OSWEGO, NY – For 20 years, John Canale could be found in the Council Chambers of Oswego City Hall.
Now, even though he’s long out of office, the former alderman still has a place at City Hall.
On Monday night, the street between City Hall and Pathfinder Bank was officially unveiled as John M. Canale Drive.
A large group of city officials, friends and a posse of mayors, past and present, turned out to honor the former alderman who’ll turn 91 next January.
At one point the group broke into an impromptu rendition of God Bless America.
With a little help from current Mayor Tom Gillen, Canale yanked the cord to officially unveil the street named in his honor. The former alderman tumbled backwards and was caught by former Mayor Terry Hammill.
“Years ago, when they were building the Civic Plaza (between City Hall and the Conway Building) this gentleman was calling it ‘Sullivan’s Folly,’” former Mayor John Sullivan said. “And I just want to tell you, it gives me great pleasure to see him here today smiling looking at Sullivan’s Folly; and I’m smiling looking at Canale Alley! So, if you live long enough and smile long enough, everything works out.”
Mayor Gillen reminded everyone that Canale was Veteran of the Year for 2014. Canale was an athlete, politician, teacher and author, the mayor added.
“He is a Jack of many trades. I want to recognize John for his contributions to our city and I think it’s appropriate that we named a street for him right in front of City Hall. It’s where he’ll be remembered the most,” Gillen said.
“I’m not disappointed that he’s not on the council right now,” he quipped. “I understand he was quite eloquent at times.”
“It’s not Sullivan’s Folly, it’s Sullivan’s Dolly as far as I am concerned,” Canale told his former political foil.
He thanked all the politicians and friends for attending the ceremony. Among them were Bill Hogan and Len Maniccia, two members of Canale’s Battle of the Bulge Veterans’ organization.
“They left their family and friends to fight the great German army,” he said.
They weren’t supposed to beat them, “but guess what? We did,” he added. “If it wasn’t for these guys here, none of us would be here tonight.”
He also thanked the Police Department’s Traffic Division for creating the signs for the John M. Canale Drive.
“I did not know Mayor Sullivan would be here. I am very happy to see him and my other mayors here, Mayor Fitzgibbons and Mayor Hammill and of course, the Downtown Mayor (Mike) D’Amico,” Canale said.
“I want to thank my wife first for all the support she’s given me. And the thirty-two hundred and two residents that supported me for two decades. Without the loyalty of my wife, who’s number one, and the thirty-two hundred and two residents, I never would have made alderman of the Third Ward,” Canale said.
The former alderman noted that he is just part of a long list of those who have been honored by the city naming things in their honor. Among them, he said, are the Cullinan and Crisafulli ice rinks, Breitbeck Park, the McCrobie Civic Center, Wright’s Landing, Leotta Gardens, Saloga Drive and several others.
“I hope you do as well as I did and last at least 20 years,” Canale told current Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd. “I want all of you (councilors) to cooperate with the mayor, which I didn’t always do.”
“You’re a living legend,” Mayor Hammill told Canale. “You were going out of office as I was coming into office. I never had the pleasure on the council. I know it would have been a pleasure.”
Following the unveiling, Canale sat in on the city committee meetings.
“It’s the first time I’ve been back here in a long, long time,” Canale said later in the Council Chambers. “I tell you, I miss this place every day since I’ve been out of office. I want to commend Mayor Gillen and the council for the job they’re doing. Not everyone agrees with me, mayor. But you are doing your job.”
Outside of teaching, Canale said he can’t think of a better job than being a city councilor for anyone to pursue.
“We need as many people running for office as we can get,” he said. “Every day that I teach at the high school or the middle school, I always say to my students ‘consider becoming an alderman or a mayor or a legislator – you might even become president of the United States some day.’”
“You can’t feel as much as I feel tonight about the honor and privilege that you gentlemen here have given me and I shall remember it for the rest of my life,” Canale told the city officials.