Classic Tales of Old Dorp: GE 1929 newsletter evokes end of an era

A copy of a Jan. 4, 1929, issue of the GE Works News is met with considerable interest.

Categories: Life & Arts

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Hart’s career included time with both The Gazette and the former Schenectady Union-Star. He also occasionally paged through another local newspaper — the GE Works News. This column excerpt originally was published Feb. 8, 1983.

Bob Brilling of Scotia recently provided us with a copy of a Jan. 4, 1929, issue of the GE Works News and it was with considerable interest that we perused this 54-year-old copy.

Stop and think, you who can remember — January 1929 was still in that razzmatazz age when high jinks vied with prosperity. But it was on the verge — a year away, at least — of harder times.

Like a magazine

We were impressed, first off, with the Works News format of that period. It was more like a magazine than a company employee newsletter. On the front page was a picture of men and women leaving the Schenectady works at the end of a day. They were well-dressed — men in suits, topcoats and felt hats, and the women in fur or fur-collared cloth coats and those vintage Twenties chapeaux. Building 2 was in the background and the reception Building 3 and gate at the right.

Trolley tracks are visible in foreground. This was, we surmised, the office force and not the factory help. Not a lunch box visible in the whole crowd.

On the inside cover were two photographs of the special ceremony held Dec. 15, 1928, in front of Building 10 for the unveiling of the bronze tablet, which is still affixed to that structure on the main avenue. The company invited all citizens of Schenectady to witness the event, and several thousand accepted the invitation.

The afternoon ceremony featured a talk by William H. Meadowcroft, who was an assistant to Thomas Edison when he opened his electrical machine works here by December 1886. Meadowcroft’s words were heard over a loudspeaker as spectators crowded about the raised wood platform in front of Building 10.

The plaque stated that the GE Works got its start in Buildings 10 and 12 when Edison moved his operations here from New York City.

Building 12 was demolished in the 1970s and replaced with a parking lot.

Radio pioneer

The 1929 Works News also gave the week’s schedule for radio station WGY, then in its seventh year of pioneer broadcasting. Interesting to note that the day’s programming came on at 2 p.m. and lasted until 10:30 or 11 p.m. That week of Jan. 6, the day began with an organ recital direct from the new Proctor’s Theatre.

On the Saturday night that week, WGY broadcast a dance program from 11 to midnight from the Hotel Van Curler ballroom.

This was a time when radio was on the threshold of network programming that helped fill mornings and evenings with comedy, song and drama — not withstanding the fine local talent emanating from the young WGY studios in Building 36.

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