History Revisited

Words Sharie Sblendorio, Photos Jackie Tomarchio Hood:

   The Village of Canastota rolled out the red carpet and welcomed the participants of the 2018 New York-to-Paris Great Race celebration.

Great Race participants, Apex team members and Village officials in front of the Canastota Historic Great Race marker.

The members of Apex Automotive Magazine, village officials, the public and many car enthusiasts from around the area were there to greet the participants on June 22. The Apex team helped organize the stop in Canastota because the American Great Race team spent the night at the former Weaver Hotel — where the village office now stands — in 1908.

Apex team members, Bob Sblendorio and Mike Mastracco, with Jeff Mahl.

Jeff Mahl, the great grandson of the winner, George Schuster, spoke to the public and recalled the tales he learned from his great grandfather about the connection to Canastota which included learning about Weed tire chains, which were made in Canastota, and how they were instrumental in helping the car travel in the brutal winter conditions.  After the presentation and photos at the historic marker, the group walked to the Canastota Canal Museum where they were able to see an exhibit about the Great Race. Jeff Mahl and the other participants were thrilled with the reception they received, and especially the Canastota Police escort into the village!

Canastota presentation by Jeff Mahl about the Great Race.
Joe DiGiorgio, President of Canal Town Museum in Canastota, with Jeff Mahl in front museum.

Although only three cars were making the entire New York to San Francisco tour to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the Great Race, Jeff and the other participants were kind enough to offer anyone who wanted to join them for any portion of the tour, that they could do so. Two members of the Apex team joined them for the next leg to Buffalo and were treated like royalty. In Buffalo we visited the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum and toured Rich Products, which still maintains the building where the Thomas Flyer cars were manufactured.

Jeff Mahl and Frank Lowry leaving the Village of Canastota.
Jack and Mary Crabtree, from Texas, leaving the Village of Canastota.
John Quam, from California, leaving the Village of Canastota.

In nearby Springville, where George Schuster is from, we visited the Heritage Building.  Inside is a great recreation of George Schuster’s automotive business. Also in Springville, we visited the Schuster family home and the Maplewood Cemetery where George Schuster is buried.  There was a graveside service, including the playing of taps, which made us feel like we were part of the family.

Jeff Mahl with his sister Jennie, at George Schuster’s house in Springville, NY.

The next morning, under drizzly rain, they left from the museum in Buffalo, which coincided with the departure of the Hemmings Great Race.  At the starting line there were four generations of Schusters in attendance, from his granddaughter down to the great, great, great grandson. What a sight!  To learn more about their entire tour across the U.S., go to the blog at 2018nytoparis.com.


Author bio: Sharie worked for the Whitesboro School District for 16 years as a Teaching Assistant, and as the Attendance Secretary at the Middle School. She retired last year and has been doing a lot of traveling and volunteering with her husband Bob. She also enjoys spending time with her 3-boys and extended family and friends.

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