In This Place: March 18, 2015

Springing to Mind

The calendar may say “Spring” this week, but in the Catskills spring in March is usually more a matter of prognostication and promise than actually showing up. Still I thought I’d get us in the mood for spring, or maybe at least spring cleaning, with this week’s column. I’ll keep it short, so as not to torture those of you still burning through your fuel oil! Here’s to a robin in every yard!

March 18, 1955 — From Clarke Sanford’s “Mountain Dew”
I have been told that the best time for a farmer to sell the old place is in March, while snow is yet on the ground the rocks and rough spots are covered and the buyer is full of spring enthusiasm. April mud may change the pic­ture.


In This Place: March 11, 2015

Mud for all seasons

Since it’s been such a brutal snowy winter, I thought I would remind readers about the next seasonal trial: mud. However, my research revealed that the plague of mud, although most often a spring affair, could occur just about any time of year. And in the days before paved roads, it could be almost as debilitating to traffic as floods and blizzards. So before we have to deal with it ourselves, let’s take a look at how mud gummed up the works for our ancestors.

March 27, 1908 from “The Stroller”
I decided to go to church last Sunday morning and wended my way up toward the Presbyterian edifice. All went well until after I turned the corner from Walnut Street but then I was stuck. The only way to proceed further was to wade. I looked ahead and saw several church goers and they were wading. The mud was well nigh up to their ankles but they were heroic and waded through. I did the same, about spoiled my shoes to say nothing of the looks of them. There seems to be no way to get to the church mentioned without wading through the mud. Now this could easily be remedied, why don’t somebody fix it.


In This Place: March 4, 2015 — the year of the issue is . . . 1915!

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.


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.


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.