Big Chuck Re-Discovers Norwich, N.Y. (VIDEO)
Caution: There is a naked lady at the end of this article!
There, now that I have your attention (and yes, she is there!) let me tell you about my great Saturday afternoon in Norwich.
I was the featured speaker at the 10th anniversary luncheon for the Bullthistle Hiking Club. This is a terrific group of men and women who walk, chart, care for and thoroughly enjoy the many hiking trails of Chenango County. This is the second time I have been asked to entertain this group and they are fantastic.
The gathering was friendly and casual and the meal at the Norwich Elks Club was delicious.
OK, OK...hold on. We are getting to the naked girl.
My presentation went over very well with the crowd and I hope I get asked back again soon.
After my talk I walked around Norwich for a spell. It was a quiet grey day and very peaceful. It is funny what you can see when it is so quiet out.
There is one particular corner in downtown that really echoes the history of the city over the years. Its railroad history in particular. I found the little red caboose that has been a diner for as long as anyone can remember. It still sits right by the railroad crossing. I think it must be the smallest diner in New York State.
Across the street from this little diner is a wonderful pageant of Norwich railroad history. The old gateman's tower dates from 1907. Behind it is the old train station (1901) and the old freight house. All of this harkens back to when the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad rolled through here.
(UPDATE: Many have emailed me about this post. I am sure learning alot! The big brick building where the fire house is was never a freight house. And the old bell came from a tower in the original fire house. I am told it is now rung only when a fireman dies. The giant "Unguentine" building cost 2-million dollars when it was built around 1913. And the patron of the "naked lady" was John L. Richer who owned a bunch of feed stores across Central New York. Keep the emails coming folks!)
Relax! The naked girl story is coming up! Sheesh!
There is a giant bell right in the middle of all of this but there is no sign telling of its story. so I have no idea of the role the bell played in this little corner of Norwich's history.
The towering old freight house is now home to the Norwich Fire Department. I think it is a nice touch that they have built a glass room on the side of it displaying an 1895 original LaFrance steam fire truck used in Norwich!
I have been to Norwich a million times it seems, but on this day, this quiet calm day, it felt like I had never been here before. It's funny what you see when you really open your eyes.
OK, OK..now about the naked girl.
While I was at the luncheon at the Norwich Elks Club, I went out to the bar area to get a soft drink to sip on during my talk. And lo and behold..there she was. The naked girl!
You know me, folks. I had to ask about her.
It seems that way back in 1948, an member named John Richer had this painting commissioned for the Elks club. He paid $350 for it and it was installed over the bar. It has hung there ever since. Nobody can read the name of the artist anymore, but it is a huge original oil painting titled "College Girl: Naked." Nobody even remembers who the model was (or at least nobody is admitting to it). And there she is!
If you figure in how many weddings, functions, meetings, New Year's Eve dances, conventions and more that have taken place in this venerable old club over the last 65 years, there must be tens of thousands of people who have seen this young lady in all her glory. She certainly is one of the most unusual sights I have ever seen hanging in a bar in Upstate New York.
All in all I had a great time in my afternoon visit in Norwich. Good people, good food, good history and a young girl showing her assets to all the world over an old Elks Club bar.
Who could ask for more?
Oh,and it is definitely springtime in Norwich. Finally! And how do I know that you ask?
Because the cars are sprouting pink cotton tails and bunny ears over at Planet Preowned!