Callahan, Josephine (Mattice) - Remembers

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

Josephine Mattice Callahan Remembers 2006

Josephine (Mattice) Callahan

I was three years old when my mother and father bought the Lake View Cottage from the Tompkins. My mother and I lived there alone; my father only came up on the weekends because he still worked for General Electric. Initially my mother cleaned and fumigated the cottage because the former owners had T.B. After that she opened it up for boarders.

The Gypsies came and camped out up the road where it splits to go to Knox, where the Goetz’s family from New York City built their cottage. They used to take the kids down to the creek to wash them every morning, and they had one little blonde girl who didn’t look like them and we figured she was stolen. They started to go down to the hotel in East Berne and get drunk and they would holler and yell all the way back home. The name of the hotel was Wagner’s and I was a great friend of Dorothy Wagner who lived there. When the Gypsies became too much of a problem, Mr. Warner made them move on.

When my mother opened the boarding house, most of the families came from N.Y.C. One person who came there swimming was Mayor Thatcher from Albany. Most of the boarders entertained themselves swimming, hiking and boating in the rowboats or taking a ride in the steam launch (The Sarah E.) for a dime. We had a pool table in what we called the boathouse and they played pool and did a little gambling among themselves. I will tell you who used to squeal on us all the time, old Elias Warner. He used to come over and stand outside the Tea Room where all the boarders ate, and he would peek in and if he saw anything wrong he would call the troopers, he also kept tract of what time we closed the boat house to make sure we didn’t stay open any later than we were suppose to.

I could swim when I was 3 or 4 years old. A couple of girls who worked for my mother taught me how. They threw me in and everyone thought I would drown, but I didn’t, I did the doggie paddle back to the shore.

I recall that we used to have dances in the “Tea Room”. I used to do the Charleston and people would throw coins at me. I liked to do the black bottom too but you had to have a partner for that.

We used to go down to Hayden’s, which was run by old Tommy at that time. You could get tea in a teacup there. He used to keep Dan O’Connell’s fighting cocks there too.

I lived at the Lakeview Cottage until I was 18, but in the winter I lived in Schenectady with my aunt and her two children.

The fireplace in the boathouse was rather large and took a very big log. The men who built it came from up north. They brought paddleboats with them, which they rented while they were here building the fireplace. I believe they were the first paddleboats on the lake.

I used to like to have a drink occasionally and my favorite was a Manhattan. There came a time when my doctor told me no more manhattans, but I could have scotch. I still have a bit of scotch today. All my friends wanted to know who my doctor was!

I knew the Warner’s; we used to call Elias “The peeping tom”, because he was always peeking in our windows. When the boarding house filled up, my mother used to send the extras over to Arthur Warner’s house. After Arthur’s wife died, he used to have his supper with us. He had cancer in the corner of his mouth from smoking a pipe. My mother asked the doctor and he said it wasn’t contagious, but we were not so sure, so we washed his dishes in Clorox.

I went to school one year at the East Berne schoolhouse. Mrs. Winnie, who lived up the road, took her son to school with a horse and sleigh. She would stop and pick me up on her way. Many times she drove across the lake on the ice when there was too much snow on the road. Many times I stayed at the Dyers on route 43. The rest of my schooling was in Schenectady.

I remember giving a big chicken dinner with dumplings and all the fixings for $1.50.

We had a Model T ford and my father would drive down to the train station in Albany to pick up the boarders and bring them up the hill to the lake.

We had a lady and her family who rented one of our camps, whose name was Linder. Her husband worked as a bookie at Saratoga in the summer. She used to throw her pennies away at the corner of the garage, and my father would go behind her and pick them up. He used to say, “She will wish she had these some day.”

My father’s name was Swart, but he didn’t like that so we called him Dick. My mother’s name was Charlotte but we called her Lottie. Eventually my brother Arnold ran the boarding house, but my mother owned it. She sold it to the Schnurrs.

The little building where we served meals was known as the Tea House. During the boarding season, we all slept in what we called the Hen House, of course it was all cleaned out. Anyone who worked for us slept there also. If we had an overflow of boarders, we had some cots up in the barn. Dan O’Connell’s brother came to stay and we didn’t have any rooms left, so he took a cot up in the barn. He had just gotten comfortable when the cot broke. We all got quite a chuckle out of that. Our boarding season usually ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After that my family would move out of the hen house and back into the big house for the winter.

Mayor Thatcher used to come swimming and he would rent a room just to change in.

George Sisson from West Berne used to be our meat man and my brother Arnold used to drive to Albany for our other supplies. We didn’t have property enough to have a garden of our own so we had to purchase all our food for the boarders.

Zeb and Grace Strevell where great friends of my mother and father. They ran a boarding house next to the Warner’s. The Hinman’s lived there also, Martha and I used to pal around together.

When my mother first ran the boarding house, there were no electric lights, we had carbide lights. We had running water, but only in the kitchen sink. We used to employ a couple of local girls as chambermaids and my cousin Betty Gage and I waited on table.

We used to have music at the house. Ed Smith was the bandleader and he had a camp over on Thompson’s lake. Ed used to bring his dog with him when he would come over to play. We would have parties where there would be beer on tap. There was always a basin under the tap to catch the overflow, and the dog would drink from the basin and get drunk. Later he would try to go up on the porch, and he would fall over backwards down the stairs.

I knew Jay Engle and his wife Lydia. Lydia was not a very attractive lady and she was cross-eyed. Jay used to sell furs at the trading post and he told us he caught them all himself, but I think he bought them. He also had a pet bear that he kept at the trading post for a while. The bear was quite an attraction for the city folks who used to come up to the lake.

We used to walk over to the pine grove when they had dances at the pavilion. We would be like old Elias and peek in the windows, but we never went in to dance. I remember my father being tossed from the ice wagon when the horses spooked and hitting his head on the ice. He got a concussion and never regained consciousness and died a few days later. I was about 18 years old at the time.

We used to go over to Hayden’s a lot. I remember sitting at the bar and seeing a cow stick it’s head through a hole in the wall behind the bar. Mayor Corning and his friend Polly Noonan used to stop at Hayden’s and she always had her little poodle dog with her.