Shirts, statues, hats, clocks, dresses, music boxes and photographs — mementos from four entertainers — were part of Bill McKay’s estate sale on Friday.
The plaid shirts with the “marshal” patches once belonged to McKay, the long-tenured lawman of Ghost Town at Storytown, later The Great Escape, in Warren County. The music boxes came from Ruth “Tommy” Atkins, who assisted McKay as a marshal and ventriloquist during thousands of rollicking Wild West shows for small children and their parents.
The sale at 17 Droms Road Ext. in Glenville came as McKay’s daughters — Denise Weideman of Charlotteville, Schoharie County, and Diane Yunker of Hardy, Va. — cleared out the house once owned by Atkins and her husband, John A. Buckley Jr., and later by their father.
Buckley died in 2008 and Atkins in 2000. McKay, who nabbed bad guys with his summer “deputies” from 1957 until 2007 as Wild Windy Bill McKay, is now 90 and lives with Weideman.
Atkins was a ventriloquist well known for her work with “Oogie,” a small boy dummy who became part of the act in Ghost Town. She also worked with a girl dummy, “Cookie.” Props used for both large puppets were on sale, such as dresses worn by Cookie.
The Oogie collection was larger and included the doll’s small white toy horse with black spots, blue eyes and green saddle blanket; cowboy hats, a pilot’s helmet, a band musician’s cap and a football helmet; and a silver-colored metal gun in a black holster. The horse was priced at $35, the pilot’s helmet at $45. The gun and holster were $15.
The figures themselves have new owners and perhaps new wardrobes.
“They’re both in California in a museum right now,” Yunker said. “I think Cookie was born first.”
Some show and Wild West items were given to people named in the wills of Atkins and Buckley. Weideman and Yunker also have kept some of their father’s memorabilia.
“We’ve kept plaques that he has gotten from the sheriffs, the state troopers, the park,” Yunker said. “I have lot of pictures, of course. I have his bass fiddle; I have a lot of framed pictures of him, little personal things.”
The sale, which continues today from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., represents a way to disperse things McKay can no longer use.
“Neither myself nor my sister has room,” Yunker said. “We both have very small houses.”
On Friday, there were still treasures for people looking for Storytown souvenirs and links to McKay’s days as a lawman.
Mark Miletta, 50, of Scotia, stopped by the sale on Thursday. He got a feeling of nostalgia for the veteran marshall, researched the man on the Internet and returned Friday to buy some photographs and one of McKay’s plaid shirts.
“He was a local hero and a legend,” Miletta said, looking at a black-and-white photo of a dashing McKay. “The marshal of Storytown! Look at him; he’s so young in all these photographs.”
Bargain hunters talked to Weideman and Yunker about days when the marshal, with help from kids, caught a bunch of “bank robbers” at the amusement park.
“A lot of people were telling me they remembered bringing their children to Lake George to the parks,” Weideman said. “And now their children are bringing their children,” Yunker said.
Candle holders, drinking glasses and board games were all priced to move. Some curios were still available Friday afternoon. A large sign that announced Atkins’ next show, complete with a large ink-drawn clock with two blue moveable hands, was one. Another was a stuffed white canvas bag from the “U.S. Mint” supposedly filled with $50 in pennies. It wasn’t, but the lightweight, pillow-like prop was used in countless bank heists.
Lake George Village Mayor Robert M. Blais believes young people who saw the Storytown and Great Escape western shows always remembered them.
“Storytown obviously was a theme park and not a thrill park, like the Great Escape,” he said. “They had several areas that were themed, and one of the theme areas was Ghost Town. Windy Billy McKay and his partner Tommy were a big part of that and put on several shows daily.
“Every youngster he entertained got to leave with a little tin marshal’s star,” Blais added.
“He did a lot of other work locally for charity,” Blais said. “He’d make guest appearances on occasion, even for us in Lake George Village, in Shepard Park. He’d sing and play his guitar, twirl his two pistols from his holsters.”
Blais said people remember McKay as a star in town.
“You didn’t go to Storytown without seeing him there, and the Great Escape kept him on as well,” he said. “I think it would be fair to say he was the featured attraction at Storytown. You had Cinderella riding the carriage, you had a few other popular figures, but Windy Bill was live — he did a show and interacted with the audience.”
Some of McKay’s musical instruments were also on sale. He had played bass fiddle with cowboy star Roy Rogers during the 1940s and was also good with the guitar, accordion and piano. Weideman and Yunker both said their father — whose real name is Daniel Claps — performed at nightclubs in the Catskills from the 1950s into the 1980s when he wasn’t arresting guys in black hats. He also entertained at Gaslight Village, the Lake George amusement park that closed in 1989, and the Roaring Brook and 1000 Acres dude ranches in Lake George and Stony Creek, respectively.
A piano in the house got a few looks.
“Dad used to sit at that piano and play all the time,” Yunker said.
Categories: Schenectady County