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Mill worker publication a peek into past

Mill worker publication a peek into past

A picture of Amsterdam mill workers on the cover of a Mohawk Carpet Mill publication from 1928 gives

A picture of Amsterdam mill workers on the cover of a Mohawk Carpet Mill publication from 1928 gives an indication of what people in the Roaring Twenties saw as old fashioned.

The picture shows 66 male rug weavers gathered inside a factory building in 1908. The Courier reports that the men wove Smyrna rugs, an Oriental style of carpet that was being replaced in 1908 by Chenille, a woolen carpet with a deep pile.

Many of the men in the 1908 picture were wearing suspenders. But the 1928 Courier focused on facial hair: “You will notice some fine examples of the mustache culture of the period in this picture, particularly those of John Jurus, John Brown, Elmer Brower and Patsy Whelly who are still with us, although their hirsute adornments are severely trimmed down to meet the present day style.”

The Mohawk Mills Association, a social club for mill workers, published the Courier. The February 1928 issue included a report on two performances by the U.S. Army Band in Amsterdam. The event was held in part to raise money for the local high school boys’ band.

A picture shows the high school band, conducted by Frank Jetter, leading a parade of Studebaker cars through the city. The Studebakers were used to transport the Army band members, including their conductor, Capt. William Stannard.

The U.S. Army Band event was described as an artistic success but not a money-maker because of a winter storm that held down attendance at the South Side’s National Guard Armory. At one of the concerts, Edward P. Musolff, director of the Mohawk Mills Band, was called to the podium to “capably” lead the Army band in a rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Everyday happenings

The Courier of 1928 is full of brief but revealing comments on mill workers headlined “Things we see and hear every day.”

Here’s an excerpt: “Charlie Reif with his derby hat and corn cob pipe. Harry Heaton with his stiff bosom shirt. Pink Palmer reciting Shakespeare in the boiler house each noon. Earl Casabone telling about getting Chile on his radio. Clarence Hartig coming to work each day with a white shirt and collar. John Crawford blocking traffic by stalling with his Chevrolet sedan. James Harrison with his famous straw hat and customary chaw. Billy Mickels telling his creelers that the five minutes of one whistle blew.”

Creelers tended the racks holding bobbins or spools that fed carpet looms with yarn. Thanks to Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick for providing a copy of the Mohawk Courier from his family’s collection.

RFK in St. Johnsville

While campaigning for U.S. Senate on Oct. 19, 1964, Robert F. Kennedy stopped at a farm on Kennedy Road west of St. Johnsville. Kennedy already had made campaign stops that day in Amsterdam and Canajoharie and was headed by car for Little Falls and then a speech in Syracuse.

Reader Christine Oarr Eggleston said that Kennedy stopped at the farm of Stanley and Melanie Shuster in St. Johnsville, who later received a letter of appreciation from the candidate. The Little Falls newspaper estimated the crowd in St. Johnsville at 400.

Oarr Eggleston was in school at the time: “As I recall, everyone just took off from school (including my brother, Brian Oarr) to head on up there to hear what RFK had to say. I asked my brother later what was said but all I remember him telling me was that RFK handed out licorice in the shape of a pipe.”

After leaving St. Johnsville, Kennedy was greeted by what the local paper called an “enthusiastic throng” in Little Falls. Then it was on to Syracuse for a speech that night.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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