Cudmore: Old downtown Amsterdam hot fudge guide

You were never more than a few blocks away from a hot fudge sundae in downtown Amsterdam in the 1950s and 1960s.

Two drugstores, Wilson’s and Community Pharmacy, plus one candy store, Svolos’s, all had their hot fudge fans.

Marika and Thomas Svolos were Greek immigrants who owned three candy stores including Boston Candy Kitchen. Their daughter Betty Svolos Balevic was a professor at Skidmore College for 41 years until her retirement at age 80.

The Candy Kitchen’s best known location was 91 East Main Street adjacent to Lurie’s department store near Walnut Street. 

Boston Candy Kitchen was a proper restaurant, serving lunch. But it was especially known for its hot fudge sauce.

West of the Boston Candy Kitchen, past Church Street on the north side of East Main was Wilson’s. With its marble soda fountain, polished oak booths and tin ceiling, Wilson’s Drug Store at 46 East Main was an institution, a mecca for teens.

When drug store founder William Wilson, Jr. died at age 76 in 1949 at his winter home in Florida, he was described in a Recorder story as “one of Amsterdam’s most esteemed citizens.” Wilson’s brothers, his son Floyd and other relatives continued to operate the drug store for another two decades.

James T. Hammond of Hagaman, a regular customer and part-time soda jerk, wrote, “Jimmy Wilson was the chief cook and bottle washer who was responsible for preparing the richest, most mouth-watering homemade ice creams, syrups, and toppings known to mankind.”

Herbert Shuttleworth II, the last chief executive of Mohasco Carpet, once told me he had procured the recipe for Wilson’s hot fudge sauce which called for a combination of Belgian and French chocolates. Shuttleworth said he lost the recipe and was genuinely sorry about that. He died in 2010.

A couple blocks west of Wilson’s was Community Pharmacy at 12 East Main. In the 1920s, cousins Fred Rapello and James Gargiulo bought the drugstore and offered prescriptions plus homemade ice cream, a ham and tomato sandwich for twenty cents and fresh orangeade or lemonade that they advertised was made the new way, no seeds and no pulp. Rapello left to start his own pharmacy farther east on East Main, by the old trolley waiting room.

Historian Jackie Murphy said the biggest draw at Community Pharmacy then was Mrs. Gargiulo, mother of James, who cooked blue plate specials for 50 cents complemented by her specialty, graham cracker crust cream pie.

Through the years lunches and pies were prepared by Mac Rianno and Tom Ripepi and then by my aunt, Jane Segen. Stanley Stankes, who had started work part time at Community Pharmacy in 1941, bought the establishment in 1958.

During Bob Bubniak’s own lunch hour while a student at St. Mary’s Institute in the 1950s, he served lunches at Community Pharmacy.

Bubniak also was a soda jerk three nights a week, preparing ice cream sodas and sundaes. It was a popular job back then and helped young men meet girls.

Bubniak once impressed girls named Mary, Jane and Dolores. He developed a sundae with various ice creams and syrups, including hot fudge, that he dubbed the Majado Sundae, using the first two letters of the trio’s first names.

My cousin Roger Cudmore was a soda jerk at Community Pharmacy in the 1960s. Owner Stanley Stankes liked his coffee with a few drops of cream.

The way Roger did that was to pour cream into a cup, and empty the cup. Then, he poured coffee into the cup, giving the finished product a hint of cream.

You do what you must to please the boss.

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