Focus on History: Soccer, ice cream and men’s clothing among 2021’s topics


Soccer players from the British navy competed in a 1941 exhibition game against the Bigelow-Sanford United’s, a soccer club sponsored by the Amsterdam carpet manufacturer.

The Recorder reported, “With pipers piping and a total of three bands contributing to a musical background, the Bigelow-Sanford team squeezed out a 3-2 victory over picked players from the Royal British Navy Saturday night at Mohawk Mills Park in the greatest soccer show of all time in Amsterdam.”

Ed McKnight scored twice for the locals and Howie Dynes scored once. It was the first local soccer game under the lights. Rain made the field slippery.

Great Britain was at war with Germany when the benefit was played to raise funds for British relief.

The Bigelow-Sanford soccer team formed in 1893. Gavin “Guy” Murdoch, who fought in World War I with the Canadian army, was anonymous editor of United’s PX, a monthly newsletter published during World War II.

Guy Murdoch was a quality supervisor at Mohawk Carpet. His grandson Gavin Murdoch, retired Amsterdam high school principal, provided information for this story.

Tollner’s ice cream occupied a white building on Route 5 in Fort Johnson near the railroad tracks, west of the main gate of St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Willis Tollner, Sr., started the popular shop with his father, Fred Tollner, in 1935.

Willis Tollner, Sr., died in 1955 at 47. Also that year Willis’s father Fred and his wife moved to Yonkers, New York, where one of their daughters lived.

Willis Senior’s sons Willis Junior (Bill) and Ron operated the ice cream shop in its later years according to Fort Johnson native Shirley Kosinski.

Bill Tollner, married Fran, who had worked as a carhop. They relocated to western New York and have four children. Ron Tollner died young, leaving his wife Peggy Van Patten Tollner and one son.

Tollner’s closed and the building was torn down along with many other structures when Route 5 in Fort Johnson and Tribes Hill was rebuilt in the 1960s as a four-lane highway.

Paul Guttenberg, who headed Mortan’s men’s store in Amsterdam until it closed in 1990, passed away in August 2021. Paul was born in New York City in 1927, the son of H. Morton and Pearl Rauch Guttenberg.

Mortan’s was named after Paul’s father, who moved his clothing store from Schenectady to Amsterdam in 1933. Despite launching in the Depression, Mortan’s prospered at several East Main Street locations. Mortan’s last store was in the downtown mall.

In his memoir “Too Long Ago,” about growing up in Amsterdam, historian David Pietrusza wrote, “Imagine Paul Newman operating a clothing store in Amsterdam, and, you have an approximation of Paul Guttenberg, whose skill in making a sale was prodigious.”

Guttenberg was a U.S. Marine veteran and graduate of Union College. After Mortan’s closed he pursued other interests including skiing and flying airplanes.

The Guttenbergs made their home in Broadalbin. In 2007, Paul and his wife Susanne, a health administrator, assumed ownership of Montgomery Meadows, a 120-bed nursing home on Amsterdam’s South Side. The facility was renamed River Ridge Living Center.

Eleanore Cramer Breier, widow of late Amsterdam mayor and industrialist Marcus Breier, died last May in Miami, Florida at 101. A graduate of Ithaca College, Eleanore was a physical education teacher at the former Theodore Roosevelt Junior High in Amsterdam.

Veteran radio broadcaster and Mohawk Valley reporter for The Daily Gazette Sam Zurlo, 90, died October 25 at his Tribes Hill home. In July, a column had chronicled Zurlo’s early working years when he was in the U.S. Army, a disc jockey and newsman at Armed Forces Radio Service in Frankfurt, Germany.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie

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