Back in the 1930’s the center of Amsterdam’s pigeon racing activity was up on Reid and Park Hills. Guys like brothers Steve and Ed Popielarz, Vince Condello, Andy Poullin and Eddie Buczek would spend much of their spare time breeding, training and racing homing pigeons. They called their little but growing group the Amsterdam Homing Club, which would one day move into a clubhouse on Lefferts Street in the East End of the city. Over on Grand Street, Tom Czelusniak was establishing himself as the dean of the sky-based sport in this area. But then war came.
Czelusniak, a few years older than his fellow pigeon enthusiasts, had actually already joined the service before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. He spent his first three years in uniform at the U.S. Army Pigeon Breeding and Training Center in New Jersey. He then shipped out to Europe in 1943 and spent the last two years of his military hitch with the 285th Signal Pigeon Company and Counter Intelligence.
Its unfortunate that today’s Amsterdam Birthday celebrant Ed Popielarz didn’t hook up with the same unit. Twelve years younger than Czelusniak, Ed had graduated from Wilbur Lynch in 1941 and gotten a job with Adirondack Sportswear. The Army called for him in November of 1942 and after boot camp, he was sent to Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY where he would train to become a member of the Military Police. Those plans were changed the following year when Popielarz was transferred to first a base in Oklahoma and then another in Kansas and reassigned to an infantry unit. That’s how he ended up in England in June of 1944, where he took part in the D-Day invasion.
Five months later a telegram arrived at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Popielarz, at 50 Pulaski Street. It expressed the Secretary of War’s deepest regrets over the death of their son, informing them that Ed was killed in action in France on October 22, 1944.
When they all returned from the war, Ed’s fellow members of the Amsterdam Homing Club decided they wanted to do something to honor the memory of their hero friend and brother….
(July 24 is also the birthday of this long ago US Congressman from Amsterdam.)
My complete birthday post for Ed Popielarz will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.
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