Joe Reinschmidt, Author
This segment will focus on a few individuals who were part of the history of the neighborhood of Ridge Road in Parma. Being so long and narrow, it wasn’t what one might usually think of as a neighborhood, but the elements of knowing, respecting, depending on and helping your neighbors were there, just a little farther away.
Professor S. W. Clark was likely one of the most educated inhabitants. He taught at the Parma Institute which was located just west of the Park/Fire Station (presently a Speedway gas station).
It had been started in 1858 by a group of area residents who placed great value on education.
When it faltered in 1870, he paid off a $2500 loan and reorganized the school. Unfortunately, after 5 or 6 years, it was apparent it couldn’t sustain itself and closed. The professor’s home and showcase farm, Maple Grove, is now the Plantation on Union St. He had a son, Professor Ernest Clark, who had a farm at 441 Ridge Rd. and often lectured locally, on request.
Earl L. Hilfiker, who made a career of photographing, writing and lecturing worldwide about wildlife, was a product of life on the Ridge. In 1906, when he was 5, his family moved from Rochester to 4748 Ridge Rd. His father had purchased and operated Sperry Mills, a grist mill just across the road on the east bank of Northrup Creek. The remains of the stone foundation are still there. Growing up, Earl spent many hours in, on and around the mill pond and up and down the creek. He pursued those early interests in his higher education which concluded with a Master of Arts degree. In 1940, Earl, who was then associated with the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, had the opportunity to get a family of beavers from a display at the NY State Fair. He put them in a pond behind his parents’ house and cared for them while searching for a place to release them. The County Parks Dept. agreed to let them be released in Mendon Ponds Park, thus marking the return to the wild of a species that had been virtually eliminated from the area years ago. This adventure began a fascination for Beavers which culminated with the publishing of Earl’s book in 1991 titled “Beavers, Water, Wildlife and History” by Windswept Press, Interlaken NY.
Zeke Heffner didn’t have any degrees but possessed a wealth of practical knowledge and ability.
He was a tobacco chewing, beverage drinking handyman who probably worked, at one time or another, for most everyone on the Ridge, and beyond. Mostly it was farm or yard work and sheep shearing. I recall a friend telling me how Zeke would take a break from shearing, stick his sheep dirt coated fingers into his tobacco pouch, pull out a new wad and stick it in his mouth. No sanitizing for Zeke. On second thought, perhaps the stuff he chewed, the sheep dirt, or the combination thereof, were better remedies than the chemical stuff we get in those squirt bottles today. One time Evan king asked my father, Joe Sr., who was a farmer/carpenter to repair the wooden roof on his silo. Dad agreed to do it but needed help. Evan hired Zeke but was not aware of his dislikes for heights. Dad related how during the process of getting materials ready and planning the procedure, Zeke consumed several glasses of hard cider which mitigated his fears. He was good to go and practically danced around the top. The job was completed without a hitch.
Bill (Willis) Dimock operated a car repair shop at 5416 Ridge Rd. His may have been the first new car dealership on the Ridge, in Parma. It was an Oldsmobile franchise but a far cry from today’s agencies. There was usually one new car in the showroom, maybe one or two outside. Mostly, cars were selected from a brochure, ordered for manufacture and delivered weeks later.
Anxious customers were kept informed of where their vehicle was in the process.
Jerry Peck of 5325 Ridge Rd. became a partner and later took over the agency. Ernie Beirley of 5352 Ridge Rd. sold insurance from his home but worked part time as the accountant and title clerk for the dealership. I recall jerry telling me they had some steady customers who when they were ready to trade, would call and order a new Olds, same model and color as their current one and waited for the call that it was there. One some occasions, they delivered the car to their home, switched plates, picked up a check or cash and drove the trade in back to the garage.
Since they had advanced knowledge of the impending trade, the old car was often already spoken for by someone, like us, who couldn’t afford new cars. We did however buy one new car, a 1965 F-85 which was a slightly smaller car than the popular Olds 88.
Warren and Russel Hill were identical twins and graduates of Cornell College of Agriculture.
They weren’t real talkative but fine gentlemen with a good sense of humor. During the process of getting approval for their golf course, often only one of them would appear at Planning Board meetings. I think they delighted in making the Board guess which one was there. Their father, Fred W. Hill was a farmer/educator and served as Superintendent of Schools for all of western Monroe County for many years. He was a strong proponent of consolidation. Fred was more affiliated with the Brockport area which explains why about 3 square miles of southwest Parma, including all of the Hill properties, are in the Brockport Central district, the first in the County in 1927.
Joseph Reinschmidt Sr. was born in 1898 in Germany and served in the Infantry there in WW I.
While on patrol in northern France, he suffered multiple shrapnel wounds to his upper body, which resulted in the loss of his right eye at the age of 18. In 1923, he decided to immigrate to the US, where his father had lived for 14 years before returning to Germany. His father’s advice was, “Son, go to that land of opportunity.” In 1929, he and Anna, his wife, bought 60 acres on the Ogden Parma TL Rd. which had previously been owned by Webster’s and Davises and no doubt descendants of the early settlers on the Ridge. They farmed and later he turned to carpentry. That occupation tied him to the Ridge thru working at homes or farms along there, but especially by his “after work ritual” of stopping at Bacon’s Grill in Parma Corners, for a beer or two and often a few quick games of Euchre. Always true to his heritage, he was nevertheless a very proud citizen of the country he had chosen to come to for the freedom it provided.
He had a quick wit, a hearty laugh and was a bit of a practical joker. Honest, hardworking, content with his life; family and many friends – best describe him. When he was told of the terminal lung cancer in him at 69, one of his first comments was, “Heck, I never expected to get this old.” He and the doctors were surprised by the small pieces of shrapnel still in his chest from 1916, which were revealed by the X-rays. Joe died in July of 1970.