By John R. Williams
On Feb. 26, the Old Men of the Mountain met at The Chuck Wagon in Princetown. February is almost gone and then comes the fickle month of March. Oh joy!
The Old Men of the Mountain can be shoveling two feet of snow or planting their gardens. In the Northeast, March is generally the month full of surprises.
This may be hard to believe but some of the OFs were talking about shopping — girlie-type shopping. A few of the OFs do not do any type of shopping at all, even when it is groceries.
This discussion was prompted by one OF saying that, while he and his wife were grocery shopping the other day, how many older gentlemen were also shopping. The store was full of these fellows like a busload of OFs was dropped off from the old men’s home; however, the OF and his wife did not notice any buses out in front of the store.
One of the stores that came up in this conversation (that the ladies like to be taken to) is Kohl’s. That was the number-one store. When one OF said that he had to leave early to take his wife shopping — even if it wasn’t Wednesday — the OF was asked where he was taking her and he said Kohl’s.
“You too?” was one reply, and another one said, “That’s my wife’s favorite place.”
“That is the first store we hit when we head out shopping,” was another’s comment.
One OF said that he doesn’t go into the store on any of the shopping trips — even the grocery store. This OG said he takes a nap in the car.
“You’re missing it,” another OF alleged. “You gotta go in and just walk the aisles and observe all the pretty women out shopping with no man around. There you are sleeping in the car and not enjoying all this beauty walking around. For free!”
Some of the OFs said that Colonie Center, Crossgates, and Stuyvesant Plaza were not their kinda places.
An OF proclaimed, “Give me Tractor Supply, Harbor Freight, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Bellevue Lumber — now you are talking my type of shopping.”
An additional OF mentioned automotive stores — that’s more his style.
Anyway you cut the mustard, the OFs still do their share to keep the economy moving, whether it is taking their wives shopping or the OF purchasing more toys.
One OF said he does not know how his wife can spend almost a whole day shopping and go in and out of six or seven stores and come home with only one bag.
An OF replied, “That shopping thing is just a ploy to get out of the house, and away from the housework, and the big thing is to have lunch out so she doesn’t have to cook. You are 75 years old and haven’t figured that out yet, you OG?”
Remembering when Route 20 was the road
The OFs picked up a conversation that we have not touched on before, which in itself is hard to believe. The OFs talked about what Route 20 was like before the Thruway was built.
One of the founders of the OFs, Joe Farcas, traveled to Massachusetts and picked up Route 20 and then traveled all the way to Oregon. When traveling west on Route 20, it ends in Oregon. You have traveled from ocean to ocean on the same road.
One OF whose life began out in the midwestern part of our state on a farm said his family had a small store on Route 20, and sold gas, and at that time gas was 25 cents a gallon.
Prior to the Thruway, Route 20 was the road. Many of the OFs had stories about traveling various stretches of this highway.
They told about staying in little cabins run by individuals or families, not some motel owned by somebody in Dubai. Most of these places had a simple restaurant, and none that the OFs could remember were attached to the cabins.
One OF mentioned waking up in the morning to roosters crowing, and having breakfast that was prepared for them and a few other patrons and, when all were served, the cook and waitress came from around the counter and had breakfast with them. The cook and waitress were also the owners of the establishment.
If the OF remembered correctly, the cabin was five bucks, and the complete breakfast was just a couple of bucks.
Route 20 is still the longest, continually paved road in New York. They started work on it in the early 1900s, and it was completed in the late 1930s. Route 20 was the main east-west road up until the Thruway was built in the 1950s.
Route 20 specifically did not go through any major cities with the exception of Albany. This was done to avoid traffic bottlenecks.
Many of the OFs say they still take Route 20 instead of the Thruway and it is sad in some places to see these cabins just rotting away. One OF mentioned that the section of Route 20 from Sloansville on to Cherry Valley has picked up with the advent of the Wal-Mart distribution center near Sharon Springs.
(An aside from the scribe. Some research had to be done to check dates, etc. One of the facts the scribe found interesting is that the original final cost of the Thruway in 1956 was $600 million. Today, the same road would cost $8.31 B — that is a B — billion dollars. All tolls were to be removed in 1984, and the road was supposed to be paid for. A great example of how you cannot trust a politician — at least for the most part — except those who are local.)
“Route 20 is still a great way to go,” said an OF. “You get to the same place as the Thruway but have more fun doing it, plus you guys are retired — what’s your hurry? Let all the nut cases travel the Thruway and contend with all those trucks. Now I88 is a different story; there is nobody on that road.”
“Yeah,” an additional OF said. “When I have to go to Binghamton and get on Interstate 88, it is almost like I am pulling into my own driveway.”
Another OF said he had to go that way quite often, and Interstate 88 is no road to be on in bad weather, summer or winter. He advised that if the weather is bad, stay on Route 7.
There you have driving tips from the OFs; you are getting advice from 1,200 years of experience, and those advice-givers who ate at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Henry Witt, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Henry Whipple, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.