Archive » April 2022 » Columns

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The dam that created the Watervliet Reservoir was located upstream on the Normanskill from the West Shore Railroad trestle, visible in the background.

Rising in wetlands near Duanesburg, the Normanskill flows 45.4 miles downstream through the towns of Guilderland, New Scotland, and Bethlehem to its confluence with the Hudson River.

Native Americans called the stream Tawasentha or “place of the dead,” a name inspired by a sacred native burial ground near its mouth. Here they found abundant food supplies in its pristine waters and along its wooded banks, their presence proven by the numerous archeological remains found nearby.

Change came with the arrival of the Dutch in the early years of the 17th century. When, in the 1630s, Albert Andriessen Bradt established a mill at the creek’s mouth, the stream became known to European settlers as Norman’s Kill due to the Norwegian ancestry of Bradt, called the “Norman.” With the advent of the fur trade, the waterway became a major Native American trading route to Fort Orange where Albany is today.

Sometime before his death in 1734, Evert Bancker, the former Albany mayor and merchant, came up the Normanskill to establish what was likely the first farm in Guilderland. It was located along the creek approximately across from the entrance to modern-day Tawasentha Park. (A state historic marker denotes the place.)

He was followed by settlers such as Jacob Vrooman and Abraham Wemple who also established farms on the fertile lands along the waterway in the years before the American Revolution. Eighteenth-Century settlers were described as “of the Normanskill” in the absence of a more specific address.

After the Revolution, the fertile soil produced huge quantities of broom corn. Later farmers switched to hay, oats, and rye.


Frenchs Hollow

The waters of the melting Ice Age glacier had cut through bedrock to create a ravine that by 1800 had become known as Frenchs Hollow. Named after Abel French who, having taken advantage of the water power, had begun operating grist and saw mills in this location by the end of the 18th Century.

The grist mill remained in operation here until the early 20th Century. French’s early textile mill failed, replaced by Peter K. Broeck’s larger textile mill, erected nearby.

After the factory failed, the empty building became used for social gatherings until the turn of the 20th Century. The hollow itself was a place of natural beauty where generations of Guilderland residents fished, swam, and picnicked.


Watervliet seeks clean water

During the first decade of the 20th Century, typhoid had become an increasingly serious health issue in the city of Watervliet as the result of contamination of the city’s water supply. Watervliet’s water source was then the Mohawk River near Dunsbach Ferry, water which had become more impure as the upstream cities and industry expanded.

Searching for a replacement source of safe, pure water, in 1912 or 1913 the city fixed on the Normanskill in Guilderland where it would be practical to dam the Frenchs Hollow ravine. In addition, the area to be flooded behind the dam was relatively inexpensive farmland that could be acquired by eminent domain if necessary.

The Watervliet City Council agreed to purchase the land projected to be about 700 acres necessary for “not less than $477,000 or more than $562,000.”

November 1913 brought news in The Enterprise that surveyors were working at Frenchs Hollow because of Watervliet’s plans to locate a dam there. Yet the next summer, the project did not seem final when the Enterprise stated, “The City of Watervliet is again agitating the question of securing a new water supply from French’s Mills.”

A 1914 map entitled “Map of Watervliet, NY & Vicinity showing proposed Municipal Water Supply from the Normanskill at Frenchs Mills” was published. Watervliet taxpayers seemed to be objecting because of the high cost of securing water privileges and acquiring land, while the Watervliet Hydraulic Company, apparently a private entity supplying Watervliet’s water from the Mohawk, was also opposed.

A major expense had been added to the project when the New York State Conservation Department insisted on a requirement for the project that a filtration plant had to be constructed in addition to the dam and the infrastructure needed to pipe the water from the reservoir to the city of Watervliet. The cost of the whole project was estimated by the Enterprise’s editor to possibly run as high as $500,000.

The next year, 1915, brought another surveying crew who put up at Borst’s Hotel in Guilderland Center. Once Watervliet had acquired the old French property at the hollow, officials next purchased the nearby farms of Richard Van Heusen and Herman Vincent just outside of Guilderland Center.

A few months later, the notices of auctions scheduled to take place at their soon-to-be vacated farms for the dispersal of their farm equipment were advertised.


Construction underway

By then, the contract to construct a concrete dam 35 feet high at the hollow had been awarded to a New York City firm and work had begun by 1916. A notice of a man’s death on the West Shore tracks identified him as a “laborer on the construction work of the new reservoir for the City of Watervliet at Frenchs Hollow.”

Considering that, except for steam shovels and possibly dynamite, other work had to be done with hand tools, this was a major construction project that would take many months. The derelict factory building was demolished and a pumping station built on its site. The dam seemed to have been completed by 1917 at the latest.

Acquisition of more than 600 acres of land along the Normanskill and the Bozenkill, a major tributary, was necessary. Land purchases were still being negotiated in 1916 when the Enterprise editor commented that the price of farmland “has taken a big jump lately on account of the building of the new Watervliet Reservoir and dam.”

His update noted that some farms had been acquired or were about to be acquired. In the area which would become the upper end of the reservoir, a farmer named John Moore planned to relocate to a farm at Parkers Corners and at least three members of the Sharp family lost all or part of their ancestral farms.



However, members of the Woodrich family, the last owners of the historic Wemple farm in Fullers, were not about to be forced to give up their approximately 56 acres plus without a fight.

Designated the “Wodrich Estate” in the Enterprise’s two mentions of this dispute, Guilderland historian Arthur Gregg later identified the last owner of the historic property as Richard Woodrich.

The family seemed to be from out of town, seeing as they had not only hired two Albany lawyers, but additionally a New York City law firm to fight the proposed acquisition or possibly the price the Watervliet officials offered to pay for their land. Another lawyer represented the property’s tenant.

To settle the dispute, the Albany County Court appointed a three-man committee including William Brinkman of Dunnsville to view the property and take testimony. The matter went to the New York State Supreme Court where the Watervliet Water Board requested the condemnation of the Woodrich property.

With the city having the power of eminent domain, the Woodrich family didn’t stand a chance. The final outcome of the case received no mention in the Enterprise. In the 1930s, Gregg mentioned that the Woodrich Estate received $16,000 for 60 acres with the family retaining that part of the property along Route 20.

Writing in “Old Hellebergh,” Chapter 18, Gregg offered a poignant description of the demolition of that treasure of Guilderland’s heritage, the 18th-Century Wemple homestead:

“…The house was built by the Vroomans in 1780 out of very large, extra sized brick made right there out of the clay from the bank near the barn. Some of you witnessed the destruction of this solid old house at the construction of the reservoir twenty-five years ago, and marveled at its workmanship. The farm was known at various periods as the Wemple, the Sigsbee, the Myers Farm, and, at the time of the flooding, belonged to Frederick Woodrich.”

The town of Guilderland recently refurbished an historical marker to denote the site.

Election Day 1918 found Frederick J. Van Wormer seeking re-election as Guilderland town supervisor. A Republican Party advertisement characterized him as a “scrapper” for having taken on the city of Watervliet, managing to get the city to restore the damage done to town highways in the process of construction of the dam.

Also, never mentioned, but pipes had to be laid across town land and Route 20 to bring the water to Watervliet. In addition, the state of New York was forced to build a new higher iron bridge at the upper end of the reservoir due to the rising water levels at the point of the Normanskill’s flow into the reservoir where the Osborn Corners-Schenectady Road crossed it.

Now Route 158, the road had already become a state route at the time of the dam’s construction.

What right did Watervliet have to come into Guilderland, build a reservoir here ,and force local farmers to give up their farms? Obviously an agreement was made with the Guilderland Town Board in 1912 or 1913, but the details are unavailable.


Riparian rights?

In the years after 1960, when Guilderland’s rapid growth sent town officials on a quest for additional water supplies, the Watervliet Reservoir was again in the news. A statement by Guilderland Town Supervisor Carl J. Walters in 1977 announced that the town was limited by law as to how much water it could purchase from Watervliet.

He claimed, “This limitation of 2,000,000 gallons per day was set many years ago when Watervliet purchased the reservoir from the town. Hindsight tells us that the sale of the water supply was not a prudent move by the local officials at the time.”

The late Fred Abele, a very reliable local historian, focused on a different aspect when he claimed in a 1984 “McKownville: News and Comment” column that Watervliet had retained riparian rights dating from the time of the formation of the town of Guilderland in 1803.

(In 1788, the state of New York divided the entire state into towns; the town of Watervliet included most of what is now Albany county as well as most of what is now Niskayuna in Schenectady county.)

Apparently, when the town of Guilderland was created from the town of Watervliet, the water rights did not automatically pass to the new town. Noting he had been a member of the townwide Water Advisory Board for a number of years, perhaps Mr. Abele had access to information not generally known.

This legal point may be the reason why the Guilderland Town Board members of 1912 or 1913 acquiesced when the city of Watervliet announced its intention to create a reservoir in the midst of our town.

Today, a portion of Guilderland’s water supply comes from the reservoir. In addition, a hydroelectric plant generates power on the site. Perhaps, in the long run, it has worked out for the best for both Watervliet and Guilderland that the reservoir was created on the Normanskill.

A quick bit of house cleaning. This column will report on some of the notes that were not used in earlier reports. This scribe wrote himself a note to excuse himself from the priorities list for attendance.

This scribe had a procedure done on his back that the scribe did not want to play games with and the earliest appointment the dermatologist had was early in the morning on a Tuesday so, as the Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, April 12, this scribe had to miss the gathering at Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh. Darn! Now the scribe will miss all the gossip.

Many of the OFs are a traveling lot; members go hither and yon at the drop of a hat, but on fixed incomes and with really rising prices for fuel and food, and soon lodging, this may not be the case. The subject of travel as a note in the book appears many times.

The last couple of times though had the OFs discussing how they may be forced to cut back. COVID was a problem just a little while ago, and it appears to be raising its ugly head again, but this time the OFs are complaining not only about COVID but the prices of everything might park the OFs again. Well, it’s not hard to meet expenses — they’re everywhere.

Some of the OFs say: To heck with COVID. They complied with all the rules brought up last time and were cooped up like a flock of chickens, so now they are going to get out instead of going nuts. One OF mentioned he would go out and about even if he had to dip into his mad-money fund.



It seems we (and that means all of us, not only the OFs) have vaccinations now for many maladies that used to be disastrous and do many people in. The scribe has a note on one of the subjects in his notes written as “shingles.”

This note is not checked off but that does not mean much; many are not checked off. However, the comment was being vaccinated for shingles.

Yeah or nay is not mentioned either but, from experience, shingles are nasty. If the scribe remembers this discussion, it led to how many vaccines can we have roaming around in our bodies before we have the clash of the vaccines and need a vaccine to take care of all the other vaccines?

One OF mentioned maybe they will develop one vaccine with all the others combined and, when we are young, we can get one shot and that’s it.

Another OF said, “Remember when we were young and we got that shot for smallpox and it left a round ring on our shoulders for ages?”

Still another OF said he thought as soon as we get one disease under control another one pops up that requires all the kids that studied to be research doctors to work on coming up with new cures or new vaccines. Look how many shots we get now since the one for smallpox.


Bug season

These notes go way back and they all talk about bugs, snakes, and crawly things. Though the years go by, quickly or slowly depending on each individual’s situation, in many cases the years remain the same.

It will soon be bug season again with those little black no-see-ums, or maybe black flies. Some OFs don’t think they are the same insect, but now here they come out spoiling the OFs’ time outdoors.

All kinds of sprays and rub-ons are available to keep the flying pests away but are the sprays good for us? Maybe not, but the sprays and rub-ons do help.

Maybe some smart research doctor will come up with a vaccine that will thwart the flying pests from bothering humans and animals. The scribe decided to research the flying stingers and found out they are not all bad, with a big question mark. Google it, but the OFs still don’t want them biting us and they shouldn’t.


Eating lobster

There is another reminder on the note pad that this scribe cannot remember if it was reported on. Maybe a portion of eating was used but this scribe does not think it all was because a few of the notations are not ticked off.

Eating lobster is one that some of the OFs will not do because they know how they have to be cooked, and that is by boiling the lobster alive. These OFs don’t take kindly to that, just the thought of it, and the lobsters let people know they are not too happy about that either.

Being boiled alive just so humans can have a meal is not the best idea. Some OFs think it is pretty brutal.


Sensitive OGs

The other note is in the same vein. These OFs (not necessarily the ones with the lobster, although some could be) won’t eat lamb because they know where it comes from, and still see the little lamb eyes.

These OFs, though most were farmers, still have problems eating lamb, and don’t call these OFs wimps, just sensitive OGs.

The OFs who attended the breakfast at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and probably did not discuss any of the above this week were: George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, John Muller, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Henry Whipple, John Dabrvalskes, Paul Nelson, Rick Lagrange, Jim Darra, Paul Guiton, Doug Marshall, and not me.

In 1511, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo painted his view of the face of God in “Creation of the Sun and Moon.”

I came out with a new book of poems this past Christmas called “Thirty-Two Views of the Face of God.” It was a gift for my friends.

As you might imagine, the title is problematic in that millions of people believe that a person cannot see the face of God, that it’s beyond human ability — their religion says so.

Christian genealogists trace their thinking to John the Evangelist who says in the Prologue to his gospel: No one’s ever seen God. Zero-sum.

And, if you read the New Testament (the Greek Scriptures) you know such thinking exists in Paul. In a letter to a group of young Christians in Corinth, he tells the neophytes right off that happiness is seeing God face-to-face and that we, in our bodily state, see only “through a glass darkly.” A human being is fully happy only after death.

It’s a bold assertion because it sets the parameters of human potential, defines the psychological dimensions of personhood, and maps out a person’s path to happiness.

Thomas Aquinas and theologians of his ilk refer to seeing the face of God as the “beatific vision” and reaffirm John’s assertion that it’s a human being’s raison d’être.

Such thinking is clearly at odds with the work of the great psychotherapist Carl Rogers who spent his life working with people who sought relief from their unhappiness. His “On Becoming a Person” is a collection of essays about people revealing their stories and experiencing a new sense of “divine.”

The odd thing about seeing the face of God is that, if I sat down 10 believers right now and asked each to describe it, they would be perplexed, dumbfounded. And they have to do it in detail: A face has features. What are its physical properties? Or is the face of God an invisible nothingness?

Without some sense of what to look for — as the late comedian Jackie Mason might say — you could wind up with the face of a wrong God.

And — for the conventional believer — dealing with these issues is far beyond the power of the conventional sense of “faith.”

You can see why “Thirty-Two Views” stands in opposition to John, Paul, Thomas Aquinas, and others who set the parameters of human happiness outside the human; without human grounding, happiness could easily be mistaken for smoking crack.

If the gospel writer John were here, he’d say with a snip: “I already told you: No one’s ever seen the face of God! And here you’re telling me you have thirty-two views. Infidel!”

And I would say: “No, John, these poems reflect actual visions or experiences that took place beyond the edge of human consciousness — where poems are born — expressions of what some poets call the voice of God. And because you say, John, no human being can see the face of God, you have no data — while in my little book, I offer 32 graphic captions of what that face looks like in its own language — poetry.”

At the end of the “Poet’s Preface” in my little book there’s a poem I wrote in Spanish called “El Evangelio Según San Yo” which in English is, “The Gospel According to Saint Me,” and saint not like those in Butler’s “Lives of the Saints” but like those evangelists who speak of the divine’s human dimensions.

I started thinking about this in Barcelona when I bought a copy of the “Collected Poems” of the Spanish poet José Ángel Valente. In the back of the book Valente offers his Spanish of the Prologue of the gospel of John: “El Evangelio Según San Juan [Prólogo]” “The Gospel According to Saint John [the Prologue].”

Valente translates John’s dictum as: Nadie jamás ha visto a Dios — nobody’s ever seen God—words I read in Greek 60 years before but never saw their subversive nature, how they turn happiness upside down.

In the middle of my poem I say (my translation of my Spanish):

But what grates me most

Is the pen of the propagandist John

Who Catholics call a saint

Who apostatized saying

No one’s ever seen the face

Of God.

While my heart smiles all day

And at night laughs beyond control

Because the stars never expire

Just like the moon and the sun.

Rogers would like that, the author of his own Upanishads.

And, if a person cannot see the face of God, and it’s central to his religion, he must imagine it. A face is a visage and visages are images that have words: eyes, nose, placidity, contemplative.

I might add that a few people — two to be exact — expressed concern about the first two sentences of my Poet’s Preface which read: “If I told you all I learned in life, it would take a million years. I still surprise myself.”

One of my friends said I was coming across as some kind of Renaissance man. But the words mean that, when a person starts telling the story of how he relieved himself of burdens and entered into the divine, it takes time.

If I asked you: Tell me everything you know, how long would it take? A minute? An hour? Most of the day? Would it take a million years?

My hypothesis is: Detailing one’s transition from one stage of growth to another is a source of happiness, and arranging the narratives of all those transitions into a harmonized whole is a view of the face of God.

Rogers said, when people come in for therapy, they come behind a façade, behind which they hide their face and everything else of value. Thus, my second hypothesis is: Those who cannot see their own face because they keep it hidden behind a façade, are unable to see the face of another, never mind the face of a being they bet their happiness on.

Rogers also said that, when folks begin to feel safe in therapy, they start saying things they never knew were inside them, and their face lights up with the light of another world.

If you were asked right now to tell everything you learned in life and how it’s made you happy, should I pencil you in for an afternoon or will it take a million years?

This Tuesday, the Old Men of the Mountain sauntered over to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh for their first cup of coffee. Not all the OMOTM start out with coffee, some take just water, with a few it is orange juice, but some type of liquid starts the day just as long it is not a “Bud” or a shot of this or that. The OF who starts out with those to start the day has a problem.

The OFs continued with their conversation on motorcycles like the OGs were in a type of soap opera. A few of the OFs missed the report from last week on the OF’s bike trip through New Zealand, and these OGs wanted to bring up the New Zealand discussion again only with different questions about the trip and the country.

However, this conversation turned to types of riders and ages and, like most hobbies or interests that started when the OFs were young and continued well into the OFs later years, motorcycle riding is one.

Years ago, there was an OF who, in his middle years, lost a leg. This OF continued to ride his bike with just one leg. The OF did have a prosthetic leg which he handled very well.

This OF also purchased a side car so he and the wife could travel about with the wind in their hair, the rain in their face, and the bugs on their teeth well into their senior years.


Anti-Rent Wars

The town of Knox on the hill is celebrating its bicentennial and some of the OFs are involved in this. A very interesting event that occurred in the 1800s that Knox and the other Hilltowns were very much a part of, is the Anti-Rent Wars.

The end of this disagreement settled the way we own property today throughout the country. “Very short version of the story.”

When traveling through the Hilltowns, the traveler may see a few state signs along the road mentioning the Anti-Rent Wars.

It is interesting to note that the building at the corner of routes 85 and 85A in New Salem that is now apartments was a tavern back then where the sheriff of Albany County massed an army to go after the anti-renters in Reidsville.

Reidsville is on Route 85, up the Letter S, two or three miles beyond Helderberg Lake. Altamont itself had quite a part in the settling of how landowners were to pay taxes and to whom.

Going back a few years into a bit of the local history, and listening to some of the names, the OFs commented that we are not too far removed from that period of time.

To which one OF said, “Because this group is growing a considerable amount of moss on our backside, and anyone can hear us coming by the creek of our canes, or the squeak of our un-oiled walker wheels, we should have a word added to the title of the OMOTM we should be GOMOTM, Grumpy Old Men of the Mountain.”

One other OF said, “That is not true; if anything, it should be COMOTM, Chipper Old Men of the Mountain because he is not a GOF, but COF.”

This scribe thinks any adjective could be slipped in because there are enough OFs to fit any inserted adjective. (How quickly the OFs get off the subject.)


The real stuff

There is an OF who produces a lot of maple sap, but not in this area. This is just the sap that comes from the tree, not the syrup that is oozed over your waffles, or pancakes, or French toast — only the sap.

The OF has been gone awhile while managing the sap run and some of the OFs were wondering how he was doing and when he will be back. This brought out some conversation on the syrup itself and nothing made from chemicals compares with the real stuff.

One OF had waffles for breakfast this morning, and he took the syrup supplied by the restaurant and meticulously filled each square of the waffle with syrup. This scribe often wondered why the waffle is a waffle, because it is only a pancake with squares in it — now the scribe knows. The squares are for either syrup or melted butter.

The stomach must be quite an organ to sort all of what goes in it, from foods, to drinks, to meds, and at times all at the same time. All being sorted out, this is good, this is bad, this is really good, and this is awful. Including some things that come along where the stomach says what the heck is this. This had better get passed as is, right away.



There was some conversation on the power generation plant in Gilboa where the generators are underground. The ground floor is not the first floor. The Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Station has their generators a few floors down. 

he OFs were discussing about times the fire company that covered this area was called to a fire. The OF relating the story said the fire company was told the fire was on the seventh floor

The company showed up and immediately went into action, one of which (other than laying hose) was getting the ladders ready. “Oops,” the OF said, “The seventh floor was down, not up. Ladders were not necessary.”

The OF did not say what the fire or emergency was, but it must have been minor because it did not make the papers.

Those Old men who made it to the Middleburgh Diner and chatted about everything under the sun including kilts, were: Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer (who has put the winter hat away), Jake Herzog, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

Where does the time go? At times this scribe would like to chase it, grab it by the tail, and get some of it back. It is already time to pen the Old Men of the Mountain report again.

The OMOTM met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown on March 29. Anyone in the Northeast would have thought the month was January instead of darn close to April.

Sometimes the column reports on the OFs who have motorcycles with many of them being considerable enthusiasts. One OF was enthusiastic enough to travel to New Zealand to go on a bike trip with about 10 other diehard bikers. The question was asked what New Zealand was like because (nothing about the motorcycles) the OFs were more interested in the country and the people with a firsthand report.

The traveling OF said the parts of New Zealand they saw were beautiful, and the people were really nice, but the OFs encountered thieves. The OF told how his wife had 20 dollars disappear right out of their room. Almost all of those who were on the bike ride had their wallets or their purses stolen from their hotel rooms, at night, right when they were in their rooms.

The wallets and purses were found in the bushes in the morning. The OFs said only money was taken, and the other stuff was left alone.

One OF piped up, “It’s not possible to trace money. They may be thieves, but they are not dumb.”

The OF said the thieves had to either have one tall guy push one short guy onto the balcony, or use ladders, because all those in the group were on the second floor and they kept the doors to their rooms locked.

The exception was that, in most cases, the balcony doors were unlocked. Some were even left open for the night air.

The OF did not mention if the police were even interested or not — the assumption is probably not. The OF said the New Zealander who organized the trip invited the group to come to his home at one time and showed the group how he had to maintain his stuff.

The house was completely fenced, there were locked heavy iron gates to the walk and the driveway, the garage doors were heavy-duty with large solid locks. Inside the garage there were large iron rings in the floor, and heavy chains used to chain down the motorcycles and other items inside the locked garage.

Wow! The OF said the group guessed thievery was a problem.


Rule breaker

At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, the OF who was telling about the trip to New Zealand had on his OMOTM cap with a screwy looking emoji attached. An emoji’s primary function is to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing from typed conversation.

These cues may come as illustrations of happy, angry, or sad faces, plus too many others to list here. The OF said he got that particular emoji for not paying attention to the rules of the ride. The contract had on the bottom a paragraph with small print, which in part stated the bikes were to stay on the main roads, and not go off-road.

The riders were all given maps of how to arrive at each stopping point. The OF said that on one leg of the ride he saw a dirt road that was just about parallel to the main road and arrived at the same stopping point, so he took that road.

The OF did not relate what the penalties were, but it did earn him the pin so everyone knew he was a bad boy and didn’t follow the rules. We guessed it’s a whole lot easier to get older than to get wiser.


OFs prefer to conserve

The OMOTM had a discussion on waste, and how much we throw away. One OF thought we have two factions pushing one against the other.

Some of the OFs thought Madison Avenue wants us to buy, buy, buy, while the conservation group wants the OFs to conserve. The OFs for the most part fall into the conservative group in many ways.

TV is loaded with restoring or renovating houses. The fixer-uppers start with a sledge hammer.

The OFs said perfectly good cabinetry is destroyed when it could be taken down carefully and reused. The same with doors and windows.

One OF said there are people not well off who could use this stuff either as a donation, or at reduced prices. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with it.

Madison Avenue pushes ads to purchase new stoves, new refrigerators, etc. when there is nothing wrong with the ones many people have. These appliances are just out of style — not worn out.

One OF said that he has an old hot-water heater that works fine, but his son purchased a new one that lasted only 11 years. This felt like it was built to wear out because the heater must have had an expiration date. Expired, Expired. Just like old milk with its use-by date.

The Avenue also works hard on installing a desire to purchase what is not necessary and the OFs definitely do not need. If the OF purchases a new couch, the furniture store tries to sell the OF a tractor-trailer load of cushions to go with it.

One OF commented that he has so many cushions it is impossible to see the couch and, in order to sit down, it is necessary to throw all these things on the floor. Golly, the OFs guess it does put people to work making these things.

The Old Men of the Mountain who live in areas where, in most cases, it is not necessary to even lock the doors and exited these same doors to go to the Chuck Wagon Diner were: Miner Stevens, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Matt Erschen, Jake Lederman, Jake Herzog, Rich LaGrange, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Muller, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Paul Whitbeck, Rev. Jay Francis, John Dabrvalskes, Paul Guicon, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Elwood Vanderbilt, Wayne Gaul, and me.

I used to work at the Chemical Bank on Broadway in Manhattan, downtown in the Wall Street area, right by where the famous and iconic “Charging Bull” sculpture is now. Back then, there was a little parking area where those brave enough to commute by motorcycle in “the city” would park as well.

It was a vibrant area to be in, especially when you first got off the subway in the morning. I’d order a buttered hard roll every day in the deli on the ground floor. The guy in the back would make it, wrap it, and then throw it to the guy at the register, who would deftly catch it with one hand before handing it to me. Fun times.

One of my favorite co-workers at the bank was a fellow computer programmer named Ron. He was a little shorter than me and a bit older than me, with sandy gray hair and a big, wide smile. I liked Ron a lot because he was smart, friendly, and loved to ride dirt bikes and go skiing. Just an all-around great guy. I hope he’s doing well.

You know how people talk in offices. One day, a female co-worker, who’d noticed I was friends with Ron, approached me:

“You know about Ron, right?”

“Er, no, I don’t know about Ron. What about him?”

“He’s independently wealthy.”


“He has loads of money. He just comes in here every day because he likes playing around with computers.”

“No kidding.”

“Yep. He comes here just for the fun of it.”

Mind you, anyone working on Wall Street, aside from the infamous “1 percent” who come in by limo or helicopter, is either commuting by subway or bus or some other difficult way each day. It’s an ordeal.

Yet Ron did it, even though he didn’t need the money, just to be allowed to do what he loved, which was computer programming. This was back in the days when personal computers were expensive, slow, and clunky. Real programmers, like Ron and I, worked on large mainframes. It surely was a totally different world back then.

I’m mentioning Ron because I’m at the point in my career where I seriously have to question how much longer I should work. One reason I moved to Albany 38 years ago was because of the excellent pension plan my job offered.

The more I keep working, the more it keeps growing. When I retire, there will be many payroll deductions and work-related expenses I’ll no longer have. Then I’ll add in my pension, savings, and Social Security.

These things won’t make me independently wealthy like Ron, but I won’t have to work for financial reasons anymore. Isn’t it amazing — working hard and saving your money throughout your life actually pays off in the end. What a surprise, haha.

Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers in this country — those of us born between 1946 and 1964 — retire. So it’s not unusual for someone my age to be thinking about retirement.

Still, like Ron, I enjoy working with computers and technology very much. With computers, unlike with humans, there is no ambiguity. The code is either correct and it works or it’s incorrect and it doesn’t.

If you like puzzles, games, and riddles as I do, you’d probably like playing around with computers as well. It’s just very satisfying to work with things where emotions are not involved and it’s all straightforward and logical. Too bad more of the world is not like that.

My job, though I like the technical side of it, is of course not perfect. There is mind-numbing bureaucracy, office politics, and just a bland, organizational feel to the physical infrastructure.

It’s not a place you look forward to traveling to. Working from home at times is better but, let me tell you, having access to the fridge and the pantry all day is a discipline challenge.

Despite all of that, it’s just good to be on a team with other motivated individuals to achieve goals and get work done. It’s still very satisfying, even after all these years. Plus I’ve been there so long now I even have a great parking spot. Hate to give that up, haha.

If you count part-time jobs after school, I’ve been working for close to 50 years. The thought of not having someplace to go on Monday morning actually gives me the chills. It would be such a change for me.

I’m just so used to being in the working world that I’m having a hard time imagining not contributing anymore. I know I may be in the minority here. I’ve seen people stare at the retirement countdown clock on their computer every day for years, hoping and praying for the day when they could walk out of the office for the last time.

Go into any bar and you’ll hear people complaining about their jobs. How sad all these folks couldn’t figure out something they liked doing, even a little bit, before spending all their working life just grinding it out until retirement.

When I retire, I plan on running for the Guilderland Library Board of Trustees, so I can give back to an organization that has given me so much pleasure over the years. I’d also like to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, where you help to build housing for folks who need it.

I’m sure I’ll find other productive things to do. Maybe even part-time work of some sort.

Plus I can do as much programming as I want on my own home computer when I retire (personal computers are a lot better now than in Ron’s day). But “checking out” from full-time employment is so antithetical to me I’m going to have to work very hard to get mentally ready for it.

A lot of people look forward to traveling when they retire. I like to travel, but there are so many great places to go it’s hard to imagine choosing only a few.

Fortunately for me, I can take out a library book and then, if the writing is good, be magically transported to a different place or even time. That’s why reading has always been my favorite hobby.

“In my mind, I’m going to Carolina,” as James Taylor so beautifully sings, is a real thing. I do it every day.

Let me leave you with this: At another bank I worked at, we had a security guard named Ernie. Ernie was a roly-poly old Italian guy, always smiling and always laughing, a lot like Norm from “Cheers.”

Those of us working in the bank loved him, and so did the customers. He brightened up everyone’s day, every day. Then they cut him down to three days a week, then two, and then to only one day a week.

At that point, his whole demeanor and physical appearance changed, very much for the worse. He was no longer happy all the time, and he slumped when he walked. It was so sad to see.

It’s like the reduced hours — the reduction in contact with the people he loved — reduced his will to live. Finally one day, he was gone for good.

I don’t know what happened to him after that, but I can say for sure he wasn’t doing well at all when they let him go. Think about it — he went from being needed, loved, respected, and adored to being unceremoniously cast off like yesterday’s lunch. Ouch.

Now I’m not saying retiring from a lifetime of working is like what happened to Ernie. I know it’s possible to have a fulfilling and happy retirement with interesting activities, travel, volunteering, etc.

There’s also spending more time with family and finally getting to all those household projects that have been on the to-do list for so long. Those are all good things. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself lately.

The end is near. Or is it really just the beginning?

On March 22, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. The café had all new table tops, made right here locally in the U.S. of A. Local, meaning local, meaning right here! Local wood with local hands and if the OFs had eggs, it was local chickens that laid the eggs and of course local hands that cooked ’em up.

Quite a few mentioned how clear Tuesday morning was on the ride in, and how high the moon was in the sky. It was not a full moon, but the air was so sharp and clear in this early morning that the moon craters were clearly visible.

One OF said that, with a good pair of binoculars, it could have been possible to see the moon people walking around. Another clever OF said, “What would they be called, Moonies?

The conversation was almost like the OFs never went home from the last breakfast; the talk was still about high prices. For the OMOTM, this is of a serious concern — none of us are affluent enough to not notice these increases. The OFs do their own shopping; no one does it for them so the OFs can see these increases.

One OF said that he went to one of these large building-supply stores to purchase some materials for a small project he was going to build. The OF related some of the prices and these prices were so out of line from what the OF had budgeted for it made the OF abandon the project.

The two-by-fours were 12 bucks, the OF said; a sheet of plywood was $35, and a sheet of Sheetrock was ridiculous for just some plaster sandwiched between a couple sheets of paper.

The OF said, “My goodness, what if anyone contracted last year to have a simple two-bedroom, two-bath house built? That domicile is going to cost a million dollars.”

Another OF said, “Not only do you have supplies to purchase, but operating expenses like fuel oil and all that, which would have to be factored in. Talk about things coming to a halt. What is it going to cost to use macadam to do a driveway? Holy cow! Concrete might make a comeback.”

One OF hollered across the table to another OF that, if they hear of anyone fitting his description robbing a bank, it will probably be him. The OF said he would have to do it because he needed a loaf of bread and gas for his car.

Another OF replied there probably would not be enough money in the bank to cover it.


Relative temperatures

The OMOTM don’t want to push the season, but a few are anxious to get out. A couple of OFs said they took their bikes out for a ride. The day appeared nice, but it was only nice in appearance; the air had a bite to it.

One OF mentioned that most of us should still have our winter blood, but this OF said for some reason he feels cold outdoors, just like the OFs summer blood in the fall, meaning he feels cold when it really is not that cold out yet.

Another OF picked up on this and mentioned 60 degrees in March feels like the OF can run around in shorts and a T-shirt; however, 60 degrees in June and the OF is shivering and wants his mad bomber hat, and a mackinaw.

One OF mentioned that the weather sometimes can be adjusted by those around you, and not how hot or cold it is. When this OF is out in the woods with a group of friends, at times he doesn’t even know he is standing in 12 inches of snow, and it is only 25 degrees out; however, if he is in the spot alone, he is cold and wants to get inside.

Another OF mentioned that this can happen sometimes when one feels ill, or hurts. If friends are around, the OF said he doesn’t feel as sick, or hurt as much, as he does when they are not.

Then one OF chirped up that, when he is sick, he wants to be left alone and just sleep. An OF added when he is hurting or ill, sleep is the best thing. This OF thinks that, no matter what malady your pills are prescribed for, they are just there to knock you out.

Another OF added that doctors say, time is the doctor’s best friend, but the OF didn’t really know that he just heard it. No doctor has ever said to him, “Here, take these pills, they will make you sleep, and time will do the healing.”

Then one other OG added that he heard it another way, “Time heals all wounds,” which some Greek poet first said around 300 B.C. (These OFs are older than they let on).

The conversation was continued by another OF who said, “Hey, given enough time, you’re dead anyway, then, you OF, you ain’t going to feel anything.”

OK, so an additional OF had to join the mix and said he hurts all the time and doesn’t know if it’s another pain come to call or just an old one that has become a little more noticeable. This OF said, when he wakes up in the morning, he looks around and says, “Oh darn! I woke up again.”

As Johnny Carson once said, “Happiness is having your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.”

Those OFs who did wake up, and manage to get up, and get to the Your Way Café in Schoharie to take in some fuel for the beginning of the day and at least make it to lunch were: Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, John Muller, Miner Stevens, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Rich LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Dabrvalskes, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Wally Guest, and me.