Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Idiots Volume VI.....Do You Remember....Rotterdam In The 60's

Shoporama...The heart of Rotterdam, now WalMart Plaza. Originally there was Grand Union, Endicott Johnson, Pat the Tailor, Woolworths (with it's basement toy room), Alfreds Bakery, Hallmark Cards, Sch'dy Savings Bank and a beauty parlor.

Next to Shoporama was a nursery that had the original gates to "Cold Brook". Cold Brook had been an estate that was purchased to build the post WWII housing development. Across the street was Towne Tavern, owned by the Vinceguerra family. Next to that and across the street was Daly's Mill Pond. Between there and the now occupied Gators Cigar Shop was private homes. On the corner of O'Brian & Altamont Ave. was Terry's Grocery Store. They sold individual cigaretts for 2 cents each. The opposite corner of O'Brian was Palmier Oil Co., right next to Towne Liquors, where you could buy Tango, which was cheap vodka and cheaper orange juice for 49 cents and a penny tax.

Heading west on Altamont Ave. was all private homes, until you arrived at the site of which is now Alfreds Bakery. This was then a grocery store. Across the street was Towne Bowling Alley.

On to 4 Corners of Curry Road and Hamburg Street.

The Country Inn, with it's Summer Softball League, featured The King & His Court, Eddie Fiener as the pitcher. At that time, he could throw a softball 100 miles per hour. From there we went across the street to Stannette's, a bar that ultimately became the Entre Nous, a famous local teenage night spot, which gave birth to the famous band, The Fabulous Four Speeds.
The other famous local band was Captain Nemo and the Sundowners, who played regularly at The Excelsior House in Troy and Spagna's in Lake George.

Across from the Entre Nous was Steve's and Nedco Pharmacy. On that side of the street there was only private homes all the way to Rolling Greens bowing Alley. Next to the Entre Nous was St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, where most of Rotterdam's "virgins" attended Sunday Mass. Next to the church was one of our favorite stops for a drunken breakfast, Rose's Diner. This place had a counter, with the old fashioned "spin around" seats, and about 20 four person booths, each equipped with it's own juke box, 10 cents a play, 3 for a quarter. 24 hours, wekends only.

Continuing on that side of the street, there was nothing but private homes and St.Aldberts Cemetary. Roller Rama was another favorite hangout. Built in the 1930's as a dance hall, it became a skating rink in the 50's. In the middle 1960's, they had "2 in 1 nights", which for one price, you could roller skate and then a DJ would spin records for a dance. It was at one of these that I heard one of the early 1960's greatest hits...." Pappa ooh mau mau"
TO BE CONTINUED...................................................................

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Below is an article written by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated. He details his experiences when given the opportunity to fly in a F-14 Tomcat. If you aren't laughing out loud by the time you get to "Milk Duds," your sense of humor is seriously broken.

"Now this message is for America 's most famous athletes: Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country's most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have . John Elway, John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few If you get this opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity... Move to Guam Change your name. Fake your own death! Whatever you do . Do Not Go!!! I know. The U.S.< face="Georgia" color="#010101" size="5"> Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped. I was toast! I should've known when they told me my pilot would be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach Whatever you're thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks like, triple it. He's about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair, finger-crippling handshake -- the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the other way. Fast. Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the voice of NASA missions. ("T-minus 15 seconds and counting ." Remember?) Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad. Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting for him to say, "We have a liftoff" Biff was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat , a ridiculously powerful $60 million weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie. I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning . "Bananas," he said."For the potassium?" I asked."No," Biff said, "because they taste about the same coming up as they do going down."The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name sewn over the left breast. (No call sign -- like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot But, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it. A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would "egress" me out of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked unconscious. Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me, and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In minutes we were firing nose up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14. Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Un fortunately, the ride lasted 80. It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us. We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5, which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs. Colin Montgomerie.And I egressed the bananas. And I egressed the pizza from the night before. And the lunch before that. I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade. I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G's, I was egressing stuff that never thought would be egressed. I went through not one airsick bag, but two.Biff said I passed out. Twice. I was coated in sweat. At one point, as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock bombing target and the G's were flattening me like a tortilla and I was in and out of consciousnes s, I realized I was the first person in history to throw down. I used to know 'cool'. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass, or Norman making a five-iron bite. But now I really know 'cool'.. Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves. I wouldn't go up there again for Derek Jeter's black book, but I'm glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever makes in a home stand. A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me Said he'd send it on a patch for my flight suit.What is it? I asked."Two Bags."
God Bless America !

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Growing up in Rotterdam, New York in the late 1950’s was not the same experience as yours. We were the beginning of the suburban sprawl, the first of the “white flight” after WWII. We lived in a “housing development”. This was a newly coined phrase, which basically meant that you lived in a pre–war country setting now called the suburbs. Levittown, Long Island was the benchmark, where thousands of “tract” houses were built. Tract meaning large land areas were purchased where streets were laid out block after block, each house identical to the next. The Rotterdam example of this would be Coldbrook.

I can’t stress enough that this building frenzy was at its very beginning. Rotterdam itself was different. As commercial as it is today, it was rural then.

Our dads all worked at the General Electric plant as machinists, crane operators or some other blue-collar job. None of them had any college and most were vets. My father was a vertical boring mill operator trained through the General Electric Company Apprentice program. He started the program after graduating from high school at the end of the Depression in 1937. While training he made $11 a week. My father worked on the same machine, in H bay of building 273, Large Steam Turbine, on the third shift; 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., for 47 years. Think about that. Same job over and over again.

Our mothers stayed home until all the kids went to school and then went to work. There’s kind of a myth that most mothers were housewives and didn’t work outside the home, but if you take time and look you’ll see it isn’t true. When I left high school the development had tripled in size and only two moms were staying at home in the entire neighborhood.

An access road lead into the development from one of the main town roads to a circle of houses, approximately thirty, on four short streets. One road in, the same road out. Each lot was clean cut or had virgin plants, tiny bushes and trees about six feet tall. The streets were crushed stone. I think I was in junior high before the streets were paved. The whole thing was surrounded by woods and farmland. The western boundary of our neighborhood was a barbed wire fence bordering a dairy farm. I remember fondly, as a little guy, climbing the barbed wire along the post to sit on the top of the post and wait for a cow to come close enough so that I could jump on her back. Riding a cow was a big deal to a six-year-old growing up on Roy Rogers and Hopilong Cassidy. I’m sure that at some point “ yippy eye aye” and “ya hoo!” spilled from my mouth! Many an afternoon my mother swatted my ass for coming home smelling like cow shit. Yes, ass swatting was the norm. If you messed up, expect to pay in pain.

The houses were basically all the same layout, but the exteriors were slightly different. Some were more “finished” than others. Each started as a house with a basement and two floors. The starter model had an unfinished basement and attic. The first floor had a kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Buyers could add a fireplace, bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs or a rec room in the basement. Our house was the basic
starter model with a fireplace. We fit since it was just my mother, father, my brother and me. This was the “baby boom”.

One of the reasons my parents had a “little” more was that they had been married for awhile and both had worked until my brother was born. Most of the kids were my age or younger. Including my brother, there were only four kids older. Many of the couples had been married for two to three years before buying their house. My parents moved in when I was one. Many of the couples were eligible for special mortgage programs because the husband had been in the war. Also two of the husbands were on 100% disability from the military. Unlike Social Security this type of disability allowed you to work. This enabled one of the mothers to remain a housewife when the kids went to school.

One man had been bayoneted in the chest. I had marveled at the scar many times, trying to imagine the nine-inch blade going in. His daughter told me that he had shot the other soldier and when he fell the bayonet stayed in his chest. The medic had removed the bayonet from the rifle but left it in his chest while transporting him. He still had nightmares about seeing the bayonet in his chest. The other man had been blown up during the Battle of the Bulge, the “Band of Brothers” story. Artillery hit right next to him, killing everyone in his foxhole but him. He had been riddled with shrapnel. The largest of his injuries were to his major organs but he fought hard and lived. The most noticeable scar was that he had lost an eye and wore a glass one.

The families handled their wealth at the extremes of differently. One family lived very simply. Their only thing was that they “finished “the upstairs into two bedrooms and a bathroom. Each of the three kids went to college and became a teacher. The word that comes to mind with the other family was extravagant. Their house was totally different from all the others. It was not a cape. They had chosen a ranch style house, which basically means all on one level. They also had the unheard of 2-½ bathrooms. Across the entire back of the house was a screened-in porch surrounded by a fieldstone patio. Just below the patio was a small in-ground swimming pool. This was a true luxury in the 1950’s. Later they were the first to get a color television. But what set them apart to make them truly extravagant in our father’s eyes was their choice of vehicle. My dad was a General Motors man. He usually purchased Chevys. The different lines came in different models. For instance, the Impala line came in the Biscayne, Bel Aire and Super Sport model. Each one added better accessories and options. The Bel Aire was the blue-collar model. The extravagant family was a Ford family and always purchased every available option. That’s something doctors or lawyers did.

Each morning kids would get up, watch the Three Stooges and Our Gang on TV, eat breakfast and then get thrown out of the house and told to go play outside. Every kid in Rotterdam had to be home at 4:30 in the afternoon, or at least that’s how it felt. The volunteer firehouse blew a siren every day at 4:30. There wasn’t a spot in town where that siren couldn’t be heard. That siren would blow and within a minute of its finishing every sandlot ball game, pick up basketball game, game of tag or double dutch would end. Like ants boys and girls headed across fields, down streets and through each other’s backyards heading home. It also acted as a reminder to get us home for the important afternoon television shows, which actually began at four. The Mickey Mouse Club was popular with the youngsters and American Bandstand was popular with everyone.

Lunch was different. When you got pushed out the door in the morning you knew that you’d catch lunch somewhere. All mothers understood that storming the beaches of France, gun fights and fighting Indians were much too important to give up to eat. It was a neighborhood understanding that if two or three extra kids were in your yard at noon, you threw each a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and life went on.

Now that I think about it that’s not true. The town was predominantly Italian, but where I lived was eastern European - Polish, German and Czech. My neighbors were named Karbowski, Dondalski, Drezdowski, Renkawicz and Lasak. I think that when the land for the houses first went on sale word got out at St. Adelbert’s Catholic Church, which was the local Polish parish. They did the mass in both Latin and Polish. Now my mother would fight to the death that she was German. Our name is Nichols but my mother’s maiden name was Vogel. She had four brothers and a sister. Two were born in Europe, one on the boat on the way over and two here. Her mother and father spoke German but had immigrated from what had been Prussia. After WWI it became Poland. So I would say that we were German speaking Poles. So pb and j wasn’t the norm.

I remember a lot of variety, with habits and what people had. Growing up in the 50s all of our parents were products of the depression. Some families had huge gardens and some canned their produce. So it was not unusual for a Mom to give you a fresh sliced tomato on bread with mayo or a piece of pumpernickel spread with about a ¼ of an inch of liverwurst spread on it with spicy mustard. Sometimes you got lucky and got guompkes or potato pancakes. When at an Italian’s house you would get pasta or just dip Italian bread in the pot of sauce on the stove. Today we would be accused of profiling but this is the way it was.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


10/10/07 - 3:45 Tulsa-Chicago-Albany flight - a Bassatriever puppy arrives for us. He is a new "hybrid"breed, 1/2 Basset Hound 1/2 Golden Retriever. This equates to an expensive designer mutt. He has attached himself to Kathy and follows her every move.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


It's cold enough that I can see my breath and when I look behind me I can see my footprints in the frozen dew. I'm heading across the lower cornfield moving towards the big picnic table tree stand. It's not light yet and I can hear the others moving slowly to either side of me.
I come to a dead stop as I enter the hedgerow between the cornfield and the piny woods. I move as slowly as I can and even try to slow my breathing. I use bushes and trees to break up the sight lines from the tree that I am moving towards, although I've seen them at every time of day, deer are predominately nocturnal and go to bed just before sunrise. Not often, but often enough, I've walked up on deer beds on my way in to the woods.
At the bottom of the tree I make sure my gun is on safety, turn my sling so the barrel is facing down and climb to the tree stand. I unsling the gun and lean it against the tree stand rail, I unclip my hotseat and put it on the sitting board. Out of the back of my hunting pouch, I pull my snacks and thermos and place it on the deck of the stand. I begin my wait.
It is November and even through the layers of clothing that I wear; the long underwear, the athletic socks, the wool socks, the blue jeans, the wool shirt, the black and red wool jacket, the oversized wool pants, the insulated water proof hunting boots, the lined Carhart hunting coat, the knit hat and the woolen gloves, I still feel the crisp morning chill begin to set in as I sit motionless. I hear another hunter making alot of noise off to my right and I hope that this pushes the deer towards me.
I sit and wait. The sun is just beginning to wink above the mountains. This is prime time to see a deer. I sit as still as I can looking from right to left and then back again very slowly. I look for two things: something in the silhouette that doesn't belong there, and any kind of motion, however so slow. Within minutes I see some moving shadows coming through the woods from my right, they are just entering my peripheral vision. As they continue towards me, three doe come into focus. Two are very small and the other is medium sized. I assume it is a mother with some yearlings. My heart starts to pump a little as I notice every few steps the larger doe looks back over her shoulder, looking and listening. I haven't heart the fumbling hunter in some time, so I assume that is a buck trailing the three does. I remain as still as possible. The deer move silently and fluidly, almost as if they are underwater. They pass in front of me, through a number of openings and continue off towards the creek. I think of them as going down to get a drink before they bed down for the day and maybe eat some of the sweet grass along the banks.
As I watch them disappear, I catch a slight movement out of the corner of my eye, without moving anything buy my eyes, I stare at some bushes and the pine blowdown where I thought I saw the motion. Deer are wily, they do so many unexpected things. I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw the head and horns of a buck come out from underneath one of the bushes. Instead of coming through or around as any hunter would expect him to, he went under. When he stepped into the first opening where I could see him clearly, I realized that he was a good sized animal. His rack was very thick and very high. I never saw anything move so slowly; when he went behind the bush for sight protection, I lifted the binoculars from around my neck and focused on the bush. I leaned myself against the railing of the tree stand for support. I knew this would be a slow-moving event.
First, I saw his snout, then one eye. Gradually, his neck and chest moved into the opening. The opening was just the "Y" of a branch. It appeared as if the deer was standing on a wheeled platform, that something pulled to make him move. I watched his feet, he took the slowest steps imaginable. Without moving his head quickly, he perused the area. He lifted his nose into the air and sniffed. It seemed like forever before he got within about 20 feet of me, still moving slowly and sniffing the air. They say that deer never look up, there was something in the air that caught his attention. Still looking through the binoculars, I watched as he turned and looked directly at me. Everything after that happened so quickly, that once he was gone I replayed it over and over in my mind. Once he saw me, he quickly jumped backwards, turned to his left and was gone in a millisecond.
I picked up my thermos, poured coffee into the cap, reached into my bag, pulled out my egg sandwich which I ate quickly, more in celebration than in hunger. I took out a Montecristo Robusto, fired it up with my lighter, laid back against the tree, enjoyed my cigar, drank my coffee, kept rerunning seeing the deer and chalked up another successful hunt.