A ride in a trolley car was great adventure for people during the 1920s.
“The trolleys in Schenectady were kind of a sign of the times of its boom,” said Wade O’Hearn, who has researched the old-fashioned public transportation. “People originally came here to ride the trolleys because of the colored lights and G.E. and the whole fascination with the Electric City.”
O’Hearn and others connected to Central Park International Magnet School are hoping to bring adventure and fascination to downtown Schenectady on Saturday. The volunteers have built a 22-foot-long,
10-foot-high wooden trolley replica and will roll it up State Street during the 46th annual Gazette Holiday Parade.
This year’s theme is the Roaring Twenties, an economic boom time in the U.S. that saw artistic, industrial and social advances. Members of the Chamber of Schenectady County, which organizes the parade, chose the 1920s because the chamber will celebrate its 90th anniversary next year.
“We were established in the 1920s, and we thought that would be a great way for us to kick off our anniversary year,” said Gail Hopper, director of government relations and business services at the chamber and a parade coordinator.
The show will begin at 5 p.m. at Schenectady County Community College. Floats, dance groups and marching bands will proceed east on State Street to the corner of Lafayette Street, near Veterans Park.
Darren Delaney of Schenectady, who coordinated the trolley project, said 10 adults began building the car — the old Schenectady Railway 562 — in early November. O’Hearn used old photographs to design the transport; home base became Jerry Mastan’s driveway on Parkwood Boulevard.
“The weather has been on our side,” Delaney said as guys drilled and measured and kids painted during a work detail. “In years past, we’ve been working in the snow, painting on 20-degree, overcast days. For the most part, it’s been very sunny, warm enough and the project has gone very smoothly.”
Other projects will reflect the roaring era. Hopper said Ellis Medicine has built a 1920s-style ambulance and will staff it with a doctor and nurse dressed in period white. A Girl Scout troop will re-enact the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb. The Keystone Elves, a holiday version of the 1920s silent film entourage Keystone Cops, also will make an appearance.
The trolley team, working with a $700 budget provided by the school, used 2-by-4-inch and 2-by-3-inch boards and plywood to build the trolley. Help came from JDJ Comfort Systems, which loaned the group a trailer, and Creatacor, a Clifton Park exhibit and display manufacturer that donated carpeting and Plexiglas for windows.
Painted royal blue and red, Central Park’s colors, the replica will hold 30 children and four adults. The kids will be dressed in 1920s-style vests and caps. The trolley will be dressed in advertisements for Carl Co., Barney’s, the Fern Furniture Co. and other stores in operation during the ’20s.
“We’re used to making something very big,” Delaney said. “We’ve done several boats in the past. We thought this one would be very large, very open [and] we’d get to have a lot of kids on it.”
The kids will enjoy Saturday night. The adults have been enjoying the construction weekends.
“It’s always a lot of fun,” Delaney said. “Lots of coffee and brainstorming and camaraderie … all the guys working on it just love to do it, they love to build. Everybody’s got a great outlook.”
Mike and Ronnie Ippolito and their sons Reid, 5, and Cole, 7, worked on the project. Reid did some painting, but seemed more interested in his Saturday assignment on the trolley.
“I’m going to wear my pappy’s hat,” he said, referring to a loan from grandfather Robert Gasper.
Norah Delaney, 9, a fourth-grade student at Central Park, helped paint Central Park’s blue and white signs for the big wooden box.
“I like getting paint on my hands,” she said.
Mike Ippolito was on the assembly crew.
“It’s a chance to be hands on and do something to bolster the pride at the school, just a fun opportunity to get together,” he said.
The guys will hate to disassemble the 562 after its only run Saturday night.
“We were joking about keeping it here,” Mastan said, “and hoping next year the theme is food-based. We could use it as a diner.”