Memories of downtown days past
Amsterdam native Bob Belive’s band, The Dynamics, played at the Columbian Hall in the 1960s while he attended Amsterdam High School. The hall was on East Main Street near Schuyler Street, over Amsterdam Rug.
Belive also recalled businesses around the bus terminal then — Rapello’s Pharmacy and Frank’s Pool Hall, above the Sears store. Belive was a Friday night regular at Rapello’s, and said, “You could get a soda for a dime and hang out in one of the three booths for quite a while until Mrs. Rapello asked you to leave for being in the booth for so long.”
At the pool hall, you could play one game for an hour before Frank “yelled at you to get on with it.”
Jerry Schrader, who left Amsterdam for Marlborough, Mass., also enjoyed pool: “Frank issued membership cards under the name Young Men’s Social Club or something like it. All the young lions hung out there. Frank was quite a character.”
Schrader was raised by the Sisters of the Resurrection in the 1950s in a children’s home (later torn down) at 118 Market St.
Everyone dressed up to go downtown, according to Marilee Watermann Litwa of Hadley. Litwa recalled homemade lemonade at Salvione’s Pharmacy, grocery shopping at Lou’s Market, Friday dinners from Johnny’s Seafood and buying soda at Fitzgerald Bottling Company, where her father, Harold “Watty” Watermann, worked.
“I always volunteered a case of soda every time we had a party in school,” Litwa said. “I didn’t know until I was grown that my dad had to pay for it each time.”
Litwa watched downtown parades from the upstairs window of Post 39 of the American Legion, where her father was commander.
“Pumpy” Sargalis ran the gas station, now a used car dealership, at East Main and Vrooman Avenue. “He was my hero,” Litwa said. When the brakes failed on her mother’s car at the top of Swart Hill east of Amsterdam, Sargalis came to the rescue.
“Pumpy drove the car down and we followed in his jeep,” Litwa said. “What a thrill!”
Michael Rossi of Rotterdam, who grew up in Amsterdam’s West End, enjoyed lunch downtown at Tullio’s on Chuctanunda Street, pizza at the Appian Way, shopping at Gabay’s and Mortan’s, movies at the Tryon Theater and the Mohican Market, destroyed in a fire. Rossi’s mother worked at Grand Rapids Furniture.
Amsterdam native Maryann Frazier Haskell said movies cost a quarter at three downtown theaters — the Tryon, Rialto and Mohawk.
Audrey Browski of Amsterdam said movie stars Greer Garson and Albert Decker came to the Elks Club on Division Street in the 1940s to sell war bonds. Audrey’s husband, Dick Browski, decorated the windows at W.T. Grant in the 1970s.
Local resident Barbara Snyder’s mother and aunt worked at Holzheimer and Shaul’s women’s store, which moved from the south side to the north side of East Main. Others recalled when Rudnick’s was in downtown Amsterdam, along with Larrabee’s hardware, Sochin’s men’s store and the parking lot operated by Harrison Wilson and his family.
Charlie Green was the popular druggist at Whelan’s Drugstore at East Main and Chuctanunda. Whelan’s had a scale that gave your weight and fortune, plus a movie star’s picture — but no lunch counter. When Whelan’s closed, Green worked at Community Pharmacy.
In 1963, Eileen MacVean went to work for attorneys Archie McKee and Bill Moore on East Main Street. MacVean bought homemade lemonade for the lawyers at Community Pharmacy, where my aunt Jane Segen was the cook in the 1960s, known for her fruit pies. MacVean’s attorneys frequently lunched at Wilson’s Drugstore, where teens crowded the booths to enjoy sundaes with homemade hot fudge.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or email@example.com.