Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gaping Holes in the Roof

So, I've been thinking about this barn on Feura Bush Road. It is not an exciting barn.  Just a utilitarian barn, but it was once an essential part of farm life.

This view is from Bing.

Lately, this is how it looks.

This view from Google.
(Love the airplane in the foreground.)

Notice the gaping holes in the roof?  This just makes me sad.  Another piece of Bethlehem's agricultural heritage will soon be gone. 

On the plus side, driving home along Meads Lane the other day, for some reason the old stone house on nearby VanDyke Road popped into my head.  Literally, I thought to myself, "I hope it is still standing.  I haven't been by there in ages."

A quick detour, and yes it is still standing, and looks to be undergoing some renovations.  And the roof looks just fine.  Hopefully I'll get a picture soon. 

When did passenger service stop? UPDATED!

People often ask me about passenger service on the railroads in town. 

By 1900, Bethlehem had five railroad stations.  Elsmere, Delmar and Slingerlands (with a flag station at Font Grove) were along the D&H. South Bethlehem and Selkirk were on the West Shore (aka the New York Central). There were stops at Wemple and Glenmont, altho I don't know if they had an actual station or were flag stops.

By 1935, all of the passenger stations on the D&H in Bethlehem were closed. *** SEE BELOW
By 1959, South Bethlehem and Selkirk closed.

Here are some interesting figures - when the D&H approached the Public Service Commission in 1934 to close the Delmar Station (Elsmere and Slingerlands had closed the year before - partly because Delmar Station was just a mile and a half away) they presented these total passenger figures for Delmar:

1930  8,515
1931  1959
1932  493
1933  392

Talk about a dramatic drop in ridership.

So what happened? 

Automobiles and bus service were taking off and much more convenient.   Personal cars provided door to door service, and bus service with its many stops came close.

Nationally, Henry Ford introduced his Model T in 1908 - it was soon the most popular and affordable car.  Locally, Frank Hungerford introduced his Tri-Village Bus Service in 1915.  In 1943, Hungerford sold his business to the United Traction Company, a forerunner of today's CDTA.

Mr. & Mrs. Davidson of South Bethlehem pose with their auto.
Any old car buffs out there who can tell me what kind it is?
***I Stand Corrected***

After posting this blog, a friend of mine pointed out that in the 1960s he boarded the D&H in Cobleskill and got off at Adams and Hudson.  He also remembers his sisters riding the train to the Altamont Fair in the 1950s. 

A follow up article in the Altamont Enterprise (September 21, 1934) has the following headline.

So, I believe the D&H made it a Flag Station - meaning - I think! - that it was not staffed. 

So, now I am thinking passenger service continued but the actual physical stations were closed. 
What say you my friend?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flap and Doodle

In reading about the Prohibition Era, I was caught by the wonderful phrasing of H.L. Mencken.   He is describing the oratory powers of President Warren G. Harding:

"a string of wet sponges"
"dogs barking idiotically through endless nights"
'It is rumble and bumble.  It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."
"It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it."

Harding on the campaign trail in 1920.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia.)
Hopefully my writing is better than that!

Harding was president near the beginning of Prohibition; from his inauguration on March 4, 1921until his death on August 2, 1923.   His Justice Department under Attorney General Harry M. Daughtry was legendary for its level of corruption.  They were known for soliciting and accepting bribes to "secure appointments, prison pardons and freedom from prosecution" especially for bootleggers and rum runners.  In deed, Mr. & Mrs. Harding were known for their alcohol fueled after dinner parties.

I could not find a specific Bethlehem connection for Harding. You can read local reports about him in the Altamont Enterprise including a transcript of his nomination acceptance speech.  http://historicnewspapers.guilpl.org/

Or, read more in Edward Behr's Prohibition Thirteen Years that Changed America and, of course, Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bethlehem Votes Dry

So did you vote this week?
On September 14, 1918 you would have had the chance to vote on the local option of New York State's Liquor Tax Law.  Essentially, should Bethlehem be wet or dry?
Here's the official notice:
Voters responding with a resounding NO on all questions, essentially voting the town dry. 
This is actually the second vote taken on the issue.  The year before a similar election was held but was declared invalid by the State Court of Appeals on a technicality.  In response, Bethlehem's drys rallied their supporters to petition for another election, and then rallied the town's people to get out the vote. 
Here's how the Altamont Enterprise described the scene:

“Men and women in this village kept their automobiles running throughout the day, from the time of the opening to the closing of the polls, conveying voters to Bethlehem Center, where the election was held.  Never has an election been held in this town where such marked interest was displayed by both sexes as this one.” (September 20, 1918)

The 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in December of 1817, ratified by the states in 1919 and took effect January 1920.  After a disastrous run of 13 years, national Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

So now my question, when did Bethlehem go back to being wet?  Even today in 2013,  as per NY liquor laws, a town can vote itself dry. 

Read more in Allan S. Everest's enjoyable book Rum Across the Boarder the Prohibition Era of Northern New York.  Read about bootleggers, rum runners, and our very own Route 9 otherwise known as the Rum Trail from the Canadian boarder to Albany and points south.