Since 2004, professor Frank Yunker has archived my local history stories on his website and database mohawkvalleyweb.com. Yunker teaches computer science and economics at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
Recently Yunker posted a chart showing which stories received the most clicks from Internet users during 2018.
With close to a thousand hits, the most popular story by far was one written in 2016 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack catapulted the United States into World War II.
Life magazine published a photo spread in its Dec. 1, 1941 edition covering a simulated enemy air attack on a small airport in Fort Plain in the Mohawk Valley. The real attack on American forces in Hawaii came six days later. According to Robert Going’s book, “Where Do We Find Such Men,” the first Amsterdam casualty of World War II was William E. Hasenfuss Jr. from a family of nine children on Northampton Road.
Hasenfuss had enlisted in the Army in 1939. He died at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii. Japanese airplanes shot up the B-24 bomber Hasenfuss and his ground crew were working on.
Work began on what would become the cruiser USS Amsterdam in 1943. William Hasenfuss Jr.’s mother, Frieda, christened the Amsterdam on April 25, 1944 at Newport News, Virginia.
“I was thinking of William when I smashed that bottle.” Mrs. Hasenfuss said as the vessel slid into the James River.
The Amsterdam was part of the fleet in Tokyo Bay for Japanese surrender ceremonies in 1945. The Amsterdam sailed back to America, after picking up battle-weary and wounded Seabees in Okinawa.
James V. Hogg from Amsterdam was serving on a Navy ship somewhere in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
As his niece Karen terHaar told the story, “In the months after Pearl Harbor, many ships in the area were ordered to maintain radio silence. The families of all crew members did not know if their fathers, sons or brothers were dead or alive.”
Hogg’s parents, Frank and Mildred Hogg, were living on Grant Avenue in Amsterdam, as was terHaar’s mother, Shirley Hogg.
TerHaar wrote, “The following April, about four months after Pearl Harbor, Mom was sitting on the front porch when she heard the postman’s voice. She looked up and saw him running down the sidewalk. He was waving a letter and yelling, ‘Jimmy’s alive! Jimmy’s alive!’”
James Hogg became a lieutenant commander in the Navy and married a woman from Australia. He later lived in California and died several years ago.
The second most popular history story with Mohawk Valley web users in 2018, with over 600 hits, was a 2005 look at the former Noteworthy Indian Museum in Amsterdam.
Third was a tale about Amsterdam native Kirk Douglas, who became a famous Hollywood movie star and producer.
Fourth was the history of the Adirondack Power & Light building in the town of Florida, the subject of an illustrated booklet by Amsterdam native Dave Northrup in 2017.
In fifth position was an account of Fitzgerald’s, an Amsterdam soda bottling company.
A look at the career of Amsterdam educator and drama coach Bert DeRose was in sixth place.
In seventh was a 2018 piece on a Polish-American family in Amsterdam named Sikora.
Eighth place was held by the story of horse-drawn night time lunch wagons in downtown Amsterdam popular over a hundred years ago.
Ninth was an account of a double murder at Phillips Park in Pattersonville. Rounding out the list at number ten was the story of the Glove Cities Colonials football team in Fulton County.
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]