Answer to Question No. 1: Father Joseph Girzone: Father Girzone had always been somewhat of a “rebel” within the Roman Catholic pastoral community. His personal philosophy was more focused on doing what Jesus wanted people to do instead of telling others to do it. He walked the walk by ministering to street gangs in the Bronx and helping workers at a Coca Cola bottling plant in the Pennsylvania coal country form a union. Then after taking over as pastor of Amsterdam’s Mt. Carmel parish in 1973, he was the guy who got Montgomery County officials to open the Office for the Aging. He was a driving force behind the Meals on Wheels program. He devoted much of his time to ministering to local prisoners and advocating for their better treatment and he was often one of the first persons on the scene of local disasters. But it wasn’t until after he was transferred away from Amsterdam and forced into retirement by a heart ailment that he decided to turn his pastoral philosophy into a book he called “Joshua“. In it he gave his version of what the human Jesus would be like and how he would behave if he lived among us today. At first in 1983, Girzone self-published Joshua, selling copies from the trunk of his rickety old Chrysler LeBaron. Readers and reviewers loved it and Macmillan Publishers picked it up in 1986 and that million dollar check my brother saw was indicative of the book’s commercial success. Girzone wrote several sequels and received more seven figure royalty checks all of which he pumped right back into his Joshua Mountain Ministries in Altamont, NY. Though the popularity of his character eventually waned, Girzone’s efforts to keep his mission alive never did. This good man passed away in 2015.
Answer to Question No. 2: Stephen Haven: Haven spent most of his childhood in Amsterdam, living in a large old mansion on Guy Park Avenue. His dad was the long-time pastor of St. Anne’s Episcopalian Church on Division Street. Haven is currently Director of the Ashland University MFA Program in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction, and Director of the Ashland Poetry Press. He has published three books of poems, Last Sacred Place in North American (New American Press, 2012) Dust and Bread (Turning Point, 2008) and The Long Silence of the Mohawk Carpet Smokestacks (West End Press, 2004). Haven has also served as the editor or co-editor of three other published collections of poetry.
Answer to Question No. 3: Clara Bacon: She was one of Amsterdam’s most gifted and experienced public school administrators of all time. If it wasn’t for her gender, she’d have been a superintendent of Amsterdam’s public schools instead of serving as the long-time assistant to her long-time boss, Wilbur H. Lynch. In addition to authoring the spelling and English text books, Bacon was a frequent lecturer at education conferences, wrote numerous articles for education journals and was included on the most important state education department committees of her time.
Answer to Question No. 4: Robert Going: Researching and documenting the stories of hundreds of native Amsterdamians who served their country so heroically during WWII became a labor of love for this former Montgomery County Family Court judge. In “Honor Roll“, he focused on telling the stories of those who made the supreme sacrifice in that conflict. In “Where Do They Find Such Men” Going poignantly reached out to surviving Amsterdam veterans of WWII and their families, interviewing scores of them for their first hand accounts in an effort to describe what the fighting was like in both Europe and the Pacific as well as what life was like in Amsterdam during the war years.
Answer to Question No. 5: John Giovanni: It was sort of fun to discover that a guy who I always thought had one of the friendliest, mild mannered personalities I’ve ever encountered could write such a spine-tingling thriller about home grown terrorists bent on using biochemical warfare against the United States! He’s already working on a sequel.
Answer to Question No. 6: David Pietrusza; This former Amsterdam Common Council member is certainly the most prolific of any Rug City-born author of all-time and one of the most widely acclaimed as well. I would put his knowledge of US political history up against anyone, anywhere and I wouldn’t bet against him in a trivia contest on baseball history either. Take a look at this partial list of his writing accomplishments which I found online:
TR’s Last War: Theodore Roosevelt, The Great War, and a Journey of Triumph and Tragedy (Lyons Press; Publication Date: September 2018)
1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR: Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal and Unlikely Destiny
Calvin Coolidge on The Founders: Reflections on the American Revolution & the Founding Fathers
Calvin Coolidge: A Documentary Biography
1948: Harry Truman’s Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America
1960: LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies
Silent Cal’s Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont’s Calvin Coolidge
1920: The Year of the Six Presidents
Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius who Fixed the 1919 World Series
Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (Foreword by Richard Thornburgh)
Ted Williams: My Life in Pictures (with Ted Williams) (aka Teddy Ballgame)
Minor Miracles: The Legend and Lure of Minor League Baseball
Lights On!: The Wild, Century-Long Saga of Night Baseball (Foreword by Enos Slaughter)
Major Leagues: The Formation, Sometimes Absorption and Mostly Inevitable Demise of 18 Professional Baseball Organizations, 1871 to Present(Foreword by Lee MacPhail)
Baseball’s Canadian American League: A History of Its Inception, Franchises, Participants, Locales, Statistics, Demise & Legacy, 1936-1951(Foreword by John Thorn)
Answer to Question No. 7: William Kronick: After graduating from Amsterdam High School in 1952 and attending Columbia College, Kronick was drafted into the Navy and became a photographer’s mate. While on a NATO war exercise in Sweden, he met a Swedish film director who in turn introduced Kronick to the legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. After his discharge from the Navy, Kronick was hired as an apprentice to work on Bergman’s film, The Magician. It was that experience on his resume that opened doors to the film industry for him when he returned to the states and Kronick took full advantage of those opportunities to become a successful director of documentaries. He left that career in 2000 to become a full-time writer. He has since written six novels the most recent of which, “What Katie Said” was published in 2015 and is close to being autobiographical in the sense that the main character is born in upstate New York, attend Columbia College and pursues a career in the film industry.
Answer to Question No. 8: Pattie Hudson: My wife talked me into attending a Pattie Hudson-led aerobics class back in the 1980’s and the woman almost killed me. She also got me into the best shape of my life. Pattie was an impassioned advocate of a complete wellness plan as a blueprint for a healthier lifestyle. Exercise was a big part of it but so was nutrition. She made so much sense I asked her to write a book that could serve as a pocket guide for folks who wanted to live healthier and my company, Genium Group Inc. published it. As it turns out, she did a much better job writing it than I did selling it but the experience of working with her was one I will always remember. (Click on book cover for more info)
Answer to Question No. 9: Kirk Douglas: Ironically it was his autobiography that ended up bringing more notoriety to his hometown of Amsterdam, NY than the close to 100 movies he starred in as one of Hollywood’s top leading male actors. When “The Ragman’s Son” first appeared in bookstores back in 1988, many of the city’s residents were upset with the collection of memories Douglas had growing up in the mill town as the son of a alcoholic Jewish ragman. He wrote about being beat up, discriminated against, and looked down upon because of his Jewishness and low station in life during his childhood and adolescent years in the Rug City. But he also recounted close and cherished hometown friendships and acts of kindness that helped him become who he was. Despite the anger the book caused in Amsterdam, The Ragman’s Son was a gigantic commercial success and helped revive Douglas’s acting career as well. He has gone on to write more than a dozen additional fiction and non fiction books since.
Answer to Question No. 10: Harvey Chalmers II: In it’s heyday, the pearl button manufacturing company operated by the Chalmers’ family employed 1,000 Amsterdam workers but by the mid sixties, the two mills at the foot of the Chuctanunda Creek, which had housed the business were both gone. The responsibility for shutting down the company had fallen to this son of it’s founder and when he had completed the unpleasant task he embarked on another, which he enjoyed immensely. This graduate of Yale and one-time intercollegiate fencing champion became an historical novelist, penning eight books in all about various aspects of New York State history. Noted for their extreme detail and historical accuracy, Chalmers enjoyed researching the subject matter even more than the actual writing itself. He became so well versed in the history of the Empire State that he was frequently called upon as a consultant on that topic by the New York State Education Department. Chalmers died in 1971.
Answer to Question No. 11: The title of Dan Weaver’s well done Journal is “Upstream“. In a synopsis I found online, the Journal is described as follows: “A Mohawk Valley cultural and counter-cultural journal. Primarily non-fiction and written by current and former Mohawk Valley residents, Upstream contains articles on history, literature, politics and many other issues. While many articles focus on the Mohawk Valley, some articles deal with statewide, national and international issues.” Dan has developed a significant network of talented writers who share his love of local and regional history. Dan himself has been one of the key champions in the effort to find, preserve and disseminate the history of this area. In addition to the Journal and his book shop, Dan is a regular columnist for the Recorder newspaper, one of the most active members (and a past president) of the Historic Amsterdam League and at one time he also hosted a daily call-in radio show. He is also a gifted amateur photographer.
Answer to Question No. 12: The organization is called The Historic Amsterdam League or “HAL” for short. Established in 2010, each year since its inception HAL has conducted a neighborhood tour, which consists of a bus tour of the subject area, a display of historical artifacts from that area and a tour booklet, consisting of articles written in many cases by folks who actually lived there. These booklets are superbly edited by Jerry Snyder, an Amsterdam native and retired engineer who has volunteered countless hours of his time to the HAL organization. HAL sells the booklets at their Web site and also at The Book Hound, the Amsterdam Library, The Walter Elwood Museum, and Liberty Fresh Market. They are excellent overviews of each neighborhood’s history and significance and have become collectors items in the process.
Answer to Question No. 13: One of the most prolific of area historians, Bob Cudmore’s three books about the Mohawk Valley are: Stories From the Mohawk Valley; Hidden History of the Mohawk Valley; and his most recent title, Lost Mohawk Valley. In addition to his Historians Podcast, Bob also continues to write a Focus on History column for the Daily Gazette newspaper.
Answer to Question No. 14: Tony Pacelli: As more and more senior citizen organizations started popping up in the various neighborhoods of Amsterdam back in the early 1980’s, Tony and his good friend and fellow senior, Mary Smicinski came up with the idea of writing a newspaper column about Amsterdam’s past that would be nostalgic for members of their generation and educational for the younger folks in the community. Pacelli got a meeting with then Recorder Publisher Frank Gappa and the newspaper’s managing editor, Mal Provost to present the column idea and the two men bought it. Pacelli’s first “Past and Present” column appeared in the March 7,1984 edition of The Recorder and the column became the favorite and most read feature of the newspaper for most of the next decade. The paperback compendiums of Pacelli’s columns, like the one pictured here were very popular in the local market.
Answer to Question No. 15: Dr. Gus Kappler: He became one of Amsterdam’s most skilled and most popular surgeons but just before that happened, he served his country as a trauma surgeon with the 85th Evacuation Hospital in the hamlet of Phu Bai during the Vietnam War from 1970-71. In his book, Kappler describes what life was like for him during his service and the conflicts and emotions he experienced while trying to treat as many injuries and save as many lives as possible. He brings up many critical issues including how the US Armed Forces was very good at training people how to fight and very bad at training them how to stop fighting. One of the key reasons Kappler wrote the book was to provide a platform from which he could advocate for programs to treat PTSD and reduce veterans suicides.
Answer to Question No. 16: James Ziskin: As a teenager, Ziskin got a summer job at Sammy Fariello’s legendary Amsterdam confectionary on Lincoln Ave. By then, Sammy the proprietor had suffered a stroke and the business was being run by his son Robert, who was nicknamed “Fadge”. Fadge treated Ziskin more like a little brother than an employee and I’ve read articles and interviews in which Ziskin has spoken fondly of that relationship and how much he cherished it. So much in fact that a guy named “Fadge” shows up as a recurring character in Ziskin’s nationally acclaimed Ellie Stone mystery series.
Answer to Question No. 17: Jim LaBate: Back when he was a starter for Bishop Scully’s varsity baseball and basketball teams in the late sixties, everybody called him “Jimbo”. He was the son of a plumber and part of a huge extended Italian-American Rug City clan. If you told me you lived in Amsterdam in 1969 and then told me you had never met anyone there named LaBate I would immediately know you were a liar. Jim currently works as a writing specialist at Hudson Valley Community College’s Learning Center. Its a great job for him because he’s a great story teller and the books he’s shared with us thus far, are wonderful reads based on his wonderful memories of growing up in a wonderful place at exactly the right time. Keep remembering Jimbo!
Answer to Question No. 18: William Dantini: Bill Dantini’s dad Richie was sort of an institution in Amsterdam’s South Side neighborhood. He had been wounded and left for dead on Omaha Beach on D-Day but survived to return home and open a very popular Bridge Street grocery store with his brother Hermie. Son Billy studied Literature at St. Lawrence University and got his Masters in Humanities at the University of Louisville. Like me, Bill turned his job at GE into a business of his own and spent most of his adult years running that PR firm in North Carolina. “Thou Shalt Not” is his third book. It is the story of a Catholic priest who, in the downward spiral of losing his faith, works a miracle. It was released in December 2017.
Answer to Question No. 19: Hugh Donlon: How good a writer was Hugh Donlon? So good that the Recorder continued to run his “Main Street” newspaper column 25 years after the guy died! Few human beings knew more about Amsterdam history. His pictorial book, “Annals of a Mill Town” is considered a go-to-reference for anyone who has a question about who-what-where or when something happened in this city’s past. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 93.
Answer to Question No. 20: Mike Cinquanti: I can honestly say that anyone who has made the effort to provide me with feedback after reading this novella has told me how much they enjoyed reading this story and how much they laughed while doing so. I can also honestly say that although I had dreams that this writing effort would result in a royalty check similar to the one Father Girzone received from MacMillan, perhaps with a few less zero’s in the amount, hearing such positive feedback from those who read it has been reward enough. So I keep writing….