A box of Mendets made in Amsterdam forged a link between a Hagaman teen and an Australian in the island state of Tasmania.
Collette Manufacturing produced Mendets, bolt-like contraptions to plug holes in pots and pans. Arlyn (Lynn) Smith of West Galway provided this story.
Smith’s mother, Marjorie Eckler of Hagaman, was 15 in 1925 when a girlfriend was working at Collette’s. The girls wrote their names and addresses in a box of Mendets.
Marjorie eventually received a letter from a girl in Wilmot, Tasmania, who worked in a hardware store and found the address in the Mendets box. Marjorie and Tasmanian Maggie Arnold became pen pals.
Marjorie Eckler married Leland Johnson. They had four children and lived on a farm on Truax Road in the town of Amsterdam. Marjorie later worked for Collette’s herself, sewing baseballs. Maggie Arnold became a postmistress in Tasmania.
Maggie visited Marjorie Johnson in America twice. In 1980 Marjorie and her family visited Tasmania.
FORT PLAIN PANTIES
A textile mill on Willett Street in Fort Plain produced women’s underwear, mainly panties. The factory was occupied in 1874 by the Shipman Spring and Axle Works, according to Minden Town Historian Rob Carter.
In 1900, the Bailey brothers bought the complex for their silk mill. In 1931 a company with the poetic sounding name of Luxuray bought the facility.
The predominantly female Luxuray employees, most of them operating sewing machines, were noticed in local newspapers for sporting events, employee parties and good deeds.
Luxuray sold its own line of panties and supplied lingerie to stores. Luxuray had a factory store in Fort Plain.
In the 1950s Luxuray became part of Beaunit Corporation. The plant was sold to Mohawk Valley investors in 1974. Employment declined from several hundred to about 70 people.
Foreign competition led to Luxuray’s demise. By 1999 underwear production ceased.
People still work in the former Luxuray building. In 2000 the factory was purchased by Robert Hancock who established Glimmerglass Swim Spas and Pools. Hancock also rents to several tenants.
MAYFIELD’S OLIVER RICE
The Mayfield Historical Society this year celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Oliver Rice.
Born in Wallingford, Connecticut in 1768, Rice was a messenger boy for the rebel side during the Revolutionary War. Local lore has it that Rice once delivered a message to George Washington.
After the war Rice and his brother Ebenezer came to New York state. Ebenezer settled in Gloversville and Oliver built a cabin near Mayfield Creek.
Oliver married Alice Parish from Windham, Connecticut in 1792. A year later the town of Mayfield was founded.
Squire Rice had a blacksmith shop, gristmill, spring house and two houses for workers.
Oliver and Alice had seven children and needed a larger home. The Rice Homestead, a Federal style building, was constructed in 1810 across the street from their cabin.
The cabin was rolled across the road on logs and attached to the back of the house. The area around the home became known as Riceville.
Family descendants owned the Rice Homestead for almost 200 years, selling the property to Garth and Judy Wemple of Mayfield in 1988. The Wemples sold the Homestead to the Historical Society in 1992.
Amsterdam’s mill girl died Aug. 24, 2018 at Albany Medical Center. Sophie “Sue” Fraczek was 94.
A picture of her at a twisting machine at Bigelow-Sanford carpet mill in Amsterdam from the 1940s was prominently featured in a WMHT television documentary in 2000.
Fraczek never married but spent years helping raise children in her extended family. She loved listening to the radio and liked reading, especially the classics.
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]