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Hobart in the 30's and 40's

Mary Peters Betz

I was born in Hobart in the small house between Jim Barr’s home and the Methodist parsonage. My Dad was a carpenter (he built two houses here in Hobart and several in Stamford) and my Mother was a housewife. I was the youngest of four children – by 10 years.

Now, I’m going to ask you to visualize the village of Hobart as it was in the 1930′s and 1940′s.

Hobart had five grocery stores: Hoagland’s owned by Charlie Hoagland, he and his wife Sarah lived upstairs over the store, and if my Mom called early enough on Saturday, her groceries would be delivered to our home. Next door was the Victory store. This was a chain store and managed by Forest Archibald (Ted Archibald’s Dad) who was later killed in Europe during WWII) it was also managed by Fred and Regina Knise and the last managers were Frank and Jessie Clark.

Ralph Hoyt’s grocery store was located in the basement of the apartment house next to the funeral home, they later moved to Main St. Another grocery store was in Adams Book store and operated by Bob and Evelyn Hancock (who also operated a roller skating rink: in the Stamford Farm store building on South S1.)

The fifth grocery store was a Grand Union located near the corner of Maple Avenue and Main. This was also a chain store and had several operators, the last one was Spencer Sheehan. A gas station and minor car repair shop was located right next to the river by the bridge. It even had a pit to put the car over so a mechanic could see what was under the car. We kids loved to tempt fate by walking very close to the edge of the pit and not fall in. This business operated by Bob Rich also sold ice cream varieties, one of which were Eskimo pies for 5 cents. If one collected enough paper wrappers covering these popcicles, you could turn them in for a blanket! I did, and until many years later, I was the proud possessor of an Indian motif blanket.

There was also a barbershop located in the old Town Hall owned and operated by two brothers, Vincent and Kermit Cantwell. Vin and his wife June lived in the back rcoms of the shop. There was an unspoken observation among the local men that if you wanted a longer lasting haircut, you checked to make sure that Vin was working alone. Later Vin and June bought and moved across the street to a house owned by Nellie Squires. Vin gave up the barbershop and turned to photography. His brother Marion was also a photographer in Hobart for a short time. Vin was extremely successful in this endeavor and we have him to thank for our many, many photos of Hobart and especially of all of the local personnel who served in W orId War II. These pictures are located in the Historical building. Vin would use the two front windows of his home to display the latest pictures, individuals and wedding photos. Everyone always stopped to see if there were new pictures.

Kermit went on to establish a financial business with his wife Margaret Bedell Cantwell and was later elected Town Clerk for several terms. His office was located on West Main Street.

There was a beauty shop operated by Nellie Peters and located in the basement of the funeral home. Nellie later moved to the house next to Roy MacArthurs home on East Main St. George Flower owned and operated a plumbing and heating business in the present post office building and he and his wife Angie lived upstairs. Later Flowers business was to relocate next door in the stone building, which was Kings garage. George and Angie purchased the house across the street and moved there.

Another garage was located in the building that is now the old Hobart Meat Market. This business was operated by Bill Simmons and later by Bob Hoyt. As this building was next to one of the water falls located in Hobart, someone at some time, had installed a electric generator using the water power from the falls, and as a result this building would have electricity and lights when the rest of the Village might be dark. At the east end of the Village, Art Dales operated a gas station and repair shop. This was where the Mott Shop is now located. Across the street, Charles White operated another gas station, where the Quickway is now.

The local dry goods store was on Main Street where the Village Parking lot is now and next to the Europort Bookstore. This was owned and operated by Amasa Lawrence and his wife Emma. Amasa’s father Jake Lawrence, many years before, would come through Hobart as a peddler selling dry goods and other items. Jake later moved to this permanent building. I remember the huge moose head hanging on the back wall in the rear of the store. This room was the shoe department. Am as as ‘ was where mothers bought materials to make our dresses Another girl in school had a dress that her mother had made for her and I had one that my mother had made for me, they were the same print except hers was red and mine was blue The store also carried ready made dresses for older girls and ladies, along with coats, hats and mittens and all sewing materials, thread, needles and patterns. At the front of the store, there was a long glassed topped showcase and in front there were two stools where people could sit while making their decision on purchases. This was the slore where the men of the village would gather on Saturday nights, after they had gone to town to pay something on the grocery bill – yes, we could run a grocery bill at the independent stores.

The CoffeePot building was owned by Mike and Mary Cillis All kinds of candy, icecream and soft drinks could be purchased. One could even return the empty bottles to the store – Mike was ahead of his time. But when kids would go in they were watched very, very carefully by either Mike or Mary, making sure nothing was taken without paying for it. Mike, Mary and sons Tony and Jimmy lived in 2 or 3 rooms in the back of the store. In the 1970′s Mike loaned the Village of Hobart, $30,000 at 3 % interest to purchase the water company from a group of individuals who owned it at that time.

There was a dentist office in the little building past the Coffee Pot owned by Dr. Cunningham. It was not a fun place to visit!

There was a harness maker in the basement of a home on Pearl 8t. and owned by Will Puffer. I loved to go there just to smell the leather. Carrie Hager had a 5 & 10 cent store, located where Don Dales now has his garage.

Between Amasa’ and the EUf’0port Bookstore, was the drug store owned by Ed. Hanford, in addition to drugs, he also sold jewelry, clocks and watches which he would repair for customers. Before I can remember, I have been told that he also had a gas pump in front of his store. Next door the drug store was Isaac Carrols’ hardware store. He was also the Register of Vital Statics. He managed to spell my name wrong on my birth certificate. Later this was Salvini’ s Radio TV shop.

There were four farms within the village limits – E.L.Foote’s on the west side. Ed Foote owned several farms both in and outside the village. He employed many men who lived in village houses that were owned by Mr. Foote. Not only did he own cows, he was also a very large horse dealer in and around Delaware County. He would often send his son Edward Jr. and Randolph Hillis out west to buy horses. These animals would arrive in Hobart on the train. The horses would be unloaded at the train station on Cornell Ave. and then be driven down Cornell Ave to Main Street turning left on Main to reach the gray barn owned then by Mr. Foote. People from all over the area, not just local farmers would line up on Main St. even sitting on the curb, watching the action of so many horses parading down Main St. As an aside to this, both Eddie and Randy would always eat -in the same restaurant in ElYria, Ohio and as a result two of the waitress (Edna and Virginia) would marry them and come to Hobart to live. Edna’s parents, Flo and Otie Saltsbarger, the owners of the restaurant would also eventually move to Hobart.

At Christmas time, Ed Foote would take the children of his hired men into Amasa’s store and buy them all coats, hats and mittens.

The other farmers were Frank Lamport,Sr. ( Ed Footes brother-in law) where Bill Coleman now lives. Watson Thorington at the east side, where Dot VanKleeck was the last active farmer. I remember once going to a circus that was set up in the field across from the Thorington farm.

Bob Cowan owned and operated a farm next to the cemetery.

As I lived all of my school years either on Maple Ave. or Pearl St., this was the farm that I most closely relate to. When I was younger, it was my job to go to the barn each night with a milk pail to buy a quart of raw milk for 10 cents. Later Bob installed a pasteurizing and bottling plant beside the dairy barn. Helen Stowe, Barbara Gilbert’s mother, ran this operation by herself. The milk was delivered to homes in Hobart and Stamford by Mike Cillis and later by Bill DeSilva’s father, Fred.

All of us local young people loved to go to the barn, especially in the summer during the haying season. Loose hay was put on a wagon in the field behind the bam and then driven to the barn to be “drawn off’ by a rope and pulley rigging with an iron clamp located at the end of the rope. the farmer would then push this clamp in a large bunch of loose hay then the rope would be pulled by the team of horses down the barn bridge This action would take the hay to the top of the barn and then be pulled to either the right or left side of the hay mow and then released to drop into the mow below.

The “drawing off’ was originally done by the team of horses which had pulled the hay wagon from the hayfield. Later this was done by a tractor. The fun part for us kids was riding to the barn on the top of the load of hay. Bob Cowan had a brother named “Bud” who was an airplane pilot. Every once in a while an airplane was buzz very low over the village several times. I was told by my Dad that was a signal for Bob to drive to a certain field outside the Village where Bud would have landed his plane and bring Bud to their home so he could visit their Mother.

The Post Office was located on Main St. between the horse barn and the current apartment house just past the old meat market. There was an apartment upstairs and one in the basement (where the large family of eleven children lived). The Postmistress was a maiden lady named Nellie Squires who lived in the house next to the meat market parking lot.

There were two barrooms located within the village limits – Hobart Inn and across the street, Accurso’s. Quite often you would see the patrons going across the street from one to the other – perhaps just to change the atmosphere, and every so often, a fight would erupt right in the middle of Main Street between the customers!

There were three restaurants, one was the Hobart Inn, one was the New Hobart Hotel – now the pillars and one on the comer of River and Pearl St. called Mill Pond Inn. The Mill Pond Inn was “The” place where the elite would go to eat on Sunday.

There was a slaughter house located on Mill Hill between Main 81. and River 81. owned by Benny Rothenberg who later built the Greendale Packing Plant in Prattsville.

There was a coal company building situated between Andy VanBuren’s office and the Pillars. This was owned by Clark Frisbee. We would buy our winter supply of pea coal, which would be shoveled off by hand at our home by the men (George Gibson and Alec Avery).

There were two chicken farms and hatcheries, one in the village and one just outside. Twin brothers, Wallace and Walter Rich owned them. Wallace Rich also had a hatchery in Charlie Reinshagens building. This building also had the first and only car wash.

There were two insurance companies, one owned by Frank Lyon and the other by Bill Hoy. There was a saw mill located on the far east side, (where the gas tanks now are) .The sawmill was owned by Earl Carson. Carson’s house was the only one in Hobart that was stucco covered which was a novelty to me, a carpenters daughter. This has since been covered over by siding.

In the house at the top of Mill and River St. was the Rose Telephone Co. a forerunner of New York Tel. There were positions for two or three operators. This was known as a magneto office, meaning that whenever a customer lifted the receiver in her home, the electrical current would cause a little brass “drop” to fall in the office thereby alerting the operator that she should plug in and say “operator”! Also in this building was the only coin operated telephone located in an over sized closet. If a local person wanted to make a local or a long distance call and didn’t have a telephone in their home, they could go to this building, pay the operator, and she would make the connection for the call.

During a thunder storm, the operators would have to watch carefully as the electricity in the air could cause the drops to fall even without a call being made. In 1937, a new brick building was erected on Maple Ave to ccommodate the new dial system that would bring dial to Hobart, even before Stamford AND Kingston! When I went to work in the telephone office in Kingston in the early 1950′s, Kingston still did not have dial phones. The correct name of this building was the dial office but all of the telephone personnel called it the “dog house”.

E.T VanBuren owned and operated a coal and feed business located on Cornell Ave. This, along with other businesses, the farms and the Creamery made work for many many local people, both men and women.

Sheffields creamery was also located on Cornell Avenue. As there were many, many local farms in the surrounding area, all the fluid milk would be brought to this creamery by either horses and wagons or horses and bobs sleds in the winter, later trucks would be used. One farmer would contract with the farmers on their road to collect the cans and bring them to the creamery. Each farm had its own number which would be painted on the side of each milk can so that each farm would be credited with the amount of milk received at the creamery. Each day a specific train with an insulated milk car would travel from Oneonta to New York, stopping at each creamery along the way, taking this product to New York to be processed there. Some of the Hobart milk would be kept in Hobart and made into one pound prints of butter by local women working in the butter room and in the laboratory. The creamery also made casein,. This is a white tasteless, odorless milk product used to make plastics, adhesives, paints and foods. My Dad would make long~ narrow sticks called tracing sticks in his carpenter shop to be used in the process of making this product.

This was creamery was started by other owners, but was later purchased by Will Sheffield, therefore the name “Sheffield creameries” which were located in various localities between Oneonta and New York. By the way, if one was riding on this “milk train” it would take forever and ever to get to your destination, as we would stop at each creamery along the way so that milk could be pumped in to the milk tanker car.

Behind the creamery there was a small pond that the creamery used, but in the winter when it would freeze over, was where the local people would go skating. Not me – didn’t like the cold weather and never did learn to skate.

Mr and Mrs. Sheffield built their summer home in Hobart for their family which included two sons, Bill and Halsey. This was later to be known as the Hearthstone.

The Sheffields also had a home in New Jersey. Mrs. Sheffield (Lizzie) was the oldest sister of Ed Foote and her younger sister was Vida Lamport (Mrs. Frank Sf.).

At one time during the 20′ s, the village people would go to a village well located between the dentist office and the Coffee Pot for water. During this time, a woman working at one of the hotels was found to be a typhoid carrier, thus contaminating this well. Will Sheffield arranged and paid to have a water and sewer system built in the Village I saw the paper work on this project and I believe at that time it cost in the neighborhood of about $20,000.

The New York State Supreme Court headquarters was located in Hobart and A.Lindsay O’Connor was the State Judge. His brother Charlie was also a partner in this law office.

We had two doctors, F.D. Brown from Newburgh, New York and Doreen Corke from Canada- our first woman doctor. Dr. Brown first located his office in Jim Barr s home – next door to my house and later he was able to purchase the Maple Bank location from his father-in-law, Ed. Foote. He built a complete hospital with a an operating room, maternity section, an on site dietitian, with his living quarters located in the front part of the building. Dr. Corke lived in the old Episcopal rectory next to the railroad tracks. During the war years when Dr. Brown was in service, the village was lucky to have a doctor still available. Dr. Brown had attended Union College in Schenectady and one year his room mate was Ed Burke the principal of Hobart school and later South Kortright Central. During college years, Dr. Brown was a ranked amateur boxing athletic. Dr. Brown was an avid supporter of the young people of the Village. In 1936 he gathered the village fathers together and proposed building a concrete swimming pool on River St. at the edge of the village. He also talked Bob Cowan, the owner of the land, into granting the Village a 99 year lease in order for the pool to be placed hen:. This was built by men pushing wheelbarrow with the concrete – no large concrete trucks at this time, and done during the evening hours and on weekends. When the pool opened, it was filled with water from the Township creek. Every 10 days or so, the pool would be drained, lifeguards would scrub the sides and bottom by hand and then be refilled by the creek water. For the next few days, the water was really really cold until it could be warmed by the SUll. In the early years, there was only one lifeguard on duty from 8 am until dark.

Each person wanting to go swimming all summer would go Dr. Brown’s office for a cursory physical and pay (I think, one dollar) for a seasons pass. Guests could swim for a day for about 25 cents per visit. One had to sign in at the gate each day. There was a dressing building for women and one for men. Before we could go in the water, we had to walk through a foot bath to disinfect any foot diseases. Some of the swimmers would stand for hours in this foot bath and by the end of the summer they had “yellow feet and ankles”.

There were two “famous” businesses located on the Township road just outside the village. One was Blondey’s and one was Rampes’ Saturday night dances in a barn at their farm. Saturday night was an interesting night on Maple A venue. So many cars racing up to Blondeys and Rampes to the dance.

Blondeys was owned by Attillo Rivanera and his wife “Liz”. Blondey’s was among the first Delaware County establishments to obtain a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. It was known as a “speakeasy” It was known for many years as a spaghetti house and served pizza before that food, now a staple of our diet became popular.

Liz was a very talented artist She had painted Disney characters by each table so that each table would receive their correct order. She also painted a name or design on a beer stein of each regular customer. Liz also owned a very fancy white Corvette that she seldom drove.

The school building had grades one through twelve. The primary grades, one and two were in one room with one teacher, Ann Jones, third and fourth with Phoebe Smith the teacher, Each of the grades through the eighth were two grades to one room on the first floor. The Art room was also on the first floor with Helen Gould the teacher. The high school grades were on the second floor with the Library in the very large room. There was also a small teachers room, a science room and a tiny room as the Principals’ office for him and his secretary on the second floor. All the village students went home for one hour for lunch. The farm students would each bring his or hers lunch and go to the gym/auditorium to eat their l”lnch. The village students could, if they wanted to, hurry back to school a little early and have an opportunity to ring the school bell which signaled the start of the afternoon session.

In 1939 – 1940, the school system changed as a new Central School was built and this combined the students from South Kortright village school and Bloomville school along with the Hobart students.

Six of the business buildings located on and around Main Street have been demolished since the 1950′ s. One other building, next to Adams Bookstore was a combined meat market and restaurant. One Sunday afternoon in February 1939 about 4 o’clock in the afternoon the fire Siren sounded and we discovered this building was on fire. This was a tough fire to fight. as there no fire stops between each building, but because the Delaware river was located immediately behind these buildings, the firemen put one fire truck in the field between Dr. Browns home and the river and pumped water on the back side and several trucks were on Main St. Amasa Lawrence opened his store for the firemen to warm up and get some coffee and sandwiches. This action continued throughout the night, but the end results were that no other building burned. I know that one can still see some charred wood in the basement of Adams store. I can still remember seeing pictures of icicles hanging from the firemens helmets

I remember a “dummy” standing in the street between Main St. and Maple Ave. The idea was for traffic to go around in a clockwise way. Every so often a driver would knock it down. Also at this intersection, was the Hobart Bank and the building next door had two floors of apartments and in the bottom floor, John Dales had his family style restaurant. After these buildings were taken down, John moved his restaurant up Main Street near Cornell Ave. The pies he served was “famous” . These were made by his wife Grace.

On the hill between Main S10 and West Main S10 There was a house on the left side where the Collins family lived. Across the street between the dentist office and High St. there was a long apartment house owned by Ed Foote for his hired help. The Swart, Whispell and Kelsey families lived at different times. This building was known by the locals as the To accommodate the Mallinckrodt, Tyco and now Corvieden plant, fine homes from Maple Park, Railroad Avenue and Cornell Avenue were taken down. The loss of these buildings changed the face and dynamics of the Village forever.

As you can readily see, Hobart was a lively and thriving place in the 30's and 40's.

4 responses to “Hobart in the 30's and 40's”

John Barclay (Foote) Wilson III, Esquire, (Camp Hill, PA) - January 6, 2011
Wonderful trip through my early days at Hobart that were spent at the Sunny Ridge Farm, just past Blondie’s. Had forgotten some of the hot spots but able to vividly recall with the “prompting” of this article. Grandfather Ed Foote kept me well supplied with ponies and every thing a young kid could ask for.Growing up with the Footes, Browns, Lamports & Sheffield relatives was the very best to imagine.

Mary Peters Betz January 21, 2011
Hi John, I remember your family when you lived in an apartment in the farm house past Blondeys. Your sister Joan was married the same day that I was – I couldnt have Vin take my wedding pictures as he was aready going to Joan’s wedding. I saw Joan and her husband a couple of summers ago. They were in Hobart and I was tending to one of our bookstores. This was in the building next to the Hobart Supermarket. The Historical people asked the members who Mr. Wilson was that had send some money. I called Wally Rich’s wife to ask what name was on the check and she said J.B.Wilson, so I told the members who you were. I used to stay with Bev and Bonnie during the war when your Aunt Frances would go for a whole week to Aberdeen Proving Grounds to be with the Dr. I also used to stay with young Eddie when his father and mother would go to horse shows for the whole weekend. I also used to clean house once a week for Gram Foote and Vida Lamport. It’s been fun looking back over the years. My dad was Vic Peters and we lived next to Dr. Brown when he first moved to Hobart, before he married Fran.

Tammy Thompson - August 7, 2011
Does anyone remember Worth Vrooman’s shoe shop? He and his wife Nancy lived in Hobart for many many years. I am trying to find out more about them. They had a son, Harry and daughter Bessie. Bessie was a dress maker. According to the census in 1910, it said Nancy had 5 children, but only two living. What cemeteries are near there? I can’t find any online. Any information would be appreciated Thanks - Tammy from Idaho

Kenny Russ Warren - August 29, 2013
Dr. Doreen Corke was my mother’s twin sister. She married Bill Sheffield. My mother , on the otherhand, married a railway worker and we lived in several small Saskatchewan towns. You can imagine the delight in my mother’s eyes when a large box of Doreen’s hand-me-down New York clothes came to my mom almost yearly. Fortunately my father was a man of many service clubs and organizations, so Mom actually had places to go to wear clothes that were several years in advance of local style.