Shawn Kevin Duffy contributed stories to this column on many topics including his family’s East End tavern.
Duffy, born in Amsterdam in 1949, died last month at his home in Lake St. Louis, Missouri at age 69. He was a Navy veteran and worked for General Electric and other firms in the turbine generator business. He retired as part owner of Turbine Generator Technical Services. His wife Valerie plus children and grandchildren survive.
Duffy contributed a tale to my 2012 Mohawk Valley stories contest about O’Shaughnessy’s, a tavern once owned by his grandfather Martin J. O’Shaughnessy in the early 1900s.
Located at East Main and Eagle Streets in a building no longer there, O’Shaughnessy’s patrons included actor Kirk Douglas’s father, Harry Demsky, and my grandfather, Harry Cudmore. My grandparents lived at 36 Eagle Street, the Demskys lived at 46 Eagle.
The historic marker honoring Kirk Douglas’s birthplace created for Historic Amsterdam League is to be placed at the parking lot where Shaun’s Saloon, as it was frequently called, used to be.
Prohibition in 1920 closed the tavern, at least officially. The Albany Evening Journal in 1926 reported Martin Shaughnessy of Amsterdam was charged with selling beer.
Duffy wrote, “I guess it is a bit surprising that the bar survived Prohibition as so many did not. My mom, Mary O’Shaughnessy Duffy, told me that she used to help make bathtub gin when she was around ten, actually in the bathtub. Her brother Martin Junior sold the moonshine off the back porch to make ends meet during these hard times.
“Martin Junior had polio and was confined to a wheel chair. I always wondered if the coppers kind of turned their heads to not see a paralyzed person selling illegal moonshine off the back porch to help an old Irish tavern survive during the hard Prohibition times.”
Duffy didn’t ever see Martin Senior or Martin Junior but recalled when his uncle Edward was running the bar. At that time the “O” was dropped from the tavern’s name and it was called Shaughnessy’s
The family nickname for Edward was Eb while others called him Midge. Duffy wrote, “Eb was also known as KO because even though he was slight in stature (around 4 foot 5 inches or so), he did have a baseball bat which he used as an ice crusher. From what I understand he used it more than once on people who got too rowdy.
“The story was that if someone got out of line, Eb would grab his ice crusher bat out of the ice bin, jump up on the bar and take a good swing at whoever was out of line, including Harry Demsky.”
When Duffy was young he visited his grandmother, Rose Mullarkey O’Shaughnessy, who lived in an apartment house next to the tavern. He was allowed to play shuffleboard at the bar for free. Rose died in 1961 and Eb in 1973.
Duffy wrote, “The bar also had one of the first color TVs in the area, so it brought in a big crowd on football Sunday. Looking back on it from today, it was pretty small, the color was pretty bad and it probably cost a small fortune.”
Duffy said Nelson Rockefeller, who made several trips to Amsterdam when he was governor of New York, was commencement speaker in 1967, the year Duffy graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School.
Duffy wrote, “I don’t remember too awful much except the crowd was very large and quite a bit of media types, cameras, etc. At the time I thought this was only for us graduates.”