March 31 – Happy Birthday Rocco Petrone

Just 18 months after Rocco Petrone was born on this date in 1926, his father Anthony, a railroad worker, was killed on the job when he was struck by a train, just east of Amsterdam. There was no social safety net for a widow with two young boys back then and he remembers getting a job delivering ice as a young boy to help the family make ends meet. His Mom would eventually marry again, to Joseph Scaccia. They moved to Scaccia’s home at 24 Holly Street, where today’s birthday celebrant was raised with his brother John and stepbrother Anthony. When he was fourteen years old, he played baseball in an Amsterdam youth program called the Knot Hole League. He was a pitcher for the Hurricane’s and  his teammates included wonderful Amsterdam originals like Bob Sise, Babe Stratton and Pete LaBate. Two years later, he and big Ray Marciniec were the very good pair of starting tackles who anchored the defensive line of Coach Stan Machoskey’s Amsterdam Varsity football team. Though he was a fine athlete, he was an even better student, graduating as the Salutatorian of the 1943 class of Wilbur Lynch High School. With World War II still raging in both Europe and the Pacific, he secured one of Congressman Bernard Kearney’s appointments to the US Military Academy at West Point, where he lettered in football on the 1945 Army squad that won the National Championship. But once again, he did even better in the classroom. When he graduated in 1946, he was stationed for three years in Germany before being sent to MIT where he earned a Masters degree in mechanical engineering. From there, the young Captain was assigned to the Redstone Arsenal, headquarters for the Army’s vast guided missile and rocket programs.

It was there that he found his true calling, working on the team of engineers that developed the Redstone rocket, the very first U.S. ballistic missile and the vehicle used to send the first American, astronaut Alan Shepard, into space. From Redstone he was put on loan to NASA, where shortly after retiring from the Army in 1966, he was given the job of Director of Launch Operations. He then became director of the Apollo program. It was in that role that Amsterdam native, Rocco Petrone became responsible for all phases of the flight that landed Neil Armstrong on the moon on July 20, 1969 and returned him safely back to Earth. That one small step for man was certainly one giant leap for a fatherless boy from Amsterdam, NY.

March 30 – Happy Birthday Tony Greco & Bill Sikora

One of the things I most love about still living in Amsterdam are my friendships with other people, some of which are almost as old as I am! Two of those old friends are celebrating birthdays today and both of them have spent their entire lives helping to make this community a better place to live.

Happy Birthday Tony Greco – I met Tony Greco sixty years ago in Mrs. Pallazole’s Guy Park Avenue kindergarten class. And guess what? I had breakfast with him last week. In between, he became one of the great cornerbacks in AHS Gridiron history with the John Los-coached 1970 and ’71 Rugged Ram Class A championship football teams. He would later pay his football skills forward, becoming one of the all-time winningest Little Giants’ head coaches with his monster Maroon Wildcat teams back in the 1980’s. And if there was ever a foreign spy posing as a citizen of Amsterdam, you could catch him by showing him a picture of Tony and asking him who it was. Why? Because everyone in this town knows Tony Greco. Before his back went bad Tony put his gifted painting and wallpapering skills to work throughout the great northeast and in scores of Amsterdam homes. His remarkable Mom Mary has turned 90 and Tony if you’re reading this, don’t get upset when I tell folks she looks younger than you do!

Happy Birthday Bill Sikora – I’ve only known this birthday celebrant for fifty years. Like Tony Greco and your’s truly, Billy Sikora is a product of the Wilbur Lynch High School Class of 1972. He was a great schoolboy athlete, catching Gary Tuck’s passes as a wide receiver in football and nailing his unorthodox side winder outside shots on the AHS hardcourt. Billy was also always a “hustler” and I mean that in a completely positive way. He had the curiosity, instinct and maturity level at a very young age to treat every job he had as an opportunity to learn more about business and working with people. From Raindancer to Subway to a long tenure as director of production at Liberty ARC, my friend has put together a wonderful and successful career of accomplishment during which he’s had a positive impact on the lives of so many folks in our community.

 

March 29 – Happy Birthday John Naple

Amsterdam_LibraryHe was the first of six kids born to John and Dorothy Naple and he was named after his Dad. He graduated from St. Mary’s Institute in 1964 and got his teaching degree from Plattsburgh. John Naple then served his country as a member of the Peace Corps. He went to Ghana in West Africa and worked as a teacher for some of the poorest children on planet Earth. (John’s wife Linda went to Ghana too and served as a nurse.) When he came back to the states, he became a science teacher at Galway High School and is now retired.

John loves Amsterdam and fortunately for all of us, he’s also the kind of guy who sees something or someone that needs help and instead of complaining or criticizing, he does something about it. His greatest passion has been the Amsterdam Public Library on Church Street. He works tirelessly on its behalf, serves as a Trustee on its board and is an integral part of the very popular “Amsterdam Reads” program.

When most people around here look at the Chuctanunda they see a creek. John sees the history of Amsterdam flowing though the heart of our town. When he’s not picking up litter out of the creek bed, he’s leading hiking tours up and down its banks, explaining the important role this waterway played in the development of this City.

Most if not all of John’s volunteer efforts are far out of the limelight but they make an incredible difference to the quality of life in our community. There are plenty of useful beautiful things from Amsterdam’s past that aren’t useful or beautiful anymore. Because of folks like John Naple, the Amsterdam Public Library and the Chuctanunda Creek are not among them. Thanks John and Happy Birthday!

Amsterdam Battle of the Bands Reunion – Feedback Form

Remember back in the day when great Amsterdam bands played dances every weekend at the Columbian Center and Bishop Scully or were featured live at venues like the Bronze Bell and Meadow Brook? Names like “The Dynamics“, “The Maze“, “Collector’s Item” and “Society” were displayed proudly on the skins of the drummer’s bass and we danced for hours to what were then wonderful renditions of hot top ten hits.

The Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation is currently investigating the feasibility of gathering a group of at least five of these former bands for a reunion concert at Amsterdam’s Riverfront Park to be included as one of the organization’s popular Saturday evening concerts. We’ve set aside July 27, 2019 as a date when such a reunion could take place. Now we need to find out if these classic old bands are interested in participating and if they are, we’d like to also find out how likely members of the Amsterdam community would attend this free admission event.

If you were a one-time member of an Amsterdam band that played local venues at anytime between 1960-2010 we’d like to get your feedback regarding how feasible it would be for your old band to reunite and play a two-or-three song set at this event. Would you be willing to pull out the drumsticks, guitar straps and sheet music one more time to benefit your old hometown and rekindle precious memories for some of your long-ago fans?

If you are a current or former resident of the Amsterdam community, we’d like to get your feedback regarding if you would or would not be likely to attend this free event. Thanks in advance for helping us determine the feasibility of what we think could be a fun and wonderful celebration of Amsterdam’s own golden oldies era. (Note: If you are not a former member of an Amsterdam band but have close regular contact with someone who is and are willing to contact this individual on the Foundation’s behalf, please make sure you submit answers to the last two questions on the following form.)

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Answers to “The Amsterdam, NY Bars, Taverns & Grills A,B,C” Trivia Quiz

Answer to Question No. 1: A is for The Armory Grill – The building the grill now occupies actually pre-dates the Armory, which was constructed in 1894. Before it became a restaurant it was The Suits Hotel (pictured above on left), named after the family that owned it. The bar of the popular Amsterdam eatery is one of the oldest in the city. The Armory Grill has been in the competent hands of  the Parillo Family for a couple of generations and is now run by Ralph and Jackie Parllo.

Answer to Question No. 2: B is for Bigelow Weavers Club – I’m not sure if there are still any members of this Brookside Ave. organization that actually worked in the Bigelow-Sanford Mills but that’s how it got it’s start, as a social and recreational gathering spot for the men (only) who wove the world-famous carpets that gave Amsterdam it’s Rug-City nickname. Before it became a clubhouse, the structure was the residence of William Barclay Charles, a textile merchant who made his fortune selling cotton and wool to Amsterdam’s gigantic carpet and knitting mills. Charles was at one time Amsterdam’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Answer to Question No. 3: C is for Corner Tavern, which was owned by Bill Pabis (pictured above), who also served as the City of Amsterdam’s Recreation Commissioner when John Gomulka was the mayor.

Answer to Question No. 4: D is for Draus’s Grill which stood almost opposite Ludwin’s on the east side of Church Street in the building above (as it appears today).

Answer to Question No. 5: E – stands for East Main Street bars and the only one of the five listed in this question that did not have an East Main Street address was Tower Tavern, which was owned by John and Nell Slusarz. The Tower was on Lark Street less than a block up from East Main in the building pictured above as it appears today. At least you can still see how this once-popular East End watering hole got it’s name.

I’ll distribute the rest of my Amsterdam Bars, Taverns & Grills A-B-C Trivia Quiz later this month to everyone who is on the e-mail distribution list for my Amsterdam Trivia Quizzes. There’s no charge to get on the list and you can join here. This will be the thirteenth quiz in my series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz – Downtown

 

Answer to Question No. 1: Miller’s – Howard Busseno was a native of South Glens Falls, who moved to Amsterdam as a boy, graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1950 and then served his country in Korea. Shortly after returning from service he was hired by Miller’s. In 1934, Harry Miller had moved his clothing company to Amsterdam, locating it in the upper floors of 68 East Main Street. The Miller Manufacturing Co. made all kinds of occupational and scouting uniforms. Miller also opened a retail store on the building’s ground floor. It was one of the first discount stores in the entire area. While a team of seamstresses was busy making all kinds of uniforms upstairs, the first floor store sold men’s and boys’ dress slacks, shorts and shoes, casual wear, sportswear, work clothes and work shoes, underwear and a large stock of cigars, cigarettes and tobaccos. The uniforms Miller’s manufactured were sold by mail throughout the country. I can remember going in there to buy my Cub Scout uniform when I was a kid and also  the gym suits we had to wear as students at Junior and Senior High. It really was a neat business model, perfectly suited for Amsterdam with its large pool of talented seamstresses, who had learned their craft by working in the knitting mills that used to operate in the city. When Harry Miller passed away in 1962, his son Marvin formally became head of the company. Marvin Miller ran it skillfully. For year’s, his biggest competitor for the Rug City’s male apparel market was the more stylish and expensive Mortan’s. Miller wisely focused his inventory and promotional strategy on the middle class segment of the market, who ate up his high quality at low prices theme. His veteran retail crew was a huge reason why the store became one of Amsterdam’s most popular. The sales staff was headed by the indomitable Busseno, who used to handle five customers at once without making any of them wait. Marvin Miller made a couple of moves to different downtown sites during the four decades the business operated in the City proper. But when the downtown Mall came, Miller headed north to Route 30.

Answer to Question No. 2: It is gone now and so is the downtown corner on which it sat, but not enough years have yet passed to erase the aging memories of what was certainly one of Amsterdam’s most favorite five & dime department stores. S.S. Kresge Company’s Amsterdam store was a handsome two-story yellow-brick building that sat proudly on the corner of East Main and Railroad Streets. That corner was a favorite downtown meeting place. “I’ll meet you in front of Kresge’s” was part of Rug City’s lexicon. The second floor housed the offices of Dr. Dunning, one of this town’s favorite dentists and was also home to Gallagher & Trull, this city’s most skilled jewelry and watch makers. Kresge’s was one of those places where as soon as you walked through the front door you smiled. Greeting you as you walked in was one of downtown’s all-time great lunch counters, landmarked with a huge Richardson’s Root Beer Keg, where you could purchase a hot dog for 7 cents, three submarine sandwiches for a dollar and one of Lillian Reichel’s amazing blueberry muffins as a delicious stand-alone breakfast. Generations of Amsterdam’s parakeets and a river- full of this town’s gold fish emanated from Kresge’s pet section, which was situated at the very rear of the store. A sweet little lady everyone called Muggsie ran the toy department with a memorable smile and every aisle in the place was packed with merchandise that cost between a nickel and a dollar. Rug City residents bought enough of it to keep Kresge’s busy for decades but by the time Urban Renewal’s wrecking ball beckoned in the early seventies, Kresge’s was in the process of becoming K-Marts and replacing the five and dime motto with “Blue-Light specials.” I liked Lillian Reichel’s blueberry muffins a whole lot more.

My 20 question Amsterdam NY Downtown Trivia quiz will be distributed to everyone on my mailing list later this week. There’s no cost to join the list and you can do so here.

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The neighborhoods of Amsterdam are filled with structures that once housed cherished neighborhood grocery stores where Rug City residents would purchase the ingredients they needed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a pack of smokes, a six pack of beer, a quart of milk and maybe even play a three digit number or two. My next Amsterdam Trivia Quiz will focus on twenty of the mom & pop markets that used to play such an integral role in the life and economy of our community. I’ll be distributing the complete quiz later this week, but here’s a five question preview to rekindle your neighborhood grocers memories. How many can you get right?

1. You can still make out the outline of the now hidden street-level storefront of this home at the corner of Glen and Lincoln Avenues. What was the name of this neighborhood grocery store?

2. Now an office for an insurance agency, this building was once the home of a busy Guy Park Avenue neighborhood grocery store that was named after the first name of its proprietor. What was that name?

3. This building once was home to one of Amsterdam’s very best Italian sausage makers. What was his last name, which was also the name of his West End neighborhood grocery store?

4. This building at the corner of Division and Caroline Streets was once the home of the West End’s largest independently owned grocery store. Do you remember the name the market?

5. Tymotej Laba and Garoslaw Rynar once operated a market named after its Amsterdam neighborhood from this storefront. Do you remember that name?

 

My 20 question Amsterdam Neighborhood Grocery Store quiz will be distributed to everyone on my mailing list later this week. There’s no cost to join the list and you can do so here.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: What do you know about the West End?

This new quiz focuses on the City’s West End neighborhood. The complete quiz includes 20 questions. I present the first five questions and correct answers below. I will be e-mailing all 20 questions to members of this blog’s mailing list later this week:

1) Beginning in 1958, his West Main Street business was the only location in Amsterdam’s West End where motorists could “put a Tiger in their tank”. Who was he?

2) An extremely large percentage of the Italian immigrants who settled in the West End during the early Twentieth Century all came from the same town in the southern part of Italy. What was the name of this town?

3) This West End father and son duo both starred for Amsterdam High School football teams thirty years apart. The Dad was the tough-as-nails leader of a defensive unit that carried Amsterdam to a 1948 league championship. Three decades later his son reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the Rugged Rams. Can you identify this dynamic duo?

4) This West End native who grew up on Gardiner Street was the first individual of Italian heritage to be elected Mayor of Amsterdam. Who was he?

5) The guy pictured above was the only one of Sammy Pepe’s four sons who did not end up working in the iconic West Main Street restaurant their father founded as an adult. Which of the Pepe brothers is he?

You will find the answers to the above five questions about Amsterdam’s West End neighborhood beginning right below this paragraph.  The complete West End Trivia Quiz has a total of twenty questions in all. If you’d like to see the other 15, I will be including them in the next issue of my new Amsterdam NY Trivia Quiz Newsletter which I will be distributing later this week to everyone currently on this blog’s mailing list. If you’re not on the list, you can subscribe here. There’s no cost for subscribing and when you do, you will receive a minimum of six new Amsterdam, NY Trivia Contests which I intend to distribute every month, via e-mail. Now here are the answers to the first five questions in today’s Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz.
Answer to question number 1: His name was Albert Turo and he owned and operated the Esso gas station that was located across from the foot of Bayard Street next to the now-closed Sansalone’s Market. Al ran that station for close to a half century. One year after he took over the location, Esso introduced their “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” ad campaign and it became one of the most successful and longest lasting promotions in history. Al’s youngest son Tom later took over ownership of the business from his dad and ran it for many years.
Pisciotta, Italy

Answer to question number 2: The hillside town in southern Italy that was the original home to many of the Italian families who settled in Amsterdam during the early 1900’s was Pisciotta, in the province of Salerno.

Answer to question number 3: Both father and son shared the same name, Anthony Sculco.

Frank Martuscello

Answer to question number 4: His name was Frank Martuscello. He was first elected Mayor of Amsterdam in 1956 and then again in 1960.
John Pepe

Answer to question number 5 : John Pepe was the only son of Sammy Pepe who did not go to work at his father’s West Main St. restaurant as an adult. Instead, he went to college for his engineering degree and eventually became the long time Commissioner of Public Works for Montgomery County. His three younger brothers, Jim, Sam  and Joe all had long careers at the restaurant.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – Streets & Neighborhoods

Anyone fortunate enough to have attended the Historic Amsterdam League’s eighth annual Neighborhood Tour this past weekend (6/9/2018), will have an easier time answering the questions in today’s Amsterdam Trivia Quiz than those of you who did not. This new quiz focuses on the City’s Market Hill neighborhood. The complete quiz includes 20 questions. I present the first five questions and correct answers below. I will be e-mailing all 20 questions to members of this blog’s mailing list later this week:

1) What were the names of the husband and wife team that used to own and run Mac’s Confectionary on Amsterdam’s Glen Avenue?

2) Before the Pakenas family opened a dry cleaning business at 110 Brookside Avenue in the mid 1940’s, Elmer Welch ran his own very popular business at that location. Any idea what sort of business Welch operated?

3) When Sammy Fariello suffered a debilitating stroke in the late 1970’s his son took over the running of his legendary Confectionary at 43 Lincoln Ave. Do you remember his son’s first name and his popular nickname?

4) Dave Blinsinger, the very popular head butcher at the original Joe’s Market on Market Street was known by a very popular nickname. Do you remember what customer’s and the Market’s staff used to call Blinsinger back then?

5) The only Market Hill City firehouse opened in 1907 at the corner of Chestnut and Bunn Street’s and remained in operation till the mid 1970’s centralization of all of Amsterdam’s firefighting resources at the new Public Safety Building. Every neighborhood firehouse used to have a number assigned to it. What number was this long-time Market Hill fire house assigned?

You will find the answers to the above five questions about Market Hill beginning right below this paragraph.  The complete Market Hill Trivia Quiz has a total of twenty questions in all. If you’d like to see the other 15, I will be including them in the first issue of my new Amsterdam NY Trivia Quiz Newsletter which I will be distributing later this week to everyone currently on this blog’s mailing list. If you’re not on the list, you can subscribe here. There’s no cost for subscribing and when you do, you will receive a minimum of six new Amsterdam, NY Trivia Contests which I intend to distribute every month, via e-mail. Now here are the answers to the first five questions in today’s Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz.

Answer to question number 1: Mac’s Confectionary was owned and managed by Mac & Virginia Rianno.

Answer to question number 2: Before Pakenas Cleaners took over the  building at 110 Brookside Avenue it was the home of Welch’s Bottling Works which bottled and distributed its own line of soda’s under their own “American Boy” Label.

Answer to question number 3: Sammy Fariello’s son’s name was “Robert” but he was widely known by his nickname “Fadge”. Fadge kept the iconic business moving forward after his father’s stroke until he was tragically felled by a brain tumor in late 1985.

Answer to question number 4: The nickname of Joe’s Market’s legendary meat cutter Dave Blinsinger was “Dynamite”.

Answer to question number 5: The Market Hill City firehouse located at the corner of Chestnut and Bunn Street’s was designated No. 4 by the Amsterdam Fire department.

Don’t forget, there are 15 more memory challenging questions in my new Market Hill Trivia Quiz which will be e-mailed later this week to all members of this blog’s mailing list. If you are not already on that list you can sign up FREE here.

I highly recommend that those who missed the HAL Northern Neighborhoods Tour do not miss the chance to purchase the 48-page companion book HAL put together for the event. It costs $11.00 per copy (postage & sales tax  included) and you can order it via mail-order direct from HAL at Historic Amsterdam League, PO Box 132, Amsterdam, N.Y. 12010. Copies of the book will also be available in the next few days at the following Amsterdam locations: Book Hound at 16 East Main St, the Amsterdam Free Library on Church Street, the Inman Senior Center at 53 Guy Park Ave., the PAV Club at 56 Church Street and the Elwood Museum at 100 Chirch Street.

Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz: Category – Entertainment

For such a small town, Amsterdam certainly had had it’s share of individuals who have gone on to successful careers in the entertainment industry. Today’s quiz tests your knowledge of ten such Amsterdamians (actually 11 with the bonus question). How many can you get correct? The answers are posted at the end of this post beginning right below the final question. Good luck…or perhaps I should say; Break a leg!

1) In April of 1954, this son of an Amsterdam clothing store co-owner won the Metropolitan Opera “Audition of the Air competition” and was signed by the Met for their 1955-56 season. Using the stage name “Albert DaCosta” quickly became a widely respected rising Opera tenor. Can you identify the clothing store his father owned?

2) This Amsterdam resident became part of one of the most popular and longest running  “Tribute” acts in Las Vegas history with his uncanny portrayal of Sammy Davis Junior. Who is he?

3) This Amsterdam native became the operations manager at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1977. Can you name him?


4) After graduating from St. Mary’s Institute in 1966, this Amsterdam native pictured above with George Harrison got her degree from Stony Brook and headed for New York City where she began a stellar career in the music industry during which she managed the concert tours of some of the most legendary rock bands in history, including the Rolling Stones, The Who and Lynyrd Skinner Band. Her Dad’s family ran a popular Amsterdam Dairy. Any idea who she is?

5) This member of the Amsterdam High School Class of 1970 was one of this town’s all-time great Rec Softball Players before moving south to pursue his career in law enforcement and eventually becoming an actor. His recent credits include appearances in a James Franco film and the Walking Dead TV show. Can you identify him?

6) She was one of Bert DeRose’s greatest talent discoveries from the Amsterdam High School Class of 1954 and she went from regular appearances on the old WRGB talent show, “Teenage Barn” to becoming a headline nightclub singer and scoring a starring role in close to 2,000 performances of the national touring version of the hit Broadway musical, The Flower Drum Song. Who was she?

7) In 2013 she became the only Amsterdam native to be nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Who is she?

8) She’s the sister of the answer to number 4 above and she also happened to put together a great career as one of the most talented seamstresses in the entertainment industry, stitching the wardrobes and set components for some of Broadway’s biggest blockbusters. Who is she?

9) Of all the bodies buried in Amsterdam’s Green Hill Cemetery, her’s appeared in featured roles of the most Hollywood films. Who was this long-ago leading lady?

10) This Amsterdam native became nationally known beginning in 2002 when his wise and witty online reviews of each American Idol episode were drawing millions of hits at the Entertainment Weekly Web site and becoming must reading for fans of the hit show. Who is he?

Today’s Bonus Question: The Amsterdam native has become one of the most respected guitarists in the punk rock genre. He is pictured above (at far left) with his band Krimewatch, which has played major venues all over the world. What’s his name?

The answers to today’s quiz appear below:

1) Albert Sochin DeCosta was the son of Joseph Sochin who at one time was a co-owner of Sochin’s, long-time successful business in downtown Amsterdam.
2) Louie Velez
3) Dave Carlucci
4) Mary Beth Olbrych Medley
5) Eddie Kercado
6) Arlene Fontana
7) Jessica Collins Capogna
8) Melanie Olbrych
9) Mary Duncan
10) Michael Slezak
Answer to today’s Bonus Question: Sean Joyce