Archive » November 2019 » Columns

The snowier, colder winters of long ago attracted multitudes of people outdoors, especially the young,   to enjoy the brisk weather and take advantage of the town’s snow-covered hills and icy ponds. Hopping on a sled to coast downhill was the most common sport, but as the years went by, ice-skating and then skiing took on popularity as well.

An 1893 Enterprise advice column suggesting children’s activities bluntly stated, “For outdoor sport, nothing surpasses coasting in the estimation of young people.” As soon as adequate snow fell, “coasting is in season” or similar comments would appear in the paper.

Sleds were inexpensive, lasting from one year to the next and often were passed on to siblings. The earliest and cheapest sleds were all wood, often ornately painted, with wooden runners.

After a few years, sleds like the popular “Flexible Flyers” were improved models, running on straight steel runners with a moveable cross piece on front connected to the runner, allowing sledders more control by letting them steer to swerve left or right.

Early references to coasting were often sexist, being chiefly directed toward boys. An 1885 poem on The Enterprise front page was typical: 

                             “See the boy

                               Full of joy

                               With his painted sled

                                Gaily go

                                Through the snow … ”

Girls were probably left out because of the cumbersome clothes they wore, and riding on a sled would have been considered unladylike in that era. However, country girls, determined not to miss out on the fun, asserted themselves early.

In 1887, “Uncle Able” Spawn took a number of Guilderland Center boys and girls over to the Hollow “where they enjoyed riding downhill for some three hours. No one was hurt, a few fell off their sleds, some broke their sleighs, but all voted Abe a jolly good fellow.”

While girls did go coasting in the late 19th Century, advertising was usually directed at boys or their parents. Jos. Snyder, an Altamont merchant, in a 1910  pre-Christmas ad reminded parents, “You remember the fun you used to have with a sled. Make your boy happy! Buy him one!”

As late as 1927, the Sears Catalogue had printed in bold type, “Boys! Read This” as it touted its “Flying Arrow” steering sleds. “Flying Arrow Sleds are popular with boys everywhere,” it said.

Coasting was great fun and a fast downhill run exhilarating, but it could also be a dangerous sport. Tales of mishaps and injuries appeared with regularity in Enterprise columns.

“Be careful boys and girls and don’t get hurt,” was the comment in an 1885 note that the Knowersville boys were enjoying themselves coasting on the big hill.

Over the years, one unfortunate boy suffered a severe facial wound when he collided with a fence while another severely gashed his hand after falling off his sled. The list goes on and on: sprained ankles, broken wrist, internal injuries, injured by being run into by another sled, etc.

Children were not the only victims. Young adults took to the hills and their injuries tended to be more severe.

In 1903, Dunnsville’s one-room school pupils were probably delighted to have an unexpected week’s vacation when their teacher, Miss Nettie Ogsbury, was injured in a coasting accident (no details given). More seriously, in 1915, a young Altamont man broke his leg while steering a bobsled loaded with several passengers, crashing into a hydrant at the corner of Prospect Street and Helderberg Avenue while trying to avoid a pedestrian. His passengers were uninjured in the crash, but he spent weeks in St Peter’s Hospital before returning to work on crutches a month later.

But the coasting accident that received the most detailed coverage was the 1917 crash that occurred while a sled round a curve on the State Road. It was none other than Prof. Fancher, the Altamont High School Principal, who suffered a compound fracture of his leg when his sled upset.

The young lady with him on the sled “escaped with minor bruises.” Her name was also given in the article and the story certainly must have given everyone something to talk about! After a few weeks in the hospital, Prof. Fancher returned to the high school on crutches a month later.

Young people on sleds could not only be a danger to themselves, but to pedestrians as well. One elderly Altamont gentleman was knocked off his feet in the midst of the village and was unconscious for several hours.

In 1893, the village passed an ordinance forbidding coasting on village streets, much to the anger of the village boys. It’s unknown whether the ordinance was rescinded or simply no longer enforced because after a time people were certainly coasting there in the 20th Century.

Not as common as sleds or as inexpensive, some toboggans were also used on hills around town. In 1886, in the hamlet of Guilderland, “tobogganing is all the rage now both for young and old,” the paper reported. A family gathering of upwards of 30 people there featured tobogganing by young and old.

Two Altamont fellows tobogganed down a slide that had been set up in Mr. Severson’s pasture, coming down at a good rate. At the bottom, as they went into the open field, one young man attempted to either guide it or to slow it down by touching his feet at the side.

“The result was most disastrous and a more confused mass would be hard to find. Barring a few scratches the boys come out all right, but the toboggan was a complete wreck.” Because a straight open run was needed, there was much less use of toboggans than of sleds.


“A skating craze struck town”

Skating was a winter activity bringing people outdoors, either to skate or watch the action. It was also an activity that older people could still enjoy when they were past the age of going downhill on a sled.

Although only occasionally mentioned in the 1880s, as the decades went by, skating seemed to become more common and increasingly popular.

The serious business of ice-harvesting put some water bodies such as Tygert’s Pond off limits to skaters, but others provided great spots for the sport. By 1891, it was pointed out that, “a skating craze struck town.”

The McKownville correspondent mentioned skating on the “Park Lake,” location unknown, while in Guilderland, Batterman’s Pond was another skating favorite, though ice-harvesting was done at times there as well. There were spots along the Normanskill and Black Creek for skaters in other parts of town.

In 1894, Altamont resident A.L. Sitterly created his own pond northeast of the village for the purpose of harvesting ice. Needless to say, the boys were already eyeing it as a skating pond.

In 1896, it was noted that there was “skating on Sitterly’s Pond.” A.L. Sitterly inserted an announcement in The Enterprise’s next issue that stated, “Notice is hereby given that no skating will be allowed on my pond.”

In the end, it was worked out that for a rental fee he would allow skating there. The pond was described in later years as “conveniently located, absolutely safe and large enough to accommodate a good-sized crowd.” Generous citizens chipped in to raise the money for rent; skaters could freely use the pond and Mr. Sitterly smiled all the way to the bank.

Skating parties provided great socializing opportunities for the town’s teens and young adults. One 1893 skating party on the Normanskill not far from Sharps Corners included a crowd from Old State Road, Dunnsville, Fullers, and Schenectady.

With some older folks as onlookers, “the ice was great and everybody enjoyed themselves.” Frequent mentions are made in Enterprise columns from various parts of town: “The young people are enjoying themselves skating” or, “Skating continues to be the pastime of the hour.” Already in 1886, the Guilderland columnist noted, “Almost everyone has skates.”

Skating had its dangers and printed on the front pages of The Enterprise over the years were many page-one stories of tragic drownings in other areas. At least into the 1920s, this had not seemed to have happened here.

However, it was mentioned that there had been several “immersions” in Batterman’s pond. While in Guilderland Center, Arthur Blessing took a ribbing in the local column about his “impromptu bath” after breaking through the ice on Black Creek. Described as looking like “a drowned rat” as he emerged from the water, Blessing was “none the worse for his mishap.”

However, one boy in Guilderland was described as seriously injured after going through the ice at Batterman’s Pond, no details given.

Ice hockey had also been introduced. In 1913, it was reported, “Hockey promises to be an interesting pastime for the winter months” on Batterman’s Pond.

As early as 1905, there were Enterprise ads for hockey skates, yet youngsters playing hockey was almost never mentioned in local columns. However, the tale of the Altamont lad who fell backwards playing hockey and hit his head tells us they were playing informally. There were fears that he had a concussion, the doctor was called, but he was recovering at press time.

Actually once, there was a feeling of relief when a thaw set in. The village doctor had had to deal with three winter sports accidents in the previous week!

Skiing grows in popularity

Another winter sport that became popular as the 20th Century progressed was skiing. Young people were skiing on local hills, although there aren’t many mentions in the local columns. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops encouraged skiing and, by the 1930s, there were several mentions of the sport in the paper.

The Delaware & Hudson Railroad got into the act in the 1890s by promoting the Quebec Winter Carnival where even out-of-town visitors could use the toboggan slide. For fans who wanted to experience real winter sports, those people could purchase a round-trip ticket to Quebec for the price of a normal one-way ticket.

Once automobile traffic increased on Guilderland’s roadways, almost all farming ceased, leaving pastures and fields overgrown. As development covered many parts of town, it became almost impossible to enjoy the same winter sports that had been freely available to earlier residents.

Fortunately in Tawasentha Park we now have the winter sports area for sledding while at Western Turnpike Golf Course cross-country skiing is available, making it possible to enjoy the snow when we have it.


The Country Café in Schoharie sits in the middle of the village. This restaurant shows signs of life and is decorated nicely for the season of Thanksgiving. 

This is the restaurant the Old Men of the Mountain funneled to on Tuesday, Nov. 19. This scribe and rider, along with other OFs who travel to the various eating establishments, take note of the weather early in the morning on the way to these places.

The 19th was slippery, with large snowflakes falling and sticking to everything — dangerous but beautiful. The snow was sticking to the road, roofs, and trees, turning everything white. It was like driving through a beautiful winter painting.

The OFs started talking about old friends and acquaintances. Bringing up these names brought little stories of each, and their personalities. One problem with this conversation was that many of these past friends are now dead.

It was mentioned that getting old is OK, but the older we get, the more of our former friends have passed on, and family becomes that much more important.

It was a common thread that groups like the OMOTM, church, veterans’ organizations, senior groups, and even hand and foot clubs are what keep the OFs from becoming loners and despondent as they age and their old friends are gone. Friends are what keep the OFs from becoming cranky OFs.

Old friends, familiar smells

An interesting topic that came out of the old friends-discussion is how some of the old friends’ homes had a special odor. This, however, was not necessarily a bad thing.

One OF mentioned a name and some other OFs knew the same person and, whenever these OFs went to his home, they immediately became hungry. The house always smelled of fresh-baked cookies or pies. The reason for this was because there were always fresh-baked cookies or pies.

This brought up the exchange that every home has its own aroma, and one OF said, “Especially if you have cats.” This OF maintained it is impossible to hide the odor of a cat (to him anyway).

This was added to by someone else, “How about dogs?”

Then another OF chimed in, “How about where there is a smoker in the house?” Almost all agreed that one was the worst. It covers up the smell of cats, dogs, wood smoke, and dead rats.

One OF mentioned that on the farm the farmhouse had its own aroma, and because most of the visitors were farmers themselves it was really not noticed. This OF said that they had to wear coveralls, and they were hung out in a little addition to the milk house. That helped the farmhouse from smelling like the barn.

Many of the farmers put their barn clothes in the woodshed although either way there were different odors to each home. One OF thought it was because there was always cooking going on over the wood stove.

Another OF said that, in some of the farms, the cooking wood stove was going winter and summer. This added its own pleasant smell.

One OF mentioned that he still misses the smell of the barn, the warmth of the kitchen, food in the oven, and homemade bread rising in the warming side of the woodstove.

One OF mentioned that, in the wintertime, there was no need for a humidifier because of clothes drying on racks around the stoves; even that added a pleasant perfume to the air in the home.

An OF pointed out that, along with missing old friends, and family members, he misses that period of time also. Another OF added “You know, I think we lived through the best of times,” and another OF added he thinks the best of times is yet to come, but it sure isn’t right now.

Free advice

There is something else that comes along with old age, and that is old bladders. Old bladders do not hold as much liquid as young bladders so calls to the restroom are more frequent.

To accommodate the OMOTM, some restaurants place all the tables in a long row with an opening in the center. This places half the group with their backs against the wall. A room like this is quite narrow but cozy.

However, if an OF is in the center of the table in the back and the old bladder has had enough, getting out to go to the restroom is a trick. If the OF knows he has a controllable bladder, he should sit with his back against the wall; if not, just like leaving the house to go on a long trip, we tell everyone they should first make a bathroom visit. The OFs should do the same thing. Remember, our medical advice is free.

Flying garbage

A weird topic came up (weirder than bladder control?) and that is garbage trucks picking up the garbage and then not closing the gate and spreading this rubbish back on the road. What an odd topic to rise to the surface, but many OFs shook their head in agreement.

What prompted this discussion this scribe does not know but he, too, sometimes has had papers and some debris coming from a garbage truck land on his property, but this does not happen too often. Then again this scribe does not live in a suburban area where it may be more of a problem.

Those OFs who made it through the snow and fog off the hill to the Country Café in Schoharie and were greeted by a good cup of hot coffee were: Rich LaGrange, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Otis Lawyer, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Robie Osterman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Mike Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, (Winnie Chartier gracious chauffeur), and me.


— Photo by Umais Bin Sajjad

“Let’s see some clouds,” said our friend on being introduced to the internet. This sunrise scene gives a shine to an altocumulus stratiformis perlucidus cloud.

We had a dear departed friend — let’s call her Ann — who was very sick for a long time. She had so many issues, she was on every disability and supplemental program they have. She lived in a subsidized apartment in downtown Schenectady, which was a long walk, even to a bus stop.

Despite all that, she was an overall happy person who thoroughly enjoyed life, especially her very few close friends and family.

One time, we had her at our house. I think she had a vague idea of what the internet was, but she'd never “seen” it or had any experience with computers or anything like that.

So I sat her down in front of a computer and told her to think of something, anything, that she’d like to know more about. At first she was confused.

“Anything?” she said, not really believing something like this was possible.

“Sure,” I said. “Just think of anything you’d like to see or hear or learn about and I’ll bring it up for you.”

After a while of looking at her scrunched-up face, she finally got a big smile and said, “Clouds. I love clouds. Let’s see some clouds.”

Then, just like that, she sat there in jaw-dropping amazement as screen after screen of clouds of every type, from ethereal images of wispy clouds on clear, sun-soaked days, to big, heavy, cumulus clouds ready to burst.

As we looked at more and more images, she was overjoyed about how it was possible to, in many ways, just have the world at your fingertips like this. I so enjoyed doing this with her that I’ve never forgotten it. Say what you want about the internet — you know it has plenty of problems — but when it can provide an experience like this it’s at its very best for sure.

As we grind through yet another holiday shopping season, with endless ads, flyers, coupons, and such competing for our attention and our money, I’m still amazed at the choice Ann made that day. Here was a woman not in the best of health, with little in the way of resources, including family and friends.

Yet given the chance to learn about anything — anything at all — she didn’t choose make-money schemes or gambling or “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” Instead, she chose something that any human being from time immemorial could gaze up at in joy and wonder to just enjoy God’s creation.

How simple and beautiful Ann’s choice was and is.

You've probably heard of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” which basically says that, once you’ve got your basic physical needs covered — food, clothing, shelter, safety — you move on to a point where you value things like “esteem” and “self-actualization” more and more.

This makes sense when you think about it. How many houses do you need? You only sleep in one at night. How many cars do you need? You can only drive one at a time and all those extra ones still need insurance and maintenance.

Still you know there are those who gobble up everything like there’s no tomorrow. I guess we all have a different definition of the “basics.”

What I find ironic about Ann was that she barely had her basic needs covered at all. She was totally dependent on the government, friends, and relatives. She spent as much time in hospitals as she did at home.

Yet, despite this, when given the chance, she chose clouds as something to learn more about and wonder at. Good for her. Every time I look at the sky and see another gorgeous cloud, I think of her. Maybe she was wiser than we have a right to give her credit for.

Still, you know how it is around the holidays. My family is no different from anyone else’s.

Come Christmas morning, we like to have the kids each have a lot of boxes to open, just so they feel special. What kid doesn't want some presents from Santa?

But, as I get older, and I hope wiser, more and more I feel like we need less physical and more, I don't know, call it what you want — emotional, spiritual, or to use Maslow’s term, “self actualizing” — things and experiences. Hard to wrap those kinds of things in boxes with fancy paper and pretty bows, though!

I wish all my faithful readers and their families happy, healthy holidays packed with many fun times and all the best that life has to offer, including clouds. Enjoy them as I do (and as Ann did). Peace.


Nov. 12, and it is Tuesday, and not much has happened, except the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. The weather was a little tough, but so are the OMOTM and they managed to be tougher as they made it to the restaurant.

Speaking about getting tougher, the OMOTM who cleanly shave are tougher than the OFs with beards. A weathered, cranky old face of an OF is tough and to shave it is a challenge.

Along with the leathered skin full of wrinkles (some of those wrinkles are bordering on actual crevices), the beard itself becomes tough as trees. Cutting these trees down, and getting them out of wrinkles and crevices is hard work, takes time, and in some cases, when done, it feels like these trees were taken down with a flamethrower.

The facial contortions an OF makes trying to work into these ravines is exercise for every face and neck muscle the OFs have, and even that is getting awkward.

Those with beards are wimps; all they have to do is wash their face with shampoo, and trim their beards up every now and then. Some guys and some OFs look good in a beard while others should go the clean-shaven route.

Licked clean

At the table Tuesday morning, some of the early birds already had their breakfast, and some of these meals looked better than others. There was a considerable amount of “I will have what that OG is having” bantered about.

Some of the meals were so concocted by the OF that it was hard to tell what was underneath what was on top — especially the creamed chipped beef. Was it toast, potatoes, biscuits, or mystery veggies? Whatever it was, it must have been good because those OFs who had a plate full of “whatever” liked it and licked the platter clean.

Great escape: Bees on the loose

One OF told a story about how he spent one day of the weekend, and to the rest of the OFs he had an adventure. The OF said he was spending a quiet morning at home when the phone rang and it was the sheriff.

Usually that means trouble but this time they were asking for his help at an accident. The OF said he would be glad to assist them. Then the phone rang again and it was the State Police and they asked the same question, “Would he help at an accident?”

What happened was an accident with a truckload of bees going from Canada to Georgia. Just past Cobleskill, heading south, there is a railroad bridge that is a little low and this trucker ran into the bridge knocking the top row of hives off the truck.

The hives were on pallets and stacked three high. Millions upon millions of groggy bees are now let loose.

So this OF and his son played the Lone Ranger and went to round up the bees. The OF said they spent the whole day there, gathering the bees and placing them back in the hives.

The OF also said they lost a least a million of the bees but due to the weather he does not think they are going to make it. The OF’s only problem, he said, was that the bees kept crawling up his pant leg and he got stung about five times, which was rare for him.

The OF said the owner of the bees was very appreciative of the OF’s action and asked the OF and his son how much would the charges be, but like most of the men in the OMOTM they replied there would be no charge.

It was just an accident and they were glad they could help.

Hometown Heroes

There was also talk about how nice the town of Knox’s tribute to the veterans was at the Knox Town Hall. It was apparently quite memorable.

The OF mentioned that one portion of the ceremony was how each veteran was introduced along with some mention of how they were connected to the Hilltowns and what they achieved in the military.

Winter predictions

It is noted that the following time-activated discussion (if this scribe’s memory is working) happens each year about this time. What kind of winter are we are going to have?

Over the years, it comes down to pessimists against optimists.

The pessimists claim it is going to be a tough winter with really cold weather and snow. In the pessimist corner, there were guys who said it is going to be open and freezing. (Interjection: If this weather in November, right now, is any indication, the pessimists are on top).

However, there are the optimists who say this is just a few days of anomalies that will pass and the winter is going to be above average in temperature, and average or maybe a little less in snowfall. We shall know soon enough who has to get the long underwear out.

Those OMOTM who were at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and will just have to wait until April to find out who is right were: George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Ken Parks, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, John Dabrvlskas, Fred Crounse, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


What would we do without Caesar? Because of him, we have the calendar, and with the calendar we have Tuesday, and on Tuesdays the Old Men of the Mountain gather at restaurants here and there. This past Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. And on this Tuesday the OFs mentioned how beautiful the sky was on the ride to the restaurant.

The OFs had a young guest at the breakfast on Tuesday morning so to include him in some of the conversations the OFs began talking about old games the OFs played outdoors when they were young. The OFs hit on two that the young lad knew, one was hide and seek, and the other was tag, but on some of the others, he had no clue; leap frog was one.

This scribe must mention the youngster was 10, and he did have a cell phone, so he was way ahead of some of the OFs on that one.

Some of the OFs did not want to be his age and go through all they had gone through to get to the age they are now. While others wanted to be that age just to see what was coming in the future and how different those OFs thought life would be 60 to 70 years from now.

Others thought we would be going to other planets and be trying to figure out how to colonize them. Two diametrically opposed thoughts on the same subject: Are humans going to blow the planet to smithereens or are the humans all going to come together on one goal, space — the final frontier?

This young lad may be on the front line to find out, and the technology in that phone may just be the beginning.

Old timers’ old time pieces

Then the OFs time-traveled back to wrist watches they wore in the ’30s, ’40s or ’50s. A couple OFs still have some of their old watches with names like Mickey Mouse and Roy Rogers.

Others said they had a watch picturing the Lone Ranger on his horse, Silver, and another said he remembered his sister had a watch with Cinderella on it. All of them had to be wound up to run but, as far as the OFs could remember, they all kept good time.

Back then, none remembered flipping them over to see who made them, but all of them were darn sure they were made in the USA.

Laundry challenges

For some reason, the OFs started talking about hot-water tanks and washers and dryers. Some of the OFs mentioned when they were younger (here we go again, traveling to the past), the OFs and their better halves did not mind stairs and quite often the laundry was placed in the cellar.

Whoop — that is a mistake. As we age, the OFs can attest to stairs being a problem.

The OFs spoke about bringing the washer and dryer upstairs and, to one OF, that was a real hassle. The OF said that, with living in a ranch house with everything on one floor, these kinds of problems don’t come up.

Another OF said he doesn’t have this problem. He wears the same thing for days and, when he is down to one pair of shorts, he said he throws everything in a couple of laundry bags and heads to the Laundromat. No problem.

This OF says it is cheaper than owning those two machines, paying for the electricity to run them, including the water, because on a well, the pump has to run also. All the OF said he needs is four bucks and he has it covered.

One OF challenged the other OF by asking what about the gas there and back, plus wear and tear on the car. The OFs just dropped it there.


In the remembering game and talking about laundry and the price of material, and appliances today compared to “back when” the OFs started talking about the economy.

It seems many of the OFs have not really kept up with the price of anything today. Young people today make as much in a month as the OFs did in a year and that is when the OFs retired. (That comment may be stretching it a bit.)

Minimum wage in 1998 was $4.25 an hour and in 2019 it is $11.80 an hour. However, the average hourly wage in 1998 was $9.53, and in 2019 it is $27.00 an hour. These figures are not totally correct but darn close.

One OF said they paid $7,500 dollars for their first home in 1953 and it was a nice place. His last pickup truck was about $48,000, nearly six times more than his first home.

To the OFs, there are no more five-dollar jeans, 19-cent gallons of gas, or 20-cent cups of coffee, or nickel candy bars. Those days are gone, because the one-dollar an hour days are gone too.

Heartbeats, heart throbs

Many of the OFs are on heart meds. So this is how a discussion Tuesday morning began with discussing meds but morphed into heartbeats.

Many of the OFs spend so much time in their doctors’ offices they could be given associated degrees in medicine. It was found that the heartbeats of the OFs can range from 45 beats to 110 beats per minute.

The OFs all claim for them this is normal. Should an attractive lady come into the restaurants when we are having our breakfasts, these heartbeat stats are, of course, flexible.

Well, all the normal heart-beating OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Marty Herzog, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Rich LaGrange, Jim Heiser, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt (guest JJ, who also cashed the OFs out), Harold Grippen. and me.


Knowing that the Old Men of the Mountain have a sense of duty, so if on early Tuesday mornings their priorities are in line, appointments for that time should be adjusted to a later date, or time. While scheduling meetings or appointments when asked, “What time is good for you?” the OMOTM should reply, “Any day but Tuesday.”

The Tuesday of Oct. 29, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow. Pop’s Place has trucker-size portions.

Some of the OFs can handle this; however, for the real antiques of the group, it may be a little much for their stomachs to adjust to. Once OFs get into their eighties, most eat less.

Where once the OF could eat out and have dessert too, now eating out means the OF looks at senior menus because he is not able to deal with all the food on the regular menu.

At the barbeques of the OFs youth (and by youth I mean any age under 70), the OFs could eat a couple of hamburgers, and three hot dogs, and think nothing of it. Now, at 80, it might be a hot dog, nursed through the whole evening.

The conversations at one end of the table Tuesday morning were, as usual, trucks, cars, motorcycles, bulldozers, and tractors.

However, when talking about cars, the OFs started talking about car hood ornaments and how interesting they were. Not only were cars adorned with these works of art but so were trucks.

The Mack “Bulldog” was a classic and some are in the realm of collectables now. When Alfred Fellows Masury, Mack’s chief engineer, carved the first bulldog hood ornament out of a bar of soap while recuperating from a surgery, Masury applied for, and received, a patent for his design in 1932, and the Bulldog ornament has adorned Mack trucks ever since.

Sadly, Masury was killed in the crash of United States Navy airship Akron in 1933, but his mascot lives on and is marking its 87th year. One OF wondered where the castings were for the “Bulldog” and if they were still around.

Many of these ornaments were finely made. The detail was exceptional.

Packard had a few, the swan with its wings outstretched, and the Greek god Mercury with wings. One of Pontiac’s ornaments was the Indian Chief with the feathers on his headband flowing back in the wind. Jaguar had a leaping Jaguar on top and in back of the grill appearing to leap into space ahead of the car.

Some hood ornaments even had a little light in them. The OFs said, “We don’t see these anymore. They are gone along with small windows in the front that swung out, and soon the spare tire is going to be a thing of the past.”

There are a few vehicles that still carry the tradition of the hood ornament; Rolls-Royce is one of them. The Spirit of Ecstasy is the bonnet (hood) ornament sculpture on Rolls-Royce cars.

It is in the form of a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above her. Billowing cloth runs from her arms to her back, resembling wings. The OFs didn’t know about many of the other classier cars. Some might still have hood ornaments.

One OF said he was told the demise of the spare tire is to cut down on weight. Apparently it used too much gas to haul the spare tire around.

To which another OF replied, “That is a lot of malarkey. The manufacturers are too cheap to put them in, let alone design a place to hold them.”

Early voting

Some of the OFs have taken advantage of early voting; these OFs say there are no crowds. The voter is able to vote when the voter has nothing else going on.

This allows the voter not to worry about Election Day in case an emergency comes up, or the weather turn nasty on Nov. 5. On the 5th, the OF doesn’t have to leave the house to go vote — the OF already has and now his voice has been heard.

One OF wondered how they keep the early votes a secret. If he were running for an office, the OF said he would want to know how he was doing, win or lose. So can’t he go and just look at how the vote is going? Wouldn’t that affect the rest of the voting right up until election and keep many home because they figure Joe Blow was either going to win or lose.

Online worries

The computer age has gone beyond many of the OMOTM, especially where people now order so much “online.” The OFs still don’t trust this.

Some do go online and then tell stories of how screwed up it can get and that makes the other OFs more leery of getting into this “new” technology, especially when ordering parts to fix one thing or another.

It does save a lot of driving around. One OF mentioned, even if the first order is wrong, you are able to send it back and get the right one and it isn’t necessary to leave the house.

One OF mentioned he likes to see what he is buying, touch it, and make sure there are no flaws. This OF says the merchandise may look rugged in a picture but when it finally comes into your possession it might be some cheap thing that he would never even consider owning.

Another OF said he ordered parts via the computer that were supposed to be delivered in two days. Two days came and no parts showed up, so the OF contacted the parts store again and they said they would be delivered in two days.

Two days came and went and no parts. They should have told him two weeks. He finally did receive the parts. So much for that. Maybe next time he would be better off if he told the store he would pay up in two days.

The Old Men of The Mountain who made their way through the fog to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow without bumping into anything were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Marty Herzog, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Paul Nelson, Rick LaGrange, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Mace Porter, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


Our knees age as we age, so taking precautions may help them age a bit slower.

They are the biggest joint in the human body, consisting of three compartments. Any of these compartments are susceptible to wear and tear which may be painful.

At a certain point in our lives, joint damage will happen. However, according to an article by Stacey colino, published by AARP in September, steps can be followed to help with the protection of aging joints. These may include:

— Maintaining your weight: Excess weight can put extra pressure on the knees. One extra pound is equivalent to four times that pressure on your knees;

— Moving around: Movement maintains joint function, strength, and motion in our knees. Running is a great way to keep moving, but only every other day. Other activities include: low-impact bike riding, Pilates, swimming or using an elliptical;

— Developing strong muscles that support our knees: Our thigh muscles have a big influence on knee support so keeping these muscles strong can have a beneficial impact on your knees. These muscles can be strengthened by doing squats and lunges: For people aged 50 or older, do not squat below a 90-degree angle. Some exercise machines that can be used for the same effect include: leg press, hamstring curl, knee-extension and abductor machines;

— Focusing on your posture: To achieve good posture: First, stand up tall, then make sure your head lines up with your shoulders and your shoulders are over your hips. Next, your hips should line up with your knees. And lastly, align your knees up with your feet. This type of posture can relieve pressure off the knees;

— Owning a pair of shoes that are right for you: The shoes you wear should be comfortable and supportive so that alignment in your lower joints is not compromised but improved. A medical professional can recommend what type of shoe is best for you and your needs.; and

— Reacting to your knee pain: If you feel any pain or swelling while doing moderate exercises, take a break! The RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression, elevation), is a great way to recover quickly, along with taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Following these steps may help reduce any pain and may postpone the time when your knees begin to degenerate.

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: Mary Alsunna, a University at Albany student, is currently volunteering with Community Caregivers. She will be writing columns on topics of interest for seniors during fall 2019 semester.


— Photo by Dennis Sullivan

Mike Martin of Voorheesville served in the United States Army for 25 years beginning with a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. A highly decorated soldier, he sits on his scooter in the village park in Voorheesville in front of a monument dedicated to fellow villagers who died in World War II.

In November 1998, I was scheduled to deliver a paper at the annual meeting of The American Society of Criminology in Washington, D.C. It was part of a session called “The Requirements of Just Community.”

The conference that year ran from the 11th to the 14th, Wednesday to Saturday. Because Veterans Day always falls on the 11th, there’d be lots of people in town.

When I called a hotel to book a room, I was astounded to hear prices way out of whack for what a cloud-ridden November D.C. deserved — I did not know it was Veterans Day.

I asked the lady on the phone if there were discounts, like being a member of AAA. Whatever I said — I do not remember — the price went down 15 bucks. I asked another question and the price dropped again.

Then I asked the associate if that was the best price the hotel offered. She said, well, we do have something and quoted half the original price. I was puzzled; she said it was a “Bounce Back Special.”

Bounce Back? She said, you know, you’re out and about on the National Mall all day, you come back to your room, freshen up and bounce back! Ready to go again.

I booked a room and then asked why the original price was so out of whack for Washington that time of year. She said it was because of Veterans Day on the 11th; there’d be lots of people in town. Supply-Demand.

I said: You mean to tell me that for all the veterans who come to your city missing arms and legs — some still carrying shrapnel in their backs — come maybe to touch the name of a friend on a stone wall — and that for parents who lost a kid in war and still couldn’t shake the grief, for those people, you jacked up the price?

There was a second of silence and then the clerk sheepishly said: I never looked at it that way before. 

I tell this story whenever I can but still do not know who the MBA exec was, or who his hired-hand brand consultant was, who gave the green light to the worker bees to jack up rates on those suffering from war. Is that what “Demand” demanded?

Who said the dividends of rich investors should take precedence over the needs of a community striving to keep its consciousness alive by honoring its dead? Who said dividends take precedence over people walking around with one leg because the other was shot off by an enemy of the country?

I’m not a big fan of war but I’ve often wondered about the guy who carries a gun in a far-off land, sent there by supposedly honest officials, to prevent the electorate at Starbucks from having a plane crash into the whipped cream of their lattè.

Jacking up prices and empathy are enemies; capitalism knows empathy doesn’t pay.

I have not known that many people who fought — as opposed to sat at a desk — in war but my Uncle Neil — Cornelius Joseph Sullivan — served in the Navy during World War II and then in Korea, retiring as Commander Sullivan.

He looked beautiful in the full-dress whites of the United States Navy, a specimen athlete from childhood. He’s buried in Arlington National. My brother Jimmy went to see him; he came back saying Neil didn’t say a thing.

The Commander died at Bethesda Naval from multiple sclerosis. I don’t know a lot about medicine but I’ve always wondered if the thing that brought him down wasn’t the South Pacific. I know Ezio Pinza wasn’t singing “Some Enchanted Evening” there.

I’ve long thought that Uncle Neil was a casualty of “the silent residue of war,” those things, factors, biological realities, and psychological nightmares that produce sleepless nights having infiltrated the vet’s DNA long after the war is over.

The silent residue of war is subtle but it does make its way into the protoplasmic-psychological being of its “victims” who never return to “normal.”

Three of my maternal uncles also fought in World War II. I never heard anyone mention PTSD in those days but I never saw any of them dive beneath a table when a firecracker went off on the Fourth of July. 

One drank a bit. At the end of a wedding, he’d start crooning old standards in a nasal tenor so that the kids would run around saying: Uncle Franny’s talking French!

Years later, I heard his son say he thought his father was an alcoholic. I was surprised, not about the alcohol but whether Uncle Franny saw things no human being should ever see. But I have no data. As I said, the silent residue of war is subtle.

In John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” one of the fated passengers, Doc Boone, is played by the fiery life-affirming (Academy Award-winning) Thomas Mitchell.

He’s cast as a lush and, because of his drinking, gets kicked out of town — and onto the stage — where he continues to drink but, when called upon to save a life, he appears straight up, front and center.

It didn’t strike me at first, but a way into the movie we find out that Boone was in the Civil War — it doesn’t say as a doctor or whether he carried a gun — but after watching the movie many times I’ve come to the conclusion that Doc Boone was a victim of the silent residue of war.

Walt Whitman, our great national lovely poet Walt Whitman, entered that War to serve the wounded and depressed, to be a spiritual-comfort nurse, offering manly affection to young men hurt and dying of loneliness — 17-year olds pining for mother.

At a hospital in Falmouth, Virginia in late December 1862, he looked out back and saw a pile of severed arms and legs. His diary says, “Out doors, at the foot of a tree, within ten yards of the front of the house, I notice a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, &c., a full load for a one-horse cart.”

People who knew Walt before and after the war — the photos confirm it — say he came back different. He suffered a stroke on January 23, 1873 that I believe was the silent residue of war come home to collect.

My friend Dan Okada, a teacher of justice at Sacramento State University, was in the jungle of Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, with the First Air Cavalry Division of the United States Army, constantly under enemy fire.

Since his tour of duty, he wakes up every 2:30 a.m. unable to find relief in sleep. His is a case of the silent residue of war.

Then I see my neighbor, Mike Martin, riding up and down our street on a scooter, having served in Vietnam the same time Dan did. He’s had two operations on his neck and five on his back.

He used to jump out of helicopters from 20 feet, weighed down by 40 pounds of gear and massive rounds of large-caliber ammo. With respect to “’Nam,” he can quote Chapter and Verse.

Looking at his scrunched-up spine, a doctor once asked: Were you a paratrooper? Mike said no and went shopping for the scooter.

To Mike, to Dan, and to all vets similarly situated, I’d like to say: America has not forgotten you. Happy Veterans Day.

I won’t say Thank You for Your Service — some say that’s required — because I have no idea what your war was like, but it makes me crazy to think about those hotel execs who decided to raise the rates on you and your family, looking for a decent place to sleep, some of you rolling into the hotel lobby on a scooter.