Monday, March 30, 2009

Hunting for Easter Eggs

Back in the mid-50s, when I was in elementary school, the annual Easter Egg Hunt in town was a very big deal. This was the time when TV shows were in shades of black and white, and the Saturday morning line-up was the Modern Farmer followed by an endless stream of old-time cartoons. So a Saturday morning event for all the children of Hastings to enjoy was a welcome treat.

As I remember it, everyone would meet in the village, either at the VFW or old Youth Center and parade up Main Street toward five corners. When we arrived at that junction, we either headed straight toward Reynolds Field or took the right toward Draper Park. Each year the location was a closely guarded secret so that nobody could get an advance look at where the eggs were hidden.

Because we were part of the baby boom generation, we were a sizeable group moving towards our destination; no doubt we halted all traffic. Having felt the crush of the crowd, I think some years our numbers might have reached 60 - 70. Just prior to starting, all the children were categorized by age or grade. This gave everyone an equal chance at discovering an egg. And each age group had a different hunting area, with the more challenging areas and well-hidden eggs reserved for the older children. Parents weren’t allowed to participate, other than to watch the mayhem unfold as excited kids darted here and there looking for the eggs.

The eggs we hunted were made of wood and were painted various colors. I remember a silver egg and a golden egg, but I don’t recall if these had any more importance than the others did. The one and only year that I scooped up my egg, it was painted silver. When I turned it in, I was given a fabulous, cellophane wrapped, wicker basket full of sweets. Every Easter basket had one large chocolate bunny inside plus little chocolate eggs and bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and jellybeans of assorted color. Even if you didn’t find a wooden egg, no child left empty handed. Everyone was given a generous, half-pound size tub of jellybeans. It was great event. I think the South Side Club sponsored it, but I’m not certain.

Oh, I forgot the bunny. Every year the Easter bunny would appear at this event. I remember Margie McCarthy being the bunny when I was little. But since I’m the oldest of five children, I often went to the parade as the babysitter for my brothers and sisters. By the time I stopped parading some time in the 60s, the bunny was Cathy Zahurak.

Judy (Wemer) Chamberlain

From the editor: Here is the Hastings Social Club, one of the organizations that ran the Easter Egg hunts back in 1950. We know some of their names: left to right, front row: Bill McCauley, M. Gleeson [or Gleason?], Pete Carrie Sr., unidentified, Rudy Morrison and unidentified; second row: Jim Grady and unidentified; third row: Howard Pike, Abe Callahan, unidentified, Jack Duddy, and Martin "Brud" Feury; back row: Gerald Maher, Martin "Happy" Holloran, and Edward Maher. But we don't have any other information about them in the files! Can you help?
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mystery Photo: Rescue Squad of Protection Engine Co.

This photograph is from a set of three taken by the famous documentary photographer and Hastings resident Lewis Hine. The photograph above shows a masked fireman from the rescue squad of Protection Engine Company No. 1 carrying a boy down a staircase. It is a striking photograph and has always reminded me, for some reason, of a Norman Rockwell painting.

You can see the companion photographs below, one showing two masked firemen working on a piece of machinery, and the other showing the rescue squad with their truck and equipment. The firemen in the lower photograph are, from left to right, Frederick Koster, James Doran, William Wright, Dennis Sweeny, and George Dale. The photographs were donated to the society in 1990 by Denis Sweeny’s family.

The photographs are stamped on the back with Lewis Hine’s name, and we can take a guess that they were taken in the mid-1930s. The rescue squad was formed in 1933. The Historical Society owns a small but important collection of Lewis Hine photographs, all taken in the village for projects ranging from a local business directory to the high school yearbook. (For more on this collection, see the online article by Frederic Perrier.)

But who are the boys in the photograph? Where were these photographs taken and why? For a magazine or newspaper article on some daring rescue the firemen had performed? One theory is that they were taken during a training exercise. But then, why document a training exercise? And what is the flaky stuff on the central boy’s face? We’d love to know!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

First Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka, 1914

Back in 1988, Ted Borys gave the historical society a Polish Bible that had belonged to his mother, Caroline. Jan Gustafson was recently making a new box for it, and in the back we discovered a handful of lovely old prayer cards. One in particular caught our attention -- a card printed in France with an English verse on one side and a Polish text on the other. No one here can read Polish, but we could certainly read the words “Hastings-on-Hudson” and “St. Stanislaus Kostka.”

A Polish friend of archivist Muriel Olsson made a rough translation for us, and we found that the card was, in fact, a souvenir made to commemorate the consecration of the church. The text reads:

For the first church of St. Stanislaus Kostka
in Hastings on
Hudson, NY
on Sunday June 14, 1914
[blessing] was given by Father
J.F. Mooney [Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York]

The first
holy mass in this church was given by Father Dr. J. Dworzak and Father K.

The text goes on to say that Father Dworzak [of St. Casimir’s Church in Yonkers] founded the congregation on September 1, 1912, and that it was incorporated on May 19, 1913. The building was bought on December 19, 1913 for $3,000 from the Baptist Church by parishioners J. Jarosz, T. Maslowski, B. Karnicki, and A. Kowalski.

This card was an exciting discovery because it complements five small photographs in our collection that show the procession to the church on this important day. St. Stanislaus’ 90th anniversary booklet describes this procession. Paderewski’s Band was playing as the marchers left Washington Avenue, crossed the bridge, and streamed up Main Street. The new congregation included over a hundred children, and the little girls dressed in white appear to have led the procession. (The Polish Military Association of Yonkers also participated, which may explain the photograph of men with rifles.)

The procession coming across the Warburton Avenue bridge

The procession on Warburton Avenue, nearing Main Street

Shooting rifles

Crowds at the entrance to the church. Father Mooney gave the blessing in front of 3,000 people before the congregation entered the church for Mass

One of the other cards found in Caroline’s Bible is dated 1912. Is the date just a coincidence, or could this be a souvenir of the founding of the congregation mentioned on the first card?

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Good-bye “School Days”

Yes, we’ve had to take down our latest exhibition “School Days, School Days: A Historic View.” But now we get to do what all graduates do – reminisce.

One of the highlights of this history of the Hastings public school system was Julius R. Chemka’s letter sweater. Julie, class of 1944, had letters for basketball, football, and baseball. Thanks for sharing, Julie!

Member Georgia Kaschel at the opening of the exhibition

Member Marty Roos captured another great moment with this photograph. We have lots of old certificates from the schools – certificates of merit and attendance as well as graduation diplomas from 8th and 12th grade. We had space to display only one, and from the dozens in the drawer we picked one that was in good shape and had a drawing at the top of the old Fraser Free School (now the Hook & Ladder building at 50 Main Street).

Helen R. Sackett's 1901 graduation diploma from the Fraser Free
School, built in 1864 and one of the earliest schools in Hastings

We also liked the certificate because the men who signed it were three of the most important men in Hastings at the turn of the century. William R. Williams was superintendent of schools from 1900 to 1912, through the construction of two new school buildings. Frederick G. Zinsser, owner of the Zinsser Chemical Company on the waterfront, was the secretary of the Board of Education. And the president was Thomas K. Fraser, son of the Thomas Fraser after whom the school was named.

The certificate is the 1901 graduation diploma of Helen R. Sackett, later Mrs. Napoleon Mattson. Helen’s daughter, Georgia Mattson Kaschel, gave us the diploma back in 1988. So, as you can see, there are several layers of Hastings history in this photograph of Georgia.

Many visitors came to see “School Days”, including Greg Smith’s social studies class from the Hastings High School. (The students had fun looking through the old yearbooks to see what their teachers used to look like.)

It is hard to see a great exhibition taken apart, but now we can look forward to the next exhibition on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 – more on that in another post!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mystery Photo: Faculty Shows

Four teachers dressed as showgirls; Blanche Mueller may be on the right

We’ve never made the best use of our slide collection. It has always been hard to access, and the slides were never completely cross referenced into our subject files. We also worried, from time to time, that we were losing the images. Most of our slides were in potentially-acidic cardboard mounts, and even under ideal conditions older slide film begins to discolor after only a couple of decades.

So recently our archivist, Muriel Olsson, went through all of our slides (1000+!) and selected those worth preserving. I then scanned them and sent the files to a photo finishing company to have prints made. Our photograph curator Beth Smith has now added these to our meticulously-catalogued photograph collection.

We found lots of wonderful pictures while we were squinting through the slide viewer, including the slide of an old photograph of the Protection Engine Company that we used in the March 19th post.

But none were quite as fabulous as the 31 slides showing men and women in fancy dress. Judy Wemer Chamberlain was able to identify some of the teachers and remembered seeing these faculty shows when she was in school. The slides are not dated, but we think they might have been taken in the late ’50s or early ‘60s. We don’t know how many different shows are represented in the collection, or the span of years. We’re looking for identifications, but we’d also like to hear more about these shows. Does anyone know the dates or what the shows were called? What were they like? How many of the faculty participated? We’d love to know!

Val Mattriski in the center of five "cleaning ladies"

Three "beatniks", possibly including Joan Rand or Mary Kristiansen

Could this beat chick possibly be history teacher Jeanie Pingrey?

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The next “Hastings Historian” is on its way!

Mrs. Drewes (standing) and a few of our dedicated group of volunteers, clockwise: Vice President Barbara Thompson, Tom Donohoe, Polly Ciborowski, Georgia Honovitch, Jo Downar, and Helen Bernarducci
Keep an eye on your mailboxes, folks. The next “Hastings Historian” goes into the mail today. Four times a year Volunteer Coordinator Evelyn Drewes calls on a dozen loyal volunteers who assemble here at the cottage one morning with no other purpose than to get the “Historian” ready to mail out to you. They sit around the dining room table and put labels and stamps on the newsletters that go out to our members all over the country and around the world, as far as Denmark and Hawaii. Of course, they have a good time and a good gossip while doing it! Thanks to all of our volunteers – we couldn’t manage without you!

Hot off the press: The Winter 2009 “Historian”
This quarter’s “Historian” focuses on the life of one of the wildest celebrities ever to live in Hastings-on-Hudson – the actress May Yohe, whose first husband, Lord Francis Hope, was the owner of the Hope Diamond. Lilian and John Mullane, the authors of the article, refer to May as “a glamour girl of the gay 90s.” May calls herself “…the girl who rose from the little Pennsylvania village to those dazzling heights of fame in which two continents were at her feet in homage to her art and to the still more impregnable circles of the great titles of the British Empire…” And if that doesn’t grab you, I can’t imagine what would!

Postcard with three images of May Yohe, ca. 1910

The issue also contains a brief history of the Hope Diamond itself, as well as a wonderful ode to policemen that we came across recently in our files. If anyone recognizes the piece and can tell us who wrote it and when, we’d love to hear from you! Along with the text, we’ve printed some of the best photographs we have of the Hastings police force through the years. We’ve put another few on Flickr, and you can see them by clicking on the word “Police Department” in the Flickr badge below.

We hope you enjoy this issue! If anything sparks any memories or questions, be sure to let us know.

Hastings Historical Society's Police Department photosetHastings Historical Society's Police Department photoset

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Hastings-on-Hudson Becomes an Official Village

In our post for March 12th we showed you our incorporation map, but we didn’t tell you the story behind incorporation.

According to the local paper, The Statesman, people in Hastings-on-Hudson had been talking about incorporation since 1875. The place had already been called Hastings-on-Hudson (or a variation on that name) for at least 40 years. But incorporating as an official village would mean that the community could elect its own government instead of relying on Greenburgh for services. The paper was all for it. “Hastings looks for progress and increased prosperity by incorporation,” wrote a reporter, “which means better streets, increased value of real estate, and higher taxes.”

In 1876 the same paper reported that most people would, in fact, rather be annexed to the city of Yonkers.

But by 1879 the tide of opinion had turned. The prominent citizens of Hastings took up a collection to raise money to pay for a survey of the proposed area to be covered by the town, one of the steps necessary to apply for incorporation. In September the surveyor, George Wiley, was working on the map. A village census was also in progress, another crucial part of the application for incorporation. (The total number of inhabitants was 1,226.) In October, everyone was invited to come to Samuel G. Dorland’s general store to see the completed map.

This postcard from about 1915 shows the building on the corner of Spring Street and Warburton Avenue where Samuel G. Dorland had his store. Dorland was postmaster and "dealer in dry goods, groceries, general merchandise, and also hay, straw, and feed."

In the opinion of The Statesman, most citizens favored incorporation. However, there were some who thought the proposed village was too large. It was, after all, two square miles. “It takes in roads which are not needed, which will be expensive to work, and keep in repair,” the paper reported. A public vote on incorporation was held in Protection Hall on November 18th.

Protection Engine Company was the only fire company in the village in 1879, and their firehouse on Warburton Avenue included a big meeting room on the second floor.

There were a lot of votes against incorporation (conflicting reports give the number as 221 to 209, or 104 to 75), but in any case the supporters won the day. And that is how we officially became Hastings-on-Hudson.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mystery Photo: Girl Scouts in a parade

Here is our first mystery photograph! What we know is that it shows a Memorial Day parade, and that the girls and their scout leader are standing on Warburton Avenue near the corner of Spring Street. The photograph was taken looking east across Warburton Avenue. In the background you can see Memorial Park (the park in front of the V.F.W. building) on the left and the side wall of Hastings Hardware on right.

The photograph originally came from a Bicentennial scrapbook, so we are guessing that this parade took place in 1976.

To get a good look at all the faces (you can even see the faces of people in the background!), click on the photograph and look at it in Flickr. To get an even bigger version, once you are in Flickr, click on the words “All Sizes” right above the image.

Do you recognize anyone? Anyone at all? Leave us comments on this post, or on the photograph, or e-mail us here at the cottage at hhscottage[at]hastingshistorical[dot]org.

Thanks in advance for your help, and please share this photograph with anyone you think might know more!
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The First Official Map of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson

For our very first post on this blog, we thought we’d take you back 180 years to 1879, the year when Hastings-on-Hudson was officially recognized by New York State as a “village.” The map you see here is one of the treasures of our collection. It is the survey that was drawn up George Wiley of Tarrytown as part of Hastings’ application for incorporation.

Central section of the incorporation map

The map shows far more than just the boundaries of the proposed village. Look closely at the detail below, and you will see a little blue vertical line in the center — the stream running through the Ravine to the river. (Does something seem to be missing? Warburton Avenue bridge was not built until 1898.) To the left of the stream is the railroad “depot”, and next to that is a “Main Street” (now the beginning of Southside Avenue). The street we now call Main Street is on the map, but without any label. Washington Avenue, however, is clearly marked. At the top right of the map is a blue band representing the Croton Aqueduct, and right below that is a building labeled “school” – that is the Fraser Free School, one of the earliest public schools in Hastings and now the Hook & Ladder firehouse at 50 Main Street. The word “Mills” to the left of the school refers not to a mill, but to Edmund S. Mills, the owner of property on both sides of what we now call Main Street. There are more familiar names on the map, too, like Draper, Chrystie, Leffurgy, and Minturn. The tiny print on the left-hand side, about half way down, reads “old Hickory,” which may be one of the trees that the surveyor used as a guide. It is possible that the large red dots in the downtown area served a similar purpose. If you can help us out on this one, let us know!

Detail of the central section, showing the business district

Our map did not always look this good. By 1982 it had started to crack. Pieces had come loose and some were already missing. We sent it to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Massachusetts, a regional center that specializes in paper conservation, for their opinion. They recommended treatment to remove the dirt and to replace the old cloth backing with a new backing of mulberry paper, to which the loose pieces could be attached with wheat starch.

Before and after conservation

The treatment was expensive, but a long-time friend of the Society, Joel Dean, came to the rescue. Now encased in archival polyester, this piece of Hastings history resides in the map case in our upper archive room, which also houses 400 more maps, plans, and surveys of Hastings.

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