Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle

 Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
The Sesquicentennial of Rotterdam was an 8-day event from July 10th to July 18th, 1970 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the town of Rotterdam. Each day in the Sesquicentennial had a different theme, with events that  corresponded to that theme. Saturday, July 14 was "Government & Veterans Day" which included tours of Rotterdam Town Hall, a mock town hall meeting, a veterans memorial service, and the 14th Calvary demonstration of Civil War and Revolutionary War guns and cannons. The Sesquicentennial was meant not only to celebrate the anniversary, but as a way to bring the residents of Rotterdam closer together. One way of doing this was by creating chapters of the Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle.

Photo of the Untouchables chapter of the Brothers of the Brush. Seated: John Papp, Buddy Dunn, Bill Stoddard, Tom Keough. Standing: Dom DeVito, Jack Dunn, Curt Rodd, Bernie Armstrong, Jr., David Martin. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Members of the Brothers of the Brush agreed to grow facial hair, and wear the official badge and derby on official "Sequi-celebration days". Participants signed a charter and came up with a name for their Brothers of the Brush chapter. The charter for the Brothers stated that "Members of this organization, being civic-minded boosters of Rotterdam, N.Y. and Rotterdam's Sesquicentennial, hereby agree to wear, as evidence of their loyalty and interest, either full Beards, sideburns, mutton chops, mustaches or other hairy facial appendages, and will wear the official 'Brothers of the Brush' button, the official headgear, and other regalia as directed by the 'Brother of the Brush' from now on henceforth, until July 18, 1970."  Rotterdam historian and photographer John Papp was the chairman of a chapter named the Untouchables. Other chapters included the Bristle Boys, Colonial Clubbers, Stumpjumpers, and Uncle Bill's Hillbillies. Uncle Bill's Hillbillies were known to walk around Rotterdam carrying either a shotgun or a small pig. Members of the Hillbillies were also known to lock their members up in the stocks as shown in the photo below. 
Photo of Uncle Bill's Hillbillies chapter of the Brothers of the Brush. Seated: Mickey Symanski, Tony Famiano, John Green, Matt Malejka, Tony Gallo, Gary Deluke. Standing: Fred Geddes, Andy Senese, Gil Woodside, George Grezeskowiak, Reed Hart, Les Jacobs, Norm Hart (in the stocks), Newell Calkins, Russ Welch, Fred Smulovitch, Jr., Stan Rogowicz (in the stocks), Bob Hart, Lee Archer, Biff Fontaine, Chuck Hebert, Frank Famiano, Pete Starson, Tony Marollo. Pigs and dog are unnamed. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
A funeral procession was organized for the late Mr. Ray Zor who was "made obsolete by the unwillingness of many Rotterdam men to shave." He was then eulogized by Reverend A.W. Burns on June 4th 1970, saying that "We come here not to praise, but to bury Brother Ray Zor. On Monday mornings he has sliced our cheeks and chins and shed our blood, as though for the remission of our sins of the weekend..." Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Sisters of the Belle also known as Sesqui-Belles, were required to dress in clothing similar to that of the 1800s on Sesqui-celebration days and had to wear their official membership buttons at all times. Like the "Brothers", Sisters of the Belle formed chapters of about 10 members with names like the Flaming Belles, Tinkerbelles, Bushels and Bonnets, and the Liberty Belles. The belles would also go door to door selling commemorative coins and plates, as well as men's ties and bonnets. Both the Sisters of the Belle and Brothers of the Brush were subjected to fines for not participating. The events of the "Sisters" included a fashion show with prizes for best period costume, most authentic dress, and best hoopskirt design. Other activities included needlework, crafts, and baking. One afternoon, the Sesqui-belle chapters known as the Keekees and the Dingalings met up for a game of softball. While some of the belles were playing, others were dressed in old-fashioned bathing suits and picnicked on the field.

The Tinker Belles Chapter of the Sisters of the Belle. Seated: Karalee Duckwald, Shirley Ennis, Pat Wilsay, Vera Brown, Betty Simpson. Standing: Ethel Morris, Marilyn Nold, Diane Pedersen, Alice Miller, Theresa Morris, Gay Hofmann. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection. 

Turtle Belles Chapter of the Sister of the Belle. Seated: Debra Papp, Eileen Papp, Arlene Rose, Jenny Gordon. Second Row: Dorothy Peek, Hedy Hyjek, Ida Chignon, Virginia Hopkins, Cathy Adair, Melvina Borst, Dolores Papp, Gladys Montanaro. Third Row: Mary Dingman, Linda Nuttall, Leoline DeVito, Virginia Charbonneau, Clara Cromer, Pat Guynup, Margaret Miller.Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
The Sesquicentennial was a success and its profits (no doubt helped by the Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle) were divided among a variety of community organizations.

More photos from the Sesquicentennial. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Larry Hart News Negatives Part II

As promised, here are some more images from the Larry Hart news negative collection. Also, a reminder that the Grems-Doolittle Library has been digitizing some of our photo collection and putting the images on the New York Heritage Digital Collections site which you can find here: Our current collection on the site focuses on sports and recreation in Schenectady. More photos are added periodically, so check back every once in a while to see what's new.

This photo from the 1954 Scotia Golden Jubilee parade shows the Scotia Chamber of Commerce Queen and her court. Scotia's Golden Jubilee was a week long event that featured speakers, parades, fireworks, athletic contests and more to commemorate Scotia's fiftieth anniversary.

Two soap box derby racers racing down the track.
Operators at the switchboard at the Telephone Company Building on Clinton Street.
This great night shot of Schenectady shows some of the old standbys of downtown, including Woolworth's and Wallace's.
The 1949 Christmas Parade featured this huge inflatable "train".

Robert Kennedy addressing a crowd in Schenectady's City Hall.
Political rally for Harry Truman at Schenectady's Union Station in 1948.
Kids dancing at a block party on Weaver Street in 1954
Some acrobatics from a trick rider during a parade.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Larry Hart News Negatives Part I

It always feels nice to finish a large project. One such project was the scanning of the Larry Hart News Negatives from our Larry Hart Collection. Volunteers Victoria Bohm and Robert J. Jones digitized almost 5,000 negatives from this collection in order to make them more accessible for researchers. Larry Hart was a photographer and reporter for the Union-Star as well as a reporter for the Schenectady Daily Gazette where he remained a columnist until his official retirement in 1980, although he continued to write freelance. He was mainly a political reporter but, is probably best known for his historical column, “Tales of Old Dorp” which first appeared in the local section of the Daily Gazette on May 14, 1974, and ran through the 1990s.

This collection is a compilation of both black and white and color negatives in a variety of sizes. The subject matter of the negatives varies widely and there are negatives of accidents, fires, building openings, and demolitions (as seen in this previous blog post:  As well as images of sports and recreation, construction, farm life, parades, and street scenes all throughout Schenectady County. The photos below are some of my favorites, and since it was tough to pick out so few, a second blog will be posted next week that features some more of these great scenes of life in Schenectady.

This photo from July, 1948 shows Freihofer's blacksmith making horseshoes for their delivery horses. Freihofer's ended delivery by horse and wagon in 1962

The News Negative Collection features behind the scenes photos of the Daily Gazette. In this photo, a copy reader for the Gazette is working at her desk, wearing what looks to be a hands-free Dictaphone.
Construction worker showing his patriotic spirit.
Think this young fisher by the Mohawk River caught anything? 
This rather adorable photo was taken in the old headquarters of Schenectady's fire department on State and Veeder. It was opened on July 1, 1900 and used as a fire house until the new central station on Erie boulevard was opened. After it closed as a fire station, the Schenectady Police Department used it as the headquarters for its traffic division and it became known as the traffic barn. The building was condemned in 1950 and razed in 1956.

Up to his neck in pumpkins!
The testing of a tank (Possibly an M48?) made by ALCO. This photo was most likely taken at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Niskayuna where they had a testing ground for new tanks. Comment below, or email Mike at if you know what type of tank this is.

Ever wonder what the inside of the clock tower in City Hall looks like? This photo from the 1950s shows a man repairing the clock mechanism.
This amazing night time shot taken from Broadway highlights Schenectady's industrial side. 
-Mike Maloney