Author Archives: carljohnson

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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It’s 1973 Week on Hoxsie!

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For no reason whatsoever, it’s going to be 1973 week here on Hoxsie! What was going on at this time of year a mere 39 years ago? We’ll have plenty of local history to cover, but first, let’s take a moment to remember where we were when we first heard that there would be price ceilings on meat. This is from the Schenectady Gazette, March 31, 1973.

As hard as it is to imagine an effort that would send Internal Revenue agents across the land in search of stores that were selling meat above their posted prices, it’s even harder to imagine that in 1973, the major media were still referring to “the housewife:”

The administration made clear that despite its enforcement mechanism it is counting on the housewife for success of the ceiling price program. She is the one who can make sure there are no violations, a spokesman said.

Lower on the page? Some stuff about Watergate. But the meat came first.

Something you Ought to Read

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Pine Hills.pngAs this ad from The New Albany in 1891 proclaims, there is no better city on this continent to live in, all things considered, than Albany, and if you intend to make it your permanent home, here is Something you Ought to Read.

What follows is a glowing recommendation of the benefits of buying a property in Pine Hills from the Albany Land Improvement and Building Company. And who wouldn’t want to live there at the convergence of two magnificent thoroughfares, where there is pure air, abundant shade, smooth lawns, asphalt pavements, perfect drainage, detached residents, and rapid transit?

“Pine Hills is one of the distinguishing and remarkable features of the NEW ALBANY . . . This is no forced boom, no straw sales, no fictitious valuation.” Strange to say that this wasn’t just sales talk, as Pine Hills has proven to be one of Albany’s enduring neighborhoods, looking and feeling today very much like it did a century ago. Minus the streetcars, of course.

Two things about this ad that you don’t see in advertising much anymore: an admonition to “talk it over with your wife,” and the word “ought.”

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Cluett, Coon & Co.

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From Scribner’s magazine in 1890, we have this stylish ad for Cluett’s collars and cuffs for gentlemen. Your choice of the Penokee or Natillo collar, not to mention full dress Monarch shirts in flannel, cheviot, and madras.

I sometimes wish shirts still had detachable collars; it’s the first thing to go on a white dress shirt. Why did we give up this marvel of innovation?


Cluett, Coon & Co. was one of a number of versions of what would become the famous Cluett, Peabody & Co.