Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

In Memory of JFK

In Niagara Falls on August 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I had always heard stories about this wonderful little marionette show that my uncle and my cousins had staged many years ago. I happened to run into a little piece in an old Niagara Falls Gazette article that covered the story. Unfortunately the article is missing part of the paragraph…however, it isn’t hard to figure out what this is about. This is the story of a few young boys who came up with a creative way to honor the recently assassinated President Kennedy.  They made their own puppets and scenery,  wrote up a script and then invited the neighborhood to watch their show. About thirty children attended the program (which was held in my grandparents’ garage on Woodlawn Avenue in Niagara Falls). All of the money that the boys raised went directly to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Fund.

Marionette Show in Niagara Falls

Marionette Show in Niagara Falls
September 14, 1964

Niagara Falls, New York, Deaths, 1858

In Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls Gazette Deaths on August 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

The following link is to deaths printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette during 1858.

Deaths 1858

Please note the definitions for these abbreviated terms as they may be helpful:

Inst.–this means the present month

Ult.–this means the previous month

Niagara Falls, New York, Marriages, 1858

In Marriages, Niagara Falls on August 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

This file includes all marriages published in the Niagara Falls Gazette during the year 1858.  There is an alphabetical index preceding the notices.

Marriages 1858

Was the Underground Railroad actually a Railroad in Niagara?

In Niagara Falls, The African Americans of Niagara Falls, The Underground Railroad on August 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm
Underground Railroad, September 22, 1858 Niagara Falls Gazette

Underground Railroad, September 22, 1858
Niagara Falls Gazette

Perhaps in Niagara the Underground Railroad was actually a railroad. 

This interesting little piece was printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette on September 22, 1858.

For historians, these two sentences imply so much.  Who were the “four highly colored chattels?”  Who were the suspicious railroad officials?   And, most importantly…who wrote this? It is quite apparent that he (or she) knew all the little secrets of Niagara’s role in this most significant movement.  William Pool was the editor of the Niagara Falls Gazette during this time period.  He was quite active in the Whig and Republican parties and overt in his anti-slavery views.  Perhaps it was him?

William Pool, editor of the Niagara Falls Gazette

William Pool, editor of the Niagara Falls Gazette

This piece also makes it quite obvious that at least one line of the network ran through the railway lines from Rochester to Niagara Falls–with Frederick Douglass at the helm– and on across the Suspension Bridge.  This would have been the Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge, the second suspension bridge in Niagara Falls.

Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge

Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge

Apparently, the world’s first railway suspension bridge served many purposes–including assisting in the freedom of man.

Some Vintage Ads from (Fortuna’s) Deluxe Restaurant

In Niagara Falls, Restaurants of Niagara Falls, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on August 13, 2013 at 9:10 pm

The De Luxe Grill was an Italian-American restaurant located at 827 19th Street, Niagara Falls, owned and operated by my great grandfather, Francesco Fortuna–an Italian immigrant to the Niagara Falls area. Born in L’Amatrice, in the province of Abruzzo, my great grandfather had run away from home while just a young boy to apprentice with his uncle in Rome–who had been a chef at a well known restaurant. He brought his passion for the culinary arts to the New World and the De Luxe Grill was born in 1946. My grandmother, Gina (Jean Ann), worked at Bell Aircraft during the War and handed over all of her checks to her parents to help purchase the building on 19th Street. Most of the family worked in the restaurant and my sweet uncle, Victor Ventresca, a returned veteran of the Second World War, was officially my grandfather’s business partner. Through Uncle Victor came the prized liquor license. The restaurant was located deep in the heart of Niagara’s “Little Italy.” It is still in operation today thanks to my cousin, Joseph Fortuna…the third generation to run Fortuna’s Restaurant.

In the process of researching for a new book, “Buon Appetito; the families of Niagara’s early Italian culinary traditions,” I came upon these wonderful vintage advertisements from the Niagara Falls Gazette.

There will be much more to share in the future on all of Niagara’s Italian culinary institutions!

Grand Opening--January 1946

Grand Opening–January 1946


September 1946

September 1946


March 1, 1947

March 1, 1947


January 29, 1954

January 29, 1954


April 1955

April 1955


April 21, 1960...Closed for Remodeling

April 21, 1960…Closed for Remodeling






Lewiston High School in the 1930’s

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, School Days on August 12, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Lewiston High School

Recently I came upon some vintage Lewiston High School papers from the 1930’s.  There are so many familiar family names and stories of local interest.

Check out these digitized links to  “L.H.S. News Real”….Lewiston High School, 1931 and 1932.

L.H.S. News Real Oct 1931

L.H.S. News Real Nov. 1931

L.H.S. News Real Dec. 1931

L.H.S. News Real Dec. 18, 1931

L.H.S. News Real Feb 1932

L.H.S. News Real March 1932

Lewiston’s Art Festivals

In Lewiston on August 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

This weekend is yet another wonderful Lewiston Art Festival!

Recently while rummaging through files I found past issues of, “What’s Going on in Lewiston,” that contain stories about the first art festivals in Lewiston.  The early art festivals were sponsored by the Lewiston Business and Professional Association and known as the “Historical Lewiston Outdoor Art Festival.”   Today the Lewiston Art Festival is made possible by the Lewiston Council on the Arts and sponsored by Modern Recycling, KeyBank, Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, Art Service Initiative, and Tin Pan Alley.

Take a peek below at some old issues of “What’s Going on in Lewiston” and make sure you stop by the Lewiston Art Festival this weekend: August 10 & 11, 10am to 6pm.

Art Festival

August 1967


Art Festival 2

August 1968

Lewiston’s First School-House

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, School Days on August 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

It is believed that the first school-house in Niagara County opened in Lewiston in 1806. A Scotsman, by the name of Watson, who had previously served in the British Army, taught school in an old log house that was also partially inhabited by a family. By 1807, Jonas Harrison took over as school master. He was also Lewiston’s first lawyer.

Unfortunately as the War of 1812 swept through Niagara, leaving much of Lewiston scorched, many of the citizens fled the scene. As they began to return and rebuild, a new school-house was erected near present day Center Street.  School District No. 1, town of Cambria, was formed in 1816.  On February 27, 1818, the Town of Lewiston separated from Cambria and became known as Lewiston.  It was decided at a meeting held at the infamous, Hustler’s Tavern, that the site of the stone building already “begun and intended for a school house…shall be and remain the site of the school house for District No. 1 in the Town of Lewiston.”

Some interesting facts about the school:

  • In 1820 it was voted to pay the teacher $16 per month and have him “board with each family in proportion to every scholar each individual family sent to school.”
  •  In 1824 it was voted to have two teachers; one man and a woman named, Miss Brown.
  • In 1827, the number of children of school age, 5-15 years, was 142 and the number in school was 95.
  • School was in session 12 months per year
  • School funds raised by tuition, taxation and an annual income from the ferry that worked between Lewiston and Queenston, Ontario
Lewiston's Old Brick School

Lewiston’s Old Brick School…As you can see from the newspaper photograph the old cemetery can be seen in the background.

The Lewiston Public Library has in its collection transcribed records of the original School Fund ledgers dating back to April 16, 1816.  The library also houses the original “Catalogue of Books.”  Please click on the link below to view the Catalogue of Books, 1874.

Catalogue of Books


Searching for some old friends…

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, School Days on August 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Recently, while cleaning out my files, I came across some interesting histories to share. And as summer comes to a grinding halt, it seems quite appropriate to tell the tale of Lewiston’s early schools.

But first…the story of the war refugee and his tie to our schools here in Lewiston…

Following the Second World War, F.  Janovsky, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, found himself in Germany in several camps for Displaced Persons. Many years later he came across something that triggered his memory and made him think of the kind children from Lewiston, New York. It was a photograph of the old Lewiston Union School. He never came here to visit, but he was forever grateful for all the nice things that had been sent to him and for what this photograph represented to him–the kindness of Americans.

Somehow, life ordered him off to Australia, and it was from this island nation that he sent a letter to Lewiston–along with the yellowed photograph–hoping it would make it to the old school (with special instructions to “please direct to town library” if the school was no longer in existence). And so this is how the Lewiston Library obtained this special heart-felt letter.

I don’t know for sure if anyone had taken him up on the offer to become “pen pals.” The letter was postmarked March 3, 1992. I was not a staff member at the time, so I am unsure of any details.   I have provided below a copy of the letter and the photograph. Perhaps some present day Lewiston students would like to try to send a letter to “F. Janovsky” of Australia.

Letter from Australia

Letter from F. Janovsky


Lewiston Union School

Lewiston Union School about 1949