Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Noel, The Lewiston Library Cat

In Christmas, Lewiston Public Library on December 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm
Noel and her kittens at the Lewiston Public Library  April 1971

Noel and her kittens at the Lewiston Public Library
April 1971

Years ago cats were a welcome fixture in public libraries throughout the country.  No one seemed to mind having them around and it might be mentioned that they loved the intellectual atmosphere–as well as the cozy alcoves that book places seem to provide.  Lewiston had Noel.  Most people I mention Noel to remember her fondly.  She appeared out of a winter storm one December night back in 1970.  Mrs. Scipione, Lewiston librarian, didn’t have the heart to leave her out in the cold and she welcomed her inside.  Noel decided that, even as the storm eventually lifted, the library was the perfect home.

Although Noel spent most of her day strolling through the old stacks of books, her favorite moments were when the children came into the library.  Many a Lewiston child looked forward to getting their homework done with Noel–for she would find a spot on top of the tables that they worked at.

By spring time it became apparent that Noel was going to have kittens.  On March 11, 1971, the checkout area of the Lewiston Library was transformed into a maternity ward.  The staff stayed after hours to assist Noel as she gave birth to four healthy little kittens.  Eventually all of the kittens found homes and Noel continued as the official “Library Cat” of the Lewiston Library.  According to an article printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette, April 1, 1971, “…in her official capacity she is providing a learning experience for children who are not allowed to have pets at home. At the Lewiston Library they can learn from their own experiences how to treat an animal properly and how, in turn she will react to kindness.”

Today, things are quite different.  It is unimaginable that a librarian will ever welcome a cat in out of storm again.  There are many rules against such things.  Our world is one of security systems and horrendous feline allergies…and the stories of the library cats are merely fairy tales we read to our children on cold winter’s nights.

Please let us know of your own library cat story.  Are there any library cats left or have they gone the way of the dinosaur?

Is there a Santa Claus?

In Christmas on December 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Virginia's letterFrancisPharcellusChurchVIRGINIA1-popup155px-Yes,Virginia,ThereIsASantaClausClipping

The original editorial appeared in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897. Laura Virginia O’Hanlon was the daughter of a coroner’s assistant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She was only eight years old when she asked her father if Santa really did exist. He sent her query on to The Sun and the rest is history.

It was Francis P. Church, an editor at The Sun, that took on the little girl’s question. He had been a war correspondent during the Civil War and it is said that his work during that bloody conflict left him a bit sentimental. His heartfelt response to young Virginia became the most reprinted editorial of the English language.

Above is the original copy of Virginia’s letter (courtesy PBS). When Virginia’s great granddaughter brought the scrapbook with the letter written in Virginia’s own hand to Antiques Roadshow, it was said that it’s value was in the $20-30,000 range.

One little girl’s quest for the truth and one writer’s imaginative response–telling us all that there IS magic in this world–has become a cornerstone of American history and culture. Because in the end we all want to believe.

This is December 24, 1907, Niagara Falls Gazette.


A Christmas Miracle in Niagara Falls

In Christmas, Off to War on December 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

John L. Madera

It was shortly after the bombings at Pearl Harbor when Mr. and Mrs. Fred Madera, of 501 Hyde Park Blvd, received the news by telegram.

“The Navy department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, John Loughton Madera, seaman second class, USN, was lost in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his coutnry.  The department extends to you its sincerest sympathy in your great loss…”

John was a young man, not yet twenty, and he had been recently employed with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a latrine orderly in Niagara Falls.  It was stated in the Niagara Falls Gazette, that Seaman Madera had the distinct honor of being “the first Niagara Falls man officially reported killed in action in the war since the United States entered...”

But the strangest thing happened and it must have come like a mother’s prayer on the evening of December 16.   Another telegram arrived.  Posted by airmail from the Fleet post office, Pearl Harbor, it said the following:

” Everything is ok with me.  Please dont worry about anything.  I will write a letter later when I get a chance….”

The letter was from John, himself.  Because of Navy censorship it was impossible to determine the time or date the stamp but local postal officials believed that the postcard would have required at least three days to be received here in Niagara Falls from Pearl Harbor.  In other words, it had been written AFTER the attack.

John’s family was not new to this sort of thing.  His father, Frederick George Madera, was a hero of the First World War.  He had served with the Canadian and American armies and had received numerous decorations including a Purple Heart for wounds received in action.  Following the war he was very active in veterans organizations.  He was the organizer and the first president of Branch No. 51 of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League.  John’s brother, Frederick, also served in the Army during the Second World War.

After a little investigation it was found that other cases of men “killed in action” were also erroneous.  The Navy’s records were incomplete and casualty reports were often wrong.  As some of the enlisted men had neglected to report back to their officers during the attack, they were assumed dead–especially if they were known to have been on or near ships which were damaged or destroyed.  If there was no record stating that they had reported to officers, it was assumed that they were missing or dead.  Following the complaints that naturally arose from this situation, the Navy “promised more information within a few days.”

But John L. Madera–our Niagara Falls guy–was very much alive.  He survived that fateful day in December and served faithfully throughout the war.  He lived a long life and passed away in South Carolina on September 27, 1998.

And it might be said that that there was a woman in Niagara Falls named Grace Madera, the mother of a young man reported dead, who believed in miracles that Christmas of 1941.