This past spring I was making the rounds of some local garage sales when I stumbled on a great find- a barrel meat smoker in pristine condition for only 20 bucks. This particular smoker is a really basic, just a metal barrel with three racks, a pan for water to keep the meat tender, and an electric element at the bottom on top of which you place the wood chips.
Serious barbeque enthusiasts out there would probably scoff at my little smoker, but given the the dirt cheap price and the fact that I had never smoked anything in my life, I figured it was a good way to get started. I followed this purchase by buying a copy of The Joy of Smoking and Salt Curing by Monte Burch. If you have any interest in tackling the art of smoking meat and fish, I highly recommend this little book. The instructions are very clear and concise, and it covers all the most basic points of the science of meat preservation. » Continue Reading.
“The movie theater and the church often existed side by side in a small town,” the late novelist John Updike once remarked in an interview. “The old Hollywood movies were very pious. Sins were punished in exact proportion to their seriousness. In many ways, the movies carried religious weight.”
Updike grew up in the 1940s, and by the 1960s, when I was growing up in Warrensburg, the movies may have played a smaller role in shaping moral habits, but they did help fire one’s own imagination, and, for that matter, the collective imagination. » Continue Reading.
Fourteen volunteers bravely responded to the first drink tasting at Pammy’s Pub, official drink lab of Happy Hour in the High Peaks. Representing a broad age range, from 21 to 70, equal numbers of male and female participants* were asked to rate five different samples of beverages for possible inclusion in our book.
More primate than lab rat, these subjects, when let out of their cages, exhibited animated enthusiasm rather than fear and complacency. Male respondents were observed to be less inclined to consume fruity or complicated beverages, while females participated in all trials. We’re not quite willing to share the formulas for each trial, but will try to convey the overall theme with a description of our intended impression. » Continue Reading.
Warrensburg hosts the 33rd annual “World’s Largest Garage Sale” this weekend where over 100,000 people will find treasures from toys to antiques. Held the last weekend before Columbus Day weekend, this year’s “World’s Largest Garage Sale” will be September 29-30, 2012.
Last year when my family attended the garage sale we were not prepared for the magnitude of the event. I’ve taken my kids to tag sales before where I’ve given them their own money, allowing each to search for treasures. Never in my mind did I imagine so many tents in one location. The tents start at the edge of town and continue along Route 9, crossing the Schroon River. The event is very well organized and the streets are monitored making it easy to cross the Main Street (Route 9). » Continue Reading.
For the past few weeks I just simply have not been in the mood for cooking. It has been hot and sunny, and sitting in the kitchen and standing over a stove – much less turning on the oven – holds about zero appeal. A lot of salads have been hitting the table, as we’ve had a bumper crop of lettuce this year. Herbs have also been plentiful, which makes for fun experimentation with different types of dressings.
Mostly I have been spending a lot of time outdoors with friends and family, bringing along a variety of Oscar’s ready-made salads, smoked meats and cheeses for picnicking. Ready-made has held a lot more appeal than actually whipping up my own potato salad or barbeque after a long hard day of relaxing. » Continue Reading.
It was less than two weeks after bartender Valene began her new job at Ashe’s Pub and Grill that she started to wonder what she’d gotten herself into. It was the end of her shift and she got right to the business of closing the bar. The doors were locked, the bar lights off, and everything stocked for opening in the morning. She took the day’s receipts through the dining room, past the pool table, into the office. As she began counting, there came a loud pounding at the back entrance to the bar, accompanied by a man’s voice shouting, “Open the bar!” Annoyed that some drunk had the audacity to expect that the bar would be opened for him, Valene got her husband on the phone for reassurance and went to the door. No one was there. Poking her head out the front door, she looked up and down the street, but no one was in sight. Dismissing the incident and turning to go back to her work, keeping her husband on the line in case the man came back, she could hear heavy footsteps and the sound of creaky floorboards coming from the area around the pool table. Banging sounds came from different areas of the bar; chairs in the dining room squeaked as though occupants were fidgeting in their seats. By now the young woman was truly frightened. Her husband, too, could hear the racket over the phone. Unable to come there himself, he sent Valene’s cousin to the bar to stay with her as she finished for the night while the noises continued around them. Not easily bullied by mere spirits, Valene has gotten used to the experiences and is still tending bar there. She makes it known to would-be spooks that she’s in charge!
Other employees have had similar experiences. Becky, another of the bartenders, says that securely placed pots and pans often crash to the floor. Footsteps are heard coming from deserted floors above. Cash disappears…then returns. A second-floor apartment is home to the apparition of a tall, older gentleman who wears a top hat and has an arm in a sling. A woman who lived in a second-floor apartment claims the man climbed into bed with her. When a visiting vendor arrived to set up a demonstration, she was in immediate need of a restroom. Since there was a line at the one-seater in the bar, the employee who lived in the upstairs apartment took the woman upstairs to use her bathroom. Curious, the vendor asked about the man she had seen standing in the upstairs window when she arrived. She described him as very tall, wearing a top hat and a sling.
Standing just beyond Warrensburg’s historic district in a neighborhood of mostly modest residences, Ashe’s Hotel looks much as it did when it was built over 150 years ago. Originally named the Agricultural Hotel due to its proximity to the old Warren County Fairgrounds, the name was changed to Ashe’s Hotel when Maurice Ashe acquired it from his father, Henry, in the 1930’s. The fairgrounds was also the site of Ashland Park Speedway from 1954 to 1961. Somehow, the bar at Ashe’s has managed to stay in continuous operation since the early 1860’s.
The current owner, John Abbale, has owned Ashe’s for the past 25 years and has gradually made many improvements. Colorful linen table cloths liven the dining room and whitewashed walls brighten the interior. The recently installed wide pine slab bar seats about 15 people, and several tables are available in the same room in close proximity to the bar. A semi-partitioned room off the bar offers table seating for another 26 patrons. Off that room is the pool table and area for musical entertainment and dancing. The central location for music setup makes it accessible to all three rooms. If you’re looking for entertainment beyond music and bar banter, a pool table, electronic darts and bowling, or pinball can be played here as well.
Though food service at Ashe’s has been known to come and go over the years, Ashe’s currently serves lunch and features dinner specials on Tuesday (clams) and Thursday (wings). Standard pub fare is served until 9 p.m. Located on Hudson Street in Warrensburg and surrounded by residential neighbors, the pub has outdoor seating, but, in an obvious effort to keep peace with the neighbors, discourages its use by not allowing drinks outside. Complicated drink specialties are not their priority, but the basics are there and the beer selection is varied and reasonable. Kim particularly enjoyed the Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed glass, though it’s just as good without the embellishment.
The bar is open year-round, 7 days a week, but sometimes closes for Christmas. Their busiest days of the year are during Warrensburg’s World’s Largest Garage Sale weekend in early October, and Americade and Warrensburg Bike Week in June when the bar serves as social center for participants. Live music on Friday and karaoke on Saturday keep everyone entertained on the weekends. With reasonable drink prices, Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7p.m., friendly bar staff in a neighborhood location, Ashe’s is a local pub and yet a regular spot for many out-of-towners. In a country-charm sort of way, the local patrons look forward to some diversity of conversation from strangers. Our inquiries about Ashe’s ghosts sparked interest and conversations, as well as dissent among the non-believers. If you’re looking to scare up some spirits this Hallows’ Eve, stop in on Saturday, October 29 for Ashe’s costume party and karaoke.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
If it’s friendly staff, loquacious patrons and reasonable prices you’re looking for, CB’s Spirits on River Street may be just the place when you’re in Warrensburg. The two-story frame building of unknown age sits unpretentiously on the edge of the Schroon River. It’s not all about the ambiance here, but basic comforts prevail and the clientele are welcoming.
We weren’t strangers to a few of the customers and were acquainted with Sue, bartender and sister of owner Chuck Bederian. Though the atmosphere in the tavern is no frills, no fuss, we were impressed by the upscale attire and professionalism of the bartender. Maybe you’ll catch Sue sporting our Happy Hour in the High Peaks hat on “casual” days. Warrensburg’s World’s Largest Garage Sale had just about reached its cold, rainy conclusion and we were ready for a drink. We joined the ten or twelve people already seated at the bar. No draft beer, but Kim ordered a Michelob Ultra from the modest selection of mostly domestic bottled beers while Pam tried to figure out what to have. Pear vodka was suggested and Sue and Pam brainstormed, settling finally on the pear vodka, cranberry juice, and 7-Up.
CB’s is a true local bar, though it didn’t take long before we felt like locals ourselves. Oh yeah, we are locals ourselves! Kim was soon immersed in conversation with Gordon, a regular who claims he’s here every day. His wife Cathy joined in as they tried to trace the history of CB’s. Known previously as the Wayside Inn (at least as far back as 1965), we learned very little but were encouraged to contact “Antique Bill”, a gentleman in town who apparently knows everything about every bar that’s ever been in the area. Armed with his phone number, references, and cautionary advice from Gordon and Cathy, we look forward to meeting him. Pam met and interviewed a man who is new in town, there temporarily on a construction job for a few months, who claims that the bartender is “the most fun ever” and that he has felt welcome at CB’s since day one. Partial to their hamburgers with bakery fresh rolls, he gets his lunch there daily and visits often after work. The tavern serves a simple menu of pizza, burgers and sandwiches at very reasonable prices. The special listed on the blackboard that day was the Chickentender Sandwich with lettuce, tomato and chips for $5. Not a bad deal.
As is her custom, Pam stepped out to survey the grounds. A bulletin board outside posted several upcoming local music and biker-related events. The handwritten list of October birthdays for CB’s regulars and staff was a nice personal touch. A picnic table offers seating outside by the Schroon River, with a nice view of the new Milton Avenue Bridge and the serenity of flowing water.
The bar seats up to 16 with two booths and a pub table in the main room. A smaller adjacent room has three regular size booths and two over-sized booths for additional seating when needed. Quick Draw is available at CB’s and a lottery ticket vending machine entices a little game of chance. Darts, a pool table, and Big Buck hunting games are also on hand for games of skill. Open 365 days a year with no black out dates, the hours are generally Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until midnight or later, and opening on Sunday at noon. Happy Hour is offered Monday through Friday and during Sunday football games with several drink specials. CB’s occasionally features live music, but not on any fixed schedule. The sale of raffle tickets to benefit local cheerleaders is evidence of the establishment’s community involvement.
There’s something difficult about trying to review a bar in one’s own hometown. Preferences, prejudices and habits stand in the way of an unbiased viewpoint. Within minutes of our arrival we were able to shed our preconceptions and enjoy the good-natured surroundings in this somewhat cluttered but tidy bar. Like the temperatures registered on the collection of vintage thermometers displayed throughout the room, the readings varied from -6 to 110 degrees, with most at a comfortable 70 degrees. If you’re in the mood to meet some locals, it shouldn’t be hard to strike up a conversation that might last throughout your visit.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
It’s difficult to review an establishment this familiar. With no first impression with which to develop a theme, a last impression will have to do.
George Henry’s in Warrensburg has come a long way from its heyday as the Warren Inn, where we were occasionally allowed to sit at the bar and have a soda with our mom when we were kids. It’s as much a restaurant as a bar now and seems to invite tourists as well as locals. Originally called the Warren Inn after an actual inn that once occupied the corner of Schroon River Road and Main Street, it changed hands some time in the 1980s and was renamed the Brew & Stew (the Brew & Stew sign now hangs inside), and finally George Henry’s, named after the current owners’ father and grandfather, George Henry McFarland. The interior of George Henry’s dining room is spacious, with tables comfortably distanced from one another. Wide plank floors and pine walls in the dining area create a somewhat rustic, no-frills appearance. The restaurant area is sufficiently separate to drown out the noise and to protect your children from the barside banter.
The bar seats about 20 people, with ample room for standing too, with a few bar height tables for overflow. Blackboards advertising food and drink specials hang in both the dining and bar areas, and several TV’s featured a variety of programming including Jeopardy, news, and a Yankees game. The tavern area was partially filled, maybe 15 people, when we visited on a Wednesday evening. We had expected more bikers because of Warrensburg Bike Week and Americade in Lake George, but a sudden storm, preceded by high winds and an ominous yellow glow in the sky sent them scattering.
Fortunately, we missed the “All-You-Can-Eat” Wings special and believe we were too late for Happy Hour (4:30 to 6:30). We donated some money to NY State by playing Quick Draw and shared the normal portion of their crispy “All-We-Can-Eat” wings. Open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m., except on Sunday when they open at noon, George Henry’s serves food until 9 p.m. in the summer months. The kitchen closes earlier in other seasons, and are known to close the establishment for private parties on rare occasions, but are generally open year round. George Henry’s offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights and there is a small, designated area for the band or soloist, but don’t expect to do any dancing there.
The beer selection is pretty decent with domestics from the Coors, Budweiser, and Miller brands, and good old Genny as well. Import and premium bottled beers include Corona, Heineken, Labatt, Long Trail, Guinness and Twisted Tea. Six draft beers are available, including choices from Lake Placid Brewery, Adirondack Brewery and Davidson Brothers. Specialty drinks aren’t promoted, but George Henry’s is equipped to provide the basics and sometimes more elaborate drinks when staffing permits.
George Henry’s has been under current ownership for 25 years and seems to want to expand beyond the local pub. Improvements have been made, though nothing lavish or radical, more aptly living within their means while keeping costs down to appeal to the masses. A deck on the side, for example, has yet to be seen by us in all of its intended splendor.
George Henry’s is on Main Street which is sometimes heavily traveled, so the added seclusion of low fencing on the Main Street side of the deck offers privacy and noise reduction, but still allows a nice view of the Schroon River. The deck is accented with flower boxes and beds of hostas, pansies, and petunias, which Pam deadheaded for them that evening while reviewing the surroundings. Several tables, some with umbrellas, looked inviting, were it not for the rain.
Stop at George Henry’s for dinner on your way to points further north and expect a welcoming staff and patrons and good food. When looking for a good burger in the ‘Burg, George Henry’s is the place to go. Or go on a Friday or Saturday night for live music and an even livelier crowd.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog.
The Adirondack Center for Writing’s will host a monthly open mic series starting in June, in collaboration with several venues around the Adirondack Park. The series pairs readings from a featured author or poet, as well as an open forum to share your own writing.
The Willows Bistro in Warrensburg, NY hosts Open Mic Night on the second Thursday of every month. ACW will co-sponsor those events at the Willows every June, September, December, and March. For our first collaboration, June 9th, the featured author will be Paul Pines, (author of “Last Call at the Tin Palace” and “My Brother’s Madness”), Bibi Wein (“The Way Home”) in September, and in December, Mary Sanders Shartle (“Winterberry Pine: Three Poets on Adirondack Winter”). More information is available online. The Northwoods Inn at Lake Placid will hold readings on the second Thursday in July with reader Maggie Bartley, October with Charles Watt, and next January and April with readers TBA. The Old Forge Library will host on the second Wednesday in August with reader Paula Roy, and in November, February and May.
All events are free and open to the public. If you’re interested in sharing your work email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “OPEN MIC” followed by the venue and date you’re interested in sharing.
Like most gardeners my little plot of earth was mud until recently and now has just become the holding place for the dismal looking storm windows the insulators found hidden in the crawl space. (I am curious if whether the windows were placed there as a substitute for the lack of any insulation or for some other nefarious reason.) Thankfully struggles with the weather does not stop professional farmers and craftspeople from showcasing locally produced items at Farmers’ Markets around the Adirondacks.» Continue Reading.
Willows Bistro and Fiction Among Friends will collaborate to present actress/director/teacher Filomena Riviello at a June 27th daylong workshop on the subject “Effective Public Reading: How to read your work so people think you are the best writer since Dickens.” Riviello, who worked in New York City as a professional actress and director for over 20 years, has directed shows at ACC and for Our Town Theatre Group, and popular workshop leader for the Warrensburgh Historical Society’s Graveyard Walks, selected the subtitle.
“A lot of people don’t know that it was through public readings that Charles Dickens managed to sell his novels in America, where there was not a large market for them. He made a book tour here, and people were so moved by his readings, they bought his books,” Riviello said. Persis Granger of Fiction Among Friends, with the help of Bistro owner Debbie Swan, created the Second Thursday Readings at Willows Bistro in Warrensburg to provide aspiring writers a time and place to read short selections from their works for the public. “All of the writers have enjoyed the opportunity,” she said, “but many realized that there is a lot to know about reading effectively. Enter Filomena!”
The workshop will begin at 10 a.m. and run until about 4 p.m., and the $40 fee will include a pre-selected luncheon. Those wishing to attend should reserve a spot by contacting Granger at PersisGranger@aol.com or 623-9305 as soon as possible, as enrollment is limited to ensure lots of individualized instruction. Writers are invited to bring as many short (about three minute) writing selections as they hope to work on. To learn more, visit “Fiction Among Friends at Willows Bistro“.
Warren County has a long tradition of a county fair and a meeting will be held this evening (Tuesday, April 12, 2011) to help renew that fair tradition. 7,000 people attended the fair on a single day when it was held in Pottersville in 1913, but the current Warren County Fair (since moved to the County Fairgrounds on Schroon River Road in Warrensburg), has suffered a series of setbacks that have made it one of the poorest attended county fairs in the state.
Those who attended the Warren County Fair in past still remember the carnival rides, midway, live entertainment, horse and pony pulls, and other activities and events that attracted visitors from all over the county and beyond. The Fair has changed dramatically over time due to liability insurance restrictions and funding which has hindered the current operator of the fair, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), from being able to provide carnival rides, a midway, or even a simple attraction such as a bouncy house, according to John Bowe, who manages the current one-day Youth Fair for CCE.
CCE’s Board of Directors has approved the formation of a Fair Association to take over development, promotion, insurance, and funding of the Warren County Fair, and a number of meetings have been held, but the future of the fair needs the input and support of local residents, businesses, and organizations.
It’s expected that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County will continue to manage and operate the 4-H youth component of the fair and be able to concentrate on the support and achievements of local youth.
Those who have attended the meetings have expressed an interest in creating a “Great Adirondack Fair” that draws on the traditions of the Adirondacks, and which can be a signature event for Warren County and wider region.
Those who would like to see the Fair return to the grandeur of yesteryear, are needed at the next meeting of the Fair Committee on Tuesday, April 12th at 7 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Education Center on 377 Schroon River Road in Warrensburg.
If you would like more information about the development of a Fair Association OR would like to register your support for a renewed fair, but can’t make the meeting, please call John Bowe at 668-4881 or email at email@example.com.
Photo: Performances at The Pottersville Fair in the early 1900s. In 1897, The Pottersville Fair advertised “a fine program of races consisting of trotting and pacing, running, bicycle, and foot races in which liberal purses and prizes are offered.” The fair lasted into the first half of the 20th century, and help convert Pottersville into a prime location for a variety of amusements, including the first incarnation of Gaslight Village.
Please join me in welcoming our newest contributors here at Adirondack Almanack, Kim and Pam Ladd. Warrensburg natives, Kim and Pam are working on a book project, Happy Hour in the High Peaks.
Currently in the research stage, the pair plan to visit pubs, bars and taverns inside the Blue Line, and report their findings weekly here at the Almanack and at their blog. With a goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park, Happy Hour in the High Peaks will feature reviews, history, lore, photographs and cocktail recipes with an Adirondack flavor.
Kim and Pam have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. Kim, is a freelance photographer whose sports images regularly appear in the Adirondack Journal. She has a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman.
Kim and Pam will begin their run here at the Almanack this afternoon with a look at barVino in North Creek, but they told me they welcome suggestions for places to visit, so let them know about your favorite haunts!
Obituaries vary widely in their historical value. Sometimes they’re elaborate; at times they are understated; some leave out important facts; and some, well … some are just hard to explain. Like this one from March, 1952: “Richard A. Whitby, a native of Warrensburg, died on Wednesday of last week at his home in Albany. Survivors are his wife, Mrs. Kathryn M. Waring Whitby; two sisters, Mrs. Frank Chapman and Miss Kate Whitby of Yonkers.”
That notice appeared in his hometown newspaper. Accurate, no doubt, and surely succinct, but brevity isn’t always a good thing. In this case, the inattention to detail is stunning, and it’s quite a stretch from what’s true to what’s important. I’d like to take a crack at bridging that gap. Richard Augustus Whitby (not Richard E. or other variations that appear in many records) was born to Louisa and Richard James Whitby on January 22, 1879. The family’s background played an important role in Richard’s legacy. Once established, the Whitby surname remained prominent in the Warrensburg-Glens Falls area for decades.
In 1872, the Whitbys (they had two young sons) emigrated from Yeovil, England where Richard J. had operated a cloth manufacturing business employing 61 laborers. He pursued the same work in America, first at Leeds in Greene County and then at Salem in Washington County, finally settling in Warrensburg, where he was superintendent of the woolen mill.
Financially sound, Mr. Whitby was able to pursue his interests, which were family and music. He managed to combine the two in remarkable fashion, and mix work in as well. Each family member learned to play a musical instrument, and as they entered adulthood, each was employed in the family business. By 1899, son Percy was managing the mill with his father, while Eloise, Eustace (salesman), Kate (stitcher), and Richard (buttonhole maker) toiled for Whitby & Co.
As good as they were at making clothing, it was in the world of music that the family excelled. The Whitby dance band played countless gigs and was in great demand, but the family performed solos and joined other musical groups as well. In 1895, the GAR Band and the Citizens’ Band ended an ongoing competition by merging into the Warrensburg Military Band. Among the dozens of members were several Whitbys—Percy, clarinet and Musical Director; his father, Richard J., cornet; Eustace, saxophone; and young Richard A., baritone horn.
After a performance on baritone by Richard in 1893, one prescient local reviewer said Whitby’s effort “… would have done credit to a professional player.” Besides the baritone horn, Richard also played two related instruments, the euphonium and the trombone. By the mid-1890s, his euphonium solos were known far and wide, and highly praised.
During the next several years, he performed at dozens of graduations, church events, and the like, routinely accompanied by his mother, Louisa, on the piano. In the summer of 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Whitby and son Richard were the star attraction at the Leland House in Schroon Lake.
In 1896, the 17-year-old was hired by Scribner & Smith’s Circus to play slide trombone during the summer. In 1899 he signed with a traveling comedy and music act, followed by several years as trombonist for the Broad Street Theater in Richmond, Virginia.
Word of his ability spread, and in 1910, “Dick” Whitby was the trombone soloist for Carl Edouarde’s 60-piece band, a top act in Philadelphia and New York City. (Edouarde, who later composed film scores, conducted the music for Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon.)
In October, 1911, Whitby married Bertha B. Lancaster (yes, Bert Lancaster) of Peekskill, and the couple moved to New York City. All the while, Richard’s fame continued to grow.
Though he had made steady progress over the years, his rise now seemed meteoric. Outstanding performances in Edouarde’s band were soon followed by a stunning announcement in 1913: Richard had been offered the second chair in John Philip Sousa’s band, which for decades had featured some of the world’s finest musicians. Second chair meant the number two position, but Whitby was also promised first chair upon the lead trombone player’s imminent retirement.
It was a tremendous honor and highly regarded confirmation of his great talent, but there was a problem: Richard was still under contract to Carl Edouarde, who had no intentions of releasing him from a prominent run at New York’s Palace Theater.
He continued as lead trombonist for Edouarde’s concert band, and it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime had passed. But such was the talent of Richard Whitby that Sousa was willing to wait. When he became a free agent in 1915, Sousa signed Richard to an 8-month contract, beginning on April 1, 1915.
The timing was fortuitous. After three years of playing one main venue and going on only a short tour each season, Sousa’s band was suddenly once again a hot property. When Richard joined the orchestra, it was for an extraordinary tour reaching all the way to the West Coast.
San Francisco was hosting a major event, the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (the World’s Fair), celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal and the city’s own recovery from the horrific 1906 earthquake. Sousa’s band played on opening-day and performed for an extended run through May and June, allowing untold thousands to enjoy Whitby’s great solos.
The band might have played longer but for a telegram from New York, requesting their services for an upcoming extravaganza at the world’s largest theater, the Hippodrome.
Leaving San Francisco, the band toured the Northwest to great acclaim. Notable was a July concert before 17,000 attendees at a high school stadium in Tacoma, Washington. From there, the band toured through the Midwest and then played before large crowds in Pennsylvania, including a month at famous Willow Grove Park and two weeks at the Pittsburgh Exhibition, before finally arriving in New York.
Those were heady days for one of the world’s most famous bands, now performing at the 5,200 seat Hippodrome for an 8-month run. Critics raved, as did Theatre Magazine: “The astonished and delighted spectator feels like cheering all the way through the really wonderful program.” It was a smash success, but Whitby remained for only half the run (about 215 performances).
When his contract with Sousa expired at the end of the year, Richard returned to more familiar haunts. In 1916, he opened with a slide trombone solo for a Warrensburg concert by students of the famed Oscar Seagle. Whitby’s rendition of Patriot Polka was a tribute to his friend and former instructor, Arthur Pryor, author of the tune and acknowledged for decades as one of the world’s premiere trombonists.
Richard’s preference was to remain in the North Country, but no matter where he was, his talent and fame kept him in high demand. A renowned soloist who tested the limits of his instrument, Whitby starred for several years on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. The main venue he played there was the famed Steel Pier, which extends 1000 feet over the ocean and today sits directly across the Boardwalk from Trump’s Taj Mahal Resort and Casino.
He also did stints at New York’s Palace Theater, and in the 1920s was soloist with the Paramount Symphony Orchestra at the Paramount Theater.
When he was upstate, he played with Noller’s Band of Troy and the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra. Whitby lived in Albany for many years, and through the 1930s and 1940s was one of the city’s and the region’s most sought-after musicians. He was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest trombone players in the country.
Obituaries normally mention one’s accomplishments, and when Richard Whitby died in 1952, his hometown obit noted only two events: “… native of Warrensburg … died … at his home in Albany.” It suggests an innocuous existence marked largely by his entrance into and exit from life. Being born and dying are surely significant, but as you can see, there was some other stuff in between.
Photo Top: The John Philip Sousa Band performing at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition (World’s Fair) in 1915.
Photo Middle: A euphonium, one of the instruments mastered by Richard A. Whitby.
Photo Bottom: The famed Steel Pier on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
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