One of the special things about growing up in Amsterdam’s West End during the 1950’s and 60’s was that wherever you went in that section of the city, you were among friends and families who watched out for you and kept you out of trouble. One of those special sections was the three blocks on Division Street between the old City Hospital and Caroline Street. It was loaded with great families. On the south side of Division heading west you had families like the Marnell’s, the Constantine’s, the Noto’s, the Van Allens, the Harringtons, the Leonetti’s and the Condello’s. On the north side of that street were the homes of the Campochiro’s, the Verderese’s, the DiBlasi’s, the Ottatti’s and the Sculco’s.
Add up the number of kids from my generation in all those households and it was north of thirty. But what made so many of the friendships between these families so special was thatthey were already thirty or forty years old when my generation came along and have now today surpassed the century mark. If Tommy Marnell’s mom told the Ottatti brothers to get out of Mrs. Tambasco’s garden they didn’t give her a hard time, they skedaddled out of that garden. And it wasn’t that you were scared of your friends’ parents that made you listen to them it was instead the decades-old relationships between your families. You learned to trust, like and respect them from your own parents and in many cases over time you’d become as good a friend with their mom’s and dad’s as you did with the kids your age. That’s what happened with me and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant.
Back then, Breton Industries was headquartered in a large mill that extended a full city block between Leonard Street and Yeoman. The yard of that mill was divided by a large green enclosed metal ramp that used to permit workers on the second floor to exit to the street level. That ramp served as our “Green Monster” in epic rubber ball baseball games that would go on for hours in the summer or until someone hit the ball on top of the mill roof. That’s how and where I first met young Frank Sculco and his little brother Anthony. But my grandfather had known their grandfather since World War I and my dad and their dad, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Anthony “Naish” Sculco had been good friends since childhood.
But though I had known Naish as a kid I had never said anything more to him than “Hello Mr. Sculco” for the first twenty five years of my life until bowling brought us together. Bowling was at one time “Amsterdam’s favorite pastime.” If you lived in the Rug City between 1940 and 1990, you were more likely to own a bowling ball than you were a baseball glove or basketball. I bowled for Minnitti’s back in the 1970’s in the Men’s Commercial League. I bowled with my big brother Jerry “Big J” Cinquanti, Bobby “Scoobie” Hoefs, Mike “Gag” Agrestal, Anthony “Tippy” Sagarese and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Tony “Naish” Sculco. I was the only guy on that team without a nickname.
So every Thursday night during bowling season for about three or four years in the late 1970’s, I would spend the amount of time it took for ten men to complete thirty frames of bowling, with Naish Sculco. And during those Thursday night sessions at Windmill Lanes we became great friends via wonderful conversations in between frames about the history of our beloved neighborhood. I would always start the conversations with a question. “Did you hang around with my Dad when you were real young? Who were the best athletes in the neighborhood? What was Califano’s before it was a grocery store?”
Like his sons, Naish was a huge sports fan and had been one of the original coaches in the Little Giants organization, mentoring the Maroon Wildcats for several successful seasons. But I never knew Naish himself had been an outstanding high school football player. He was a two-way lineman on the 1948 Amsterdam High School football team that captured a league championship. Fellow west-ender (and future judge) Gene Catena was the featured running back and star of that team but it was the defensive line, anchored by Sculco that led that team to a perfect 4-0 finish in league play. In fact, Sculco was known as a ferocious hitter and when he recovered three fumbles in a key game against previously unbeaten Mt. Pleasant, newspapers throughout the Capital District featured the accomplishment. Sculco was also a very good baseball player and was invited to a tryout by the Cincinnati Reds.
He graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1949 and then joined the Army, spending most of his military hitch stationed in Germany. In 1957 he made the best choice of his life when he married another Amsterdam West-Ender who was a heck of a lot prettier, Rosalie Fariello. She was the love of his life and in addition to my baseball buddies Frank and Tony, they also had three daughters, Kim, Michelle and the oldest of their brood, Debbie, who is now a doctor practicing at Amsterdam’s St. Mary’s Hospital. Rosalie’s sudden death in 2002 was a terrible blow to her family and especially Tony. Sculco lived another decade without her, passing away in February of 2012 at the age of 82.
This successful Amsterdam IT entrepreneur was also born on September 24.