Focus on History: Memorable nights, days in Amsterdam

It has been good to see longtime readers while doing book signings for a collection of Focus on Hist

It has been good to see longtime readers while doing book signings for a collection of Focus on History columns, “Stories from the Mohawk Valley.”

Sam Vomero has provided many insightful Amsterdam history leads, including memories of what Vomero calls Amsterdam’s most unforgettable day, July 20, 1942, when the New York Yankees and a huge carnival came to the city.

The Yankees exhibition game against their farm team, the Rugmakers, on that date at Mohawk Mills Park, now Shuttleworth Park, is remembered by many. But Vomero said that on the same day, the James E. Strates Shows arrived in Amsterdam, traveling on its own train of 30 cars, including a private car used by Strates himself. The carnival, sponsored by VFW Post 55, set up at Karp’s Park on Upper Church Street and featured Adele Nelson’s “baseball playing elephants,” a trapeze artist and what was called “America’s best midway.”

The Yankees arrived at 12:35 in the afternoon when the crack New York Central train the Empire State Express made a special stop, depositing Joe DiMaggio and his fellow Yankees into a sea of autograph-seeking fans. Police Chief Frank Kearns assigned a special detail of patrolmen to keep the crowd off the tracks.

A day in the life

East End resident Emil Suda has a great interest in local history, for example, providing a Mohawk Mills house magazine account of a day in the life of electrician George Rink, a typical worker in 1949.

Rink was the subject of the cover story in an issue of Tomohawk, a magazine produced for factory employees. The piece is illustrated with pictures of George, his father, wife, children, fellow workers and teammates on the Mohawk Mills Association softball squad. The article followed Rink from his home at 50 McCleary Ave. in Amsterdam to his job at Mohawk’s Upper Mill four blocks away.

Rink had met his wife Cecelia while stationed at the U.S. Army’s Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where she was an office worker at a nearby air base. A first sergeant, he fought in France with a company whose job was to evacuate wounded soldiers.

“George has five battle stars and a Bronze Star as souvenirs of this experience,” wrote the magazine author.

One picture shows Rink, 5-year old Carolyn and 3-year old Donnie playing on the floor of their living room with the caption, “Like other young fathers who were separated from their families in the war, George spends lots of time with his children at home.”

Lost block and park

Some people provided leads for new stories. Rosemary Forrest of Amsterdam remembers what she called “the lost block” on Guy Park Avenue at Market Street, a business and residential block that disappeared in the urban renewal era of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Dan Weaver, proprietor of the Book Hound store in downtown Amsterdam, has a detailed promotional booklet touting Okwari Park, proposed as a recreation area in the towns of Charleston and Root in the 1960s and 1970s. The project never materialized and apparently led to the defeat of several county supervisors who supported the idea.

Frequent contributor Norma-Jean Qualls has been told by a longtime resident that Cranesville was damaged in a tornado in the late 1940s. So far no record of that earlier event has been found. Cranesville was badly damaged by a tornado last month.

Flood benefit

A spaghetti dinner has been scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. this Monday at Parillo’s II at Rolling Hills Country Club in Fort Johnson to benefit historic and educational sites affected by the recent floods. Tickets are $12 per person.

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