From an oral interview Audrey Johnson made with Elsie Forman Ross ca 1980.
My grandparent’s names on my father’s side were Mr. And Mrs.
Frederick Forman. (The original family name was Furhman). My grandmother’s
maiden name was Sophia Schultz. They lived on the Wildy family farm on
Calkins Road in the town of Pittsford. My grandparent’s names on
my mother’s side were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Leisten and her name was
Fredericka Paul. They were both born in Germany and lived in the
town of Roseland near Webster.
My parent’s names were Louis C. Forman and Mary Leisten Forman.
They lived in Webster before they moved to Pitttsford. My father,
L.C. started a small vegetable and green house behind the house we lived
on East Avenue which was across the road from where Irondequoit Country
Club is now. He started a pickle business of which he was the packer,
salesman, and deliveryman. He built a barn and small factory behind the
East Ave. He used to deliver to many stores in Rochester using a
horse and wagon.
In June of 1913 the factory burned. I remember it was June because
Walter, my brother, was graduating that June and he had taken the trolley
with his class for a class outing. I suppose like class banquets
now, and while he was on his way home, he could see the flames in the
sky and never
realized it was his own father’s factory where he also worked. We
had guests from Ontario whose horses were stabled in the barn along with
ours. I remember my father was afraid the barn would burn so they turned
all the horses loose – just let them wander all around there. The
Pittsford Fire Department came and worked all night and saved that
barn! The factory was a complete loss, but they saved the barn which was
a feat as they were in such close proximity.
My father had to look for a new place to have the factory and thought
it would be good to build near a railroad siding. He was able to purchase
the land at the end of Elm Street and built a factory there. At the same
time he was able to buy the house at 71 North Main St. where he lived all
his life and we kids were brought up. Albert, my brother was already married
to Carrie (Leaper) and they were able to buy the house next door. My dad
was able to acquire the other houses along Elm Street at different times
when people would move. Then, as we grew older and got married, dad rented
them to us until we were able to buy the house in which we lived.
I was nine years old when we moved into the house on North Main Street.
I always attended Lincoln Avenue School and walked every day even
from the house down farther on East Avenue. The kids complain today about
We used to have wonderful times in that house. It had a great big
old attic and we used to give plays. We wrote the plays ourselves, made
all the sets
and scenery, and dressed up in old clothes for costumes. We all played
a musical instrument of some kind and ‘Wow" what concerts we
would give! Walter even knew some sleight-of-hand. There were five of us
altogether – Albert, Walter, Wilbur, Elsie, and Millie (Steffen).
Behind the house on Main Street, was the barn where we kept the horses
and wagons. Dad had two teams of horses for deliveries and we had
a favorite horse named Prince who pulled the top buggy. (Mildred Schoen
told me she
remembered going out once with Albert in the "Top Buggy."
When the factory was first built, there was a pickle and sauerkraut room.
Later on wen Piccalilli became so famous, we added a Piccalilli room and
enlarged the offices. Later on we rebuilt the offices and enlarged the
laboratory upstairs. My father tried to hire lots of neighbors. I remember
people like John Hinderland, Fred Perkins, Mr Chesterman, Mr Harmor, Mr
Doser. Albert and Wilbur were the salesmen and Walter was the chemist.
I know there were lots of people in town who didn’t like the factory
and looked down their noses at it and I think that’s too bad. It
certainly was a one of a kind business and gave the town a name. Forman’s
pickles were sold all over the United States and we even did work for the
government with our Piccalilli. I remember during World War II we couldn’t
get enough help so all of the family had to work the 6 to 10 PM shift.
Also, when they were working on the Piccalilli formula, all the family
had to test out different recipes. I don’t know which one they picked.
They would just send them over and have us taste and tell them which one
we liked or didn’t like. The Piccalilli was cooked outside on a platform
in copper kettles and smelled so good! It always makes me remember when
I go into someone’s kitchen now when they are making chili sauce
or canning tomatoes. I love the smell!
I think my dad was a pretty great man. He had little education and yet
he started this business and people used to come to him from all over to
get advice on businesses. He served as president of the school board, helped
start the National Bank in Pittsford and was its first president; he was
very active in the Lutheran Church and served on the church council. All
of us kids went to college - Albert went to RBI; Walter went to Mechanics
Institute which is now RIT; Wilbur went to Ohio Northern Business College;
Millie went to School of Commerce and I went to Eastman School of Music.
I went two years to Eastman and then I met Frank Ross and we were married
After we were married, my father offered Frank the managership of
the Palmyra plant. He commuted back and forth from there every day during
time. They only made saurerkraut there. We still had that plant in
Palmyra when he sold the business to French ’s in 1960.
I went to Lincoln Avenue school all my school years. Some of the grades
were combined then like the 3rd and 4th, 4th and 5th. Miss Frazier
was my 7th grade teacher, Margaret Cullen taught 3rd grade, Miss Shadd
one of my teachers – she later married Alan Minnamon. Prof Hellemkamp
was principal and taught German and American History. Kate Strowger taught
science. Her father was Dr. Gomph, the Lutheran minister who started Wagons
College. Some of my classmates were Charles Zeitler, Eloise Palmer, Emma
McCoord Rodgers, Larry Graves, Florence Neighbor. I remember they had a
training class right there at the school which trained girls to be teachers
after they graduated from high school. They spent one year learning to
be teachers and then right into elementary school – all eight grades!
Ada Forman went to that class and I think Claribel Newcomb and Mildred
Schoen did, too.
I knew some of the town characters. I think Dr. Elmer Suhr was what
you could call a town character. He worked at the factory nights when
doing Piccalilli and some summers, too. Yes, Old Freddy Boughton,
who lived next to Shelly Crump’s store. That was some store! Yard
goods and shoes and things on one side and groceries on the other. Freddy
with a butterfly net and collected mushrooms.
I remember during World War I my mother and a lot of the older ladies
would go over to Mrs Hawley’s house and roll bandages for War Relief.
They much have done it once a week or so. I think I remember they
had something going like tat up in the village, too. I used to go over
there to see my
mother, I guess. I remember Mrs Hawley had this long table set up
in the living room. They used to give rides in pony carts over there, too.
When I was in high school, we used to have lots of parties in the
Episcopal Parrish House. I don’t know whether this was because there were girls
in that family at that time. I remember we had a dance there one night
and were having a wonderful time. Frank had to leave to go down to where
McConnell;s was to catch the trolley because it was the last one and I
didn’t want to leave so I told him to go on and I stayed and danced!
I guess you could write a book on the Forman’s with all I’ve
given you. I was always going to do that - Millie and I. I always thought
Elmer Suhr was going to do it and that was why he worked at the factory.