Northrup, Orlo J. - remembering mail routes

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

Orlo J. Northrup - mail routes

N. Y. FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 1958 Altamont Enterprise

DO YOU REMEMBER by Orlo J. Northrup

Do you remember how the Helderbergers of this locality used to get their mail?

I am informed that the late Henry Bins was one of the first, if not the first, who brought the East Berne mail from Slingerlands. South Berne was served by Zadoc West, who daily got it from Reidsville, which was served with the other villages from Albany to Rensselaerville by that stage line. He made the daily trip by horse and buggy. I am not sure of the personnel of the Albany-Rensselaer line thru the years, except the Stoneburners at one time.

The South Berne postmastership at that time fluctuated between the late Chester A. Skinner (Howard’s grandfather) and my father, who on change of administration would pick up the about four-foot letter compartment and walk across the street with it.

Incidentally, Chester was a harness and shoemaker, putting in a few pairs of kids leather boots with red upper fronts adorned by a brass star. Seeing my 5-year old admiration for them, he told me if I would change my politics he would give me a pair, to which I agreed; but on reporting to my father, he told me I would get a pair of boots without backsliding. I got and still have the boots at this late day.

It was the rule, especially in South Berne, to come to the store on Saturday night with barterable produce or money to exchange for the week’s groceries and pick up the mail. There was always many present discussing the problems of the times, sitting around the square or pot-bellied stove usually well decorated with the tobacco juice which had missed the boxes of sawdust. It was not unusual for heated political arguments to develop.

To get back to the mail. Eventually East Berne, Thompson’s Lake and South Berne were served from Altamont by stage which finally ran into our present Star Route to East Berne--now carried by the Jones family and no passengers allowed. Back at that time many of the rigs were 5-seated canopy top market wagons and passengers and light freight and baggage were allowed. As the boarding business came in, the passenger carrying became a welcome source of income to the lakes and White Sulphur springs.

The late Edward Crary, Vincent Weidman, Frank Hill and others I do not recall ran this route, and Nat Gallup did a thriving passenger business. Finally the daily R. F. D. service came into existence with Frank Hamman as first East Berne carrier, followed by Homer A. Gallup, then Peter Jay Zeh. Several years ago the routes were rearranged, and our immediate section is served from Voorheesville. Wilkins MacMillian is the present carrier.

Berne and West Berne are now served by Merlin Arnold from Altamont. The Berne R. D. carriers have been Clyde Dyer, Fred Dietz, Frank Wright, and now Fred Lendrum. The West Berne carrier was Clinton Townsend’s father until it was added to the Berne route (I think this is accurate). Homer Corbin was carrier for Voorheesville for the Thacher Park area for several years.

There was a half-mile gap from just above where we live to the John Haluska and Harry Garry places. The carrier turned around there, back-traching to the foot of Van Schoick’s hill, going in the town road to the Buchardt and Hotaling places, coming down the hill to Howard Willimen’s, then to the Willsey corner above us, then back to the Gallup bridge, and on to the rest of the route. A petition was circulated to close this gap. The inspector came out. It was done, eliminating the loop over the hill and leaving five families without delivery after 50 years.

Fully realizing that the road in from the east was a bad one in summer and impassable most of the time in the winter, I contacted the Buchardt and Hotaling residents asking them if they would be satisfied with service up the hill from Willimen’s to the Hotaling corner and back, to which they readily agreed. I wrote a personal letter to my good friend, the late Congressman William T. Byrne, stating the facts, and that the county road was to be built with school bus and adequate snow removal. He promptly got the route re-established just before his death, and everyone seems to be happy.

It is regrettable that the East Berne route for this section was discontinued as a lot of mail goes to East Berne, resulting in some things happening before the notices are received.