Archive » May 2018 » Columns

On Tuesday, May 22, the Old Men of the Mountain met on Main Street in the Village of Schoharie. With their canes and OMOTM banner held high, the OMOTM attacked the Country Café, wedging themselves through the door, shouting their battle cry: “Feed Me! Feed Me!”

Tuesday, there was another discussion by the OFs that has not been broached before and that was about OFs and girlfriends once the OFs became widowers.

The OFs said that, when married for 40 or so years, basically the couple grows old together and becomes one person. When that person departs (and in the case of the OMOTM it would be his wife) and the OMOTM becomes a widower, he is pretty much set in his ways.

There comes a time when the OMOTM desires companionship to help with the lonely times. Most of the ladies are widows and they, too, are set in their ways just like the OMOTM.

One OMOTM mentioned that attractions at our age are not like when we were younger. When the OMOTM meets someone, new magnetism can come out of the blue but the attraction can cross class lines.

The OMOTM could have been a farmer, or machinist, and the one attracted to could have been a doctor or lawyer, yet they get along well and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

The problem is that to go any further than going to the movies, or on trips, or out to eat, the OFs were wondering if that is about it. The OFs were questioning if they went any further in their relationships, would their different ways and social lives spoil a good thing?

Boy! The OFs can dig into some real social problems that consume many people’s thinking time and deep understanding.

Flat-tire saga

When anyone wakes up, young or old, what the day has in store can change in an instant. The phone may ring and the news on the other end is not good, and requires the immediate attention of the person answering the phone. What prompted the phone call has nothing to do with what the person answering the phone had in mind for the day.

One OF ran into this type of situation at Tuesday’s breakfast. This OF showed up as usual, had his breakfast as usual, paid his bill as usual, left the Country Café as usual, then the OF went to enter his car and saw his left rear tire was flat.

It was flat-flat, not low, but flat! With that particular tire being the one that was flat meant the butt of the person fixing the flat was sticking into traffic right in the middle of downtown Schoharie.

In this case, one of the younger people at the breakfast was attempting to take the flat off and put on the doughnut spare so the OF could get to Lenny’s (Tire & Repair shop in Middleburg) to either purchase another tire, or have the flat repaired.

Many of the OFs leaving the Country Café gathered around to watch. Now we had the case of two workers and 12 or more chiefs.

The wheel would not come off. They even removed the jack and had the OF drive his car forward and back to try to break it free.

No dice; did not work. Then one OF brought his battery-operated pump to try to blow the tire up enough to get the OF to Lenny’s. No dice, not half a pound of air entered that tire. What now?

One OF said he would drive the OF with the flat up to Lenny’s and see if they could help him out. That was done, and at Lenny’s the OF said he was treated really great, and they would be down and see what they could do.  

This scribe checked with the OF to see how he made out.

The OF said that, after being brought back to his car by the OF that took him to Lenny’s, the service person was there in half a minute. The service tech came and looked at the tire, gave it a kick, and it fell off.

He put the doughnut tire on and the OF drove to Lenny’s and purchased two new tires, since the ones on the car were shot anyway.

A miracle

At Tuesday’s breakfast, some OFs who are also emergency medical technicians sat across from each other and began discussing, not specific cases, but what they have in their little black boxes when they come upon, or are called to, a particular situation. This scribe thought, from their conversation, that EMTs are well prepared to handle — as one of their titles, first responders, implies — most any situation.

One of the OFs who is an EMT told a story of how a lady was in her bedroom talking on the phone to a relative in New York City when she lapsed into a diabetic coma. The relative in New York City heard a thud and then no one talking to her on the other end of the line and so she knew something had happened.

The relative in the city immediately called the fire department, who in turn immediately contacted the ambulance squad up here in the Hilltowns.

The squad went in a hurry to the address supplied. When the squad members arrived, they were met by a large black Labrador retriever, and a young lady who asked what they were doing there.

The EMTs asked if there was anyone else in the home and were told yes, and they asked where and were told one person was in her bedroom. They ran to the bedroom and found the lady passed out between two beds in the bedroom.

They were there in time to revive the lady, and things worked out well. Nobody else in the house knew that anything had happened to her. Miracles, large and small, for whatever reason, do happen.

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and formed an audience for the few who were attempting to change the tire were: Miner Stevens, Bill Bartholomew, Art Williams, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Rev. Jay Francis, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Massive, intricately-carved stone walls in the citadel of Sacsayhuaman dwarf visitors. Some of the boulders weigh upwards of 90 tons and their shapes are believed to make the walls resistant to earthquakes.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Terraces: The citadel of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas was the site of one of the few battles lost by the Conquistadors as they swept through the Incan empire.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

A view from the train that transports visitors to Machu Picchu through the Sacred Valley shows the towering Andes peaks are covered in snowfields and glaciers; the melt-water eventually reaches the Amazon River.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Rapids of the Vilcanota River flows through the village of Aguas Calientes. Downstream, it becomes known as the Urumbaba River and eventually is a tributary to the Amazon.

Is it possible that Number 5 could be printed larger than the others?

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

The classic view of the citadel of Machu Picchu, showing granite walls and terraces that sprawl beneath Pyramid Mountain on which a dizzying rail ascends to a Sun temple on the summit.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Mountains surround Machu Picchu and, from the deep valley of the Vilcanota River, mists rise, cloaking the site at times in a mystical aura.

The engineering achievements of the ancients astound us: The vast size and precision of the Egyptian pyramids, the extraordinary aqueducts of the Romans, the incredible invention of Greek temples such as the Parthenon, the environmental challenges overcome by the people of Southeast Asia to build the Great Wall in China and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the extensive waterworks and massive temples of the Maya and the Aztecs — all continue to amaze and enthrall in spite of our own achievements using modern technology.

It is no wonder that some today deride the ancient people with assertions that they could not have achieved what they did without help from Out There and continue to claim evidence of extraterrestrial intervention from the star Sirius or some civilization with its home on one of the stars in the belt of Orion.

But a scientist friend of mine put the whole situation into perspective with this observation: “These so-called ‘researchers’ are telling us that beings with the technology to fly faster than light across the universe visited Earth in the distant past — and spent their time here showing ancient people how to cut and pile up rocks? After a journey like that, wouldn’t it have been more productive to teach our ancestors how to make penicillin? Or instruct them in the generation of electricity and the building of computers?  Or show them something as simple but essential as the wheel, which many of them did not have?”

It is a fact that the ancient people had brains as big and complex as ours today and when they wanted to do something badly enough, they often figured out ingenious ways to do it without help from E.T.  And we moderns frequently stand in absolute awe of what they accomplished using technology that we all too frequently brand “primitive.”

Early in April, I flew to Peru with friends to visit some of the major sites of the Incas. Since we had very limited time, we had booked one of those hectic if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Cusco vacations, the result being that the whole trip now seems like something I dreamed and I look upon the photos I took with that did-I-really-go-there sense of wonder and confusion.

Bu,t if the confusion is genuine, so is the wonder: at the incredible beauty of the Andes Mountains rising above lush but intimidating jungle; at the clash of the Incan and Spanish civilizations that gave birth to the mestizo (“mixed”) culture of modern Peru; and at the astounding architecture of the Incan peoples over 500 years ago that resulted in the construction of citadels such as Machu Picchu and other “lost” cities.

We began our trip with a very brief stay in Lima, Peru’s vibrant capital city, built atop thick layers of unconsolidated river sediments washed down from the Andes over millennia — the consequent instability of which makes the city a dangerous place to be during an earthquake: a subject, perhaps, of a future Back Roads Geology column.

Early on our second day there, we boarded a plane for a short flight to Cusco — also spelled “Cuzco”— an ancient center of the Incan Empire situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the Andes. Spanish conquerors did a rather thorough job of destroying the Incas’ “pagan” buildings but in many places the colonial-era palaces and churches they raised were situated on those buildings’ foundations.

Cusco is today a sprawling city, overflowing with tourists even in what is considered its low season — but their presence has ignited the city’s economy and much of the Old City is one immense traffic jam.  Coupled with the elevation, the exhaust from motor vehicles makes breathing a challenge for those who have not acclimatized — which included many people such as ourselves who were there only briefly as Cusco is the jumping-off point for visitors bound for Machu Picchu.

The chewing of leaves from the coca plant is supposed to aid in alleviating the effects of altitude, and it seemed as if every hotel and restaurant offered patrons huge bowls of the dried leaves that they were encouraged to chew, or cups of tea made from coca leaves. I found the leaves to have a rather unpleasant flavor and, though the tea served with sugar was slightly more agreeable, any effect that the coca is alleged to have eluded me.


Much of our one full afternoon in Cusco was spent at the ruins of one of the citadels of the ancient Incan emperors called “Sacsayhuaman,” sprawled atop a flat hill high above the city. Our guide laughingly informed us that, although the name is almost unpronounceable to anyone not fluent in the Incan language — still spoken by many inhabitants of Peru—saying “sexy woman” gives a fair approximation.

Levity aside, even in ruins, the site inspires admiration for its builders. A stronghold of Pachacutec, one of the last of the Incan emperors, the site consists today of a series of formidable stone walls and terraces covering many acres, cut from the plateau’s limestone bedrock.

Though it is difficult to envision what it looked like in the days before it was largely leveled by the Spanish conquistadors, shaping and moving the massive carved boulders that make up the foundations and walls of the various structures would challenge 21st-Century engineers. Some of these limestone blocks weight upwards of ninety tons.

The awareness that the Incan builders accomplished this work with muscle power and simple tools alone astounds. Not only are the seams between the boulders tight enough that a knife blade cannot fit into them, the individual boulders themselves are often not cubic or rectangular.

Some of the huge blocks have slightly curved sides and, instead of having eight corners, may have as many as 14 or 16, showing that they were shaped with consummate skill. Current archaeological theory is that these intricate, tight-fitting shapes made the buildings resistant to earthquakes, a constant danger in Peru’s seismically-active landscape.

And indeed — in Lima and Cusco and other Peruvian cities, Colonial-era churches and palaces that were built on the foundations of razed Incan buildings have ridden out tremors with considerably less damage than structures around them lacking such foundations. Of course, millennia earlier, the ancient Egyptians also moved immense blocks and fitted them with uncanny precision, but the huge stones with which the Giza Pyramids were constructed are cubic or rectangular and have just eight corners.

Sadly, besides the massive walls and terraces, little else remains at Sacsayhuaman to testify to the extraordinary engineering skills of the Incas.

Sacred Valley of the Incas

The next day, the sky was gray with low, scudding clouds, and early in the morning we embarked by van up over the mountains surrounding Cusco, headed for what is romantically named the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Getting there first required a steep climb up narrow, twisting roads followed by a descent of several thousand feet, all the while passing through green, terraced fields in which men and women in traditional Andean dress labored among crops and herds of sheep and llamas — pronounced “yamas” in Peru.

Before starting the descent, we paused at an overlook that presented a heart-stopping view of the switchbacks plunging into the valley and our first look at the high Andes. As the sky was overcast, the view was sketchy — but far off through breaks in the clouds were glimpses of glaciers and jagged, snow-covered peaks rising out of the mists that hung on the precipitous green slopes: It seemed a vision of the Himalayas.

In the afternoon, we climbed the ruins of the enormous Inca citadel called Ollantaytambo, site of one of the few defeats suffered by the Spaniards as they fought their way through the Sacred Valley. Situated between two steep mountains, it consists of a residential area on the floor of the valley and a series of massive terraces like giant steps ascending one of the slopes, accessed only by two narrow stone staircases.

The terraces served both as gardens and fortifications, and atop the slope is a broad platform with a temple. It is not difficult to understand why the Spanish conquerors were unable to take the fortress: The defending Incas had gravity on their side and were able to rain down crushing boulders onto the invaders.

The platform sits atop precipitous cliffs dropping a hundred feet or more, and tightly fit into the tops of the cliffs are stone walls consisting of the characteristic enormous, meticulously-shaped boulders.  Constructing the walls must have been a daunting challenge — one misstep on the part of the workers shaping and placing the boulders would have resulted in a deadly fall, undoubtedly accompanied by the thunderous collapse of sections of the wall as well.

Once again a visitor stands in awe of the Incas’ determination and skills.

Jungle journey

Early the next morning, we were deposited at the train station in the little town also called Ollantaytambo and we boarded the dome train that transports visitors through the jungles of the Sacred Valley to the village of Aguas Calientes, close to the citadel of Machu Picchu.

The 80-minute trip follows the ancient Inca Trail and the furiously-rushing Vilcanota River that downstream changes its name to the Urumbaba and eventually becomes a tributary to the Amazon.

The trip must be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Heading toward Machu Picchu, on the right side of the cars passengers have a close-up view of the jungle which seems at any moment about to engulf the tracks.

It is a tangle of towering trees casting the floor into semi-darkness in which glimpses can be had of white, pink, and yellow orchids and other tropical flowers growing among shrubs and enormous ferns. But like giant entangling spider webs, vines thick and thin connect the trees and would make passage through the jungle a nightmare, even with machetes.

Occasionally visible through breaks in the foliage was the ancient Inca Trail that follows a narrow path through the jungle; it is a popular four-day hike for the adventurous visitor willing to challenge the biting insects and venomous snakes but in many places it was obvious that a hiker could be less than 50 feet from the train tracks or the trail itself and become hopelessly lost in the strangling vegetation.

Frequently there are foaming brooks and cascades pouring down from the high surrounding mountains, their waters bound for the Vilcanota and eventually joining the dark, meandering stretches of the Amazon.

And yet, despite the feeling generated of being in an endless, remote wilderness, periodically the train passes through areas on the far bank of the Vilcanota where archaeologists have cleared away the invading jungle and uncovered remote Inca settlements consisting of the characteristic terraces and foundations of dwellings, abandoned hundreds of years ago as the conquistadors marched ever deeper into the vastness of the Incan empire.

In other places, the jungle suddenly retreats and is replaced by a wide stretch of the valley floor that is being farmed or mined today by hardy descendants of the Incas; here the scene suddenly opens up to allow through the dome of the car breathtaking views of the high Andes: dark, craggy peaks in silhouette against the clouds or broad snowfields and glaciers gleaming in the brilliant sunlight, once more irresistibly evoking the landscapes of the Himalayas.

Ring of Fire

Shortly before noon, we arrived in the tiny picturesque village of Aguas Calientes — “hot waters” in translation. The village rises steeply above the eastern bank of the Vilcanota River, which descends energetically past the village in a series of roaring cascades and plunge pools.

A hot spring near the village has attracted bathers for hundreds of years. There are no volcanoes in the area, but the Andes Mountains rose — and continue to rise — as a result of the interaction of two of Earth’s major tectonic plates: the Nazca plate and the South American Plate, and the interface between them constitutes a section of the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

The Nazca Plate takes up a large section of the Eastern Pacific Ocean and it is being pushed up against and subducting beneath the South American Plate; this causes the South American Plate to crumple, forming the Andes, but the friction caused by the subducting Nazca Plate melts parts of the crust and the molten rock rises to the surface and explodes in volcanoes. The presence of the hot springs in Aguas Calientes indicates the presence of molten rock not far beneath the surface.

In search of Vitcos

Immediately on leaving the train, we were escorted to a bus which takes visitors up a series of sharp and exposed switchbacks to the plateau on which Machu Picchu lies. It is a hair-raising ascent through the jungle with one 180-degree turn after another — and of course, there are no guard rails.

On some turns, passengers on one side of the bus or the other literally can see no road beneath them as they look out the windows but instead are staring straight down a plunge of hundreds of feet into the deep, rocky gorge of the Vilcanota River.

Along the way, the road frequently intersects one of several steep stone staircases that slice through the jungle and in ancient days offered the only access to Machu Picchu; these made the site virtually impregnable — even if the conquistadors had learned of its location — which they never did.

In fact, although rumors of its existence had been widespread for centuries, except for a few hardy farmers in the area, the rest of the world — including most Peruvians — remained unaware of its existence until 1911 when an expedition sponsored by Yale University and the National Geographic Society led by Hiram Bingham discovered it with the aid of some of those farmers.

Many explorers before him had been searching for the gold of the Incas that had not been appropriated by the conquistadors — and they had taken incredible amounts of the precious metal from Incan temples and shrines.

The interiors of the great cathedrals on the central squares of Cusco and Lima and other Peruvian cities are decorated with jaw-dropping quantities of gold, giving them a truly ethereal glow. But legends have persisted for hundreds of years that, as the Spanish conquerors swept through Peru, the forewarned Incas secreted much of their gold in places that have yet to be discovered  — a powerful lure to adventurers even today.

However, Bingham and the Yale expedition were not looking for the vanished Incan gold: They were in search of Vitcos, the fortress that was considered to be the capital of the Incan empire.

Questioning occupants of one of the small villages scattered along the Vilcanota River, they learned that some of the farmers had been working ancient terraces on top of a nearby peak known as “Machu Picchu” — Incan for “old mountain.”

Machu Picchu

Ascending the peak by way of one of the ancient trails, Bingham and his crew came upon the hidden fortress. Though the jungle masked most of the magnificent site, the expedition cleared enough to be aware that they had made a major discovery. Today, with much of the vegetation cleared away, the magnificence of the site has been revealed.  

Quarried from the granite bedrock of the mountain, the site sprawls over hundreds of acres, and there are still sections that lie under the suffocating jungle awaiting excavation. One of the most common igneous rocks on Earth, granite is frequently found in mountain ranges and makes up much of the bedrock of the continents.

Among its major constituents is the mineral feldspar, which can come in many colors ranging from gray or white to pink, rose, red, or purple. It is a very hard rock — harder by far than limestone — and not only did the Incas prize it as a decorative building stone but so did the Egyptians and other ancient cultures. Its hardness makes it difficult to work and inspires admiration for the people who carved it with such precision.

Today the site is believed to have been a retreat for the emperor Pachacutec, and everywhere are the foundations of private homes, temples, and what might have been palaces for the emperor and his retinue.  These structures are situated on flat stretches of ground between the great terraces, which were used both for farming and for defense and, as in other Incan sites, are all interconnected by a series of steep stone steps.

Seeing them, one has the thought that the Incan people must have had exceptionally strong legs, accustomed as they were to climbing up or down constantly!

There are several springs in Machu Picchu and their waters were fed into channels that provided irrigation for crops in the terraces, drinking water, and fountains all over the site. But the terraces did not have to serve for defense as the conquistadors never discovered Machu Picchu — indeed, they probably never even knew it existed.

And, in any case, given the fact that the only access to the site is by way of the precipitous stone staircases that ascend from the Vilcanota River valley, an invasion or siege with the military technology available to the conquistadors would have been next to impossible.

As impressive as Machu Picchu is for the engineering that went into its construction, it is undoubtedly its physical setting that has made it an item high on every traveler’s bucket list as well as a source of misguided mysticism.

The citadel is surrounded by high jungle-covered mountains with sheer granite cliffs plunging thousands of feet to the Vilcanota River valley, up and over which drift the mists which give the site its mystical appearance.

Moreover, draped in tropical vegetation a jagged peak — described in all the guidebooks as “iconic” — looms over the site just as the pyramids of the Maya and Aztecs and Egyptians towered over their cities.  It is not surprising to learn that it is in fact named “Pyramid Mountain”; it features a vertiginous trail sliced from the granite to its summit where there is a small temple to the Sun, the focus of Incan cosmology. One could be forgiven for thinking that even a Wal-Mart built in such a setting would inspire awe.

Archeologists today estimate that, in its heyday, Machu Picchu could have been home to as many as 6,000 people and provided a refuge for the emperors from the Spanish invaders. Given its remoteness and the difficulty of accession, it is easy to believe that many of the ancient people must have lived out their entire lives in the city.

It had a moderate climate, a steady and abundant supply of water, fertile ground for growing crops, an endless supply of building stone, and views that are ever-changing and provide constant inspiration for the Incans’ religious connection with Creation.

Mysteries remain

And reports have begun to surface that in the vegetation-cloaked mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, explorers have in recent years uncovered evidence of two more “lost” Incan citadels — one that has four times the area of Machu Picchu and one with six times its area. Clearly, the dense jungles of the Peruvian Andes hold many secrets yet.

It is sad to realize that many visit Machu Picchu because they see it as having some New Age connection to extraterrestrials or crystal energy — a fact confirmed by the presence in the tiny village of Aguas Calientes of so many head shops, tattoo parlors, and psychics, and the drifting odor of marijuana.

For the fact remains that Machu Picchu and the other great citadels of the Incas with their massive, intricately-shaped building stones and their many other astonishing feats of engineering are monuments to human ingenuity: with the simplest of tools and sufficient determination, the ancient Incan peoples were capable of achievements that can inspire admiration and awe even amid the technological marvels of the 21st Century.


Community Caregivers is pleased to announce its 14th annual golf tourney scheduled for Monday, June 11. It will be held at Pinehaven Country Club at 1151 Siver Rd. in Guilderland.

This new venue for the Community Caregivers’ tournament boasts a renovated clubhouse and a new food caterer, the Illium Café. Owners Marla and Brian Ortega will be offering a box lunch, cocktail hour, and buffet dinner.  

Community Caregivers extends many thanks to its major sponsors: Adirondack Environmental Services Inc., Berkshire Bank, The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Ayco Charitable Foundation, the American Association of Retired Persons, and Albany Medical Center. Hole-in-one sponsors are The Lia Auto Group, Market 32 by Price Chopper, and the Northway Golf Center.

In addition, there will be a raffle and silent auction with items donated by local businesses and individuals. Pinehaven Country Club has donated a house membership, which includes 36 holes of golf a month (excluding primary time on weekends), unlimited use of practice facilities, a full pool membership, and a $75-a-month food minimum through the end of the 2018 golf season.

Other items include a $250 gift card to Towne TV, a day at Saratoga Race Track with a clubhouse box, and a one-night weekend stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Albany.

Players will tee off at 10:30 a.m. in a scramble format with team handicaps. There will be longest-drive and closest-to-the-pin contests for both men and women.

The price per golfer is $150, with cocktails and dinner only at $60.

The deadline for registration is Wednesday, May 30.  For further information visit, or call 518-456-2898.


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.


Another Tuesday, another breakfast, and another restaurant.

On Tuesday, May 15, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is the only restaurant the OMOTM patronize that costs money to go to.

It is the only restaurant with on-street parking so, if the OMOTM want to park close to the restaurant, it will cost them 25 cents. There are municipal parking lots but they are across the street and the OFs that use this facility have to be quite ambulatory.

Most people in the realm of the OFs know of Howe Cave, or Howe Caverns, which is in the village of Howe Cave — duh. The village of Howe Cave is between the villages of Old Central Bridge and Cobleskill off Route 7.

The OFs discussed the upcoming event to be held at the caverns on July 14, “International Nude Day.” The caverns is going to hold a “Naked in the Cave” party.

As far as this scribe knows, none of the OFs have signed up. If any did and the news got out, that would put the kibosh on the whole event. No one wants to see a group of naked OFs in a group.

Oh dear, that brings tears to the eyes just imagining that sight; however, in the cave, it is not only so dark it is not possible to see your hand in front of your face, but it is also very, very cold 2,000 feet underground. The caverns are a constant 52 degrees no matter what the ambient temperature is.

Another thing to consider is this: If you ever want to get a bearing to stick to an axel, first you heat it and it expands, then it is chilled to shrink it on the shaft. Guess what that cave is going to do to everybody.

One OF said he understands that, as of now, there are over 100 people signed up to take the tour. This scribe does not know if that is right or not but the OFs think these people are not familiar with caving.

Many years ago, an OF worked for the cement plant that operated from a quarry at the original entrance of the cave. The office for the cement plant was in the Howe Caverns hotel. The original entrance to the cave was right along side of the hotel.

This OF said he did double duty and worked as a dispatcher for the cement trucks that hauled the cement under contract to the cement company. This OF worked a day shift for the cement plant, and third and sometimes second shift for the trucking company. At the cement plant, this OF held many supervisory positions basically because he could read and write so the OF could fill out the required forms.

This OF said the chief chemist at the plant was not too well liked, and was an arrogant individual. One day, while working a second shift to fill in for the trucking company, the OF went into the lab where they tested all the cement and opened all the windows in the lab.

In the evening, at dusk, millions of bats would come out of the cave right alongside of the hotel. The air would be black with bats, and the sound was like thunder. This phenomenon lasted less than a minute the OF said.

The lab was on the ground floor right above the cave entrance. On this particular day, the OF said, he took a piece of plywood about 2 feet by 4 feet and stood at the cave entrance and waited for the bats. The OF’s intention was to see if he could get some bats excited enough to go through the open windows into the lab.

Right on time, out the bats came, and the OF stood in the midst of them waving the piece of plywood slowly back and forth. After the bats had all dispersed to search out their bug meals, the OF said he quickly ran back into the lab, shut the windows, and closed the door. The OF said he did not see a bat and thought the whole thing was a waste of time.

This OF said at that time he was stores supervisor, yard foreman, and safety man for the plant. When he went to work at the plant the following morning at 7 a.m., things were just as normal as blueberry pie, but at 8 a.m., when the office help showed up for work, all misery broke loose.

The OF said he heard the siren of an ambulance speeding up the drive to the office. He then received a call from the plant manager to get up to the front office on the double.

The OF said he ran to the front office just as the ambulance people got there and there on the floor in front of the lab door lay the chief chemist out cold. The girls and the lab personnel were all out on the “front porch” milling around.

The OF said he looked into the lab and saw not only a few bats but hundreds, maybe thousands, of bats hanging from the light fixtures, from the back of doors, the tops of the windows, as many as 15 to 25 bats hanging like long black moving ropes all through the lab; bats were everywhere.

The plant manager pulled the OF aside and told him that he didn’t care what projects the OF had planned for the carpenters but to get every carpenter up to the office immediately and plug every hole they could find.

The OF said, “Yes, sir” and did send the carpenters to the office building, knowing they were not going to find any holes.

Those Old Men of the Mountain that were at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and, according to them, not planning on going to the “Naked in the Cave” event at Howe Caverns, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jim Heiser, and it was great to see Ted Willsey at the breakfast, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo from Linda Miller

A bountiful buffet luncheon was part of the Community Caregivers’ celebration of volunteers on April 18.

Community Caregivers celebrated its dedicated volunteers at its Annual Volunteer Recognition Program and Luncheon on April 18 at the Guilderland Public Library. The theme was “Celebrating the Deep Satisfaction of Giving.”

Teacher and author Stephen Cope offered his time and talent as he expertly facilitated the well-received program. Volunteers reflected upon and shared reflections on the satisfaction of volunteer service. The volunteers enjoyed a bountiful buffet luncheon, catered by Gershon’s Delicatessen.

Community Caregivers’ Volunteer Support Committee, chaired by board member Judy Rothstein, spent weeks planning and executing the well-attended celebration.

Judy and the entire board extends its thanks to the Volunteer Support Committee members, who are volunteers themselves: Marey Bailey, Ann Cantore, Ruth Dickinson, Nancy Murphy, Sandy Sorell, Betsy Whitlock, and Carolyn Wilson.

Community Caregivers also acknowledges and thanks NBT Bank for its sponsorship of the event. Community Caregivers’ board, staff, and volunteers also appreciate the support of the Guilderland Public Library staff who helped make the event a success!  


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support, at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.


On Tuesday, May 8, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. As usual, the early morning is the best part of the day, and this Tuesday was no exception as most of the OMOTM made their way to the diner.

The OFs at this scribe’s end of the table were on a medical kick because one of the OFs there was to be at the hospital in Cooperstown for a physical and he said that, while there, they were going to repair one of his hearing aids. This started a conversation on blood pressure, heart rates, number of pills taken, creams, lotions, a whole litany on a health-related diet, and the OFs were not talking food.

It was found that the OFs at this end of the table were rather physically fit with the adjustment of pills to the diet of regular food. One OF who is over 80 years old, and like many of the older OFs, can work a much younger mildly OF-ish into the ground.

The OF complained about these younger ones telling him how to exercise and eat. The OF said he will do what his doctor tells him to do and take what the doctor tells him to take and go to the funerals of all these others who tell what he should be doing.

The OFs at this end of the table reported their blood pressure and all were on the money — just what it should be. One OF was wearing one of these new high-tech Fitbits, and it told him everything his body was doing.

The Fitbit gave his blood pressure, heart rate, and an oxygen level in real time as he sat at the table Tuesday morning. He, too, was right on the money.

The OFs at this end of the table reported when they were kids they were forced to take cod-liver oil by their moms. Some remembered (those raised on the farm) their mothers giving them spring tonics.

One remembered an awful mixture of what he thought was three ingredients. Two he remembered quite well — they were kerosene and sugar. The other ingredient, the OF thought, was black strap molasses.

If you took one tablespoon of that stuff in early spring, there would not be a bacteria, germ, mosquito, black fly, or hornet coming anywhere near you all year.

One OF said he left off ticks. Another OF said, when he was young, he noticed big wood ticks but not these nasty ones that are so small.

Adding to the conversation, it was noted that we now see earwigs, stink bugs, box elders, elm beetles, and other bugs with weird names  One more OF added what we did have then were fireflies, honeybees by the gazillion, butterflies, and Baltimore orioles. Now, however, lots of these “good” examples of wildlife seem to be less and less, and replaced by the previously mentioned malicious things.

It used to be, the OFs continued, that there were so many fireflies that on a nice early summer evening, or early nightfall, walking down a path, the fireflies would light the way.

Hilltown road repairs needed

The OFs discussed the Hilltowns and how they seem to be the forgotten people on road repairs. Many of the OFs go way out of their way to drive around the really bad roads and even some of the detours are not that great.

One of the OFs mentioned that it is just a matter of dollars and cents. The OF feels that we are not collectively  important enough to warrant the tax dollars required to repair the roads here on the Hill or even in the low-populated Schoharie County.

The other OFs said Hear! Hear! to that one.

The end of the world

When to be born was another topic.

Some of the OFs are of the age when they say they have had enough — it is time to get off this planet. Others think they would like to be born today, right now.

These OFs think that the future will be fantastic with all the new technology that’s coming along. These OFs would love to get aboard a spaceship and travel through the heavens to another universe and visit another planet.

That would be their way of getting off the planet. Some of the others thought this planet is on its way out and won’t be around much longer anyway.

It is interesting to see both sides, and both have good arguments. This scribe wonders what must the Indians have thought when the Spaniards came with their funny clothes, and weird hats, and what must the Spaniards have thought when they saw the Indians in their weird headdresses and clothes (or lack of). It was the end of the world.

New jobs

The OFs also discussed that many interesting jobs come up seemingly from out of nowhere. The OFs themselves are doing jobs that never existed when they were younger but many jobs have remained the same. One job the OFs mentioned that is unusual to them is a dog walker.

Whoever thought people would be paying other people to walk their dogs? There are many niches that develop that a bright person can latch onto, and, as new ways to do things develop, more specialized niches come up and even the OMOTM could fill some of them.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner, and were not too anxious to enter back into the labor pool, were: Bill Lichliter, already in that pool — the rest, not so much, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, David Williams, Ken Polks, Jim Heiser, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Warren Willsey, Allen Defazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


On May 1, the Old Men of the Mountain wished they had the opportunity to dance around the May pole but their old bones wouldn’t let them do it. There is plenty of room to dance the pole dance in the parking lot of Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow.

Just for the fun of it, the OFs should have done it and put it on YouTube. So often, the OFs think of what they should’ve or could’ve done when it is too late and not planned for.

Kim’s was a bit unusual because the help that was supposed to be at the diner did not show up. Maybe the last time the waitress waited on the OFs we scared her away. Kim did the whole thing by herself and the OFs never noticed there was only one person running the whole show — a good sign of what experience will do for you.

This column has mentioned before that the diner is right on the banks of the Catskill Creek, and by banks the OFs mean six to eight feet back from the water and only about three feet up. The water was running high, but clear, dark blue-green, and at a pretty good clip, but for the OFs that was it. The creek wasn’t going to rise any more and the day was going to turn out rather nice.

The OFs noticed, as they were coming over the mountain, that there were still some patches of snow from the previous day’s snowfall. Some of the OFs reported that on April 30 the snow plows were out and working. In Huntersland, one OF reported that the road was plowed twice.

Three days later, as this scribe finally found time to sit at the computer and record the ramblings of the OFs, it is 81 degrees. “81!” The OF’s old, thinned-out blood from this winter’s cold doesn’t know what’s going on.

Another topic of the OFs on their way to Kim’s was how many deer they saw in the fields, and how many turkeys. One OF said the whole ride was like driving through a pasture full of deer and, if it wasn’t deer, it was like a free-range chicken farm, only they were turkeys.

Sweet maple

The sugar-maple guy in the group said that this year the sap should be OK. Even though spring has been miserable this year, some good did come out of it with maple-sugar production. The season was long and the sugar guys had to plow through the snow but the trees kept producing so the season will probably turn out to be about average.

This brought up a conversation a couple of the OFs heard on the radio on a call-in program about horticulture. The caller wanted to know how to transplant maple trees and was asking basically simple questions on watering, and how big the trees should be when starting to transplant them.

When was a good time? What should spacing be? Questions like that. The replies were straight forward and some of the answers were: Did the caller have enough land and money to handle the equipment to do what the caller wanted to do because the caller was talking about trees that were six inches in diameter?

Now the caller became a little befuddled. The caller responded with: What about using smaller-sized trees like planting shrubs? The horticulturist responded with about the same advice and said that in the beginning the caller should water the trees well and, depending on the weather, once or twice a week would be good.

Then the caller asked about how big the trees had to be or when could the caller tap them for maple syrup. There was a noticeable long pause before the horticulturist responded with the answer saying, “You can’t get maple syrup out of the tree; you get maple sugar from the tree, and then you have to make the syrup.”

Another pause ensued and the caller replied, “Oh.” End of conversation.

Planned obsolescence

The OFs, being OFs of course, discussed the advantages of old construction over new construction. The OFs agreed that older-built bridges, buildings, highways, and even many homes were constructed to last longer than construction seems to last today.

Today, the OFs maintain, many construction projects have a planned obsolescence built right into them. It seems many appliances, buildings, and even highways are designed to start falling apart after a designated period of time. One OF mentioned that he thinks the planned deterioration time is so preset that, even if maintained to the optimum, it is still going to fail.

One OF thought that, with so many people in the world, in order for them to all have work, it is necessary for stuff to fall apart so the jobs will continue for those that make whatever.

One OF added, “That is fine as long as we can recycle as much as we can; otherwise the world is going to run out of raw material.”

The old material has to be recycled and re-used or we will be back to that old recyclable that grows year by year for building material — wood. This OF maintained that even a penny, no matter what it is made of, uses up a bit of material that can never be replaced; it can be recycled but not replaced.

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow and were there because they were all fresh and not made from recycled material were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Joe Rack, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.


I wake up in the morning and catch last night’s sports highlights on TV while reading the sports pages as I eat breakfast. On the drive to work, I tune into one of the sports-talk radio shows.

At work throughout the day, I listen to the radio for more sports talk if I have some time. During the day, my phone vibrates from time to time as my team sends out various alerts.

On the way home, it’s more sports talk in the car. Then, before dinner, I watch the afternoon sports highlight shows. After dinner, depending on the night, there is always some game on TV. How long I stay with the game before reading and then going to bed depends on how good the game is.

Does this make me sound like some kind of a rabid sports nut? You may say I am but I don’t think so.

I know there are many guys and gals who are way more into it than I am: season tickets, flying to other cities to attend games, buying all kinds of sports clothing and memorabilia, etc. Heck, I’ve never even painted my face purple to support my beloved Minnesota Vikings, though I will admit painting my garage doors purple. At least I stopped short of painting the Viking horns on them.

Why I’m bringing this up is it occurs to me the time and energy devoted to sports in this country is so out of proportion to our many other problems and concerns that I just can’t believe it. Think about the coverage sports gets in the media.

Every newscast and newspaper has a sports segment or section. There are entire networks devoted to sports. Same with radio and of course the internet. The amount of time and effort that goes into sports-related concerns is truly mind-boggling. I do like sports a lot, but even I realize this amount of coverage and constant attention is a little over the top.

If you don’t believe me, tune into a sports-talk radio program next time you’re in the car. Often you will hear grown men, and sometimes women, getting in heated discussions over a missed field goal or a bad call from a ref or some off-the-cuff comment some random athlete made.

Can you imagine if all that passion was put into, I don’t know, education? Or health care? What a different world that would be. Just think about that for a minute.

The reason sports are so popular is they create a diversion from our everyday struggle just to survive. Commuting, raising kids, dealing with various rules and regulations, etc. are not easy. They don’t call everyday life “the grind” for nothing. “Happy hour” wouldn’t exist if life were easy.

Sports allow us to get away mentally and sometimes physically for a little while. It’s easy to forget about your problems when you’re watching your favorite team try to get the game-winning score. I’ve been a Vikings fan for close to 50 years and I still can’t get enough of them (I just hope they win a Super Bowl before I die but it’s not looking so good).

There are, of course, many media outlets that are not sports related. There are news-only TV channels, and newspapers still cover a lot besides sports.

But who talks about what’s on C-SPAN (except to point out the constant stream of, shall we call it “spin” to be gracious, from this administration’s daily news briefs). For some reason, people rarely get excited or passionate about the many issues and concerns that affect our daily lives. At least not in the same way they do with sports.

I’ve had occasion to be in court several times over the years. I’ve seen traffic court and small-claims court firsthand, and I know there are criminal and civil cases going on all the time as well. All of this is public information that in many cases directly affects people’s lives.

Yet you rarely see any of it let alone hear about it. Even our highest court, the Supreme Court with justices that are seated for life, is not on TV. Why is that? Why shouldn’t we, the people who they serve, be allowed to see what goes on there?

Many folks probably wouldn’t even let their attention be diverted from something as mundane as, say, a regular season baseball game if it was on, but many I’m sure would love to see it. I know I would.

Sports and sports-related businesses provide a ton of jobs, which is great. Anytime people are working in a thriving industry, you have to be happy.

Yet I’m sick of hearing guys call a sports-talk show and argue that a certain pitcher would be a bargain “if we could get him for ten million a year.” I know you earn what the market will bear, but millions and millions of dollars to play a game is just wrong.

I think of a teacher who has to spend her own money to buy supplies for her kids. Or people who work full-time but can afford to eat or pay rent but not both. Somehow it’s just wrong that you can get paid so, so, so much money to play a game while so many honest, hardworking people can barely get by.

We’ve come to accept this in our society, that certain professions command outrageous salaries out of all proportion to what they are worth, while the hard workers who affect our lives on a daily basis — police, firefighters, government workers, service and retail workers — have to scrap and fight for any kind of increase.

I don’t know what the answer is here. But imagine if all professional athletes were limited to, say, a million dollars a year. Many would balk at this but I’ll bet most of them would still rather play ball for a million a year than work at the bank or the garage or whatever.

Think what good all that saved money could do if it were pumped into education, or to ensure that everyone had health care. Wow.

You could argue that many athletes are just one knee injury away from their careers being over, and you’d be right. Hopefully they learned something else in college besides how to play a nickel defense. That would insure that they can find gainful and productive employment when their career ends eventually. I mean, education is what college is all about, right?

I could go on and on about all of this but the game is about to start and I can tell already it’s going be a good one.


— Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Poet-philosopher: George Carlin performs one of his last shows, in April 2008.

George Carlin is the greatest comedian of all time. Some “best of” lists put Pryor first and Carlin next but others say Carlin is a league all his own.

Jon Stewart may have solved the problem in 1997 when he introduced Carlin during the comic’s 10th HBO special “George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy” as one of the “holy trinity” of comedy: Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin.

Carlin traced his roots to Bruce and, before Bruce, to Mort Sahl, a lineage of social critics who, through the millennia, called Aristophanes, the “Father of Comedy,” the seed of their comedic work. It was a bloodline that did not suffer Borscht Belt mother-in-law, two-guys-walk-into-a-bar, and lost-airline-luggage jokes.

While Carlin started out with a suit-and-tie Vegas act, when the Sixties rolled around, a beard appeared and his hair fell to his shoulders. He painted iconic characters like Al Sleet, the “Hippy Dippy Weatherman.” Fans recall with delight Al’s: “Tonight’s forecast: Dark. Continued dark tonight, turning to partly light in the morning.”

It seems from the beginning Carlin was piqued by people’s disabuse of language through mystifications, masked contradictions, and linguistic absurdities. While he could garner a laugh from his oxymoronic “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence” bits, his true interest lay in sustaining an attack on those who devalued the gift of language by using it to obfuscate reality.

In a classic bit on euphemisms he said: “I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. ’Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation.”

Those familiar with comedy know Carlin was arrested at Summerfest in Milwaukee in July 1972 for saying the “Seven Words you Can Never Say on Television.”

It was a bit he introduced on his best-selling album “Class Clown” two months earlier. “There are 400,000 words in the English language,” he began, “but only seven of them that you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is! 399,993 to 7. They must really be bad.”

You can see why Carlin remained an “outside dog,” as Mort Sahl would say. In the preface to his 2004 “When Will Jesus Bring the Chops?” Carlin revealed: “I’m an outsider by choice, but not truly. It’s the unpleasantness of the system that keeps me out. I’d rather be in, in a good system. That’s where my discontent comes from: being forced to choose to stay outside.”

In each of his 14 HBO specials, the first aired in ’77, he hammered away minute by minute at the shaky myths the human community creates and submits to thereby limiting its chances for achieving well-being. He spoke about the “American Okie Doke” with its pithy equivocations: “all men are equal;” “justice is blind;” “the press is free;” “your vote counts;” “the police are on your side;” “the good guys win.”

He also went after the duplicities of religion, spoliative parenting, the hubris of prayer, demeaning education, illness-producing health, the glorification of the military, and a pandering self-help movement. He made his fans laugh but he pounded out his points with such vehemence that anyone who went to see him live had to take a day or two off to let the mental dust settle.

In many respects, Carlin was a Socratic prizefighter faulting the Athens of his day, the hoi polloi, for submitting to the demands of the powerful and for settling for a robopathic existence energized by consuming the packaged goods the market sells as indispensable for survival. He blurted that the gods of nature were on their way to strip this planet of sentience.

One group he especially liked to buzz were helicopter parents, the familial wardens who hover over their kids to insure they grow up to be disciplinized, docilized consumers of packaged realities.

Thus for kids he said, “The simple act of playing has been taken away ... and put on mommy’s schedule in the form of ‘play dates.’ Something that should be spontaneous and free is now being rigidly planned. When does a kid ever get to sit in the yard with a stick anymore?” And maybe dig a hole with it. He said that.

The stick is a metaphor for the imagination of course, kids not being given time to think and muse, and sometimes peer at the sky on a summer day to wonder how it all came to be.

Carlin well understood his professional development. Playing off a paradigm of Arthur Koestler on creativity, he acknowledged that he started out as a jester, comedy’s bottom-rung.

But, he added, when he began to follow ideas to their logical conclusion, he turned into a jester-philosopher; his routines changed. He said after that, because of his love for language, he reached the pinnacle of comedic art: the philosopher-poet.

The unending flow of his HBO specials forced the philosopher-poet to become a writer; he said they made him a writer-performer. And, if someone failed to acknowledge the writing as central, he’d set the record straight straightaway.

And it became clear that, the more America sold out her dream of equality and justice, the darker Carlin’s comedy got, very dark, in fact fading to black in his final HBO Special “It’s Bad for Ya.” He said the human race could blow itself up for all he cared; the planet would survive.

Over time, Carlin’s fancy for drugs forced him (in 2004) to go somewhere to get unhooked. On the road nearly every week of his adult life, he struggled with being a good husband and father. In “Conversations with Carlin: An In-Depth Discussion with George Carlin about Life, Sex, Death, Drugs, Comedy, Words, and so much more”, published in 2013, Larry Getlen presents a man who speaks about every aspect of his life with disarming honesty.

Carlin made million-seller comedy albums, he hosted the first “Saturday Night Live,” he wrote funny books, and in 2008 was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, I believe for being a great American.

Next month, that great American will be dead 10 years; I hope he’s doing well. Let us know if you run into him. The sad thing is: No one’s picked up the mantle of philosopher-poet.

The Australian-born but Americanized comic Jim Jefferies comes closest. Popular wits like Louis C. K., Amy Schumer, and Kevin Hart and a host of similars remain as distant from Carlin’s soul as Myron Cohen was 70 years ago. Even Chris Rock misses the boat.

As Carlin poured salt on America’s wounds he was the first to admit “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” And if he had had, like the comic legend Bob Hope, a theme song, it would have been “America the Beautiful” and Carlin would have pointed to the line “God mend thine every flaw” and say that was not God’s job but his.


A rainy Memorial Day in 1928 found three very elderly Civil War veterans present at ceremonies being held indoors that year at Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church due to the bad weather.

The three men, members of M.H. Barckley Post, No. 198 and the last of what had once been a sizable contingent, had been accompanied by a number of World War I veterans from the Helderberg Post American Legion and joined at the church by members of the public.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, which included a local judge’s patriotic address and music performed by the Clarksville band, American Legion members escorted the three veterans to Prospect Hill Cemetery to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead.

In 1862, while the Civil War was churning out its endless casualties affecting every community in the country, both North and South, the Prospect Hill Cemetery trustees set aside a section to be known as the Soldiers’ Lot where fallen Union soldiers could be interred without cost. Six years later, $650 was spent by the trustees to erect a memorial monument of a stone shaft surmounted by a bronze eagle in the midst of the Soldiers’ Lot.

As an Enterprise article noted in 1898, “A goodly number of those who fell in battle or died in service were brought home and their remains interred here so that today upwards of one hundred veterans are sleeping under its sod.”

Civil War deaths from both sides, the combined result of battle and diseases, especially dysentery and measles, totaled approximately 620,000. Surviving Union veterans, who often returned home suffering from physical or psychological effects of the conflict, began banding together, beginning in 1866, for support and fellowship in a veterans’ organization that became known as the Grand Army of the Republic. In the years that followed, thousands of veterans formed hundreds of GAR posts across the nation.

Chartered by local veterans on Jan. 24, 1881, Altamont’s new post was called the M.H. Barckley Post, No. 198, following GAR tradition of naming a post in honor of a local soldier who had fallen in battle. Lieutenant M.H. Barckley, a Knox resident who had served in the 7th New York Artillery Regiment, was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864 and died shortly after having his leg amputated. Post members included not only men from Guilderland, but Knox and other nearby towns and at its peak counted 49 members.

In 1868, Major-General John A. Logan, first national commander of the GAR, issued Order No. 11 proclaiming that May 30 should be observed annually as Memorial Day to remember and honor those who met death in the war with the words, “Let us gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of springtime … .”

Because Union regiments were recruited from local areas, many men from the same vicinity would be living and fighting together during the war. Twenty-five men from Guilderland and 14 from Knox served in the 7th with Barckley along with others from nearby towns.

Visiting cemeteries where the war dead were interred was a deeply felt emotional experience for the living because the dead men frequently had been the veterans’ schoolmates, friends, neighbors, or perhaps one of their relatives. Early Memorial Day ceremonies had real meaning for both veterans and community members who also had grieved for these losses as well.

The first Memorial Day service at Prospect Hill Cemetery was held in 1868, the year of Major-General Logan’s proclamation, but details of early observances aren’t available. Once The Enterprise began publication, a record of activities on Memorial Day (or Decoration Day as it was sometimes called) provided accounts of how the day was observed.

In the 1880s, with the newly organized Barckley GAR Post and the formation of community bands, more elaborate ceremonies could be staged. Each year in mid-May, the GAR post inserted an announcement in The Enterprise to solicit donations of flowers to decorate the graves.

Taking 1887 as a typical example of Memorial Day in Guilderland, in early morning a crowd began gathering in front of Sloan’s Hotel in the hamlet of Guilderland, waiting for the veterans to arrive. In the meantime, the GAR veterans had left Altamont with their flowers, stopping along the way at both Fairview and Guilderland cemeteries to decorate Civil War graves there, and then proceeded to Sloan’s.

That year, the Knowersville Band accompanied them, though in the years ahead many different bands played at the event. When they arrived in Guilderland, a parade was organized with a grand marshal in the lead, followed by both the Fullers and Knowersville cornet bands, the veterans from the Barckley Post, and lastly members of the public.

Marching along the Turnpike to the sounds of the bands that “discoursed excellent music,” the parade reached the cemetery where a large crowd had already gathered.

Entering the cemetery, their first stop was the Soldiers’ Lot where the proscribed ritual of reading aloud Major-General Logan’s Order No. 11 and strewing the graves with flowers opened the day’s ceremonies.

Next, the veterans, bands, and the crowd that had marched along the Turnpike moved to another section of the cemetery where dignitaries were seated on a platform and a much larger crowd awaited them to begin the program. Later, the estimate was given that there were 2,000 people present that day.

Once in place, as the combined bands played “America,” the crowd burst into song. Next, accompanied by an organ, a choir sang “We’ll Dress the Graves Today,” followed by a prayer offered by Rev. H.M. Voorhees.

A solo “The Empty Sleeve” was sung by Rev. J.C. Fisher, followed by a lengthy patriotic address given by Rev. T.J. Yost, Altamont’s Lutheran pastor, printed complete in the next week’s Enterprise. The program concluded with Henry Swann, the “conductor” of the exercises, making remarks, the choir singing “Tread Lightly on Their Graves” and finally a benediction was given by Rev. Dr. Belden.

     The program varied little over the next several years, but one addition in 1890 was the presence of the popular local poet Madelene LaGrange who probably brought tears to the eyes of many when she read her sentimental poem “The Tried and True,” which began:

We come today, remembering the loved, the tried and true,

To deck the place where lie in peace the boys who wore the blue;

Our boys who died that we might live in rest and peace today,

Who shouldered arms at war’s alarms and marched to join the fray… .

This ceremony became the pattern followed as long as the Civil War veterans were alive. After a few years, the address would be given by a political figure instead of a minister and the participating bands varied, but ministers always continued to play a part.

Choirs were usually from one of Guilderland’s churches. There were a few years when the Barckley Post went to Knox or stayed in Altamont for village Memorial Day ceremonies and Albany GAR posts participated instead, but most years Barckley Post members were an important feature of the Prospect Hill Memorial Day observances.

Large numbers of people poured into the hamlet of Guilderland and the cemetery itself for this annual event with no indication of what facilities were available for a crowd of that size. The traffic jam created by all those horse-drawn vehicles hauling spectators and the mess left by the horses must have been quite a sight.

An announcement came from the trustees in 1897 indicating a railing on study posts would be running the length of cemetery property along the Turnpike “for the purpose of tying horses.” In the later 1890s, it became possible to shelter your horse in either of the church sheds or in the hotel shed where for a moderate price a man would feed and water your horse.

Rain could interfere as it did in 1892, driving people indoors to Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church. Cemetery trustees took the preventative step of acquiring a tent that would shelter 1,000 people from inclement weather, making it known that spectators should not stay away because of rain or threat of bad weather because they would be kept dry under the big tent.

The GAR’s political power was such that Memorial Day was quickly made a national holiday after its initiation. From the beginning, most people considered it not only a day for solemn remembrance, but also an opportunity for leisure and recreation, something obvious from the columns of The Enterprise.

Traditionally, a baseball game was played in the hamlet of Guilderland on the Iosco team’s ballfield either before or after the ceremonies. An especially popular leisure activity that day for many people was visiting friends or relatives.

Some of the fellows went fishing. For others, taking one of the excursions offered by either the D & H or West Shore railroads or cruising on a Hudson River dayliner to Kingston Point for the day was a delightful way to enjoy the holiday.

One group of people who had little chance to relax were the women and the few men involved in putting on strawberry festivals or serving dinners, all to raise money. The strawberry festivals were held in the hamlet of Guilderland by the ladies of the Methodist and Presbyterians churches and the Templars at Red Men’s Hall. After the turn of the 20th Century, the church ladies began serving lunches or suppers instead of strawberries and ice cream.

The best food event was in Frenchs Hollow where, depending on the year, the Guilderland Center women from either St. Mark’s Lutheran Church or from the Helderberg Reformed Church alternated offering meals with fanciful names and entertainments in the late afternoon and early evening of Memorial Day at the empty old factory building there that had been used many years for community events.

For a modest price, people returning from the cemetery ceremonies could stop on the way home to dine and relax. In 1887, the Lutheran ladies served a supper with the additional attractions of the Knowersville Band’s music and a broom drill performed by a brigade of 12 young ladies in “appropriate” costumes, described the next week as “an interesting feature of the entertainment, each one performing her part admirably.” Seeing that the proceeds of the evening totaled $268, the supper must have been well patronized.

     The Japanese and Pink Tea Party, Orange Tea Party, Chocolate Tea Party, Rainbow Supper, Columbian Entertainment Supper, and New England Supper were samples of Memorial Day events at the old Frenchs Hollow factory sponsored by one or the other of the two churches. Finally, in 1901, the annual supper was to be held at Helderberg Reformed Church parlors in Guilderland Center instead of what had become the very rundown old factory building.

The comment was made, “There is general satisfaction that the Supper has been removed from the dangerous factory in French’s Hollow.”

The ladies of the two churches continued to offer Memorial Day suppers and entertainments for many years.

That time was creeping up on the veterans was indicated when, in 1899, The Enterprise commented “… the ranks of the old ‘vets’ have been materially thinned of late, some seven in this vicinity having answered the roll call and joined their comrades in the spirit world during the last year… .”

With the new century and the aging of the veterans, the annual ceremonies continued, but less attention was paid to the events at Prospect Hill. Whoever wrote the Guilderland column in the paper in the early 1900s never even mentioned the Memorial Day event unless it had to do with the church serving lunch or dinner that day.

The veterans who were able continued to solicit donations of flowers, and traveled to the cemetery as always to decorate the graves, where there would be the traditional band and speaker.

Cemetery officials proudly noted in 1915, “Guilderland gave freely of her boys during the Rebellion, many of whom never came home and for forty-six years in succession appropriate exercises have been held in their memory.”

By 1919, only 10 GAR men were present and now they were taken by automobile to the cemeteries while the Altamont Boy Scouts collected donated flowers and did the actual work of placing them on the graves.

In 1923, when only six veterans took part, the Boy Scouts not only decorated the graves, but did the traditional GAR readings. And finally, 1928’s observance saw the last of the Civil War veterans. The M.H. Barckley Post, No. 198 Altamont disbanded shortly afterward, bringing an end to an era.


The newest members of the Community Caregivers Board of Directors are Jayson White, Carol Huber, and Tom Chera.

GUILDERLAND – Community Caregivers is pleased to announce that five new members were elected to its board of directors.

“It is my pleasure to welcome Carol Huber, Tom Chera, Jayson White, Trisha Gannon, and Eileen Bray to our board. They each bring an expertise to our board that will be extremely valuable to support the Community Caregivers’ mission,” stated Edna Mae Reilly, board president.

Carol Huber from Voorheesville is no stranger to Community Caregivers. She was a caregiver to her parents and knows firsthand the important services the organization provides to families.

Mrs. Huber was a senior vice president of the Ayco company in Saratoga Springs. During her career, she held various revenue generation and management positions. Upon the sale of Ayco to Goldman Sachs, Mrs. Huber was instrumental in directing the integration of the two companies.

She has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a juris doctor of law from Villanova Law School.

Thomas Chera is a Guilderland resident who believes giving back to the community is an important part of his life. Mr. Chera is senior vice president of Global Commercial Banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

He spent 26 years at J.P. Morgan in Albany working with for profit and not-for-profit organizations to manage and develop an investment portfolio.

Tom is a graduate of the University at Albany and has earned Certified Financial Planner and Certified Treasury Professional designations and completed the necessary requirements for a series 7,79 and 63 licensure by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Jayson White, a Voorheesville native who now lives in Burnt Hills, is a public relations and media professional. Mr. White has 20 years of marketing, media, and communications experience with several health-care organizations. Mr. White presently serves as a senior communications specialist at Albany Med.

He was introduced to Community Caregivers in the fall of 2017 when he produced a video highlighting several client-volunteer relationships. The video was shown at the Community Caregivers gala in November. Jayson found the stories very compelling and was thrilled to become part of the Caregivers organization.

Mr. White graduated from the State University of New York college at Geneseo with a bachelor of arts degree in communications and received his master’s degree in public relations from Ball State University.

Trisha Gannon joined the board of directors in early 2017 and was elected treasurer in July 2017. Mrs. Gannon had been a volunteer serving on the Caregivers’ finance committee, providing budgeting expertise and guidance to Community Caregivers.

Her career includes positions in both the public and private sectors.  She serves as the project director in the finance office at the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. Mrs. Gannon has a bachelor of arts degree in accounting from Siena College and is a New York State Certified Public Accountant.

Eileen Bray, a longtime Guilderland resident, joined the board of directors in August 2016. Mrs. Bray retired in 2010 after 26 years of teaching in Guilderland elementary schools.

She has been a volunteer at Community Caregivers. She serves on the golf and gala committees and chaired of the raffle and auction at the 2017 gala.

Mrs. Bray has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from SUNY Oneonta and a master of science degree from the University at Albany.

Look for information on Community Caregivers upcoming 12th annual golf outing to be held on June 11 at Pinehaven Country Club.


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at 518-456-2898.

Editor’s note: Regina DuBois is a member of the Community Caregivers Board of Directors.


Tuesday, April 24, was a rare day indeed — the sun was shining!

Many of the OFs were confused to what that was and had to be reminded of the general phrase when describing our galaxy, i.e., sun, moon, and stars. That glow in the sky was the sun. (Alas, as this scribe is typing, this we now have dense fog and drizzle, with a stiff wind thrown in for good measure. OK!  We got two days of sun, now what?)

Many OFs say it is the contrails. The OFs watch a perfectly clear blue sky in the morning and by 10 a.m. the contrails distribute a thin haze, and by evening, when more planes fill the sky, we have clouds.

The OFs say check it out for yourself. Count the contrails. Sometimes in the morning there will be as many as a dozen or so, and in the evening it is even worse.

The appointed restaurant for this Tuesday was the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. It was a sad breakfast for the Old Men of the Mountain.

There was a notice that the restaurant was closing in May. The OFs have been going to the Hilltown Café for at least 15 years. The owner was young when she started out. (Weren’t we all 15 years ago?) And we watched as she cooked breakfast for 20 OFs or so holding a baby on her hip with one hand, and flipping flapjacks with the other hand and not missing a beat.

The OFs watched as the kids grew up and reminisced about how these kids, when just out of the toddler stage, would visit each table of OFs and carry on a conversation. So not only was it a rare day but it was a sad day as well.

To go along with this, the waitress we had was new and apparently just there to fill in until the restaurant closed. The OFs being the OFs proceeded to get on the waitress’s case. None of it was mean at all and actually was quite humorous; however, the waitress must have come from a large family because she gave it right back in spades. If anyone was keeping score, it was: Waitress, 10 - OFs, 0.

Now the big quandary for the Old Men of the Mountain is, do we haul out the book of bylaws, dust it off, and see if we select a new eating establishment to attack, or cut the roster back by one? The hard part here is finding a place that will put up with the OFs, and can handle 20 to 25 guys in the winter, and 30 to 35 guys in the summer.

An OF commented that the reason Amanda was calling it quits was because too many of the OFs left only 50 cents for a tip and she couldn’t keep the place open on that.

Habits meld

The OFs discussed household items along with living together and how it changes over the years. When most of the OFs were first married, both individuals had their own way of doing things.

This included many routine practices that both had, from what they ate, how they ate, to their bathroom habits, to furniture and house decorations. Most of these were not picked up on in the courting process.

When the OFs were courting, their minds were on other things and not domestic habits; conversely, so were the ladies. There was quite an adjustment period because some of the habits were objectionable to one or the other or both.

Some OFs mentioned they more or less expected cooking like their mothers used to do, and the new wife cooked like her mother used to do, and one OF added, “If she could cook at all.” Back when the OFs were first joined in holy matrimony, the man worked and the mom stayed home.

Back then, the days for the working man were longer than eight hours and he came home tired. The wife had a job also and that was the kids and the house. This was another learning experience.

Over the years, the OFs (without noticing until this discussion) noted that the ways of doing things was like a metamorphosis and the two habits melded into one. The husband and wife began to be able to anticipate each others desires, wants, and needs and automatically adjusted to each other without even realizing they were doing it.

Seasonal chores loom

With the nice weather, the OFs started talking about summer projects. To some of the OFs, it was just talk because as they get older there is less they can do. Some say their kids are going to come and help and one OF said the kids have yards and houses of their own to keep up let alone fuss with them.

This is another thing that sneaks up on the OFs along with all the aches and pains, bad backs, slow reflexes, poor eyesight, the outside work, and as one OF said, “Why just the outside? It is also washing the windows, painting and inside work too, which arrives at the point where it is more than difficult to keep up with it — it becomes downright impossible.”

Now one OF mentioned he has to hire help to get some of the work done, and the hired help does not do it like the OF would, and then the OF becomes frustrated.

Most of the OFs enjoyed getting out to rake the yard, and said how hauling out the summer furniture was even “fun” (if that is the word to use here), how summer means it is the season for having people over, or having a cup of coffee on the porch alone with the paper.

One of the OFs (and there is one in every group) said, “Yeah, swatting at flies, and mosquitoes, sweeping ladybugs off the outdoor table, dealing with stink bugs, watching out for ticks, spraying bug spray all over me so the black flies won’t bite, oh yeah, tons of fun.”

The OF continued his griping, “Give me snow and a snow shovel any day.” To this OF, summer projects were not tops on his list; he wanted air-conditioning and indoor games. The other OFs thought a job on Mount Washington would suit this OG fine.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who left the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville for the last time and some with a tear in their one good eye were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Lou Scheck, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Rev. Jay Francis, Harold Grippen, and me.