‘Uncle Art’ a friend to park users

When Arthur J. Hartig died, the line at the funeral home went out the door, as people paid their las

The kids at the park called him “Uncle Art.” When Arthur J. Hartig died, the line at the funeral home went out the door, as people paid their last respects to the popular caretaker of Amsterdam’s favorite recreational facility.

Born in Amsterdam in 1913, Hartig played softball, soccer and hockey as a young man. He kept hound dogs and loved hunting, camping and fly fishing.

He married Mildred Guyne in 1941 and went into the U.S. Army in 1943. Before the war was over, he had flown 19 bombing missions over Germany as a flight engineer and top gunner on a B-24.

After the war, Hartig and his wife had two sons: Richard in 1946 and Robert in 1955. Richard died earlier this year.

Hartig worked at Mohawk Carpet Mills for many years and then had jobs at a fiberglass mill and Chalmers knitting mill. He was injured in an accident at Chalmers, falling down an elevator shaft. He was in and out of the hospital in 1965 and in rehabilitation for the next year.

Edward and Thomas McCaffrey built what they called Crescent Park along the North Chuctanunda Creek in 1914. Accessible by trolley car, the destination became popular. The name was changed to Jollyland when Fred J. Collins took over the operation in 1923.

Mohawk Carpet Mills started using Jollyland for employee events in 1927. The park was renamed Mohawk Mills Park in 1934, when the carpet mill started operating the facility.

In 1939, the park became the home of the Amsterdam Rugmakers, a New York Yankees farm team. Minor league baseball remained into the 1950s.

As the carpet mills began moving out of town, the city of Amsterdam took over Mohawk Mills Park in 1964, and Hartig became caretaker in 1966. The family lived in a white house inside the park. The shower rooms for the former Rugmakers minor league team were on the bottom floor.

Bob Hartig said his father worked constantly, especially during picnic and skating seasons,

“I don’t remember the park being used much in the years just prior to this,” he remembered. “But the park boomed for about the next 10 years. A lot of activity. Art had a big part in it.”

Bob Hartig said his father would plow the skating rink in the morning, then run the warming hut from 4 to 9 p.m.,

“There would be several hundred skaters every Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “It was the area hangout in winter.”

Young people supervised by Hartig worked on the skating rink and other projects each summer. Scouts and other youth groups planted trees. Art and Bob Hartig planted the last surviving Japanese pine tree around 1968. That tree still sits near the girls’ softball field.

There were carnivals and animals, even an elephant. There were dog shows, boxing matches and concerts. Bishop Scully played high school baseball there.

“The picnic area was packed on weekends,” Bob Hartig said. “Organizations and families used to have celebrations there. You used to have to reserve tables through the recreation department. Art would rope off and put names on them.”

Attendance at the park ultimately declined. The name was changed to Herbert Shuttleworth Park in 1977 to honor the carpet mill executive who championed baseball at the facility.

“The slowdown was not all bad,” Bob Hartig said. “(My father) got to enjoy some time away at his camp in Wells, New York, trips to Wells, Maine, and his grandchildren.”

Arthur Hartig retired in 1981 and died May 25, 1986. His wife died in 2000. Today, Shuttleworth Park is enjoying a renaissance once again and is a popular outdoor destination for sports and entertainment.

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