1962 a new experience and a rich opportunity.


A snowman with Rosa Maria celebrating our first snow.

Rochester, New York has been in the news of late in relation to rather violent events. But for us in 1962, Rochester was where the U of R was; more specifically, where the School of Medicine and Dentistry was; more specifically yet, it was where William D. Lotspeich, M.D. was Chairman of the Department of Physiology and a pioneer in discerning the relationships between renal function and renal metabolism, and where Edward F. Adolph, Ph.D., an icon of whole body physiological regulations and Wallace O. Fenn Ph.D. of muscle mechanics and pulmonary function fame were emeritus professors.

For people not going to school, Rochester was, of course, where Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch and Lomb were. It was also where the Mayo Clinic was not. This sounds like a misplaced sentence but it makes sense because a friend and neighbor who worked at the local airport reported that it was not rare for arriving passengers to ask for directions to get to the Mayo Clinic. His reply was “Well, you get on another plane to Rochester, Minnesota, and ask them for the Mayo Clinic”, unless you settle for an equally good care right here at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Rochester was also where we first saw real snow falling down from the sky. Lots of it. We learned very soon that snow is so beautiful, so pure, so pristine and just a few days later we also learned that snow is a big ugly, dirty mess.

The big annual celebration typical of Rochester was the Lilac Festival in Highland Park in May. The infinite number of lilac species, plus some pansies, tulips and other flowers produced an out of this world spectacle. The festival included a beauty, that is a human beauty, pageant and a Queen of the Festival was elected. We were never told what the electoral process was. There were no ballots, but whoever determined the winner had consistently an excellent taste. Or, maybe all the contestants were deserving. We felt that was so!

Rochester also had a great music hall, the Eastman Theater. We had just enough money to get concert tickets in the back rows of the third floor. The acoustics were superb, and we remember with pleasure that we could hear Glenn Gould playing J.S. Bach Partitas on the piano and also his humming of the melody that was loud enough for the audience to hear it. The humming just added something special to the experience. We still think Gould was the greatest interpreter of Bach piano music. He became one with the music. It was almost a mystical experience.

Rochester is surrounded by magnificent parks: Canandaigua was the Finger Lake closer to us and we went there often in the Summer. A favorite weekend excursion in the Summer or the Fall was to Letchworth State Park with hills, gorges, waterfalls, the Genesee River and lots of trails and tall trees. The students and technicians and an occasional professor from the Department participated in cookout gatherings with softball and volleyball games on the beach of Lake Ontario. At night, enjoying the last beer of the day, we could see the lights from Toronto across the lake.

Visit these pages next week for the rest of the story.


Contributed by: Federico Dies

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2 thoughts on “Rochester NY Back Then: Scrambled Memories

  1. Delightful, I can almost smell the lilacs, hear the music and see the two of you enjoying your life in Rochester.
    New York, that is.

  2. Thanks, Barbara, for your comment. We have never been to Rochester, MN but we are willing to bet that it is not nearly as beautiful and fun as our Rochester. We always think that “our” is best! Our stay in Rochester was specially remarkable because we grew up as a married couple there. Rochester provided the truly fertile ground for a successful and joyful marriage. There is a second part to the story and you will see some of the elements that made us grow in terms of both evolution as human beings and as a couple. And the Rochester impact had durable consequences.

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