The good and the bad in 1946 Amsterdam

Hundreds of servicemen and women were returning home

With World War II having been over for five months, the Mohican Market at 117 East Main St. in Amsterdam advertised to a ration-weary public in early 1946, “Yes! We have plenty of meat.” 

Hamburger cost 28 cents a pound.  Bologna was 21 cents a pound.  Corned beef went for 32 cents a pound and cabbage, three cents a pound.  There once were Mohican Markets in many of the formerly bustling downtowns of the Northeast.

Out in Scotch Church in the town of Florida in January 1946, Harley Bohlke led devotions at the young people’s group and study of the four Gospels was scheduled for the next week. 

Carl Hunkle returned home to Scotch Church in early 1946 after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army. 

Rev. John Wright and his wife, Bessie, served lunch at church one Sunday.  Rev. Wright was my great uncle and previously was pastor of Scotia Baptist Church. 

In 1946, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest called “What I Don’t Like About Amsterdam.”

The city’s carpet mills and other factories were still thriving.  However, the chamber wanted to identify problems.  The 850 entries were submitted anonymously.  A numbering system enabled the chamber to award cash prizes to anonymous winners.

Charles H. Schenck, chamber cxecutive secretary, said lack of recreation facilities, conditions of the streets, garbage collection, hotel accommodations, transportation, theatrical facilities and sale of alcoholic beverages were the most frequent complaints.

One citizen said, “Amsterdam should have a curfew law for children up to 16 years, and it should be enforced, even if it means bringing parents into court.”

Another wrote, “Clerks, on the whole, are very unaccommodating, snippy and very discourteous.  They yell ‘What do you want?’ from the other end of the store or counter, and wish you would disappear.”

Yet another individual said, “There are certain sidewalks in Amsterdam that are never shoveled in winter, and too many persons have broken bones because of this.”

“We are quick to criticize those who make an honest effort to do something,” wrote the first-prize winner.  “Misguided leadership has done a lot to put nationalism above civic responsibility and has tended to build up group interest with selfish motives.  We are all Americans and we should work together.”

The second-place essay called for Sunday evening services in the churches and an end to competition among veterans groups.  The writer proposed the city buy sidewalk snow plows and dedicate the planned athletic fields near the Lynch School as a World War II memorial.

The third-place finisher suggested a waste disposal system so that sewage would no longer be dumped into the Mohawk River.  The writer also called for beautification of the riverfront.

Toward the end of 1946, on Saturday, Nov. 16, there was a day for rejoicing on Amsterdam’s South Side at a testimonial dinner to honor some 400 returning servicemen and women.
“It’s remarkable to think that there were that many who served from the South Side alone,” said John Bianchi of Amsterdam, one of the honorees. Bianchi said other parts of the city each sent hundreds to serve in World War II.

According to Robert Going’s book “Honor Roll,” 176 Amsterdam men died in the war.
The testimonial took place at the state armory, which today is a newly renovated bed and breakfast called Amsterdam Castle.  At the 1946 event there was a turkey dinner and dancing to the music of Butch Robertshaw’s Orchestra.

Numerous South Side merchants donated to the testimonial, including Martuscello’s Food Market, Morini Brothers Coal, Baldine’s Confectionery, A.L. Collyer Hardware, Romano Wholesale Fruit Produce and the Armory Grill.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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