The good weather is still holding for us OFs who currently travel to the furthest restaurant on our schedule to have breakfast. The Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville is a hike for some but right in the backyard for other OFs. This March 15th the spring-like weather was still around.

The OFs used to complain about Route 85 going to Rensselaerville but not any longer.  That portion of the highway has been paved so the conditions of all the roads the OFs take to have breakfast at the Hilltown Café are in good shape and unless there is a big argument going on in the cars it is a pleasant trip.

Most of the time, as the OFs arrive at the restaurants, each carload sits with the same group they drove there with. On occasion there isn’t enough room for a particular carload to sit together at a table and that splits one OF out and he enters another group. This makes for interesting conversation because the OF that does not generally sit with that group brings different tales to the table. This is just like square dancing.  Four couples will travel to a dance and form their own square for most of the dance. (Except if you danced to caller Ken Downs. He had a few calls that would mix the party up pretty good and that was fun).

A split-up happened this Tuesday and it was found that at the table with four unlikely OFs the conversation was spirited, lively and interesting because all at the table were involved with scouting, outdoor activities, and hiking. The topics covered Boy Scout camps throughout Albany, Schenectady, and Schoharie counties. One OF is still involved with scouting while the others had to draw on fond memories of when they were in Scouts, and were Scoutmasters. For some of the OFs that was going back a ways.

The OFs discussed the Boy Scout “freeze outs” which was overnight camp-outs in the winter. Most of the time it was as tough on the Scoutmasters as it was the scouts. One OF, a former Scoutmaster, remembered taking a couple of Scouts home in the middle of the night from a freeze out at Thacher Park. After dropping the Scouts off this OF was thinking about stopping at his own home while he was so close, because he was freezing, but he resisted the temptation; he dutifully went back to the tent. This OF is still involved with scouting and on the Eagle Scout review board.

One OF mentioned that while his son was in Scouts (when they had the freeze outs on Long Island) the campsite was already set up and ready to go. Not so with some of the freeze outs in

“Upstate”.  Here the Scout had to learn how to set up tents (while there was a foot or more of snow on frozen ground) and how to prepare these tents so they were dry and reasonably comfortable inside in the dead of winter.

Another former Scoutmaster remembered becoming snowed in on a freeze out off Singer road in the town of Knox. This was a long time ago and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. So a Scoutmaster had to snowshoe out from the campsite to the Thompson Lake road to make a phone call and have the town send out plows followed by cars to get the Scouts out. The Scouts had a blast, not so the Scoutmasters and adults that were there.  (Scribe’s note: as a matter of fact phones were still the black rotary phones, that was all there was, even the Princess phone was still a figment of someone’s imagination).

What the OFs learned as Scouts and from being involved in scouting, and what they continued to learn as Scoutmasters (along with serious outdoor people who hiked and camped out) was invaluable to their overall adult lives later on. The OFs were remembering years ago but they assumed scouting must still be similar only with more up-to-date equipment today.

This year, so far, is nothing like some of those years with the Scouts.  The pussy willows have already bloomed, some crocus and snow flowers are popping their colorful heads out of the ground, the cluster flies have decided to wake up and buzz all around the sunny windows, and lawns are being raked.

The OFs next talked about the Montgomery Ward building on Broadway in Menands. Malls are not that new. “Monkey-wards” in Menands was a mall. It was a bustling place in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The OFs could not quite remember when it started to fizzle out. It was a planned trip from the farm to Wards. The OFs remember going there as a family and their father would purchase items from the floor, and then from the catalog and the kids would go to the pickup area and wait. It was fun to watch through the doors that went into the warehouse to see the workers hauling items from the shelves.

Wards had a restaurant, snack shop, beauty salon, camping supplies, farm supplies, and clothes.  There was everything there except a movie theatre.  It even had medical supplies for people and animals. You could purchase a small tractor, or a canoe. The store even sold windmills, barns and sheds, and the newest radio or telephone.  Try finding those in one of these new malls.  One OF said that all he sees in the new malls are shoe stores, clothing stores, and the occasional jewelry store.

The OFs that made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and would love to see a store like Montgomery Wards come back, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Karl Remmers, Alvin Latham, Mace Porter, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Don Wood, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.