Tonawanda News

September 22, 2012

TUCKER: Looking back at families

By Barbara Tucker
The Tonawanda News

— Walter “Chum” Thursam, a cousin of my husband who died this past week, was an outstanding family historian, energetic and fun.

He, along with all the other Thursams, grew up in Tonawanda and even though Chum moved to Barker and later to Newfane, he always had Tonawanda at heart. Whether we enjoyed lunch with him and his sister Mary and her husband Fred, visited him at his home in Lockport, or enjoyed the company of his brother Chuck and his wife Petey, it was always a joy to hear how the Thursams grew up, no richer nor poorer than anyone else, but with a sense of family, community and religion that seems lost today.

Whenever the Thursams gathered (and it was often so the story goes) Chum would tell about the singing, family musicians who accompanied the singers, the card games and the great fun they all had together. In fact, Chum, when he was an adult, sang in the choir at his church. There are hardly any Thursams left in the area today, many are now in Florida and places south. But they all still call Tonawanda “home.”

After the funeral, our son, who teaches at Lockport High School, was talking about Chum, telling how much he enjoyed bantering with him and learning about the family. He commented on how today, the family structure is falling away along with important values of religion and communication.

“I asked my class how many went to church every week. Just one hand out of 25 went up. I asked who are your neighbors and many could not identify them,” he said.

“Teachers are surrogate families,” he added. “Schools provide breakfast, lunch, after school care and have a social network for the kids’ needs.”

Of course in today’s world, moms and dads have to work, many more than one job, just to keep their heads above water. The children are hooked on TV, X-Boxes, Ipads, cell phones and their own laptop computers, so conversation — actually talking — has become a thing of the past as are family dinners which gave way to sports’ schedules and practices, music lessons, etc.

The other night at a family dinner, the youngest, age 9, was sitting next to one of his uncles. As soon as he finished eating, he wanted to get up and watch TV. His uncle hauled him back to his chair every time, reminding him that this was a family time and he was one of the family. Funny thing was, when he finally realized he wasn’t going anywhere, he joined in the conversation and not only entertained us, but had a great time doing it.


Have you ever really looked at a brick wall? That thought came to mind as I was walking past the Remington complex on Sweeney Street the other day.

Coming from a bricklaying family, it struck me how difficult it must have been to keep each course completely level and each brick with just so much cement. I can still see my uncles tapping down a brick into the cement to make it level and then scraping off the excess cement with the trowel. The string lines along each course of bricks were the guides, but the level was the definitive measure for perfection. Too bad there aren’t more technical schools today where guys and gals could learn the trades. There’s such emphasis on college when many might do better and become more successful learning trades.

A favorite cousin who died recently, was a bricklayer and stone mason. So good was he at his trade, than when stone work had to be done at the Buffalo Armory, he was the only one they wanted to do the work as he was truly a master of the trade.


Final note: An election inspector since 1970 (who chose not to have her name in the paper) called commenting on the election signs in front of Tonawanda City Hall on Primary Day. She said the signs in front of city hall that the woman called in to complain about were legitimate as politicians are allowed to put up signs within 100 feet of the polling place.She also agreed that we should have voter ID. She said that in years past, polling place workers always asked for voter ID, but that was later eliminated. We both wondered how people without ID can buy beer.



Contact community editor Barbara Tucker at 693-1000, ext. 4110 or email