In This Place: March 4, 2015

March of Time
This week’s column offerings, even the advertisements, are all from a single issue in early March. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out what year! I have stuck to the “fives” so you are looking for 19?5. Of course, I will try to make it as tricky as possible!
Test your historical skills, or make yourself hysterical trying to nail it down. The answer will be revealed in next week’s column. Of course, you could always “cheat” by visiting our archives on-line at www.nyshistoricnewspapers.org/middletown. You might even have some fun there.

Balance of Alphabet Free
All whose names begin with the following letters are invited to attend the moving picture show at the Opera House Saturday night free: T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z. Next week there will be a surprise announcement in the matter of those who are invited to attend free.—adv.

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In This Place: February 25, 2015

February Potluck
A glance back at News stories from this time of year decades ago illustrate that some challenges — freeze ups — remain timeless, while other tales strike us as period melodramas. In honor of this Chinese New Year, which began “The Year of the Goat,” I share with you an educational foray into one of the Catskills’ first chronicled goat farms.
February 24, 1905 — Cold Causes Water Famine
A Fire Would Be Serious — Repairing Old-fashioned Hand Engines—Ice 30 Inches Thick
The intense cold weather that has prevailed for some weeks has had a most serious effect on the water supply hereabouts. The fall rains were not heavy and the water was low at the beginning of the winter. The severe fronts have had a greater effect than a prolonged drought. Margaretville is well-nigh without water, there being none in the reservoir. The water main is fed by a tiny stream that runs down through the middle of the empty basin and directly into the main. What would happen should there be a serious fire is hard to say.

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In This Place: February 18, 2015

Down on the Farm
In This Place readers are in for a real treat this week, as I feature some columns written by Emmeline Scudder, a multi-faceted woman who chronicled her family’s life on the farm for the News for a few years in the 1950s. Mother, wife, homemaker, teacher and writer, “Maggie” was a force to be reckoned with. Her daughter Sally Scudder Fair­bairn, who inherited her mother’s “writing gene,” graciously said of her mom: “Let’s let Maggie tell her stories. That voice, combining the matter-of-fact with the hint of marvel behind it, was what I remember as a kid. As I grew up, of course, I came to rec­ognize that behind that ‘isn't life jolly’ facade was a worrywart who recognized the need to do the college and start a new career at age 45.”
Like Clarke Sanford and Lincoln R. Long, Maggie’s contributions to the News paint a vivid portrait of life “in this place,” in her case 60 years ago. You can expect that I will dig out more “Feminine Furrows” as the seasons come and go, for her inimitable voice and unforgettable rendering of family farm life truly deserve to be read and enjoyed by later generations.

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In This Place: February 11, 2015

Of Thee I Sing

Time to celebrate presidents and sweethearts, and we start with a Valentine’s boy who grew up to be a fine civic leader in Roxbury, Rudolph Gorsch. Many editions around Valentine’s would have tales of his birthday parties.

February 19, 1904 — Charles’ Valentine
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gorsch of Locust street were presented with a bouncing boy Sunday, February 14. Charles says he is certain he received the finest valentine in town. — Roxbury Times.

Rudolph Gorsch eventually became the town’s undertaker, like his father, and sadly, died on September 12, 1955, just 51 years old. He fell from a truck while return­ing furniture that did not sell at a Roxbury Rotary auction, an organization of which he was the president.

The next incident has absolutely no bearing on Presidents or Val­entine’s but was just too bizarre to exclude:


In This Place: February 4, 2015

Mid-Winter Whimsies & Wonder

These paeans to the Groundhog need no explanation, although one thing I did learn this week is that February 2 on the religious calendar is Candlemas Day, marking the mid-point of winter, when traditionally farmers and families would take stock and hope that they still had half of their fuel and food to see out the last weeks of winter. By this time, almost everyone can find a complaint about the weather — either too much winter or not enough — except of course Clarke Sanford, who found something magical even in the dead of winter.
From the issue of January 31, 1936From the issue of January 31, 1936