Descendants of Albert and Katie Sikora have preserved details of family life in 20th century Amsterdam. The nine-member family lived on Clark Avenue.
Paula Sikora Martin, now deceased, wrote down memories, as did her youngest sibling, Harry.
Parents Katarzyna and Wojcieh (Katie and Albert) came to America from Poland and settled in Vermont. Children Anna and Bronistawa (Bertha) were born there. Stephania arrived in Colorado. Katarzyna (Kay) and Pelagia (Paula) were born on a farm in Wisconsin. The two boys, Joseph and Harry, came after the Sikoras moved to Amsterdam in 1919.
A City Directory listed Albert Sikora as a spinner at Mohawk Carpet Mills.
Paula recalled when the family had no refrigerator, no washing machine and no radio. Eventually, a windup Victrola came their way.
Their father finished building a home in 1923 on a Clark Avenue lot across from the flat they were renting in a four-family house. The Sikoras rented out an upstairs flat in their new home.
“Our renter had a radio — wow,” Paula wrote. The tenant played the radio loudly and the Sikora children would gather on the hall steps to hear Fibber McGee and Molly.
The family bought a Chevrolet car that was used for weekly visits to Auriesville Shrine in the summer.
Paula wrote about the birth of her brother Harry in 1928. The pregnancy had not been discussed with the children. A “birthing lady” attended their mother.
At first shooed out of the house into the rain by their father, the children eventually were called back inside and told to get sheets for the birthing lady to use.
“(Sister) Kay and I ran to the house and started pulling the sheets off the bed,” Paula wrote. “We tried to give them to the birthing lady but she hollered at us — she wanted unused sheets. Then all of a sudden we were allowed to go to Mom’s room and she introduced us to our new little fat wrinkled baby brother. I had a new doll to play with! He was so cute.”
His father wanted to name the baby Alexander, after a Polish prince. Paula’s name was in reality Pelagia Julianna, the name of a Polish princess.
However, the baby’s mother prevailed and the baby was named Henry, after auto maker Henry Ford. The family called him Harry and he legally changed his name to Harry when he came of age.
Harry Sikora, who died in 2008 in Florida, served in the U.S. Army, went to Union College and Syracuse University and became an industrial engineer at IBM. His later years were spent at a farm in Bradford, Pennsylvania and a winter home in Clearwater, Florida.
“Was four years old when I started school in the first grade,” Harry wrote. “Mom lied about my age to get me into school early. Believe she had enough of children by the time I arrived.”
The grade school was about seven blocks from their home and his mother told him to follow the other children to get to school.
His sister and fellow family chronicler, Paula, married in 1937 but Harry did not want to attend the wedding, saying he would break his six-year perfect school attendance record.
Harry wrote, “Heat came from a wood/coal stove, which heated the kitchen and living room area. Bedrooms were cold during the winter and hot during the summer. Coal bin was located in the basement. Had to be carried upstairs and ashes emptied daily.
“We had two sour cherry trees. One year, dad made cherry wine in the basement. When he wasn’t looking, I tasted some of it.”
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected]