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Summer in Amsterdam years ago

By: Bob Cudmore

Date: 2017-08-05

Summer years ago in Amsterdam
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 08-05-17

The first golf course built in the Amsterdam area was the private Antlers Country Club, opened in 1901 on land in Fort Johnson and Tribes Hill off Route 5. Today, the facility is Rolling Hills Golf Course.

City residents discussed the idea of an Amsterdam municipal course as early as 1929. By 1934, the choice was made to build on 200 acres of farmland on the border between the city and town of Amsterdam off Van Dyke Avenue.

Construction was made possible through a $100,000 federal appropriation and $23,000 in city funds. Democratic Mayor Arthur Carter was instrumental in advocating for the golf course with President Franklin Rooseveltís administration and the facility was named for Carter.

The course opened in 1938. The designer was Robert Trent Jones, who went on to be a legend in golf course design. A native of England who grew up in Rochester, New York, Jones created his own landscape architecture curriculum while attending Cornell. He began his career by designing six federally funded golf courses, including Amsterdamís.

BASEBALL

As a youngster, the late John Szkaradek tried to get into Amsterdamís Mohawk Mills Park for free by finding baseballs that had been hit out of the park. If that didnít work, he and other youngsters resorted to peepholes in the park fence.

The Amsterdam Rugmakers played at the park, a farm team for the New York Yankees. Today the facility is named Herbert Shuttleworth II Park in honor of the carpet mill executive who was president of the Rugmakers in the early 1940s.

The Yankees came to Amsterdam twice in the 1940s. In 1942 Joe DiMaggio was the star attraction. In 1949 the Yankees came to Amsterdam with Casey Stengel as the manager plus Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto on the team.

The 1942 game was particularly remarkable in that the grandstand had burned eight days before the arrival of the Yankees. Work crews from Mohawk Carpet Mills were pressed into to service and the grandstand was rebuilt for the Yankees game.

The Gloversville Glovers also played in the Canadian-American League with the Rugmakers. Major league manager Jack McKeon, who led the Florida Marlins to a World Series victory in 2003, was a catcher for the Glovers in 1950.

Retail stores have been built at the Fifth Avenue and Route 30A site of the old Glovers Park.

VACANT SUMMER STREETS

On warm summer evenings in the 1940s, the streets of Amsterdamís West End were sometimes deserted.

To supplement food available under wartime rationing, the Italian-American residents were tending vegetable gardens on the fertile flat land south of their homes between the railroad tracks and Mohawk River.

They built poles for pole beans and lattices to keep tomatoes off the ground. They grew lettuce, zucchini and dandelions, much as their ancestors had done in southern Italian communities such as Pisciotta in the province of Campania.

A PARADE

In July of 1954, Amsterdam celebrated its 150th birthday with a ten-division parade. The Vail Mills drive-in float featuring young women in bikinis was a crowd pleaser.

Celebrations went on for weeks at local taverns and ethnic social clubs, which had chapters of the Brothers of the Brush (who did not shave) and Sisters of the Swish (who wore long dresses).

The Sesquicentennial, as it was called, was a joyous and raucous event that took place at the beginning of the end of the cityís prominence as a carpet-manufacturing center.

Ironically, one of the floats in the 1954 parade was a flying carpet. Within a year, Bigelow-Sanford, one of the cityís two major carpet makers, was moving out of town.

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