The Old Badger
First published in The Freeman’s Journal August 2, 1978
“They tell us at the drugstore that since the aviators came here, the business done in lip rouge, ordinary rouge, and other forms of calsomine has almost doubled. And Schneider and Raubacher, who do most of the clothes cleaning say that the way the officers’ uniforms catch up talcum powder along the sleeves and shoulder is something awful.”
— The Freeman’s Journal, July 16, 1919
The year of “the flyers” in Cooperstown was 1919. (Pete Hollis sat up and looked around that year, too. Maybe that had something to do with it.) Almost 500 handsome, young aviators were housed in the village that summer, some for a few weeks, others for much longer – officers and gentlemen of the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army who had been ordered to Cooperstown for rest and relaxation before being mustered out of the service after World War I.
The Old Badger
Originally published in The Freeman’s Journal on Aug. 3, 1977.
Willow Brook runs into Otsego Lake near the foot of Pioneer Street. Its course has been altered to run down the far side of a strip of land there, which is being readied for whatever is going to be built – probably houses. The brook ends at the Lake, but … Where does it begin?
I’ll trace it to its source by going upstream, like an eel. Once it leaves the Lake, the first obstacle is what we call Lake Street – at first it was First Street. This used to be a busy section of town: a tannery, a smithy and a butcher shop on the Lake side of the road with Cory’s coffin factory and Weeks Livery on the other. The brook runs under the road and along the edge of the skating rink behind the Cooper Inn (which Henry Phinney built in 1816 as a residence, calling it “Willowbrook”), under a delicate stone-arched foot bridge and then through a base of a fine stone wall and into a tunnel where it moves diagonally under Main Street toward the space between the banks.
In observer in 1909 wrote that “in front of Slote’s is dug very deep, as they are turning the course of Willow Brook close to the First National Bank, so as to have room to put up the new building of the (Otsego) Farmer (It actually became Crist Publishing Company and later the Second National Bank, then the National Commercial (and now Key Bank). The walls of the stream area made of concrete, and the top also, but what’s going to keep the top from falling in, no one knows.”
The Old Badger
Editor’s note: This column was first published July 27, 1977.
Somewhere in this town, maybe in a drawer or a kitchen file or between the pages of a cookbook, lies eight “receipt,” and it tells exactly how to make Ma Miller’s piccalilli.
Anyone who remembers the Lake Road when it was made of cement remembers the Miller place. And if you happen to ask about it, sit down, you’ll be in for a 20-minute dissertation.
Everyone has his own version of the perfect hamburger or hot dog with Ma’s piccalilli – or the still-hot strawberry-rhubarb pies, or the fresh lettuce and tomatoes – or the inverted bottle of spring water that made the big bubble when some water was drawn off … “balooble-uuump”… into an unmanageable paper cup.
Now, I get Ma mixed up with the Powerful Katinka from Toonerville Folks in the funny papers. Ma Miller was very big. Her husband Vern was small – so was her kitchen. They used to say Vern pushed Ma in behind the griddle in the morning and then pulled her out at the end of the day.