Dr. Mary Walker, Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and her time in Albany

I came across this picture, taken on State St. in 1911. It’s photo of Dr. Mary E. Walker.

I had one of those lightbulb moments. My Gram used to tell me about a nice old lady in Albany who wore men’s clothing. who often lived at the YWCA on Steuben St. Gram said her brothers and male cousins used to try to knock off her silk top hat with snowballs. And then her uncle would “thrash” them.

To be honest, I filed it under “whatever”. Just another Gram story (there were hundreds – oft repeated) and the reference to men’s clothing meant nothing to me. (I wore jeans.. so what?) Yadda Yadda Yadda. Now I wish I paid more attention.

Dr. Mary Walker is the only female recipient of the Medal of Honor. Her story is remarkable.

She was born in Oswego in 1832 into a family of devoted Christian non–sectarian “free thinkers”. By 1855 she’d earned a medical degree from Syracuse Medical College (only the second women in the U.S. to do so). She set up practice in Rome NY, but volunteered with the Union Army when the Civil War started.

Her initial petition to serve as a physician in the Army Medical Corps was rejected. Yet she waded in, tending the wounded with selfless devotion (and performing surgery when necessary). Finally in 1864 President Lincoln approved her petition, providing the male physicians agreed. Again, she didn’t wait for permission and traveled to the join the Army of the Cumberland. Walker was met with hostility. She compounded her sin of gender by her eccentric dress – she wore bloomers and treated Confederate civilians. Wild rumors circulated. She was a lesbian, she had a high ranking officer lover, she was a spy. In spring 1864 she was captured by Confederate troops and served as a POW for a number of months until released in a prisoner exchange.

In 1865 President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor (she was also awarded a military disability pension for injuries suffered). When a review of recipients was performed in 1917, her name, with about 900 others (including Buffalo Bill Cody), was deleted from the list, thought to have not sufficiently met the standard for the award. In 1977 President Carter’s Administration restored the Medal.

After the War Walker became involved in a variety of social and political reforms including temperance, women’s suffrage and dress reform. In her early days she wore trousers underneath shortish skirts. Later she settled on a traditional Prince Albert coat, necktie and trousers. She was arrested for her “costume” on several occasions as she traveled across the country lecturing and fund raising for her causes.*

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It was the issue of women’s rights that consumed most of her attention in later years. Consequently, she spent much time in Washington D.C. lobbying Congress and attempting to sway the New York State Legislature. In the decade or so leading up to the first NYS referendum on a woman’s right to vote in 1915 (which was defeated) she was a constant fixture in Albany. Sadly it seems that her eccentricities deflected from her lobbying efforts.

(Dr. Walker suffered an injury in 1915 and retired to her home in Oswego where she died in 1917. )

As I dimly recall from Gram stories the uncle who would “thrash” the boys for taunting Dr. Walker was a prominent figure in Albany Civil War veterans’ organizations. Thinking back, it seems he expressed no special warmth for Dr. Walker, but did demand the young men of Albany treat her with deference and respect for the role she’d played in the War.

*In 1982 the U.S. Postal Service issued a 20 cent stamp that featured a curiously feminine “very girly” image of Dr. Walker. She probably would not have approved.

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Albany’s Ziegfeld Girl and her Dreams; from the Follies to Burlesque

1 (2)A small article in a 1936 Albany “Times Union” caught our eye. Julie Bryan from Albany was selected to be the understudy for Gypsy Rose Lee in the “Ziegfeld Follies”.

 

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Julie was born in Hudson, but at some point came to live with relatives on Clinton Ave. in Albany (probably after 1925 when her father died; her older brothers still lived in Hudson in 1930.) In an interview with the “Daily Worker” in 1936 she said she’d attended St. Joseph’s Academy on N. Swan, and played the lead in “The Story of the Miraculous Medal”. By our calculations she was about 16 when she left school and went out into the world. That would have been in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. She told the interviewer she’d done some modeling, some touring with stock companies around the country, and had been selected in a contest for the Follies to become a Ziegfeld Girl and Gypsy’s understudy.

2 (2)(In just 4 years Gypsy Rose Lee had become a household name as a burlesque queen vs. playing part of a horse in the vaudeville circuit “Dainty June Revue”. The Revue appeared in Albany in 1927 at the Harmanus Bleecker Hall Theater on Washington Ave, next to the Armory – the main branch of the Albany Public Library is in that location today). By late 1928 “Dainty June”, star of the act and Rose’s sister, had run off to get married. Rose Louise stepped into the breech, became Gypsy – the rest is history.)

We can only imagine what it meant for Julie to become a Ziegfeld Girl*. The Ziegfeld Follies were a musical revue, featuring song, dance, beautiful girls, vaudeville comedy, and more beautiful girls, modeled after the Follies Bergeres in Paris. It started in 1907 By Flo Ziegfeld, and had been the springboard for, and featured, stars like Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, Louise Brooks, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, and Eve Arden. Being a Ziegfeld Girl was the epitome of glamour.

The girls were famous – for their beauty and poise; acclaimed the world over. Being a Ziegfeld Girl was the stuff of dreams for young girls, especially in the midst of the Depression. It’s interesting that in her interview Julie not only mentions her salary – $85/week (when the average salary for a man was about $35 and even less for a woman), but also that she’s a member of Actor’s Equity – the union for theatrical workers, and it protected the show girls like Julie.

The 1936 show, at the historic Winter Garden theatre on Broadway, was produced by Billie Burke, widow of Flo Ziegfeld and former Ziegfeld Girl (you probably know her better as Glinda – the Good Witch of the North in the Wizard of Oz). Sets and costumes were designed by Vincente Minelli (who would become a famous movie director in the 1940s and father of Liza Minnelli), included music by Ira Gershwin and choreography by George Balanchine (who founded the NYC Ballet in the 1950s). It was a uniquely American mix of style, sophistication, spectacle and sex. Some say the Follies changed the Broadway musical forever.

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Heady stuff for a young girl from Upstate New York.

It was chance of a lifetime for a kid who had tread the boards in a Catholic high school play. The cast included a mostly unknown comic, Bob Hope and the legendary Fanny Brice. In late 1936 Gypsy left the Follies to try Hollywood, but Julie stayed. (She remained in the chorus – one of the famous “Ziegfeld Girls” and was given a small featured role (“The Girl in Green”).

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But the Follies of 1936 was a limited run and would be the last (Billie Burke was moving on to her movie career).

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5.5 (2)Shortly before it close Julie was “poached” by the Minskys for their new Oriental Theater on Broadway, where she headlined the show – her name was in neon lights in the night sky. Minsky’s burlesque show was a somewhat less upscale version of the Follies (“The Poor Man’s Follies”) and almost as famous (and it was where Gypsy got her start). It was the same combination of schtick vaudeville comedy (Phil Silvers and Alan Alda’ father Robert shared the bill Julie Bryan), singing and dancing, with a bit more flesh.

 

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Alas, the days of the Minsky’s on Broadway were numbered. As far as we can tell Julie Bryan was the last featured star before Mayor LaGuardia shut down burlesque theaters in NYC. (He wouldn’t when the Follies was still going strong, but acceded to pressure once it closed – Burlesque on the Great White Way wasn’t to be tolerated.

So where did that leave Julie Bryan? We’re not quite sure. Her name surfaces in a gossip column linked to Frank Fay, former husband of Barbara Stanwyck and a bit-part B movie actor. (There’s always been a story that the movie “A Star is Born” is based on their marriage, when the Svengali-like controlling husband is eclipsed by his wife’s success.)

We do know that in 1939 Julie had a bit part in a movie “Torchy Plays with Dynamite”, the 9th and the last in a series of hugely popular B movies about a feisty young detective. In at least 2 ads, Julie Bryan gets the billing, over Jane Wyman (a/k/a Ronald Reagan’s first wife) who played Torchy.

But either Hollywood didn’t want Julie Bryan or she didn’t want Hollywood. (In her “Daily Worker” interview she intimates that Hollywood might not be for her; she wanted the certainty of a steady paycheck.)

6.2So for the next 9 years we find Julie as queen of the burlesque circuits, with top billing, touring through the Mid-West and Northeast. It was steady good money, and Gypsy Rose Lee had made stripping almost respectable. Along the way, in the mid-1940s, she married comic a couple of years older, Jack Martin, with whom she had toured.

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(Just because the theaters were shut down in NYC, didn’t mean burlesque died. There were theaters all over the country including Utica, Rochester and Buffalo (the Buffalo Theater lasted until at least 1969). Often the dancers filled in between movie showings or played midnight shows. The burlesque dancers went into variety reviews (what had been vaudeville, but with a new name) and during and after World War II, they became staple acts in night clubs – luring customers away from the new thing – TV. (Albany had more than a few into the 1960s.)

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9By 1950 Julie would have been in her early 30’s, and the burlesque phase of her life came to an end. We think she briefly took up a new solo act, as Julie Martin, playing nightclubs as “The Queen of Whirlwind Taps”, but that was over within a couple years.

The rest of her life is a blank until we find her in 1994, at the time of her death, back in Hudson, using the name Julie Bryan. There are so many unanswered questions, so if anyone knows anything, please let us know.

But Julie Bryan, the tall, slender, beautiful blond from St. Joe’s, had once been a Ziegfeld Girl. No on one could ever take that away from her. She was a member of a select club of the some of the most glamourous and sought after women of the 20th century.

For the story of another Albany Ziegfeld Girl, read Al Quagieri’s blog post, “A Glamour Girl and her Pig” https://alcue.wordpress.com/…/…/a-glamour-girl-and-her-pig/…

* 3 movies were made about the iconic Ziegfeld Follies, “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) – William Powell and Myrna Loy, “The Ziegfeld Girls” (1941) – Judy Garland, Hedy Lamar and Lana Turner and “The Ziegfeld Follies” (1945) – Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Lena Horne.

Julie O’Connor

Lombardo’s: A Century old Albany Restaurant Closes

Lombardo’s Restaurant closed New Year’s Eve 2018.

1.1Charley (Salvatore) Lombardo was the youngest of 3 sons from Martone, Calabria in southern Italy. His father died when he was a child; the remaining family, including his mother, worked as farm laborers. His older brothers left for America and sent passage money for Charley. He joined them in Milford, Mass. in the early 1900s when he was in his young teens.

The brothers then came to Albany. Charley worked as a porter and then as a bartender in James O’Donnell’s saloon at 560 Broadway (where Tricentennial Park is today).

In 1915 the Sons of Italy acquired a building at 118 Madison; Charley opened his own restaurant/saloon in the building in 1916 with $300 he’d managed to save. He said later he worked 18 to 20 hours a day because 2 friends had co-signed the lease and he needed to keep up his end of the bargain. In 1918 Charley was drafted into Army, and served a short time before World War I ended. On his return, he picked up the pieces and moved forward.

In 1920 Charley moved the business across the street to 121 Madison Ave. (into what had previously been the offices of the Italian Consul and the Albany branch of the Bank of Naples) and established the Madison Avenue Lunch. (He’d purchased the building the previous year.)

1.2Later that year he married Anna Manganaro, from another Italian immigrant family, and they started a new life together over the restaurant. While the family thrived over the next dozen years, the business held on in troubled times– Prohibition had begun in January, 1920

Much of Albany thought Prohibition was stupid and wrong. It was “intolerance run amok” (the “Albany Times Union”) and on a more basic level it cost jobs. But the city was on the verge of coming under Democratic control, which it did in 1921 when William Hackett was elected mayor. The boss of the Democratic Party, who happened to own the Hedrick Brewery on Central Ave., paid only lip service to Prohibition. (Albany was a pivotal link in the nationwide bootlegging chain.)* Establishments like the Madison Avenue Lunch in Albany survived the Prohibition years. As far as we know Lombardo’s wasn’t a “speakeasy”, just a place where a tired man (or woman) could find a brief respite after a hard day at work.

But that’s not to say the federal agents charged with enforcing the “dry act” turned a blind eye. As we look through old newspapers it appears that the premises of 121 Madison Ave. were raided at least 5 times, mostly in the years 1930 and 1931. Charley Lombardo was never among those arrested. We’ve been told he told he did provide bail for employees who were busted, and they never served time (wink wink, nod nod). O Albany.

FDR campaigned on promise to end Prohibition laws and on March 22, 1933, less than a month after his inauguration, he signed the Cullen–Harrison Act permitting the sale of 3.2 percent beer and wine. Smart entrepreneurs like Charley Lombardo were ready to go. In summer 1933 he opened a newly re-furbished and expanded restaurant at 119-121 Madison Ave. re-named “Lombardo’s” (By December 1933 all federal Prohibition laws were repealed.)

6In the 13 year “dry spell” Anna and Charley had 4 children – Pat (Pasquale), Mary, Tillie (Matilda) and Charles, Jr. – known as Bill. The new restaurant was a hit – the murals you see today – dark wood trim booths, the decorative pressed tin ceiling and the black and white floor tiles were the height of 1930s splendor. Charley was gracious and genial host, and the food was wonderful.

 

 

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Over the next 6 decades the business thrived, serving great food at affordable prices, in the midst of its restrained Art Deco splendor. (If it isn’t broke, why fix it?) Just once, in the 1950s, Charley experimented – opening Lombardo’s Cafeteria on South Pearl St. near the corner of Madison Ave. (It was a time when downtown Albany, including South Pearl, was teeming with businesses and shoppers and the Cafeteria was designed to attract those with only a brief time for lunch – but the Cafeteria closed in a couple of years.)

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7  By this time Lombardo’s was truly a family business – the Lombardo children and some of their spouses entered the business, as well as an array of in-laws and cousins AND Marge Lawlor. Marge spent almost 50 years as a waitress at Lombardo’s and became part of the family. Times changed, children grew up, but Marge was always there.

Charley understood the value of community – he was active in his church, the Elks, the Southend Merchants Association, and the Chamber of Commerce He was a faithful supporter of the Roma Intangible Lodge #215 and the Sons of Italy, and a mainstay of Little Italy’s festivals and celebrations.

When Charley Lombardo, the patriarch, died in 1956 the restaurant continued to be successful. (Anna passed away in 1958.) The children had learned the lessons of great hospitality and great food from their parents. Jimmy (Vincent) Baumbaca, another Italian immigrant, started in the kitchen in the late 1930s. He married Mary Lombardo and remained a fixture in the kitchen. After Pat died suddenly in 1971 Jimmy was also the face of the front of house, channeling Charley’s smile and affability.

 

Despite the gutting of much of downtown Albany’s Little Italy for the Empire State Plaza and the diaspora of Albany’s Italian population, Lombardo’s thrived. It became a place to celebrate family and traditions – birthdays, baby showers, wedding rehearsal dinners, re-unions, wedding anniversaries, high school and college graduations, first communions and confirmations, engagement parties. The milestones of Albany life were commemorated at Lombardo’s. It was a favorite location for banquets and retirement parties; or just that that comfortable place on a cold February Sunday night in Albany when you had to get out of the house or you would go nuts. You were treated like family, whether you were a regular or not, and if you were a regular there was a good chance your order might be placed with the kitchen as you walked in the door.

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The rest of downtown Albany was a ghost town by 1980, and the city’s population dwindling, yet Lombardo’s remained a destination, even for those who’d moved to the suburbs. New comers to the city, many of whom had come to work in expanding State government, discovered Lombardo’s and fell in love.

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By now Charley and Anna’s grandchildren, and even their great grandchildren, worked in the restaurant. Lombardo’s was, above all, about good food and family. But it was also, through decades a gathering place for local and state politicians. When you walked into the bar, you never knew what luminaries you would see. War stories were told, campaigns plotted and deals made. The fate of the city or state might hang in the balance over Lombardo’s veal and peppers.

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Finally in 1991 the intertwined families sold the restaurant to the Rose-Marie and Paul Mancino. (Paul knew the restaurant from his childhood.) Except for some updating of the menu, and a renovation of the banquet room it didn’t change. (And it became a family affair when their son Anthony joined the staff.)

Despite the sale, Bill Lombardo remained in the apartment over the restaurant and you could often find him in the bar. (He was a great story teller and loved the ponies.) Bill passed away in December 2016, the last of Anna and Charley’s children.

The Mancino’s had been trying to sell the restaurant for the past 7 years. In 2017 Rose-Marie passed away; Paul decided to close the restaurant.

The end of an era.

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*For more on Albany during Prohibition we recommend “Wicked Albany: Lawlessness and Liquor in the Prohibition Era”, Frankie Bailey and Alice Green, The History Press, 2009.

Julie O’Connor with assistance of Anne Fitzgerald, a Lombardo great granddaughter.

 

 

Albany’s Baker Street Irregular: Frederic Dorr Steele – Sherlock Holmes Illustrator

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“The Sherlock Holmes story started with ‘A Study In Scarlet” in 1887. Three or four English illustrators tried their hand at picturing the sleuth but the man who jelled the famous profile for the British was Sidney Paget. He was one of Sir Arthur’s favorite illustrators.

But Americans know Sherlock through the work of another artist, the late Frederic Dorr Steele, who illustrated most of the Holmes’ stories on this side of the Atlantic and whose sharp pen and ink sketches are almost as well known as the yarns themselves.”
— Rochester Democrat Chronicle, April 6, 1952

Frederic Dorr Steele was born in Eagle Mills, Michigan on August 6, 1873. His father, William Henry Steele, was a native of Albany, part of a large extended family. The Steele family had deep roots in Albany and their ancestors included early Dutch settlers and the Livingston family. His mother, Zulma DeLacy Dorr, was born in Ghent, Columbia County; she was an artist of some repute. His maternal grandmother. Julia Ripley Dorr, was a hugely popular and critically acclaimed novelist and poet of the Victorian period.

As a young man, Frederic moved to New York City to study art at the National Academy of Design. From the 1890s on, he worked as an illustrator for magazines such as The Illustrated American and Scribner’s.

In 1903, he began to illustrate Sherlock Holmes stories for Collier’s Magazine. He would produce numerous drawings of the legendary detective for the remainder of his professional career. He based his drawings of the legendary detective on actor William Gillette who portrayed Holmes on stage beginning in 1899 and in a silent film in 1916. zz

Between Gillette’s onstage image and Steele’s drawings, the image of Sherlock Holmes with his sharp features, calabash pipe, and deerstalker cap took hold in American culture, and has endured for over a century.

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Steele married Mary Thyng in 1898 and the couple resided in Nutley, New Jersey until 1912 when he returned to New York City. Frederic and Mary separated in 1936.

Steele spent his last years living at 717 Greenwich Street and, on July 6, 1944, he died at Bellevue Hospital at the age of 70. He was cremated and, on October 30, 1945, his ashes were brought to Albany for burial in a very old family plot originally purchased by his great-grandfather, Lemuel Steele.

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Frederic’s grave is a narrow, unmarked space between his father’s headstone and the southwest corner post of Lot 61, Section 5 on the South Ridge.

By Paula Lemire, Historian at the Albany Rural Cemetery,  from her Facebook Page: Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves. Albany Rural Cemetery- Beyond the Graves

Albany’s Gertrude Valentine – World War I volunteer – killed in France

There are scores of World War I soldiers buried at Albany Rural Cemetery. Some, like sixteen year old James Armstrong and pilot George Goodwin died in the War. Others lived to serve in World War II. There are also several Army nurses buried here.

In Section 27, Lot 16, a large dark granite cenotaph bears the following inscription:

“In Loving Memory of Gertrude Crissey Valentine
Born April 8, 1890
Died in France June 11, 1919
while serving her God and Country
Buried in Le Mans Cemetery
American Officers Row No. 177 Sec A”

“She died in the line of duty.”

Gertrude was raised at 80 Chestnut Street in Albany. Her father, Clarence Valentine, was a partner in a firm making such wooden products as packing boxes, moldings, shingles, as well as felt weather stripping. Gertrude attended the State College for Teachers’ Model School from kindergarten, then went on to Vassar College where she graduated in 1913. She returned to Albany and continued her education at the State College with plans for a teaching career. She was also involved in local musical societies as newspapers mention young Miss Valentine playing the piano and coronet at various social functions.

During the War, she went to England and then to France with the YMCA. At the close of the War, while still serving as a canteen worker, she was killed in an automobile accident. Her grave is now in Plot C, Row 7, Grave 13, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.

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Between 25,000 – 30,00 American women served overseas in World War I. Over 100 were women  from Albany.  They included nurses working at field hospitals and Base Hospital 33 (established by Albany Hospital-now Albany Med-in Portsmouth England, the Red Cross, the YWCA and the Salvation Army, many of whom worked close to combat areas.Gertrude Valentine was one of approximately 125 American women who died in the line of duty in the Great War.

Never forget that women who couldn’t even vote went off to war to serve their country.

By Paula Lemire from the Facebook Page Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves

A Glamour Girl and Her Pig

Barbara Pepper was born Marion Pepper in 1915 at the Astor Hotel in the heart of New York’s theatrical section. Her father, David M. Pepper, was the desk man at the hotel. In 1920, David accepted a management job at Albany’s Hampton Hotel, and moved to this city along with his wife Sally and his 5-year-old daughter, Barbara. The child was enrolled and became an honor roll student at School 2.

Pepper quit his Albany job in 1928 and moved back to New York City and the Astor Hotel. Barbara grew up surrounded by glamour girls, show people, and gangsters. In 1930, her parents tried to remove her from these bad influences by enrolling her at Fairfax Hall, Virginia, a junior college and preparatory school for girls.

On her first weekend home, instead of returning to school, Barbara went around the corner to where Lee Shubert was auditioning chorus girls. Shubert didn’t recognize the daughter of his old friend, Dave Pepper. He saw a cute kid who could dance, and he signed her. Mom and Dad Pepper were beside themselves, but Shubert convinced them to give the girl a chance.

At age 15, Barbara Pepper was in show business. She quickly became one of the White Way’s best known showgirls. Barbara starred in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1932 and in two of George White’s “Scandals,” where she was the youngest comedienne on Broadway.

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The next year, Eddie Cantor dragged her to Hollywood for a bit part as a showgirl in “Roman Scandals.” She settled in California, briefly becoming a Goldwyn Girl, where she befriended a young Lucille Ball. Pepper never quite achieved stardom, but still became a movie mainstay, appearing in over 20 films, mostly in one-dimensional supporting roles or bit parts as a flashy dame.

Pepper’s management executed a major push to enhance her career in 1937, with a spate of ads and publicity stunts.

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The latter included a trip to Albany, where she revisited her old school and met with her old teacher. Still, her roles remained consigned to small, often-uncredited parts.

That same year saw a marriage to Leon Janney, a 19-year-old actor; it lasted all of three weeks. 07-1937-pepper-mar-e1541526950998

 

Pepper appeared in the 1940 Hitchcock film, “Foreign Correspondent.”

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The actress made one more return to her childhood stomping grounds, in 1941, as a player in the Hollywood Sweater Girl Revue, at the Palace Theater.

 

After her disastrous first marriage, Pepper took up with Warner’s screen star Craig Reynolds. Reynolds would become Hollywood’s first Marine to be wounded in WWII. They married in 1943.

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Reynolds died in a 1949 motorbike accident. Following this, Barbara spiraled down into depression and alcoholism.

In 1951, after Bea Benaderet proved unavailable, Barbara was seriously considered for the part of “Ethel Mertz” on her friend Lucille Ball’s classic sitcom “I Love Lucy” However, with William Frawley – whose fondness for the bottle was legendary – already cast as “Fred Mertz,” executive producer Desi Arnaz felt he couldn’t take the chance of having two problem drinkers in pivotal roles on the same show.

Forced to find work as a laundress and waitress in between sparse acting parts, Pepper’s weight quickly ballooned and her voice turned gravelly. For the rest of the decade, Barbara would surface only occasionally in small comic roles on television and in films. She appeared a number of times on “I Love Lucy,” “Perry Mason,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and “The Jack Benny Program,” and also had a brief appearance in 1963’s “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

Barbara Pepper’s late-career break came when she debuted as Doris Ziffel in “Petticoat Junction” (1964). This led to a recurring part in 30 episodes of “Green Acres” (1965-1968), where Doris played the mother of Arnold, the TV-watching pig.

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Deteriorating health eventually forced her to relinquish the part during the 1968-1969 season, with actress Fran Ryan taking over the part. Pepper’s final screen appearance was in 1969’s “Hook, Line & Sinker,” in which she played Jerry Lewis’s secretary.

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Barbara Pepper died on July 18, 1969 in Panorama City, California, aged 54, from a coronary thrombosis.

The Douw Building: A Collateral Demolition

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The Douw Building was at 36 State Street, on the corner of Broadway. Built 1842, it once housed the mercantile establishment of Voickert Peter Douw. The Douw family history dates back to the days of the early Patroons. The site of the Douw building was in the family’s possession since the early days of Albany. They were descendants of the Van Rensselaers.

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In 1946, the building was sold to Honigsbaum’s, ending more than 200 years of ownership by Douw family. Occupants at time of sale included the Cordelia Shop, the Interstate Bus Terminal, the Post Office Cafeteria and the Dixson Shoe Rebuilders.

Whatever Honigsbaum’s plans were for the Douw Building, they were never realized.

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In 1961 it was again sold, this time to the adjacent Hampton Hotel. Occupants at that time included the Interstate Plaza Bus Terminal, Mike’s Food Market, the Interstate Luncheonette Restaurant, the White Eagle Bakery, and the Corner News. The Hampton said they planned on remodeling the building and using it as part of the hotel; this never came to be.

Meanwhile, in the early 1900’s, George Douglas Miller built an eight-story structure on part of his wife’s property on Beaver Street in the midst of the Hampton Hotel complex. The unique thing about Miller’s building, or folly, is that it never was occupied and was supposedly built to spite the Hampton Hotel. Thus its name, “Spite Building.”

Bob Stronach, Staff Writer for the Times-Union, picks up the story, from this article of August 12, 1969:

“The Beaver Street building of the hotel complex had a beautiful roof garden with a magnificent view of the Hudson River Valley. But Miller erected his building alongside it, hoping the hotel would buy his structure as an annex. When the hotel owners refused to purchase the addition. Miller raised his roof so it blocked the roof garden view.

“Still unbeaten, the Hampton owners added a story to the roof garden, and once again there was a delightful view. But then, the undaunted Miller again raised his roof and shut out the view. At this point, the hotel owners quit and the Beaver Street property was never used again – except as a cote for the Plaza pigeons.

“Since then, “Miller’s Folly” has become a fire hazard, with a caved-in roof and broken windows. Mayor Corning said the structure now belongs to Albany County and is being demolished to eliminate the fire hazard. What will be done with the land it stands on is not yet known, he added.

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“State Broadway Corp of 38 State Street, purchased the Hampton Hotel last January and signed a lease with the Albany Housing Authority to renovate the complex and operate it as a public housing facility for senior citizens. The hotel units are expected to be converted into about 100 one-bedroom apartments.

““The important thing,” spokesman for State Broadway said, “is that the mayor, Mr. Bender (housing authority director), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State Broadway Corp. have worked diligently toward alleviating the housing shortage for the elderly and all the above have every confidence that these efforts will be fruitful.”

“State Broadway Corp. also owns “The Douw Building” at State and Broadway, which had belonged to Miller’s wife. The corporation is tearing it down.

“Demolition teams removing “Miller’s Folly” said the bottom half of the narrow building was “solidly built” but the upper half was unfinished inside and quite unsafe.”

Miller never got as far as installing steps in his building; progress to the top was only obtained by a series of connecting ladders.

No reason was ever given for the demolition of the Douw Building. However, we can probably assume that because the Hampton had failed to renovate or use the structure, when it became property of the Albany Housing Authority, it simply became a white elephant, too costly to renovate.

Becker the Wrecker razed Douw Building in the fall of 1969. It was one of Albany’s oldest surviving structures.

By Al Quaglieri from hisAlbany blog, https://alcue.wordpress.com/author/alcue/

 

 

The Boys from Albany – Not just names on the Vietnam Wall

There are 37 names on the Vietnam Wall from Albany, NY.

USA Capt. Thomas J. Bergin, 30, 3/14/64
USAF Maj. Theodore R. Loeschner, Jr., 37, 4/24/65
USMC Pfc. Hans Jorg Rudolph Lorenz, 21, 4/26/66
USA Spec 4 Keith Knott, 19, 5/9/66
USA Pfc. Robert G. Burrell, 19, 8/2/66
USA Pfc. Arthur J. McNally, 23, 10/17/66
USMC Lance Corp. William F. Ditoro, 22, 1/7/67
USA Spec 4 Richard J. Mosley, 20, 1/27/67
USA Spec 4 Donald J. Sheehy, 20, 5/5/67
USMC Lance Cpl. Rich Rockenstyre, 18, 8/31/67
USMC Capt. William M. Van Antwerp, Jr. 30, 9/16/67
USA Pfc. Frank Maleca, 20, 10/13/67
USA Spec 4 Ralph J. DiPace, 20, 10/21/67
USA Spec 4 Gerald H. Slingerland, 10/26/67 (a day after his 19th birthday)
USA Spec. 4 Robert J. Winters, 22, 11/9/67
USA Spec. 4, Edward A. Finlay, 19, 12/6/67
USA Corp. Willam M. Seabast, 22, 1/31/68
USMC GY Sgt. Anthony N. Valente, 38, 2/27/68
USMC Cpl. Bertram A. Deso, 20, 3/1/68
USMC Lance Cpl. Michael G. DeMarco, 21, 4/11/68
USMC Corp. John J. Vennard, 34, 4/17/68
USA Staff Sgt, Robert J. Smith, 22, 4/18/68
USMC Pfc John C. Fiffe, 18, 5/8/68
USN, Fireman, Joseph S. Ott, 20, 7/14/68
USMC Pfc. Kevin J. McArdle, 18, 8/18/68
USMC Maj. Harold S. Lonergan, 39, 2/23/69
USA Spec 5 Christopher Brow, 23, 2/26/69
USMC Lance Cpl. Richard J. Leahy, 22, 3/6/69
USMC Pfc. 1st class, Clifford G. LaBombard, 19, 4/15/69
USA Spec 4 Charles Chandler, 20, 4/18/69
USMC Pfc. John W Gladney, 19, 7/4/69
USA, Spec 4, Thomas K. Ryan, 18, 8/2/69
USA 1st Lt. Stanley A. Brown, 23, 11/1/69
USA Spec 4 Lewis C. Ouellette, 19, 4/13/70
USA Corp. Samuel W. Williams, 21, 7/26/70
USA Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Nye, 25, 11/28/71
USN Lt. Ralph P. Dupont, Jr., 24, 5/16/72
USMC Lance Cpl. Ashton N. Loney, 5/15/75

They came from all neighborhoods – Pine Hills, Arbor Hill, North Albany, West Hill,  New Scotland and the South End. They lived on  Myrtle Ave, Livingston Ave.,  Clinton Ave., Second Ave., Emmett St., Madison Ave.,  First St., Washington Ave., Lark  Dr., Magnolia Terrace, Hunter Ave.,  So. Main Ave. and Ontario St.

A very small number were college graduates.  Most had just completed high school when they joined the service – they were graduates of Albany High, Philip Schuyler, Milne, Cardinal McCloskey, and VI.

Most were impossibly young… 18, 19, 20. (There is an old Bellamy Boys lyric, “..they sent him off to Vietnam on his senior trip”.)

Some enlisted, some were drafted and, and in the time honored Albany tradition, several had brushes with the law and Albany’s justice system offered them the “choice” – jail or the Army.

Their deaths span 11 years.  The first to be killed was an Army captain “observer” who died in 1964.  One was an MP  who died defending the US Embassy during the Tet offensive of 1968.  Most died  in the harsh and unforgiving provinces of Vietnam during the War’s brutal years of 1967 -1969. One was a medic who went borrowed a gun and went into save other men; he and the men he tried to save died on that mission. The last one to die  was a Marine killed  in the Mayaguez “Incident” by the  Khmer Rouge in 1975. His body was never recovered.   He was not even a US citizen (he was from Trinidad, but his mom lived on Lark Drive).  His name, as well as the others killed in the “Incident”, are the last names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

An astonishing number died within their first 4 months in Vietnam. Johnny Gladney, who was a year ahead of me in Jr. High and High School,  was killed after being in Vietnam less than a month – on the 4th of July.

During  the 10 months of my junior year in high school, 15 boys died.  This is Smalbany, so you always knew the boy, or you knew his sisters/brothers  or  his cousins, or a friend of a friend.

The City moved on, but underneath, people felt a sadness and then  they went numb – just like the rest of the country. The killing seemed inexorable.  There was no way to stop it – it went on and on and on.

They are more than names.. each one has a story.  One was a long distance runner who could fly like the wind.  One was an avid reader; he won a Boy’s Club prize for  reading the most books when he was  11. Another was fascinated by flying, so he became a helicopter pilot. Some were quiet and reserved, some were outgoing and  boisterous.

8  boys were from the same class in Albany High and all members of the same Hi-Y club,  They all enlisted  in the Marine Corps.  The bond between 2 of the boys was so strong, that after the death of one, the other, sensing his own imminent death, begged to be buried next to his buddy when his time came.  They rest together in St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery – one Catholic and one Protestant.  A third boy from that same group died a year later.

Here are pictures of some of the boys/men.

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oueleete

chandler 1

Albany’s Own Curmudgeon – the Decorated Veteran who Hated War – Sgt. Andy Rooney

He was born in 1919, raised on Partidge St., ( the downtown UAlbany campus is there today),  attended Boy’s Academy , went to Colgate and was drafted in 1942.

When his unit was shipped to England he started submitting articles to the “Stars and Stripes” – the military newspaper. Soon he was assigned to the Army’s press corps. Over the the course of his service he reported on the break-out from St. Lo during the Normandy invasion, covered the liberation of Paris, flew with B-17 bomber crews over Germany, and was one of the first journalists to report the liberation of the concentration camps first hand.

Afte the War Andy and his wife Margaret Howard (a local girl) returned to Albany where he spent 2 years on local radio, and then began his broadcasting career in NYC. He spent over 3 decades on “60 Minutes”. On any Sunday you could love his commentary and be outraged the next. His views were sometimes out of step with times. In 1990 he was suspended for 3 months for perceived racist and homophobic comments. Yet he’d been jailed while in basic training for sitting in the back of a segregated bus with Black patrons in the 1940s.

He spent his summers at the family camp at Rensselaerville in the Hilltowns for many years. When his TV schedule slowed, he spent more time in the area. You could find him often in bookstore in Delaware Plaza (We were the twice a week regulars in the early 2000s.)

Andy died in 2011.

Andy was a self-avowed pacifist. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal for his heroic and meritorious service in World War II, yet wanted Veteran’s Day to be called, “No More War Day”.

Albany’s Dr. Woodbury and His Soap: “ A Skin You Love to Touch”

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While John Woodbury wasn’t born in Albany, it was during the 15 or so years he lived here that he created a product that endured for almost a century and a cosmetic surgery empire.

Woodbury was born in 1851 in New Hampshire into an old New England family. He came to Albany when he was about 23 in 1874 and established himself as Dr. Woodbury – chiropodist (podiatrist) at 70 State St. at the corner of State and N. Pearl (in what was then the Dexter Building).

His first newspaper ads indicate that he’d previously practiced with Nehemiah Kennison in Boston – the father of modern podiatry in the U.S. (“Dr.” Kennison was so well known he was the subject of satire in the “Harvard Lampoon” in the 1870s.) Woodbury’s offices were large – 3 parlors; we assume that he may have had some financing from a member of his mother’s family – a cousin – Charles Tenney – an very wealthy NYC hat manufacturer.

3.1At the same time Dr.Woodbury was practicing podiatry he was selling soap. Lots of soap, and not just any soap, but a facial soap-guaranteed to enhance and beautify – Woodbury Soap. In the Gilded Age, the beauty product and cosmetic market was just taking off. Most soaps had been made from primarily from harsh caustic alkalis – like lye and ash. Dr. Woodbury’s facial soap was special – it was “toilet soap” made with oil and perfumed. It was a small luxury item a shop girl or factory worker could afford. Dr. Waterbury perfected the product and advertised like crazy in newspapers all over the country – becoming the dominant brand in marketplace. He created the “Woodbury” brand that would endure for another 100 years.


2His practice thrived; soap sales thrived. He moved his offices – first to 40 N. Pearl (the Ten Eyck Plaza is there today), and then across the street – to 39 N. Pearl. By 1877 his office were next door at 37 N. Pearl – 6 rooms with 3 separate parlors for ladies. Soap sales boomed and he was now selling a book on dermatology and skin care through the mail.

 

 

Financially secure, Woodbury married a young woman, Ada Kelley also from New Hampshire, in 1877, and they lived above the offices. It was the beginning of a perfect domestic and business life. Their future was bright. Sadly, she died the next year at age 22.

It appears that Woodbury threw himself into his businesses after her death, selling more soap and patenting an orthotic device, while living as a boarder on lower Chestnut St. It was during this time Dr. Woodbury expanded his practice to include dermatology. It was quite successful. Recent research* has identified Dr. Woodbury as the one of the pioneers of modern cosmetic surgery – performing everything from brow lifts to nose bobs to face lifts using cocaine anesthetic in his offices in Albany. Who knew? Meanwhile, the soap business grew and the Woodbury name was quickly becoming synonymous with facial soap (in the way we would say “Kleenex” for tissues today).

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5.3Woodbury re-married in 1882, to Cora Landon from Sharon Springs and they move back to the rooms at 37 N. Pearl. In 1889, looking for a bigger market, he moved to New York City to concentrate on dermatology (he published his first article on cosmetic surgery procedures in 1892), selling soap and an expanding his brand of personal care products – powders and creams.

 

 

 

6In NYC in 1897 he opened the Dermatological Institute. In 1899 he runs into legal problems – New York State sues Woodbury for advertising a medical practice while not being a licensed physician. Woodbury wins and expands his business. By now Woodbury soap is an entrenched national brand – sold by druggists all over the country. He sells the iconic soap (his face is on the wrapper) to the Andrew Jergens Co. in 1901 (Woodbury retains 10% royalty) and uses the money to maintain the expansion of the Dermatological Institute in 4 cities – double chins begone!

 

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But soon there is more legal wrangling over the use of the name “Woodbury” between the Dr. and the Jergens Co. (Woodbury was now selling “Woodbury’s New Skin Soap.) There was malpractice litigation. And again, in 1908, Woodbury was sued for practicing medicine without a license- this time he lost. (The argument that the Institute was a corporation and not an individual failed to prevail, and set NYS precedent about the corporate practice of medicine.) The Institute went into bankruptcy.

1908

Finally in 1909 Dr. John Woodbury commits suicide at an hotel in Coney Island.

8But the soap he created and refined in Albany is his legacy. The named remains, but Jergens takes his picture off the wrapper and launches a major magazine campaign targeted explicitly to women. In 1911 Jergens strikes gold; it hires J. Walter Thompson, one of the pioneering ad agencies. A Thompson employee, Helen Lansdowne Resor, the first female copywriter in the country (Yay!) comes up with the slogan, “A Skin you love to touch”. Sex sells and sales of Woodbury soap skyrocket.

 

The marketing campaign continues until the 1930s when Jergens breaks another barrier (Dr. Woodbury, I think, would have approved.) Jergens pairs the tag “Filtered Sunshine” with totally tasteful semi-nude photos of women (by the world renowned photographer Edward Steichen) in a national advertising campaign.

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But over the next 40 or so years competition appears, the advertising loses its spark, and Woodbury came to be viewed as an “old fashioned” brand (did your Grandma use? Mine did.) Despite spiffy new graphic packaging, sales flag. Finally, when Jergens is acquired by another company in 1970, the Woodbury brand slowly disappears.

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But next time you’re downtown, and walk by the southeast corner of N. Pearl and Pine St., think about the fact that this was location of what was probably the first nose job performed in the U.S. in 1887!  Another Albany first. There really needs to be an historic marker.

*”The 19th Century Origins of Facial Cosmetic
Surgery and John H. Woodbury”, Keith Denkler, MD, Plastic Surgery, Larkspur, CA, UCSF Medical Center and Rosalind F. Hudson, MD, “Aesthetic Surgery Journal”
2015, Vol 35(7) 878-889