Helping Sam Stratton win election

On one of Samuel Stratton’s early trips to Amsterdam as part of his first congressional campaign, he

On one of Samuel Stratton’s early trips to Amsterdam as part of his first congressional campaign, he luckily ran into an 11-year-old entrepreneur.

East End native John Naple wrote: “If I was 12 years old I could get my working papers and then have my own paper route, but it was only 1958 so I had one more year to wait. While I waited, Mike Sheridan from Kline Street hired me to deliver his route.”

Sheridan had over 100 Recorders to deliver from Marotta’s News across from St. Casimir’s Church to Degraff Street near Coessens Park.

It was a hot summer day, and Naple said he still had half the papers to deliver. “Having some pocket change, I stopped at Frosty’s Ice Cream at the top of Elk Street. A handsome, thin young man, with a sweaty wrinkled white shirt pulled a beat up station wagon into the parking lot. He jumped out and started talking to the people in line.”

He told them: “I’m the mayor of Schenectady, running for Congress and looking for your vote.”

Stratton was 41 at the time. He had been awarded two bronze stars as an officer in Naval intelligence in World War II.

Naple said Stratton was handing out small cards with this name and picture on them. “I introduced myself to him, while he was eating his ice cream. I was taken by the man and making an executive decision, offered to put his cards in my papers when I rolled them up. I showed him how to roll the paper and tuck the card inside. He gave it a try and did a fair job. I could roll a paper in about two seconds. I rolled about 50 of his cards into the papers in the dirty canvas bag that hung over my shoulder.”

Naple threw some rolled papers on first- and second-story porches. Some went into milkboxes and others behind screen doors.

“All those customers received the card of Sam Stratton,” Naple recalled. Stratton won the election in November and served 30 years in Congress, from 1959 to 1989.

“Years later Stratton appointed two of my younger brothers to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis,” Naple said. “They both had distinguished naval careers. Did I help my brothers get their appointments by helping Sam get elected?”

Cousins visit

Naple and his cousin Sharon DiMenno Menech of Broadalbin recently visited Eagle Street.

“It was kind of sad,” Menech said. “There were some people there that we grew up with, but a lot of the houses were boarded up.”

Menech recalled: “In the neighborhood, everyone got along, and all the adults sat out in front of our house and the kids played all kinds of games.”

Menech grew up at 35 Eagle, across the street from where Kirk Douglas was born and raised. She used to walk past old Amsterdam landmarks on her way to and from school: the bars, Shell’s Pharmacy, Johnny’s Seafood and the Mohawk, Tryon and Rialto theaters.

“On Friday nights,” she said, “there always was walking downtown and shopping and meeting friends at Brownie’s and all sitting in the back booth.”

Menech’s father worked in the Bigelow-Sanford carpet mill, and her mother worked third shift at the Mohasco carpet mill. When Bigelow-Sanford moved out in 1955, her father got a job at a Christmas tree factory. When Mohasco moved out, her mother found work in the deli at the Big N store on Route 30.

“The closing of the carpet mills put many out of work,” Menech said. “But they usually found a job of one kind or another. Some people went south with Mohasco.”

Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact Bob Cudmore at 346-6657 or [email protected].

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