GHS alumni return to a changed city

GLOVERSVILLE – It was a combination of the old and the new in downtown Gloversville on Saturday morning, as members of the Gloversville High School Class of 1963 returned to find a city much changed from when they graduated 50 years ago.

Grace Larkin, formerly Grace DeLong, moved from Gloversville to Oneonta in 1965. She no longer has family in the area and doesn’t make it back to visit very often. She said she’s spent the weekend visiting locations from her past, including downtown.

“I was shocked to see Dunday’s was still there,” she said of the men’s clothing store on North Main Street. “I was pointing out buildings that were still here, like Pedrick’s. We always used to go to Pedrick’s [restaurant] and of course the Glove Theatre. My grandmother started me there with ‘Bambi.’ I cried. She fell asleep.”

If Larkin had fallen asleep in Gloversville in 1963 and didn’t wake up until earlier this year, she would have been greeted by a very different downtown than the one on display Saturday. Judy Ferrara-Flanger and a committee of concerned citizens took it upon themselves in May to essentially redecorate the vacant storefronts at the city’s Four Corners intersection, transforming them into advertising space for other locally owned businesses throughout the city.

“The businesses that are in the windows on South Main Street at the Four Corners are the businesses that said, ‘Yes, let’s dress it up.’ It’s where the Class of 1963 are strolling today. It’s the community coming together,” Ferrara-Flanger said.

Some of the businesses that took advantage of the opportunity to advertise include Ferrara-Flanger’s own Sessions Hair and Day Spa, TaylorMade, Kingsboro Golf Club, Chef Lomanto’s Kitchen, Chapeau de Valse, Ruby and Quiri and others.

One of the others is Donna Cerasuolo, who operates a hat making shop in the Gloversville Commons. She showed her hat creations in a display called “Waltz of the Hats” at one of the storefronts at the Four Corners on Saturday. Cerasuolo, who is proud of her status as a “milliner,” a maker of women’s hats, said her hats have won awards, including best women’s hat at the Kentucky Derby. She was glad for the chance to market her creations to the Class of 1963.

“I have had a lot of people ask me for my business card, and people even shout as they drive by to tell me how much they love my hats,” she said.

Tom Thompson, Class of 1963 president, repainted the storefronts in preparation for the reunion, but each of the interior window displays was cleaned and decorated by the business using it.

One building where the revitalization has gone beyond just a spruced-up facade is Schine Memorial Hall, home of the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market, among other businesses. The building is owned by a company called Schine-Memorial Hall LLC, made up of about 38 investors who’ve purchased $5,000 shares in the company.

Ron Zimmerman is the project manager for the building. He said Saturday that Schine-Memorial Hall LLC has raised $400,000 from selling shares of the company, but it still has 20 more shares to sell to reach its goal of raising $500,000. Zimmerman said the class reunion has been a unique opportunity to market the company’s efforts to a new crop of potential investors.

“The timing of this has been great, with all of these successful people coming back home,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said the company also recently received a New York state grant of $70,000 and used the money for projects such as renovating the interior of parts of the building, including 34 N. Main St., which has been transformed into the main meeting space for Schine-Memorial Hall LLC.

Rodger Helwig, a 1963 graduate who moved to San Francisco, said he remembers when 34. N. Main St. was the Melody House, a record store.

“I used to come here back in the ’50s, when they had a listening room and you could try out the records,” he said.

Another business that benefited from the influx of nostalgic customers Saturday was Sally Brien’s Antiques N Uniques at 33. N. Main St. Brien said she’s been in the antique business for 40 years, but she decided to come back to her hometown about a year and a half ago to try to help its downtown. A popular item among her antiques Saturday were chairs from Pedrick’s Restaurant.

When Grace Larkin heard the Pedrick’s chairs were on sale, she knew she had to have one.

“Pedrick’s was a wonderful restaurant, and we would go there, like after the movies and they had the best french fries and gravy,” she said.