Plans show commitment to maintaining a small-town character in the face of societal disintegration

To the Editor:

Um, guys? Like, um, guys?  Is anyone steering this ship, or did I miss the meeting wherein we voted to pave over Voorheesville so Crossgates Mall could accommodate extra parking?

I write from Iraq, where I’m stationed with the 10th Mountain Division ostensibly fighting to preserve the American way of life against adversaries existentially committed to its destruction. But why do I feel like I’m engaged in a two-flank war?  

“Jesse, you’re being hysterical,” my mother replied when I emailed home about the Altamont Enterprise article vandalizing my Facebook newsfeed. You want hysteria, Mom?  Try the lead sentence in that article on for size: “A village institution quietly closed its doors for the final time on Sunday, Dec. 3.”

What?!  With due gratitude to Sean Mulkerrin for his after-the-fact report of the tragic closure of the Voorheesville Diner this month, would it have been too much to ask for a little anticipatory investigative journalism, so that maybe our community could have emotionally prepared for this?

Who knew what, and when?  First Smitty’s, then the diner, what’s next?  I swear to God, if Jaycees Pizza has any intention of shuttering, New Scots deserve to know about it right now. This is getting completely out of hand.

There should be a 90-day advance-notice requirement to any Voorheesville enterprise intending to rip my heart out. Sean Conway, you’re so lucky I can’t be home for the holidays, or I’d be making a call to the mayor’s office to give your dad a piece of my mind.

“My father literally has no influence over the affairs of a private commercial enterprise.”  Whatever, Sean.

Over the past decade and a half, the Voorheesville Diner has played reliable host to the rare occasions that my sisters and I return home at the same time. The last time we were there, we got the bill, and the four of us just stared at it in a stunned and guilt-wracked silence.

I’ll never forget the total: $14.06. Inclusive, for four people. We felt like we’d stolen something. It was my youngest sister who finally said, in a hushed tone: “How do they even stay open with prices like that?”  

Well Brenna, you’ve done it; I hope you’re happy. I tried to knock on the wooden tabletop the moment she said it, but evidently I was too late. It’s always Brenna who ruins everything.  

I take issue with Mr. Mulkerrin’s article for failing to report on the date of the diner’s founding. But I forgive the oversight because of his excellent reporting on the village of Voorheesville’s “Comprehensive Plan” (Dec. 7) and on the town of New Scotland’s “hamlet zoning plan” (Dec. 2).

Together, these twin reports are chicken soup for the New Scottish soul, for they reveal our community’s commitment to maintaining a small-town character in the face of societal disintegration all around us.  And even though they may have been asleep at the switch when it came to saving my beloved little diner, I nonetheless express my undying gratitude to town Supervisor Doug LaGrange, Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway, and all municipal officials and local business owners who invest so much of themselves in the preservation of “home.”

“Jesse, I don’t think you understand what my father actually does.” Write your own letter to the editor, Sean!

Fellow New Scots, please understand that, once Voorheesville disappears beneath the waves of tomorrow, we will never be able to reclaim our most precious resource. Walk with me for a second.

I fell in love with a girl in Burlington, and my affection grew ever more intense as we strolled one afternoon between the rustic architecture lining the quiet village thoroughfares of that weathered and ancient New England neighborhood. I made lots of mistakes in that relationship, and in time there were heart-wrenching goodbyes.

But eventually I fell for a woman who’d grown up in Clifton, Virginia, and soon enough we were walking arm-in-arm down the main street of her historic hometown. Again I found myself in the throes of adoration for a girl who’d emerged from a postcard village that still existed as it had for nearly two centuries.

And so it is with Voorheesville.

Look, I’m tracking; it’s easy to romanticize “preservation” as an ethos when it’s so often served as the backdrop for love. But that’s precisely what makes a place like Voorheesville so culturally indispensable.

For it is, in fact, the setting for love stories. It’s a place for families and neighbors and a community small enough to be filled with people who still know how to smile to each other at the gas pump (of which, apparently, there are soon to be several more.  I ask the editor to insert an angry-face emoji here).

Maybe we can’t save every staple of our village’s notorious 1950s identity, but we can at least commit to fostering a sense of self that’s intimate enough for us all to share.  

The richness of life doesn’t exist in our newsfeeds; it exists in our neighborhood, which now has one fewer location at which to congregate and break bread. Burlington, Clifton — these towns are special because of the foresight of municipal planners who leveraged the economic value of nostalgia and greeted the future by nourishing the past.

Are we destined to connect to our Village’s past solely through blue-and-yellow signs, or can I yet hope that someday my nieces and nephews will get a chance to enjoy the same Tastee Treat ice cream that I did when I was their age?

The New Year is upon us. Let’s embrace it by nonetheless cherishing the remaining artifacts that define who we are. OK, maybe I am being a little hysterical — or maybe it’s just that I’m homesick on Christmas. Either way, although I’m on the other side of the world, my heart is with the friends, family, and neighbors back home, in our beloved little railroad town.

CPT Jesse S. Sommer

Task Force Patriot, Iraq

More Letters to the Editor

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.