Cudmore: Vivid memories of tragedy at firemen’s convention in Amsterdam


A reader who chooses to remain anonymous has vivid memories of the tragedy at the New York State Volunteer Firemen’s convention held in Amsterdam in the summer of 1958.

Two people died, eight were injured and litigation went on for at least three years following an accident in which the brakes failed on a small fire truck taking part in a firefighting competition at what was Coessens Park in the city’s East End. The fast-moving truck plowed into a group of onlookers.

The anonymous reader wrote, “I was there. I was ten years old. I attended with my grandfather and my aunt who was a nurse. We were about two-thirds down the roadway where the trucks were speeding by when the accident happened.

“It was very quick. The firemen hanging on the back of the truck actually tried to slow the truck by jumping off and dragging their boots on the pavement. I still remember that sound of boots skidding on asphalt. When the truck hit the fence and bleachers, it wasn’t a loud TV crash sound, just a dull thud, then the screaming.

My aunt was dressed for work in her whites, and with me in hand ran to help. The spectators had formed a circle around the victims, and let us through. My aunt ran to a man on the ground and I saw his bloody and gory head injuries. I pulled away and ran to my grandmother’s house. My aunt came back home with blood all over her uniform, and she and my grandfather were very relieved to find me in tears, but safe. These images are still vivid.”

Frederick Mitchell, who lives today in the town of Amsterdam, was at the scene of the tragedy before it happened.

Mitchell and his sister Mary were watching the firemen’s competition while sitting on the dugout roof where the small fire truck later hit the onlookers, “Miraculously, we had been instructed by our parents to be home for lunch. They were both on vacation that week.”

Frederick and Mary walked home before the accident took place. One of the children who would be injured was sitting on the dugout roof when the Mitchells left.

Hotels were sold out and Mitchell recalled one fire company erected a tent for their members, “They all seemed to be very nice. In those days kids were attracted to fire trucks and there were a lot of them there.”


Nancy Eleanor Allen Dzikowicz was “delighted” to find her mother, Eleanor Marshall Allen, mentioned in a column on YMCA/YWCA Camp Agaming for girls in the Adirondacks.

A 1929 Recorder column on activities at the Lake Pleasant camp reported: “Miss Eleanor Marshall’s class has turned out some very interesting novelties in soap carving and we expect to call on her shortly for an exhibition of the only absolutely immaculate circus in the world.”

Dzikowicz wrote of her mother: “She was 19 years old in 1929. She had graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1927 I think. She then went to work at the Mohawk Carpet Mills in the designing room. She met my father Vernon Allen there and they courted for seven years before marrying.”

Dzikowicz added, “Your article brought back a memory that I had of seeing my Mom carve desert dwellings out of Ivory soap in my Sunday school class at First Baptist Church. I marveled at her skill and wondered where she had learned to do that! Now I know. It was at Camp Agaming! My Mom was a strong swimmer and loved camping.”

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