Category Archives: Uncategorized

You can still bank on the Fourth of July

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The Bank Ad 1978.pngIn 1978, ATM cards weren’t even called that yet. National Commercial Bank and Trust Co. was going by the moniker “The Bank,” and was one of the first banks to offer an ATM card, which they called the Bank Key.

Not too long after, National Commercial would drop “The Bank” and become “Key Bank.” And then their ATM card was the “Key Bank Bank Key.”

The Bank documents our history

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National Commercial Bank.pngThis ad from the 1976 Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s program promotes a thirty-minute documentary about our community’s history produced by The Bank, as the National Commercial Bank and Trust Company was stylishly calling itself. It was offering this 16mm film to any interested group or organization.

We simply must find a copy of this film.

Button Engine Works, Waterford

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1872 Button Engine Works Waterford.pngIn 1872, when this ad ran in the Troy Times, the Button Engine Works was one of the best-known manufacturers of fire engines in the country.

The works was founded by Lysander Button, a Connecticut native by way of Albany, who became a machinist in the Waterford shop of John Rogers, who made fire engines among other cast items. Button worked his way up to foreman of the shop and became a partner in 1833, and eventually became known as the L. Button Company, Button & Son, and the Button Engine Works. He came up with a number of innovations in hand pumps and, later, steam. (Ah, steam, is there nothing you can’t do?)

The Waterford Historical Society has a detailed booklet with the history of the Button Fire Engine Works, for all you fire engine fans.

Make your own Ivanhoe Mayonnaise

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Ivanhoe Mayonnaise 1934.pngIn 1934, Ivanhoe Mayonnaise did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen another product do: it published its recipe, “in case you’d like to make it yourself.” The recipe is straightforward enough, though the makers warn that “if you haven’t an electric mixer it will require three-quarters of an hour of hard work.” Then they show you how you can make it for 30 cents a pint at home, as compared to the 32 to 35 cents your grocer will charge you, and not counting the valuable canning jar it comes in. In other words, you’d be a fool to make this yourself when Ivanhoe can do it for you.

Ivanhoe wasn’t a local product, though it was made in Auburn, New York, but it must have been carried in the Jonathan Levi company’s WGY Food Products stores. I just couldn’t resist posting this ad, the likes of which could never be seen today.

A grim reminder of “the peculiar institution”

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Another reminder that yes, there was slavery in the Capital District. This handbill from 1809, part of the Albany Institute of History and Art collection, calls for the return of a slave to Abel Whalen of Milton.

A Runaway Negro.


From the subscriber on the night of the 11th inst. a Negro man, named


About five feet eight or nine inches high; stout, thick set, and well made. Had on, when he went away, a black Nap’t Hat; a butter-nut colour Sailor Coat; had a small pack or bundle of clothes with him.

Any person who will secure said Negro in some gaol [jail], or return him, shall be handsomely rewarded, and all reasonable charges paid, by the subscriber.

Abel Whalen. Milton, 13th June, 1809.

Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York

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Peter Coddle.jpgWhen I was a child, I was often stuck in my great great aunt’s house on rainy summer afternoons with absolutely nothing to do but read the same two Mad magazines, engage my aunt and my great grandmother in a game of Carrom, or break out “The Game of Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York.” It was a form of what are now called “mad libs,” in which we would read the story of Peter Coddle from the provided booklet, and pull little pieces of cardboard with a variety of adjectives and nouns on them to fill in the blanks. Hilarity ensued.

The game (which had no scoring or winning, only amusement) was published as early as 1888, and by various game publishers. This edition, published by Parker Brothers, may be one of the earliest.

Click here to play the game.

Gram Smith

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Gram Smith 1977I’m absolutely terrible at remembering birthdays, anniversaries, anything of that sort. And yet, I almost never forget that December 27 was the birthday of my great grandmother, Hazel Grace Smith, neé Cath. She was born on this day in 1894, the third child of Teunis H. Cath and Nellie Seaman, who lived in West Glenville. She went to school there and when she was 20 married Ernest Goodrich Smith, whose family lived just down the road. (Family legend has it that Hazel may have stolen Ernie away from one of her sisters, and it’s true that they barely spoke throughout their lives, and her sister inserted a pointed barb at Hazel in her will.) For reasons that will never be clear, they were married in a church in Rensselaer, far from home and not a place that featured in their lives. Seven months after that, in 1916, Hazel gave birth to their only child, Thelma. Ernie was a union carpenter and a small farmer. They lived in Wyatts for years, and then near Aqueduct. She was gentle and sweet, and made a wonderful apple pie.

Most of the time I spent with her was during summers, when she would stay up at her sister Helen’s “country” house in West Glenville. Helen was our babysitter, and in the summer she would mostly watch my sister and me up at the country house. It was a rundown, unpainted  two-story just up West Glenville Road from the house they grew up in on Waters Road. There was no running water; there was a two-seater outhouse and a hand-pump in the yard. There they both spent most of their days doing housework, watching their “stories,” and taking walks to the raspberry patch or up to the cemetery.

She lived to be 102, although the last 10 years or so she wasn’t much aware of anyone, which was sad. But her longevity gives us all some hope of genetic predisposition to a long and healthy life.