I remember Dad talking about his buddies: (First name unknown) Leonard who was an exceptionally brilliant man with a love of science or mathematics, Jesse Turner who was our Delmar mailman for years, and Robert Wright who founded Wright Trash Disposal. Years later the consensus was that Mr. Wright was the richest person to come out of BC during that era. I also believe Dad went to school with a George Butler who when I was in high school, could be seen on any given day riding his bike around Delmar.
Dad said there were plenty of pretty girls at BC back then, including my aunt Jeanne Paige and her best friend, Janet Flume Jones. Dad talked about a Betty Barker and Snookie Lansing. I also recall the names Hicks, Hafley, Ardizone, McCormick, Bennett and Weaver. He told a funny story about taking a classmate Eva Marie Saint (yes, the actress) to a dance with her perched on the handles of his bicycle. He said her sister Adelaide was a beauty and that she tried out and was selected for the senior play while her sister Eva didn’t make the cut. Later, Eva won an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance in “On the Waterfront.”
Dad always talked about his high school friends as if it was yesterday. His class remained extremely close over the years due to Delmar’s relatively small size and also the shared experience of war. Dad was a “5 Year Man” in high school, graduating a year later than he should have due to lengthy absences from school to play competitive tennis. He was an accomplished player (his father was a tennis professional), and he was very active on the regional junior circuit. I have his postcard marked ‘The Sagamore’ written to his parents when he was in high school telling them he had just won his tournament. The family tennis trophies and related memorabilia were donated to the Albany Institute of History and Art.
I recall Dad talking about shooting darts in the backroom of the DT (Delmar Tavern) — later Brockley’s, then Beff’s, and now Swifty’s. He and his buddies liked to have a few beers, and one night his friends thought it would be funny after Dad had a few too many, to leave him in a shopping cart on his front porch. They rang the doorbell and took off leaving Dad to face the consequences. Another “prank” I heard about was “borrowing” a Delmar policeman’s gun and running it up a flagpole in town. There was another story too about Dad and some of his friends turning on a garden hose and sticking it in an unsuspecting Delmar resident’s open cellar window. I am not sure what the outcome was there. All of this seems pretty innocent by today’s standards.
Another popular hang-out for teenagers was Pop Libby’s, which I believe was a soda fountain near the Four Corners. Movies were very popular then and kids would go to the Palace in Albany or Delmar’s own theater (“The Stink” as Dad said it was nicknamed), located near where D. A. Bennett’s was.
Mom grew up at 15 Roweland Ave. playing in the wooded lots with neighborhood pals Scotty Rowe and Earl “Buster” Jones. Scotty’s dad was Alton Rowe, Delmar businessman, for whom Roweland Avenue was named. He founded Delmar Lumber and was the builder for the Killough family home. The Rowes lived on the corner Wellington and Roweland across from a large wooded corner lot. I remember my maternal grandmother, Harriet Abriel Killough, talking about taking the United Traction bus with her friend Mildred Rowe, Alton’s wife, into downtown Albany to enjoy a chicken salad lunch and whiskey sour at the vulnerable Keeler’s Restaurant.
Mom was focused on sports in high school, especially field hockey. One of her coaches, Miss Johnson, was a mentor and lifelong friend to her. The students called her “Mike.” Mom’s best friends were Connie Conroe, Ruth Cassavant and Ginny Arnold. Ginny later married my dad’s good friend Jack Van Zandt. I remember Dad telling me Jack’s brother was one of the first casualties of World War II, dying in a training mission. I met Jack and Ginny’s lovely daughter a few years ago when she made the trek up to Pennsylvania to research the Arnold and Van Zandt family histories.
Dad told me that when the war came, he and his friends were far from home. Any news from or about Delmar boys was filtered through Agnes Leonard, who lived on Adams Place. He said she was much beloved and everyone called her “Ma” Leonard. There is a wonderful picture of Dad and a group of his high school buddies all dressed up in sports coats, posing together just before they went off to war; I donated the picture to the Bethlehem Town archives.
Mom and Dad’s high school classes remained close throughout the years. On the occasion of Dad’s 50th class reunion (1991), he wrote a beautiful piece as a tribute to his class. He continued to see a few BC friends throughout the rest of his life, but he was always drained and saddened to see his buddies getting old. It reminded him too much of his own mortality. He preferred to remember his BC classmates the way they were back when, with all the exuberance of young kids with futures stretching out before them like an endless horizon.
We buried Mom and Dad in the Bethlehem Cemetery at Kenwood and Elsmere on a knoll overlooking the athletic fields of what was their beloved Bethlehem Central. We visit them often.
Sandra Paige Sorell