Ignacy Paderewski, a world famous pianist and composer who became the first prime minister of Poland in 1919, performed at Amsterdam’s former junior high school on Guy Park Avenue in 1933.
He was invited by Rev. Anton Gorski, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church. Paderewski and Gorski were distant relatives by marriage.
Historian Jackie Murphy wrote that the concert was a benefit for the Sisters of the Resurrection. The sisters started a nursery on Park Street for the children of working women in 1926. The nursery closed the next year and the sisters opened an orphanage on Brookside Avenue. In 1932 the orphanage relocated to the former Gardiner Blood home at 118 Market St.
Historian Hugh Donlon, a church organist, recalled attending the Paderewski concert, “In response to wild enthusiasm he went from one Chopin composition to another, and finished with the brilliant Military Polonaise that left his spellbound audience wishing the joys of the evening might never end.”
The Resurrection Sisters orphanage closed in 1960 and the building was demolished in 1966 for Amsterdam’s Route 30 arterial.
BAD BILL DAHLEN
William Frederick “Bad Bill” Dahlen was a native of Nelliston who became an outstanding but controversial shortstop in major league baseball in its early days.
Nelliston native Charles Gehring of the New Netherlands Research Center in Albany grew up in the house where Dahlen had lived. Gehring wrote, “I even found one of his bats in our cellar.”
Dahlen started playing in the majors in 1891 with the Chicago Colts, predecessor of the Cubs. In 1894 he had at least one hit in 42 straight games.
In 1899 Dahlen was traded to Baltimore, with Chicago management praising his baseball skills but hinting he was not a great team player. The year before during a vacation in Minnesota Dahlen and two friends were charged with killing a farmer’s mule.
Dahlen played with the New York Giants and manager John McGraw called him the best shortstop in the nation. Dahlen died in Brooklyn in 1950.
In 1998 the Nelliston village board petitioned the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to induct Dahlen. Dahlen has still not been inducted. Historian David Pietrusza said, “It’s quite difficult for players of his era to gain entrance now.”
HAIL AND FAREWELL
The Amsterdam area lost several well-known figures in the history community in 2019.
World War II historian Robert Neil Going died in February at age 67. An attorney, judge, author and radio host, Going wrote two books about Amsterdam in World War II.
“Honor Roll: The World War II Dead of Amsterdam, N.Y.” provides information about 180 men who died in the war. Going also wrote “Where Do We Find Such Men?” The book is a conscientious chronicle of Amsterdam’s involvement in World War II.
What emerges is how all-encompassing the war was, both on the battlefields and the home front.
Physician George Tralka of Vienna, Virginia, who died in May at age 92, fought in World War II as a rifleman in Germany and Austria. He was author of the memoir “Amsterdam N.Y. and Beyond” and “Diary of a Replacement Soldier.”
Shawn Kevin Duffy contributed stories to this column on many topics including his family’s East End tavern, Shaughnessy’s at East Main and Eagle, where Kirk Douglas’ father, Harry Demsky, was a regular. Duffy died in February at his home in Missouri at age 69.
Drama coach and Amsterdam school administrator Bert DeRose died in November at age 87. DeRose also contributed items to this column, including the story of his uncle Ralph Pagliaro, the last Amsterdam soldier to die in World War I.