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A Good Man

Sharing Nine Decades Of Life In?Little Valley

Chuck Huntington of Little Valley is taking his nineties like a champ. He is still gardening and feeding the birds, taking his weekly drives to purchase baked goods, eggs and cheese from the Amish and never misses church. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Shortly after beginning a visit to the Little Valley home of Chuck Huntington, I knew I had met a good man. It was clear he was a good father and grandfather, respected his fellow man, took care of the creatures in nature and was a hard worker.

“I was born in my mother’s bedroom on Mill Street in East Randolph on Jan. 14, 1926,” says the third born into a family of four sons.

Later his family moved to the house across the street, then to Elm Creek Road and then back into the village of East Randolph to Williams Street. He started school in East Randolph in a building that has served many purposes, most recently converted from a Moose Club to a bar and restaurant.

“When the teacher asked what my name was, I said it was Chuck. She said, ‘No, it’s Charles.’ I went home and asked my mother if she knew my name was Charles.”

A few years later he transferred to the newly-built, big, red-brick, building on the hill that is now known as Randolph Central High School.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Huntington on their wedding day in 1947. They celebrated 70 years of marriage before Mrs. Huntington passed away. Submitted photo

“I remember the Chamberlain Institute before they tore it down to build the high school,” he says.

As a child he enjoyed riding his bike, trapping and fishing and had a paper route. He joined the United States Navy when he was 17 years old, the first of his brothers to join the armed forces. Later the others joined the Army, with the three oldest serving during World War II.

He served as the captain’s orderly during his stint on the USS Cebu, a repair ship, which was named after an island in the Philippines. On a day when he was sent to deliver a package to the USS President Hayes, he witnessed an explosion of an ammunition ship that was very near the Cebu. Its entire crew was lost, with the exception of six men who had been sent to retrieve mail. His sister ship, which was anchored between the two, lost half of its crew and six men died on the Cebu.

“It would have been seven if I hadn’t been sent to the President Hayes. I had just gotten back into my boat from the Hayes when the ship blew.”

The door where he stood while awaiting his orders was riddled with holes from the explosion.

Chuck Huntington enlisted in the US Navy when he was 17 years old. Submitted photo

He tells about an incident that happened when he and many other sailors were watching a movie while perched on mop buckets. At the same time as the movie was being shown, on a nearby island, workmen were setting off dynamite while preparing for a dock installation. The startled, young sailors jumped up, knocking the pails over, which sounded like shrapnel hitting the ship.

“I hid under the only thing I could get under, a rack which held acetylene bottles,” he said while confessing his choice wasn’t a good place to be.

Sailors weren’t allowed to share their location, but when he was in Japan, Huntington knew there was a chance he might be able to see his brother. He wrote a letter in code asking about his Aunt Nellie, which he did not have. The brother figured out what he was trying to tell him and found his ship.

He recalls a time when it was his turn to clean the bunkroom and after he had finished, a sailor through a cigarette butt on the floor. When Huntington told him to pick up the discarded butt, the man said “You can’t make me.” When the litterer was told he would be reported, he threatened to break every bone in the sailor’s body. Huntington walked away and later returned to find the butt had been removed.

After World War II, when the sailors who had been away from home the longest were about to be discharged, the man from Cattaraugus County was taught how to cut hair by the barber he would be replacing. Interestingly, he called Gowanda his home.

USS Cebu was a repair ship during World War II. Submitted photo

A few years ago, Huntington was able to relive a few hours of Navy life when he, not only toured his grandson’s aircraft carrier, USS Harry S. Truman, but was taken 40 miles out to sea while planes landed on the flight deck.

When he was growing up, his father worked as a machinist for Cattaraugus Cutlery and his mother worked at Randolph Children’s Home and volunteered for the Salvation Army. He remembers filling in for his mother once at the Children’s Home. He also remembers helping a local barber one day named Guy Beach by cutting the children’s hair. He went to beauty school in Buffalo under the GI Bill and then opened a beauty shop in Little Valley, but closed it after three years. He smiled when he said he wasn’t a talker, a skill required when working as a hairdresser.

After that he went to work at Little Valley Cutlery earning 93 cents per hour.

“That’s when I built my house, believe it or not.”

He used the $100 he received when mustering out of the Navy to buy a plot of land that was a little more than an acre in size.

“I got a pick and shovel and started digging. I built the living room, kitchen and bathroom.”

As his children started arriving, his father reminded him he had loaned some of his other sons money for college and offered a $1,500 loan to his third son. This enabled the young father to do more building, allowing him to borrow the rest of the needed money from the bank.

He dug out the bank behind his home by hand and hauled the dirt away in a wheelbarrow. The foundation was poured by hand, as well. He added three bedrooms, but removed a partition after the kids left home leaving him with two. A dining room and garage were added later. When he poured the concrete for the garage, he poured it in layers creating the appearance of long, flat blocks. Occasionally, passersby stop to ask where they might purchase the same blocks.

He left the cutlery factory after three years to take a better paying job at Steel Partitions in Falconer. After his job came to an end with steel Partitions, he took a job with Hall Baking Company delivering baked goods door to door. On a very snowy day an experienced driver was showing him the route in Chautauqua County, the truck would not start after stopping at a farm in Westfield. When they popped the hood, they discovered a snow-packed engine from driving through numerous snowdrifts. The kind farmer invited them to spend the night.

When the baked goods route came to an end, due to the company going out of business, he worked for Little Valley Electric Company for one summer before securing a job as a corrections officer with Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department. He was able to retire from that job after 20 years of service.

“Dad had a good rapport with the prisoners. He used to get Christmas cards from them,” says his only son, Jim Huntington.

Today the Little Valley resident fully enjoys the beautiful three acres of land on which his home is located. His house is surrounded by flowers, bushes and trees. Several bird feeders are set up near the back deck for year-round feeding. He keeps a record of the birds seen each day. Occasionally, deer, turkey and bear visit the property.

The upper tier of lawn is exposed to the sun. It is in this section where he does raised-bed gardening.

“I didn’t have room for a garden, so I had to buy more land,” says the 93-year-old.

“His vegetables are almost twice as big as mine,” said his son.

A cross made by his son-in-law has been placed on the upper level.

The active senior uses his computer throughout the day. He makes weekly trips to a few Amish homes buying bread and cookies from one and eggs from another and on occasion stops at an Amish greenhouse and the cheese factory. He enjoys giving candy bars to the children.

“I started taking candy bars when they had two. Now they’re up to seven or eight,” he says while smiling.

He displays a large collection of chickadee statues on shelves surrounded by plates that have pictures of the small birds. This collection is a reminder of the chickadees that have befriended him over the years, including one that would meet him at the end of the day near the mailbox and sit on his shoulder as he checked for the days mail. It was not unusual to have a few follow him in anticipation of a snack as he walked through his woods. Some of the little birds would eat from his hand.

The industrious man has completed numerous woodworking projects in his workshop. Among them are approximately 30 lamps, several which have been donated to benefits, his entire bedroom suit and at least six electrified doll houses. The variety of little houses include an Amish house, an adobe house, a hunting camp and more. The talented craftsman displays a log prairie church, complete with pews, worshippers, candlesticks, hymnals and a music stand.

He made all of the cabinets in his southwest-themed kitchen. Christy, the couple’s daughter, painted and fired the cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. She also painted the southwest motif on the tiles that cover the countertop and backsplash, as well as a 15-piece tile picture. Both Huntington and his late wife, Joanne, painted the pieces that are displayed on the counters, shelves and walls. A handmade, wooden canister set with unique handles in the shape of adobe buildings dominates a portion of the counter. A pleasant kitchen is the end result of the family members’ talents and efforts.

The elderly man’s grandfather, Charles M. Huntington, is known for carving life-size statues of a giant Indian man and woman which are displayed at the Cattaraugus County Museum in Machias, N.Y. In 1876, as a child, the man witnessed the excavation of a burial mound found on a relative’s property near Randolph. He wrote down the measurement of each bone as two professionals measured and recorded them. The statues were made several decades after their discovery.

This same boy found a stone oven after a storm washed away a creek bank on Elm Creek, also near Randolph. He became an artist, a machinist and invented the paper clip, but could not afford a patent.

The artist’s grandson is a charter member of the Little Valley Lions Club having belonged for 42 years. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Little Valley Garden Club and attends Our Lady of Peace Church in Salamanca.

He lost his beloved Joanne in December 2017 after celebrating 70 years of marriage. They have a son and three daughters, Jim, Jackie, Judy and Christie, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

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