 and 590. The right-of-way on the west side of the city has been gradually reclaimed as urban space. Broad Street still sits atop the abandoned subway cavity. Plans to utilize the Genesee Aqueduct as a historical/recreational destination site have been periodically proposed over the decades.

The Rochester Subway was a wonderful asset with great potential. If only Rochester’s short-sighted urban and suburban planners had taken advantage of the subway by locating new residential, commercial, and industrial properties along its route and expanding its reach. But unlike in Europe, mass transportation in the United States generally took a backseat to the automobile and the suburban sprawl paradigm.

*The original Genesee Aqueduct was built in 1823, but the sandstone that was used was found to be too porous. The second and existing aqueduct was completed in 1842.

BREAKING NEWS: City and state officials broke ground on Tuesday, April 25, 2023 for the “Aqueduct Reimagined” project. The original plan was to remove the segment of Broad Street between Exchange Blvd. and South Ave. and refill the aqueduct with water, returning it to its original 1842-1918 form. But the plan has since been changed to transform the aqueduct into a pedestrian promenade. See the news story here.

Above: This vintage color-tinted postcard shows Rochester Subway tracks crossing the Genesee River over the Genesee Aqueduct with the newly-constructed Broad Street overhead.
Above: The end of the line. On its last day of operation, a Rochester Subway trolley car approaches the Colby Street Station.
Above: A map of the Rochester Subway showing all 22 stations.
Above: The empty Genesee Aqueduct as it appears today, home to the homeless and graffiti artists. Canal packet boats and subway trolley cars once plied the Genesee Aqueduct over the Genesee River
Above: “Canal Boats, Interurbans & Trolleys: The Story of the Rochester Subway” by Ron Amberger, Dick Barrett, and Greg Marling (National Railway Historical Society, 1985, 128 pp.) is a valuable resource for Rochester Subway buffs if you can get your hands on a copy. The book is long out-of-print, but internet sleuths should be able to find a reasonably priced used copy.
Above: My personal mementoes from the Rochester Subway: a decorative support from the Lyell Avenue Station and a short segment of rail stock that I retrieved 45 years ago.
Above: DVD copies of “The End of the Line, Rochester’s Subway: The story of the smallest city in America to build and abandon a subway” (Animatus Studio, 1994, 45 minutes, plus 45 minutes of bonus features produced in 2005) are still available from the production studio (see here), but there’s no guarantee how much longer the supply will last. The documentary is also available via Amazon Prime Video. Review forthcoming.
Above: The Court Street Subway Station kiosk. I spotted this structure as a youngster after it was abandoned and boarded up. This image is from the “End of the Line” documentary.
Above: Detail from the Lexington Station showing a decorative support identical to the one I retrieved from the abandoned Lyell Avenue Station. The image is from the “End of the Line” documentary.
Above: My watercolor rendition of Rochester Subway Car #66 at the Winton Road Station.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a skyscraper! It’s a church! It’s Rochester’s “Skyscraper Church!”

I’ve been meaning to write the story of the notable Second Baptist Church of Rochester, N.Y., later known as the Baptist Temple, for quite a long time. It’s a unique story and ultimately a sad one.

By 1834, the First Baptist Church* of early-Rochester had increased to 370 members and had outgrown its building on the west side of the Genesee River. As a result, 53 members left to form the Second Baptist Church on the east side of the young city. They purchased a building on the corner of Main St. and Clinton Ave. and began worshiping there on April 12, 1834. The meeting house burned down in 1859 and a new church building was built on the corner of North and Achilles Streets in 1860. Another fire in 1892 made it necessary to rebuild again.

By the early-1920s, the vibrant church had outgrown its existing structure. Pastor Clinton Wunder, thirty-one-years-old, came up with the novel (aka quirky) notion of a combination church-high rise hotel! He envisioned a nine-story hotel as an “economic engine” for the adjoining church. The plans eventually changed to a fourteen-story structure that would serve as an office building rather than a hotel. Many in the Second Baptist congregation thought that it was unwise to build a fourteen-story “Skyscraper Church” (yes, a fourteen-story building was still considered a “skyscraper” at that time), but Pastor Wunder prevailed. The existing church was quickly demolished and construction began sometime in 1924. The architects were Gordon & Kaelber (who also designed the iconic Kodak Tower company headquarters) and Carl R. Traver. The congregation temporarily worshiped in the old Lyceum Theater on Clinton Avenue. The new Temple Building and the adjoining Baptist Temple auditorium were dedicated on September 7, 1925. The cost was $3M ($53M in 2023 dollars).

During the early years of its use, the building’s church auditorium was often filled to its 1800-seat capacity. Pastor Wunder had strong homiletical gifts and each year more than 100,000 people walked through the Temple doors to attend worship services or an occasional debate. In 1926, Pastor Wunder hosted “Monkey Trial” lawyer, Clarence Darrow, for a debate at the new Baptist Temple on the topic, “Has Life A Purpose?” The church prospered and the combination Temple Building-Baptist Temple became one of Rochester’s most unique landmark destinations. For decades into the 1970s, the Temple Building was the premier office location for Rochester’s medical professionals. The “resourceful” Dr. Wunder resigned the pastorship in 1929 to join the firm of Ward, Wells & Dreshman, specialists in philanthropic, educational, and religious financing.

The Baptist Temple auditorium was one of the largest Protestant church sanctuaries in the City of Rochester and was often used for adult and youth worship rallies by Christians of various denominations into the 1940s and 50s. However, as a part of the increasingly-liberal Northern Baptist Convention (later American Baptist Convention), the Baptist Temple gradually shifted from the Gospel to the Bible-denying social gospel. The seeds of this disturbing decline were evident even as far back as Pastor Wunder’s tenure at Baptist Temple, as can be seen in a revealing Time Magazine article from 1925 (see here).

In 1964, the congregation moved from the Temple Building in the middle of bustling downtown to a new building five-miles east at 1101 Clover Street in the quiet suburb of Brighton. The membership declined over the years and in September 2022 the Brighton building was sold to The Potter’s House Christian Fellowship (Pentecostal).

The old Baptist Temple auditorium at 50 Liberty Pole Way has sat vacant for long stretches and was also ignobly used in a succession of nightclubs – Renaissance Theater, Heaven (1990-1995), New York Nites, Spectrum, and Gotham City – and once again as a church for five years – Grace Road Church (2016-2021). It’s now utilized as the Temple Theater, a multi-use venue. The medical professionals gradually left the Temple Building and the former office spaces have been converted to 84 apartments ($3500/month for a two-bedroom!).

Commentary: I don’t believe it was a wise idea for Second Baptist to build a fourteen-story office building as its “economic engine.” The staggering financial commitment and subsequent long-term landlord role were not appropriate for a church. It’s a good thing that Pastor Wunder’s idea of churches linking to secular businesses as “economic engines” didn’t catch on. That aside, the Second Baptist Church/Baptist Temple was once a bright Gospel beacon to the City of Rochester, but over time it slid into modernist “social gospel” apostasy and its candlestick was removed. The structures at 50 Liberty Way and 1101 Clover Street are sad commentary on the decline of the Baptist Temple specifically and the apostate American Baptist Convention generally.

For some reason, I was always fascinated with the story of the Temple Building, even as a young unbeliever, and I’m glad I was finally able to do the research and write this post.

The facts for this post were culled mainly from the articles below in addition to several others:


*First Baptist Church of Rochester continued to grow and built a large, grandiose structure in 1840 (see old Daguerreotype photo here). FBCR preceded Baptist Temple by moving to Brighton in 1953 to a location just 1.5 miles from 1101 Clover Street. FBCR is still operating, but is also an ABC church and has gone fully apostate.

Above: The entrance to the former Baptist Temple auditorium, 50 Liberty Pole Way
Above left: The exterior of the former Baptist Temple auditorium
Above: The interior of the former Baptist Temple auditorium
Above: The final home of the Baptist Temple at 1101 Clover Street
Above: A vintage postcard showing the proposed Baptist Temple and Office Building and Pastor Clinton Wunder. The design of the building was subsequently altered with the addition of a tower (see photo below).
Above: This bird’s-eye-view of the Temple Building and adjoining Baptist Temple auditorium shows the tower (for elevators?), which was added to the original architectural plans.
Above: The newest addition to my “man cave.”

The ROC – The history of the Rochester, N.Y. airport

The ROC – Journey thru the 20th Century: The story of Rochester’s 100 year old airport
By Rick Iekel
Independently published, 2022, 218 pp.

5 Stars

Remember back when you were a child and were regularly in awe of things? As people get older and accumulate more experiences there’s a tendency to become jaded about God’s creation and remarkable inventions.

Back in my younger days, I was fascinated with certain aspects of Rochester’s transportation history. I had strong interests in the Erie Canal and the humble Rochester Subway. I think I also would have enjoyed and researched Rochester’s New York Central train station, which was designed by Claude Bragdon and opened in 1914, but was demolished in 1965. I can’t remember if I ever set foot in that grand structure.

Anyway, I was also fascinated with the Rochester airport and plane travel. One of my earliest childhood memories was going to the airport with my family on September 28, 1960 to greet presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, as he arrived for some political stumping at the downtown War Memorial auditorium later that evening. Back in those days, non-passengers could walk the airport concourse and even step out on the tarmac and watch the planes depart and arrive. My first airplane trip was in 1966 when our oldest sister took another sister and myself to NYC because she was interviewing for a dietician internship at a Manhattan hospital. I’m not much of a traveler. I think I’ve made around ten trips from the airport in the fifty-seven years since then. With today’s security restrictions, and the public’s nonchalant familiarity with air travel, visiting the airport isn’t the thrill it was in the early-1960s.

I saw this book mentioned in a local freebie newspaper and eagerly downloaded it to my Kindle. I enjoyed “The ROC” and learned quite a bit. Construction of the original airport next to Scottsville Road (Rt. 383) began in 1927-28 when Hangar 1 and runways A and C were built. The small airport was only a mail stop at that point. Hangar 2 was built in 1929 and Hangar 3 in 1938. I had passed the three hangar buildings off of Scottsville Road all my life and never knew that was the site of the original airport until I read this book. I had assumed they were just facilities for small single or double-engine prop planes in addition to the airport terminal on Brooks Avenue. Nope, the terminal was moved to the north end of the airport complex along Brooks Avenue in 1953 due to the growing demand for passenger air travel. An expansion of the Brooks Ave. terminal followed in 1962 and a major reconstruction/expansion was completed in 1992.

The author of this book, Rick Iekel, was Assistant Manager of the ROC airport from 1973 to 1989 and Manager/Administrator from 1989 until he retired in 1993. Rick shares lots of interesting history and behind-the-scenes stories, including the tragic take-off crash of Mohawk Airlines Flight 112 on July 2, 1963, which killed 7 people (2 crewmen and 5 passengers) and injured 36. Every Rochesterian over the age of 65 remembers that crash.

This book is well-done given that it’s self-published, although the chronology is not always linear. Lots of neat photos and illustrations are included.

Above: An aerial view of the Frederick Douglass – Greater Rochester International Airport aka the ROC. Our airport is a relatively small one with just two short A and B concourses.
Above: This vintage postcard shows the red brick Brooks Avenue terminal building with the towering clock as I remember it from the early-1960s.
Above: The old Scottsville Rd. Rochester Airport, circa mid-1930s. From upper-left corner to lower-right corner, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2 (note the small control “tower” rising from the Hangar 2 structure).
Above: A vintage postcard showing the Scottsville Road terminal, c. 1940. L to R, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2. Note that Hangar 2’s short control “tower” has been replaced by a taller stand-alone tower.
Above: The original Scottsville Road airport complex as it appears today. L to R: Hangar 2, Hangar 1, and Hangar 3
Above: Hangar 2 (1929). Note the airport’s first control “tower” beneath the arrow
Above: Close-up detail of the Hangar 2 control “tower”
Above: Hangar 1 (1927)
Above: Hangar 3 (1938)
Above: Current map of the ROC showing the location of the Brooks Ave. terminal in relation to the original Scottsville Rd. (Rt. 383) terminal.

Welcome to another edition of Odds & Ends

I regularly accumulate a number of “Odds and Ends” ideas for the blog that I never get around to developing into full-blown posts. That process seems to be accelerating now that I’m retired. My ideas inbox is getting full, so it’s time to clean house and present another edition of Odds & Ends.

The Wells Fargo Wagon

Does anyone remember “The Music Man,” the 1962 musical starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and the very young Ron “Opie” Howard? I was never much of a fan of musicals, but even at 6-years-old, I thought Shirley Jones was swell. One particular memory from the film that has stuck with me over the years was the “Wells Fargo Wagon” song (see here). Well, we all know that the Wells Fargo wagon has since been replaced by the beloved Amazon delivery truck. It occurs to me that the anticipation of receiving some material item is often more pleasurable than actually acquiring it. “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15

The daily newspaper: Going, going, …

The daily newspaper is a threatened species. Rochester used to have morning and afternoon newspapers, but now it’s down to just the morning Democrat and Chronicle newspaper and it’s a pretty slim version of its former self. I was a regular subscriber to the paper for years and years, but stopped maybe five years ago because of the rising price. After I retired, I re-subscribed to the paper and I’m enjoying it, but I realize its days are numbered. In our digital age, the daily newspaper is an anachronism. The D&C recently announced it’s laying off 108 employees and transferring its printing operation to faraway Rockaway, New Jersey, 300 miles away, meaning the paper’s limited reporting will be even less timely.

Snuffy’s Hot Sauce vs. Sal’s Hot Sauce

In my review of Sal’s Birdland’s half-chicken dinner (see here), I recounted how Salvatore “Sal” Nalbone got the inspiration for his suburban restaurant from Harry “Snuffy” Smith, who operated soul-food chicken joints in the city going back to the 1950s. Snuffy passed away in 2008, but his sweet-spicy sauce is still being sold in some area groceries. Sal died in 2021, but his restaurant is still going strong and his sweet-spicy “sassy” sauce is also sold in Rochester groceries. Sal’s sauce is mustard-based while Snuffy’s sauce is ketchup-based, although mustard is also an ingredient. How about a very brief taste-test dual? Mmm. Both sauces are de-lish, although Sal’s sauce is sweeter and has more of a syrupy consistency. Both sauces have a nice tang. If push came to shove, I would choose Sal’s sauce over Snuffy’s, but it’s nice to be able to change it up.

Cleaning Out the Garage

Nope, that’s not our garage in the photo above, but our garage does get a bit messy and disorganized over time. Twice a year, in the early-Spring and late-Fall, I clean out the garage. I was a little late this year, and my wife got after me to clean it up before our youngest son arrived for a one-week visit. Why not just keep things picked up and organized throughout the year? This reminds me of how sin accumulates in our life and we need to take stock, repent, and get things right with the Lord.

More Rochester Meat Hot Sauces!

Speaking of hot sauces, back in August 2020 I presented a couple of posts reviewing six of Rochester’s delectable meat hot sauces (see here and here). Well, the other day I was shopping at Hegedorn’s, an independent grocery store in Webster, NY, and spotted three more locally-made meat hot sauces. From left to right: Harladay Hots Meat Sauce, Old-Fashioned Meat Sauce, and Little Johns Meat Sauce. All three are delish and somewhat similar variations of Rochester’s classic meat hot sauce. Of the three, I give the nod to Harladay Hots, which is made under the auspices of Charlie Clottin, proprietor of the Harladay Hots food cart, which can be found at 10 N. Main Street in Pittsford, NY during the warmer months.


Has anyone watched the four-episode documentary, “Hillsong: A Mega-Church Exposed”? I’ve caught bits and pieces, but need to watch the entire thing. The documentary exposes much that is horrifically wrong with the seeker, hipster, church-growth model. Shameful.

Sauce YET AGAIN???

Yup, I realize we’re already heavy on the condiments in this odds-and-ends post, BUT I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one more. On a trip to Hegedorn’s grocery several months ago, I bought a jar of LeFrois Sauce pictured above. LeFrois is a locally-made, tomato-based barbequing/simmering sauce with a deliciously-unique flavor that I first discovered at our Wegman’s grocery way back in the early-1980s. For some ridiculous reason, Wegman’s discontinued carrying LeFrois sauce, but I was delighted to spot it at Hegedorn’s years later. However, on a very recent trip to Hegedorn’s, the LeFrois sauce was gone! What happened? I did some internet sleuthing and it appears LeFrois’s manufacturer, Jets Le Frois Corporation in Brockport, N.Y., is no longer operational. No one answered the phone at Jets Le Frois when I called during business hours. Argh! It’s going to be sad when I get around to opening my last jar of LeFrois (expiration date 9/23).

Church Search – Part 1

My wife and I were recently searching for a church and we believe we have found a good one, but first some history.

My wife and I were raised Roman Catholic, but in 1983 we both accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone and began attending our first Gospel-preaching church, VB Church,* which was six miles from our home. VBC was an independent fundamental Baptist church and the IFB was still quite influential back in those days. The pastor was charismatic and funny, but could also rage and finger-point from the pulpit as well as any IFB pastor. We stayed at the church for eight years, but became increasingly troubled by the pastor’s harangues and political stumpings and the IFB legalistic guilt trips. We left the church in 1991 and visited another church in the area a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was so disappointed and disillusioned with IFB “churchianity” that I walked away from the Lord for 23 years. Yup, 23 years. Not a smart move.

A lot of bad things happened in my life in those 23 years and the Lord continuously bid me to return home to Him. In 2014, some neighbor friends invited us to attend a Sunday service at a nearby church associated with the Free Methodist Church USA denomination. I relented and returned to the Lord at that service. However, I wasn’t comfortable with several FMC/Wesleyan secondaries so I started a church search. We began attending a small, Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church, NF Church** with a new, young pastor. Things started out well, but it soon became apparent that the pastor leaned towards Christian nationalism and was also enamored with Roman Catholicism. He named Thomas Aquinas as his “favorite theologian” and cited Peter Kreeft as his “favorite philosopher.” That was very disconcerting. He also favorably referred to Catholics, Malcolm Muggeridge and G.K. Chesterton more than a few times. The Christian nationalism and Rome-friendly ecumenism became increasingly problematic, so we left that church in 2015, leading to another church search (the creation of this blog in 2015 was prompted in-part by the SBC pastor’s Rome-friendly ecumenism).

Shortly thereafter, we visited a satellite branch of a large, non-denominational mega-church, NR Church.*** It was like a rock concert/movie theater experience with a darkened auditorium, electric guitars, loud amps, light shows, and the pastor’s sermon beamed from the main campus to the big screen. Hmm. That was very different. Definitely geared towards a younger crowd. But the teaching was good and we thought the “seeker” atmosphere might be attractive to our unsaved sons. The pastor moved on in 2016 and a young fella was hired to take his place. The new pastor moved the church further towards “cultural relevancy.” The sermons became increasingly vapid and the pastor’s attire devolved into hoodies and skinny jeans with the requisite holes in the knees à la Carl Lentz and Steven Furtick. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we stopped attending in-person church services like everyone else. In addition to watching the church’s streamed services, my wife and I also began listening to archived sermons from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. What a contrast! After listening to MLJ for awhile, it became clearer to us just how poor and compromised the teaching was at NR, so we eventually stopped watching the mega-church’s streaming service. NR’s focus on the younger generation and disregard for older members was also a consideration in our cutting ties.

Then what? After the last two church experiences, and with C-19 still in play, my wife and I were in no hurry to return to church. I was unemployed throughout all of 2020 as jobs are extremely hard to find in economically-challenged Western New York. But in January 2021, I was able to get a job at L3Harris Technologies on weekends. My wife and I continued to listen to on-line preaching from solid pastors.

On November 1, 2022, I reached the age of 66 and four-months to qualify for the full Social Security monthly benefit, meaning I was able to retire from L3H. What about church? My wife was not eager to return to church after our experiences, but I knew it was important. I’ll pick up the story next Sunday in “Church Search – Part 2.”

* When the VBC pastor became ill in 2011, his son took over the pastorship. The son was subsequently arrested in 2017 for sexually molesting three young women who had been attending VBC and he resigned the pastorship. In 2021, the father, age 71, was arrested for sexually abusing two underage teenage girls. VBC continues under the leadership of a pastor who was groomed by the aforementioned father and son.

**The young pastor at NF Church resigned at some point in 2019-2020. A new pastor was hired, but the church no longer appears to be functioning. The church’s Facebook page has been deleted, the website is non-operational, and a Sunday worship time has been removed from the church’s roadside sign.

***NR Church continues, although with only one satellite rather than the three operating in early-2020. Regular attendees can remain relatively anonymous at NR mega-church because of the large crowds, dark movie theater ambiance, and decidedly hands-off pastoring. Pastors don’t really “pastor” at NR, rather they emcee the “show.”

For the conclusion of this two-part Church Search post, see here.

Review: Sal’s Birdland Chicken Dinner

Like many people, I gained “a few” pounds over the course of the pandemic. My new job that I began in January 2021 was/is also a big strain, physically, and I regularly turned to “comfort food” to get me through the work weekend. Ice cream every night! Enough finally became ENOUGH in mid-May when I tipped the scale at my all-time-highest weight. It was time to pull out the “big guns” and once again go on my 100% fail-safe Sal’s Birdland Diet!

Well, I reached the half-way point of my weight-loss goal a couple of weeks ago, so I rewarded myself by driving the eleven miles to Sal’s Birdland at 400 Air Park Drive off of Scottsville Road across from the Rochester airport. Salvatore “Sal” Nalbone (1939-2021) opened the original Sal’s Birdland in 1974, a few blocks south of the current site.* I feasted on my first Sal’s half-chicken dinner in 1977 and have been a fan for 45 years.

While I’ve mentioned my Sal’s Birdland Diet several times over the course of the seven years that I’ve been blogging, I don’t believe I’ve ever actually reviewed Sal’s delicious half-chicken dinner. Time to rectify that oversight.

Sal’s Birdland Half-Chicken Dinner

5 Stars

Sal’s has a number of entrées on the menu (check the website below), but the half-chicken dinner is the go-to, flagship entrée.

Sal’s coats a small half-chicken in a light, seasoned batter and deep fries it until it’s golden crispy on the outside. The searing deep-fry locks in the meat’s tenderness. The bird is served on two slices of white bread and coated with Sal’s signature “sassy” sauce. My mouth is watering as I type this. Sal’s sauce is a mustard-based, sweet and hot sauce. There are several similar competing versions that are popular here in the Rochester area, including Snuffy’s** (aka Smitty’s), Boss Sauce, and Country Sweet. I always ask for the mild Sal’s sassy sauce. Sure, I like spicy food, but the hot sassy sauce is inedible. Sides? It’s your choice of potato wedges, macaroni salad, baked beans, collard greens, or mac & cheese. I always choose the mac salad and collard greens. Both are delicious, although the greens are a bit on the salty side. Sal’s vinegary blue cheese dipping sauce is a nice complement, although not mandatory.

The half-chicken dinner isn’t cheap at $14.70, but it’s well worth it.

There’s no better meal in this world than a Sal’s Birdland Half-Chicken Dinner. What about a $70 surf-and-turf, lobster tail and filet mignon dinner at a swanky restaurant? Keep it. Give me Sal’s.


Above: A Sal’s Birdland half-chicken coated with sassy sauce, and served with macaroni salad and collard greens on the side. Delish!
Above: Sal’s Birdland exterior, 400 Airpark Dr. (off Scottsville Rd), Rochester NY
Above: Sal’s Birdland’s unpretentious interior

Sal’s Birdland has a second location at 309 East Ridge Rd., Rochester, N.Y.

Yup, I’ll be going back to Sal’s again for another celebratory half-chicken dinner when I hit my final weight-loss goal in about 12-weeks. That’s the “can’t-fail” secret of the Sal’s Birdland Diet.

*Sal’s Birdland’s first location was in a round, glass-paned, 1960s-style building in front of the Olympic Park Roller Skating Center at 1300 Scottsville Rd. The building, which no longer exists, was originally home to a burgers and fries joint that I can’t recall the name of. After enjoying skating parties with my grammar school classmates at Olympic in the late 1960s, we would enjoy a cold Coke at the burgers and fries joint as we waited for our parents to pick us up.

**There’s zero doubt that Sal Nalbone patterned his Sal’s Birdland after Smitty’s/Snuffy’s Birdland. Former professional boxer, Harry “Snuffy” Smith, hung up his boxing gloves in the mid-1950s and shortly thereafter opened his first restaurant, Smitty’s Birdland, on Ormond Street in the city. Smith concocted a ketchup and mustard-based, sweet-hot sauce for his fried chicken that became legendary throughout Rochester. The restaurant relocated to several sites over the years, but eventually ended up at 575 Brooks Avenue in 1997, where it was renamed Snuffy’s Birdland. Smith closed the joint in 2002, retired down to Phoenix, and died in 2008 at the age of 86. Snuffy’s ketchup and mustard-based “Original Gourmet B.B.Q Sauce” is still being produced and bottles are available at several Rochester groceries, right next to bottles of Sal’s Sassy Sauce (a future post). While Rochester is known throughout the world for its Garbage Plate served at Nick Tahou’s (see here), its other contribution to international haute cuisine is the fried half-chicken coated in sweet-hot sauce dinner introduced by Harry Smith and perpetuated by Sal Nalbone at their respective “Birdlands.” Although it’s probably never been put into print before, it can rightly be said that Nalbone brought Smith’s inner-city “soul food” to the Rochester suburbs.

Whatever happened to Snuffy’s Birdland? – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Nov. 15, 2021

See ya later, Big Jim

I began working at Eastman Kodak’s giant Elmgrove manufacturing plant in Rochester, N.Y. in 1976 at the age of nineteen. One of the first jobs I had was in Bldg. 3 Stock Control (parts warehouse) assisting a big, burly guy named Jim Moon. Jim was a “line reader,” meaning he walked one of the many camera production lines in Bldg. 2 every day and re-ordered parts as needed. My job was to deliver the parts to the line.

Big Jim was different from the other guys in the warehouse. He had a Bible on his desk, which he read during lunch break. Above his desk were a few decorative print-outs praising Jesus. It was noticeable that Jim didn’t join in the ribald banter with the other warehouse guys. Uh-oh. Jim was one of those born-again Bible-bangers I’d heard about! I had better watch out! However, Jim and I eventually had several conversations about spiritual things. I specifically remember him enthusiastically talking about Bob Dylan and his alleged conversion to Gospel Christianity (see the related post here). I also remember discussing the Baptist Temple Building in downtown Rochester, the topic of a future post. Jim would slip God into a conversation every now and then. It wasn’t unnatural or forced. That’s just the way Big Jim rolled.

After several months, I moved on to another position at Kodak. In 1983, I actually became one of those “Bible-bangers” myself when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Jim’s witness wasn’t a “direct” influence on my conversion to Christ, but it was an influence.

I’ve thought about Jim every once in a while over the years and wondered what happened to him. A few weeks ago, I was reading the death notices in the local newspaper and noticed his obituary. Jim had retired from Kodak many years ago and moved down to Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (20 miles from Nashville) with his wife. He died at the age of 89, which means he was only around 45 when we worked together. I would have guessed he was much older at the time, but everybody is “old” when you’re 19-20. I remember Jim had sold his house and moved into an apartment in the late 70s to finance his son Jeffrey’s education at Oral Roberts University. Oral Roberts? Well, Jim and I definitely would not have worshiped at the same church, but we were brothers in Christ just the same.

I’m looking forward to seeing Jim in Heaven and thanking him for his witness.

The lesson: Christians, the unsaved are watching and listening. Give them something to think about. They may not react right away. We’re just to keep sowing the seed.

Heluva Good New England Clam Dip Recipe

It’s June 1st and while Summer is officially still a few weeks away, we’ve already had some summer-like temps here in Rochester. Up here in the Rust Belt, we’re cooped-up inside from November to April, so it’s great to be outside once again in shorts and a t-shirt. One of the pleasures of Summer is grilling and dining outside. Clam dip and chips is a real crowd pleaser when we have family or friends over for a patio dinner. The post below was first published on July 10, 2017 and continues as this blog’s second most-viewed post of all time with 8081 hits to date.


An accoutrement staple of Summer backyard picnic dining is potato chips and dip. One of my family’s favorite chip dips used to be a New England clam dip manufactured by a local cheese company named “Heluva Good” of all things (see photo). For some reason, Heluva Good stopped making its clam dip in the early aughts (2000s). Some said it was in response to tightening FDA regulations.

Unable to purchase clam dip, my hankering grew and grew until I finally started searching online for a clam dip recipe that was similar to Heluva Good’s. I found the one below several years ago. It’s a pretty close facsimile and very easy to make. Any time we serve it to guests they always rave about it. I could eat a whole bowl of clam dip with wavy chips in a single sitting all by myself, but my arteries clog up at just the thought of it.

p.s. Heluva Good was headquartered in nearby Sodus N.Y. but was bought out by food conglomerate HP Hood in 2004 and like most things in New York, production was eventually moved out of state. It’s also interesting that the slang term, “one hell of a…” is used to connote something that’s either very good or very bad. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says the phrase has its roots in the second half of the 1700s.

Heluva Good New England Clam Dip Recipe

  • 6.5 oz. can chopped clams
  • 6.5 oz. can minced clams
  • 8 oz. package Philadelphia brand cream cheese – allow to reach room temperature
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 and ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Red Hot or Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  1. Drain clams, reserving ¼ cup clam broth. Put drained clams aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese with hand-held electric mixer until smooth while adding clam broth, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Add clams and mix together with a spoon or spatula.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for three hours
  5. Sprinkle the top with some additional paprika before serving.

Serve with Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips. Enjoy!

Review: Pittsford Hots’ “Plate”

A couple of Thursdays ago, I was looking for something quick and easy for lunch and dinner prior to my work-weekend marathon, and it popped into my head that I’ve been meaning to try a “plate” from Pittsford Hots for several months. A plate? What’s that? A little background. Greater Rochester, New York doesn’t have much to brag about these days with the demise of Kodak, Xerox, and most other local manufacturing companies, resulting in a downward-spiraling economy, but we are the home of that culinary masterpiece, the Garbage Plate.

Above: Nick Tahou Hots, West Main Street, Rochester

The plate originated at Nick Tahou Hots, starting out as “hots and potats.” I experienced my first plate of “hots and potats” back in 1976, but the delicacy goes back farther than that. Late-night college-student customers subsequently kept asking for “the plate with all of the garbage on it,” so Nick recoined it as the “Garbage Plate” and even trademarked the name. A basic plate (i.e., my favorite version) is two hot dogs or two hamburgers or one of each (the combo) over macaroni salad and home fries and the whole thing smothered with Rochester-style meat hot sauce and raw onions. Other burger/hot dog joints picked up on the popular plate, but they must call their version something else besides a “Garbage Plate” because of Nick’s trademark. See my 2017 post about the plate here.

Anyway, our little village of Pittsford is about 8 miles from downtown Rochester. Main Street Pittsford is lined with quaint, picturesque brick buildings from the 19th-century, but the street-parking is almost non-existent (although there is parking in the rear), so the trendy boutique shops come and go like a revolving door. Former MCC women’s basketball coach, Tim Parrinello, and his wife took a shot and opened Pittsford Hots at 5 South Main Street last December. I’ve been meaning to try their version of the plate and finally got around to it on April 21. So without any further ado, let’s review Pittsford Hots’ version of the famous Rochester Garbage Plate.

Pittsford Hots’ Cheeseburger and Hot Dog Combo “Plate,” $11.99

5 Stars

I ordered a standard plate with a white hot and a cheeseburger over mac salad and home fries, all topped with Rochester-style meat hot sauce and raw onions (photo below). The hot dog and burger were good. I checked and, yes, Pittsford Hots uses Rochester’s very own Zweigles’ hots, the best dogs in the nation (see here). The mac salad was a little different with a touch of mustard added to the mix. Unorthodox, but still very tasty, and moist. The mac salad is key for me and some establishments’ mac salad is dried out from fridge burn. The home fries were okay, but I would have opted that they had been fried a bit longer for a crispier exterior. Not a deal breaker. The meat hot sauce anchors every plate and Pittsford Hots’ version is the standard meat sauce that Rochesterians love.* Not greasy and not too much heat. My one small gripe is the meat hot sauce portion size was a little skimpy. So, overall, this was a very good plate. Nicely done. No bad surprises or disappointments. Five stars. Recommended.

It will be interesting to see if Pittsford Hots can survive at a location with less-than-optimal parking.

*While Nick Tahou Hots may be the originator of the Garbage Plate, its meat hot sauce pales in comparison to the Rochester-style meat hot sauces of most of its competitors. Nick’s hot sauce is greasy and bland. The first is not always the best.

Above: Pittsford Hots’ combo plate: A cheeseburger and a Zweigle’s white hot dog over home fries and macaroni salad and topped with Rochester-style meat hot sauce and raw onions
Above: South Main Street, Pittsford, NY. Pittsford Hots is located in the second building (yellow) from the right

Pittsford Hots Website: