Welcome to the inaugural edition of Yesteryear: Stories from Home, a series that features first- hand reminiscences of the joys, challenges, and adventures of living in a small village on the Hudson, just up the river from New York City.
In this installment, we explore the history of Quarry Park, a 5.5-acre parcel of land that has undergone a surprising number of very dramatic changes over the last 150 years – from a flourishing marble quarry to a majestic park to an unsightly landfill and back to a beautiful space for the public to enjoy. We draw from The Hastings Historian, Daniel Ellsberg’s memoir, The Doomsday Machine, and a first-hand account from John Flack, who was instrumental in creating the park as it is today.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
In a tumble of scenes set here on the banks of the Lower Hudson Valley, Irving animates the romantic, the longing, and the American moments that form this notoriously inconclusive tale. Perhaps at the other end, you’ll have some questions, like we did: What is all this humor doing in such a sad tale? Where do our sympathies lie with the hardworking, greedy Ichabod Crane? Who can be trusted? What in the Dickens happens at the end?
Jonathan Kruk, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Storyteller, provides context.
This episode features two accounts that center the vitality of the Hudson River. The first comes from Paul Hanak, a Hastings resident from 1925 to 1987, and known as one of the river’s most prolific swimmers. By the late 60s, though, pollutants from Zinsser Chemical and Anaconda Wire and Cable had turned the water purple, yellow, and green. Our second account comes from Fred Danback, who worked as a janitor and union president for Anaconda before deciding to give his life to fighting this pollution. His suit, when settled in 1972, marked the largest reward money ever obtained by a conservation group. Dan Shapley, Interim VP of Programs & Interim Hudson Riverkeeper, provides context.
This episode features excerpts from an interview with Kitty Rapoli Brown, given by Christine Hewitt. Brown was born in 1907 of Hungarian immigrants. Her father worked at the National Conduit and Cable Mill for 35 years, in 12-hour shifts, five-and-a-half days a week. Her mother worked as a laundress and a cleaning maid. They heated their home with leftover wood and bought their flour and onions in large sacks; they also went to the dance hall, played in marching bands, and sat around for long storytelling sessions. As Brown recalls, “We had no poor people in Hastings then. We were all the same.”
Beth McDonald Wyman reads Brown’s account and Village Historian of Hastings-on-Hudson, Sue Smith, provides context on immigrant history.
A Dissertation on Golf
In this episode, former Hastings-on-Hudson resident Erich Kothe reflects upon the summer of 1934, when he was nine and willing to get a little scrappy in the name of a dollar. After their travails selling baitfish to local crabbers, he and his friends come upon another money-making scheme at Saint Andrew’s Golf Club.
Ed Herbstman reads and Saint Andrew’s club historian Bruce Clark offers context.
The Ziegfelds' Girl
This episode of Yesteryear features the jaunty wit of Patty Ziegfeld, who recalls her 1920s childhood at Burkeley Crest estate, in Hastings on Hudson, New York.
She was the only child of Florenz Ziegfeld, impresario of the world renown Ziegfeld Follies, and his second wife, Billie Burke, best known for her role as Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz. Among the exotic pets, the dollhouse styled after Mount Vernon, and the 1,000-piece dinner service from the Russian Imperial Court, it was indeed "Xanadu on Hudson."
Natalie Barry, board president of the Hastings Historical Society, provides context and Edie Magnus reads.