Not long ago, my LinkedIn friend Jesse Cooke, a Buffalo attorney and history buff, inspired me with one of his posts to write a Forbes.com article about the Zamboni company and their magical ice resurfacers. Well, he’s at it again. Just last week he had another post about the loss of writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher Elbert Hubbard and his wife in the torpedoing and sinking of the liner Lusitania in 1915, during the early days of WWI.
That reminded me of a rather curious event in my life.
Years ago, when I worked for General Mills, I received a promotion and a transfer from the Boston area to Buffalo, New York. The biggest problem was that my wife was too pregnant to travel at the time, so I had to go house-hunting alone. We had picked out areas of town before I left that looked good to live in and where my search would focus, and since they were mostly south of the city, I booked a hotel room in lovely East Aurora, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Buffalo.
After my first day of looking at houses was done, I found myself at an East Aurora bar eating (and drinking, to be perfectly honest) my dinner. Soon I got into a long conversation with a fellow patron, a local, about why I was there. He proceeded to tell me glowingly all about the area, and especially about the Roycroft Campus, of which he was obviously proud. It’s a historical landmark there in East Aurora where Hubbard, following the lead of Englishman William Morris, had established the home of the American Arts and Crafts movement in 1895. I shared those details on the phone with my wife later that night.
I successfully chose and purchased a house in Orchard Park, not far from East Aurora, all by myself. We moved after my first son was born. (Happily, my wife loved the house.) On my first bicycle excursion from our new home, I rode through East Aurora, and it just so happened that I pedaled right by the Roycroft Campus. When I got back home, I told my wife about it and reminded her of our conversation about Elbert Hubbard and his little community of Roycrofters a couple of months earlier. She got a strange look on her face, went into the next room, and returned with a book in her hands. She said, “You know how my dad sends us old books he finds and thinks we’ll like? This arrived yesterday.” She handed it to me.
My father-in-law, knowing nothing of the local history, had lovingly selected and mailed to us an antique copy of the collected works of Elbert Hubbard. I opened the cover, and on the frontispiece was an old photo of the Roycroft Campus, taken from the spot I had just cycled past.