On February 21st the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie.
While the early arrivers of the OMOTM gathered on the sidewalk outside the restaurant on this early Tuesday morning in late February, they talked about what Schoharie was like in the forties, fifties, and sixties.
This conversation was carried inside and it was decided that the Country Café was the old Badgley & Wheeler’s soda fountain with booths and various sundries. Many seniors would walk to Badgley’s from the Schoharie School on the hill at lunch time and eat junk food for lunch. Those were the days. Reminiscing is fun, and the reality was fun because then there weren’t so many rules and regulations. The brains of the OFs were working overtime trying to reconstruct the village in the 1950s and 60s.
Like the OF’s conversations of a week or so ago about Gloversville/Johnstown, Schoharie too had stores, bars, a bowling alley, and a theater, all gone now and nothing there to replace them. One OF blamed Walmart for much of the demise of the little shops, while others blamed the flood, but another OF said the demise of the village was before the flood. An additional OF mentioned that if politics would get out of the way, and someone with bucks would restore the Parrott House, the village would be a different place. We are now all OFs; some even miss the clutch and shifting lever, raw milk, and Schoharie County Jumble cookies that everyone’s mother and grandmother once made.
Part of the conversation was where the driver’s tests were given so the young farmers could obtain their driving license. Most of the OF’s vehicles were of the clutch vintage, hand out the window for signaling turns, and maneuvers like that not even considered now. The OFs remember having to drive up the hill by the theater, stop the car in the middle of the hill, and go forward by letting in the clutch and not rolling backyards. Many of the OFs that were raised on the farm had been driving since they were 9 or 10 years old and could back up a 4-wheel wagon-load of hay and still had to take the test over a couple of times. One OF wondered what the new tests are like; an OF thought the driving part may be the same except for stopping on the hill and sticking your hand out the window for turns, however, some of the rules of the road may now be somewhat different.
The OFs remembered a few illicit activities that went on in the county when the OFs were YFs. One was cock fighting, and the other was the “stills in the hills”. The smoke from an operating still could be seen from across the hill; this was not an easy thing to hide. If a casual passerby could see the smoke so could the law, but brew was legal so this stuff was made mostly for family and friends. None of the OFs could remember a bust on still.
Occasionally the cock fights would be chased down but there were more fights than those caught. When they were caught though the law did get tough on those running it; the chickens were confiscated, and little knows what became of those chickens. Those Bantams were beautiful birds like something out of the rain forest. The OFs don’t hear of these two events going on now and haven’t in a long time.
A continuing conversation from a couple of weeks past was on the new Rivers Casino in Schenectady. The consensus of opinion was the casino in Schenectady is designed for the high rollers. One OF said he had a small sandwich and a soda and it cost 17 bucks. The OF about fell over. To get in on a table game also requires a few dollars one OF said. This scribe checked the menus out on Google and has to agree that this is no place to stop in and get a cup of coffee. The restaurants around the place have nothing to worry about unless they see what the casino is charging and jack their prices up to meet them. According to the OFs this is a Boston, New York City type of place, not a Schoharie, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Johnstown, Canajoharie, Ballston Spa, Pittsfield, Bennington type of place. One OF thought the casino is a good idea for Schenectady. That city may get some of the money from the high rollers that might come from the big cities in their boats to the casino on the river. These OF said let the gamblers from the smaller towns go to the Turning Stones, or Foxwoods, but have the big bucks come here. There are two sides to everything.
The Old Men of the Mountain that found time to wander to the Country Café in Schoharie and fill the place up with their bodies and their chatter were: Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Frank Ray, Chuck Aelesio, Dave Williams, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jim Rissacher, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and Miner Steven who used the occasion to be accompanied by just a few of his kids and grandkids to make a table of 4 generations of Stevens’ including Bradley McLaughlin (grandson), Erika Gibbons (granddaughter), Olivia Gibbons (great granddaughter), Debbie McLaughlin (daughter), and me.