July 1 – Happy Birthday Dr. William H. Robb

On February 28, this Blog recognized the Birthday of Dr. Charles Stover, beginning his post with the the sentence, “He just may have been the greatest and most influential medical doctor to ever practice in our Rug City.” We were forced to use the phrase “May have been,” because today’s Birthday Celebrant Dr. William H. Robb battled him for that distinction back before the turn of the Twentieth Century and the two legendary physicians in fact were partners for a four year period. Based on the historical information we’ve read, Doctor’s Robb & Stover did as much for the practice of medicine in Amsterdam as Masters & Johnson did for the practice of sex in America.

French was the older of the two. He was born of the South Side of Amsterdam in the Town of Florida on July 1, 1843. His family moved to Saratoga for a time but returned to Amsterdam in time to see Robb graduate from Amsterdam Academy in 1862. With the Civil War raging, he taught school for a year and then began studying medicine under another Amsterdam Doctor named Jacob Snell. He then formally graduated from Albany Medical College in 1865 and went into his first partnership with Snell in 1866 and remained with him for the next 7 years, before striking out on his own. It was during this time when he took the young Stover under his wing as a student and and in 1880, the two went into partnership for the next four years.

In a tribute written by yet another Amsterdam physician named S. H. French, Robb was described as “the most prominent physician and surgeon that ever practiced in Amsterdam…his capacity for work was enormous…Naturally an optimist, he carried his breezy hopefulness into the sick-room and inspired courage and confidence in his ability wherever he went.”

Working with Stover, he led the efforts to lobby Amsterdam’s City government to construct both the public drinking water and sewer systems. He and Stover are credited as the driving forces behind Amsterdam’s first city hospital. He championed and then chaired Amsterdam’s first free public library.

Robb’s reputation extended beyond Amsterdam. He was one of the founders of the New York State Medical Association and one of its most active and respected members. In fact, it was while in New York City for an 1897 meeting of the state association that Robb was stricken with the illness that would eventually take his life. He was hospitalized there for several weeks before returning to Amsterdam. When he did not recover his strength, it was decided a warmer climate would be beneficial and Robb went to Selma, Alabama, where he died in January of 1898.

August 30 – Happy Birthday Charles E. Hardies

HardiesFamilyIn January of 1972, sixty-five years after his father was sworn into the same exact office, Charles E. Hardies stood with his wife and only son in front of Supreme Court Justice William Crangle and took the oath himself to become Montgomery County District Attorney. Born on August 30, 1911, Hardies had just been appointed to that post by then Governor of New York State, Nelson Rockefeller to fill the unexpired term of Jim White, who had himself just been appointed Montgomery County Court Judge by the Governor.

His dad, Charles E. Hardies Sr. had been a revered figure in this area’s legal community right up until he died suddenly on December 22, 1939 at his 19 Grant Avenue home in Amsterdam, NY, after being stricken with a heart attack. He had served as both DA and Montgomery County Court Judge during the four decades he had been a member of the County bar.

Many expected his son to follow the same career path when today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant went on to win reelection twice to consecutive three-year terms as DA. But those terms coincided with an ongoing probe by the New York State Investigation Committee looking into allegations that members of the Amsterdam Police Force and its Chief were accepting kickbacks and bribes for everything from steering business to City tow truck operators who paid for the referrals, to permitting illegal gambling activities to flourish in Amsterdam, unfettered by law enforcement.

The subsequent report included a scathing rebuke of…

You can read the rest of my story about this former DA in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

 

April 19 – Happy Birthday Emil Quattrocchi

herkstavern2There have been pretty much two phases of Amsterdam’s Herk’s Tavern history. The current phase which has been engineered by its present day proprietor, the one and only Flip Bracchi and the original phase construed by the Quattrocchi brothers, Herman and  today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Emil. Therefore, if you asked my Dad’s generation what Herk’s was like and you asked a member of my generation what it was like, the answer’s would definitely not fit together like two pieces of the same puzzle…

You can read the rest of my story about Emil and Herk’s in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

April 1 – Happy Birthday Hugh Donlon

Hugh Donlon shown here escorting Hollywood starlets Audrey Totter on the left and Greer Garson on right during their 1952 visit to the Amsterdam.
Hugh Donlon shown here escorting Hollywood starlets Audrey Totter on the left and Greer Garson on right during their 1952 visit to the Amsterdam.

How good a writer was the late Amsterdam historian, reporter and columnist, Hugh Donlon? One way to answer that question is to point out that his “Main Street” column is still appearing regularly in our local newspaper and the guy’s been dead for 25 years!

He may have been born on April Fools Day in 1896 but this talented scribe was anything but foolish. He joined the Recorder staff in 1930. By then Donlon had lost his first wife Teresa, who had died during the delivery of their son in 1921 and he had remarried and become the father of three more boys.

In his spare time, Mr Donlon was researching and writing manuscripts about the glorious past of our Mohawk Valley…

You can read the rest of my story about this illustrious Amsterdam journalist in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 28 – Happy Birthday Vic Raschi

vicraschicard-thumb-200x278-2770671He was the very best Yankee to ever play for their Class C Canadian American League affiliate here in Amsterdam. In fact, between 1948 and 1953, Vic Raschi would be considered by many to be the best right-handed starting pitcher in all of baseball. On his Major League resume, he had put together three straight 21-win seasons and helped the Bronx Bombers capture a record five straight World Series  trophies.But back in the spring and summer of 1941, he was a shy 22-year-old member of the Rugmaker roster pitching in his first ever season of professional baseball. His full name was Victor John Angelo Raschi and he had been born to Italian immigrant parents on this date in 1918. As a high schooler, his blazing fastball had earned him a scholarship to the College of William & Mary, where he caught the attention of Yankee scouts who signed him and sent him to Amsterdam.

His Italian-American heritage and his impressive heater made him an instant favorite with Amsterdam fans…

You can read the rest of my story about this former Amsterdam Rugmaker and NY Yankee pitching great in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 24 – Happy Birthday Sam LaBate

239f5913e3f74f9589cffa725bee60b4When you turn on a faucet in Amsterdam, the water that pours out originates in the foothills of the Adirondacks at the Glen Wild watershed. From there it travels about 18 miles through a 24″ pipe to the Amsterdam Water Treatment plant up on Brookside Avenue, where it is treated and purified. It then gets stored in tanks and eventually pushed into Amsterdam’s underground water distribution system. That system provides about 5 million gallons of water per day to the thousands of users in this City and surrounding areas. The City’s portion of that water system consists of a complicated maze of hundreds of miles of pipes and valves, much of it well over a century old. No accurate or complete schematic of this underground infrastructure exists on paper or in a digital file. It was said the only one that did, was sketched into the powerful memory of today’s Amsterdam Birthday Blog celebrant…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam native in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 23 – Happy Birthday T.J. Czeski

There have been some memorable quarterbacks who’ve played for Amsterdam Rugged Ram football teams over the years. I can remember as far back as Mike Krochina and Jerry Pepe from the mid 1960s. There was also the gifted Buddy Flesh, present day Yankee coach Gary Tuck and the very talented Frank Pozniak in the seventies. Dickie Peters was a solid signal caller for Amsterdam in the mid-eighties and more recently, guys like Chris Covell, Brendan Cudmore, and Matt Agresta carried on the tradition. My pick as the best AHS QB I ever saw play had been Brian Bonanno. He had all the weapons and was so good under pressure. He ran the offense for those great Justice Smith-led Amsterdam teams in the late 1980’s.

But then number 17 came along…

You can read the rest of my story about this talented Amsterdam athlete in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 22 – Happy Birthday Arlene Fontana

fontana2Friday Night was Teenage Barn Night for the extended Cinquanti family. What did that mean? It meant about ten of us would crowd around the 15″ black and white Philco TV in my Grandmother’s ten foot by twelve foot living room to watch what was back in the 1950’s, the hottest amateur television show in the Capital District. The WRGB produced program had started way back in 1949 and lasted until 1966, and every week it featured live performances from the best young singers, musicians and dancers this area had to offer. It really was must see TV for Amsterdamians because who knew when another Arlene Fontana might turn up…

You can read the rest of my story about this extremely talented Amsterdam native in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 19 – Happy Birthday Jane Karbocus

One of the busiest and most productive work places in Amsterdam in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s had to be Ned Wilkinson’s downtown law office. It was common knowledge back then that if a deal needed to get made, having Wilkinson working on behalf of one side or the other was a good way to get it done. One of the reasons he was such an effective facilitator was his not-so-secret weapon, the late Jane Karbocus…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam native in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

March 17 – Happy Birthday Ed Hotaling

hotaling2

The first time I met today’s Birthday Celebrant Ed Hotaling, was indeed memorable. It was the summer before I began my first semester of college and I was desperate to get a full-time job that could help me pay tuition. Hotaling Florist needed a new delivery person and I had someone who knew Ed well, recommend me. I got a phone call telling me to come in for an interview.

I showed up at their Division Street location bright and early the next morning and met Ed and his brother Bill. They asked me a bunch of questions about my background and then Ed said, “Come on kid. I’ll take you over to the greenhouse and introduce you to my brother Jack.” Jack was the third and perhaps most important of the Hotaling brothers because he ran the family greenhouse, which was located off of Daniel Street on Amsterdam’s Southside.

As we walked out the rear exit, Ed threw me the keys to the then-familiar blue and white delivery van and told me he wanted to see how well I could drive. I entered the driver’s side, put my foot on the gas and turned the key in the ignition.

As most of you know, the most recent Hotaling Florist location was right alongside the main branch of the Amsterdam Savings (now First Niagara) Bank.  At the time this incident took place, the only thing separating the Hotaling back parking lot from the Bank’s lot was a rickety chicken wire fence.

As soon as I turned the key that van started bouncing and lurching forward like a tightly cinched rodeo bull, stopping no more than an inch from that fence. I looked at Ed and he looked at me and he said “So you’ve never driven a standard before?” I lied in response, telling him I had but it had been a long time ago.

Instead of firing me on the spot…

You can read the rest of my story about this former Amsterdam florist in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.