Focus on History: Early 1960s photo stirs memories of Amsterdam rock band

Amsterdam photographer L. Paul Masto came by a recent signing for my book, “Stories from the Mohawk

Amsterdam photographer L. Paul Masto came by a recent signing for my book, “Stories from the Mohawk Valley.” One of his pictures is in the book, a 1963 shot of the rock band, The Daiquiris.

Masto stopped traffic outside his then East Main Street studio and posed the band members in the middle of the street in their sharp new outfits just purchased from Paul Gutenberg at Mortan’s men’s store. In that era, major rock bands had similarly unusual pictures taken, maybe standing on ladders or looking out windows.

What has appealed to me about the picture is that all the musicians have survived, but many of the buildings in the photo were torn down for urban renewal. Two of the “Dacs,” as they were called — Norbert Sherbunt and Salvatore Perillo — became attorneys. Ed Emmrich worked for General Electric. Bob Olbrycht, who is sitting on the street with his drum set, became a graphic artist, proprietor of Ricmar Design and Print on Edson Street in Amsterdam.

The buildings in the foreground of the picture still exist but the structures in the background were demolished for the downtown mall. A Walt Disney movie was playing the Tryon Theater. Other vanished landmarks include the Enterprise Store, Holzheimer and Shaul, Bassett’s men’s shop, Sears, Things shoes, Mohawk Theater, Kresge’s and Amsterdam Hotel.

Pulitzer nomination

Masto was born in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area and his family moved to Amsterdam in 1939 where his father worked at Larrabee’s hardware store. Young Masto was interested in photography during his stint in the Korean War where he served aboard a landing craft.

After the war he studied at New York Institute and was a news photographer for the Recorder for six years, winning a Pulitzer Prize nomination for photos taken in the aftermath of a deadly fire on Schuyler Street in Amsterdam. He left the Recorder in 1960 to open his private photo business.

Sacandaga photos

Masto also has a lively interest in Great Sacandaga Lake. In the early 1990s he did a series of three yearly picture books promoting tourism that included many of his own photos of the lake and local businesses plus historic photos and information.

The Sacandaga Reservoir was created by damming the Sacandaga River at Conklingville in 1930, a major construction effort and a project that involved flooding numerous small communities, even cemeteries. Masto wrote that 22 cemeteries had to be relocated and 3,872 bodies were reinterred. The reservoir was built as a huge holding tank to alleviate flooding in the cities along the Hudson River.

In 1875, years before the reservoir was created, the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad established a 75-acre resort on the Sacandaga River called Sacandaga Park south of Northville. The beach along the river was almost a mile long.

Masto wrote, “Landscape artists were hired to design gardens, roadways, arbors, ponds picnic grounds and amusement areas.”

People from the Albany area, even New York City, came by rail to enjoy the clean air of the Adirondacks. The railroad owned and leased 120 cottages in the Park in the 1890s, most of them burned in a fire in 1898. In 1907 75,000 people came by train to the Park. There was an extensive amusement section featuring a miniature railroad and other attractions.

The Park had hotels such as the Adirondack Inn, the Pines, High Rock Lodge and the Log Cabin Inn. The Adirondack Inn featured music by E.W. Prouty’s Orchestra of Boston and Magnolia Beach.

When the reservoir was created in 1930, most of the Sacandaga Park was flooded but the Adirondack Inn remained. The Inn was destroyed by fire in 1975.

Categories: Schenectady County

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