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The other night, I went to the annual roast-beef dinner fundraiser at Bethany Reformed Church. I've been to this before and know it is very well attended — you always have to wait a bit to get seated.

Then dinner is served "family style," although even my food-centric Italian family never served this much food. There is thin sliced roast beef that just melts in your mouth; fresh creamy mashed potatoes and gravy; beets prepared with onion and spices; the good kind of coleslaw, not the runny kind; tender green beans cooked just right; super-soft dinner rolls; and, as if all that's not enough, they have Boy Scouts running from table to table, pushing carts with all kinds of delectable desserts. You can't beat it.

As we're eating dinner, I'm trying to have a conversation with a friend seated to my left. While doing this, every couple of minutes I'd hear a long, drawn out "mmmmmm" from my lovely wife who was seated across from me.

This was unusual in the sense that normally she's the talker and I'm the eater. Turns out she has a thing for mashed potatoes and gravy. If you'd looked at her and listened to the "mmmmmm"s, you'd think someone was massaging her at the same time.

I thought it was really funny, because she's always so proper, but now I know her weak spot. If there were a way to package hot mashed potatoes and gravy, I'd be all set for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.

Yes, the food was that good. Too good, in a way. I wound up eating maybe four times as much as I should have. I didn't mean to do it; in fact, I didn't want to, but they just keep passing plate after plate until you finally have to surrender.


One time, at a restaurant, I'd eaten everything I thought I could, and was about to leave, when the waitress reminded me the strawberry shortcake was still to come. That night, when I left the place, I could not stand up; I had to walk out hunched over, I was so full. This wasn't quite as bad, but it was close.

When I got home, I read for a little bit and then tried to get some sleep, but I was so full I could not get comfortable. If you've ever felt like this, you know it's no fun at all.

I always watch the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, and how those skinny guys — and girls — can stuff so many dogs and buns down their guts in so short a time is a real mystery to me. I mean, it's just painful when you overeat like this.

The next morning, when I got up, I had no desire to eat breakfast. This is one area where my wife and I are completely different — no matter how much she eats, she can always eat again at the next scheduled time.

Not only couldn't I eat breakfast, I made a pact that I would not eat anything the entire day. I did this to make up for the sheer number of calories I'd consumed the night before and to punish myself for being so stupid.


The last time I tried to go a day without eating, it wasn't fun. You still get hungry at normal meal times.

I remember waking up early the last time and being so hungry I had to eat the first thing I saw, which turned out to be a too-old banana that was just gross. I determined to do better this time.

As I went about my day, I did many of the things I normally do on a Sunday — work on the bikes and cars, yard work, etc. The only thing I allowed myself was water, one Snapple, and multiple diet sodas, which I know are not the best thing for you.

Actually, I thought I was off diet soda but then Pepsi came out with the Diet Cherry and I got hooked again. Do you know they have chemists working full time to create tastes like Diet Cherry and Doritos and Pringles that you just can't stop eating? They really do.

At least diet soda has no calories, though any time you're drinking something with acid so strong it can clean car battery terminals you have to worry.

Then, since it was Sunday, I sat down to watch some football. If you watch sports, you know there are three kinds of commercials during the games: food, beer, and vehicles.

Even though I was still full from the dinner buffet, I found it hard to see endless commercials for burgers and pizza and what-all. No wonder we have an obesity problem in this country.

The really amazing thing about not eating for a day is how much time you gain. Without having to think about, prepare, eat, and then clean up from meals, you have so much more time on your hands it's astounding.

I was able to get a bunch more stuff done that day than I normally would have. Of course, I didn't feel that great, but it sure was very nice to gain this free time, you bet.

Diet options

I recently read about a diet where you can eat anything you want if you fast for two days a week. In fact, it said it's the rage diet in Europe right now.

All I can say is, the day after not eating, I felt like I had returned to my normal self. I didn't "pig out" or anything, just ate normally and I was fine.

If you think about it, it has to be good to give your entire digestive system a break now and then. I also like the way it's a good test of willpower: How many pizza commercials can you watch without picking up the phone for a delivery?

We are often our own worst enemies, so when you can "win one" it's a real good feeling.

There are now all-you-can-eat buffet places pretty much everywhere. There, you can eat like I did at the church dinner all day, every day.

I, for one, am sure glad they didn't have these when I was growing up. There was a time I'd eat a full dinner at home and then go out with friends and eat three Big Macs right after.

The thought of doing that now makes me physically ill. I know my buddies would have come up with some goofy contest — "Let's go to Golden Corral and eat all the chicken!" — so I'm sure glad we missed this one. The Disco Era was bad enough.

I don't advise eating until you feel sick, but I can say that not eating for a day was a great thing to do to recover from it. In fact, it was kind of fun — I loved all the time I gained — so I might be trying it again. Less is more.


— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The multi-purpose town hall in Guilderland Center, pictured before its demolition in 1952, served as a stable for visitors to the Fowler Inn across the street, now Route 146, and housed early fire trucks. Upstairs was a meeting hall for town and school functions as well as firemen’s dances and social events. The last big political caucus was held there in 1934.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The first two-room schoolhouse in Guilderland was built of wood in 1845 on Willow Street for School District 4. After the school district centralized, it became the town hall in 1957 and remained as such until a new town hall was built in 1971 on the Western Turnpike west of route 146. The old schoolhouse is now home to New York State Troopers.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The multi-purpose town hall in Guilderland Center, pictured before its demolition in 1952, served as a stable for visitors to the Fowler Inn across the street, now Route 146, and housed early fire trucks. Upstairs was a meeting hall for town and school functions as well as firemen’s dances and social events. The last big political caucus was held there in 1934.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The Village Queen, as the apparatus on the left was called, is proudly displayed with an early fire truck in Guilderland Center where they were housed on Main Street, now called Route 146, from 1918 until the new firehouse was built on School road in 1952.

It always surprises this historian when youngsters come to the Guilderland  Town Hall, usually with a parent, and they have no idea what goes on there, what its purpose is, or how it affects their own family.

This brought to mind the actual history of the town hall and how those purposes changed through the years.

The first town meeting was held at the private home of Henry Appel in Guilderland Center on the fifth day of April in the year of 1803.  The town of Guilderland had just been separated from the town of Watervliet and incorporated.

Guilderland Center has always been considered the center of  town.  In 1803, officials were elected and laws were written to be observed in Guilderland.

Nicholas Mynderse was elected as supervisor of the town and Peter A. Veeder was named town clerk.  Assessors were Issac Van Aernum, Abraham Veeder, and Peter Relyea.  Commissioners of highways were David Ogsbury, Frederic Crounse, and Charles Saver. Jacob Van Arnum and Simeon Relyea were overseers of the poor.

After meetings were held at the Appel Inn for years, other officials offered their homes for that purpose. Then, in 1850, a new structure was built in Guilderland Center on the road now named  Route 146.

There is no record of who built the hall. Records do state that the building and land were deeded to the town of Guilderland on Oct. 1, 1915 by Philip and Helen Petinger.

The large room upstairs was used for public meetings and political caucuses and for school events. A fire truck was housed downstairs.  The main floor was also used to stable horses for the guests who came to stay at the Fowler Hotel across the road.

The Guilderland Center Fire Department used the lower floor from 1918 when John H. York was named the first fire chief.  In 1952, it was determined that the old town hall  was no longer suitable, and a new fire station was erected on School Road.

The town used the Guilderland Center building to store equipment until the structure was condemned.

As the eastern end of the town grew, several individual buildings were used for the town's different departments.  The assessor's office was noted to have been in a small building on Route 20 near Foundry Road. That building has been demolished.

In 1957, the District Schoolhouse 4 on Willow Street became the town hall. The Guilderland School District had abandoned the two-room school house in 1953 when it consolidated and erected new school buildings.  The old schoolhouse is now a barracks for the New York State Troopers.

In 1971, a new town hall was built on the Western Turnpike west of Carman Road.  An addition was added in 1989.

By the book

At the town's first meeting in the Appel Inn, it was made law that "it shall not be lawful for hogs to run at large beyond the enclosure of the owner."  Another law declared that "stallions at the age of two years and upward be not suffered to go at large beyond the enclosure of the owner>” 

It was also made law that any resident killing a wolf on the turnpike would collect $5.  

Historic documents and chits show that the overseers of the poor paid for shoes for the children of a widow and paid for a "cloak" in which to bury a poor resident of the town.

This historian does remember in the early 1950s, two local residents had to chase a large brown stallion, freed of his reins, down Western Turnpike from Willow Street to Fuller Road before he was captured.

Residents of that era may remember Judge George Bigsbee holding court in his Hamilton Street home, wearing his notable red suspenders that held up his blue work denims, while his large pet parrot sat on his desk, watching the proceedings.

There was no police force in Guilderland then.  Law and order was kept in Guilderland by the New York State Police stationed in a Westmere barracks at 1968 Western Ave. They were assisted by the Albany County Sheriff's Department through the 1960s.

Then, on Oct. 29, 1971, in the new town hall on the western boundaries of Guilderland, a six-man police force was organized.  Led by Chief Robert R. Byers and wearing crisp, new green uniforms, these men were commissioned to keep order in the town.  The police station was housed in the town hall.

The duties of those who keep our peace now are far different than those from the days of keeping horses and pigs within their owners’ confines.  

Local newspaper accounts and a "Blotters and Dockets" column in The Altamont Enterprise advise residents of the more serious issues that the police must deal with, and they have done so extremely well.

The town hall on the Great Western Turnpike is one of which all residents can be proud.   Children and students should be taught about  the importance of its purpose.


Now that we're in full winter sports mode, it won't be long before playoffs start. In that vein, I decided to have a playoff of horrible things.

I have them in two groups of 12 where they'll go head to head, with the most horrible things in each group facing off against each other for the title of Most Horrible Thing. I truly have no idea how this will turn out, so let’s get started:

Horrible Things Division I:

1. Colonoscopies

2. PBS Fund Drives

3. Telephone Menu Systems

4. Taxes

5. Supreme Court

6. Cell Phones

7. Traffic

8. Teenagers

9. Sarah Palin

10. Ear Hair

11. Anonymous Critics

12. Tar Snakes

First round of

Division I

1 vs. 12, Colonoscopies vs. Tar Snakes: Colonoscopies are once every 10 years and you have to drink a gallon of that awful stuff the day before. Tar snakes are when they don't have enough money to do a proper road repair and just fill the gaps in with tar; these are awful when you ride your motorcycle over them, believe me. Since colonoscopies only happen once every 10 years, tar snakes win the first bout.

2 vs. 11, PBS Fund Drives vs. Anonymous Critics: PBS fund drives just go on forever, and, if you donate early, you still have to sit through the whole thing. Who needs another tote bag anyway, plus, despite all the donations, there are still commercials! Anonymous critics are all the tweeters and bloggers who post all this Internet vitriol without identifying themselves. As bad as the fund drives are, anonymous critics are worse.

3 vs. 10, Telephone Menu Systems vs. Ear Hair: Telephone Menu Systems — "your call is important to us" — are a perfect example of how technology doesn't always make life better. Ear hair is something we men get as we age; it's awfully ugly, very hard to take care of, and just plain gross. This is a real tough one, but telephone menu systems are that bad so they win.

4 vs. 9, Taxes vs. Sarah Palin: Taxes are not bad in concept; they allow us to have a functioning society where everyone gets benefits (police, road repair, food inspection etc.). The problem with taxes is there are too many of them and the laws are too complex. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, continues to be a national embarrassment. Her latest gaffe was "the truth is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave." She was of course trying to criticize the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.; even school kids know where the White House is. This is an easy one — Sarah Palin wins in a rout.

5 vs. 8, Supreme Court vs. Teenagers: The Supreme Court, despite the judges’ combined age and "wisdom," when push comes to shove, takes the easy way out and votes on party line. Teenagers think they know everything and make your life crazy until they finally "get it." At least teenagers grow up. Supreme Court wins this one.

6 vs. 7, Cell Phones vs. Traffic: Everything is about phones these days, and, while smart phones truly are technological marvels, it's just getting to be too much already. Traffic is bad but, if you have a good stereo and have some travel smarts, it can be death with, so cell phones win.

On to Division I finals

First round of Division I is over, so now we have:

— Tar Snakes vs. Cell Phones: Phones affect more of us so they win;

— Anonymous Critics vs. Supreme Court: Anonymous critics are cowards so they win;

— Telephone Menu Systems vs. Sarah Palin: She will, I hope, at some point just go away, so telephone menu systems win.


Second round is over. Anonymous Critics get a "bye" so we have:

— Cell Phones vs. Telephone Menus Systems: Isn't it funny how both are phone related? Telephone menu systems easily win here, which brings us to the Division I finals:

— Telephone Menu Systems vs. Anonymous Critics: This is a tough one because both are truly horrible, but you can always ignore or delete anonymous critics, so telephone menu systems are the winners of the Horrible Things Division I playoffs!

Division II

1. Congress

2. Tuna Casseroles

3. Reality TV

4. Plumbing

5. Political Ads

6. Unwanted Phone Calls

7. Squirrels

8. Piercings

9. Graffiti

10. Coffee Snobbery

11. The Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway

12. Low-Interest Rates

1 vs. 12, Congress vs. Low Interest Rates: This Congress, our paid representatives, has done virtually nothing. When Congress does act, it's often to obstruct rather than achieve. Meanwhile, the stock market goes up and up yet you can't get any interest at the bank. How are you supposed to teach kids the value of saving? We can throw the bums in Congress out, so low-interest rates win.

2 vs. 11, Tuna Casseroles vs. the Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway: Just the smell of a tuna casserole leaves me nauseas; you just can't serve tuna hot. Compare this to the snow at the end of the driveway, packed in by the town plow in that low area by the street; my back hurts just thinking about it. As bad as heated tuna is, the packed snow at the end of the driveway wins.

3 vs. 10, Reality TV vs. Coffee Snobbery: I refuse to watch any so-called "reality TV," which is of course produced and scripted. If you want my attention, at least make an attempt to put on something worthwhile. As far as coffee snobbery, give me a plain cup of coffee, not a latte or a frappe or a whatever. We can always turn the TV off, so coffee snobbery wins.

4 vs. 9, Plumbing vs. Graffiti: Of all the trades, plumbing is the one I least like doing. There's nothing worse than a leak and the damage it can cause. Some people like graffiti but, no matter how artistic you may think it is, it's still vandalism. I can always get better at plumbing or hire someone, so graffiti wins.

5 vs. 8, Political Ads vs. Piercings: When did all the political ads go negative? It's really awful when you can't think of anything to do but criticize your opponent. Piercings are something I've never gotten; when you see a pretty young girl with this shiny thing sticking out of her nose, all you do is stare at it, ugh. Painful. As bad as the negative ads are, piercings win.

6 vs. 7, Unwanted Phone Calls vs. Squirrels: I don't mind taking a survey now and then, but not during dinner. What happened to the Do Not Call registry? Not working in my house. Squirrels are true suburban marauders, wrecking havoc with bird feeders and digging up the garden. As bad as the unsolicited calls are, because of the damage and commotion squirrels cause, they win hands down.

On to Division II finals

That's it for Division II first round, so now we have:

— Low Interest Rates vs. Squirrels: This is a tough one. There are other investment vehicles, so squirrels win.

— The Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway vs. Piercings: Snow eventually melts, so piercings win.

— Coffee Snobbery vs. Graffiti: Graffiti is a criminal act, so graffiti wins.

Again, after the bye we have:

— Squirrels vs. Graffiti: I'm letting squirrels off the hook easy here though I hate to do it! Graffiti wins.

— Graffiti vs. Piercings: I realize not liking piercings may be a generational thing, in that I'm so old I just don't get it. Therefore graffiti wins Division II Most Horrible Thing

And the winner is...

That means we are down to the finals for the Most Horrible Thing:


Telephone Menu Systems vs. Graffiti: This is an interesting final — I honestly had no idea how it would play out.

Telephone menu systems are so bad on so many levels. Think about it, a call to your business is an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward, to reinforce that customer relationship that you've worked so hard to build.

Instead, when you force your customers to go through level after level of frustrating menus just to finally get to a real live person, whatever goodwill you may have earned is basically lost. I've actually taken time off from work to visit places that have awful telephone menu systems, that's how much I can't stand these things. That's why I'll always support companies where a real live person is there to help you.

Graffiti, no matter what any "artists" tell you, is vandalism. I love walking in the downtowns of new cities and I just hate to see wonderful old buildings ruined by this garbage.

Sit by a railroad crossing and count how many boxcars are "tagged" as well. What a total waste of creativity. This is a tough call, it really is, but I'm going to give telephone menu systems the win for Most Horrible Thing, with graffiti a very close second.

If you think about it, the fact that there are so many "players" for a Most Horrible Things contest is pretty bad, and I'm sure you can think of other ones. Oh well, we can always focus on the good stuff. The glass is half-full, right?

On Oct. 7, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Scho/Co Diner in Schoharie. The group now has fewer people barging in on the restaurants that are on the OFs’ round-robin list of eateries because most, if not all, the snowbirds have flown

This leaves the group with the hard-core Northeasters and the few who wish they could fly with the snowbirds. This second group has many reasons for not joining the southwestern, or southern brigade — family and friends, doctors, money, and some just don’t have the guts to pull the trigger and go.

The OFs wonder sometimes why we are at the table. This breakfast, the OFs were discussing accidents they have seen, they have had, and the many close calls that were had among the OFs.

Recalling some of these accidents the OFs have had (or almost have had), the OFs noticed that once the accident started it seemed to transfer into slow motion. There are all types of accidents: falling, industrial, shop, car, and just living-type accidents.

Then again, some happen so fast (as one OF put it once) that the OF can just pick himself up from the floor and say, “What the H--- just happened?”

The OFs say no one goes out and says, “I guess I will have an accident today.” That is why they are called accidents.

One OF said, “Accidents are caused by our own stupidity or someone else’s stupidity.”

But another OF said that being in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t help either. All the OFs now have a fear of falling down and not being able to get up.

“Even if I get down on purpose,” one OF said, “I have a fear of not being able to get up.”

This conversation was because one of the OFs had such an accident recently, and it was of the “Holy Cow, what just happened?” type. This particular OF is one hurting individual right now.

Wondering about

winter weather

With the snowbirds flying, the subject of the upcoming winter arose and what type of weather it would bring. The OFs whipped out their own Ouija boards to predict the winter.

The OFs also rely on the marking of the wooly bear. So far, that little caterpillar says a long hard beginning to the winter, and a little break in the middle, and a short hard ending. This friendly little thing is generally right, but, then again, as one OF said, so is the Farmers’ Almanac.

An OF said he just waits and watches what happens during the winter months and, come spring, analyzes what the winter was — whether it was hard, average, or not bad. Trying to predict is useless; even the weather guys can’t get the next day right much of time so why should he bother to try and figure out what is going to happen for three months.

Bionic OFs

Some of the OFs have had knees, or shoulders replaced recently, even a hip or two. One just had a piece of kidney taken out so the OFs started talking about pain pills: Some of big boys like hydrocodone, or oxycodone, or morphine, and, though it seems as if these pills take the pain away, sometimes the side effects are worse than the pain.

Some of the OFs have hallucinations that are downright scary, while others break out in hives or other types of rashes. On one occasion, an OF took only one pill and wouldn’t take another because of the hallucinations — so the doctors gave him Tylenol #3, which seemed to work but another OF said he even has a reaction to that. Weird.

However, some can take the things as if they were candy and the only side effect they have is sleep. “Sleep,” one OF said, “is the best pain killer going and maybe that is what those things are supposed to do — knock you out.”

“Heck,” one more OF said, “if that is all they are supposed to do, I will come over and whack you with a hammer every now and then.  That’ll put you to sleep.”

It is tough to beat the logic of the OFs.

Eagles for real?

The OFs at this table were talking about seeing eagles and some of the OFs hoped they were not mistaking turkey vultures for eagles since there are tons of turkey vultures around. The eagles the OFs claim to be spotting are around the Thompsons Lake area of the Helderbergs; the Camp Woodstock area, also in the Helderbergs; and along the Schoharie creek between Middleburgh and Schoharie.

Some of the OFs are waiting for some photographic proof on these majestic birds, i.e., real eagles, and not the ones that sit atop the very high tree stumps in one OF’s yard.

Those OFs who made it to the Scho/Co diner in Schoharie and didn’t have any accidents along the way were: Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Henry Witt, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Karl Remmers, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Dick Ogsbury, Miner Stevens, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Rich Donnelly, Ted Willsey, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagonbaugh, Jim Rissacher, Bill Keal, Carl Walls, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zable, Harold Grippen, and me.

There is a restaurant in downtown Albany called Justin's that my lovely wife and I try to go to at least once a year. The menu at Justin's changes often, but there is one dish called ropa vieja that is always there and that we always order.

This is Cuban braised beef that is cooked slowly all day long, so tender that, when you dig in, all you need is a fork. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, that's how good it is.

Now I'm certain Justin's has many other good dishes on the menu, but I wouldn't know because, from the first time I've been there and every time since, the only dish I've ordered is ropa vieja and I've been totally satisfied.

One time, I was feeling especially hungry, so I ordered the macaroni and cheese appetizer. This was by far the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had, which leads me to believe that Justin's is capable of some very excellent cooking besides the ropa vieja, but no matter: I've found what I like and that's it. I don't have to think about it, I just order it, and I'm always in heaven. Good deal.

This phenomenon of finding out what you like and sticking with it resonates with me. It does manifest with food a lot I notice; I won't use any mustard other than Gulden’s nor any ketchup other than Heinz, but it's not only food related.

You may know the rock group ZZ Top from its many eighties hits and videos like "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man," but they were around a long time before they really took off. In '75, ZZ Top released an album called "Fandango!"

The first side of this album was recorded live, and it's such dynamic, explosive, and euphoric rock-and-roll that, though I've owned the record for, unbelievably, almost 40 years now, I've only played the other side maybe three or four times in all those years, and I'm a really big ZZ Top fan. The thing is, like the ropa vieja, the first side is so good that it's just about impossible for anything else to be better.

You've heard the term Catch-22, which describes an unsolvable situation, like not being able to get a job until you have experience but not being able to get experience until you get a job. The phrase comes from Joseph Heller’s classic sixties ridiculousness-of-war novel, Catch-22, and this book surely is a masterpiece, which I've thoroughly enjoyed reading. (It's especially relevant now with our military so active all over the world.)

The next book Heller wrote is called Something Happened, which is so fantastic and wonderful because it's a satire of our society (especially corporate society) that's so dead-on honest it's almost frightening. When I read Something Happened as a young man just starting out in corporate America, all the nonsense involved in bureaucracy and getting ahead finally made sense to me.

Joseph Heller wrote more books after Something Happened, but I've never read any of them because, truly, there can't be any that are better.

Am I missing out by ordering only ropa vieja at Justin's, by only listening to side one of ZZ Top's "Fandango!” and by not reading any of Joseph Heller's later works after Something Happened? I sometimes wonder, I really do, but, every time I partake of any of these, or Gulden’s mustard or Heinz ketchup, I'm so satisfied — thrilled even — that I don't even bother with thinking of anything else.

To have this kind of satisfaction with anything in this world is quite remarkable, I think. Try the cheap bland mustard or watery ketchup and then get back to me.

Let's take it one step further. When I asked my wife to marry me it was because I'd finally found someone like my mother: smart, beautiful, sharp as a tack, and not a wallflower. Sounds Oedipal but when you are around such a strong personality your whole life, I think it just grows on you (at least that's what I think happened).

Of course I look at other women — all men do, no matter what they say — but I've found my ropa vieja, my side one of "Fandango!" and my Something Happened in Charlotte so I have no desire and can't conceive of being with anyone else.

Get this — every now and then she tries to slip a cheap mustard or ketchup by me (some great coupon or something). How ironic is that!

If you find a dish or book or record or person that you really, really, really love, there is always a chance that you may be missing out on something better, but what do you care as long as you really, really, really love that dish, book, record, or person?

Chew on that (pun intended) while I head over to Justin's for some delicious ropa vieja


On the last day of September 2014, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The Country Café is across the street from the Parrott House, which is a three-story hotel on the main street of the village.

The Parrott House holds a lot of memories for many of the OFs but, after Tropical Storm Irene entered the picture in Schoharie County in 2011, the hotel fell on hard times. The OFs say this is a shame.

The Parrott House itself can almost be considered one of the centerpieces of the county. Today, looking across at the building in need of repair inside and out, and with a blue blanket stuffed in one of the windows apparently to keep out some flying critters and drafts, the paint peeling, and the sign drooping, the building looks sad.  It almost appears to be saying, “Help me.”

One OF said that it would take someone with deep pockets to bring it back to life, and then there is all the Schoharie politics that would go with it. One OF said the power structure in Schoharie is anti-this, anti-that, and anti-this again.

The anti group has a whole series of hoops for anyone trying to do something to jump through, and, once anyone is done with those, there is a whole series more of hoops to go through and someone in the group is running around gathering up the first set of hoops so it is necessary to go through them again.

Rigmarole in Berne

Then there is all the rigmarole required to hook up to the new sewer system in the village of Berne. That is another story, but the way it was told at the gathering this morning was so pathetic it was like a comedy show.

This exchange came from OFs at the breakfast who knew something about the mechanics of what was being installed and they were left scratching their heads.

The OFs on this topic were wondering whatever happens to common sense to when people become elected or are appointed to this board or that board, yet when they are not together with these groups seem like such nice, normal people and great to be with.

Political ads confound OFs

A few quick yearly comments that pop up at election time are the political ads. Most all the OFs are sick of them (the word “most” is used here because the scribe can only report what is within earshot of where this scribe’s bum is plopped).

(Another aside: The wife of this scribe said that the scope of his earshot is only about the end of his arm, because she maintains that this scribe can’t hear her when she is in the same room with him.)

Back to the political ads — to the OFs, the only one that benefits from these ads is the media.

“They must love it,” one OF said.

Pols patch roads

Another sign that it is October is handing out money for this program and that program, when it could have been done long ago.  All of a sudden, the blacktop batch plants are working overtime because many roads are being paved.

The OFs also noticed that, where fancy people live (and the roads weren’t that bad), these roads are being paved, and the roads where the middle class hang out are still being neglected.

Church-dinner fans

Fall is not only the season for leaf peekers, but it is also the season of church dinners. The OFs highly recommend these dinners.

Not only do you get fed well but you help support the small-town community churches, and these dinners are inexpensive plus being all you can eat. Many of these church dinners have craft tables set up that also contribute to the small churches, and a big plus is that most of the desserts at these dinners are homemade pies. Some even have take-outs.

One OF said what he does is attend the supper and eat a meal, then he orders a takeout, takes it home and splits it up, places some in the freezer, and some in the fridge, and he eats well for a week. These OFs aren’t dumb, but, of course, they have been around awhile — that is why they are OFs.

Garden gadget

At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, the OFs had a double show and tell. One OF purchased, at an estate/garage sale, a gadget that was used for gardening. It was old, so he brought it in to see if any of the OFs knew what it was.

The OFs came close but no cigar. It was a potato planter that was built so the person planting the potatoes did not have to bend over to do so. Must have been invented a long time ago by someone with a bad back.

The buzz on bees

Another OF brought in a picture he had taken of a beehive in a tree.  Without being inside the tree, the combs of honey just hung from a “Y” of a branch while the bees just kept on building the hive.

This OF is a beekeeper and supplies many of the OFs with their honey.

Another reason the OFs are OFs, many eat cinnamon and honey regularly.  The OFs maintain that adding that combination of food to their diet keeps many diseases and ailments away.

The photograph drew much attention, because the OFs understand that there seems to have been a problem with the bee population the last few years; however, this photo showed there were a ton of bees around this hive exposed to the air. One OF commented that it is good thing a bear hasn’t found that hive yet.

Those OFs that attended the breakfast at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and came on their own, not chased in by bees, were: Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Bill Bartholomew, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Don Wood, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey (ask Mike what not to do when using a table saw), Gerry Chartier, and me.

On Sept. 23, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. The streets of Middleburgh are lined with bright-colored yellow mums, and they can’t be missed.  Schoharie has their main street lined with flowers in those simulated halves of wine barrels. This makes for a very colorful ride through parts of the Schoharie Valley just prior to, or during, the fall color season.

The OFs were talking about a ride out through the valley that would be very picturesque and thought that, instead of heading to Vermont, people would see similar views here — only better. The OFs have talked about traveling through the Helderbergs on many occasions but the rides are still worth the travels.

Starting in Altamont (with its Home Front Café), through Knox, to Rock Road, to County Route 1, to South Berne, just past the little village of South Berne is a church on a hill to the left, and 408 goes to the right; take that to Route 85 to Rensselaerville, (home of the Hilltown Café), to County Route 353, through the little town of Hauverville, to Route 145 Livingstonville, to Middleburgh, (where the Middleburgh Diner and Mrs. K’s Restaurant are located), to Route 30 to Schoharie (with the Country Café and Scho-Co Diner) to 443 to Gallupville, Route 146 and back to Altamont.

That is a nice ride with good places to eat, and, in Middleburgh at the light, you could go across the bridge on Route 30 to Shaul’s and Barber’s farm stands, or continue a short ways beyond Route 443 on Route 30 to the Carrot Barn, or the Apple Barrel, and it becomes — Vermont, eat your heart out!

This is just one of many little day trips through the hills where the OFs reside, and quite often the carloads of OFs headed to a restaurant will take the time to stop and enjoy the views. There are also many chances to duck off on a country road, and take the road less traveled and see where the little road that beckons takes you. Small adventures abound.

The bloom is off New York

The OFs often mention where they have had the opportunity to grow up and how great it would be if it weren’t for the extremely high taxes, and the circus put on in Albany from basically January to June or whenever the clowns decide to show up for work.

The OFs say now the price of gas, heating oil, economics, and politics take the bloom off the once great state of New York, and really drives many New Yorkers away to places where they can afford to live. One OG said that you have to be either poor, and on welfare, or really rich to float your boat in New York — those of us in the middle are really wacked on.

Military changes

with the times

The scribe checked his notes for this report: rabbits, travels, old tractors, New York, Florida, Navy ships, closing day, and hawks were what was written. But there was a sundry of other discussions where this scribe did not make a note; however, with some Navy OFs, and an Air Force OF sitting together there was much naval and military talk and the only note was “military.”

According to these OFs, the Navy of today is not like the Navy they were in many years ago. This scribe can insert that the Navy the OFs were in was not like the Navy with the Merrimac, and the Merrimac Navy was not like the Navy of the Constitution. Times keep on a-changin’.

The Air Force OF flew on the C-130, and brought up that it is not that glamorous of a job. The planes were cold and noisy, the OF said, and, if anything happened over water, the plane would sink like a rock.

The Navy guys who talked about their ships told stories” One OF told of being on a ship with about 65 guys, while the other OF was on an aircraft carrier called the Wasp. The OF on the Wasp said he recently had a tour of the new carrier, the George H.W. Bush.

This OF told about some of the differences between these two carriers. First, the Bush basically holds no guns; second, it was so large that three of the old Wasps would fit inside it.

An old World War II Navy guy said that, when they went to war in the Pacific, they were in a fleet of 11 ships and he thought that was the largest flotilla he had ever seen. At the war’s end, the OF returned home in a convoy of over 100 ships. He said they went from horizon to horizon in all directions — battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, everything was a-float, and the OF remembered how he started out and was amazed again.

The OF on the Wasp said that, for his time, their carrier was so large that one night (with the way navigation lights on the carrier were placed) the lights were so far apart that another ship thought it had gone by and sailed right into his ship and punctured a gapping hole in the carrier. They brought in repair divers by helicopter to patch the hole so the carrier could limp back to dry-dock. (One of the OFs who was also in the Navy was one of these divers. He wasn’t at the breakfast. This OF is one of the snowbirds that have already flown.) 

The OF on the Wasp telling the story said when they returned there was another carrier being built, and the bow was about ready for the new carrier. What they did was cut the bow away from the Wasp, and attach the bow that was built for the new carrier onto the Wasp and sent her back out. Now the Wasp was a patched up ship that served well. Like a hot rod, it was remade from multiple parts.

This scribe wonders how many stories are out there that should be collected and written down by someone who would interview the OFs, other than just hearing snippets of tales which are only parts of normal conversations, and where others add their stories at the same time. Now each story is just a glimpse of stories that would take a lot more space to report.

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and have their minds in shape to relate life’s events lucidly were: Art Frament, Miner Stevens, Otis Lawyer, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Dick Ogsbury, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Bob Benac, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aleseio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Duane Wagonbaugh, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.


While Community Caregivers focuses always on the needs of our clients and volunteers, we sometimes take a step back and recognize community members for their volunteerism and giving natures. 

Every year at the annual gala in November, we honor a few “Neighbors” with awards that represent Community Caregivers’ spirit. I am proud to say that this year we are honoring two local neighbors: Troy Miller of CM Fox and Cindy Wadach who has retired as the director of the Guilderland Senior Services.

Troy Miller was born and raised in Altamont and now has a thriving real estate and development company, CM Fox.  More than that though, Troy and his family and co-workers support numerous organizations like school athletics and other team sports, attend and coordinate fundraisers for local families and beyond, and do random acts of fun like buying everyone ice cream cones at Corner Ice Cream.

Troy also sponsors an annual Golf Classic that raises funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region.   With this record of giving, it is no wonder Troy is receiving the Joseph Bosco Award for Community Service.

Cindy Wadach worked at Guilderland Senior Services for 12 years.  She coordinated services for the elderly in her role as director, and made sure the senior residents of Guilderland were helped.

Cindy brought programs into Town Hall from other organizations, made referrals, and worked with multiple organizations to serve her seniors; this makes the Community Caregivers Public Service Award more than fitting for her.  She now volunteers with Community Caregivers, the Guilderland Public Library, the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, and more; she is unstoppable!

The gala is Nov.15 at the Colonie Golf and Country Club. For event information, call 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Kathy Burbank is the executive director of the Kathy Burbank Community Caregivers.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Papers from the past: A mouse may have nibbled around the edge of some of the town’s papers but they still retain a charm and history not extant in the computerized records that replaced them.

Old, old historic papers, legal and otherwise, reached out to me this week.  I'd like to share a few with Enterprise readers.

Many years ago, when the town of Guilderland was just starting to computerize records, I reached my desk one morning to find a cardboard box on the floor beside it

It had a note attached:  "The contents of these papers have all been put on the computer.  I was told that the papers could now be disposed of.   But I thought you might like to see them.”

Of course I'd like to see them!

They were town papers of 1845 to 1877.  Peter Shaver was supervisor of the town in 1845, Wendell Vine from 1852 to 1853, George Y. Johnson from 1854 to 1856, and Henry P. Hilton from 1857 to 1859.  

The papers included mortgages and chattels, selling of lands and items such as  buckwheat fields, animals, wagons, and more.

One yellowed page noted that on April 7, 1845, Henry Grote bought one two-horse sleigh for $23.50, one set of two-horse harnesses for $10.37, one dray for $3.50, one grain cradle for $2.50, three pitchforks for $20.40,  one crow  iron for $1.63, and five empty casks and one Bay Rigging for $7 and cash.

He paid George Keenholts  $63.39. The Town Clerk was Israel Walker; he must have figured that out!    

On Aug. 7, 1852, Benjamin Wands bought from Issac Veeder, "22 bushels of rye, one horse wagon, one black mare, all the buckwheat that is down on the ground and potatoes that are on the ground, and the hay in the barn, and all other goods and chattel being in possession of Isaac Veeder.”

Wands paid $120 Lawful Money on the first of April 1853.

Samuel L. Hoag of Guilderland sold to Franklin Hoag of Saratoga, one black four-year-old colt for $100, one light buggy “waggon" for $90, one traveling trunk and a set of Horse Silver Mounts for $25. The total was $221.00 and paid on April 3, 1852.

It seems as though someone was getting ready for a trip?

Another dog-eared aged sheet tells that Henry P. Hilton,  town supervisor from 1857 to 1859,  had transacted with Westinghouse & Co. for "a thrasher and the wagon to convey it" in October of 1877.

The mortgage for it was written by William J. Capron, town clerk of Guilderland at that time, in the amount of $131.00 to be paid by March 1878. Hilton was married to Catherine Sperbeck.  He owned a 100-acre farm on the corner of Gardner Road and Frederick Road in Guilderland  Center.

It appears that those selling horse and "waggons" at that time were as busy as auto dealerships today.