Thursday, May 6, 2004

Seven Ancient Wonders of Manlius, NY

I haven't been to Manlius, NY in at least 18 years, possibly as long as 25 years. I lived there from the time I was four years old (1961) until halfway through my freshman year in college. Despite my long-ago personal list of The Seven Wonders of Manlius, I was not unreservedly fond of the place. This was partly due to my poor social standing at school, and partly due to the Manlius edition of the lousy Syracuse weather, with its snow, wind, and 87 sunny days a year.

Nevertheless, I miss the place sometimes. I can't help wondering what it looks like now, and whether any of the places where I spent my time growing up are still there. Manlius Elementary became village offices or something even before I left Syracuse; Pleasant Street Elementary was, I think, torn down; and Manlius Hardware, where I bought a horse figurine of painted metal, burned down a very long time ago. Broaster Hut moved, giving way to What's Your Beef? next to the Swan Pond. And I can only hope that the infamous Arly's Hotel was rehabilitated into something with a better reputation.

That leaves the P & C and adjacent pharmacy, at the latter of which I bought LPs by the Monkees; the Manlius Library, where I tried and failed to read Madeleine L'Engle's adult novel Ilsa, and in front of which Dan Cheney's father was hit by a truck; St. Ann's Catholic Church, the larger but less aesthetic building built in the1960s to replace the one in which Steve and I had to stand at the back if we were late; the seasonal ice cream stand Sno Top ("Watch for our humdinger opening next spring!"); Temple's Dairy Store, where large numbers of children stopped after school for root beer barrels and Tootsie Rolls; and Weber's Department Store. The one I wonder about most often is Weber's, possibly spelled Webber's. I don't remember for sure. It couldn't still be there, could it?

This was Manlius' 1960s equivalent of a general store. No, there were no pickle barrels or sacks of feed grain: this was a baby boom suburb, not a relic of the deeper past. It consisted of three rooms on Seneca St. The western room held school supplies, blue glass, Evening in Paris perfume and small toys. The middle room held greeting cards, china animals for my collection, and Breyer horses for Barbie to sit on. The eastern room had jeans, scout uniforms and other basic clothing to tide people over until they could get to Shoppingtown or Shoppers' Fair in DeWitt. I don't remember which room had the candy.

Mr. Weber usually presided over the middle room.

These memories of mine are over thirty-five years old, but it seems even longer ago. In 1986, Route 66 actor George Maharis told me that when he and Martin Milner were traveling the country for their tv show (starting in 1960), every place had its own customs and character. "Now you can go anywhere you like,"he said, "and it's a Denny's." In a world of Denny's and Olive Garden and Old Navy, I don't think it's at all likely that Manlius still has a non-chain department store that carries Breyer horses. Swan Restaurant, where we used to occasional have spaghetti, is long gone. I have very little hope for Temple's. The "haunted" house at Fayette St and High Bridge is long gone. Manlius Theatre, the one screen movie house where I saw The Incredible Journey and later Bananas, is apparently still there, and the Swan Pond is probably still there, but that's probably about it for my childhood landmarks.

If someone who still lives in Manlius finds this post, I'd appreciate hearing from you about what's there now and what is gone. Please email me at

Karen Funk Blocher
Fayetteville-Manlius High School, class of 1975.
[email updated 10/13/2014]

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