By John R. Lang
I am not ashamed to say I am off the charts lucky in many ways.
Two rock-solid loving parents in a great country home in the Town of Royalton with plenty of acreage to grow up on.
One of the things I consider myself most fortunate about is our family weekends when I was a kid.
In the ’60s and ’70s I had one set of grandparents in Colden and the other in Orchard Park.
My grandparents in Colden were on my mother’s side. Frank and Helene Humphreys. My grandmother there, Nana to all, was once a Rockette and traveled with Jack Benny in vaudeville. She also danced ballet at Shea’s Theatre at one time. My grandfather was a talented carpenter and ended up retiring from Bethlehem Steel. I am not totally sure how they ended up on top of Blanchard Road hill in Colden, but they did. Their house was once an old barn with no running water or power. But
Papa, as I called him, built a fireplace and a very cool two-story home from that barn. They had a pond, a small stream and about 15 awesome acres for hiking, sledding, fishing and swimming. My grandmother ended up being an amazing country lady. She had fantastic gardens. She would cook soups and chili every weekend. We always looked forward to what was cooking in her kitchen and the awesome smells that can only come from your grandma’s house.
My grandparents on my father’s side lived in Orchard Park on about 10 acres with my cousins living right next door. Perfect for weekend football, baseball, hide-and-seek. We also watched Bills games there. Grandpa Lang was once an Erie County deputy who ended up retiring from Ford. He was a big, tough Depression-era guy who epitomized the greatest generation. He was also a talented woodworker who was incredibly giving. He was our Santa Claus every year. My home now is furnished with his handmade end tables, chairs and TV stands.
I traveled a lot for work and was out of town for most of the ’80s. I had been living for about three years in Hawaii when I made my weekly call home in the spring of 1990. My mother tore into me. I remember her saying, “You have been gone goofing off long enough! … Do you realize you still have all four of your grandparents alive?”
I remember a bit of silence on her and my part after that. I then hung up the phone and knew she was right – as mothers usually are. So shortly after that in a roundabout way through Montana I was home to Lockport.
I was back, and made hanging with my grandparents a priority.
We had many, many awesome years and I have never had any regrets about moving back.
When my grandparents in Colden passed away the land was sold off.
But this story has the greatest ending ever!
About three years ago I was driving past the old Colden homestead and saw a “for sale” sign. I called the agent and she informed me that a five-acre chunk of the homestead property was for sale – the piece with the stream and sled hill. She said it had gone on sale last week. I told her it was my grandparents’ old property and I wanted to get it back in the family.
I made an offer, she called the owners, and I got it!
I told my wife that evening I had bought back a piece of Humphreys Peak – which I unofficially named. Luckily for me, she was happy.
I love to go down there at least once a week. I take a hike, a jog or just sit and listen to the wind blow through the pines or the water trickle over the rocks.
Chance and reflection can be our greatest gifts.