By Zach Collister
President, Historical Association of Lewiston
On behalf of the Historical Association of Lewiston and its board of directors, happy birthday Sentinel! The Sentinel's first edition was issued Feb. 14, 1987, and actually had the title of "We Need A Name!" It was since that very first edition that the HAL started its long relationship with the Sentinel, when we placed our member meeting notice in it for a historian to speak about the history of Lundy's Lane.
Seeing as I myself was a product of the '80s, I had to look through our archives of papers, photos, Sentinels and government documents to paint the picture of Lewiston during the '80s. As I combed through the decade of articles and documents, I couldn't help but notice that history has eerily repeated itself 30 years later. Sure, people had unique hairstyles and transitioned from the pastel colors of the '70s to the vibrant colors in the '80s, but when you look at the major topics, you can't help but feel you are Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."
But first, let's take a drive down Center Street in the 1980s.
Driving into town, Tops was right at Center Street where the present day parking lot sits. It was a brick building then, and you got your groceries in paper bags still. As you pass by Academy Park, you were likely to always see a softball game or two going on while the kids climbed the Academy School corner stone or had impromptu races up the bleachers. In those days, the Buena Vista Hotel was across the street, which, in 1987, two WJJL associates helped unfold and save a kidnapping victim from Rochester while recording for the Peach Festival.
Down Center further is where you would rent movies from Video Factory. As you come to the intersection of Fifth and Center, you would encounter Donna Felicia's, instead of Casa Antica. Across the street was the old library, which, in the late '80s, started the push for a new facility to better service a growing Lewiston. This intersection is also the site of Lewiston's first flowerpot hung on Center Street in 1983.
Putter a half block down in your '87 Plymouth Sundance and you'll see some golden arches outside the Frontier House. Who doesn't remember getting stuck in the Officer Big Mac climb-in jail? Hamburgers went for 39 cents. In 1988, the Ronald McDonald statue was stolen twice from the playground and was found once in Academy Park wearing a shower cap.
A few doors down, Amanda's was the staple before today's Brickyard. You wouldn't see the gazebo at Hennepin Park until '82.
Down at the sand docks, now more commonly known as Lewiston Landing, you would eat at Riverside Inn, park in gravel parking lots, get drinks at The Bucket of Blood or fish off a path down by the river. The Silo was an old, green mess. It wasn't until 1987 that the village first looked at refurbishing it, which only included painting and a new roof.
Across the street was the old Public Works building. Although the Whirlpool Jet Boats didn't exist, it was in 1989 when they were first proposed. It was in the early '80s that Lewiston first added docks, restrooms, a pathway and improved the boat launch. Those that had slips could tell you how loud Lewiston No. 1's siren was when it went off!
Artpark was very active in the '80s with kids programs and art exhibits. And believe it or not, Bond's Lake was an active ski hill and even had snowmaking machines!
Another interesting thing about Lewiston then was a plane crash on Cayuga Street in 1985 right in front of ... wait for it ... 666 Cayuga St.
There was no Barton Hill Hotel. Kiwanis Park was built in the later part of the decade, and the police station was at Red Brick.
Besides the above physical factors and the fact that Center Street was a four-lane roadway, the major news stories of the day didn't differ too much from today's.
In the early '80s, Lewiston started a campaign to increase tourism and started to capitalize on rebranding it as "Historic Lewiston." Starting in '82, Lake Ontario Ordnance Works was a hot topic; only then it was in regard to demolishing the old silo filled with waste, whereas today we are discussing removing the waste from the containment site. In 1986, through the end of the decade, clay excavation and laws to curtail it were a hot topic. This is still the case today.
In the same year, the village started having parking issues. We still contend with that to this day. In 1987, Artpark's popularity and many attractions caused "traffic snarls." I'll end that topic right now!
There were a lot of controversial developments, both publicly funded and privately. Much of the creation of the Senior Citizens Center and services were debated and created then, whereas in this decade we went through heavy debate over a rec center.
1989 marked the start of the Riverwalk development, a project that started up again this past year with heavy public input. 1987 saw a year of fierce budget talks and tax debates, something hitting Lewiston again now.
Overall, Lewiston has changed without changing. Yes, the population was smaller, town was not as busy, but all in all we had the same events - Art Fest, Peach Fest, the Christmas Walk and Artpark attractions - as we do now. We had the same political and environmental issues. The Lewiston we love today is just a polished version of Lewiston during the '80s. As a community, we have maintained our idiosyncrasies as we have grown since then, and the Sentinel was right there with us to report it all!
Boy, I sure wish I could still get a burger for 39 cents, though!