Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary A&P!

By Judy Chamberlain

During a recent trip to the A & P, I purchased some house blend coffee that came in a commemorative tin. The can’s copy heralds the dates 1859-2009 because the self-service chain is celebrating 150 years of service. The photo imprinted on the can reminded me of the small and simple A & P we once frequented, and the date triggered my memory back to 1960, when the new A & P supermarket finally opened its doors.

According to its website, nearly 150 years ago The Great American Tea Company opened a store on Vesey Street in New York City and began selling tea, coffee and spices at value prices. Soon stores sprang up all around the metropolitan area and salesmen took their wares on the road in horse-drawn carriages bound for New England, the mid-west and the south. In 1869 the Company was renamed The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, in honor of the first transcontinental railroad and hopes of expanding across the continent.

The original Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in Hastings began selling groceries in the 1920s, and it was located on the west side of Warburton Avenue. Although I don’t remember much about the interior at this location, I do remember the strong aroma of coffee that wafted from a large coffee grinder that was located near the cash register. And I also remember the pincers, a long handled device that the clerks used to manipulate and grab items off the top shelves, Although the A & P was generally self-service, both the grinder and the pincers required an assistant’s help; watching these tools in operation made going to the grocery store a more interesting experience.

Two photographs of Warburton Avenue from 1936 spliced together show the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company's first home on the west side of Warburton Avenue, in the spot occupied today by Hastings Coin Laundry.

Many years of discussion and review went into building a modern supermarket in Hastings. It started in 1955 with a proposal by A & P to build on the site of the former Chrystie estate flower and vegetable gardens at the corner of Main Street and Broadway. It was a hot topic for debate, and differences in opinion escalated into a great supermarket battle that divided residents. Was the convenience of having groceries, meats, produce, baked goods, health and beauty aides, and other household items under one roof, worth the traffic and congestion that would result? Other sites were considered, but the supermarket was finally built on the originally proposed lot.

The supermarket opened to great fanfare on October 25th of 1960. Now why would I, still in middle school, remember the opening? Orchids. My girlfriends and I walked down after school on the opening day because word got around that they were giving away Hawaiian orchids to all the women customers. We were curious. Would they give a group of preteen girls exotic flowers from our newest state? They did--a small, lavender blue beauty for each. While inside, of course we explored, bought snacks, checked out the record department, sampled bakery treats, and browsed through the shelves of items at reachable heights. This new A & P was pretty fine.

The "new" A&P grocery store on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. When this photograph was taken, in the 1980s, A&P faced Main Street.

Author's Note: If you would like to learn more about “The Saga of the Supermarket,” stop by the cottage and read Mary Allison’s wonderful article in the Fall 1995 issue of the Hastings Historian.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hastings Powers the Atomic Age

On September 21st we posted an article about Robert Fulton’s submarine called the Nautilus, which he built in Paris in the year 1800. Here is an article about one her descendents, the USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, commissioned in 1954. Like Fulton’s ship, the new Nautilus was very much an experimental vessel, used to test new equipment and set new records in underwater speed and endurance. In 1958, she became the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole, travelling under the Arctic ice cap. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and, in 1982, designated a National Historic Monument. You can visit her today at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and Library in Groton, Connecticut.

The Nautilus’ reactor was made by Westinghouse, but the special cable that powered that reactor was developed by Hastings’ own Anaconda Wire & Cable Company. The following is an edited version of an article describing the cable that appeared in Anaconda Wire & Cable Company’s employee newsletter, the Anaconda Leader in the August-September 1957 issue. The Historical Society has a complete collection of the Anaconda Leader from 1950-58.

Atom Sub’s Reactors Wired with Anaconda “Top Hat”

A new era in transportation has been opened with the successful construction and operation of atom-powered submarines by the United States Navy. The USS Nautilus, first of this new breed, recently completed two years of record breaking operations during which time she traveled over 60,000 miles, more than half of which while fully submerged. On completion of these first two years of operations she returned to her home port at Groton, Connecticut to have a new uranium reactor core installed and a general overhaul to correct any “bugs” that had turned up.

At that time the standard Navy cable wiring in the Nautilus’ reactor was removed and replaced with newly developed Anaconda “Top Hat” cables. …

Anaconda is producing “Top Hat” cables in three basic types:

PS: Power Supply cable, which is used to drive control rod positioning motors and to power heaters on the reactor.

PI: Position Indicator cable, which is used to transmit electrical signals from the reactor to the control room indicating position of control rods in the reactor.

TC: Temperature Control cable, whose main use is to transmit electrical signals from the reactor to the control room indicating the temperatures in various parts of the reactor. …

The story of “Top Hat” cable is an interesting one in that it once again shows that Anaconda is the organization that gets the job done.

Tests by the Navy proved that the standard cable constructions employed in the submarine’s nuclear reactors would be unable to withstand the extreme heat of emergency operating conditions. A cable capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit was necessary as a precaution against possible breakdown of the reactor cooling system. Ordinary copper constructions then in use could not withstand these possible temperatures since the temperatures were high enough even to oxidize the copper conductors.

The Navy came to Anaconda with a set of performance requirements for “Top Hat” cable … and asked if we could make it.

Anaconda accepted the challenge to produce this new cable and went to work. Within three months of the initial query Anaconda had a workable sample of the cable in the Navy’s hands; and the first run of cable made and shipped from Hastings is now functioning in the reactor of the Nautilus.

Difficulties encountered in making this new cable included the newness of working with a silicone rubber sheath on armored type Navy cables. The specifications required that the cable be watertight longitudinally, and watertight shielded pair construction had never before been made. Specifications further required that no organic materials be used in order to make a more stable high-temperature cable. The originally specified overall diameter was also decreased to offer greater ease in using the cable in the confined space for which it was designed.

Anaconda worked closely with outside suppliers to develop a nickel plated copper wire which would be capable of withstanding the extreme heat. Nickel clad wire had been used before, but for this application it was necessary to develop a nickel plating that provided adequate protection to the copper without porosity. …

The Navy has standardized on the type of cable developed by Anaconda, and other manufacturers will be asked to bid on future requirements but, to date, Anaconda is the only organization that has delivered this type of cable to the Navy for use in their atom-powered vessels.

A new era has been opened up and, as always, Anaconda is in the forefront in supplying the products necessary for the advancement of this era.

Brochure from Anaconda Wire & Cable Company showing the Hastings Mill in about 1960. This brochure was digitized for us by the Westchester County Historical Society.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Meet the Author: Helen Barolini visits the Historical Society on October 25th

The Palisades in winter, 1947, from the Historical Society collection

Ice on the Hudson,
frigid winds toss up white gulls,
sun sweeps the sky.

from Hudson River Haiku by Helen Barolini

As our final Hudson River Quadricentennial event, The Hastings Historical Society will open up Draper Observatory Cottage this coming Sunday afternoon, October 25th, between 2 & 4 PM. Refreshments will be served.

Come and see our exhibition on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 and help us celebrate local author Helen Barolini’s newest publication, Hudson River Haiku. This collection of haiku poems about the Hudson River is the latest in a series of chapbooks from Slapering Hol Press in Sleepy Hollow. The press, housed in the old railroad station at Philipse Manor, is dedicated to supporting and publishing poetry.

Historical Society trustee Helen Barolini (center) working with historian Roger Panetta and Historical Society archivist Mary Allison on the waterfront oral history project in 1988.

Draper Observatory Cottage is located in Draper Park. Our address is 407 Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706.

From the Editor: Due to time constraints, this will be our last Monday blog post. Watch for more mystery photos and articles about our collection in our Thursday posts!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mystery Photo: First Grade at Hillside, 1965

Here is one of our most recent acquisitions, a fabulous photograph loaned to us for copying by Katy Artel Pietrogallo. It shows the bright and shining faces of Margie Kunze's first grade class at Hillside School in 1965 (described on the letter board as "Year 1"). The girls in the middle row show off their favorite books, including Green Eggs and Ham and Gertie the Duck. Katy's brother, Alexis, is in the back row, fourth from the right. Do you recognize any of the other kids? Click on the photograph to look at it in Flickr (use the All Sizes link to enlarge the photograph). If you have any ideas, let us know!

If you don’t know, but are curious about the answers, come back to the blog and check this post. We’ll attach comments with any information we receive.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Historical Society Blog Takes a Holiday

Our advice to you: Go to the movies!

A recent donation from former resident Roy Weldon -- a 1942 Hastings Theater flyer.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

The New "Hastings Historian" Mails Today!

"Babe" Ruth and Hastings mayor Thomas F. Reynolds

Your next issue of the Hastings Historian contains many fascinating articles -- articles about how Hastings got its name and about Hastings’ first ambulance, plus a wonderful reminiscence on gym class in the early 1960s. It also contains a plea from Frank Domchek for a photograph of Babe Ruth. And not just any photograph! As you can see, we have three of them. But Frank is looking for a very specific image.

It was in 1927 that George Herman “Babe” Ruth came to Hastings. The local Rotary Club had invited him to speak on the opening day of the Boys’ Summer Twilight League, which they sponsored.

“Babe Ruth is coming here!” exclaimed the Hastings News the week before his arrival. “Yes, he, George Herman Ruth, the Home Run King, the Sultan of Swat, the Prince of Ball Players, is coming in the flesh, in his own proper person. He will appear right out in the open in broad daylight, where every boy will be able to get a good close-up of him, free of charge.”

On the 16th of June, Babe Ruth drove himself up to Hastings in his eight-cylinder sedan and met Hastings’ mayor, Thomas F. Reynolds, at the acclaimed Longue Vue restaurant (now the site of the Andrus Memorial Home). After dinner, Hastings’ motorcycle policemen escorted the two back to Reynolds Field. “Every small boy who was not already at Reynolds field,” the paper reported, “could be seen scurrying as fast as immature legs could carry him to the scene of the appearance of the idol of the American youth.”

The Boys’ Band of the Children’s Village played the National Anthem. Then, as the paper put it, “there were the usual pictures.”(And how glad we are now that they were so usual!) Coach LeRoy Cochran took the stand and explained the important purpose of the gathering. Superintendent of Schools John L. Hopkins presented the mayor. And Reynolds presented Mr. Ruth, who, he announced, had just that day hit his twenty-second home run at Yankee Stadium.

“I suppose everyone wants to know how I hit them out,” the Babe began, after the cheers had died down. “About twenty kids have asked me that. Well, I’m going to ask ‘Lindy’ how he flew across the ocean. … Some home runs are luck and on some you out-smart the other fellow. That’s what I want you boys to do, try and out-smart the other fellow, and play the game for all it’s worth. I’m coming up some night to see how you get along.”

Among the “sea of young faces, every one of which bore the rapt expression of absolute idolatry,” was young Frank Domchek. He remembers distinctly a photograph taken of himself, “the Babe,” and a few other boys sitting in the back of a pickup truck. Frank would love to track down this photograph. If anyone can help the Historical Society out with this request, please let us know!

The Babe poses at Reynolds Field with local Hastings boys, officers of the Rotary Club, school officials, and village officers. The photograph shows, left to right, front row: William Steinschneider, Henry Cochrane, Charles Andres, Jim Leddy, Mayor Tom Reynolds, Harold Ulmer with son Harold, Jr. in front, Fred Charles, Harry Murray, Superintendent of Schools John L. Hopkins, and Coach E. Leroy Cochran; second row (behind man with boy): Laken Owens (behind the Ulmers), Norm DiChiara (boy), and Foster L. Hastings; top row: H.H. Murphy (bow tie), two unidentified, Jimmy Croke, William J. Russell Sr. (taller husky boy), unidentified, Kirby Brown, Babe Ruth, unidentified, Warren Reynolds, three unidentified, Dom Raimondo (from Irvington in open-necked shirt), unidentified. If you recognize any of the unidentified boys or men, let us know!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cutting Edge Technology in Hastings: The Phonograph

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you probably have some sense of how many unidentified photographs we have in our collection. In order to identify a photograph, we have to find the right person with the right knowledge, but sometimes that knowledge is not of names and faces.

The photograph you see above belonged to the late Margaret Woodrow of Hillside Avenue. It has no name, no date, no marks of any kind on it. Our resident costume expert, Kenneth Loyal Smith, was attracted by the young lady’s gorgeous sleeves. That kind of sleeve, he says, became popular in 1897, and the tight collar narrows the date of the dress down to right around 1899 or 1900. Kenneth also recognized the machine at her elbow as an early phonograph, the kind that played wax cylinders.

Some online research turned up the following advertisement for a machine with a similar silhouette. It was produced by the National Phonograph Company, a company founded by Thomas Edison.

The ad belongs to Neil Lerner, a collector of early Edison phonographs who lives in North Carolina. Neil was kind enough to look at our picture, and in his opinion the phonograph in is one of Edison’s “Home” units. You can identify the model, he says, by the clips on the side of the case. These clips were used to attach the lid of this “portable” (25 lbs.) machine. Behind the woman’s elbow is a hole in the case into which a crank would have been inserted to wind up the phonograph. Only a dozen seconds of cranking, and then you could sit back and listen to an entire 2-minute cylinder -- a song, a speech, or a story.

In the 1850s, several inventors had toyed with ideas for a sound recording machine, but it was Thomas Edison who developed the first machine that could reliably record and play back sound. He demonstrated his new invention in 1877 and patented it in 1878. At the time, the phonograph was seen as an almost magical device, and was the first of Edison’s inventions to bring him international fame. Edison went on to work on other projects and came back to take up the commercial manufacture of phonographs in the late 1880s. His earliest machines were leased for business use, but in 1896 he started the National Phonograph Company specifically to manufacture phonographs to be sold to home owners.

Edison’s first domestic machine was the phonograph in Neil’s ad, the “Home” model A. It was originally priced at $40, but competition with The Columbia Phonograph Company’s “Gramophones” reduced the price of Edison’s unit to $30. As the advertisement claims, the phonograph could both play and record. Undoubtedly a bargain. In 1901 this model was restyled and the clips removed, and this allows us to date the machine that appears in our photograph to between 1896 and 1901. If the picture was taken, as the dress suggests, around 1900, the phonograph would certainly have been a new and exciting addition to the household.

The woman in the photograph remains a mystery, but we can make a guess. Margaret Woodrow was born in 1904, and this young lady looks about the right age to have been Margaret’s mother. It does seem unlikely that Margaret would have had in her possession a picture of a woman of the previous generation, taken before she herself was born, unless that woman was a relative. Margaret’s mother was Frances McConnell, daughter of Benjamin McConnell who built a house for his family at 65 Washington Avenue in about 1860. We may be looking at the interior of that very house, and the woman may be Frances or Frances’ sister, whose name was also Margaret.

This is a photograph of Margaret Woodrow taken in 1923, the year after she graduated from Hastings High School. Is there a resemblance?

Of course, we can’t say for sure. The photograph at the top of the blog may show an older friend or mentor of Margaret’s who didn’t even live in Hastings. But, even if that is the case, photographs of domestic machines and household appliances are rare, and it is exciting to discover in our collection an image of one of the earliest phonographs.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mystery Photo: Riverview Manor Hose Company, ca. 1945

Here is a great photograph of the Riverview Manor Hose Company No. 3 filling up at the Gulf station on Main Street. We have a 1947 photograph showing the Gulf station in just this location on Main Street, in the spot that is now the Boulanger Plaza parking lot, before the station moved to a new location further up Main Street. Behind the truck you can see signs for Riolo’s Meat Market on the left and the Green Tavern on the right, where Slices is today. We don’t know the names of any of the men in the truck. The photograph came to us through the Shreve family, so someone from that family may be in the picture. Does anyone look familiar? Click on the photograph to look at it in Flickr (use the All Sizes link to enlarge the photograph), or look at the details of the men’s faces at the bottom of this post. If you have any ideas, let us know!

If you don’t know, but are curious about the answers, come back to the blog and check this post. We’ll attach comments with any information we receive.

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