2018-10-06 / Viewpoints

Arboretum: with you in spirit

By Dale Ulkins

(Dale Ulkins is a Coudersport native and 1969 graduate of the local school who now lives in Baton Rouge, La., with his wife, the former Kathy Kovacs, also of Coudersport. This essay was written to the Friends of the Arboretum and submitted to Endeavor News by that organization with the author’s permission)

I grew up just down the street from where the arboretum now resides. I am unable to understand how some want to take that beautiful slice of Coudersport and uproot it in the name of money and greed.

That old depot and the tracks that used to be there were such a wonderful part of my young life. Walking those tracks and picking wild strawberries, balancing on the rails with my young friends as we walked an imaginary tightrope, counting the ties as we sauntered uptown, looking for old railroad spikes, exploring for fossils and agates in the gravel, scout meetings in the depot . . .

As I recently watched a superbly made arboretum video, I took pause as I saw the plaque remembering the Tasillo brothers. I grew up with all of the Tasillo families surrounding my family.

Paul and Kay, Louie and Margaret, Joe and Leona, Corky and Betty -- they were all such wonderful neighbors and friends.

As a very young boy, I often raced to the corner of Chestnut and South West Streets when I heard the train coming in the afternoon. I would pump my arm furiously in hopes of getting a blast from the whistle. I was rarely disappointed.

In fact, while doing this one afternoon, the train slowed and then stopped. From that big old locomotive window came a friendly arm waving me over. It was Paul Tasillo.

He helped me climb aboard and off we went heading for the roundhouse at the end of a busy day. I still remember sitting ever so high in the air, listening to the creaking of metal from that powerful locomotive and getting to blow the whistle as we neared the roundhouse.

After the locomotive was “put to bed,” I was loaded into the car with the train crew and delivered safely back to my house, my mom not yet aware of the brief adventure I had just experienced.

Those 60-year-old memories still live on today because of the kindness of the Tasillo family. When I saw their names on the arboretum plaque, I was flooded with thoughts of the neighborhood and all of those wonderful souls who treated the neighborhood kids as though they were their own children.

The arboretum is alive with those same memories etched in bricks and on walls and benches and plaques. It is a place of reverence and serenity for those who served our country and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. It is a place to remember friends and family. It is a place to enjoy the flowers and nature and to just sit and reflect.

I was so very delighted on a return trip to Coudersport to see a once-barren tract of land and an abandoned depot reborn into a place of beauty and grace for the community to enjoy. The thought of moving it for the sake of a business expansion is preposterous.

Please keep fighting those who just do not understand nor care. This is such a worthy cause. I admire all of you who are giving your time and efforts.

Thank you all from someone who is 1,300 long miles away yet right beside you in spirit.

Return to top