Every school year from September of 1966 until June of 1969, I not only saw Steve Soulla every day of the week, I gave him some of my money too. Well, actually, it was my parents’ money. He was the proprietor of a store called Soulla’s Card-Craft that used to be located on the southwestern corner of Guy Park Avenue and Wall Street, right across from the old Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School Building. Today, there’s a gas station on the site of Soulla’s old business and a seniors’ high-rise where the school used to be. But back in the day, the traffic back and forth between those two locations in the morning before the first school bell rang, at lunchtime and in the afternoon after the final bell sounded, was a constant flow of hundreds of kids spending between fifty cents and a dollar each on candy, gum, baseball cards, school supplies, ice cream bars, etc.
Today’s Birthday Celebrant was a lifelong native of Amsterdam, N.Y. born here on October 9, 1921. He was one of the eight children (6 girls, 2 boys) born to Fedele and Evelina Soulla. During his high school years at Wilbur Lynch he was a very talented basketball player for Coach DeWitt Benjamin’s Purple & Gold cagers, jumping center and usually finishing among each game’s top scorers. After graduating in 1941, Soulla joined the Navy and saw action in both Guam and Okinawa. After returning from service he went to college, eventually earning his degree from Qinnipiac University. Steve’s athletic talents extended to both golf and bowling. He excelled at both for a very long time.
His Card-Craft store was a hit from the start with its perfect location and Soulla’s knack for staying on top of the nickel-and-dime-costing tastes of the Amsterdam adolescent market. He and his long-time friend Tony Cosentino would both work the counter when the store got busy. I used to jokingly refer to them as Batman and Robin because the old Batman television show was a hit back then. The girls loved Cosentino, who had Bobby Darren type looks, the patience of Job and always wore a smile. Soulla was the disciplinarian no-nonsense expeditor of each purchase. If you took too long to make your buying decision he’d come up with a line like, “You know we close in six hours.”
When the Gas Station owners purchased the corner property, Card-Craft was forced to move to the kitty-corner location of the same two streets but the end of the store’s days as a thriving business was fast approaching. Soulla went to work at Mohasco for a short time and then became the superintendent at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course until he retired and moved south to Florida. He passed away in March of 2009 at the age of 87. I can still hear him tell a 12-year-old at the front of a long line who’s trying to count out the correct change, “You’ll never be a math teacher kid!”