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Photo by George Bailey

There's Always Room for JELL-O at the JELLO-O Museum

Le Roy is a small town in up state New York with a big history and lots of fascinating things to take in.

What do Gomer Pyle, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Eddie Albert, Leslie Nelson, Paul Linde, Andy Griffith, Jackie Cooper and Bill Cosbie all have in common? They've all been spokespeople for "America's Most Famous Dessert", wiggly JELL-O.

Jello-O Museum

Le Roy, New York is where JELL-O was invented and the home of the JELL-O Museum. In 1897 Pearle Wait, a carpenter in LeRoy, was experimenting with gelatine and came up with the fruit flavoured dessert, which his wife May, named JELL-O. The rest is history.

Follow the JELL-O Brick Road inside this former academic building and you'll find things like the 20 original JELL-O oil paintings done in the 1920s, photos of the original JELL-O girl, JELL-O spoons, JELL-O paddles, JELL-O key chains, JELL-O shorts, JELL-O canvas bags and you guessed it, many more JELL-O items. You can watch a video tracing the marketing of this dessert for 100 years playing advertising jingles Jack Benny (JELL-O's pitchman in the 1930s) expounds the virtues of this "red letter" dessert. That's why JELL-O boxes have red lettering.

Ruth Harvie, docent (guide) said with an ear-to-ear grin, "Bill Cosbie ("the fun part of being a kid") has been our spokesman for the past 30 years and when he retires I'd like to see Jennifer Lopez as our next spokesperson. She already has the name-Jay-Lo and she certainly has the wiggles."

The museum has lots of "Please Touch" signs marking activities for the children to put their hands on such as a wooden "do-nothing" machine and a marble racer, among others.

Canadians might find it interesting to learn that the former Menthalatum Building (now an apartment complex) in Fort Erie, Ontario was the original Canadian JELL-O factory between the1920s and 30s.

Check out the LeRoy House in front of the museum to take in more of the history of this town of 8000 people.

Heavenly Churches

Nothing captures LeRoy's beauty and diversity better than its spectacular old churches. They offer a bridge between the days that were and the days that are. LeRoy is built on a vein of limestone and many of the churches and historic homes are constructed of this limestone. The Post office and Town Hall are also proud examples of the stone- masons' skills and a few wonderful houses in this village have been turned into unique, "Bed and Breakfast" establishments.

Photo by George Bailey

More Nostalgia

If you're nostalgic for a bygone era, there's no better way to tap into it than a visit to the B&B Depot Restaurant. This is perhaps LeRoy's most visited restaurant and there's a reason for it. Here you can mingle with the locals and almost feel part of the community. The restaurant is in the original early 1900s depot of the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad. It's been lovingly restored and serves reasonably priced meals from scratch by a friendly staff in a calm relaxed atmosphere. Even the background music is old-fashioned. This is a place you arrive at hungry. Try the onion soup it comes with plastic scissors to cut the cheese. www.dandrdepot.com.

Visit the Statue of Liberty

That's right. LeRoy has one of 21 miniature Statue of Liberty's erected by the Boy Scouts of America across the United States in the 1950s. It's on the bank of the Oatka Creek that winds its way through the downtown .A cool photo is to get on your knees in front of it the statue and have someone take your photo. Tell your friends you visited the Big Apple!

"No one hands out road maps for the road less travelled. You just have to go and start driving."


George Bailey is a professional photographer and writer. He is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and writes a regular column for Canadian CAA Magazine. He can be contacted at Wonderful.life@sympatico.ca.

2006