Author Archives: carljohnson

Coincidence? I think not…

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Ran across this intriguing pair of articles about the Schenectady Savings Bank that were published in the New York Times on June 15, 1894. First, a dispatch from Albany stating that the Superintendent of Banks had found a shortage in the bank’s accounts upward of $10,000. And then, immediately below, offered without irony or explanation, a story from Schenectady telling us that August Henke, chief accountant of the Schenectady Savings Bank, was found dead at the aqueduct. He had apparently long suffered from heart disease, and there was certainly no reason, not even simple typographical proximity, to think these two stories had anything to do with each other.

The next day, the Times reported that “Three experts made an exhaustive examination today of the accounts of the Schenectady Savings Bank, whose head accountant, August Henke, killed himself Wednesday night. The investigation disclosed that Henke’s method was to make false entries in the transfer of accounts from the individual to the general ledger. The peculations were in small amounts.”

If you wondered why Mr. Henke felt the need to wander all the way up to Aqueduct to take his life — he was the treasurer of the Schenectady Canoe Club and presumably familiar with the Mohawk River in that stretch, which is still popular with canoeists.

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That doesn’t sound like Saratoga

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Still from 1973 — the copy editor who wrote this headline in the Schenectady Gazette probably sensed that the writer had buried the lead; without that head, most readers wouldn’t have gotten through the tax exemption and housing code amendments to that part about the topless waitresses. Okay, so, topless waitresses, and the Mayor appears not to want them, but also there’s some storm drainage and traffic lights and a street sweeper to get to, so you can see why the reporter felt the whole topless waitress thing wasn’t worth a lot of copy.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that ban passed.

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Would $1,400 change your life?

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In 1973, Capital Financial Services wanted to know if $1,400 would change your life. Considering that later in the paper, you could find an ad for a four-year-old Ford LTD at $1495, it’s hard to imagine that $1,400 was really a “big money” loan.

This company was way out in a strip plaza on Gerling Street that still exists.

Top of the sevens, ma!

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1973 was a year of inflation — even before President Ford’s famous “Whip Inflation Now” pins (they didn’t work), the prices of meat, gasoline and other staples of life were growing at an incredible pace. Schenectady Savings Bank, where passbook savings accounts ran at about 5% in the previous years, was here advertising savings certificates (CDs) at as much as 7.9%. Of course, if you could earn that much on savings, it meant that borrowing money cost many points more. A quick survey of certificates of deposit today, at a time when a mortgage might run at 3.5%, shows rates just barely north of 1%. So, upside, downside.

For many years ads for Schenectady Savings Bank featured a cut of their main building and the slogan, “Where Clinton Crosses State.” The bank was chartered in 1834, and was taken over by Northeast Savings sometime in the mid-1980s. Then it was decided that being a savings bank wasn’t cool, and the bank changed format and was acquired by another bank, which was acquired by another bank, and so essentially the institution we knew as Schenectady Savings is long gone. Its main branch had a clean, classy look inside, not as grand as some of the other old banks but stately and assured. It is now a Bank of America branch that looks like every other branch, though perhaps a bit more run down.

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Hoxsie does politics!

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Actually, Hoxsie never does politics. There’s enough of that in this town. But if we’re celebrating 1973 week and we run across a “before he was a star” article, we’re going to print it. And so here from March 1973 is an article announcing Hugh Farley’s intention to run for a second term on the Niskayuna town council. Just three years later, he would run for State Senate, where he has served the Senate district covering Schenectady ever since.

Grant’s fights inflation!

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I’ll admit this one confused me at first — I had no recollection that W.T. Grant’s, the old department store chain, had expanded its lunch counters (and every department store had a lunch counter back then) into full-fledged restaurants. But apparently they did. In 1973, Grant’s was running two Bradford House restaurants in its strip mall stores in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, even as the downtown Grant’s was preparing to close.

Bradford, named for the Pennsylvania county where W.T. Grant was born, was the name for many of Grant’s in-house lines, including its appliances. We had several Bradford appliances growing up, and they seemed to be eternal. We bought a Bradford air conditioner in 1968 that was still running when my mother sold her house in 2000, and by all appearances it’s still there.

Barney’s EOM Clearance

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In 1973, H.S. Barney’s venerable establishment was also lurching to its death. The last of the great Schenectady department stores still west of the canal (Erie Boulevard), it still retained an air of down-at-the-heels class from its days serving the carriage trade, but single-store department stores were on their way out, and downtown department stores were even more on their way out. This ad would be Barney’s final spring E.O.M. clearance.

I would love to see a Barney card.

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Wallace’s Good Buys

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As mentioned before, downtown Schenectady’s landmark Wallace’s Department Store, closed at the end of 1973. The store  was significant in my personal history, as well, and I spent endless hours there in my youth, seemingly an eternity, while my mother fussed over fabrics.

This is one of the final Wallace’s ads. I’m sure a good chunk of Christmas that year came from the clearance of the old store.

By the way, I’d wager almost anything that the headline font was achieved with some form of press type, such as Letraset. It’s an astonishing example of poor kerning that only technology made possible.

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Wallace’s Department Store

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Just because, it’s 1973 week. Wallaces 99th anniversary sale.png What was happening in the Electric City a mere 39 years ago? Well, Wallace’s was holding its 99th anniversary sale. It would be its last; the store closed in the final days of 1973. As venerated Schenectady historian Larry Hart wrote back in 1996, the store was in a way much older than that, having descended from a business that began in 1822 down on Ferry Street.  It began as William McCamus Dry Goods in 1822; it moved to a new building on State Street, still west of the canal (the Schenectady Savings and Loan location), in 1840. In 1874 the business was sold and became Thomas H. Reeves and Company, and later was known as Reeves-Vedder. It is from this sale that Wallace’s traced its anniversary. The store built a sparkling new building way uptown in 1892, between North Center (now Broadway) and Jay streets, and in 1900 became Reeves-Luffman. In 1909, Andrew Wallace of the Consolidated Dry Goods Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, consolidated Reeves-Luffman into his chain of stores and renamed it Wallace’s, at the same time doubling its size with an addition to its building. And so it stood for another 64 years until the terrible collapse of downtown retail, which took out Wallace’s, H.S. Barney, W.T. Grant’s and Kresge’s, all in the same year.

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