Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Ivory Soap

Like many metropolitan areas in America, Rochester is surrounded by a number of small “bedroom community” towns.  Some of these towns and villages straddle the old Erie Canal, a waterway connecting the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany.  Like the canal, they have become artifacts of a way of life remembered by very few.  Now they’re mostly just places to live, places where your kids go to school and you buy your groceries. 

Brockport is such a place.  A small town about 20 miles west of Rochester, it has the usual small – town atmosphere, including a main street full of potholes, old store fronts, and a few old churches.  The village’s biggest claim to fame is a college – SUNY Brockport, where, coincidentally, I received my undergraduate degree – and a small hospital.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve spent an awful lot of time in that hospital.  My wife’s mother contracted pneumonia in the middle of January.  After dealing with a number of complications, she passed away this past Friday.  Ironically, she died on the same floor and a few rooms down from where my own mother died in June.

On one of the days we were there, I left the hospital for a while and walked along the old main street.  When I looked up and saw the old “Ivory Snow” sign painted on this building, I had this strange feeling of nostalgia.  It’s been there for as long as I can remember, and I’m willing to bet that it was there when my mother and mother-in-law were young.  Once upon a time, it was the way advertising was done (or at least one of the ways).

Heck, it’ll probably still be there when I’m gone.  Some things just seem to go on forever.  Except for people, of course.

8 Responses to “Ivory Soap”

  1. Monte Stevens

    These small bedroom communities, as you call them, are not something I see back in Fort Collins, Colorado. There are some in the Denver area but not farther north. I see these communities all over the eastern part of the country. In Manchester, NH along the river they are converting these buildings, and the manufacturing warehouses, into condos and small stores.

    I’m sorry to hear about you mother and your mother-in-law.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Monte. And you’re absolutely right when you say that these kinds of places are more likely to be found in the east. Especially New England.

  2. Earl

    I’ve always found a certain charm to these small communities, a link to times past. If they could only recount the things they’ve witnessed.

    My deepest sympathy to you and your wife.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. You’re right: some of these places are like old cemeteries, witnesses to history.

  3. Don

    Sorry to hear of your loss.

    These old buildings and brick work is a thing of the past, they won’t be built like this anymore. As I commented on another blog yesterday about brick buildings, many are being bulldozed back into the earth instead of being preserved.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Don. It’s happening here, too. Not too many years ago, in one of Rochester’s “bedroom communities”, an old brick town hall was torn down and replaced by a chain restaurant. Conservationists tried to have it named an historic landmark, but failed. So history was replaced by yet another piece of visual polution. I guess that’s the “American Way”. You know, “progress”. But heck, if they can tear down the old Yankee Stadium, then I suppose that nothing’s safe.

  4. Steve Weeks

    My sincere condolences to you and your wife.

    In the sign industry these types of signs are called ‘Ghost Signs’. While this one is very well preserved (North or East wall ?), most of them have faded to the point one sees mostly, in this case, brick. In the last few years there have been renewed efforts to preserve and/or restore them.

    • Paul Maxim

      “Ghost signs”. I love it (never heard the term before). This one, by the way, is on a north facing wall. I suppose it might see a little sun in midsummer, but even then only late in the afternoon.


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