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 Pittsford. My father, L.C. started a small vegetable and green house behind the house we lived in 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 house on East Ave. He delivered 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 to Manitou 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 quite 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 walking! 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 when 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, and 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 soon after.
After we were married, my father offered Frank the managership of the Palmyra plant. He commuted back and forth from there every day during sauerkraut time. They only made sauerkraut 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 was 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, and 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 we were doing Piccalilli and some summers, too. There was Old Freddy Boughton, who lived next to Shelly Crump’s store. That was some store! It sold yard goods and shoes and things on one side and groceries on the other. Freddy went around 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 must have done it once a week or so. I think I remember they had something going like that 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.
From an oral interview Audrey Johnson made with Elsie Forman Ross ca 1980