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Halicki Family of Dunkirk History presented at Chautauqua County Genealogical Society

Ron Halicki presented the history of the Halicki family of Dunkirk at the recent Chautauqua County Genealogical Society in Fredonia.

The Chautauqua County Genealogical Society met at the Barker Library in Fredonia for their monthly meeting and program. Guest speaker Ron Halicki, the youngest child of John and Angeline Halicki of Dunkirk, talked about the family and their business on Franklin Avenue at Roberts Road in Dunkirk.

There were 13 children in the family. The Halicki name traces back to Austria, said Halicki. In 1919, his father, John Halicki, emigrated to the U.S. to begin the family garage business. His father was a blacksmith for tools, originally from southern Germany. The war changed the borders of the countries, Halicki said. The Halicki family was a very enterprising family and began a towing business. This is the 100th year of the Halicki garage business. At first, horses were used to tow vehicles, which were becoming very popular at the time. Eventually, the garage sold Packard cars and later Studebakers until 1956. There were some 35 tow trucks in the business, all but two of them were custom built. The Halicki garage was the biggest towing business in the area, and the phone was always ringing for a tow truck, all hours of the day and night. Some tow jobs lasted for up to 14 hours when it involved large vehicle accidents.

Ron Halicki worked at the garage with his siblings and father, and began to write and do researching. He said he has interviewed some 300 people for research since 1970, developing a series of questions to ask the person.

The family continued into the movie business, and one of the more famous movies was “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Unfortunately, his brother was killed during the filming of the sequel by a falling water tank. Where did he get the title for this movie script that he wrote in 1969, he said? Well, since the towing business was so busy, his mother was always cooking meals at odd times, and she would tell the children, eat quickly, because “it will be gone in 60 seconds” if they are called out to an emergency towing situation. The movie, he said, is in some 37 countries. The Halicki family had a great part in the development of the Dunkirk East Town Fire Department he said. This was a very interesting and informative talk.

Gail Pugh Dash is the president of the genealogical society, Ruth Davis Nichols is the vice president, Debbie Kotar is the treasurer, and Margaret Ann Curtis is the secretary. Wayne Leamer of Ashville is the newsletter editor. The society maintains a research room in the Barker Library of families’ histories. The society meets once a month on the third Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

The next meeting of the Genealogical Society will be on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. At this meeting, members are to bring a piece of family memorabilia and give a history of it along with some family history. For more information on the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society, write to P.O. Box 404, Fredonia, NY 14063. New members are always welcome.

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