By JAMES SHERIDAN
For The Recorder
For the longest time I felt a great deal of sympathy for the people who ran the penny candy stores. I couldn't see how by selling Mary Janes, orange slices and green leaves, two for a penny, how they could drive new cars and own nice homes. Then one day I went to work for a man who became a dear friend who shall remain nameless and he advised me that 90 percent of these candy stores were booking numbers and horses. Then along came OTB and the candy store owners had to seek legitimate employment.
I recently read in the obituaries of the passing of James P. Halvey III. I never met him but J.P. Halvey II was in my class at SMI. His brother, Richard, was a year behind us and James P. Halvey the eldest was married to a beauty queen named Pearl. They lived on Liberty Street. He is the man who taught me how to eat grapefruit. There are still several branches of the Halvey family but the only member I know well is Sue Halvey, who has undertaken the admirable task of gathering cats and neutering and spaying them, an activity she should be commended for. There is no monetary gain for her, just the satisfaction of knowing she's helping out these vulnerable creatures.
I'd like to take another look at Main Street. If Johnny's Seafood had a way of producing his rice pudding in 8 ounce containers he would have been a millionaire.
While I was courting my wife, prior to her finishing her education, she was working in a place across from the Regent Theater called Al's Pizzeria. Al Cordero and his wife Eliura were the owners and very decent people. They have since passed away. We hung out there with some nice people, Dick Case and his wife, Barbara. Dick was a follower of minor league baseball and he moved to New Jersey where he gained national recognition as the commissioner of minor league baseball. He was the president of every organization he belonged to. His wife should have been in the movies. Dick is gone now but if Barbara is still alive I assure you she would be stopping traffic.
Mr. and Mrs. John Newell, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Crawford and a couple of show-stoppers Marie Zanella, and probably the best looking woman at the time, Dorothy Fields, all of us ate pizza and drank Pepsi-Cola.
Main Street had an odor about it. In one block there were six shoe stores. The smell of leather permeated the air. McClumpha's grocery store, which is where Trasks and Danny's newsstand were later located and where a tattoo establishment is now exuded the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables. Van Dyke's coffee shop, the Topaz, Crown News and the White Tower all emitted odors of food. In the summertime if you stood outside Crown News and observed everyone coming out of there you would expect to see Damon Runyon or Ring Lardner emerge -- everyone coming out was a bookmaker in one form or another and there were a thousand stories attached to their presence.
It's hard to believe that WT Grant, A&P, Empire Markets, Acme Markets and so many Ma and Pa grocery stores all went "belly up" when the "big boys" moved in the units I mentioned couldn't compete. They did leave a very pleasant set of memories. I believe their departure was referred to as "progress" -- that is now why Main Street is like a cemetery with lights -- "progress."
The James Sheridan Game Farm has just acquired a new tenant. You remember our 16-year-old black cat, Snowball, passed away earlier this year. She left quite a gap and we were all in mourning. Earlier this week during a rainstorm my granddaughter came to visit us. As she drove in she saw a small, rain soaked, bundle of fur. It turned out to be a cat on our front porch. We brought her inside and toweled her dry. She turned out to be about three months old, two and a half pounds and a calico. You also remember that we have a 7-year-old beagle. They eyed each other for a few minutes and apparently decided to live in peaceful coexistence. The cat is very thin so we gave her a small dish of half and half which she lapped upon in roughly five seconds. We opened up a can of cat food which she inhaled in less than two minutes. I think she was raised by a Catholic family because she must have fasted three days before we got her.
Our beagle, for the past seven years, has slept at the bottom of our bed between my wife and I. For her resting place, the new cat has picked out a third pillow my wife and I share and that is where she spent the night. Surprisingly enough she knew where the "hygienic facilities" (aka litter box) was and so far for the last few days has utilized them so we're not faced with any toileting problems. We took a vote and we named her Ursula. She is going to the vet's for the purpose of checking gender and health and reproductive functions.
My wife and I have medicine and AARP insurance. Our medical visits do not cost us anything because we pay monthly premiums. The cat and the dog are another story. They may cost a nice piece of change but weighing the cost against the pleasure they give -- it ain't even close.
My secretary's arm has just become disabled, so Lord willing, I'll see you guys next Saturday.
JAMES SHERIDAN is an Amsterdam resident
and a frequent contributor.