Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz – Category: Sports

How good is your knowledge of Amsterdam sports history? Here are ten questions that will test your memory of outstanding athletes and teams who have provided Rug City sports fans with plenty of special moments. How many can you answer correctly? The answers are posted after Question number 10:

1) This former Harvard Avenue resident was a three time winner of the prestigious New York State Amateur Golf Championship. Can you name her?

2) He was the first football player in Section II history to score 200 points in a season Who was he?

3) Can you name two Amsterdam residents who played Major League baseball?

4) Who was the first girl in the history of Amsterdam High School’s cross-country program to qualify for the NY State Championship Meet?

5) Can you name the last boy and the last girl to break the 1,000 point career mark for the Amsterdam High School boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball programs?

6) In 2016, he became the first Amsterdam native to win an Athlete of the Year honor for a major Division 1 college conference. Who was he?

7) She was the first female to wrestle for the Amsterdam High School’s Varsity Wrestling program. Who is she?

8) Only one former basketball player from St. Mary’s Institute and just one from Bishop Scully were able to score more than 1,000 points during their high school basketball careers. Can you name both players?

9) Can you name two former Amsterdam Rugmaker Baseball Players who made Major League All Star teams?

10) Amsterdam High School Varsity Baseball Coach Brian Mee’s 1973, ’74 and ’75 teams set a New York State record for consecutive victories. How many games did they win during their historic streak?

Bonus Question: Who is the former Amsterdam High School football player pictured at the beginning of this quiz? (Hint: One of his sons later played football for Brown University)

Correct answer for question 1

Dianne Wilde

Correct answer for question 2

Brian Niezgoda

Correct answers for question 3:

Roger Bowman
Steve Kuczek
Jack Hammond
Jake Reisigl

Correct answer for question 4:

Olivia Lazarou

Correct answers for question 5:

Kory Bergh
Giuliana Pritchard

Correct answer for question 6: Izaiah Brown, who won Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year award as a freshman at Rutgers in 2016.

Izaiah Brown

Correct answer for question 7: 

Nicole Benton

Correct answers for question 8:

Bill Bresonis for St. Mary’s
Cappy Wells for Bishop Scully

Correct answers for question 9:

Vic Raschi

 

Lou Burdette
Bob Grim

 

Gus Triandos

 

Spec Shea

Correct Answer for question 10: 53 straight games

Brian Mee

Correct Answer Bonus Question: 

Gene Catena: 1948 AHS Football MVP

Amsterdam Memorial Day Memories

For most Amsterdam residents past and present, their most poignant memories of Memorial Day include the annual parade and the wonderful patriotic ceremonies and speeches that still take place each year in the early morning of that solemn day at each of the area cemeteries and war memorials. My own memories of Memorial Day traditions begin before the day itself. My Uncle and Dad were long time members of Amsterdam’s Frank Sirchia Am-Vet Post. Every spring before Memorial Day, their post used to put the flags on the graves of all the dead veterans buried in Amsterdam’s cemeteries. What made this task extremely time consuming was the mediocre and inconsistent burial records each cemetery maintained at the time. It was pretty much known which veterans were buried in each cemetery but a map showing where each of their graves were located within that cemetery did not exist. As a result, someone needed to walk each row of each cemetery looking for each veteran’s grave. Since all the members of the Post had full time jobs during the day, the search at each cemetery didn’t begin until after dinner, usually about 6:00 PM, which meant you had about three hours before darkness fell. That’s why my Uncle used to always bring me along to help and that’s how I first met the other members of Amsterdam’s Sirchia Post. Guys like Red Botch who used to run a diner up on Prospect street right across from the Clock Building; the Picciocca brothers Tony and Johnny; the Manganelli boys, Nick and Ralph; Tony Marcellino the mason, Joe Campochiro the house painter; Mareo Tambasco the insurance agent and Joe Callella, the only guy in the group who did not tend to use four letter words as an adjective every now and then. I have to tell you, those spring evenings, walking through our local cemeteries with that group of middle-aged men, putting flags on the graves of people who served this country was one of the nicest memories of my childhood.

First of all, it impressed upon me just how many folks from this community fought for our country. Keep in mind that this was the mid 1960’s when the Vietnam War was raging and a large portion of Amsterdam’s WWII vets were just reaching 40-years of age and still very much alive. I remember when we’d come across the grave of someone the guys knew while growing up in Amsterdam and they’d say things like “Boy could this guy hit a baseball” or “Remember his sister? She was a doll. Whatever happened to her?” Once in a while, when we’d come across a grave of a fellow WWII Veteran killed in action who the Post members had known especially well, there’d be instant silence and three or four of them would stand together around the grave and say a prayer and you’d see at least one wipe a tear from his eye. On Memorial Day mornings, the Post would serve as the honor guard for the annual Mass said at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Since I played the trumpet when I was a kid, I became one of the Post’s official buglers for a few years. I used to love seeing all these guys show up at that cemetery all dressed in their uniforms. They’d joke around like crazy and insult each other mercilessly right up until drill sergeant Johnny Picciocca got them into formation. As soon as he ordered them to attention, the joking ended, those smiles disappeared and they did their best to become acting soldiers again. They marched in step to the outside altar, stood proudly with the colors through the entire mass, fired a three-shot volley in honor of the heroes at rest around us and stood at proud erect attention while I played taps. One of the things this group of proud and respectful veterans usually never did was talk about their own experiences in the War. I used to beg my Uncle to tell me what fighting in Africa and Italy was really like but he’d always change the subject. Now I realize how hard it had to be for members of their generation to relive what must have been some horrific memories. But what they never failed to do was spend so many spring evenings of their busy lives and every Memorial Day morning making sure their fellow veterans who left this Earth before them were appropriately recognized and honored. Like I said, some great memories from my childhood.

On this sacred and solemn day it is most fitting that we remember the hundreds of Amsterdamians, who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country. We also honor the thousands of Rug City men and women who stepped forward from every generation, who left this Mohawk Valley community and their loving families to take up battle all over this globe so that we may live in freedom. May God bless each and every one of these gallant human beings.

So Long Flip!

Phillip “Flip” Bracchi was a one and only, a special edition who came to represent everything about Amsterdam’s lower South Side neighborhood that gives that area both its charm and its edge.

If you had never met Flip and walked into Herks with him behind the bar, your first impression could be anything from amazement to disbelief depending upon the topics of conversation swirling around you. When he was working he didn’t tend bar, he was more like performing on a stage, dishing out more derogatory nicknames, personal insults and inappropriate personal questions than the great Don Rickles ever did in a Las Vegas lounge. Mr. Bracchi knew how to work an audience. He was an unabashed and uncensored sage on any topic, person or place one could imagine. Some of his proclamations, beliefs and conclusions were so bluntly stated it was not uncommon for the person listening to respond “There is something seriously wrong with you!”

I loved when Flip told a story. He was like a human jukebox filled with them and regulars sitting at the bar would actually make requests to have their favorite one retold. “Flip, tell him about the time you went with Vinnie and Chickie to have coffee!” One of the things that popped in my head when I learned Flip had passed was “I hope someone has a video of Flip telling a story.”

As hard and tough as he seemed on the outside, those who knew Flip best knew he had a heart of gold. I was not a Herk’s regular but I got there enough times for him to get to know me and me him. The last time I saw him was a couple months ago. His daughter had brought him to the bar after a doctor’s visit and it was sadly clear that the relentless cancer was taking its toll. But as bad as he looked and as sick as he must have felt, he spent the next hour or so making us double over with laughter. Only Flip could turn having a deadly disease into a laughing matter. Before I left, I went over to him to say goodbye and as we shook hands he said to me “I loved your new book. Buddy you can write.” I certainly wasn’t expecting Flip to pay me such a nice compliment and it turned out to be the last thing he ever said to me. My deepest and most sincere condolences to Flip’s son, daughter, grandchildren and his army of regular customers. There will never ever be another like him!

Ten Amsterdam Veterans From Ten Different US Wars

One of Amsterdam’s proudest legacies are the men and women from this community who served in the US Armed Forces. That legacy extends all the way back to 1776 and includes participation in every major armed conflict that has taken place since. In this Bonus List I profile ten Amsterdam veterans from ten different wars. I preview the first two of those profiles below:

Korean War – Frank Cassetta grew up on Mathias Avenue. He enlisted in the US Army in 1951 and was sent to fight in Korea the following year. Promoted to Master Sergeant while there, on December 23, 1952 he was one of the leaders of an assault force about to attack a heavily fortified enemy hill near Sataeri, a city situated just to the northern side of the present day border between North and South Korea. As the patrol was moving up a narrow valley to position itself for the attack, one of the soldiers tripped an explosive device, alerting the North Koreans of their location. Frank’s patrol came under intense fire and was greatly outnumbered. As the American soldiers scrambled, they triggered another booby trap and with enemy grenades and small arms fire pouring down on them from both sides of the valley, their situation became bleak. Though Frank had been wounded himself, he made two, not one, two perilous trips back into the field of fire to retrieve injured comrades and bring them to safe cover. He then returned to direct friendly fire against the enemy positions and realizing that additional support was essential, he volunteered to make his way back to contact reserve forces for assistance. While attempting to do so, he was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire. He got a Silver Star.

Revolutionary War – A one-time resident of Amsterdam, NY had the distinction of serving as a member of the Minutemen regiment, the legendary unit that fired the first American shots at the battles of Lexington and Concord. His name was David Shepard. He was born in Westfield, Massachusetts on October 23, 1744. He attended Yale University in the 1760’s and became a doctor. He settled in Chester, Massachusetts where he began his medical practice and became involved in local politics as a committeeman. New England of course and particularly Massachusetts became a swirling hot bed for the anti-British sentiment that would soon spread throughout the colonies. As relationships between the Crown and colonial leaders in Boston unraveled, Committees of Correspondence were established throughout Massachusetts as rebellious emergency governments to oppose British rules. Shepard was appointed to Chester’s Committee. When the Patriots received word that British troops were planning to raid their hidden arms supply stashes near Concord, local Minutemen militias from throughout the state converged on the site. Shepard volunteered to serve as surgeon to the regiments and it was he who treated the very first American soldiers wounded during the revolution. He would later take part in the Battles of Ticonderoga and Bennington. After the war, he was selected to represent Chester at the Constitutional Convention for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1788 where he voted with the majority in favor of ratifying the first US Constitution. He then returned to Chester, where he continued his medical practice and remained active in town politics until 1802, when he purchased a farm in Amsterdam, NY and relocated his family to the Mohawk Valley settlement. Shepard’s spread was located at the top of what is now Steadwell Avenue and he lived and worked it till his death in 1818. The farm would much later become the sight of Fairview Cemetery.

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 completed list within the next few weeks. 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, the Book Hound, or this year’s Festival of Trees please e-mail me (cinquantim@genium.com ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile.

Top Ten Nicest Places in Amsterdam to Visit

What are the ten nicest spots to visit in Amsterdam, NY? By nice, I mean places that will make you say to yourself “Hey self, this is a really nice place to visit, I need to come here more often!” In this fifth Amsterdam Top Ten Bonus List, I attempt to identify ten such locations. In the next few weeks I’ll e-mail the completed list to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book of 50 Amsterdam Top Ten Lists. I’ve previewed three of the spots that made the list below.

St. Stanislaus Church – The splendor of this particular “nicest Amsterdam place to visit” is sort of disguised by the fact that from the outside it looks kind of ordinary as far as “houses of worship” go. But when you get inside, it’s a whole new ballgame! When you sit in the pews and gaze at the architectural features of the sanctuary of St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church on Amsterdam’s Cornell Street you can’t help but be at least a bit awestruck. Having researched quite a bit of this city’s history, I can appreciate the structural and decorative splendor of this house of worship even more because I know the place was built 120 years ago and the construction technologies that were employed were archaic by today’s standards. The complex ornately decorated series of arches that support the ceiling of the church are stunning. Just as impressive is St. Stan’s magnificent altar, topped by alcoves of gilded arches, each containing pairs of beautifully painted images of Catholic saints. The multi spired original back altar reminds me of a cathedral in and of itself. Every nook and cranny of this amazing Church seems to draw both your vision and your spirits upward towards heaven and serves as evidence of the strong faith and devotion of the people who built and maintain it. You don’t have to be Catholic or even believe in God to be knocked flat over by the beauty of St. Stanislaus’s interior but seeing this place may just convince you to rethink both.

World War I Veterans’ Memorial Park – In his book “Annals of a Mill Town” the wonderful Amsterdam historian, Hugh Donlon wrote about how Rug City residents during World War I supported their soldiers from home. One such effort was called the “War Chest” in which over 10,000 Amsterdam residents contributed a quarter a week. All those hard earned quarters added up to over $380,000 by the war’s end and there was enough cash left over to have the majestic $35,000 Veteran’s Memorial designed and constructed on a beautiful setting at the western tip of the city. The Park, which sits at the intersection where Guy Park Ave, Division and West Main Streets meet, was dedicated on July 17, 1925, just seven days after my Dad was born. It was built as a tribute to Amsterdam’s World War I Veterans. As soon as it opened, it became one of the West End’s favorite places to visit, play, flirt and take wedding and family photos. I have a slew of black and whites from the 1940’s showing my dad, his two sisters and my grandparents posing in and around this venue. If you lived west of Henrietta Street growing up and especially on Guy Park Avenue by the time the 1960s rolled around, that Veteran’s Memorial Park was your all-everything playground. It was our baseball field in the summer and our tackle football field in the fall. We’d race our bicycles around the base of the monument and use the park’s silver painted Spanish-American War-era cannon to conduct war games and defend Amsterdam from an invasion by an imaginary foreign army. My brothers me and our friends spent large chunks of our childhood doing all these things in that park. I still remember the thrill of hitting my first home run over the head of the giant bronze soldier that stood atop the memorial. You quickly learned how to hit a baseball straight-away because if you pulled it to left or right fields there was a real good  chance the hard ball would smack into the windshield of one of the stream of cars traveling west toward Fort Johnson. A large cast-iron urn that used to be located smack in the middle of the park added an element of danger to our end-of-the-city football games. Getting smashed by former Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor paled in comparison to getting unexpectedly blindsided by that damn urn. In the 1980’s I brought my own four children to this park and today I bring my grandkids. The ballplayers and bike racers have disappeared and the place is usually forlornly empty. After a period of neglect and thanks to the efforts of concerned area veterans spearheaded by retired Amsterdam postal worker Tom DeLuca, the site was spruced up and continues to be well-maintained. A bubbling fountain has replaced the infamous urn, the silver cannon was repainted gold and they erected a huge flagpole where the imaginary pitcher’s mound used to be. But I still love going there as do the grand-kids. They sit up on that cannon, lobbing imaginary shells at the enemy approaching from the west. They race around the monument and usually stand on the granite benches that are molded into it as we read the names of the brave Amsterdam men who fought in the first World War, which are engraved on the memorial’s six giant plaques. If you’ve never been there I urge you to pay this place a visit. The reason it was built, how it was financed, and the memories it generates are all worth remembering forever.

The new Pedestrian Bridge connecting the Watefront Park to Bridge Street on the South Side has created a three-part destination that currently is the nicest place in Amsterdam to visit. During a Summertime Saturday evening, when there’s a concert going on in the Park, there’s absolutely no better place in town to be. You can drive down to the south side, park your car and then have dinner followed by a relaxing picturesque stroll across the Mohawk, reviewing some local history and passing by Amsterdam’s beautifully done 9/11 Memorial along the way. The concerts themselves are always outstanding and if you are younger and more energetic than me, when the music stops playing you stop for a nightcap before getting back in your car and heading home. I can almost guarantee that during that ride home someone in your car will make the following statement “That was a very nice evening, we need to do this again!”

Hundreds of Amsterdam residents have already experienced what I’ve written above for themselves. The question this City needs to answer is “How can we motivate folks from outside the community to do the same?”  

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 completed list within the next few weeks. 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, the Book Hound, or this year’s Festival of Trees please e-mail me (cinquantim@genium.com ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile.

Ten of Amsterdam’s All-Time Greatest Sports Siblings

Who are the greatest sibling athletes in Amsterdam, New York’s history? That’s a difficult question for anyone to answer but one thing is for sure, the one’s I’ve recognized in this Top Ten Bonus List are worthy of consideration. In today’s post, I preview three of my picks.

Joanne Davey
Jack Davey

The Davey’s – No list of All Time Greatest Amsterdam Sports Siblings could possibly be complete without including the Davey clan. For three decades beginning in the 1980’s, the daughters and sons of Jack and the late Joanne Davey provided fans of both Bishop Scully and Amsterdam High Schools’ interscholastic sports teams with one outstanding performance after another. John, Mike, Topher, Bryan, and Nick Davey have all played a huge collective role in the amazing long-term success achieved by the Rugged Rams’ football program while sisters Theresa, Christine, Lisa, Marie, Amanda, Meghan, and Ashley have done the same for ladies basketball, track & field, cross country etc. There’s little doubt that genetics played a role in their ability to handle both the talent and responsibility requirements of performing well in sports competitions. Father Jack was one of the greatest athletes in the history of St. Mary’s Institute. Joanne Davey gets my vote as one of the most amazing women in our city’s history. In addition to being an incredible mom to sixteen children she was widely acknowledged to be one of our community’s most skilled nurses and was the supervisor of nursing at St Mary’s Hospital. This couple’s genetic link has continued through yet another generation of outstanding athletes. Christine Davey married former Scully sports standout Tom Stanavich and thus far four of their ten children (football stars Brett, Bryan and Dale and their younger sister, track and x-country star Gaby)  have put together stellar interscholastic sports careers at Amsterdam High School. One of my favorite Davey siblings is brother Joe, who when he played Wee Men baseball had one of the sweetest and most powerful baseball swings I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, poor eyesight prevented him from playing at the high school level but it has not stopped him from becoming one of the all-time greatest “fans” of interscholastic sports in Amsterdam history.

Steve & Eddie Kuczek

The Kuczek Brothers – Jack Tracy deserves to be described as “the legendary Amsterdam High School Varsity baseball coach.” He developed some of the greatest teams in Capital District scholastic sports history during his three-decade tenure mentoring purple and gold baseball beginning in the 1930’s. But if he were still around today, he’d be the first to tell you that he owed much of his success as AHS skipper to two Polish Immigrants named Joe and Agnes Kuczek. Their six sons anchored the infields of about fifteen years worth of Tracy’s most successful teams. John and Ben Kuczek came first in the mid thirties. John was a first baseman and Ben the first of three great shortstops the family would produce. The middle two, Eddie and Steve were probably the most talented of the siblings. Tracy called second baseman Eddie the greatest all-around player he ever coached and shortstop Steve was the only one of the Kuczek’s to make it to the big leagues. The two anchored the middle of the infield for two straight years worth of undefeated Tracy teams. Mack came along next. He was a great hitter, played a solid third base and was the best pitcher in the family. The baby brother was Bernie Kuczek, an outstanding hitter and outfielder who extended the Kuczek AHS diamond legacy into the 1950’s. And talk about a family serving its country, the five oldest Kuczek’s all served in the US Army during World War II. Eddie, Steve and Bernie all went on to play collegiate ball for Colgate. The Kuczek’s were not one dimensional when it came to sports either. They were also outstanding ice skaters and starred on local hockey and speed skating teams.

Dolly Lazarou
Costa Lazarou

Dolly and Costa Lazarou – Greek immigrants Michael and Bessie Lazarou were both employed in the Sanford rug mills and raised a family consisting of five sons and a daughter in their home on Amsterdam’s Arnold Avenue. All of the Lazarou siblings were gifted physically but it was the youngest two boys Aristotle (a.k.a.Dolly) and Costa who shined as athletes. Dolly was a legend in Amsterdam’s Knot Hole League, one of this city’s very first youth baseball organizations. By the time he got to high school, his blazing fastball helped Amsterdam’s varsity baseball team go on a two-year unbeaten streak. Then in 1942, he signed a contract to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and in his debut season in the minors he went 3-2 for the Cards’ Jamestown, NY affiliate. Meanwhile his baby brother Costa was becoming one of the all-time great three-sport athletes in Amsterdam High School history as a quarterback in football, a point guard in basketball and the greatest catcher in the school’s history on the baseball diamond. Several big league teams were interested in signing Costa and Rug City sports fans were hoping that the Lazarou brothers would become Amsterdam’s version of the DiMaggio’s some day. But World War II got in the way. Dolly enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and Costa followed him in ’45, joining that same branch of the service smack in the middle of his senior season of AHS basketball.

Olivia Lazarou

They both returned home safely but the disruption to their careers dashed their hopes of playing Major League baseball. So instead they dominated Amsterdam’s semi-pro ranks for the next two decades, turning Mohawk Mills Park into a brotherly fiefdom. Both were considered among the best golfers in town and you didn’t want to wager either of them in a bowling match either, especially Dolly. Both of them are gone now but the Lazarou high school sports bloodline still flows in this community. Their great niece Olivia Lazarou was the Foothills Council Champion in Girls’ Cross Country in 2017 and finished second in this year’s Section II finals.

I have seven more memorable sets of Great Amsterdam Sports Siblings on my newest Bonus List. I will share them all via the next issue of my newsletter. This will be the fourth Amsterdam NY Top Ten BONUS List I’ve completed and it will be distributed to all 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 during the next three weeks. 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.

 

All Time Top Ten Amsterdam Short-Lived Businesses

Flash in the pans! Here today gone tomorrow! Whatever happened to…? Amsterdam has certainly had its share of businesses that experienced short lifespans. In my next Top Ten Bonus List, I describe ten such enterprises. Here’s three entries from that list, not in any particular order:

The Carl Company Store in the Amsterdam Mall – One of the truly nice things Amsterdam, New York’s controversial downtown shopping mall brought to the city was The Carl Company department store that opened there in 1981. Though that particular Carl’s outlet was only in existence for about a decade, the company that owned it could actually trace its beginnings back to 1891, when Charles W. Carl opened up a dry goods store in Medina, NY and then followed that up by opening up similar stores in nearby communities. In 1906 he sold all of them and took the money and his family to Schenectady, NY where they opened the flagship Carl Co. Department Store. It quickly became one of the Electric City’s favorite shopping destinations. It took awhile before the Carl’s started expanding to other locations and when they did, they did so slowly and stuck close to home, opening two new locations in the suburbs of Schenectady in 1954 and 1963 respectively. In 1973 they entered the Saratoga market and in 1976, Clifton Park. Meanwhile, more than a few Amsterdamian’s used to make shopping trips to downtown Schenectady pretty regularly and Carl’s flagship store was one of the reasons why. The business had been advertising to the Amsterdam market with newspaper ads for generations, especially at Christmas time so when they were approached by Mall developers to take an anchor store position they decided to take the plunge and the water they dove into was perfect at first. It quickly became one of Amsterdam’s and my family’s favorite shopping stops. Though it was much smaller than the behemoth big box department stores anchoring Colonie Center and Mohawk Mall, The Carl Company Store in Amsterdam carried just enough products and variety to make it well worth the trip. I can’t tell you how many times I rushed down there to grab a birthday or anniversary gift, a dress shirt or a pair of well-priced khaki pants. And the store’s small but well-staffed restaurant became a favorite lunch spot for me and my wife. It was when Carl Co. announced in February of 1991 that it was closing all of its stores that I knew the Amsterdam Downtown Store was going to eventually collapse as a viable retail shopping center.

7 Flags Raceway – Fifty years ago this month a brand new business opened up in the space once occupied by the Regent Movie Theater on lower Market Street in Amsterdam. Nearby Fonda, NY had stock car racing. Further north up Route 67, Saratoga was a Mecca for horse racing and on a cool Friday night in November of 1967, the old Rug City became the home of slot car racing. Slot cars are powered miniature autos that are guided by slots or grooves in the tracks on which they are run. Back before PlayStation game systems existed, miniature slot car tracks were as real as it got when it came to live action replication of an actual sports activity. Many of my friends had slot tracks set up in their homes. The craze wasn’t just for kids either. Hordes of adults who always dreamed of getting behind the wheel of a real race car were able to capture a similar thrill by controlling a toy version of one. Ralph Fisher was one of those adults and slot car racing became his favorite hobby. But Fisher also had some entrepreneurial blood flowing in his veins and he decided to turn his hobby into a business. He and his wife invested in three huge custom built slot car tracks, each wide enough to accommodate eight cars. They set them up inside the long vacant Amsterdam cinema. They hung checkered flags off the front marquis and sold spiffy and pricey slot cars from the theaters old concession stand. Customers rented racing time on the tracks and on weekends the Fishers sponsored actual races for different age groups and classes of cars. Entry fees were charged and trophies awarded the winners. When it first opened, Amsterdam teens including me flocked to the venue. But gradually, the novelty wore off. Before too long the Fishers moved the business to a smaller East Main Street storefront that was less expensive to heat and light than the drafty old Regent and not long after that, Seven Flags Raceway had become another Amsterdam memory.

Amsterdam Star – With the advent of the Internet, viral marketing and social networking the term “buzz” has taken on a whole new meaning and dimension in the 21st Century. But way back in 1994, when Steve Picciocca Jr. and Dave Dalfonso left their jobs with the Amsterdam Recorder to start their own weekly newspaper, the “buzz” they were able to create within this community achieved cyberspace level speed and voltage. Then two years later, when another former Recorder staffer named Brad Broyles decided to join the pair and invest in the venture, the Star became a daily and for the next couple of months, the war was on between the two publications for the eyes and subscription dollars of Amsterdam’s newspaper readers. It ended just 78 issues into the daily Star’s run, when the upstart suddenly and without prior public warning, folded. But it was sweet while it lasted. Though Picciocca’s background was as head of the Recorder Circulation Department, he was also a very strong and creative writer and his Star columns and editorials were must reading. Dalfonso on the other hand, was one of this city’s most effective media ad sales professionals during his days at the Recorder and he brought that expertise and his contact list with him to the Star. They published the Star in the same no-fold tabloid format of the New York Daily News and they made it a morning paper so they could beat the Recorder’s evening edition to Amsterdam’s doorsteps. The fledgling broadside certainly had a steep mountain to climb because the Recorder claimed a three-to-one advantage in subscriptions which made their ad space an easier sell. But Picciocca and Dalfonso were young, energetic and in it for the long haul. Evidently Broyles did not share their enthusiasm because he suddenly and unexpectedly closed down the business, disappointing thousands of local news enthusiasts who hated to see the Amsterdam Star cease operations.

I have seven more memorable short-lived Amsterdam businesses on my newest Bonus List. I will share them all via the next issue of my newsletter. This will be the third Amsterdam NY Top Ten BONUS List I’ve completed and it will be distributed to all 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 during the next three weeks. 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 (cinquantim@genium.com ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile. I was also recently interviewed about my new Amsterdam Top Ten Lists book by the one-and-only Bob Cudmore for his outstanding Historians Podcasts Series. You can listen to that interview here.

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.

Playground Worker – The teenagers who used to organize and supervise summer-time playground activities for the City Recreation Department were the most efficient and lowest paid baby sitters in the history of Amsterdam. These young men and women were literally responsible for entertaining, educating and protecting the well-being of thousands of kids from 8 AM until dusk (with a break for supper) every weekday from the beginning of July till the end of August. I can tell you from personal experience, having spent just about every day of every single summer between 1961 and 1965 at the old Guy Park Avenue School playground during my youth, that the youthful supervisors hired to handle that sand-filled recreational facilty did an outstanding job. Some were better than others at handling specific age-groups, activities and genders but each and every one of them was kind, compassionate, mature and extremely patient given the diversity of clients they were expected to deal with, including ample supplies of spoiled brats and belligerent bullies. I can remember families of three or more siblings spending every day engaged in wonderful and healthy activities and in the process making new friends and developing critical social skills. Just twenty years later, young Amsterdam parents had no such FREE program available to them within walking distance of their homes. Add up what a baby sitter or day care costs parents of today each week and you’ll understand why back then, these playground workers performed miracles for our city’s children, their parents and Amsterdam taxpayers. Years later, after raising four kids of our own, I appreciated what this Amsterdam playground supervisors did for this community more than ever.

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 (cinquantim@genium.com ) 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 (cinquantim@genium.com ) 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.