I’ve always been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln’s “log cabin beginnings” and how they shaped his personal story and our nation’s history. My own childhood home on Honeoye Lake — not a log cabin, but similarly humble — taught me the power a simple yet special place can hold over our hearts and who we become.
When my parents, Bart and Rebecca Barnhoorn, married in November 1960, their “starter home” was a small, wood-framed house on Charmouth Street in the Times-Union Tract on Honeoye Lake. The cottage was purchased for $3,700 from Bernadette Heffernan, director of the St. Elizabeth Guild House in Rochester and our family’s personal guardian angel.
After my father immigrated to America in 1957, Mrs. Heffernan, who worked for Catholic Charities of Rochester, helped my father apply for his draft and Social Security cards. She also hired him to work as a handyman at the Guild House on East Avenue, a residence for young single women. My mother was living there in 1959 when Mrs. Heffernan introduced them. The rest, as they say, was history.
Or rather, history in the making: While the cottage had potential, it wasn’t insulated. The first winter was rough for the newlyweds, who kept warm with a single pot belly stove and an electric blanket they received as a wedding present.
Undaunted, Dad got to work that spring converting the cottage into a year-round home, as Mom got to work starting a family. My four siblings and I were born over the next five years. The house grew fuller when Mom started babysitting to help pay the bills. For Mom, who loved giving kids the safe haven she never found in her own youth, it was more than just a job; and today, many of the kids she cared for remain lifelong family friends.
When I was 8, Dad also began supplementing his income from his full-time job at Delco with a trash hauling route around Honeoye. He often let me come along to do pickups. Hauling trash might seem like the humblest of humble beginnings, but today, helping Dad with his route remains one of my warmest recollections.
I loved being part of the action, and while I’m sure it took a lot of patience, Dad always made me feel special. Along the way, he taught me to respect my neighbors, my hometown and myself.
Our hometown got a chance to shine each year during the Honeoye Lake Winter Carnival, an eagerly anticipated event for my siblings and me. It was like the circus coming to town: new sights, new sounds and throngs of people passing our house on their way to the frozen lake.
The last carnival in 1971 was especially memorable, drawing a crowd estimated at 50,000. To my little boy mind, it seemed like the whole world showed up at our small lake. People were jumping out of airplanes, parachuting to everyone's delight. An old school bus was converted into a concession stand at Sandy Bottom, serving hot chocolate, chicken, chili, hamburgers and hot dogs. It seemed like the whole town pitched in to help feed everybody.
Caring for others — especially by feeding them — was something our neighbors excelled at. In February 1972, when Dad was working night shifts and Mom was bedridden after a surgery, the ladies of St. Mary’s Church took turns feeding us kids and putting us to bed. For Mom, it exemplified a sense of community connection she deeply cherished. For me, it inspired me to give back to my hometown, which I would later choose to do as a public servant.
In the summer of 1972, we moved to a larger home on White Road where we had more room for five growing children. But for my siblings and me, the house on Charmouth Street remains the place where we built the foundation of our lives — learning values of family, sacrifice and love that will stay with us forever.
Steve Barnhoorn, of Honeoye, is a member of the Richmond Town Board and a frequent Messenger Post contributor.