Back in Time: City announced plan in 1948 for flagpole in Veterans park

In the weekly "Back in Time" feature, Jeff Wilkin recalls a plan to bring new glory to Schenectady’s

Schenectady announced a plan to bring new glory to the city’s downtown on Wednesday, July 7, 1948.

Old Glory was the star of the initiative: The American Locomotive Co. wanted to install a 110-foot flagpole in Crescent Park, on State Street across from the Schenectady County courthouse. The monument to patriotism would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the locomotive company’s founding.

Mayor Owen M. Begley was all for the gift. During the spring, Begley had said he hoped the park, now known as Veterans Memorial Park, would become a place to remember men and women who had fought in the nation’s all wars.

A 12-by-18-foot American flag would fly from the top of the pole. The city hoped veterans groups would allow the flag to remain in place at night, with floodlights lighting the stars and stripes.

R.B. McColl, president of American Locomotive, insisted on other conditions. He wanted a plaque fastened to the base of the pole acknowledging the company’s anniversary and saluting all Schenectady residents who had died for their country. McColl also requested the City of Schenectady become the permanent caretaker of the memorial. And he stipulated that should the park ever be abandoned, the pole would be moved to another site chosen by both city and locomotive officials.

McColl’s final condition was about advertising — he didn’t want any product placement at the site. The pole had to remain a dignified place for the country.

The flagpole was dedicated Sept. 24, 1948, with help from Army, Navy and Marine personnel.

American Locomotive in Schenectady closed in 1969. McColl died in 1972, Begley in 1981. A reminder from all three remains: the monument and dedication plaque are still in place, without advertising, in Veterans Memorial Park. It’s situated near the bottom of the narrow strip of green at State and Lafayette streets, between St. Joseph’s Church and the First United Methodist Church.

Categories: Life and Arts

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