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Anecdotes and Folklore

"The Herdman Chronicles"-Page 2

The Saga Continues......

The Herdman Chronicles, Page 2

Johnny

May 2015 brings a new source for pictures and stories.

Brian Szafranski of Elma NY relates his contact with Johnny when he was an 11 year old......(Don't miss the photos at the end of this story)....

"We used to visit Johnny Herdsman's place in Angelica NY back in the 1960's (maybe even in late 1950's).  My grandparents had a small store in the Town of Rushford.  They had built small cottages near the Lake, and we helped them when they rented the cottages to get them ready for the next week of rentals.  We'd go for rides all over the area in our free time.  My Mom collected old postcards, and my Dad collected, uh, "stuff" too.

In the September 1969, following that photographed visit to JH, my Brother started attending Alfred State or, as they called the Wellsville satellite campus: Sinclair U.  So, I think that was our final trip to Angelica.  My Grandfather had just passed away in 1968, and my Grandmother was trying to sell the Rushford store so she could move back to be near us in Lancaster.
 
Looking back to those days, we always wondered for what all those old sheds were originally used.  I seem to remember they were all the same size and shape.  I thought the Herdsman Farm had perhaps been originally a poultry farm because of the way those sheds were sized and laid out.

After my Brother graduated from Sinclair U, we didn't visit Allegany County too often except for Fall deer hunting near Rushford until the late 1980's.  We sometimes had our Thanksgiving dinner at the Rushford Lake Conservation Club (RLCC), which my Grandfather, Otto, help found.  He was President of the RLCC for a couple of years, too, I believe.  My Grandparents (Otto & Kitty Hollnberger) and my Step-father (George Messing) are buried at White Cemetery in Rushford, and we'll all be there, too, someday.  Back in the late 1960's and very-early 1970's I spent my Summers in Rushford helping my Grandmother with the store.  So we have many found memories of Allegany County, some of which include JH.

Getting back to the topic of JH, my Mom, brother & I were recently talking about some of the things we remember about JH's place.  I still have it in my mind that the human skull was his candy dish, and that he tried to frighten kids (and adults, too, I suppose) into taking a piece of candy from it.  But maybe I don't remember that correctly.

I remember walking through those old buildings and being amazed at all the stuff in them.  I remember one building, at least, was designated Off Limits.  We always wondered, during our post-visit drives back home, what treasures could possibly be inside that mysterious Off Limits Building.

Over the years, JH used to tell certain stories more than once, such as the one about how a Hollywood studio paid him a lot of money for an old car he had, one which was apparently stored inside one of his buildings, perhaps even in that mysterious Off Limits Building.  The building had to be partially disassembled to remove it, I believe.  Forty-five-plus years later my memory doesn't work too well, but I seem to remember that the car was an old hearse.  It may've been a horse-drawn hearse, or maybe it wasn't a hearse at all.  I just wish I could remember!

Over the years since those 1960's visits to Angelica I've asked folks if they ever heard of JH.  For example, A former co-worker had a deer-hunting cabin in Angelica in the 1980's.  I once asked him if he'd ever heard of JH, but I merely got a quizzical "who?" reply.
 
Below are a few July 1969 photos taken by my Brother, Rick.  That's eleven-year old me in the one photo, wearing clothing that was way too gaudy and bright (OK, I'm Polish, so sue me for having no taste in clothing).

I wonder if I have remembered JH (and his skull and hand) with a bit too much wonderment because I was just a kid when we visited.  That is, we can sometimes put larger-than-life characters, such as JH, on a pedestal when we're young.  So, I'm glad to know now that I'm not the only "Johnny Herdman Fan."

Well, that's enough of my blathering.  Please keep up the good work.  Take care!"

/Brian Szafranski

 From Wellsville Daily Reporter 12-2-1969
(A pop-up pdf file, requires a pdf reader)
 

Photos below supplied by Richard and Brian Szafranski of Lancaster and Elma NY
 
Herdman Skull-Hand 1969
 
Johnny's Most Famous Items.... "the Hand" & "the Skull", or was it a candy dish.....
 
 Herdman Shed-Brian6 1969
 Brian (age 11) Visits Johnny's Estate
 
Herdman Road-view 1969
 
A Roadway View of Johnny's House....... "Where to Start?"
 
Herdman Road-view2 1969
 "Miscellaneous Path...."; Most were !!
 
Herdman Road-view3 1969
 The friendly sheds, "watch your step..."
 
Herdman Field4
Always a good supply of wood products, "sort your own...."
 
Herdman Car5 1969
 
Unidentified Make/Model/Year of Car

Below is article about Johnny Herdman & his "Estate" written/published in 1972 as an entry in essay contest.  It won!  A really great article captured and submitted by Brian.
From the Livonia Gazette 4/20/1972, Page 5
 
CLICK FOR PDF OPENING IN A NEW WINDOW: "DIRTY JOHN -- A Legend in His Own Time" by Kathleen Moran
 
 
(Chronicles, Page 2 "The End for now....)
 
 

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