Altamont, Jan. 23, 2014

It is always interesting to read about the Altamont High School class reunions.

The most recent sixtieth reunion pictured and talked about people who are well-known in and around the village. They are still the supporters of our businesses, churches and fraternal organizations.

How exciting it would have been to be a fly on the wall and listen in on some of their conversations. Would they have talked about the creation of a central school district in the town of Guilderland? Perhaps they would have mused about being at a dance at the Masonic Hall. You could almost see them sitting at the counter of the pharmacy having a milk shake or even bowling at the alleys on Altamont Blvd. and Main St.

Although, we often do not notice the changes that are taking place around us, they are there. Over a period of years so many changes take place that we often forget what the area was like before the change. 

Some changes are necessary because of age, fire or remodeling. Other changes may come about because there is a benefactor who wishes to do something good for the community.

One big change that came through the village of Altamont was the modern movement of building wooden roads. Stop in at the village archives and ask about Schoharie Plank Road. Our roadways were once dirt and mud paths until the early to mid–1800s, a movement at that time called for the building of wooden roads, which were a great improvement in transportation. 

These plank-boards were laid over the roadway on log foundations in various lengths, but most were eight feet long. These roads were built for wagons; the width of the roads was 12 feet or more.

Maintenance involved digging ditches on each side of the plank road to drain the water and keep mud from accumulating under and over the planks. By doing this, wagons loaded with merchandise and agricultural products and the animals pulling them, were not slowed or stopped by mud, but could enjoy a hazard free ride once they reached a plank road.

Early turnpike companies built these roads and there was often a toll charge of one to two cents per horse. 

The cost of building a plank road was from several hundred dollars to several thousand per mile, depending upon the climate and condition of the terrain.

Plank roads were still popular into the 20th Century where the first motorists, struggling to negotiate muddy roads and bumpy gravel roads with their Model T, were all too happy to have a level surface on which to drive. 

Great fanfare often accompanied the opening of a plank road, just as today when a new stretch of highway is completed.

Like many inventions, the plank road was a progressive idea and enhanced local travel, tremendously. However, after a few years of wear, the planks began to warp and rot away. The cost of repair, more lumber, gravel, toll buildings, employees, and management all came into play. As the planks deteriorated, gravel was used to compensate, making for a slower and bumpier ride.

Railroads continued their expansion, connecting more towns than the deteriorating plank roads, so travelers began traveling more by rail. Progress in highway construction meant the eventual demise of the plank. Plank roads fell into history, many still lying forgotten underneath today’s paved roads.

Pedestrian plank footbridges, like the ones highlighted in pictures and stories in recent issues of The Enterprise, lead the way into forests, over creeks, and swampy areas in parks.

Although not well known after all these decades, the original plank roads of the 19th and early 20th centuries had a prosperous impact on our economy and led to the need for the better, less costly roads we now enjoy.

One change in Altamont came about because of a fire. We have residents who work hard keeping their gardens and homes looking good and in good repair. They shop at the Agway without knowing that the store that was there burned several years ago. It is and has been a very popular store and was rebuilt with a more customer friendly parking lot and walkway. What did not change was the friendly and knowledgeable staff they have working for them.

 St. Lucy’s and St. Bernadette’s Church on Grand St., changed the focal point for their altar. If you have not seen the inside, you should make it a point to see the remodeled sanctuary. They removed one wall and built a connecting space between the church and the rectory. At the same time they changed the altar from the front of the church to the side and placed the chairs in a semicircle to be more open for everyone.

The beautiful stained glass windows that were removed from the side that had the most change were placed in other areas keeping the beautiful, artful feeling you expected from the old church. The new entrance opens into the new gathering space. These changes were done because the focal point was changing in all of the parishes.

Some of you will remember the night there was a loud explosion at the village hall. Someone poured a flammable liquid through a window next to the vault. The carpet acted as a wick and as the burning liquid consumed all of the air in the vault it caused the door to explode and lifted the roof right off of the walls.

My husband, Jim, was the mayor at the time and decided to make a good thing out of a bad situation. He gathered the trustees, insurance agent and the engineer to decide what to do with the rebuilding or remodeling. Their final decision was to add a larger meeting room for the public, another bathroom, and a space for the museum and archives. Stop in some time and be amazed at what they have to offer.

One major reason for people to remodel is to keep up with technology. Next week we will talk about changes because of a benefactor and technology changes.

Helderberg luncheon

Members of Helderberg Chapter No.331 met this past Saturday for an informal social. Those is attendance were Stacey Wright, Matron; Gerry Irwin, Patron; Beverly Harrington, Claire Beckenstein, Jean Wright and Shirley DeSess. The group met for a social gathering as the Chapter is dark during the month of January.

Pops Goes Dancing

February 1 is the date for the Guilderland High School music department’s Pops Goes Dancing. The concert will feature  over 350 talented students in the choir, bands, orchestras and Jazz bands.  This event will be held in the new gym in the high school

This event is a fund-raiser for the Guilderland music booster association, the Guilderland Music and Parents Organization, and the Guilderland Music Parents and Friends Association.

Proceeds from the concert will be used for scholarships, assembly programs, enrichment activities, guest clinicians, and resources for all students in the school district.

Tickets are $6 pre-sale and $7 at the door.  Families can buy a four-ticket pack for $20.  Seating will be on a first come, first serve basis. 

Tickets can be purchased in the school store or by getting in touch with Lori Hershenhart, the music supervisor at 861-8591, ext.1106 or via e-mail by going online to .

Sports sign-up

Students interested in participating in spring sports must pick up a sports sign-up packet from the school nurse’s office. The completed packet must be returned to the nurse’s office by Feb. 25.

Art and variety show

Friday, Jan.  24, is the date for FMS staff and variety show. It will be held at the school beginning at 6:30 p.m. The variety show will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $4 per person and $8 for a family. Come and enjoy an evening of fun, art, music and comedy.

Food pantry

Spaghetti and canned vegetables are always needed at the Altamont Food Pantry. All donations can be left in the basket in the gathering space at St. Lucy/St. Bernadette’s Church on Grand St.

Tae Kwon Do

Students in kindergarten through grade 3 at the Altamont Elementary School have the opportunity to participate in Tae Kwon Do after school. A notice has been sent home to the parents regarding this after-school activity.  If interested, a signed form must be returned to the school.


        Happy Birthday wishes are extended to:

— Meghan McGowan, Kevin McGowan and Caressa Amanda Livingston on Jan. 24;

— Beryl Grant on Jan. 25;

— Susan Bresney and Olivia Gracce Ostieon Jan. 26;

— Mark Chrywaty,  Martha Crisafulli, Angela De Benedetti, Mary Ann Orsini, and Theresa Schager on Jan.  27;

— Mildred Burke, Chris Jones, and Jason Shank on Jan. 28; and

— Patty Ginder, Simon Greenwald, and Joel True on Jan. 30.