The past ten days I have been back to my hometown more than I had in the past 15 years, since my grandmother’s death. It has been heartwarming to be somewhere familiar, but not familiar, as all small towns change.
Last Thursday night, I went down to go to dinner with friends. We were scheduled to meet at 6 for dinner, staying for a former classmate’s show at Tioga Trails Cafe. I, due to kids having to be places also, had my daughter drop me off at 5:15. I knew I would have some time to kill but figured a draft – they have Ithaca Brewing Company‘s Cascazilla Red on tap – and some of those sweet potato fries I wrote about yesterday would take up the time.
Instead, I found myself searching through my purse for paper and a pen. I started writing on the back of an envelope and then on a piece of scrap paper that April gave me. It is amazing where inspiration comes to me. Below is what I wrote that evening and what may some day lead me to research and more writing.
Back at Tioga Trails Cafe and, oh, the memories! While now a restaurant, I remember coming in here as a kid. At first, while did join the other kids in the neighborhood in walking the six blocks to school – now a senior living complex, I was not allowed to cross to this side of Main Street. The side streets were relatively harmless, except for crossing North Avenue. Crossing Main Street in Owego, New York now may not be the big time but it was in the mid-60’s.
You see, my aunt, actually my great-aunt, worked here. As long as I could remember, this location was a furniture store. Bern Furniture was a huge business in Owego. Not huge like IBM, but it linked my two families – my home in Owego and my father in Norwich. There were two or three other locations west of Owego, where I think I recall the “home” store being, and at least one in the Triple Cities, in Binghamton. I even recall, as a couple married almost ten years, receiving a gift from Bern Furinture in the early 90’s.
Anyway, I was floored when the email came for my 30th high school reunion. The main event was dinner at a place called Tioga Trails Cafe. Since I was already online, I searched for a web site and found that this place was indeed the same location that, at one time in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s was a hotel which distant family helped build/run/own (here is where research comes in). Bern furniture would locate in this building eventually.
This corner, in my lifetime, was a hopping place. It sits a block from the courthouse, near Route 96. It sat directly across from JJ Newberry’s – a WalMart precursor yet nowhere near the size or volume.
I hope to do research on the family connection to the building and on other parts of historic Owego and keep writing, combining historical fact with my memories.