From the Historian: Remembering the village recreation department

Jim Burlingame

During the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, the East Rochester local welfare league helped to organize summer programs in Edmund Lyon Park for the children. Early sports programs were also held in the Eyer Building. 

Old-timers have said that when they played basketball in the large hall on the third floor, the ceiling there was only 8 feet tall so no long set shots were possible, only layups. In 1948, the CYA on West Avenue opened thanks to a large financial contribution from St. Jerome’s Father Gefell and under the direction of Bob Pearson, and later by Jim Russell and John Trevision. A large gym, library, kitchen and lounge were available for use. Programs like woodworking, photography, square dancing, boxing and basketball were established.

Before 1949, the closest place for swimming was Sandy Beach on Irondequoit Creek. An outdoor pool was opened in 1949, helped by a large grant from the Kate Gleason Foundation. Sherman Reed was the first director of the pool. 

When the CYA was closed and converted to a school in the mid-1950s, a push was initiated to expand the existing village recreation department. Programs were offered in three parks: Eyer, Edmund Lyon and Concrest. Much later, a program was established at the newly constructed Northside Park. 

Initially, Eyer Park had no set daily activity program, but was used for overnights and campouts. Under the direction of a playground director, each of the parks offered arts and crafts, horseshoe pitching, painting, boondoggle, running games, and doll, pet, talent and costume shows. In the mid-70s, there was an agreement between school and village to provide a full-time recreation director. Raymond Parrotta served in that capacity for nearly 12 years. Gymnastics, ballet and adult swims were some of his new additions.

Mr. Parrotta left his position in 1988 to become clerk treasurer of the village and Jerry Consaul became director. She continued to upgrade the department, adding recreation programs for participants ranging in age from 3 months to senior citizens. The department was instrumental in the creation of several special events throughout the years, such as the children's Halloween party, swimming carnivals, kiddie’s day parade, summer band concert series, open gym and swim nights.

Unfortunately, in the early part of this century the village closed the program. This was due to lack of attendance in the programs offered. The advance of modern technology caught up with the park programs when video games replaced boondoggle, battleship and the weaving of hot pads. So ended a service that was in existence for generations.

Jim Burlingame is historian for the town/village of East Rochester.

Edmund Lyon Park in the 1930s.