Wilson’s Other Stories

Continued from Somewhere Between Here and Kingston.


Another swimming topic and some other random memories from Wilson Tinney were sent in the following email. Editor has added the information shown in italics to give background to Wilson’s information.


“Speaking of swimmers, there was a fellow, Al Melville, who used to put on a show by swimming across the river with his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied together. He swam like a dolphin. Joe Kelly, the sports editor of the Daily Freeman sponsored him!” (One of Joe Kelly’s columns, September 23, 1938, relates that Melville’s swim will start an hour later because of the time change. Another Kelly column is from June 24, 1939 with the headline of “Al Melville Ready for His Nursery Benefit Swim Here On Sunday Afternoon at 2pm.” The stunt swim took place in the Hudson between Rhinebeck and Kingston).

“There were several people doing strange things back then. There was a girl who was hypnotized and buried by Hulings’ Barn just over the viaduct on Route 28. She was under the ground for six days. There was a pipe down to her so people could see her for a quarter a look! (The only reference I could dig up to anyone being buried alive was the wife of a hypnotist, but that was in another state…).

Then, there was a fellow who did parachute jumps at the old Kingston Airport at Route 28 and Brabrant Road. He was going to quit after 1,000 jumps, but he didn’t and on his 1,003rd jump his parachute didn’t open.

(This was Eric Lendgren, who was written up in the “Freeman” many times as he jumped every weekend weather permitting at the Kingston Airport. He died on June 8, 1930, at age 29 or 30, as Wilson described).

Also, there were a couple of “human flies” who put on a show by climbing up the outside of tall buildings. I remember seeing Kid Moore, a steeplejack, putting gold leaf on the ball at the top of the old Dutch Church in Kingston. It as a windy day and some of the leaf blew away and landed as far away as where the Kingston Plaza is now. It was quite a sight to see him climb the steeple.”

(Although I could not find anything on Kid Moore, I did find a web page for a Steeplejack Family by the name of Moore in Ohio who work all over the US. And, I found this video of steeple work being done more recently on a church in Kingston: youtube.com/watch?v=NUukmYltsGg).

“Up by the Kingston Armory there used to be a track for auto races. A famous driver, Ralph DePalma, once appeared there.”

(Ralph DePalma, a world famous driver, won the 1915 Indianapolis 500. He won more than 2,000 races in a variety of cars, but is perhaps is best known for his relationship with the Packard company and its V-12 engine which he helped design. DePalma’s career spanned 25 years.

Auto racing was a large attraction for people in rural Ulster County. Many young men, by virtue of farm life, came early to the thrill of driving. Every farm had unlicensed vehicles that boys drove everyday. It was natural they would learn how to repair vehicles as well as drive them.)


Mary Ann Piskur sits in her uncle's race car, circa 1937. The car ran at many tracks including some in Ulster, Orange, and Dutchess Counties.

Mary Ann Piskur sits in her uncle’s race car, circa 1937. The car ran at many tracks including some in Ulster, Orange, and Dutchess Counties.


“They used to hold horse races on the Rondout Creek in the winter and they also raced on Albany Avenue in the early part of the 20th century.”

(Racing horses and cars on the solidly frozen rivers was quite common in the late 1800s and early 1900s).

“Ralph Palen had a horse auction on Field Court in Kingston every Wednesday. He would get horses from the west quite often and also auction off local people’s horses for a commission.

Once, he sold an old horse to a couple of guys for $15.00. They were leading the horse up Broadway (Kingston) and the horse dropped dead up by Henry Street. It cost them $20.00 to get the horse to Roach’s rendering plant where the horse went on its final jounrey to greener pastures.

I remember three horse watering troughs in Kingston. One was at West Strand and Broadway, another at Henry Street and Broadway, and the third at Hurley and Washington Avenues.

Billy Deyo and Al Jaquin had a livery running from the Strand in Kingston to Rosendale. Billy Deyo would pick up items in Kingston for people along the route. The route went through Eddyville and Creek Locks to Rosendale. After the use of horses died out, they had a small bus to cover their territory.

Once, when Deyo still had the horse and wagon, he had some passengers. One was a woman who wanted a ride and the only place left for her to sit was on the ice he was delivering. She complained about the cold and Billy advised the lady, ‘Don’t worry! When you get home your husband will warm it up for you.’

Another fond memory of the days I worked at Canfield’s (Canfield Supply in Kingston) in the late 1950s was the Doodledorfer German Band made up of members of the Kingston Post 150 of the American Legion. The Doodledorfers played on street corners with the good old German Oopay sound. Johnny Emmett played the drum, Frank Sas played the trumpet, Sam Abromowitz played the tuba. I forget who the other two members were.

(I found one article with photo of the band in the Feb 4, 1955 Freeman. The band was billed as a “comedy” group helping with other volunteers to raise funds for the March of Dimes.)

The American Legion also had a vehicle made up like a locomotive that belonged to a group known as the “Forty and Eight.” The numbers, forty and eight, represented the capacity of a rail boxcar in France that held forty men and eight horses! (This American organization of ex-military men and women still exists and has evolved greatly since its start in 1920. The French boxcar was chosen as its symbol because the American Doughboys of WWI often went to the front lines in these railroad cars. After September 11th, this group sent eleven truck-loads of supplies to ground zero in support of the rescue efforts. Membership is by invitation only).

Sells-Floto CircusThe last Kingston circus parade in 1927 was by the Sells-Floto Circus. That day, my friend, Duane Paradee and I worked our way into the circus. We certainly earned our way in as they worked us from 9:30 am until 1:30 pm. We could have gotten better seats by paying our way in for 25 cents.

That same day my sister, Betty, and Ethel Zimmerman (later the great Ethel Merman) walked to Kingston to see the parade. The parade started at Dietz stadium and went all the way to Rondout and back. One of the carriages had a steam calliope. That was the last circus to come to Kingston.

While raising the big top the elephants were put to work pulling the ropes that raised the tent and in placing the tall poles that supported it.”

(Ethel Zimmerman Merman, 1908-1984, was a singer-actress born in Astoria, NY, famous for roles in movies and broadway musicals.

The Sells Floto Circus was in Kingston on June 19, 1920. It was a national circus traveling across the US by train in 27 box cars. It would present programs on one to three days depending on the population of the location. Places like Chicago had many shows. Set-up and breakdown added a day or so at each end. For more info on Sells Floto see circushistory.org/index.htm).