One of the year's most tragic deaths resulted from an April 4 automobile accident near the intersection of West Genesee Street (called West Genesee Turnpike at the time) and Terry Road, where Solvay and Westvale come together. The tragedy was made worse by confusion over the identity of the woman who was fatally injured.

The head-on collision was the fault of a Solvay teenager who had three friends with him. But they were the lucky ones. Here is how the Syracuse Journal reported the unusual story:

Syracuse Journal, April 5
Victim of a macabre whim of Fate, two families today found themselves exchanging positions of mourning at St. Joseph Hospital and the county morgue in one of the most amazing errors ever revealed here, as the result of an automobile accident yesterday at Terry Road and West Genesee Turnpike (West Genesee street).

This morning, more than 12 hours after Mr. and Mrs. F. Bruce Miller of East Syracuse had identified a dead girl at St. Joseph Hospital as being their daughter, Edna, 15, they discovered the girl actually was Miss Esther Nielson, 23, Waterloo teacher, and that their daughter is lying alive, but in a critical condition, at the hospital.

And Mr. and Mrs. Harry E. Nielsen of Waterloo, who had kept a heartbreaking all-night vigil at the bedside of their “daughter” in St. Joseph Hospital, learned instead that she was dead and her body had been at the morgue all night.

The incredible mix-up followed the crash of a car driven by Miss Nielson and one driven by Arigo H. Parisi,19, of 208 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, late yesterday. Miss Miller was riding with Miss Nielson, returning from a vacation in Waterloo. Both cars were badly wrecked, the two girls were crushed and badly cut, particularly about their heads. Parisi and his three passengers were injured — Guido Balduzzi, 18, 201 Freeman Avenue, Solvay; Edward Maestri, 18, 201 Freeman Avenue, and Agabito Beneditti, 18, 111 Freeman Avenue. Maestri suffered a broken leg, Beneditti a broken arm.

Both girls were taken to St. Joseph Hospital, one dying an hour after admittance, the other living by a precarious thread, with her skull, nose, jaw and arms fractured, and innumerable cuts and bruises.

Report cards found in the girls’ effects gave state police a clue, which led them to contact Miss Nielson’s parents in Waterloo, and it was then learned that the other girl was Miss Miller, and her parents were notified at their home, 117 West Ellis Street, East Syracuse. Her father, E. Bruce Miller; her brother, Glenn, and the Rev. Joseph Sayre, pastor of East Syracuse Presbyterian Church, hurried to the hospital where they were told that “the smaller girl had died.”

That was correct, for although Miss Miller is 15, she is larger than Miss Nielson, who was 23. The father, brother and the pastor were taken to view the body for identification. Head injuries plus the fact the girls are first cousins and bear a marked resemblance is probably responsible for the amazing error.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Nielson arrived from Waterloo and all night long sat at the bedside of a heavily bandaged patient they believed was their daughter. It wasn’t until this morning when she was being moved to another room that Mr. Nielson suspected the patient actually was Edna. A ring on the girl’s hand provided confirmation.

Parisi was arrested and charged with first degree manslaughter. He was attempting to pass another vehicle when he ran head-on into Miss Nielson’s car. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter second degree and was sentenced to one year in the Onondaga County penitentiary.

He went on to serve in World War 2 with the 17th Airborne Division and the 321st Golden Falcons Glider Unit. After the war he worked as an electronic technical at General Electric. He died in 2009 at the age of 94.

Democrats win village election
Edward Chamberlain and James Cottrell, Democrats, and Louis Valletta, endorsed by both parties, were elected trustees in Solvay village election on March 20. Francis Gleason and Roy Mitchell were the losing Republicans in the first and third wards.

Another June, another festival . . .
June in Solvay brought another festival, and in those days the June Festival had a queen, selected from high school seniors. In 1934 it was Margaret Duda. Her attendants were Dorothea Wierowski, Edna Von Nostrand, Arlyne Chamberlin and Anna Cizenska.

On July 26 there was a playground circus on the grounds of the old Intermediate School at Orchard and Woods Roads. Highlight of the show was Supervisor Julia A. Ryan of Syracuse's Seventh Ward and her program of Irish jigs and impersonations.

August provided more fun than usual. In addition to the annual Feast of the Assumption field days at Woods Road park, August 14 and 15, with those window-rattling fireworks displays, the Tyrol Club kicked off the week with a picnic at Stasko's Grove, featuring a greased pig chase, pie-eating contests, fat men’s races and a tug of war.

Other events: trap shooting, a softball game pitting married men against bachelors, balloon fights, races and the fastest pop drinker (burping guaranteed). Dancing, too. Al Armani was the entertainment chairman, assisted by Herman Bonata and Frank Bome. And, yes, they really called them "fat men's races."

More mix-ups and mishaps

Missing Man’s Blood-Stained Car Found
That was the top headline in the Syracuse Journal on Saturday, December 1. However . . .

The "missing man" was Alex Fougnier of 401 South Avenue, Solvay, who became subject of a search by Solvay police and deputy sheriffs after his wrecked and blood-stained sedan was found on State Fair Boulevard that afternoon. Indications were Fougnier had been seriously hurt when his car struck a telephone pole, demolishing it.

A brother and sister were particularly concerned, but it turned out the family was having a failure to communicate. Alex Fougnier had contacted another sister, told her about the accident and that he was only slightly hurt. He then reported for work at Halcomb Steel, a short walking distance away.

Where did the road go?
James M. Hayes, 38, 408 Orchard Road, Solvay, and his passenger, Nicholas E. Kinsella, 77, 919 Willis Avenue, miraculously escaped with minor injuries on the evening of May 4 when Hayes’ automobile went off Erie Boulevard West and plunged more than 40 feet down a steep embankment, coming to a stop on the brink of Harbor Brook (photo below). The accident happened on the curve opposite Spector’s junkyard. It was the yard's night watchman who notified police of the accident.

When is a parkway a parking lot?
Two Solvay teens were in the wrong place at the wrong time on July 12. Patrick McCarthy, 17, of 102 Caroline Avenue, and his friend, John Armani of Lamont Avenue, who was driving, were on Onondaga Lake Parkway after making a stop at the Danforth Salt Pool for a swim. They then set off for Marcellus, intend the carnival featured at the Onondaga County firemen’s convention.

But their trip was rudely interrupted by the vehicle ahead of them when C. H. Newport of 573 South Avenue abruptly stopped in the middle of the road because something blew out of a window. Bam! Armani's car slammed into the rear of Newport's vehicle. McCarthy suffered the only injury, a fractured jaw, and was taken to St. Joseph Hospital.

A word of explanation: Danforth Salt Pool was just that — a spring-fed pool of salt water located along Onondaga Lake, between the parkway and the railroad tracks that ran along the east side of the lake. For several years it was a novel and popular swimming hole for Central New York youngsters (photo below).


James Barber, 88, a retired cabinet maker for the Solvay Process Company, died December 16 at his home, 302 Center Street, Solvay, after a long illness. Born in England, Barber came to the United States and Solvay 84 years ago. He was employed by the Solvay Process for 35 years before retiring in 1921.

Surviving: his wife, Mrs. Harriett Simmons Barber; three daughters, Mrs. Frank Hathaway, Mrs. Charles Hall and Miss Eva Barber; four sons, Albert W. Barber of Elbridge, Lee S. Barber of Syracuse, Grover C. Barber of Solvay, and Samuel J. Barber, also of Solvay and a woodworking teacher at Solvay High School.

His skull crushed when a falling chain tackle struck him on the head, Michael Bernardini, 44, of 715 Second Street, Solvay, was killed February 27 at the Halcomb plant of the Crucible Steel Company of America. Bernardini, an employee at the plant for 20 years, was working with other men in placing a derailed locomotive back on the tracks when the accident occurred. He was survived by his wife, Mrs. Mary Bernardini; a daughter, Miss Anita Bernardini, 15; a brother and two sisters in Italy.

Clayton W. Edgerton, 70, former chief of police of the Solvay Process Company, died at his home, 311 Hall Avenue, on March 20. He had been a resident of Solvay for 45 years. Surviving: his wife, Mrs. Lenora G. Edgerton; a son, Lester M. Edgerton, and two sisters, Mrs. Frederick Balch and Miss Bertha Edgerton, both of Utica.

Crushed when the coupe in which he was riding skidded headlong into a tree on a curve in the North Syracuse-Liverpool highway shortly after 3 o’clock November 29, Virgil Hunt, 21, of 116 Franklin Street, Solvay, died two hours later in St. Joseph Hospital.

Hunt, an inspector in the wire department of Halcomb Steel Company, died from chest injuries. Charles W. Speich, 125 Holden Street, driver of the car, and Charles Champlain, 27, of 706 Montrose Avenue, Solvay, a brother-in-law of Hunt, escaped with severe cuts and bruises.

Speich told police he was not familiar with the road. When he saw a sharp turn he applied his brakes. The rain-drenched pavement was slippery and the car spun out of control. Hunt was in the passenger seat and his side of the car slammed into a tree. Hunt was a graduate of Solvay High School. Survivors included his parents, Earl and Lula Hunt; a brother, Harvey Hunt, of Pomona, California, and a sister, Mrs. Doris Champlain.

Stanley Orzell, 23, of 211 First Street, Solvay, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on November 23. Angelo Vigoni, 22, of 112 Power Street, Solvay, who was with Orzell, was critically injured. They were walking east on West Genesee Turnpike (West Genesee Street) near Orchard Road at 5 p.m.

Surviving Orzell: Four sisters, Mrs. Joseph Domaracki, Mrs. Stanley Salachi, Mrs. Robert Haney and Mrs. Joseph Stasko, and three brothers, Louis, Joseph and Frank Orzell.

George Perkins, 48, of 418 South Avenue, was killed at the Solvay Process Company on April 3. Perkins, father of nine children, was electrocuted while connecting an electric lead line to a motor.

Company officials said Perkins was about to connect the electric lead to a motor when the metal case of his flashlight came in contact with the motor, completing a circuit and sending 440 volts of low voltage electricity through his body.

Frank Salvetti, 45, 2725 Milton Avenue, Solvay, and his wife, Edith, were killed February 23 at one of the most dangerous spots in Onondaga County — where the New York Central railroad tracks crossed the road at Gere's Lock. A blizzard blocked Salvetti's vision when he started across the tracks. A second later his car was struck by a Rochester-bound passenger train. The accident occurred about 5:30 p.m.

Mrs. Salvetti was killed instantly. Her husband, a painter at the Solvay Process Company, was rushed to Syracuse Memorial Hospital by a passing motorist. Salvetti died 90 minutes later without regaining consciousness.

Salvetti was survived by four sons, Frank Jr., Louis, Arthur and William Salvetti; three daughters, Misses Edna, Edith and Frances Salvetti, and by two brothers, Paul and Abraham Salvetti of Solvay. In addition to her children, Mrs. Salvetti was survived by her mother, Mrs. Francis Ferrari of Solvay.

Three months later, on May 21, Walter Srogi, 45, of 340 Apple Street, Syracuse, proprietor of the White Eagle Bakery, was killed when his delivery truck was hit by a Geneva-bound New York Central train at Gere’s Crossing at 7:20 a.m. Deputies who investigated were hard-pressed to explain this accident. Visibility was fine, the train was bearing down on the intersection, indicating Srogi either believed he could beat the train or he simply didn't look both ways before attempting to cross.

Attempting to takeoff in fog that blanketed Quebec airport on July 28, C. Phil Speller, 36, of 105 Cogswell Avenue, Solvay, a Syracuse electric appliance dealer, crashed and was instantly killed.

Mrs. Beatrice Speller, who had been visiting in Quebec, accompanied her husband to the airport, but because of weather conditions he refused to allow her to accompany him on his flight to Montreal, the first leg of his return to Syracuse. On his recommendation she made the trip to Montreal by train and was to have met Speller later at St. Hubert’s Airport. The couple has a four-year-old son, Philip, who remained home in Solvay in the care of relatives.

The plane in which Speller crashed was a Waco F. biplane owned by H. Clayton Welch of 1902 South Avenue, Syracuse. He loaned the ship to Speller for the trip to Quebec and back. The victim was a private pilot.

Two weeks later another plane owned by H. Clayton Welch was involved in a fatal crash, this time in East Homer, New York, near Cortland. Killed was pilot Robert F. Lyon, 38, of New Rochelle, who had rented a small plane for a flight to Oneonta. With his was student pilot George Luhrs of Syracuse, who was critically injured in the crash, but recovered.

Ralph L. Stilwell, 49, of 104 Scarboro Drive, Solvay, died at his home November 10. Stilwell had been a vice president of the First Trust and Deposit Company since 1929. He was a native of Spring Valley, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Lamont Stilwell. His father came to the Syracuse area in 1891 to practice law and for many years was attorney for the village of Solvay.

A graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law in 1908, Ralph Stilwell was with the firm of Stilwell, Viall & Stilwell for several years. When Solvay Bank was organized, he forsook the law to become cashier of that institution. In 1922 he became cashier of the newly organized Liberty Bank and he transferred to the First trust & Deposit Company as vice president when Liberty Bank was merged with First Trust.

He was survived by his wife, Florence Paige Stilwell; his son, Donald, 12; three uncles, Giles H. Stilwell, George R. Stilwell and Dewitt Stilwell of Syracuse, and two aunts, Mrs. Adelaide S. Flynn and Mrs. Anna S. Richey.

Burns suffered while he was working in the boiler shop of the Solvay Process Company on March 17 proved fatal to Floyd E. Wickham, 34, 409 Montrose Avenue, Solvay.

Reporting for work as electric switchboard operator at the boiler shop at 4 p.m., Wickham was reported making repairs about the board when there was a flash and he fell to the floor. Conscious when workmen reached him, Wickham was unable to explain clearly what happened.

He left his wife, Eugenia Springer Wickham, and two children, June, 9, and Joyce, 6; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Marcellus Wickham, and a brother, Neil Wickham.

At first it was believed an electrical problem caused the fire, but investigators could find no apparent reason why his clothing became ignited.


Cagers crumble, pucksters soar
The 1933-34 basketball season did not end well for the Solvay varsity, which stumbled after a promising start. The team made the playoffs of the Onondaga County League, but lost in the first round to Baldwinsville, 29-27. Brostek — Joe, I believe — led Solvay's scoring with 11 points.

It was a much different story in hockey as Bearcat skaters went undefeated, taking the championship game, 3-1, over Eastwood on March 6 at the State Fair Coliseum. Jim Burns scored Solvay's first goal, Joe Miguel, league scoring leader, slapped in goals number two and three.

In April James Bethka of Solvay High School finished in eighth place in the Syracuse Journal-American marathon. Two months later he won the 880-yard run in the county track meet. Pirro — Rocco, probably — was second in the shot put and Solvay won the mile relay, but the overall team winner was Baldwinsville; Skaneateles was second.

Betty Yeoman's fourth place finish in diving gave Solvay its only point in April's Syracuse High School Girls' swimming and diving meet at the YWCA pool. Nottingham won the meet with 27 points. Seven schools competed.

Baseball team reclaims crown
On June 13 Solvay High's baseball team avenged 1933’s defeat and beat North Syracuse, 6-4, to reclaim the Onondaga County Baseball League championship. Winning pitcher was Joe Brostek, who allowed four hits.

In October Mike Francher of Solvay rolled the first perfect 300 game ever registered in the seven years of the Commercial Bowling League. He flanked it with games of 224 and 220 for a three-game total of 744, the highest registered in league competition during the season.

When all the games were played in the Onondaga County Football League there was a four-way tie for first place. The league in 1934 included 11 schools in one division, each playing six game. This meant several teams didn't play each other. Solvay was one of four teams to record five wins against one loss. Other first place teams were Baldwinsville, Jordan and Camillus.

Don't get in their way
On May 7 Charles Demport of 123 Charles Avenue, Solvay, won the Eastern States Revolver and Pistol meet at Cornell University. Firing rapidly at 50 feet, Demport hit 79 out of a possible 100 targets to win. Charles Mattison of Binghamton won second honors with a score of 77.

In June Solvay High’s archery team finished third in the clout shooting competition of Central New York interscholastic archery championship in Kirk Park. Central High won that particular competition as well as the overall event in which seven boys and three girls team took part. Kenneth Norman of Solvay was second in the flight shooting event. (Unlike previous years, Solvay either did not have a girls team or chose not to enter it.)

On June 17 Lou James of Solvay won high honors in the trap-shooting tournament at the Genesee Gun Club with a remarkable score of 97 out of 100.

Items are taken from stories in the Syracuse Herald-Journal
and its Sunday edition, the Herald-American
For more on Solvay way back when, check out
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society