Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: What do you know about the West End?

This new quiz focuses on the City’s West End neighborhood. The complete quiz includes 20 questions. I present the first five questions and correct answers below. I will be e-mailing all 20 questions to members of this blog’s mailing list later this week:

1) Beginning in 1958, his West Main Street business was the only location in Amsterdam’s West End where motorists could “put a Tiger in their tank”. Who was he?

2) An extremely large percentage of the Italian immigrants who settled in the West End during the early Twentieth Century all came from the same town in the southern part of Italy. What was the name of this town?

3) This West End father and son duo both starred for Amsterdam High School football teams thirty years apart. The Dad was the tough-as-nails leader of a defensive unit that carried Amsterdam to a 1948 league championship. Three decades later his son reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the Rugged Rams. Can you identify this dynamic duo?

4) This West End native who grew up on Gardiner Street was the first individual of Italian heritage to be elected Mayor of Amsterdam. Who was he?

5) The guy pictured above was the only one of Sammy Pepe’s four sons who did not end up working in the iconic West Main Street restaurant their father founded as an adult. Which of the Pepe brothers is he?

You will find the answers to the above five questions about Amsterdam’s West End neighborhood beginning right below this paragraph.  The complete West End Trivia Quiz has a total of twenty questions in all. If you’d like to see the other 15, I will be including them in the next issue of my new Amsterdam NY Trivia Quiz Newsletter which I will be distributing later this week to everyone currently on this blog’s mailing list. If you’re not on the list, you can subscribe here. There’s no cost for subscribing and when you do, you will receive a minimum of six new Amsterdam, NY Trivia Contests which I intend to distribute every month, via e-mail. Now here are the answers to the first five questions in today’s Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz.
Answer to question number 1: His name was Albert Turo and he owned and operated the Esso gas station that was located across from the foot of Bayard Street next to the now-closed Sansalone’s Market. Al ran that station for close to a half century. One year after he took over the location, Esso introduced their “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” ad campaign and it became one of the most successful and longest lasting promotions in history. Al’s youngest son Tom later took over ownership of the business from his dad and ran it for many years.
Pisciotta, Italy

Answer to question number 2: The hillside town in southern Italy that was the original home to many of the Italian families who settled in Amsterdam during the early 1900’s was Pisciotta, in the province of Salerno.

Answer to question number 3: Both father and son shared the same name, Anthony Sculco.

Frank Martuscello

Answer to question number 4: His name was Frank Martuscello. He was first elected Mayor of Amsterdam in 1956 and then again in 1960.
John Pepe

Answer to question number 5 : John Pepe was the only son of Sammy Pepe who did not go to work at his father’s West Main St. restaurant as an adult. Instead, he went to college for his engineering degree and eventually became the long time Commissioner of Public Works for Montgomery County. His three younger brothers, Jim, Sam  and Joe all had long careers at the restaurant.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – Streets & Neighborhoods

Anyone fortunate enough to have attended the Historic Amsterdam League’s eighth annual Neighborhood Tour this past weekend (6/9/2018), will have an easier time answering the questions in today’s Amsterdam Trivia Quiz than those of you who did not. This new quiz focuses on the City’s Market Hill neighborhood. The complete quiz includes 20 questions. I present the first five questions and correct answers below. I will be e-mailing all 20 questions to members of this blog’s mailing list later this week:

1) What were the names of the husband and wife team that used to own and run Mac’s Confectionary on Amsterdam’s Glen Avenue?

2) Before the Pakenas family opened a dry cleaning business at 110 Brookside Avenue in the mid 1940’s, Elmer Welch ran his own very popular business at that location. Any idea what sort of business Welch operated?

3) When Sammy Fariello suffered a debilitating stroke in the late 1970’s his son took over the running of his legendary Confectionary at 43 Lincoln Ave. Do you remember his son’s first name and his popular nickname?

4) Dave Blinsinger, the very popular head butcher at the original Joe’s Market on Market Street was known by a very popular nickname. Do you remember what customer’s and the Market’s staff used to call Blinsinger back then?

5) The only Market Hill City firehouse opened in 1907 at the corner of Chestnut and Bunn Street’s and remained in operation till the mid 1970’s centralization of all of Amsterdam’s firefighting resources at the new Public Safety Building. Every neighborhood firehouse used to have a number assigned to it. What number was this long-time Market Hill fire house assigned?

You will find the answers to the above five questions about Market Hill beginning right below this paragraph.  The complete Market Hill Trivia Quiz has a total of twenty questions in all. If you’d like to see the other 15, I will be including them in the first issue of my new Amsterdam NY Trivia Quiz Newsletter which I will be distributing later this week to everyone currently on this blog’s mailing list. If you’re not on the list, you can subscribe here. There’s no cost for subscribing and when you do, you will receive a minimum of six new Amsterdam, NY Trivia Contests which I intend to distribute every month, via e-mail. Now here are the answers to the first five questions in today’s Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz.

Answer to question number 1: Mac’s Confectionary was owned and managed by Mac & Virginia Rianno.

Answer to question number 2: Before Pakenas Cleaners took over the  building at 110 Brookside Avenue it was the home of Welch’s Bottling Works which bottled and distributed its own line of soda’s under their own “American Boy” Label.

Answer to question number 3: Sammy Fariello’s son’s name was “Robert” but he was widely known by his nickname “Fadge”. Fadge kept the iconic business moving forward after his father’s stroke until he was tragically felled by a brain tumor in late 1985.

Answer to question number 4: The nickname of Joe’s Market’s legendary meat cutter Dave Blinsinger was “Dynamite”.

Answer to question number 5: The Market Hill City firehouse located at the corner of Chestnut and Bunn Street’s was designated No. 4 by the Amsterdam Fire department.

Don’t forget, there are 15 more memory challenging questions in my new Market Hill Trivia Quiz which will be e-mailed later this week to all members of this blog’s mailing list. If you are not already on that list you can sign up FREE here.

I highly recommend that those who missed the HAL Northern Neighborhoods Tour do not miss the chance to purchase the 48-page companion book HAL put together for the event. It costs $11.00 per copy (postage & sales tax  included) and you can order it via mail-order direct from HAL at Historic Amsterdam League, PO Box 132, Amsterdam, N.Y. 12010. Copies of the book will also be available in the next few days at the following Amsterdam locations: Book Hound at 16 East Main St, the Amsterdam Free Library on Church Street, the Inman Senior Center at 53 Guy Park Ave., the PAV Club at 56 Church Street and the Elwood Museum at 100 Chirch Street.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – Entertainment

For such a small town, Amsterdam certainly had had it’s share of individuals who have gone on to successful careers in the entertainment industry. Today’s quiz tests your knowledge of ten such Amsterdamians (actually 11 with the bonus question). How many can you get correct? The answers are posted at the end of this post beginning right below the final question. Good luck…or perhaps I should say; Break a leg!

1) In April of 1954, this son of an Amsterdam clothing store co-owner won the Metropolitan Opera “Audition of the Air competition” and was signed by the Met for their 1955-56 season. Using the stage name “Albert DaCosta” quickly became a widely respected rising Opera tenor. Can you identify the clothing store his father owned?

2) This Amsterdam resident became part of one of the most popular and longest running  “Tribute” acts in Las Vegas history with his uncanny portrayal of Sammy Davis Junior. Who is he?

3) This Amsterdam native became the operations manager at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1977. Can you name him?


4) After graduating from St. Mary’s Institute in 1966, this Amsterdam native pictured above with George Harrison got her degree from Stony Brook and headed for New York City where she began a stellar career in the music industry during which she managed the concert tours of some of the most legendary rock bands in history, including the Rolling Stones, The Who and Lynyrd Skinner Band. Her Dad’s family ran a popular Amsterdam Dairy. Any idea who she is?

5) This member of the Amsterdam High School Class of 1970 was one of this town’s all-time great Rec Softball Players before moving south to pursue his career in law enforcement and eventually becoming an actor. His recent credits include appearances in a James Franco film and the Walking Dead TV show. Can you identify him?

6) She was one of Bert DeRose’s greatest talent discoveries from the Amsterdam High School Class of 1954 and she went from regular appearances on the old WRGB talent show, “Teenage Barn” to becoming a headline nightclub singer and scoring a starring role in close to 2,000 performances of the national touring version of the hit Broadway musical, The Flower Drum Song. Who was she?

7) In 2013 she became the only Amsterdam native to be nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Who is she?

8) She’s the sister of the answer to number 4 above and she also happened to put together a great career as one of the most talented seamstresses in the entertainment industry, stitching the wardrobes and set components for some of Broadway’s biggest blockbusters. Who is she?

9) Of all the bodies buried in Amsterdam’s Green Hill Cemetery, her’s appeared in featured roles of the most Hollywood films. Who was this long-ago leading lady?

10) This Amsterdam native became nationally known beginning in 2002 when his wise and witty online reviews of each American Idol episode were drawing millions of hits at the Entertainment Weekly Web site and becoming must reading for fans of the hit show. Who is he?

Today’s Bonus Question: The Amsterdam native has become one of the most respected guitarists in the punk rock genre. He is pictured above (at far left) with his band Krimewatch, which has played major venues all over the world. What’s his name?

The answers to today’s quiz appear below:

1) Albert Sochin DeCosta was the son of Joseph Sochin who at one time was a co-owner of Sochin’s, long-time successful business in downtown Amsterdam.
2) Louie Velez
3) Dave Carlucci
4) Mary Beth Olbrych Medley
5) Eddie Kercado
6) Arlene Fontana
7) Jessica Collins Capogna
8) Melanie Olbrych
9) Mary Duncan
10) Michael Slezak
Answer to today’s Bonus Question: Sean Joyce

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – People

All of the folks pictured below have three things in common. They all grew up in Amsterdam, NY. They all attended Amsterdam public or parochial schools. They each have also fulfilled the arduous requirements required to  become medical doctors. How many can you identify? You’ll find the correct answers at the end of this post

  1. :

 

Answers appear below:

:

1. Dr. Tom Catena, Amsterdam High School Class of 1982, who has been practising in Gidel in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan since 2008.

2. Dr. Peter Diamond, Amsterdam High School Class of 1969, now retired. Maintained a family practice in Amsterdam for 35 years.

3. Dr. David Collins, Amsterdam High School Class of 1970, now retired. A now retired anesthesiologist who practiced in Chambersburg, PA for 40 years.

4. Dr. Helen Kansas Blanchard, Amsterdam High School Class of 1952. Was a a practitioner of Obstetrics and Women’s Health in Amsterdam from 1960 through 1996

5. Dr. Edwin Kelly, St Mary’s Institute Class of 1928. Maintained a family practice in Amsterdam for 31 years until his death in 1964.

6. Dr. Richard Picciocca. Amsterdam High School Class of 1986. A general surgeon practicing in Florida.

7. Dr. Heather Stahura, Amsterdam High School Class of 2004. An internist practicing in Albany, NY.

8. Dr. Matthew Vicinanzo, Amsterdam High School Class of 1987. An ophthalmologist practicing in Birmingham, Alabama.

9. Dr. Mark Milunski, Amsterdam High School Class of 1972. A cardiologist practicing in Orlando, Florida.

10. Dr. Deborah Sculco, Amsterdam High School Class of 1974 – An oncologist practicing in Amsterdam, NY

11. Dr. Ronald Marsh, Amsterdam High School Graduate Class of 1977 – A general surgeon practicing in Amsterdam, NY.

12. Dr. Megan Gaugler Sumigray, Amsterdam High School Graduate Class of 2008 – A general practitioner in Schenectady, NY.

13. Dr. John Fedullo, Amsterdam High School Graduate, Class of 1977 – A Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation specialist in Amsterdam, New York.

14. Dr. Walter Zelasko, Amsterdam High School Graduate, Class of 1972 – A podiatric surgery specialist practicing in Winston Salem, NC

15. Dr. William S. Blase, Graduated from Amsterdam High School and Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia. Opened his Amsterdam practice in 1957 and was the Chief of Staff at Amsterdam Memorial Hospital for several years.

16. Dr. Kristen Santos, Graduated from Bishop Scully High School and the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994. She currently practices Internal medicine in Troy, NY.

17. Dr. Charles Berth, Son of Amsterdam neighborhood grocers, he became an engineer first and then switched to medicine in the early 1960s, graduating from Albany Med and specializing in orthopedic surgery. He established a practice in Amsterdam that lasted for close to half a century.

I would also like to mention two other doctors who are Amsterdam natives for whom I cannot locate photographs. Dr. Nancy Slezak Knudsen graduated from Bishop Scully High School in 1972 and has enjoyed a long career as a practicing oncologist. Dr. Mary Kate Seward Barnett is a 2002 graduate of Amsterdam High School who currently maintains a general practice here in Amsterdam with Amsterdam Family Practice.

I also realize that there have been many more natives and former residents of Amsterdam who have gone on to careers as medical doctors than just those listed above. If you’d like to add some of your own to this list, please use the comments feature of this blog to do so!

 

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – Streets & Neighborhoods

This category tests your knowledge of the geography and history of some of Amsterdam’s best known thoroughfares. Today’s featured street is Guy Park Avenue. You’ll find the answers to today’s questions beginning  right beneath the final question:

1) In 1960, there were four different schools operating on Guy Park Avenue. Can you name them all?

2) Five different congregations have operated Houses of Worship on Guy Park Avenue since I was born in 1954. Can you name three of them? (Hint: two of these houses of Worship are no longer in operation)

3) Can you name the three supermarkets that operated on Guy Park Avenue, all located between Guy and Wall Streets during the 1960s?

4) More Amsterdamian’s have been born on Guy Park Avenue than on all the other streets in our city combined. Can you explain why this is true?

5) What was the name of the street before it was renamed Guy Park Avenue?

6) Where did the name Guy Park come from?

7) What Amsterdam industrialist was the first resident of this Guy Park Avenue home?

8) Which of these well known local television personalities once lived on Guy Park Avenue?
a) Tim Welch
b) John Allen
c) Don Decker
d) Rip Rowan

9) Which of these well known former Amsterdam residents DID NOT at one time reside on Guy Park Avenue?
a) Judge Robert Sise
b) Whitey Murray
c) Recorder Sports Editor Art Hoefs
d) Amsterdam merchant and former mayor, Seely Conover
e) US Congressman Sam Stratton

10) Which of these local businesses was never located on Guy Park Avenue?
a) Quandt’s Wholesale Foods
b) Hardies Electric
c) Morrison and Putnam’s
d) Kem’s Cleaners

Bonus Question: A local public school was named after a one-time resident of the 231 Guy Park Avenue home pictured below. Any idea what school I’m referring to?

The answers to today’s Amsterdam Trivia Quiz questions appear below:

Guy Park Elementary

Answer to question number 1: The four schools in operation during the 1960s were Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School, St. Joseph’s School, West Spring Elementary and Guy Park Avenue Elementary.

Trinity Lutheran

Answer to question number 2: The five Guy Park Avenue houses of worship include the still active Trinity Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church and Congregation Sons of Israel synagogue and the former St. Joseph’s Catholic and Emmanuel Presbyterian Churches.

 

Acme ad from 1966 Amsterdam Recorder

Answer to question number 3: The three Guy Park Avenue-based supermarkets that were once located between Guy and Wall Streets were the A&P, Grand Union and Acme Supermarkets.

Answer to question number 4: The reason the majority of babies born in Amsterdam came into this world on Guy Park Avenue is because for close to sixty years both Memorial and St. Mary’s Hospital were located on Guy Park and St. Mary’s, the only remaining hospital in the city today, still conducts its maternity activities there.

Answer to question number 5: Before it was renamed Guy Park Ave, it was called Spring Street because of the natural spring that flowed beneath it.

Guy Johnson’s home in Guy Park

Answer to question number 6: The name “Guy Park” came from “Guy Johnson” who was a nephew of Sir William Johnson, the man who first settled the land on which Amsterdam is located. Guy joined his uncle in America in the 1770’s and eventually married Sir William’s daughter Polly. Sir. William gave the couple a square mile plot of land alongside the Mohawk River. Guy Johnson built his house on that plot and the square mile estate became known as “Guy Park.”

 

Answer to question number 7: The original owner of this still-standing majestic home on upper Guy Park Avenue was David Chalmers, founder of the Chalmers’ Knitting Mill that once dominated Bridge Street on Amsterdam’s South Side.

Rip Rowan

 

Answer to question number 8: Though he was born in Schenectady where his Mom Clarissa hailed from, long-time WTEN News sports anchor William “Rip” Rowan Jr. did his growing up in Amsterdam, NY. He resided on the lower “200 block” of Guy Park Avenue and he graduated from Lynch High School in 1953.

Whitey Murray at Little Giants’ 50th Anniversary Celebration

Answer to question number 9: The correct answer is “b” but though Whitey Murray never lived on Guy Park he spent a large part of his life there. The founder of the Amsterdam Little Giants Football League ran the Texaco Gas Station that was situated opposite the top of Guy Street, where the Stewarts store is now located.

Answer to question number 10: The correct answer is “c”, the long-time Amsterdam music store Morrison and Putnam’s was last located at the corner of Division and Wall Streets, at the site now occupied by the New Dimensions Health Clinic. The other three businesses were all long-time Guy Park Avenue addressee’s. Among these businesses, only Hardies Electric remains in operation though in a new location on Clizbe Ave.

Clara Bacon’s Guy Park Ave. residence
Answer to today’s Bonus Question: The home at 221 Guy Park Ave. belonged to former Assistant Superintendent of Amsterdam City schools, Clara S. Bacon and her husband.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz – Category: Politics

How good is your knowledge of Amsterdam’s political history? Here are ten questions that will test your memory of candidates and office holders from the Rug City’s past. How many can you answer correctly? The answers are posted after the final question, below:

1) This guy ran for Mayor more often than anyone else in Amsterdam  history. Who was he?

2) In his first effort to become Amsterdam’s representative in the New York State Assembly, this guy lost a 1980 election to Glen Harris? He has not lost another election since. Who is he?

3) Which of the following women did not serve as an Amsterdam city alderwoman?
a) Marie Gavry
b) Lesley Lanzi
c) Kim Brumley
d) Lorri DeRossi

4) He was Amsterdam Mayor in 1954 when the Sanford Rug Mills announced they were abandoning Amsterdam. Who was he?

5) Which of the following individuals was never a candidate for Amsterdam Mayor in a general election?
a) Joe Jacobs
b) John Mycek
c) Richard Insogna
d) Chuck Bigler

6) Can you name the four candidates who ran for Amsterdam mayor in the 1979 election to succeed the retiring John Gomulka?

7) This individual is the only person to serve as both Superintendent of Amsterdam City schools and Amsterdam Mayor. Can you identify this person?

8) The 1968 election for state assembly between these two Amsterdam natives pitted a powerful veteran politician versus a young and rising upstart and resulted in a shocking upset. Do you remember who the two candidates in this historic race were?

9) Who were the three candidates in the 2011 election for Amsterdam Mayor?

10) Which of the following individuals did not lose a primary bid in their effort to become a candidate for Amsterdam Mayor?
a) Joe Pepe
b) Ed Hardies
c) John Betz
d) Robert Going

Bonus Question: In what year was the former Sanford family home on Church Street officially donated to the  City of Amsterdam?

Correct Answers for Today’s Quiz are below:
Carter

Answer to question number 1: Arthur Carter ran for Mayor a total of nine times, winning five of those elections.

Tonko

Answer to question number 2: Paul Tonko

DeRossi

Answer to question number 3: d) Lorri DeRossi never served on the Amsterdam Common Council but her youngest daughter Gina did.

Deal

Answer to question number 4: Burtiss Deal

Richard Insogna
Answer to question number 5: The correct answer is c). The late Richard Insogna was a well known Amsterdam attorney but he was never a mayoral candidate. Former City Corporation Counsel Joe Jacobs was the unsuccessful Democratic Party nominee for the office in both the 1953 and 1959 elections. Former Montgomery County Surrogate Court Judge Mycek lost to Republican Frank Martuscello in 1955 and Bigler, the one-time Montgomery County Administrator finished third in his race against Paul Parillo and winner Mario Villa in the 1991 election.
Mario Villa

Answers to question number 6: Mario Villa who won the election was the Republican candidate. One time Amsterdam city firefighter Dan Brojakowski was the 28-year-old candidate of the Democrats. Vito Dandreano ran on the Liberal ticket and Pete Phelps was the Conservative Party candidate.

Lynch
Answer to question number 7: Wilbur H. Lynch
Krupsak
Campbell
Answers to question number 8: Mary Ann Krupsak became the first woman to represent Amsterdam in the state assembly when she defeated the incumbent, Don Campbell, who had held the office for 18 years.
Thane

Answer to question number 9: Incumbent Mayor Ann Thane squeaked out a second term in the 2011 mayoral election by defeating former Amsterdam Mayor Joe Emanuele and veteran alderman Bill Wills.

John Betz
Answer to question number 10: John Betz was the only one of these four choices who actually received his party’s nomination to run for Mayor when he became the Republican candidate in the 1967 election and was beaten by John Gomulka. Former alderman Joe Pepe lost his 1987 bid for the GOP nomination to then City controller John Blintz who in turn lost the general election to Democrat Paul Parillo. Ed Hardies, the long-time owner of an Amsterdam-based electrical contracting firm and Commissioner of Public Works under John Gomulka, lost his 1979 bid for the Democratic mayoral nomination to Dan Brojakowski. Former Montgomery County Family Court Judge Bob Going lost the 1983 Republican primary to Mario Villa.
Answer to Bonus Question: The Sanford family deeded the home to the city upon the death of John Sanford in 1932.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz – Category: Sports

How good is your knowledge of Amsterdam sports history? Here are ten questions that will test your memory of outstanding athletes and teams who have provided Rug City sports fans with plenty of special moments. How many can you answer correctly? The answers are posted after Question number 10:

1) This former Harvard Avenue resident was a three time winner of the prestigious New York State Amateur Golf Championship. Can you name her?

2) He was the first football player in Section II history to score 200 points in a season Who was he?

3) Can you name two Amsterdam residents who played Major League baseball?

4) Who was the first girl in the history of Amsterdam High School’s cross-country program to qualify for the NY State Championship Meet?

5) Can you name the last boy and the last girl to break the 1,000 point career mark for the Amsterdam High School boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball programs?

6) In 2016, he became the first Amsterdam native to win an Athlete of the Year honor for a major Division 1 college conference. Who was he?

7) She was the first female to wrestle for the Amsterdam High School’s Varsity Wrestling program. Who is she?

8) Only one former basketball player from St. Mary’s Institute and just one from Bishop Scully were able to score more than 1,000 points during their high school basketball careers. Can you name both players?

9) Can you name two former Amsterdam Rugmaker Baseball Players who made Major League All Star teams?

10) Amsterdam High School Varsity Baseball Coach Brian Mee’s 1973, ’74 and ’75 teams set a New York State record for consecutive victories. How many games did they win during their historic streak?

Bonus Question: Who is the former Amsterdam High School football player pictured at the beginning of this quiz? (Hint: One of his sons later played football for Brown University)

Correct answer for question 1

Dianne Wilde

Correct answer for question 2

Brian Niezgoda

Correct answers for question 3:

Roger Bowman
Steve Kuczek
Jack Hammond
Jake Reisigl

Correct answer for question 4:

Olivia Lazarou

Correct answers for question 5:

Kory Bergh
Giuliana Pritchard

Correct answer for question 6: Izaiah Brown, who won Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year award as a freshman at Rutgers in 2016.

Izaiah Brown

Correct answer for question 7: 

Nicole Benton

Correct answers for question 8:

Bill Bresonis for St. Mary’s
Cappy Wells for Bishop Scully

Correct answers for question 9:

Vic Raschi

 

Lou Burdette
Bob Grim

 

Gus Triandos

 

Spec Shea

Correct Answer for question 10: 53 straight games

Brian Mee

Correct Answer Bonus Question: 

Gene Catena: 1948 AHS Football MVP

Amsterdam Memorial Day Memories

For most Amsterdam residents past and present, their most poignant memories of Memorial Day include the annual parade and the wonderful patriotic ceremonies and speeches that still take place each year in the early morning of that solemn day at each of the area cemeteries and war memorials. My own memories of Memorial Day traditions begin before the day itself. My Uncle and Dad were long time members of Amsterdam’s Frank Sirchia Am-Vet Post. Every spring before Memorial Day, their post used to put the flags on the graves of all the dead veterans buried in Amsterdam’s cemeteries. What made this task extremely time consuming was the mediocre and inconsistent burial records each cemetery maintained at the time. It was pretty much known which veterans were buried in each cemetery but a map showing where each of their graves were located within that cemetery did not exist. As a result, someone needed to walk each row of each cemetery looking for each veteran’s grave. Since all the members of the Post had full time jobs during the day, the search at each cemetery didn’t begin until after dinner, usually about 6:00 PM, which meant you had about three hours before darkness fell. That’s why my Uncle used to always bring me along to help and that’s how I first met the other members of Amsterdam’s Sirchia Post. Guys like Red Botch who used to run a diner up on Prospect street right across from the Clock Building; the Picciocca brothers Tony and Johnny; the Manganelli boys, Nick and Ralph; Tony Marcellino the mason, Joe Campochiro the house painter; Mareo Tambasco the insurance agent and Joe Callella, the only guy in the group who did not tend to use four letter words as an adjective every now and then. I have to tell you, those spring evenings, walking through our local cemeteries with that group of middle-aged men, putting flags on the graves of people who served this country was one of the nicest memories of my childhood.

First of all, it impressed upon me just how many folks from this community fought for our country. Keep in mind that this was the mid 1960’s when the Vietnam War was raging and a large portion of Amsterdam’s WWII vets were just reaching 40-years of age and still very much alive. I remember when we’d come across the grave of someone the guys knew while growing up in Amsterdam and they’d say things like “Boy could this guy hit a baseball” or “Remember his sister? She was a doll. Whatever happened to her?” Once in a while, when we’d come across a grave of a fellow WWII Veteran killed in action who the Post members had known especially well, there’d be instant silence and three or four of them would stand together around the grave and say a prayer and you’d see at least one wipe a tear from his eye. On Memorial Day mornings, the Post would serve as the honor guard for the annual Mass said at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Since I played the trumpet when I was a kid, I became one of the Post’s official buglers for a few years. I used to love seeing all these guys show up at that cemetery all dressed in their uniforms. They’d joke around like crazy and insult each other mercilessly right up until drill sergeant Johnny Picciocca got them into formation. As soon as he ordered them to attention, the joking ended, those smiles disappeared and they did their best to become acting soldiers again. They marched in step to the outside altar, stood proudly with the colors through the entire mass, fired a three-shot volley in honor of the heroes at rest around us and stood at proud erect attention while I played taps. One of the things this group of proud and respectful veterans usually never did was talk about their own experiences in the War. I used to beg my Uncle to tell me what fighting in Africa and Italy was really like but he’d always change the subject. Now I realize how hard it had to be for members of their generation to relive what must have been some horrific memories. But what they never failed to do was spend so many spring evenings of their busy lives and every Memorial Day morning making sure their fellow veterans who left this Earth before them were appropriately recognized and honored. Like I said, some great memories from my childhood.

On this sacred and solemn day it is most fitting that we remember the hundreds of Amsterdamians, who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country. We also honor the thousands of Rug City men and women who stepped forward from every generation, who left this Mohawk Valley community and their loving families to take up battle all over this globe so that we may live in freedom. May God bless each and every one of these gallant human beings.

So Long Flip!

Phillip “Flip” Bracchi was a one and only, a special edition who came to represent everything about Amsterdam’s lower South Side neighborhood that gives that area both its charm and its edge.

If you had never met Flip and walked into Herks with him behind the bar, your first impression could be anything from amazement to disbelief depending upon the topics of conversation swirling around you. When he was working he didn’t tend bar, he was more like performing on a stage, dishing out more derogatory nicknames, personal insults and inappropriate personal questions than the great Don Rickles ever did in a Las Vegas lounge. Mr. Bracchi knew how to work an audience. He was an unabashed and uncensored sage on any topic, person or place one could imagine. Some of his proclamations, beliefs and conclusions were so bluntly stated it was not uncommon for the person listening to respond “There is something seriously wrong with you!”

I loved when Flip told a story. He was like a human jukebox filled with them and regulars sitting at the bar would actually make requests to have their favorite one retold. “Flip, tell him about the time you went with Vinnie and Chickie to have coffee!” One of the things that popped in my head when I learned Flip had passed was “I hope someone has a video of Flip telling a story.”

As hard and tough as he seemed on the outside, those who knew Flip best knew he had a heart of gold. I was not a Herk’s regular but I got there enough times for him to get to know me and me him. The last time I saw him was a couple months ago. His daughter had brought him to the bar after a doctor’s visit and it was sadly clear that the relentless cancer was taking its toll. But as bad as he looked and as sick as he must have felt, he spent the next hour or so making us double over with laughter. Only Flip could turn having a deadly disease into a laughing matter. Before I left, I went over to him to say goodbye and as we shook hands he said to me “I loved your new book. Buddy you can write.” I certainly wasn’t expecting Flip to pay me such a nice compliment and it turned out to be the last thing he ever said to me. My deepest and most sincere condolences to Flip’s son, daughter, grandchildren and his army of regular customers. There will never ever be another like him!

Ten Amsterdam Veterans From Ten Different US Wars

One of Amsterdam’s proudest legacies are the men and women from this community who served in the US Armed Forces. That legacy extends all the way back to 1776 and includes participation in every major armed conflict that has taken place since. In this Bonus List I profile ten Amsterdam veterans from ten different wars. I preview the first two of those profiles below:

Korean War – Frank Cassetta grew up on Mathias Avenue. He enlisted in the US Army in 1951 and was sent to fight in Korea the following year. Promoted to Master Sergeant while there, on December 23, 1952 he was one of the leaders of an assault force about to attack a heavily fortified enemy hill near Sataeri, a city situated just to the northern side of the present day border between North and South Korea. As the patrol was moving up a narrow valley to position itself for the attack, one of the soldiers tripped an explosive device, alerting the North Koreans of their location. Frank’s patrol came under intense fire and was greatly outnumbered. As the American soldiers scrambled, they triggered another booby trap and with enemy grenades and small arms fire pouring down on them from both sides of the valley, their situation became bleak. Though Frank had been wounded himself, he made two, not one, two perilous trips back into the field of fire to retrieve injured comrades and bring them to safe cover. He then returned to direct friendly fire against the enemy positions and realizing that additional support was essential, he volunteered to make his way back to contact reserve forces for assistance. While attempting to do so, he was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire. He got a Silver Star.

Revolutionary War – A one-time resident of Amsterdam, NY had the distinction of serving as a member of the Minutemen regiment, the legendary unit that fired the first American shots at the battles of Lexington and Concord. His name was David Shepard. He was born in Westfield, Massachusetts on October 23, 1744. He attended Yale University in the 1760’s and became a doctor. He settled in Chester, Massachusetts where he began his medical practice and became involved in local politics as a committeeman. New England of course and particularly Massachusetts became a swirling hot bed for the anti-British sentiment that would soon spread throughout the colonies. As relationships between the Crown and colonial leaders in Boston unraveled, Committees of Correspondence were established throughout Massachusetts as rebellious emergency governments to oppose British rules. Shepard was appointed to Chester’s Committee. When the Patriots received word that British troops were planning to raid their hidden arms supply stashes near Concord, local Minutemen militias from throughout the state converged on the site. Shepard volunteered to serve as surgeon to the regiments and it was he who treated the very first American soldiers wounded during the revolution. He would later take part in the Battles of Ticonderoga and Bennington. After the war, he was selected to represent Chester at the Constitutional Convention for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1788 where he voted with the majority in favor of ratifying the first US Constitution. He then returned to Chester, where he continued his medical practice and remained active in town politics until 1802, when he purchased a farm in Amsterdam, NY and relocated his family to the Mohawk Valley settlement. Shepard’s spread was located at the top of what is now Steadwell Avenue and he lived and worked it till his death in 1818. The farm would much later become the sight of Fairview Cemetery.

Remember, if you’ve purchased a copy of my new book; Fifty Amsterdam, NY Top Ten Lists, I will be e-mailing you a copy of this completed list within the next few weeks. If you’d like to order a copy of the book so you can also receive all the additional bonus lists I’ll be distributing during the next 12 months, you can order your copy here.

I already have the e-mail addresses of all the folks who purchased the book online or directly from me. If you purchased your copy from Liberty Fresh Market, the Book Hound, or this year’s Festival of Trees please e-mail me (cinquantim@genium.com ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile.