Dorchester Road Revisited
Back in September of this year, I wrote a post about Dorchester Road. In response, I received so many emails from past and current residents of the street regaling me with their sweet memories of growing up here. I decided to take another look at Dorchester Road, and share some of those stories with you today.
Let’s Start with the Original Post
Suzanne, the grandaughter of Leo Stall, a longtime Buffalo pharmacist, sent me this 1929 photo below, which I added to the original post. It’s of Leo and his family. I’m sharing it again because I just think it’s so telling of who the family was. Welcoming, always. That seems to have been, and continues to be the prevailing attitude on the street.
Here is a photo of the Stall family home. For more about them, see the original post.
One of the E.B. Greens
I also heard from Bill Blake, who sent me this photo of the William H. Scott house taken in 1915, when Frederick W. Allan lived in the home. I added this to the original post as well. I love this shot of the home for some reason. Maybe it’s because there is less foliage and no fence. It appears more open and welcoming, perhaps because we can see the home better. Either way, it’s a gorgeous home, and happens to be one of the six E.B. Green homes on the street.
Here is the home today. Still stunning.
I also mentioned in the original post that I’d love to live on Dorchester. I would. So a real estate agent contacted me and told me she had a home to show me. I told her I wasn’t really going to move, but that I’d love to see the home anyway. She was super nice about it, and I went over the next day to see 65 Dorchester. Here are a few photos from the day. The home recently sold to a very lucky buyer, in my opinion.
Very recently, I received an email from a current resident of Dorchester. What a nice woman! This is a quote from a portion of her email:
“…in one of your books about Dorchester Rd, you mentioned a desire to live on our street. I’m writing to tell you that there will be 3-4 homes for sale on the street. 1 currently & others coming on the market soon. I so enjoy your books! I hope to see you as our neighbor!”
You see why I love receiving your emails? What a fantastic street! So welcoming! For all of you Dorchester residents, although I would love to be your neighbor, my husband doesn’t want to leave our current home, and I really like him – soooooo… It’s not in the cards for us to move to Dorchester. For now. Wink, wink.
The Losi Family
Enter the Losi family. Michael was the first family member to comment on the post, in early September. He mentioned that I had brought back bittersweet memories for him. He said he could picture his Mother sitting on the porch at 142 Dorchester, and it made him miss her. That told me, not only that he had lost his Mom, but that he had some beautiful memories on Dorchester that included her. Sweet.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I received another email from Joseph Losi, Michael’s brother. Guess what? Joseph has just bought back the family home at 142 Dorchester, and from what I can tell, the entire family is very excited about it! And why not?
A Bit of History at 142
The Phipps Family
The home at 142 Dorchester was built in 1908, and as early as 1914 Charles R. Phipps lived in the home with his wife, the former Anna Beals and their daughter, Carolyn. Charles came to Buffalo in 1901, like so many people did, and was a superintendent of rolling mills at Lackawanna (later Bethlehem) Steel Company. He retired in 1941. Charles was a photography enthusiast and was a founding member of the Buffalo Camera Club. He was also a member of the Buffalo Masonic Consistory, which was located in the former George Rand mansion and is now part of Canisius High School.
Charles’ wife, Anna, was active in social circles in Buffalo. She was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, which, by the way, was the first women’s club founded by women and run by women, in the country. She entertained frequently in their home at 142, usually hosting lunches, teas and bridge games. Now, this being Dorchester Road, these social events probably were not attended by Buffalo’s most elite but they were listed in the social columns of the newspapers of the day. This means that Charles did very well and was respected, but that Anna was also very well liked. She was also an amateur poet, and a member of the League of American Pen Women. Sweet.
Charles and Anna’s daughter, Carolyn, married Dr. Carl F. Howe, a dentist. The two lived in Ithaca, NY and summered in a cottage in Sheldrake, NY. Dr. Howe passed away at only 42 years old, and there is some evidence that Carolyn came back to 142 to live for at least a short time.
Anna passed away in 1934. Charles followed in 1947 after a lengthy illness.
The Vara Family
Sometime after the death of Charles Phipps, Anthony Vara purchased the home. Anthony was an Inspector for the Sterling Engine Company. Having been wounded twice in France during World War II, Vara was an organizer and a four term commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars John Maxwell Post 452. He was very active in the Republican Party here in Western New York, and was named Mr. Republican in 1979. The photo below appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express on July 18, 1979. Vara is second from the right. Also pictured are Sheriff Kenneth Braun and Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski.
Vara was married to Jennie (Panzica) and had four sons, Alfred, Anthony Jr., Robert and Richard. The family stayed at 142 Dorchester until 1957, when they moved to Hamburg, NY.
Back to the Losi Family
Joseph and Josephine Losi purchased 142 Dorchester in 1958. They stayed twenty years and raised their large Sicilian family here. By large, I mean they had six children, Joanne, Barbara, Anthony (Tony), Patricia, Joseph and Michael. I was able to spend some time speaking with Patricia, Michael and Joseph recently, and they shared some of their experiences growing up on Dorchester. So many of the stories they told me could have been stories of my own childhood, and while I listened, it struck me that so many of you reading this today will probably be able to relate them to your childhood as well.
Let’s take a look.
All three shared their enormous love for their mother, Josephine. Like so many moms, she was the glue that kept the family together and she also kept the home together, working tirelessly to do so. One of the siblings, not mentioning any names, went so far as to call her a goddess.
Pat told me how she remembers her mother bringing the laundry up from the basement and going out to the backyard to hang it. Now there’s a memory our children probably won’t have of us!
Both Patricia and Michael spoke about Josephine’s lilacs and peonies in the yard, and how she loved them. Both must have been popular then, because my Mother too, kept both of these in our yard growing up, and to this day the smell of lilacs reminds me of Mom.
All three spoke of big, extended family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Probably other holidays as well. All three spoke of the extra leaves being put into their large dining room table for these meals. Precious memories.
The table is still in the family, and there is talk of it being returned to 142 someday. Wouldn’t that be nice?
All three siblings mentioned that on the third floor of the home there was an apartment, probably originally the maid’s quarters. There was, however, no separate entrance to these rooms. That did not stop the family from filling them throughout their years there. An aunt lived there, as did different cousins throughout the years. Some of Tony’s friends lived there as well. And so did Joanne as a new bride. Apparently, her husband was drafted and had to leave soon (this was during Viet Nam), so the couple got married and moved in to the third floor apartment at 142. I would imagine this type of thing was pretty common in homes such as this. Especially during war time.
These are a few photos of the apartment on the third floor from the recent real estate listing. Impressive. And perfect for extended family members and friends.
Typical antics of the 60s and 70s
Joseph spoke about talking on the rotary phone back in the day, with the cord pulled around the corner to the basement stairs for privacy. Did any kids not do that in the days before cell phones? Because I know my whole family did. He also remembers riding bikes through the neighborhood, over to Claytons Toy Store on Elmwood, to the Art Gallery, and Delaware Park. Love it.
Michael and Patricia both talked about playing ‘cowboys and indians’ (it wasn’t wrong back then) using the back staircase as their home base. Mike told of Pat’s uncanny ability to make the sound of horses galloping…when Pat mentioned that she had this way of making the sound, she very lovingly said that Michael just loved it, and that’s why she always did it. Hearing the three talk about each other, I’m really feeling the love. This is a close family.
Pat fondly remembers one of her older sisters leaving the back staircase during one of these games and saying to her “Cover me!”, Pat, not knowing any better, threw a blanket over her head, thinking that’s what she meant. Haha! Cute!
She also got me laughing pretty hard while telling me the story of a bat being loose in the house. Their grandmother told them to cover their heads with paper bags, so the bat wouldn’t get caught in their hair. The boys caught the bat, apparently killed it and took it outside and burned it, while doing a ceremonial dance around the garbage can where it burned. Haha! I’m still laughing out loud at this one.
Joseph mentioned that while washing his father’s car one day, it somehow slipped into reverse and rolled into the DiGulio’s fence next door. I cannot imagine what ‘somehow’ meant in this case, but I’m pretty sure somebody was grounded in the Losi home that day. And probably for several days afterward.
Michael told me that their brother Tony, who sadly passed in 2007, used to play basketball in the back yard with Tony Masiello and Rocco Dino, who were high school friends of his. Michael would sneak into the back yard, climb up a telephone pole to get on the garage roof, hide behind the backboard and jump up at the last second and swat the older boys’ shots away from the basket.
You can’t make this stuff up…it’s the type of things kids really did before computer games. And if you are of a certain age, you know it’s true.
Pat spoke of stealing away to the back porch to sit and read a book, just for the opportunity to be alone. Sounds like something I’d do. She said she was quieter than her brothers, and didn’t spend as much time rough housing in the neighborhood. I can see that.
Joseph told me his father would whistle out the front door in order to call the kids in for lunch, dinner, if the street lights were about to come on, or whenever. My mother did the same thing.
Both Michael and Joseph spoke a lot about the neighborhood and local families. Here are some of the surnames mentioned: Bartolone, Sciolino (Susie), DiPasquale (Charlie), Carnivale, Lorenzo (this family lived in the E.B. Green home at 137, across the street), Taravella (I believe Joseph mentioned one of the Taravellas is his real estate agent), DiGuilio, Abate, Rooney, Leak, Fama (Nancy, Joseph’s first crush) and Vigilante. Almost all Italian (Sicilian) names. Joseph mentions that they didn’t really think of it back then, but, yes, it was a predominantly Italian neighborhood.
Both boys also noted that the neighborhood was filled with doctors, attorneys, the owner of a dry cleaning business, restaurateurs, the owner of Melody Fair etc. Joseph mentioned that his father was an engineer by trade, and that he worked for Hewitt Robbins, and was laid off in 1967. A story all too familiar in Buffalo during the 50s and 60s.
The neighborhood boys would go over to Bidwell Parkway to play football. Michael has a memory of Dorchester playing against Potomac in a championship game over on Bidwell one year. I mean, we’re talking pick up games here, not an organized league with uniforms or anything. This is a memory that was pretty clear for Michael. Must have been a big deal.
Photos of the Home
Joseph has not yet taken possession of the home, but here are some of the photos from the listing.
I’d like to mention something that is pretty typical here in Buffalo, I met another Losi family member, Arlena, quite by accident. A few weeks ago, I was at the Buffalo History Museum selling my books at a Holiday Makers Market. A woman pointed to the Dorchester book, and began to tell me the story of how her cousin just bought back the family home on that street. I asked her if his name was Joseph, and she said yes. I then told her that I had a video call scheduled with him the following week! She told me the whole family was excited for them. Awesome.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that some of the families’ memories were bittersweet. Josephine, their beloved mother, passed away suddenly, not long after the family moved to Kenmore in 1977. Michael, the youngest of the six, was not yet 20 at the time, so all of the children lost their mother at a young age.
Joseph (the father) and brother Tony are both gone as well.
Joseph (the son) spoke about how things changed after their father lost his job in 1967. He feels the pressures of raising six kids affected his father in a big way. Today on the phone, Joseph quoted Michael saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Even though Dad had his issues, he did give us 142 Dorchester.” A fine gift it is. And wise words, Michael.
In addition, there were tragedies on the street as well. One neighborhood boy, Stevie, was hit by a car and died. One of the children in the Rooney family was killed in the World Trade Center bombing. Another neighborhood child was killed (as an adult) in a mob hit. Wow.
So, as magical as the good memories are for the Losi siblings, there are bittersweet memories as well. We’ve all got something we’re dealing with. The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, a lost love. Whatever it is, it’s important that we keep in mind that everyone’s got something.
For the Losis, they are both lucky and blessed that they have been able to reclaim their childhood home. That one of them was in the position to buy it when it went on the market. That everything fell into place. I think it’s great! And even though Joseph lives on the west coast now, and the family is not yet sure when one or more family members will be able to move into 142, I am happy for each and every one of them. They seem so excited. Like a child’s laughter, the Losi family’s excitement is contagious.
This holiday season, take some time to be nostalgic. Remember the good times with loved ones through the years. Share some memories and perhaps some old photos from days gone by with family members and friends.
I wish each and every one of you peace this holiday season and in the coming year.
*Note: The Losi family will be renting the home at 142 Dorchester, available February 1, 2021. If you’re interested, contact Louis Taravella, MJ Peterson Real Estate, Lou@Olear.com, 716-867-0138.