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Have inclination, will travel
George Rivette, who grew up in Solvay, New York, in the 1920s and '30s, wasn't afraid to strike out on his own, even when he was a bit too young to do so. Turns out this wasn't all that unusual at the time. I have come upon several stories of teenagers who hitch-hiked, hopped freights and peddled their bicycles many miles in search of adventure. Some were intended as one-way trips, others were supposed to be brief vacations from their families.

Not surprisingly, George Rivette entered the military service in May, 1941, seven months before the United States went to war. And while he was among the first to join the Army, he was among the last to make the ultimate sacrifice after he volunteered for combat duty in November, 1944, and was sent to France. He was killed in action against the Germans the following spring.

What follows are three stories about the other adventures of young George Rivette:

Syracuse Journal, March 15, 1928
The Sand Man stole 8-year-old George Rivette of 215 Lamont Avenue Tuesday afternoon and didn’t let him wake up until yesterday morning. In the meantime, his father, thinking George lost instead of peacefully sleeping in the upstairs apartment, instituted a police search.

 

Syracuse Journal, February 19, 1937
ALBANY, February 19 — Paroled in the custody of Police Chief David Smurl until arrival of his parents from Syracuse to take him back home is 17-year-old George Rivette Jr. of 215 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, who told police today that he ran away from home six months ago.

Albany detectives, seeking another boy who is missing, said they found young Rivette working as a pin boy in a bowling alley. Questioning of the Solvay youth elicited the fact that he had been working in bowling alleys here for six months, according to the police.

Syracuse police were notified of his detention in a teletype message and in turn notified the boy’s parents. The youth was being held here on a technical charge of vagrancy to which he pleaded guilty in police court today before receiving a suspended sentence and being paroled in Chief Smurl’s custody.

George Rivette, highway maintenance superintendent in Solvay, told Syracuse police he would go to Albany for his son, reported held by Albany police in teletype messages. He said that the youth has been missing about five months although no formal report of his disappearance ever was made, according to Syracuse police. The boy’s mother told The Journal that George has been staying with an aunt in Albany.

The woman who talked to the newspaper reporter was Helen McCarthy Rivette, the boy's stepmother.

Syracuse Journal, July 27, 1937
Search for George Rivette Jr., 17, of 215 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, ended abruptly Tuesday when it was learned that the youth is in Oneida County Hospital, suffering from injuries received when he was thrown from his bicycle after being struck by an automobile Monday night in Rome.

Teletype messages were sent to Syracuse immediately following the accident, and were answered by Detective Sergeant Arthur B. Holden, who said the boy’s father had just left headquarters after reporting his son missing.

The youth told police that he was on his way to the Adirondacks when the accident occurred. He is said to be suffering from head and leg injuries, although his condition is not believed serious.

Joseph C. Edwards, 45, of 29 Chestnut Street, Rochester, was driver of the machine that struck Rivette at the Lowell circular intersection on the Rome-Oneida road, just west of the Rome State School.

George Rivette's father also was named George, though I don't think — technically, speaking — that he was George Sr. or considered his son George Jr. I base this on the 1930 U. S. census which lists the parent as George F. Rivette, the F probably standing for his father's first name, Francis. The young man who was inducted into the service in 1941 was George William Rivette.

George, the elder, lost his first wife, Lucy, when his son was very young. He remarried before 1930 to Helen McCarthy, a lawyer who spent a great deal of time defending her father, Patrick McCarthy, a contractor and slum landlord who, I believe, built the house at 215 Lamont Avenue where George Rivette lived after his second marriage.

My interest in George Rivette began with a 1945 newspaper item about Solvay's annual June Festival, which that year honored 44 young men from Solvay High School who had lost their lives in the service of their country during World War 2.

The Rivette stories led me to an interesting chapter in Solvay history. The leading characters in this chapter are Patrick McCarthy and his brothers, whose problems spilled over into Syracuse, too.

The McCarthy brothers were notorious for the poor conditions of their many rental properties and for their stubborn refusal to repair the buildings, even after several were badly damaged by fire.

The McCarthys were a constant source of frustration to public officials of Solvay and Syracuse, as well as to many residents of both communities. That they managed to dodge the consequences for so long was probably due to the fact Patrick McCarthy's daughter was a shrewd and tenacious attorney. For more.

 
For another look at Solvay way back when, check out
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society
 
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