By JOSHUA THOMAS
For the Recorder
CANAJOHARIE -- On Wednesday morning, the village of Canajoharie landscape permanently changed with the removal of the massive metal Beech-Nut sign that towered over the facility for over a century.
The 100-plus year old sign, erected around the turn of the century when the first Beech-Nut buildings were built, was viewable throughout Canajoharie, from the Thruway and most clearly from across the Mohawk River in Palatine Bridge.
The visibility of the sign ended up being the reason for its removal, as Beech-Nut officials didn't want the sign misleading customers and Thruway travelers into thinking that the Canajoharie plant is still operational.
Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden photographed the carbon steel sign being dismantled around 10 a.m. Wednesday under a blanket of thick fog. He noted that the dismantling process took a good portion of the day, and was done "quietly," without media presence.
Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery commented Friday that he'd been informed that the deconstructed letters would be stored in the Canajoharie facility's warehouse, but Earl Wells, a spokesperson for Beech-Nut, noted that it was not possible to save them.
Despite the fact that there was conversation about saving and re-using the sign, Wells noted, "the sign, because of age and deterioration, was scrapped."
Many Canajoharie residents were surprised and saddened by the historic sign's sudden removal. After News Anchor Liz Bishop, of WRGB-CBS 6 Albany, posted a photo on Facebook of the sign being taken apart, numerous residents and former residents commented, including Canajoharie High School graduate Dan Bucenec, who stated, "Between the Beech-Nut sign (where both my parents worked) and the Canajoharie High School (where I spent four years) being torn down a little over a decade ago, the next time I drive home is going to be quite different. It's a little sad."
Colleen Reynolds Jackson, in a post on the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie's Facebook page, echoed that sentiment, commenting, "It's so sad. Many members of my family proudly worked for Beech-nut for years. It was an important part of the family and the community. A real source of pride. When I was young we lived in Palatine Bridge. I remember walking to the bridge to meet my grandmother walking home from work everyday. She worked in the baby food plant prepping vegetables. I always had pockets full of butter rum lifesavers and fruit stripe gum. The Beech-Nut was who we were as a community, a true company town."
Matthew Downs said, "If Beech-Nut does not want to be associated with the old building, can you imagine how our residents feel?"
Lifelong Canajoharie resident Barbara Spraker, unaware of the sign's removal until Friday afternoon, is "very disappointed" by the decision to remove the iconic landmark, feeling that a significant piece of local history has been destroyed. Spraker said that the sign has faced removal numerous times, explaining that she's repeatedly advocated for its preservation based on historical value.
"I always said they should leave it there as a memorial," said Spraker, continuing, "they should be preserving the history of this area."