Altamont, Nov. 7, 2013

A friend of mine knocked on our door and without waiting for an answer she opened the door and walked into the living room. Gayle had her Ihone in her hand and was laughing heartily. It was not surprising to see the phone because it is always with her. As a matter of fact she would not look fully dressed if she left her house without the phone in her hand.

Today’s laughter was generated by a joke another friend sent to her. It was so funny to her that she had to share it right away. We discussed the ability of this woman to remember and relate so many good jokes. She reminded me of our good neighbor, Estel Van Auken, (she was about 85 at the time) who would talk to me when I was in the backyard taking clothes off  the line.  It was just about the time Jim, my husband, got home from work.

As soon as she saw him she would shoo me into the house to get his dinner. Estel would then proceed to tell Jim a couple of the latest jokes she had heard. Frequently, they were a little off color and many of them she had heard from our neighbor across the street, Arthur Gregg, who would bring the makings for pie to her  and then return  for the finished product later in the day.

Many will remember Art Gregg as a local author and historian. He was the historian for both the town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont. He loved to speak to groups about the history of this area and added many stories that brought history to life. I did not have the pleasure of hearing Mr. Gregg speak, but I often heard Roger Keenholts tell  some interesting  stories that had been  passed  down from Mr. Gregg.  Keenholts later took the reins as town and village historian.

Today, the village of Altamont museum and archives are in the extremely capable hands of Marijo Dougherty, the curator, who has worked with local volunteers to handle our history. The training Marijo gives to the volunteers is priceless. She not only has the credentials for the job, but she has that spark that is needed to keep our history alive.

October Is American Archives Month.  As we celebrate the importance of archives let us remember that records have an enduring value and in all their diversity of form and function, they serve as our memory of the past. American Archives Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the value of archives and our archivists.

Of course, the first question that comes to mind is, what is an archive? Imagine for just a minute, being with a friendly stranger who innocently inquires, “What you do for a living?” You respond with enthusiasm, "I'm an archivist!" The stranger probably will look at you with that blank look and you know the person is thinking, "What?"

We need to have a ready answer to that question that will, in most cases, provoke a discussion about archives with our younger generation. They are not only the current and future users of archives, but they will influence our culture, and they may even be our future archivists.

At a meeting, with a room full of men and women, the head of our organization introduced the guest speaker for that evening. He was none other than General Ulysses Grant.  

General Grant introduced himself and as he was speaking removed his hat and placed it on a clothes tree that was standing in the corner of the room. He then removed his gloves and saber as he made appropriate remarks about the Civil War, the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox and his election as the 18th President of the United States. At that point he removed his military tunic, turned it inside out and slipped into a neat business jacket completing the transition from general to president.

After a few more comments about his two terms as president, he related stories about establishing Civil Service Reform and promoting national interest in foreign affairs.  He removed a fedora from the clothes tree; picked up a walking stick, bid us all adieu and the President left the room.

People love a good story. Whether it is a joke shared with someone in the backyard or the relating of history by a seasoned storyteller, the story is very important. The use of a memorable document, photos, or other artifacts in the presentation of a compelling story is one way to use local archives.

Again I ask, “What is an archivist?” One definition is, “An archivist is an information professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to records and archives determined to have long-term value. The records maintained by an archivist can be any form of media photographs, video, or sound recordings, letters, documents, or electronic records. Archivists keep records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.

The use of keeping official documents is very old. Archeologists have discovered archives of hundreds and sometime thousands of clay tablets going back to the third and second millennia BC. These discoveries have been fundamental to know ancient alphabets, languages, literatures and politics.

Archives were well developed by the ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. However, they have been lost, since documents were written on organic materials like papyrus and paper. On the contrary, many archives founded since the middle age by churches, kingdoms and cities surviveed and often have kept their official status uninterrupted till now. They are the basic tools for historical research on these ages.

Historians, genealogists, lawyers, demographers, filmmakers, and others conduct research at archives. The research process at each archive is unique, and depends upon the institution that houses the archive. While there are many kinds of archives, the most recent census of archivists in the United States identifies five major types: academic, business, government, non-profit, and other.

A prominent church archives is the Vatican Secret Archive. Archdioceses, dioceses and parishes also have archives in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

Very important are monastery archives, because of their antiquity, like the ones of Monte Cassino, Saint Gall, and Fulda. The records in these archives include manuscripts, papal records, local church records, photographs, oral histories, audiovisual materials, and architectural drawings.

Most Protestant denominations have archives as well, including the Presbyterian Historical Society, The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, the United Methodist Archives and History Center of the United Methodist Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Other areas that may have a long history of archiving information could be military records, ancestry and genealogy, national archives, Internet archives, online birth and death records. These are just a few to whet your appetite if you decide to do some research in a particular archive. Others could be automobile clubs, doll collectors, gun collectors, and fishermen.

Archivists assess, collect, organize, preserve, and maintain control over records and archives including in Altamont. They do these things for records that have been determined to have long-term value. These records again come in many forms; photographs, video or sound recordings, letters, documents, electronic records.

Then we have hidden jewels working in our archives like Marijo Dougherty, curator, and volunteers like Keith Lee, Ron and Lois Ginsberg to name just a few.

If you have never visited the Altamont Museum and Archives then you should make a point of posting a visit on your calendar. You will not regret taking the time to go back in the history of Altamont to see some of our roots.

GHS seniors

In a recent notice to Guilderland High School seniors and parents regarding the Common Application, the school has been notified that there continues to be issues with the application and payment process. Students are asked to follow the directions carefully and check for submission confirmation e-mail after submitting the application and payment.  This process can take up to 48 hours.

Workers needed

The Guilderland School District is looking for four workers for the Nov. 14 building project referendum. Each worker would work from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Guilderland Elementary, Lynwood Elementary, or Westmere Elementary schools.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, citizen of the U.S. and a resident of the school district for at least 30 days.  

For information or to sign up to work, contact Linda Livingston at 456-6200, ext. 3125 or by e-mail at


Altamont Elementary School students are reminded that picture retakes will be on Friday, Nov. 8.

Schools closed

The schools in the Guilderland School District will be closed on Monday, Nov. 11 in celebration of Veteran’s Day.


The PTA at the Altamont Elementary School will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 12,  at the school at 3 p.m.

Building referendum

Voters in the Guilderland School District are reminded to vote on Thursday, Nov. 14, for the Building Referendum. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.  

FMS yearbook

Orders for the Farnsworth Middle School yearbook will be taken on Thursday, Nov. 14 through Tuesday, Nov. 19.  The cost is $37.  Checks should be made payable to FMS Yearbook.  Orders can be made on line at or submitted in your homeroom. 

Masons visit VA

Members of Noah Lodge will visit the VA on Sunday, Nov. 10, for Masonic Day at the hospital.  The Masons will visit vets in their rooms and will be handing out toiletries and other gifts.

Movie viewing

On Monday, Nov. 11, the members of Noah Lodge invite the general public to view the movie Honor Flight. This is a video presentation showing how the Masons are honoring our WW II vets by escorting them to an airport for a free round trip flight to Washington, DC to view and enjoy the memorial built in their honor.

The purpose of this showing is to make the public aware of the need to get these heroes on the flights and to make the public aware of how their donations help finance this venture. This is a totally voluntary service of the Masons assisted strictly from donations from the general public.

The movie starts at 4 p.m., in the Masonic Lodge located on Maple Ave. in Altamont. The lodge is next to the Lutheran Church.  Popcorn and soda will be donated by the American Legion.

For additional information contact Ed Czuchrey at 861-6973 or 424-5517.


Happy-birthday wishes are extended to:

— Kristen Rau and Barbara Porter on Nov. 8;

— Shawn Cuyler, John Arley, and Mandy Kenny on Nov. 9;

— Ron Timer, Barbara Schaible, Kristen Smith, and Suzanne Weingardin on Nov. 10; 

— Joey McKenny and Erica Rau on Nov. 11;  

— Matt  Bender, Charles Gardner III, and Betty Spadaro  on Nov. 12;

— Jennifer Boyce on Nov. 13; and

— Alan Jacklet, Jackie McClintock, Bryan Peters, and Jessica Schadow on Nov. 14.