On Memorial Day, Jayne and I attended the City-sponsored program in our cemetery. It was well done. Thank you, Councilwoman Bolduc, and Representative Lisonbee for your efforts in behalf of all; best ever, I think. The cemetery was beautiful. I love the flags.
My dad is buried in the cemetery. After the program was complete, I began to reflect on his life. Did you ever sit down with your dad and ask him to recall stories from his youth? Perhaps you have. I have and am richer for it. My dad’s boyhood stories almost always included another Syracuse rascal, Jim Rentmeister. They reveal tales of outhouse tipping, watermelon “borrowing”, and I seem to remember one about cedar bark smoking. According to Pop, they were the Tom and Huck of town. Boys grow up. Military service and a world war forced the issue for them.
They remained close friends after marriage. Dad was an educator and his assignments often forced family moves away from Syracuse. Jim, the consummate businessman, remained. He became the owner of Jim’s Sporting Goods which occupied the corner where the Maverick is today.
In my boyhood I bought all of my BBs at Jim’s. It was a boy’s palace; a repository of hamburgers, fries, the best malted in the world, along with assorted sporting goods, including fishing gear. I had my eye on a tackle box on a high shelf. My maternal grandfather was an avid fisherman. I remember Gramps’ tackle box. It was huge, multi-level and full of all kinds of sparkling tackle. I wanted one filled like his!
We’ve just enjoyed Syracuse Heritage Days. When I was a boy that annual celebration was called “Friendship Days” and sponsored by the Syracuse Lions Club [1952-1974]. I was shocked to learn that year, that the tackle box on the shelf had been removed and donated by Jim as first prize to the winner of the fishing derby. In the 50’s, there was a large irrigation supply ditch on the east side of 2000 West. The Club dammed that ditch, raised its volume from Antelope to 2700 South and planted fish. The derby was on and I won! I could hardly believe it; Jim presented that very tackle box to me! Gramps would be proud!
Jim is an example of servant leadership. In 1951 he chartered the Syracuse Lions Club and became its first president. For those of us raised in Syracuse, the Lions Club is synonymous with giving, service and leadership. Its membership was a “Who’s Who” of the community.
The Lions Club sprang from necessity. Organized only 16 years after the City incorporated, much of the social and recreational components of our fledgling town were gifted of the Lions Club. The original bowery, ball fields and tennis courts in Founders’ Park came from the Lions. The flags in the cemetery, those I mentioned earlier, are maintained gifts of the Lions. Such gifting continues today.
I was honored when Jim accepted to serve as Grand Marshall of the Heritage Days parade and to present him with the key to the City as a token of appreciation this year. Thanks for the gift you personally gave the City, Jim, the gift of the Lions Club!
Mayor of Syracuse City