Magical Childhood

Florida Man Recalls Fond Memories Of City

2014: After finding childhood friends on Facebook 30 years following his departure from Jamestown, Danny and the group flew back home for a fun reunion. Pictured from left, Troy Raymond, Trevor Hepler, Ryan Kelly, Jason Clark and Tara Chase, along with some of the guy's wives. Submitted photo

Danny Triplett moved to Jamestown when he was just four years old, but moved away eight years later. Eight years is a short amount of time to an adult, but to a child, it is a lifetime.

The 45-year old Florida man recently made a post to the “You Know You Are From Jamestown, New York When…” Facebook page telling about his fond memories of growing up in the Western New York city he called home. In his post he included a picture taken during a trip back home in 2008 of his daughters and himself standing under a City of Jamestown sign. The girls, Megan and Melanie, were nine and eleven years old at the time.

“They had always been intrigued by my childhood stories of Jamestown and the brick streets, rolling hills, The Lady in Glass, the alleys, the big historic houses,” Triplett said in his lengthy post.

He went on to mention numerous area landmarks, such as Thunder Rocks at Allegany State Park, Chautauqua Gorge where he recalled sliding down slippery rocks, Long Point State Park and Midway, which now is a state park. He listed businesses like Rainier’s Market with his boyhood memory focusing on the candy counter, AJ’s Texas Hots and one of the three Super Duper Supermarkets.

Locations, such as Stadium Hill, Allen Park and its bandshell and Chautauqua Belle or as he referred to it “the steamship on the lake” were also mention. He remembered the Chadakoin River was next to the former Hills Department Store, the building where the Riverwalk Center is now located. He correctly put Sambo’s Restaurant, the predecessor to Friendly’s Restaurant, in its correct location across the street from Hill’s. He made reference to the Prendergast Library, as well.

Danny Triplett relived childhood memories with his wife, Nellie Triplett and their daughters, Megan and Melanie, when they spent a day in 2008 splashing and having fun in the Chautauqua Gorge. Submitted photo

Activities such as riding his bike through Lakeview Cemetery, catching crawdads in an unnamed creek and the tunnel “we used to walk through with water underneath Willard Street” at Willow Street, also, made the fond memories list.

His dad’s church at the top of Willard Street, the houses he lived in at 38 Liberty St. and later the church parsonage at 313 S. Main St., as well as Bethel Baptist Christian Academy on Hunt Road, where he attended kindergarten through third grade, made the cut. People such as his piano teacher Helga Hulse, Don Erickson, who he referred to as “Candy Man,” and the “old” neighbors came to mind. An Amish family named Yoder, their farm and the horse and buggy they used for transportation all made his post.

“They (Megan and Melanie) loved all of the outdoor excursions we went on,” said the proud dad. “I took them to just about every place I mentioned in the post. They loved running down the steep brick streets and picking up the little “helicopter” leaf things and letting them twist in a circle down to the ground. Florida is mostly flat and we don’t have the same variety of plant life as up north,”

Within minutes after the pastor’s son hit “send”, other members of the Facebook group began to reminisce along with Triplett, bringing up their memories of the stops he mentioned. Some commended him for his great summary while others added places he did not speak about. Some shared that Mrs. Hulse had been their piano teacher, too and talked about playing duets on her matching grand pianos. The Florida dad was amazed to hear his piano teacher, from nearly 40 years ago, was still teaching. He asked the woman who revealed this to give Hulse his warmest regards and said he still has the piano book on which she wrote “Master Daniel Triplett in 1981.”

Another woman showed the same degree of amazement as did Triplett, over the music teacher and sent greetings, as well. Still others got involved in the days long conversation telling how Hulse is the sweetest person they have known. Many commented on the lifelong appreciation of music they were given by the elderly woman and how she made them a better pianist. Triplett wished a short documentary could be made on the beloved teacher’s life and her work.

Roger and Carol Triplett with their grown sons. Pictured from left is Mark, David, Joe and Danny, who with their families reside within an hour of each other in Florida. Submitted photo

The old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” rang true with most of the posts from other out of towners. A few women admitted that the post made them miss home. One man had been away for 30 years and said he still missed Jamestown. Several commended Triplett for sharing Jamestown with his family. A grandmother thanked him for the reminders of places she would put on a list before bringing her kids and grandkids to Jamestown this summer.

Comments like “wonderful place to grow up,” “wouldn’t change a thing about growing up in Jamestown” and “a great place to raise a family” were typed.

A woman, who was a latecomer to the conversation, asked if Triplett had an older brother and if his father was a minister. She thought she lived next door to the family’s Liberty Street house when she was a “little girl.” She referred to Marie and Dicky, two children who lived in the apartment below hers. Triplett excitedly replied, telling her her memory was correct and how he had connected with other neighbors, named Dickey and Rachel, on Facebook just last year.

The former neighbors continued the conversation and seemed to enjoy talking about a muddy area under an overhang and how they had “mud ball wars.”

“It’s like one big neighborhood reunion. I could go on for hours without end and often think I should take the time to write it all down for my children to pass on to their children one day,” says the dad. “And my dad keeps surprising me with (memories) I’ve never heard before.”

Megan and Melanie Triplett's visit to the Prendergast Library in 2008, a place that held fond memories for their dad. Submitted photo

Later when Daniel Davis joined the conversation, Helga Hulse became the main subject once again. Davis told about singing at Camp Street Methodist Church when she was the choir director. He shared how she borrowed music and robes from the church and took them to a prison “taking Jesus to those who needed support and guidance.” The conversation went on for a couple more comments that revered the lady.

Eventually, his childhood friend, Troy Raymond, joined the conversation telling how he had recently enjoyed being back home at Christmas for the first time in about 25 years. He mentioned how much he was looking forward to a reunion taking place in 2020 with Triplett and old friends from Pastor Roger Triplett’s Jamestown Bible Baptist Church, a repeat of a reunion that was held in 2014 when twelve friends and their spouses attended.

Current and former residents took an instant trip down memory lane, with some renewed friendships, covering years of wonderful memories.

Although he has not brought his daughters, now in their early twenties, back to the area, he would like to take them to the new National Comedy Center.

“I’m sure at their ages now, in their early twenties, they’d probably get a kick out of it. I don’t think they’d want to go spend hours researching at the Prendergast Library like I would.

As I read the memories that made so many people happy, I felt they needed to be shared where others, who may not be in the Facebook group, could enjoy them. I am familiar with and remember most of what was discussed, but I also remember a Jamestown from before Danny’s time, when beautiful old buildings filled Brooklyn Square, buildings that held fond memories for an earlier generation. I remember seeing people with their arms full of packages coming and going from the businesses before the stores moved away from the downtown area. I remember coffee shops and restaurants located on every block. I remember long lunch counters with swivel stools in various stores where many shoppers stopped before heading home. I remember gas stations on both ends of Third Street, with more sprinkled here and there in the outer fringes of downtown. I remember an active bus system that brought people from and returned them to the residential neighborhoods and the small communities along Chautauqua Lake.

Although I would love to revisit those times, I have to admit the excitement I feel when I drive through downtown Jamestown and see renewed life, something that was almost nonexistent for many years. The National Comedy Center is exciting, but even more so are the once dusty, dark plate glass windows that are now clean and lighted with people moving around behind them. Upward shining lights have been installed to the front of several older buildings highlighting their architectural beauty.

Large buildings that seemed impossible to bring back are now either open for business or will be soon. Upper floors that appeared to be abandoned are now in use. It is fun to see the innovative ideas people have for bringing life back which was once thought impossible. I am excited for what is yet to come.

So, thank you Danny Triplett for reminding us about what Jamestown once was, what it is becoming and about the future possibilities that are yet to come.

Triplett’s family, including Carol, his mother, older brother Mark and two younger brothers Joe and David, who were born in WCA Hospital, moved to Florida in 1985. He owns an estate liquidation and personal property appraisal business and is married to Nellie Triplett, who is an oncology nurse. His daughters are attending college.