Monday, July 19, 2021

The McCann Boulder

by Erin Doane, Curator

On January 17, 1881, an enormous boulder was moved from the towpath on the east side of the former Chemung Canal near Latta Brook, down Lake Street, and over to Woodlawn Cemetery where it was placed on the plot owned by George S. McCann. Nine teams of horses and six yokes of oxen were used to move the immense stone. George wanted the boulder to mark his final resting place because he thought “an object formed by the hand of nature” was far more suitable as a monument for the dead than a costly and ornate monument made by man.” It would be 19 more years before he joined his marker in the cemetery.

McCann monument in Woodlawn Cemetery, July 10, 2021

George S. McCann was born at the McCann homestead at 2,000 Davis Street on June 24, 1823. He was one of six children. His father John had come to Elmira from Ireland in 1809 and purchased 320 acres of land from Thomas Whitney. After John’s death, the family home went to George and he had a long, successful career as a farmer. In the 1870s, he sold 140 acres to the Commissioners of Prisons that became the site of the Elmira Reformatory.

On October 10, 1864, George married Crete Kingsbury. Together they had three children – Hattie, born September 4, 1865; Crete, born September 17, 1867; and James, born June 16, 1869. Less than three years after their son was born, however, tragedy struck. Crete passed away on March 4, 1872 at the age of 32. A notice in the local newspaper described her as “one of those sweet dispositioned women whom no one knows but to love, and her death will be mourned with genuine and heartfelt sorrow by a large circle of relatives, acquaintances and friends.” Funeral services were held at the McCann home and she was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Bronze plaque on the McCann monument with portraits of George and Crete, photo taken July 10, 2021
As a widower, George turned his attention to the community. Two years after Crete’s passing he got into politics. He was elected to the board of supervisors from the Town of Elmira in 1874, 1875, 1876, 1882, and 1883. He served as chairman of the board in 1882. He was also a member of the Union Lodge No. 95 Free and Accepted Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Independent Order of Good Templars, the Grange, and the Elmira Farmers’ Club. 

George was known as someone who was always doing something to make others happy. On June 17, 1897, he hosted a reunion for those who had attended school with him back in the 1830s. Thirty-two of his former classmates along with their wives and husbands enjoyed a luncheon feast in a large tent in his front yard and shared stories of the good old days of their youth.

George S. McCann, Telegram, March 4, 1900
In 1899, George’s health began to fail and he became confined to his home. He made a trip to St. Clemens, Michigan to be treated for rheumatism but his condition did not improve. At seven o’clock in the morning on March 2, 1900, he passed away in the same house in which he had been born. The funeral was held at the homestead, as had been Crete’s, and he was laid to rest beside her in the plot marked by the enormous rock he had placed there so many years earlier. 

Over time, the story of how the boulder was moved to Woodlawn became somewhat exaggerated, as many tales of great deeds are. It was reported that it took 17 teams of horses and four yokes of oxen to move it (which was a good 8 teams of horses more than stated in a document drafted on the day the stone was actually moved, but two fewer yokes of oxen.) The stone itself has been called the “largest common boulder ever found in the Chemung Valley.”

Stereoscope view of the teams of horses moving the boulder during a rest stop in front of the Half-Way House on Lake Street, January 17, 1881
The monument also became a bit of a tourist attraction. An article in the Star-Gazette on September 13, 1895 encouraging visitors to enjoy the beauty of Woodlawn Cemetery specifically mentions “the immense boulder that bears the name of George McCann and his wife” as one of the sights to see while there. At some point, a large bronze plaque with the portraits of George and Crete and their death dates was added to the stone. Today, you can still visit the monument, which is located just down the hill from the Clemens family’s plot.

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

L. Libbie Adams and her Youthful Enterprise

 by Susan Zehnder, Education Director

Our exhibit Fit to Print, on display until July 31st, showcases printing materials from Chemung County. Although we have nothing (yet!) from a nineteenth century publication written, edited, typeset and printed by teenager L. Libbie Adams from Elmira, her story offers a fascinating glimpse into the area's early printing culture. 

Example of a small press from our collection

Laura Elizabeth or "Libbie" Adams was born in 1859 in Carbondale, PA, 
the only child of Lucy and Oscar H. Adams. In May of 1864, her father joined the Union army and mustered in Elmira as an assistant surgeon for the 8th NY Calvary out of Rochester, NY. He was scheduled to serve three years. One month later, following a disastrous raid on the Weldon railroad, he was reported among the 117 missing. It turned out that he had been shot in the head and captured. He was discharged in February 1865 and considered a pensioner for the rest of his life. In 1866, the Elmira City Directory lists Oscar H. Adams as a physician living at 400 High Street where he had moved with his wife Lucy and daughter Libbie.

400 High Street

Two years earlier, Libbie printed her first amateur journal, which she called the Youthful Enterprise. The word amateur was initially used to identify the age of the journalist, not whether they earned any money. Libbie was one of many young journalists who made use of the small novelty presses that became popular during the mid-nineteenth century. These tabletop-sized presses were first designed for shopkeepers to print labels but were soon adopted as a way for people to print their own cards, broadsheets and even newspapers, depending on the size of the press. Their small size and relatively inexpensive cost also attracted young people of modest means. In some ways, small presses were the social media of their generation: children and teenagers used presses as a new means to express themselves, sharing ideas and forming communities through print.

The idea of youth or adolescence as a distinct time of life was something new for nineteenth-century Americans. Earlier generations of young people were often expected to go to work after attending grammar school. Through efforts of the newly established US Office of Education, and the National Education Association, however, education changed. Students were now recommended to have twelve years of instruction: eight years of grammar school, followed by four years of high school. This change increased the number of US public high schools. It also influenced the growth of American higher education, which at the beginning of the century counted 23 colleges and universities, and at the end of the century tallied close to 1,000. It was also when the nation's first Black colleges, now known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, were established. Post-Civil War, education was seen by everyone as a way to improve one's status in life. This change resulted in many students, aged 11 to 19, finding free time to fill. Some youths joined newly formed clubs, sports, and other social associations, while some middle-class youths embraced new technological hobbies like printing.

Most young printers were boys between the ages of 11 and 16. The journals or newspapers they produced followed a familiar template and included news, fiction, poetry, miscellaneous topics, editorials, puzzles, and anything else that they thought other teenagers would want to know. Some papers included advertising sections for products or services marketed for the first time to this age group. Young printers looking for social connection formed the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA). They called their world Amateurdom, or the ‘Dom and  organized regional fairs. In 1876, they held the first national meeting to share their work. 

There were apparently no girls at this first convention, but Libbie Adams and other girls were printing nonetheless. When Libbie first started the Youthful Enterprise in Carbondale, she printed her ten-page, thirty-column papers on an eighth-medium, hand-inking Star press, which cost $38 in 1873. In today's dollars that would be over $1,000. In addition to her editing, printing and editorial work, Libbie was a poet who wrote under the name Nettie Sparkle. When the family moved to Elmira, she continued her work and now used a quarter medium job press to print. A notice in the 1876 Carbondale Daily News reads:

 “Miss Libbie Adams, formerly of this city, is making an interesting paper of her amateur Youthful Enterprise at Elmira. Miss Libbie is improving rapidly as a writer, and we congratulate her thus far.”


Later that year, her work was challenged by a rival printer who questioned whether Libbie, a mere girl, was actually doing the work herself. Apparently, this was a common event among amateur printers who would then respond passionately and refute any claims. Libbie responded and not only printed a testimonial in her paper, but she had it confirmed by the Chemung County notary and signed by such local notables as Edwin Eldridge, John Arnot, Jr., H.W. Rathbone, and both editors of Elmira’s newspapers. 

In 1877, Libbie attended the second national UAPA convention, one of four girls to do so. She was asked to help draft a constitution for the Western New York APA organizing in Buffalo. It was enthusiastically adopted. 

In July of 1878, Libbie’s father, Oscar H. Adams, died. He was forty-four years and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery. No obituary was printed, but his death certificate lists cancer as the cause. The Elmira City Directory for 1879 lists Lucy A. Adams, widow of Oscar H., living at 400 High Street. The next year she is listed at 701 East Church Street. 

Libbie continued to print her paper but changed the name to the Elmira Enterprise. She used the money from printing to pay for college classes at Elmira Female College. There she met, fell in love and married Edwin B. Turner. He had been taking art classes at the college, and was notable for being the first man to enroll there.  After the couple married, he joined her in the printing business. Edwin B. Turner went on to start other businesses, some with more success than others, and the couple had six children. Edwin died in 1940, followed one year later by Libbie Adams Turner died. She was 82. Both are buried in Woodlawn cemetery.

We wish we had a copy of Libbie’s Youthful Enterprise, but in the meantime will have to print her story ourselves.

 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Jamaica Helps Win the War!

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

On a crisp September morning in 1944, 900 arriving Jamaican workers filled a New York pier with song. None of them had ever been to America before, but all were eager to help with the war effort. 111 of them had come to work at the General Electric foundry here in Elmira. The foundry’s purchasing agent, Wilbur R. Simmons, had gone down to the city to meet them. He was awed by the beauty of their music.

Beginning in 1943, the Farm Security Administration began recruiting Jamaican workers to help ease farm labor shortages in the eastern states. Approximately 4,500 were brought to U.S. that summer with 1,250 of them working in New York. All told, the United States government recruited over 38,000 foreign workers from Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other parts of the Caribbean and South America to help bring in harvests across the country that year. The practice continued throughout the war.

Agriculture wasn’t the only place where there were wartime worker shortages. Local manufacturers found themselves scrambling to replace workers who had left for military service. In the spring of 1944, John R. Row, the plant engineer for General Electric’s Elmira Foundry, headed to the Caribbean to recruit guest workers. The original plan had been to bring folks from the Bahamas, but that island had put a hold on recruitment due to labor shortages of their own. He ended up going to Jamaica instead.

The first 111 Jamaican guest workers arrived in Elmira on September 24, 1944. They were to be housed at the plant in barracks built specially for them. The barracks featured 2 large halls with bunk beds, a recreation hall, a large kitchen, store house, communal bathroom, and laundry facility. James O’Connor, a former steward for a Kingston cricket club, and Eustace Fothergill, a ship’s cook from Old Harbor, took command of the kitchen. Subsequent guest workers were housed in private apartments or with host families, mostly located in Black community on Elmira’s east side. 

Jamaican worker's arrival, September 26, 1943. Courtesy Elmira Star-Gazette

 The men were initially hired to work a 6-month contract with an option to renew. Although few of them had any experience working in foundries, they were assigned to work in the manufacture of gray-iron castings. The arrangement worked well. Not only was the initial contract renewed through June 1946, additional workers were brought in a few months later. Once the harvest was brought in, Kennedy Valve Manufacturing Company hired 36 Jamaican agricultural laborers to stay in Elmira and work over the winter. Chemung Foundry and Bendix-Eclipse ended up hiring Jamaican workers as well. All told, nearly 300 Jamaicans ended up working in Elmira factories during the course of the war.

Elmira did its best to welcome them. The Council of Social Agencies worked to put together programs and resources to provide them with recreational opportunities in their off hours. Several organizations donated books, magazines, and athletic equipment for the barracks. Elmira College offered a series of lectures and discussion groups on various topics. The Neighborhood House hosted an all-Jamaican choral group. Various churches, including Monumental Baptist Church and St. Luke’s Congregational Church, opened their doors to worshippers. For Christmas 1945, St. John’s Episcopal Church of Elmira Heights held a special concert for them and Trinity Episcopal Church hosted several concerts by the Jamaican Gospel Choir.

The last of the Jamaican workers finally left in 1946. On April 18, Elmira Foundry held a farewell banquet at the Jamaican barracks. Various plant officials came and sang workers’ praises. They presented George Barrett, the chairman of the Jamaican Camp Council, and other workers with scrolls of merit and professional references. The company also presented St. Luke’s Congregational Church with a special bulletin board honoring the Jamaican workers who had worshipped there during their stay. The temporary workers went home in the summer of 1946, but some eventually came back to settle in the community they had come to love. 

Charles Brown's naturalization papers, 1957. Brown was originally from Jamaica.

 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Orange-Crush: The Delectable Refreshment

by Erin Doane, Curator

For about 50 years, the world-famous soft drink Orange-Crush was bottled in Chemung County. In 1915, a Californian chemist named Neil C. Ward developed a unique formula for the orange drink. A year later, he partnered with Clayton J. Howel and they created the Orange Crush Company. By 1924, there were nearly 1,200 bottlers of Orange-Crush throughout the United States and Canada. The Gardner Bottling Co. located at 226 William Street in Elmira began bottling the carbonated citrus beverage around 1919.

Orange-Crush advertisement, Star-Gazette, August 14, 1919
By the time Orange-Crush was being bottled in Elmira, the drink was already widely popular. The Orange Crush Company contracted with Norman Rockwell in the early 1920s to create 12 different paintings to use in advertisements for their three flavors of Crush – Orange, Lemon, and Lime. Rockwell was paid $300 (about $4,000 today) for each work which appeared in a variety of magazines including Collier’s, The Youth’s Companion, Life, The Literary Digest, and The Christian Herald.

Advertisement for Lime-Crush by Norman Rockwell, Life, May 26, 1921

What made Orange-Crush different from other orange flavored soft drinks was that it was made with real oranges. At first, it was just oil from the peels that was added to enhance the orange flavor, but later actual pulp was added to the lightly fizzy drink. In 1933, the manufacturer claimed that each bottle contained the equivalent of two oranges in nourishment.

Orange-Crush advertisement listing its natural ingredients: orange juice, flavor from the peel, fruit acid, U.S. Certified food color, carbonated water, and pure cane sugar, Star-Gazette, July 29, 1926

In 1922, the Elmira bottling operation moved to 207 Sullivan Street and a year after that Louis Rubin began running the business under the name the Orange Crush Bottling Company. Around that time, the specially designed and patented “crinkly” bottle was introduced. Not only did the bottle somehow ensure “the purity, quality and deliciousness which have made the ‘Crushes’ the largest selling fruit-flavored drinks in the world,” it also helped customers easily find “genuine Crushes” in stores.

Orange-Crush advertisement, Star-Gazette, July 19, 1922 and "crinkly" bottle from CCHS collection

The Orange Crush Bottling Company relocated again around 1926 to the corner of Sheridan Avenue and 11th Street in Elmira Heights. By then, the company was bottling 12 different soft drinks including Orange-, Lemon-, and Lime-Crush, and Bob-O-Link Ginger Ale. When the prohibition on the production and sale of beer came to an end in 1933 (you can read all about that by clicking here), the bottling company began distributing Wehle ale, porter, and lager as well.

Orange Crush Bottling Co, advertisement for Wehle beer, Star-Gazette, October 26, 1933

Sometime in the early 1960s, the Pepsi-Cola Elmira Bottling Company, Inc. took over the bottling of Orange-Crush locally. A short time later, the drink stopped being bottled in Elmira. Changes were also taking place at that time with the Orange Crush brand itself, which was purchased by Charles E. Hires, Co. in 1962. Proctor & Gamble bought the brand in 1980 and then sold it to Cadbury Schweppes in 1989. Today, Crush is owned by Keurig Dr Pepper and the fruity soft drinks are still available in local stores.

Orange-Crush advertisement, Star-Gazette, December 18, 1966

 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Drew "Lefty" Rader

 by Susan Zehnder, Education Director

Wouldn’t it be great to travel back in time to find out the missing part of a story? A case in point involves "Lefty" Rader, a local baseball star, whose 1921 foray into the major leagues lasted two innings of one game.

"Lefty" was born Drew Leon Rader in 1901 to parents James Benjamin Franklin Rader and Ida May Vanatta Rader of Elmira. His father was a fire fighter then worked as an engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Rader was the couple's only child. They lived on Jefferson Street, later moving to Pennsylvania Avenue to live above the Red Brick Food Mart, a small neighborhood grocery they owned and operated. 

Former Red Brick Food Mart

Young  Rader attended Grammar School Number 9 and finished 8th grade in 1914. He entered Elmira Free Academy that fall. In the EFA yearbook for 1920, it notes that senior Rader was “slow and steady” in his academic pursuits, which may account for why he shows up as a sophomore in the 1916, 1917, and 1918 yearbooks. He graduated when he was 20 years old in 1920.

Grammar School, No. 9

A 21st century lens suggests World War I, the 1918 flu pandemic, or lack of academic skills may have slowed his progress, but there’s no evidence for this. There is evidence that he had athletic and management skills. As a sophomore, Rader played on, and was team captain, for the varsity basketball team, something he repeated as a junior when the team had a championship season. As a sophomore, junior, and senior, he competed in the high jump for the track team. As a junior he was manager for the varsity baseball team and served on the school’s Athletic Council. And in his senior year, in addition to athletics, Rader served on the Athletic Council, sang second tenor in the Senior Glee club, and helped organize the Senior Reception, a large formal event. Outside of school he was Captain of Company B 10th regiment Military training commission. The wide range of his activities looks familiar to any current student applying to college. The description next to his senior portrait says that despite taking his time with academics “(h)e intends, however, to go to college…” which he did.  He enrolled and graduated from Syracuse University. So if Rader was the baseball manager, but didn't play for the school’s baseball team how was it he earned a berth as a pitcher for the 1921 Pittsburgh Pirates?


Apparently Rader showed such athletic promise and pitching prowess, he'd been been recruited and played for the Arctic League, a local semi-pro team. Articles in the Elmira Star Gazette praised his pitching, cool headedness, and overall potential for success in the game. The reporter also wrote of comments his father made that nothing would interfere with his son’s college aspirations.

Rader was 6’ 2” and 185 lbs.  Described as “husky” for his time, it was his left-handed pitching that earned him his nickname. Crowds would gather to watch him pitch. It was also his powerful southpaw style that brought in major league recruiters. Impressed, they offered Rader a spot on the 1921 Pittsburgh Pirates team. The 1921 season was notable for another reason. It was the year professional games were broadcast using the new medium of radio, and the  Pirates' games were among the first to hit the airwaves. 

When the twenty-year old joined the team, he proved in practice he could hit and throw with both hands. Things looked very promising. On July 18th, 1921, Rader made his debut in the seventh inning of a game against the New York Giants. He gave up two hits but kept the Giants scoreless. The Pirates went on to win the game that night. Later, two of his teammates and two of his opponents from that game were inducted into the Hall of Fame. In October the Giants won the 1921 World Series against the New York Yankees.


In February of 1922, Rader was traded to the Minneapolis Millers, a minor league team for “more schooling.” He never played for Millers, apparently unhappy with how he was treated. The feeling must have been mutual since he was placed on a voluntary retired list that May. He approached the Arctics about playing in Elmira again, but was turned down by the manager when his salary request was deemed “too high.”

In the fall of 1921 Rader entered Syracuse University. His affiliation with a professional team however came with restrictions. He was prohibited to play with the university baseball team. He studied business administration, was active in the Square and Compass club, manager of the Boar’s Head Dramatic Society, and a member of Beta Theta Pi, an honorary accounting fraternity. When he was a junior he was appointed team manager. 

Rader graduated from Syracuse in 1926 and in 1931, he married twenty-six year old Annette J. Cullen from a suburb of New York City. A year later their only child, a daughter, was born and Rader worked for the New York Telephone Company. They lived in Rockville Center, on Long Island, NY. The last reference to him playing ball shows up in a small article that mentions him playing for the 1931 Red Stars, a team sponsored by Macy’s. 

Here the trail ends. Rader died in 1975 with no obituary printed in the newspapers. An online search brings up a picture of him wearing a Pirates ball cap. This picture was added just a few years ago.

What circumstances stopped him from excelling as a ball player? Was he able to pursue his interests in managing and leadership the rest of his life? And what advice would he give to young players today? One can only dream.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Revisiting Juneteenth

by Susan Zehnder, Education Director

(This is an updated repost of something published last year)

From WENY

Juneteenth is a celebration and things will be even more festive at this year’s Juneteenth festivals. Not only does it fall on a Saturday, and we are coming out of pandemic restrictions, but days ago it was officially recognized as the country’s 11th Federally observed holiday. It passed with bipartisan support. Because of this, I chose to update a blog I did last year and post this quick recap of the holiday's origins. 

The holiday name refers to the day it happened. On June 19th in 1865, two months after the last significant battles of the Civil War ended, Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas.

In two months, the men had traveled 460 miles coming from Mobile, Alabama. They covered eight miles a day. Usually, troops covered 15-30 miles per day, so it was a slow journey. The news they brought to Galveston quickly changed lives and history, giving cause for celebration. For two months earlier the Confederate leader of the Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered, the American Civil War was now over, and all enslaved people were to be freed.

Two years before this, Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Under his presidential order, “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are and henceforth shall be free” and the proclamation encouraged all rebellious states to rejoin the Union. Lincoln intended to win the war while preserving the Union. In the end, no southern states joined the Union, and his proclamation did not actually free any enslaved people at the time. It still allowed slave-holding states, fighting on the side of the Union, to retain slaves. It also did not require areas held by the Union to free enslaved people. However, it did allow freed slaves to join the Union army, an army desperately short of soldiers.

The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is how it became a catalyst in changing the US Constitution. It was instrumental in passing the 13th (1865), 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Constitutional amendments. These amendments address the abolishment of slavery; the granting of citizenship to former slaves; and prohibition of states from denying citizenship to former slaves.

In 1861, Texas had declared secession from the United States and joined the Rebel cause. Soldiers wanting to fight for Texas, headed east, and almost no battles were fought on Texas soil. The two-year gap between Lincoln’s proclamation and Granger’s delivery of the news in 1865 brought little change to the institution of slavery in Texas. By the time the official word arrived in Galveston, new restrictions had already been put in place. These included forbidding formerly enslaved people to “travel on public thoroughfares unless they had passes or permits from their employers.” Despite these restrictions, and facing possible fines, Black people gathered and celebrated.

Juneteenth is sometimes called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Cel-Liberation Day. Since 1865 it has been celebrated in various communities throughout the nation. Now it’s a national holiday. 

In Chemung County, Juneteenth celebrations started being observed in 1993, and have been observed ever since. Last year the event was virtual, so this year’s theme, “Devoted to Unity” is all about being a community. To find out more about this year’s event highlights and performers, visit the Juneteenth facebook page. Celebrations will take place in Elmira’s Ernie Davis Park with a central stage for musical acts and performances. There will be vendors and lots of food. Past celebrations have included prayers led by Black ministers, patriotic demonstrations, Juneteenth history, and exhibitions by local groups. This year the event is adding a pop-up vaccination site, something we hope will be gone in the future.

The news that arrived in Galveston more than 155 years ago is part of our nation’s complicated history. Being reminded that the past informs the future can sometimes be worth a second read.

 

 


Monday, June 14, 2021

The Optimist Club

 By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

On the evening of June 22, 1972, the Elmira Pioneers were supposed to play Three Rivers at Dunn Field. Hurricane Agnes had other plans. She rained out the game and then flooded out the stadium. By the time her floodwaters receded, Dunn Field was a mess and the Elmira Pioneers were homeless. The last time that had happened in 1946, it was well over a month before the Pioneers were able to play there again. This time, though, they made it home in record time thanks to the help of five special women.

1972 had already been a bit of a rough year for the Pioneers. Years of falling attendance had lead the Kansas City Royals to drop them as a farm team. The new owners set the ambitious goal of 100,000 fans in attendance for the season, painting “100,000 or bust” on the back fence. Agnes’s floodwaters washed away portions of the fences in left and right field leaving only “000 or bust” behind. In the aftermath, eight inches of silt covered the field and mud coated much of the stadium seating. The concession stand was filled with mud and rotted food and the clubhouse wasn’t much better.  Much of the team’s equipment was ruined too. Some 60 dozen balls were lost, along with all the team’s gloves and most of the bats. On the plus side, team manager Len Johnson and his wife Alice were able to salvage and wash the team’s uniforms. They also temporarily housed players Carl Richardson, Dennis Queen, and Harry Shaughnessy whose homes had been destroyed by the flood.

Surveying the damage, team owners Kip Horsburgh and Carl Fazio didn’t have much hope in getting back into Dunn Field before August. They hadn’t counted on Alice Johnson and her friends. As the team played away game after away game, Alice Johnson, Jan Kern, Vicki Detter, Cathy Eldridge, and Marianne Relic did everything they could to bring the team home. Johnson, Kern, Detter, and Eldridge all had husbands on the team and they wanted them back. Marianne Relic worked as a secretary for Horsburgh and Fazio, but was no less determined. The team owners dubbed them The Optimist Club. Together, the five of them hosed down the seating, scrubbed bathrooms, and cleaned just about everything. They had help from the Elmira Parks Department, which worked on clearing and replanting the field, and some prisoners from the Elmira Correctional Facility, who helped with some of the heavy lifting.  In an interview, Alice Johnson claimed that her babysitter had put in 160 hours of work minding her kids while she and the other ladies cleaned. 

The Optimists at work, courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette

 All their hard work paid off. On July 18, the Elmira Pioneers returned to Dunn Field for their first home game in weeks. They played a double header against the Reading Phillies before a crowd of 1,177 fans. It was the highest turn out of the season thus far. They won the first game and lost the second. In between the two, the team honored the Optimist Club with special jackets and a round of applause. 

Detter, Relic, Eldridge, & Johnson, courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette