Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
Niagara Falls was one of my father’s favorite places. Although we (the seven Bennett children of John’s & Cecelia’s) were reared in Connecticut, my dad’s youth was spent in upstate New York and as often as possible he enjoyed returning to spots he had gone to as a boy.
As if it were yesterday, I can recall my first summer vacation to Niagara Falls. Dad, Mom, my sister Candy and I visited both the American and Canadian sides. Already, I travelled camera- in-hand, and am glad that was the case because I have some great memories captured on film. Others are in my heart.
One such heartfelt memory is of Dad standing close to the falls, seemingly mesmerized by its beauty and awe. It was mid-summer, the sun was intense and the heat was sweltering which brings to mind another Dad memory. After awhile, he opened his black umbrella and held it as a shield from the rays. Mom would have no part of using an umbrella on a sunny day but she did get a laugh from Dad doing so.
Among the joyful moments on this trip was Candy and I riding a tram cart across the falls. It was exciting and fun. Even at that height a light splash of water could be felt and the air was distinctively cooler than on the ground. I must add that to this day it is bewildering to realize OUR parents agreed to let us ride across Niagara Falls. I am certain Dad must have convinced Mom. Whatever it was that made this ride come about, I surely am happy for the adventure.
The Maid of the Mist is an attraction at Niagara Falls which is still going strong today. Folks who follow General Hospital are aware of the storyline about little Charlotte’s desire to ride the Maid of the Mist. A ferry type boat that navigates towards the falls – passengers can don rain gear as protection from the “mist” coming off the powerful, gushing water.
A sensory delight –the obvious visual magnificence of Niagara, being touched by its mist and a tremendous, near thundering sound of the falls. Unforgettable.
Niagara includes three falls on the border of the United States and Canada – the American Falls, Bridal Falls and Horseshoe Falls. It was fascinating to learn about daredevils who had gone over the falls in a barrel and to see those barrels firsthand. On the left hand side of the photo of my parents, take note of a couple of the barrels.
This vacation preceded my growing into an interest in shopping. So as Mom and Candy went off to do their shopping thing, Dad and I went exploring downtown Buffalo which is where our hotel was located. Dad and I came across a soda shop with a counter. We sat down and he ordered hot fudge sundaes, one for me and one for himself. The latter was unusual because Dad rarely had a sweet tooth. In retrospect, it was probably just a dad being a dad and joining in to make the treat more special.
What was typical of my father though, was striking up a conversation with the soda server. Dad could converse with anyone. The key I think was that he was truly interested in what they had to say. Dad’s family had owned and operated a hotel, I believe that experience combined with his nature made him at ease with people. Years later, he remained cognizant of what it took to provide guests with good service and on any given vacation enjoyed engaging in conversations with hotel staff.
Bringing this piece full circle I return to Niagara Falls for another example of Dad’s gregarious personality. There he spent time conversing with one of the guards at Horseshoe Falls. Perhaps foreshawdowing my future in journalism, I snapped a photo!
On this Father’s Day here’s to all the great dads who create wonderful memories for their families.