January 26, 2008


Radio show host reflects on famous father

Rock ’n’ roll star’s son finds his own spotlight on local airwaves.


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bobby Comstock Jr. reads the Red Dragon Report, a report of SUNYCortland sporting news, during a noon broadcast at the WXHC radio station Thursday. Comstock has been on the music scene for many years, working for many radio stations in the area. His father had a national hit record in January 1963.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — As a teenager, Bobby Comstock Jr. and his father traveled around the country in an oldies revival band, performing with the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Anthony and Johnny Maestro.
It was a fun experience for the younger Comstock, going some place a couple of weekends a month with his father Bobby Comstock Sr., a musician with Billboard hits under his belt, and meeting his accomplished friends.
But it wasn’t a career for the younger Comstock.
“I’m much more grounded than my father,” said the Oldies 101.5 WXHC afternoon host. “I don’t like to be going, going, going all the time.”
Forty-five years to the month after Bobby Comstock Sr.’s hit “I Want to Do It” was released, Comstock Jr., 42, of Cortland, said he feels he has successfully mixed his love for music and entertainment, which he developed from his father, with interests he has developed on his own: radio and sports broadcasting.
“I now have an identity of my own,” he said.
Comstock Jr. was born after the peak of his father’s success in the 1950s and early 1960s, but his father traveled and performed up through the early 1990s.
Music was always playing at the family’s Ithaca home, building up the knowledge and song collection Comstock Jr. would eventually use for his radio shows.
Comstock Sr. would take his son to his performances, including one in Ithaca where a 4-year-old Comstock Jr. sang in front of a crowd, and Comstock Sr.’s band would practice at their Ithaca home.
“Bobby was just there listening,” said Comstock Sr., 66, who lives in Long Beach, Calif. “At first he went after the drums. I have always carried strong musicians with me, and these guys would show him stuff and he’d learn it. Then he went to bass guitar because he wanted to play it. He just picked it up and played it.”
Comstock Jr. developed a serious talent for singing and guitar, his father said, so when Comstock Sr. had an opening in his oldies revival band, his son jumped at the opportunity. The band played mostly in New York City but also traveled around the country.
“It was kind of natural,” Comstock Jr. said.
The experience is kind of a blur, he said, despite the notoriety of the performances and famous encounters, because of the constant traveling.
He broke up the monotony and impersonality of the road with work at WVBR, a radio station in Ithaca.
He got the job entirely independently from his father, he said, and largely by chance. His high school nemesis had gotten a job at WVBR in Ithaca, and just to spite him, the younger Comstock got himself hired as well.
“I just did it to prove I could do it, too,” he said.
Comstock Jr. ended up getting hooked on radio, and pursued a radio career, including his current job as afternoon host at WXHC in Homer.
Comstock Sr. said he is not surprised his son did not take the music performance route. He could tell his son did not like being on the go as much.
“He could have played with me all the time, but the interest wasn’t really there,” Comstock Sr. said. “He came out to a show we did in the desert (in California). It was 24 acts in 24 hours … That was his first trip to California. He got back from that one and said, ‘I don’t know for how many more shows I can travel that far.’”
Comstock Jr. also veered from his father’s shadow by getting involved with sports.
In high school he coached a peewee hockey team and while at WHCU in Ithaca started broadcasting youth hockey games. Later he would broadcast Syracuse Chiefs minor league baseball games, and he now regularly broadcasts SUNY Cortland football and basketball games.
People no longer confuse him with his father, he said.
“For many years people thought I was him,” he said about his radio career. “When I go to the Cortland games people have no idea he’s my father.”
But being Comstock Sr.’s son does have its perks, he said.
He gets to see “the other Bobby Comstock” when he plays one of four of his father’s songs that WXHC has in its repertoire, including “I Want To Do It.” He has gotten to interview some famous oldies singers he has met through his father over the air, including Chuck Berry, and he got to do a show one day two years ago with his dad on WXHC.
“I just did it, and let the word spread,” Comstock Jr. said. “All these people called, and showed up to see him.”
Comstock Sr. said he hopes to visit Cortland within the next year and perform, as well as visit a son he’s proud of.
His son has a knowledge of oldies music and music in general that is hard to find, he said.
Just recently, on a bet from a friend, Comstock Sr. asked his son the name of the person who made a certain obscure record titled “Dear One.” Comstock Sr. couldn’t remember the name.
“I called Bobby, and he just gave me the answer right away,” Comstock Sr. said.




TC3 opens new learning commons

Renovations to former gymnasium to be completed by March

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — Returning to Tompkins Cortland Community College after an absence of a few years, Ithaca nursing student Nancy Okum said she is very happy with the new Learning Commons that opened Thursday, coinciding with the start of the spring semester of classes.
“It’s beautiful,” Okum said as she worked at a computer in the commons area. “And it’s better organized, too.”
The Learning Commons is the latest installation of the community college’s $34.2 million expansion and renovation program begun two years ago. It encompasses the former location of the gymnasium in the center of the main building and includes the college library.
Dean of Academic Affairs John Conners said the college wants the Learning Center to be “the heart of the college.” He points out that educational institutions in the Western world have always centered around their libraries, and the renovations would allow the campus to embrace education’s changing landscape.
Computers abound in the Learning Commons, as do classrooms for digital media, and the entire area is rigged for wireless Internet access, said TC3 Public Information Officer Peter Voorhees. And as the college makes the transition from a commuter school to a more residential one, students require more and more on-campus communal spaces.
Conners said that in the fall of 2009, there will be 800 students living in the campus residence halls.
The current main entrance to the Learning Commons is through the newly christened Fireside Café, on the site of the former Fireplace Lounge. While the former lounge was unenclosed and not particularly private or comfortable, the café now features comfortable chairs and surroundings. It will have a working fireplace, which is still under construction.
The adjoining coffee shop/café, serving sandwiches and pastries and other light treats, should open Monday, Conners said.
From the café, the commons opens up into a cavernous room scattered with more comfortable seating and computer terminals.
This is the space of the former gymnasium, as evidenced by the higher-than-expected ceilings that are now punctuated by skylights for natural lighting.
The true main entrance to the Learning Commons is still under construction, Voorhees said. Rather than taking visitors through the Fireside Café, the main entrance will be accessible through the main lobby of the building and will open up into the spacious computer lounge area.
To the sides of the lounge area, group study rooms line one wall and components of the school’s Lucille S. Baker Center for Learning line the others.



Dryden village, town OK sewer contract

Contract paves way for more than $5 million in upgrades to aging village sewer system.

Staff Writer

DRYDEN — The village and town have finalized a sewer contract and will hold press conference Monday to announce the agreement.
The Village Board approved the contract Tuesday and the town accepted it Jan. 18.
The press conference will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the town municipal building, 93 E. Main St.
The contract sets out the terms for more than $5 million in upgrades to the village’s sewer system and the town’s use of it _for the Cortland Road Sewer District.
The Village Board also Tuesday lifted a moratorium on sewer hookups in the Cortland Road Sewer District.
The village’s sewer district agreement with the town expired after its 20-year term in 2002.
Since 1982, the village has annexed several town parcels in the sewer district, which feeds wastewater into the village’s sewer system.
The town’s sewer district is roughly rectangular and includes the land occupied by Tompkins Cortland Community College and Dryden Central Schools, with the village boundary to the south and the northern boundary along Mott Road and TC3’s northern property line.
The district also includes the TC3 Foundation’s dormitories, located on a rectangular plot of land on the southeast corner of the Cortland Road Sewer District.
To renew the agreement, the town and village needed to re-evaluate the flow of wastewater from the town’s sewer district into the village’s sewer.
Tompkins Cortland Community College’s land is within the boundaries of the sewer district, and the college’s foundation agreed to reimburse the town for three flow monitoring stations with new metering equipment constructed in 2007 based on recommendations from PLS Engineering, a contractor based in Tully.
Hunt Engineers, Architects & Land Surveyors, an engineering consulting firm based in Horseheads, used data collected at the monitoring stations to determine the sewer district’s usage of the village sewer.
According to the agreement, 56 percent of the wastewater in the village sewer system is from the town’s sewer district.



McGraw short on police officers

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — The village’s lone remaining police officer has not worked in the village since October, and said he is unsure whether he will go back.
Officer Dave Tobias, who works full-time for the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, said he stopped working the additional part-time shift in McGraw when his Solon house burned down.
“It’s frustrating, having to deal with this (Sheriff’s Department) job and working there, with everybody calling you up all the time, expecting you to drop everything,” he said.
As a full-time police officer for the Sheriff’s Department, Tobias is limited by Civil Service Law to 19 1/2 hours per week at any additional part-time job.
He said the two jobs still left him too little time with his family.
“I don’t know if I’m going to go back,” he said. “For the amount they pay, and for the work they want done, it’s not worth it.”
McGraw Mayor Robert Freeman said the Village Board is discussing the possibility of replacing Officer Don Warner, who resigned in July. But village Trustee Allan Stauber thinks McGraw’s approximately $25,000 annual law enforcement budget can be spent more wisely.
Currently, the budget allows for two part-time police officers and two part-time school crossing guards.
“I think we can spend the money better,” Stauber said. “We don’t need a police department in McGraw … I don’t think we get our money’s worth.”
Stauber said he believes it would be more effective to build a State Police sub-station in the village, and cited Marathon as an example.
“There’s still a police presence there, and I think that would be a better avenue to go down,” he said.
Tobias was skeptical of the idea.
“They can do what they want,” he said. “But if they think that’s going to be any cheaper than having a police department, they’re in for a surprise.”
Freeman said he had heard of Stauber’s idea, but that the village has not pursued it.




Jury selection begins Monday in Manos murder trial

Dryden woman accused of drowning her 2-year-old niece in the bathtub while she baby-sat

Staff Reporter

ITHACA — Jury selection is set to begin Monday morning in Tompkins County Court for a Dryden woman accused of drowning her 2-year-old niece.
Marie Manos, 34, of 758 Ringwood Road, Apt. 2, was indicted in June on three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse, felonies, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the May 15 drowning death of her niece Grace Manos.
Marie Manos is accused of sexually abusing and drowning the child while she was baby-sitting her.
Manos claims she left Grace unattended while the girl was taking a bath, and that when she returned, she found her submerged in the water.
She said she called 911 immediately after finding the child unresponsive, at about 5 p.m.
However, police said Manos “intentionally held the victim’s face in a partially-filled bathtub” causing “swelling of the brain and respiratory failure,” according to the felony complaint against Manos.
Investigators said they found evidence of sexual abuse on the toddler’s body.
Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson will prosecute. Manos is represented by Ithaca defense attorney William P. Sellers IV.
Wilkins was hoping to use Manos’ taped three-hour interview with police during the trial.
Manos’ attorney said in a pre-trial hearing that Manos was not read her Miranda rights during questioning at the State Police barracks in Dryden shortly after the incident.
Tompkins County Judge John Sherman in July sealed Manos’ case file.
Manos has said she has cancer and is on medication for pain and anxiety. In a hearing Oct. 30, she admitted to Wilkinson that she had shot a bag of heroin the night of the incident because she “was out of pain medication.”
If convicted, Manos faces 15 years to life in prison.
Manos has been held without bail in Tompkins County Jail since her arrest.