An unintended consequence of Amsterdam’s victory parade at the end of World War II may have been to encourage a trend in wedding photography.
Sophie Bodak Gomula of Amsterdam said her wedding pictures were among the first taken outdoors locally because of the big parade.
Sophie’s wedding to the late Stanley Gomula, who became a special investigator for the Amsterdam police, took place on Sept. 15, 1945 at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church on Pulaski Street.
A Marine private first class who had served in numerous Pacific campaigns, Stanley was just back from the war. Coincidentally, officials decided to hold the city’s mammoth victory parade in downtown Amsterdam on Sophie and Stanley’s wedding day.
Their photographer, Emil Zillgitt, had his studio downtown at 13-15 East Main St., which was inaccessible during the parade. Zillgitt suggested the Gomulas have their wedding pictures taken outdoors in his backyard on Locust Avenue. The photographer did the Gomulas’ first year anniversary pictures in the same location and Sophie recalled that after that, outdoor wedding pictures became more common.
The homecoming or victory parade in 1945 had by actual count more than 4,000 participants, according to Robert N. Going’s history of World War II in Amsterdam, “Where Do We Find Such Men.” There were an estimated 30,000 bystanders and the parade took an hour and twenty minutes to pass a given point.
There were 19 bands, including the bagpipe band of the British Empire War Veterans. The Mohawk Mills Band made its first formal appearance since Flag Day of 1942.
The Kiwanis float recreated the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Bigelow Sanford carpet mill had three floats: one an honor roll of employees who served, another remembering the millions of blankets woven for the war effort. The third float carried a working loom, producing duck cloth or canvas as the float passed through downtown.
The grand marshal was Lt. Col. Charles DeGroff, who had led National Guard Company G out of Amsterdam in 1940.
Going wrote, “John P. Curran, the postal clerk from the 27th Division Veterans who had escorted Company G in 1940 and later re-upped himself and prayed over the graves of his boys on Saipan, leads the returning veterans.”
Going wrote that most veterans had not yet come home in time for the big parade. “Many, probably most of them never see a parade, though as the months pass by the various organizations, churches and neighborhoods take turns welcoming home the sons of Amsterdam.”
Photographer Zillgitt was active as early as 1925 when he took pictures for the Amsterdam Board of Trade at an event called the Progress Exhibition of 1925. One picture shows the booth of real estate agent Monroe Gray, who is selling suburban lots at Tribes Hill Heights. “A lot means a home and a home means a lot,” states a poster.
The Progress Exhibition was held at Ross’s Flats in the East End. A windmill was erected as the entrance to a series of huge tents that contained more than a hundred booths. One large tent was dedicated to automobiles. Socony oil displayed a gasoline pump.
Zillgitt even did house calls, said Amsterdam native Peter Betz. “The reason I know that is I have a picture of myself in a sailor suit taken at home by Zillgitt sometime around 1944. I was about two years old and vaguely remember the gent because he was a very humorous man who knew how to get a nervous kid to sit for him.”
Zillgitt and his wife, Eunice, lived on Grand Street on Park Hill before moving to Locust Avenue. He died in the 1950s.