There's no ice today at the Sweet Ice Co.
Two descendants of the proprietors of the Sweet Ice Co. in Amsterdam revived the name of the business seven years ago and attached it to an antiques store on Division Street.
Waterman Sweet Sr., along with Peter and Victor Martin, started Sweet and Martin (Dealers in Ice) in Fort Johnson in 1919. They originally may have cut ice from the river, according to the founder’s great granddaughter, Debra Baranello, who operates today’s antiques store with her sister, Karin Hetrik. Their mother was a Sweet.
Sweet and Martin was dissolved in 1928. A year earlier, Waterman Sweet Jr. — a son of the founder — went into partnership with the Martins to form West End Ice. In 1936, the name was changed to the W. Sweet Ice Co. In that decade, the business moved to a garage at the rear of 270 Division St. in Amsterdam.
Sweet delivered to homes but also to Mohican Market, A&P and to restaurants and bars. In the summer, Sweet stopped three times a day at Peter Duchessi’s specialty store to keep the homemade ricotta cheese from melting.
Baranello’s grandfather, John R. Sweet, took over the operation in 1950 after his brother Waterman died. John Sweet died in 1966, and there was nobody to take over the company.
The Sweet Ice Company Antique Shop today occupies a small building at the front of the property at 272 Division St. The first business in the building in 1942 was George Thayer’s Confectionery Store.
Then there was the incident on Oct. 16, 1917, when a railroad police detective shot iceman-to-be Waterman Sweet Jr. Baranello recalled, “My mother said how my great uncle was shot, but he didn’t do anything wrong.”
A Recorder newspaper account reports that Waterman Sweet Jr. punched Det. Joseph Genova outside an news store on East Main Street in Amsterdam before the shooting. Sweet may have thought Genova was responsible for Sweet losing a job with the railroad. Sweet was badly wounded but recovered. Ten days later, Det. Genova was released on bail.
Baranello said the detective was fined $2,000 for shooting her great uncle, who still had the bullet in him when he died.
Karen Wheaton of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame points out that the name of trainer Hollie Hughes was misspelled in a recent column.
Hollie Hughes was born on a small farm near Amsterdam in 1888, the son of Edgar and Almeda Miller Hughes. He married an Amsterdam woman, Anne Mitchell, and went to work full-time for the Sanford family horse farm in the town of Amsterdam when he was 15.
Hughes rose quickly through the ranks of groom, foreman and assistant trainer and became head trainer in 1914 when he was only 26.
Hughes trained Kentucky Derby winner George Smith for the Sanfords. He was serving in the U.S. Army when the horse won the derby in 1916. Hughes was especially successful in training horses for steeplechase racing.
Among the jockeys Hughes worked with was Amsterdam native Louis Hildebrandt, who wrote a book about his career as a jockey called “Riders Up.” According to Hildebrandt, Hughes was an astute real estate investor, buying property around Lynnwood, Long Island, where the trainer lived during World War II and selling the property after the war.
Hughes was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1973 and a New York-bred race is named in his honor at Aqueduct. He died at the age of 92 in 1981. At the time, Hughes was living in East Rockaway on Long Island. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Fort Johnson.
Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact Bob Cudmore at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.