All-Time Top Ten Most Common Part-Time Jobs for Amsterdam Teenagers

If you are a teenager in Amsterdam today, your part-time job opportunities have shifted dramatically since the days I was a teenager back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. This became even more evident to me as I began reviewing some of the part-time job experiences I and my own kids had as teen agers in this city. Very few of the money-making employment opportunities I and my four children took advantage of as Rug City adolescents still exist today, thanks to changing business models, the Internet and the shift in our community’s social and economic demographics. In today’s post, I preview the first two of my Top Ten picks for the all-time most common part-time jobs for this city’s teen work force.

Newspaper Carrier – I’m guessing there had to be thousands of Amsterdam boys who delivered newspapers in their early teenage years. The number of Rug City girls who could put that particular job on their lifetime resume was much much lower because for some reason, becoming a newspaper carrier in this town during the first hundred plus years the Evening Recorder was delivered door-to-door required you not to be female! My father-in-law was a carrier in the 1930’s, I did it during the 1960’s, my little brother in the 1980’s and my eldest daughter and son in the 1990’s! The routine was pretty standard. The Recorder van would drop off the papers for each carrier’s route at a designated spot between three and four PM each afternoon. The carrier would get to that spot with his/her trademark carrying bag. They were bright orange when I had one. Your bundle would be wrapped with heavy string and at the top would be a plain white slip of newsprint with the number of papers in your bundle that day. Mine would usually say “86,” getting lower when somebody moved off the route or died and higher when somebody else moved in. Some carriers, usually the rookies would sit and fold some of their papers before starting their route while the more seasoned professionals would put the entire stack in their bags, flat and then fold as they walked. The fold was famous. The papers came folded in half top to bottom. You’d then fold them in half again side-to-side and begin roll-folding them in two-inch segments toward the open seam. Once you reached that seam, you’d take the last segment and tuck its open seam into all the other folded segments, twist the other end to tighten the fold and you were ready to toss the sucker wherever you had to. Every route had customer-designated tossing instructions that were so challenging they could have qualified for Olympic medal competitions. One lady on my route made me toss her paper through a second-story porch window that she left open just wide enough to permit the paper to fit through vertically. I swear I tore a rotator cuff because of her.

Pumping Gas – It was the reason I couldn’t try out for high school basketball or football when I was a kid but it was also the reason why I always had the money I needed to buy the things my parents couldn’t afford to buy for me. I was one of a bunch of young Amsterdam adolescents back in the day who had a part-time job pumping gas. I worked for one of the nicest guys in the world. His name was Joe Montuoro and he owned the Sunoco Station that was located on the corner of West Main and Gardiner Streets in Amsterdam. The station had been there since the 1930’s started by Joe’s father Vito. Since it was located  in the same West End neighborhood where I grew up, my Dad had been buying his gas there since he purchased his first car back in the 1940’s and he was also a regular participant in the poker games that used to go on several nights a week in the station’s “back room.” By the late 1960’s, Joe’s dad was gone and the card games had been suspended and Joe needed somebody to man the gas pumps while he ate dinner every night between five and six pm. That somebody started out being my older brother until he got a higher paying job unloading trucks at an Amsterdam warehouse. I took over the job in 1968, at the age of 14. The pay was $1.25 per hour. Since Joe never got back to the station exactly at six, I’d usually work till 6:30 every night of the week and then on Saturdays, when Joe’s two garage bays were backed up with oil changes, lube jobs and winterization customers, I’d work from noon to at least 3 pm. My weekly pay would usually exceed the $20 level. Payday was Saturday, always in cash. Here are the ten things I remember most about that job:

1) It introduced me to a lot of people. Though many of Joe’s customers were already friends of my family, there were twice as many who were not and I made dozens upon dozens of new acquaintances, many of whom became good friends of mine!
2) It forced me to interact with all sorts of people, greatly improving my people skills in a way that would benefit me for the rest of my life.
3) The Sunoco jackets were the bomb! I worked there five years and during that time Joe bought me two official Sunoco winter coats. Previous to that, every winter coat I ever owned had been a hand-me-down from one of my two older brothers. The last one he got me was soooo… warm I still had it when I got married several years later. It took my wife four months to figure out it was the reason my closet always seemed to smell like gasoline and she tossed it in the trash. Broke my heart!
4) It taught me how to handle money and greatly improved my math skills. Why? First of all, you served the customers while they sat in their cars. So they’d say fill it up with regular, check the oil and my washer fluid too, The gas would come to $3.45 (regular cost just 31.9 cents per gallon back then) a quart of 10-30 oil was 75 cents and the washer fluid was .50. When you were done servicing the car, you went back to the driver side window and told the customers how much they owed you. “That comes to $4.70, do you want the blue stamps ma’am?”
5) Some people just couldn’t be trusted! Joe Montuoro was one of the kindest guys in Amsterdam. If someone was down on their luck, he’d put five gallons of gas in their tank and let them pay when they had the money. He’d write it down on a slip in “the book” along with the date of the transaction and when the person paid, he’d tear the slip out of the book and throw it in the trash. One night I came back into the station to grab a rag so I could check someone’s oil to find one of Joe’s so-called “good friends” tearing his slip out of the book. When I told Joe, he just shrugged his shoulders and said “What are you going to do?” What we did was keep “the book” in a drawer instead of out in the open from then on.
6) I saw my first issue of “Playboy” there. Joe had an epic stack of “magazines” back in the closet where he kept the supply of “Sunoco Bucks” and “blue stamps.” It began to take me longer and longer to replenish my supply of stamps whenever I’d run out.
7) I learned how to change a car’s motor oil and filter, replace spark plugs, fix a flat tire, use a hygrometer, mount snow tires on a rim and identify every mechanical and power component found under the hood of a typical car from built in the 1960’s and 70’s.
8) Memorable customers included; The cheese man – A really sweet old man who because of the job he had smelled like spoiled cheese. On a cold winter night he’d open his window just a crack to pay me and the odor mixed with the blast of heat from inside his car would make my eyes water. Dusty Miller – One night this popular country & western musician was in the passenger seat of his band mate’s car on their way to play a gig. They were both dressed in full cowboy regalia so when Dusty told me to fill it up I quickly asked if he wanted me to water the horses too. The girl with the great legs – She wore mini skirts. It would take me twenty seconds to wash her passenger side window but I’d take about five minutes to do the driver’s side. The do-it-yourselfer – He would tell you he just needed to use the station’s garage bay and then pull out a box with five quarts of oil he purchased on sale at National Auto and use Joe’s tools to and pit to change his oil. One day, he came in with a gallon of house paint and a roller and proceeded to paint his own car right there in the driveway of the gas station!
9) Royal Palm Soda – Joe had one of those old classic Coca Cola vending machines with the little door and the circular slots. You’d put in a dime, press down the handle, open the door and pull out the flavor of your choice, In addition to Royal Palm I remember Bubble Up, Tab and the very first bottles of Fresca.
10) I found out I enjoyed having a job and figured out time passed much quicker if you kept yourself busy.

There’s only one gas station that I know of that still pumps gas for its customers and the hired attendant who works there is an adult who has held the post for as long as I can remember. Today’s choices for a fill-up in Amsterdam are all self-service and most also include a convenience store as part of their business model. It is behind the counters, inside those stores where the part-time jobs exist for today’s high-schoolers.

I have eight more memorable part-time job opportunities for Amsterdam teen agers to share with readers and you’ve probably held at least one of them during your own high school years. I will share them all via the next issue of my newsletter. This will be the second Amsterdam Top Ten BONUS List I’ve completed and the first one that will be distributed to only those folks who purchase a copy of my new book; Fifty Amsterdam, NY Top Ten Lists. If you purchased the book, I will be e-mailing you a copy of this complete list some time before November 1. If you’d like to order a copy of the book before then so you can receive this Bonus List plus 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 or the Book Hound, please e-mail me ( ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile. On Saturday, October 28, I will be doing a book signing at Liberty Fresh Market on Route 30 in Amsterdam. I’d love to see you there!

Ten of the Most Memorable Amsterdam Recorder Journalists

The Recorder has pretty much been Amsterdam, New York’s number 1 newspaper since before the city became a city. Over the years staff members of that publication have become some of Amsterdam’s most prominent, celebrated, important and often controversial personalities. In this new list I identify ten Recorder employees who served critical rolls in keeping our community informed, engaged and entertained over the years. The complete list of ten will be included in the next edition of my  Amsterdam Top Ten Newsletter. Anyone who purchases a copy of my new book Fifty Amsterdam, NY Top Ten Lists will receive any and all of the new Lists I put together during the next 12 months. Everyone else will have access to the portions of these new lists I post here at my Amsterdam blog. Here’s a preview of my brand new

Jack Minnoch – One of the great side benefits I received while researching eighty years worth of Amsterdam Evening Recorder issues as references for my Amsterdam Birthday and Top Ten writing efforts was becoming familiar with the work of this outstanding former sports editor. Unlike most of his successors to that position, Minnoch himself had been a talented athlete in his younger days as both a competitive runner and amateur boxer. That gave him the “I’ve been in their shoes” perspective he needed to get inside the minds of the Amsterdam based sports personalities he wrote about. But having been there was only part of his secret. Minnoch was also both a wordsmith and a wonderful communicator, who had the ability to go beyond the who, what, where, when and why requirements of sports journalism to inspire his Amsterdam readers to support their hometown teams and athletes. It was Minnoch who covered the first half of the historic run of the NY Yankee’s Amsterdam Rugmakers farm team. It was Minnoch who described the brave exploits of the young men responsible for the glory days of Amsterdam boxing. It was Minnoch who helped Jack Tracy create the foundation of Amsterdam High School’s interscholastic sports legacy. He left the paper and Amsterdam in 1942 to become sports editor of the Jamestown News Journal and eventually a nationally know speaker and humorist.

William “Bill” Maroney – devoted his life to the Recorder. He worked his way up to the city editor’s position from a reporter’s desk and along the way he was credited with building the paper’s very first sports section. During his stellar 55-year career there, he became known and loved for his calmness under pressure of deadlines, his photographic memory and the kind-hearted and professional way he treated the folks who worked under him. He is shown here on the right receiving congratulations from then Recorder senior publisher, Gardiner Kline on his retirement from the Paper in 1953. When he passed in 1957 an entire appreciative city mourned. Maroney’s son John would one day become sports editor of the Recorder.

Stan Silvernail – This guy came to the Recorder from Mount Upton, NY in July of 1941 by way of Syracuse University, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of their school of journalism. Just a few months after he got to Amsterdam, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Silvernail enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and saw service in Europe and Africa. He got back to his Recorder desk in 1946 and finally began a career that would see him evolve into one of the most respected and dignified executives in the Newspaper’s history. Called back into service when the Korean conflict broke out, when he again returned to work in 1953 he was named city editor, succeeding the late William Maroney. He oversaw the Recorder coverage of historic events both national and local in scope such as the rug industry’s exodus from the city, the Vietnam War and the horrific assassinations of the 1960s. It was his writing that established the Paper’s official positions on the issues of the day. Stan became the recorder’s managing editor in 1970 and held that position until he retired. A proud dad of two boys, Stan was active in both scouting and youth sports organizations for many years. I bowled with Stan in the Men’s Commercial League and got to know him well. He was the definition of a class act and a true gentleman.

Tony Benjamin – Vietnam and Watergate forever changed the way journalists were educated and did their jobs. Aggressiveness became a much more in-demand trait in the newsroom as editors expected their reporters to sharpen shovels along with their pencils so they could dig deeper into each story. When Tony Benjamin became the executive editor of the Recorder in the 1980’s, he brought a bunch of sharpened shovels with him and his reporters made good use of them. Night after night it seemed as if readers learned more details of actual or potential local controversies and scandals. AIDA might be the target one night and the Montgomery County Economic Development Agency the next. How did the thruway bridge collapse? Was the GASD Board discriminating against Hispanics? Who was behind the Mohasco  fire? Remember the murder trial involving Stanley Lees? Benjamin and his bunch went after them all until he and his top reporter, Teresa Cuda were fired. The reasons for the dismissal were different depending upon who you asked but one thing is for sure, the Recorder shovels grew duller after his departure.

The remaining six members of my list include two memorable former sports editors, the paper’s all-time most popular featured columnist, a descendant of a US President, a personality plus publisher and an outstanding photo journalist.

Who did not make my list are any women! Not that there haven’t been several talented female journalists who did excellent work there. Cuda was an example of one of them. Amsterdam native Diane Tuman did a great job covering the local sports scene after graduating from college in the late 1970’s. And more recently, I always paid attention to anything Jessica Mahar got into print. But researching the newspaper’s history for this list has led me to the conclusion that the Recorder has been up until now a male-dominated company. That’s what makes it very nice to see that Emily Hinkle and Nicole Antonucci serve as the current editors of the Newspaper!

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 complete list within the next week. 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 or the Book Hound, please e-mail me ( ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile.

Let’s Give the Beautiful Amsterdam Pedestrian Bridge a real chance at being successful before it’s too late!

Please Amsterdam City planners and decision makers, before it is too late, add an element to the pedestrian bridge that has the potential to greatly enhance its appeal as a regional and statewide tourist attraction! Make it part of a New York State Walk of Fame!

Special events are wonderful ways to get people to Amsterdam’s waterfront and pedestrian bridge, but they require huge city investments of time, money and resources to pull off and when they are over, the people leave and don’t come back till another one is held.

When the new pedestrian bridge was being planned we were told it would become a popular tourist destination because of the view, the plantings and the stories about Amsterdam it would feature. Since opening last year, it definitely provides a very nice view of the Mohawk and the incorporated artwork and architectural elements certainly do a commendable job telling the story of our wonderful community. But neither of these features is proving compelling or buzz worthy enough to get anywhere near the projected number of people to pull off at Exit 27 of the Thruway for a look see, much less an extended visit! And though the plants are certainly nice, they are not proving spectacular enough to attract tourist attention.

Back before the bridge’s construction began, when I was trying to get consideration of the Walk of Fame idea, I was told that it was expected that annual donations from bridge visitors would be in the thousands of dollars!

Yet, even though none of these expectations are happening, I still love everything about that bridge and desperately want to see it succeed. So I’m still hoping that those in control of its fate will stop throwing hundreds of thousands of precious dollars at its original mission for attracting tourists, which shows little sign of potential or success and begin experimenting with other approaches to attract outsider attention to this huge and bold public investment.

My original Walk of Fame proposal called for each of the 62 New York State counties to conduct on-line votes or form committees to name their respective county’s first State Walk of Fame nominee. Here’s some of the examples of the types of individuals who might be selected: Albany County might go with Andy Rooney; Bronx County might designate Fiorello LaGuardia; Chataqua County would probably pick Lucille Ball; Columbia County might choose former US President Martin Van Buren; Franklin County could go with Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau; Erie County might honor former MLB pitching great Warren Spahn, two-time US President Grover Cleveland or who knows, perhaps even CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer. Monroe County voters would have plenty of candidates including wrestler Gorilla Monsoon, Kodak founder George Eastman, golfing great Walter Hagen, actor Hugh O’Brien, the great Cab Calloway or maybe even the recently departed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. If I had a vote for Montgomery County, I’d choose Kirk Douglas.Can you see how just the selection process in each county will lead to a tremendous amount of publicity for and interest in our bridge?

So how would each county’s selection end up being honored on the bridge?

I was in Richmond this past December and visited the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the James River and had just opened that month. Its just ten feet wide and 1,600 feet long, built on civil war era piers that still spanned the river but the very simple steel structure still cost $11.6 million to build. On the afternoon I visited, there were no special events going on but the bridge was crammed with folks and most of them were reading one of the scores of plexiglass protected placards that are mounted on the railings of the bridge. These placards describe the fall of Richmond during the Civil War. The structure of these placards is simple, weatherproof, easy to clean and maintain and accommodates the type of presentation (photos and text descriptions) that would be needed to profile the story of each Walk of Fame honoree. Most importantly, the existing Amsterdam walking bridge already has a railing with slanted metal top trim that could serve as a base for similar placards. All of this means that the Walk of Fame concept could be tested without spending huge amounts of money and in a way that can be quickly and easily reversed should it prove not to be successful. (Or likewise expanded upon if it does prove to be a hit!)

The advantages the Walk of Fame concept has over the existing theme of the bridge are many. Most importantly, it gives folks from all over the state an input to the bridge’s content. It gives them a decent reason to consider pulling off the Thruway to see who their county’s honoree(s) is. Since each year new honorees can be added, it provides a built in series of induction events (western NY counties, central, eastern, southern tier etc.) that will be promoted for FREE, statewide, by every newspaper, blog, web site and tourism information service that covers our state. And remember, all these folks who come visit the Walk of Fame will also be seeing all the existing artwork and elements that feature Amsterdam! Plus, there is a much greater potential for a “Please donate appeal station” to be successful with such an attraction. Visitors will want to assure their county’s honorees are maintained well. As far as cost is concerned, these placards could be constructed and installed less than what is being spent for just the new artwork about to be added to the bridge.

I could go on and on with reasons why a Walk of Fame should be incorporated but I’ll stop here and ask what do you think? Share your thoughts and opinions on the Facebook Groups for Amsterdam or in the comments section below! I intend to attend the next Amsterdam Common Council Meeting and try one more time, before its too late.

Top Ten All-Time Amsterdam High School Girls Basketball Players

The very first copies of my new book, “Fifty Amsterdam NY Top Ten Lists” have just come off the presses. Even though the title says “Fifty” I’ve actually given readers a bonus by including this 51st bonus list. Who are my picks for the top ten all-time AHS girl’s basketball team? Here are three of them. If you want to see who the other seven are you can now order your own copy of my new book here.

3. Angela Fedullo – One of the pioneers of Amsterdam’s Title IX efforts during the late 1970’s, Angela would have been a star in any era. She played basketball, softball and volleyball at AHS, and earned MVP honors in all 3 sports. On the hardwood, she scored over 800 career points and made the Big 10 All Star Team three seasons in a row. She then attended Siena and starred there in both basketball and softball. She has been enshrined in both the AHS and Siena Halls of Fame.

6. Kerry Ochal – The 1993-94 AHS Lady Rams’ basketball team coached by Mary Girol was at the time, the most successful squad in the program’s history, compiling a 21-2 record, a 19-game winning streak and a Big 10 title. None of that would have been possible without Kerry Ochal jumping center. She scored 385 points that season, pulled down a ton of rebounds and time and time again made key plays at key points of big games. Ochal ended her AHS hoops’ career with 792 career points.

9. Liz Hildreth – Just five feet tall, Hildreth fought the “too short to play basketball” stigma throughout her childhood to become one of the all-time great Lady Rams during her mid 1990’s tenure at AHS. By the time she graduated, she had amassed 651 career points along with the respect and admiration of the entire Big Ten girls’ basketball community.

Top Ten Locally Produced Television Shows enjoyed by viewers in Amsterdam, NY

Amsterdam’s earliest owners of television sets were blessed with a strong and steady stream of local programming. This was in large part due to the fact that General Electric Company was a pioneer in the television broadcasting industry and the company’s flagship WRGB studio was one of the first television stations in the world and located just twenty miles west of the Rug City. That programming business model of course changed as first television networks and then technology all but made cost effective local station programming other than news weather and sports reporting pretty much obsolete. This top ten list takes a look at locally produced television programs that were particularly popular with Amsterdam’s small screen viewers back in the day and highlights specific Amsterdam connections to these shows. In today’s blog post I feature four such programs. The complete list of ten will appear in my new book; Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

1. Teen Age Barn – Long before American Idol became a smash hit, there was a local version of a televised talent show that took Amsterdam, NY and the entire Capitol District viewing audience by storm. The first Teen Age Barn episode was broadcast by WRGB in Schenectady, NY on April 9, 1949. The last one aired on January 29, 1966. During the show’s 17-year-run, just about any area teenager who could sing, dance or play an instrument appeared in one of it’s Friday evening broadcasts including the one and only Arlene Fontana, who I like to describe as Amsterdam’s version of   a young Liza Minelli. Another talented Amsterdam native who became a regular on this show was Chet Kukiewicz, who would go on to a long career as Boston’s most popular television news personality under his stage name “Chet Curtis”. Teen Age Barn was the brainchild of Albany, NY native Tommy Sternfeld, a professional dancer with credits in both Vaudeville and Broadway productions. He owned and operated a dance studio in Albany, NY and he liked to run talent competitions for youngsters as a way of drumming up new dance students. The competitions themselves became so popular that Sternfeld was able to sell WRGB on the idea of televising them and “Teen Age Barn” was the result. By 1959, it had become the longest running locally produced variety show in the country. It was a staple in my grandmother’s house every Friday night and I can remember a dozen of us cramming into her tiny living room to watch the local acts on her 11-inch black and white Philco. Regardless of how well any of them performed my Aunt Edie would always issue the verdict “She’s all right but she’s no Arlene Fontana, that’s for sure!”

2. Breadtime Stories (aka The Freddie Freihofer Show) – This legendary Capital District children’s show enjoyed the same 17-year run as Teen Age Barn, from 1949 to 1966 and on the same WRGB Channel 6 station. There were six different hosts during that time but the most famous person to ask the assembled guest children the classic question “Who wants to squiggle?” every afternoon was undoubtedly the last one, Uncle Jim Fisk, who filled that role during the show’s final ten years on the air. Over 4,400 live shows were broadcast and they featured a total of right around 250,000 area children, including my future wife as on-air guests. My two older brothers and I watched it every night. In fact, I clearly remember learning to spell my first word “apple” during the segment of the show when Uncle Jim would reveal that day’s mystery scrambled word, which always had something to do with a baked treat produced by the show’s sponsor, The Freihofer Baked Goods Company. Everyone who owned a TV back then had memorized the words to the show’s popular opening jingle which started with the line, “Freddie we’re ready”. Long before the days of Sesame Street, Breadtime Stories served the role of educational television for Amsterdam toddlers.

3. TV Tournament Time – Back in the 1960’s the names Joe Donato, Skip Vigars, Johnny Walthers, and Big John Germann, were as popular and well-known among Amsterdam sports fans as any professional baseball or football player or big time wrestler. Who were they? This foursome was among the most popular bowlers ever to appear on WRGB’s Sunday afternoon televised bowling show, TV Tournament Time. From 1958 until 1986, bowling fans in the Carpet City went to church on Sunday mornings, stopped to get the Sunday papers and a loaf of bread or a dozen doughnuts on the way home and then tuned their television sets to channel 6 just in time to hear the show’s host Howard Tupper welcome his youngest viewers with his trademark line “Hi ya small fry.” During the next hour, two of the Capital District area’s top bowlers would go head-to-head in a three game match to see who would reign as that week’s “King of the Hill.” I can clearly remember the amazingly neat penmanship of Tupper’s score-keeping sidekick, Charlie Bechard (photo), which would keep viewers posted of each bowler’s score. I also remember when a veteran Amsterdam bowler named Shep Romano appeared on the program. Romano lost his match. Ray Sabatini, a Schenectady native who was later hired to manage Amsterdam’s Windmll Lanes had multiple appearances on TTT. The show was sponsored by the Utica Club Brewery and was originally broadcast from the former Schades Bowling Academy in Schenectady, NY. It became one of the longest running sports shows in the history of television thanks to consistently excellent bowling. Walthers, for example, averaged close to 230 in his scores of TTT appearances back when a 200 average was considered great. On April 10, 1960, Donato made television history by bowling a perfect game during his TTT televised match!

4. Answer’s Please (and its predecessor “Little Red School House”) – This was an especially popular locally broadcast show among Amsterdam, NY viewers because one of this program’s most popular hosts during its almost tree-decade run on Channel 6 was Tim Welch, who was a native of Amsterdam. Originally called “Little Red School House,” the first show aired on WRGB in 1963. The format matched two four-student teams representing Capital District high schools against each other in a competition to see which team could answer the most questions about academic subject matter. In addition to Welch, moderators included, Dave Kroman, Jim Brennan, John Wagner and popular news anchorman, Ed Dague. Welch took over as host in 1981. One of the biggest challenges producers had with the program was finding folks who could write the questions that would be asked during each show. Welch told Times Union television blogger Chuck Miller that he enrolled his younger brother, former Amsterdam fireman Bernie Welch, as a question writer at one point. Teams from both Bishop Scully and Wilbur Lynch High Schools competed on the program and then in 1989, a team from Amsterdam High School won three consecutive contests and retired as an undefeated champion.

Top Ten Best Amsterdam High School Girls’ Sports Teams

What are the Top Ten Girl’s Sports Teams in Amsterdam High School History? The complete list will appear in my new book; Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017. Seven different sports are represented in this well-rounded compilation. Here’s a preview of five of the teams that made the list!

1982 Amsterdam Girls Softball – The first AHS girls sports team to ever reach a sectional final. Coached by Pat Reilly (photo), the varsity squad posted an overall record of 12 wins and 6 losses including NYSPHSAA Section 2 playoff wins over Schenectady (Linton), and Catholic Central (11-0 shutout) before falling to Niskayuna, 7-3 in the final. Members of the team included pitcher Margaret McNeil, Chris Poulin, and current Amsterdam Sports Hall of Famer, Sue Blazejewski.

1998-1999 Amsterdam Girls Volleyball – The 1998 AHS varsity volleyball team defeated Schenectady in their senior night home finale to wrap up their share of a program first Big 10 Conference title. The 1999 squad claimed the title outright and along the way won their first tournament title in the Tartan Invitational at Scotia- Glenville High School. Coached by Christine Sherlock, members of the team included Kelly Quist, Erica Quist, two-time league MVP Jessica Meliosky (photo), Lindsay Burtt, Erika Squillace, Jessica Close, Kate Smullen, Lindsay Boris, Chelsea Morini and Vicki Martin.

2004 Amsterdam Girls Cross Country – Coach Stu Palczak’s varsity team started the season ranked 12th in the state among Class A teams. Led by Jenna Krong, Krissy Welch, Evelyn Marrero (photo), and Michaela Catena, the Lady Rams won the Big 10 Conference title in 2004 continuing a history of success by AHS girls cross country teams in the first decade of the 21st century. Welch set the school course record with a time of 18:48, and Marrero nearly qualified for states before her career was done.

2009-2010 Amsterdam Girls Tennis – Beginning in 1997, the AHS girls tennis teams’ won every Big 10 title until the league folded in 2014 and then won the schools’ first Foothills Council team title in any sport. But, the 2009-2010 team did something the others did not do. They made it to a NYSPHSAA Section 2 final. Coach Tony Orapello’s squad made it all the way to the final match and were runners up that year. The team was led by Anna Dyakiv (photo), who was the squad’s number one singles player and went undefeated in the Big 10 in 2009- 2010.

2007-2008 Amsterdam Girls Basketball – The next AHS girls hoops teams to go undefeated and win the Big 10 were Coach Eric Duemlers’ 2007- 2008 teams. Ranked in the USA Today’s top 25, and tops in the state, the Lady Rams were led by NYSPHSAA Section 2 All Stars Brittany Stahura and Megan Gaugler, along with starters Megan Power and Ashley Welytok. Both teams reached the Section 2 playoff semi- finals before falling to Suburban Council teams Shenendehowa and Bethlehem Central. Both Stahura and Gaugler went on to play in college. Stahura received the programs first full athletic scholarship and played for Bryant University. Gaugler (photo) finished her college basketball career among the all time leading scorers at Skidmore College.

Editor’s Note: Once again, I owe a huge thank you to Mohawk Valley Compass sports editor Scott Mulford for contributing a list to my compilation of Amsterdam All-Time Top Ten Lists. He is without peer when it comes to an in-depth knowledge of the female-side of our local scholastic sports scene. Thank you Scott for another great list!

Ten Nice “What Happened After They Left Amsterdam” Stories

I’m not a math wizard but if you figure seven generations have lived in Amsterdam since it was incorporated as a city in the late 1880s I’m guessing between 100,000 and 150,000 different people have called this place home at one time in their lives. Many of them left for one reason or another and created families and careers elsewhere. This list includes the stories of ten of those people. Four are previewed below and the rest will appear in my new book; Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017:

John Lauriello – was a bit more than a bit wild in his younger days growing up in Amsterdam, NY. When he left here in the early seventies, he had decided to take a job as a bartender in Miami, FL. But he ended up in Birmingham, AL by accident, both literally and figuratively. While on route to the bartending gig he was involved in a horrific car crash which nearly killed him. Injured, broke and estranged from most of his family, he reached out to an Uncle in Birmingham, AL who sent him a one-way bus ticket to that southern city along with a stern warning that he needed to straighten out his act when he got there. And he did. He went back to college and to pay for his tuition, got a job selling clothes in a mens’ apparel store on nights and weekends. The owner of the store took a liking to him and became a mentor in his life. He also got his real estate license, hoping to earn some additional income selling houses in his spare time. Today Lauriello is the owner and founder of Southpace Properties. What began as a two-man operation in a small office in 1984 is now the largest independent commercial real estate firm in Alabama. With 22 full-time brokers and a staff of 25, Southpace offers office, retail, land, warehouse and industrial sales and leasing, tenant and landlord representation, development, asset management, consulting, investment sales and property management. Considered one of Birmingham’s most influential business  executives, his untiring development and civic efforts over the last quarter century have helped spark a revival in that city’s skyline and economy.  But Lauriello has not forgotten where he came from and continues to maintain strong ties and do very nice things for the city of his birth.

Leslie Lawrence Sullivan – Many Amsterdamians remember when Peter Lawrence was the principal of Wilbur Lynch High School in the late sixties and early seventies. He and his wife and five children lived in this community for three plus years and his kids still consider this upstate community their hometown. One of them, daughter Leslie went on to get her degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina and soon thereafter landed a job in the media department of the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Within five years became the team’s Director of Broadcasting. She then went to work for Major League Baseball in 1985 and when she left there in 2001, she had become Sr. VP of Broadcasting and one of the most respected names in the business of sports media. Leslie helped transition the league’s broadcasting business model into the digital age and worked hand-in-hand with all of the teams and major networks to integrate the rapid pace of technology into baseball’s most watched events.

Dr. Richard Picciocca – I served on the Greater Amsterdam School Board during the mid 1980’s and had the fortunate opportunity to closely observe both formally and informally a very special group of young Amsterdam men and women make their way through high school. They seemed to work hard at everything they did both in the classroom and on the fields of athletic competition. They respected their parents, their school, their teachers, their coaches and each other. And they had a sense of ambition that drove them. Don’t get me wrong. They had their share of screw-ups among their ranks but as an adult, whenever you were around them you sensed their confidence and seriousness (and their senses of humor too!) Rick Picciocca serves as a classic example of what I’m describing. Good kid from a great Amsterdam family who grew up eating his grandmother’s sauce, playing sports and video games and working hard in school. After graduating from AHS he went to Union and got a degree in civil engineering and then began a career as a bridge designer for the state of New York. But after a few years into that, he decided he wanted to switch careers and go into medicine. That’s what I’m talking about. This group of Amsterdam kids had a confidence about them that broke difficult challenges down into matters of more time, a tighter budget and more hard work. Picciocca got his medical degree from Downstate Medical College in Brooklyn, completed his training as a general surgeon at Albany Medical College and then studied thoracic surgery at Wake Forest. He is now a practicing surgeon in the state of Florida, a husband and a dad but still one of those Amsterdam kids from back in the mid-eighties and still making his family proud.

Michael Slezak – I admit it. I was a huge fan of “American Idol” the Fox Network’s revolutionary new-age talent show that dominated television ratings during its early years on the air. Almost as entertaining as the show itself was a blog/column being written by Amsterdam native Michael Slezak that critiqued each and every episode, performance, contestant and judge that appeared on “Idol” during its amazing run. My kids had appeared in the same Amsterdam Recreation Department’s summer productions as Slezak did in his younger days and I worked with his brother-in-law so I had kept track of his progress as a writer. I remember when he first went to Manhattan to work for a technical magazine. By the time Idol debuted in 2002, he was on the writing staff of Entertainment Weekly, a popular magazine that covered the entertainment industry. The publisher had also launched a sister web site Within just a few short months, Sleazak’s extensive, wise and witty online reviews of each Idol episode were drawing millions of hits and becoming must reading for fans of the hit show. He quickly mastered the capabilities and possibilities afforded to him by the rapid advance of Internet technologies and his link-filled columns and video features soon became entertainment in and of themselves. In 2011, he became on of the original staff members of a new entertainment site called TV Line, where he continued his coverage of Idol while also expanding his talents deeper into the reality genre, by providing his patented morning-after commentary on The X Factor, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars, Project Runway, Survivor, The Next Food Network Star, So You Think You Can Dance, The Glee Project, and Glee, among others

Top Ten Amsterdam High School Wrestlers

The Amsterdam wrestling program officially began competition during the 1965-1966 school year under the leadership of coach Pat Reilly. Only three varsity coaches have led the Wrestling Rams including Reilly (1965-1993), Ken Benton (1993-2014), and Ken Pfeiffer (2014-Present). Many outstanding associate coaches have also helped lead the way for the AHS wrestling program and the coaching continuity has made a significant difference over the years.

Anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 wrestlers have trained and competed in the “Patrick H. Reilly Gymnasium” over the last 50 years. AHS wrestling teams have dominated the former Big Ten Conference capturing 22 conference team championships as well as capturing five Section 2 Team Championships, three Runner-up Section 2 titles, and two 6th-Place finishes in the 85 team Eastern States’ Classic. Individually, the AHS wrestling program has produced three NYS champions, three NYS runner-up champions, along with 12 other state place finishers, 25 Section 2 champions, and 48 Section 2 class champions. The AHS wrestling program has been a magnificent ambassador for the Greater Amsterdam School District, the community of Amsterdam, NY, and the Greater Capital District for over 50 years.

When I asked Ken Benton to give me a list of the 10 wrestlers who won the most matches during their Wrestling Rams grappling careers he suggested there might be a better and more fairer criteria to produce a compilation of Amsterdam’s top mat men. He then worked with the members of the squad’s current and former coaching staff to produce one. He was absolutely correct. I am thrilled to include their complete Top Ten List of Amsterdam High School Wrestlers in my new book;  Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017. In today’s blog post, I preview their top three selections:

1. Brandon Lapi: Class of 2014 (138 lbs)

This phee-nom’s combination of speed, skill, power, and technique made him pretty much unbeatable. Lapi used his six years of varsity wrestling experience to hone his skills and techniques to capture a NYS-Federation title in his senior year. Brandon broke virtually every Amsterdam wrestling record and finished his career with 265 wins. He tied Brian Benton with five Section 2 Class championships, was the first 5-time Section 2 champion, the first 4-time NYS place finisher including a NYS-Federation championship and an Eastern States Classic championship.

Significant Accomplishments:

  • 2014 NYS-Federation State Champion
  • 4X NYS Place Finisher
  • 5X Section 2 Class Champion
  • 5X Section 2 Champion
  • 2014 Eastern States Classic Champion
  • 265 Career Victories
  • Scholar-Athlete (4 years)
  • DeMeo Award Winner
  • Wrestled Division 1: University of Buffalo 

2. (Tie) Giuseppi Lanzi: Class of 2010 (152 lbs)

Lanzi’s senior season on the mat was nothing less than spectacular and probably the best in the program history as he completely dominated his competition finishing the season undefeated. Lanzi’s composure, speed, strength, and agility allowed him do things on the mat that others just couldn’t do. Lanzi was Amsterdam’s first NYS-Federation champion earning Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) honors in both the Section 2 championships and the NYS championships.

Significant Accomplishments:

  • 2010 NYS-Federation Champion – MOW
  • 2X NYS Place Finisher
  • 3X Section 2 Class Champion
  • 2X Section 2 Champion – MOW
  • 2010 Eastern States Classic Champion
  • 250 Career Victories
  • Scholar-Athlete (4 Years)
  • 2010 Dapper Dan Champion
  • DeMeo Award Winner
  • Wrestled Division 1: Brown University

2. (Tie) Brian Benton: Class of 2008 (130 lbs)

Benton’s technical skills, speed, power, and natural instincts helped him overwhelm the vast majority of his competition. Benton earned Amsterdam’s first NYSPHSAA state championship, the program’s first Eastern States Classic Championship earning Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) in the process, and was the first AHS wrestler to break the 250 career victory mark.


Significant Accomplishments: 

  • 2008 NYS Champion (138 lbs)
  • 3X NYS Place Finisher
  • 5X Section 2 Class Champion
  • 3X Section 2 Champion
  • 2007 Eastern States Classic Champion – MOW
  • 253 Career Victories
  • Scholar-Athlete (4 Years)
  • DeMeo Award Runner-Winner
  • Wrestled Division 1: George Mason University

Top Ten Amsterdam High School Female Athletes since 2000 by Scott Mulford

Few if any know more about girls’ sports in Amsterdam, NY than Scott Mulford. A 1983 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Scott started covering and writing about this community’s lady athletes and their teams back in 1995 when he went to work for the old Amsterdam Star Newspaper and he continues in that role today with the Mohawk Valley Compass. This explains why I was thrilled when Scott graciously agreed to contribute this list to this book. It includes his choices for the top ten Amsterdam High School female athletes since the year 2000. He took into consideration all AHS girls sports, so they are equally represented. Here are five of Scott’s ten picks in no particular order. I will include all ten in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Nina Fedullo (girls basketball) – The all time leading scorer in the history of the Amsterdam Lady Rams basketball program. Fedullo graduated in 2017 having scored 1500 points, recorded 856 rebounds, and helped the Amsterdam girls varsity basketball team reach back to back New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A title games in 2016 and 2017. Remarkably, Fedullo put up her impressive numbers in only four seasons on the Lady Rams varsity. She was twice a member of the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A All Tournament Team, was named a Foothills Council First Team All Star, and was Foothills Council MVP for the 2015- 2016 season. Fedullo was named to the NYSPHSAA All State team the past two seasons, and is currently in the NYSPHSAA top 50 in scoring for girls’ basketball. Fedullo signed her letter of intent to play for The College of St. Rose before the start of the 2016-2017 high school basketball season, and became only the second girls basketball player in the AHS programs’ history to receive a full scholarship, joining Brittany Stahura, who played for Bryant University.

Anna Dyakiv (girls tennis)- A 2010 Amsterdam High School graduate, Dyakiv was part of perennial Big 10 Conference championship teams during the late 2000’s and was the number one singles player for the Lady Rams. A Big 10 and NYSPHSAA Section 2 All Star, she went on to play women’s singles and doubles tennis for Nichols College (MA) where she was named Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) player of the year three times, and was an inter-collegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All Academic scholar athlete. The Lady Bison reached the CCC championship match all four years with Dyakiv leading the way.

Sarah Adamowski (golf)– A 2012 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Adamowski was captain of the AHS golf team where she earned a varsity letter, and twice was named a Big 10 Conference All Star. Adamowski continued her athletic career playing for West Liberty University of Charleston (WV). She was an honorable mention choice on the All Mountain East Conference team as a college sophomore. Adamowski is the founder and head of FORE The Girls, a non profit organization that helps provide scholarships for high school girls with an interest in golf.

Brittany Stahura (girls basketball, girls tennis)- A 2008 graduate of Amsterdam High School and varsity letter winner in girls basketball and girls tennis. Stahura, won back to back Big 10 Conference titles with the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team that went undefeated in league play in 2007 and 2008. The Lady Rams basketball team was ranked in the USA Today’s top 25 in 2008 after defeating some of the top high school girls basketball teams in the state including Christ The King High School. Stahura was the Big 10 Conference MVP in girls basketball in her senior year, and finished her AHS career with 1000 rebounds, tops on the list all time at AHS. She ranks third all time in scoring with 921 points. Stahura received a full scholarship to NCAA Division 1, Bryant University where she played all four seasons, started 60 games, and finished her college career with over 500 rebounds, and more than 150 assists for the Lady Bulldogs.

Olivia Lazarou (girls cross country, girls track and field)- The first girl in the history of the Amsterdam High School cross-country program to qualify for the NYSPHSAA state and federation championships. Over the past three seasons Lazarou reached the NY State Meet in 2014, and 2015, and ran at the Federation Meet in 2015, and 2016. As a junior in 2016, Lazarou finished among the top twenty runners in the talent laden NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A championships at Saratoga State Park among Suburban Council powerhouse teams including Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa. Lazarou has posted top five finishes at the Foothills Council Championships during the last three years as part of the AHS varsity team and will be looking to add Foothills Council individual and team titles to her impressive resume’ when she begins her senior year in the fall of 2017. Lazarou is also a school record holder in several events with the AHS girls indoor and outdoor track and field teams.


Editor’s Note: Robert Going’s poignant book “Where Do We Find Such Men?” is the definitive source for information about Amsterdam’s role in WWII. As his well-researched writings have documented, this Mohawk Valley community of ours has produced some incredible tales of courage, valor and sacrifice in defense of our freedom and the freedom of people around the world. I was thrilled when Mr. Going agreed to put together a list Amsterdam’s most valiant WWII heroes for my new book. It is an honor for me to include it in this compilation. I preview five of his selections in today’s post.I will post the complete list in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Paring this list down wasn’t easy. Over 4,000 Amsterdam men, and quite a few women, served during World War II. The final list includes some chosen for their warrior skills, others for courageous displays of humanity, and some for both. Some died in battle, some came home and tried to live normal lives. There is no ranking here. They all deserve perpetual honor:

Tech. Sgt. Richard Marnell: Amsterdam’s most-decorated soldier. Distinguished Service Cross for action on November 15, 1944 when, under constant fire, single-handedly destroys two, German machine gun nests and captures seven soldiers. It went along with two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts and five battle stars

(Reverend) Anthony Sidoti: Catholic chaplain, on November 8/9, 1944 assisted in the 90th Division crossing of the heavily flooded Moselle River, and then made numerous return crossings escorting the wounded while under heavy artillery fire for the next thirty-six hours. Awarded Silver Star. Spent November 25 removing wounded from the battlefield and earned Purple Heart when artillery shell bursts over his head. Returns to duty on March 13, 1945 and earns second Silver Star on March 17 in Germany rescuing wounded from the battlefield and incidentally inspiring disorganized American troops to rally and achieve victory.

PFC John (Jack) Blanchfield: While training to be an officer is suddenly called up with others as replacement troops after Normandy invasion and sent straight to the front in the summer of 1944. Taken prisoner, he organizes a POW work crew, essentially assuming the duties of Captain of a company. In a manner worthy of Hogan’s Heroes they continuously outwit their German captors often at risk of their lives, and build a concrete wall to block Russian tanks, which promptly disintegrates at its dedication. Late in the European war they escape en masse and Blanchfield leads his company behind enemy lines for several days before linking up with advancing American forces. He leaves all that out in his debriefing and is rewarded by promotion to corporal.

Cpl. Allen Pileckas (USMC): An Amsterdam High graduate from Hagaman. Already commended for bravery on Guam and with a Purple Heart from action there, he is serving with the Third Marine Division on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945 under heavy rifle, mortar and machine gun fire. Crawls fifty yards through the thick of it alone and takes out the well-defended nest with a perfectly placed grenade. He then takes shrapnel to the head and dies two days later at the age of 24.

Staff Sgt.. Fenton Brown: A former Wilbur H. Lynch athlete, during Battle of Naples, October 3, 1943, earned Bronze Star and Purple Heart, crawling out of his foxhole to rescue a wounded comrade and administering First Aid under fire. In August of 1944, in France, he found himself in command of a 35-man platoon assigned to cover a retreat. He organized his men, personally killed or wounded 25 Germans with his machine gun, then picked up his M-1 rifle and shot two more, organized a counter-attack and regained the lost ground, earning a Silver Star. Killed by a sniper on October 5, 1944. According to his Class of 1938 yearbook he hoped to become a football hero.