Benjamin O and Andy
After attending the University of Chicago, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1932. He was sponsored by Representative Oscar De Priest (R-IL) of Chicago, at the time, the only black member of Congress. During the entire four years of his Academy term, Davis was shunned by his classmates, few of whom spoke to him outside the line of duty. He never had a roommate. He ate by himself. His classmates hoped that this would drive him out of the Academy. The "silent treatment" had the opposite effect. It made Davis more determined to graduate. Nevertheless, he earned the respect of his classmates, as evidenced by the biographical note beneath his picture in the 1936 yearbook, The Howitzer:
The courage, tenacity, and intelligence with which he conquered a problem incomparably more difficult than plebe year won for him the sincere admiration of his classmates, and his single-minded determination to continue in his chosen career cannot fail to inspire respect wherever fortune may lead him.
He graduated in 1936, 35th in a class of 278. He was the academy's fourth black graduate (and the first graduate since Charles Young in 1889). When he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, the Army had a grand total of two black line officers — Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. After graduation he married Agatha Scott.
The preceding information refers to General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. during his silent years as a cadet at West Point.
Being an Irish father, Andrew "Andy" Boyan found it necessary to hold more than a few jobs in and about Highland Falls...and one of those jobs was as a West Point cadet "barracks policeman". Now, a barracks policeman was not a law enforcement officer, but was a fellow who saw to maintaining the cadet "quarters" in a neat, clean and orderly manner. In other words he could also be called a custodian, caretaker, or janitor. Andy was an affable working class Irishman; one who appreciated his own place in life, as well as that of others around him. Cadet Davis lived alone, and found that "Andy" would readily talk with him without being prompted or even required to do so. Over Benjamin O. Davis Jr's four years of cadet life, the one person who became a true friend was not a fellow cadet, but was this affable fellow from Highland Falls who, while leaning on his broom or mop, engaged Cadet Davis in friendly conversation that would be recalled in letter form many years later. In 1954 Benjamin O. Davis Jr. received his first star. Shortly thereafter, a letter made its way to Andrew "Andy" Boyan at 22 Drew Avenue in Highland Falls, New York. It was a thank you note for the friendship shown to him during his years as a West Point cadet. The newly minted Brigadier General never forgot the kind words and friendly banter that brightened the barracks room two decades before.
Kevin Childs - September 2015
2017 update to this story!
The latest West Point Cadet barracks building has been dedicated and named after General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
The streets were dark; devoid of humanity, while a lone figure took the first tentative steps toward a predetermined destination. Was it worth the effort? Perhaps, but that fact would possibly soon be determined.
Houses lined each street in the village, but all that was seen by the small figure was a poorly maintained road beneath his feet with a flickering light just ahead. It was a streetlight reflector swaying in the wind, making a creaking sound that was not welcomed on this dark night. Was he actually invited, or was the coming meeting an intrusion that would destroy a friendship; and reinforce the teen’s perception of a quickly deteriorating future? The approach was indirect, as the initial tentative steps were taken toward the north, a direction that was opposite his destination. Why? The mysteries of the approach were accumulating with each step and direction. Reaching a small elm tree lined road, he turned right, taking 113 steps to traverse the sloping hillside. Forward progress was halted by a fence, albeit a small fence, but still...a fence! A decision was required. Shall the next direction be left or right? A nanosecond of thought brought about a decision, and Homestead Avenue was reached in another 111 steps. Now, a reversal of direction or a right turn would be the next requirement. Was he now actually approaching the destination, or had the required route taken him away rather than towards? A right turn was made; the decision being seemingly from his inner self or subconscious. After a few steps, a glance to his left revealed a stately residence, once inhabited in the 19th Century by a well-known local named Benny Havens. That was in the distant past, he thought. This is the present and I must move on. They're expecting me! Were they? Perhaps so; but he would find out only by persisting in his trek. Walking quickly, as he now realized that he actually could be a bit late, the base of the short hill was reached. He now stood beside an establishment known as The South Gate Tavern, while to his left and across Homestead Avenue was a large building named A. Bosch & Son's; housing a taxi service, a bus service, and an automotive garage. Emulating the cadets who marched and studied at the United States Military Academy to the North, he mouthed the words, "Right Face"...and then did just that. He now faced South on Main Street; a street which looked dark and menacing at this hour. A wooded area loomed far to the left, across lanes devoid of traffic. Keeping closer to the buildings on his right seemed the safer choice, and he took one tentative step, then another...and then quickly ran about twenty feet; halting at a short picket fence in front of a clapboard house. A light wind emanating from the North was now at his back, and an aroma of bleach mixed with dirty clothing washed over him, since he had just passed a business called Henry Louie's Shirt Laundry.
"Less than one hundred yards, and I'll be there", he thought.
The destination business establishment was at the south corner of Main Street and Parry Avenue; an establishment that had had various names over the past one hundred years or so. It was now called Gasthaus Tiroler, a restaurant and drinking establishment that had recently joined the ranks of many others across the Town. Closing in and now just fifty feet away, he sidled with trepidation toward his final destination, and suddenly spotted two right arms, two bright smiles and three people, waving to him as he approached. The identical twins were standing in front of the restaurant, waving their arms, alongside another local guy named Bob. It seems as though the invitation had been true; and he would soon be accompanying this wonderfully beautiful twin teen to the local movie house. As a by the way, the movie house was called "City Theater", although the nearest actual city was about sixteen miles to the North. This early in any relationship, a double date was all one could hope for; but there was now the promise of a very interesting future.
A stumbling narrative of recollections concerning a possible past,
concluded on 8/19/17 by Kevin Childs
John Shelley was the husband of Mary Brennan, and the proud builder of seven homes in a village with the colorful name of Buttermilk Falls. The village name had been changed to Highland Falls when incorporated in 1906; a fact that I find sad, as the former name had been attached to the area since being noticed by the Dutch explorers during the early settlement years. Since this memory is about my great grandfather, I'll address the village name at another time.
John and Mary lived in their home near the end of Redoubt Street at the north end of the village. A turnstile type entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point existed a short fifty feet or so, north of their home, and it may be interesting to note that Redoubt Street in Highland Falls became Wilson Road in West Point when the large gate was opened for events at the academy. This information is given so you may visualize a few of the events that took place in and around this home.
It was early September in the year 1912, and numbers wise, a gallon of gasoline was priced at seven cents, you could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel, and Pius the 10th was our Pope. Wars or skirmishes were being waged in various places around the world, with United States forces engaged in Cuba and Nicaragua. On the evening in question, a war was also being waged in the Shelley home, particularly at the card table. The game being played was Euchre, a popular card game at the time, and the jokers at the table were the typical group of Irish friends gathered together for a few friendly, and not so friendly hands.
One of the friends from the "Old Sod" was Martin Maher, Sr., patriarch of a clan that included his five sons...all engaged in military service or employment at West Point. Others sitting at the table included Mr. Shelley's neighbor Jack Cody, as well as another friend, Bill Bennett. There were one or two other locals in attendance, but their names don't come to mind at this time. The game was "Irish friendly", which means the craic or banter was flowing, and each of them intended on being the one possessing a majority of coins at the end of the evening.
For those not familiar with the game of Euchre, simply think of Bridge. It was an earlier version, and was widely popular across Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Of course, refreshments were provided, and a bottle or three were undoubtedly available and readily consumed during the games. Card games don't have innings or quarters or halftimes, and if one has to take leave to care of bodily needs, one would simply stand and indicate that they would shortly return by stating the words "seeing a man about a horse", or some other similar phrase.
The "Necessary" or "Facility" was located outside, and a proper distance from the rear of the house in order to accommodate the bodily elimination needs of the household and guests. Martin stood, and making his way to the back door, stated that although he'd be taking his leave at that time, he'd soon return to the Euchre card game wars. As the game continued, each player stared at the cards, the table, the walls, or whatever distraction used to gain the small advantage. In time, John stood and declared that they should take a break, and await the return of Martin from his duties in the facility.
Ten minutes turned into twenty, and soon more than thirty minutes had passed since Mr. Maher had made his necessary jaunt to the small, rickety one room building. John rose from the table, and stating that "business" shouldn't take that long, walked to the backyard. I a few short moments, John walked back to through the door, muttering that Martin would not be returning, and they may as well fold his hand.
Martin had played his last hand, and a few days later, the family held a service for the late Martin Maher, Sr., also attended by more than a few of his local friends as well as quite a few who had known him from their days back on the old sod. It was a celebration of an Irish life, well lived.
Kevin Childs - 2015
Purple Heart Day
He shoots....and it's
Stories of ‘The Venice'
Running a bar…or drinking establishment in Highland Falls comes second nature to most; and a number of ingenious ways to control tipsy patrons had been introduced over the years. At The Venice, when the closing hour of 3AM approached, my mother Sandra, the oldest of the Gruno daughters always contemplated the available ways and means of emptying the pub of the pleasingly tipsy turnout. One of the more laughable ways occurred when Sandra ran upstairs to the apartment, and brought Ringo down to the bar. Ringo was an absolute master at emptying the establishment without lifting a finger...as he had none. Ringo poised at the bar’s end, looking left then right, contemplating his next move. With the flick of a Sandra's finger, Ringo the Iguana scampered down the bar, alerting the inebriates that it was time to take their final sips, and to slip quietly out the door….....which they did with a smile on their faces.
Another pet related story features an animal that many people of the era tend to associate with actor Jimmy Stewart. Our pet rabbit, Harvey, was kept in a large cage in the screened back porch of The Venice. He was a master escape artist, leading to a memorable episode as told by my mother, Sandra. One night while she was working, she noticed Harvey hopping up the street right in front of the bar. One of the regulars, of whom we had many, and who had had more than a few too many that night, looked to my mom and said, “Sandy, I have to get out of here, I mus' be too drunk, I saw a big white rabbit hopping up the street”. In the typical Sandy way, and not batting an eyelash, my mom said,” Yes …..that’s silly…now go home”….......and he did.
Here’s another true tale about The Venice. On New Year’s Day, which was one of the busiest at the Venice, the regulars included a married couple who were fairly well tanked up. As it was snowing quite heavily, the wife said that they should go home, and proceeded to walk out and get in the car. A while later the husband agreed that it was time to leave, and walked across the street, got into his car, backed it out and went home. A while later, when he came back to find his missing wife, we discovered she had gotten into the car in the driver’s side and slid across the slick vinyl upholstery to ultimately fall into the snow on the passenger side. She was found lying safe and as sound as could be expected in a snow bank, quite unaware of what had happened. The drink she had consumed had kept her from freezing and she was doubly fortunate that her husband hadn’t run her over when he backed out.....as God looks after the drunks and fools.............yes He does.
-submitted by Linda Dyroff-
John A. (Jack) Graziano - Remembered
Jack Graziano was born in Highland Falls, N.Y. on October 19, 1919, the son of Louis and Lucia LaDelpha Graziano. After high school graduation he enlisted in the US Army with a view toward winning an appointment to the US Military Academy. He left the army in 1941 to play football at NYU where he was a 165 pound fullback on a scholarship majoring in Social Studies.
World War II intervened and he reenlisted in 1943, and assigned to flight training in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the Air Force. After qualifying to fly, he was assigned to the 8th Air Force 100th Bomb Group at Thorpes Abbot in northeast England. While other units in the 8th Air Force had a higher casualty rate, they did earn the nickname The Bloody Hundredth for their 6 missions to Berlin during the spring and summer of 1944. He flew 35 missions over Germany, including the 6 Berlin missions, and occupied Europe as the bombardier on the B-17 "Return Ticket." He also participated in the ill-fated Poltava Affair where nearly every B-17 was lost. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) he flew two missions over Normandy. At age 23, the oldest member of the crew and a commissioned officer, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Unit Medal and various other campaign and victory medals including the European African Middle Eastern Campaign and was one of the very first Americans to set foot in Saudi Arabia while on a military exercise. He was particularly proud of his certification into the Luckye Bastardes club.
After the war he made the Air Force his career and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command based out of Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, Texas. He flew on the B-36, the " Peacemaker," and retired after serving a total of 20+ years.
Upon retirement he joined AMF Bowling Division and became the National Director of Public Relations, shortly thereafter becoming a member of the Bowling Writers Association of America. He moved his family to Tuxedo Park, New York and had spent the last 33 years living in the Carnegie Hill district on Manhattan's Upper East Side where he was known and loved by many in the neighborhood. Shopkeepers, bankers, neighbors walking their dogs and children were accustomed to seeing Jack on his daily shopping rounds and exercise jaunts into Central Park and stopping for friendly conversations. On September 11th, 2009 he was hospitalized after a fall from which he never fully recovered. He kept many lifelong friends and treasured them all - never forgetting the names and faces of even casual acquaintances. He always spoke admiringly of his friends and relatives. Jack Graziano's heart and his door were always open and he made strangers feel like they were part of the family. A true American Hero and a great family man, he will be missed.
Jack Graziano is remembered, and is a fine example of the ways that natives of our community continue to put a unique and positive stamp on the world around them.
Submitted by Kitty Helm
Sipping From the Spring
A remembrance from Kevin Childs
The painting that accompanies this narration is named 'The Mountain Spring'. It's at the base of what is sometimes referred to as a mountain, and since it is a spring, I imagine the name could be construed as being accurate. If the painting is somehow missing from this page, then try to imagine water dripping from the overhead granite rock of a grotto-like area at the base of a two hundred foot sheer cliff. Got the visual? Can you hear the drip, drip, drip or gurgle of cool water flowing into a small pool? Are your eyes closed as you visualize the scene? Obviously they're not, since you're reading these words......so let's continue,
This type of "spring" appears throughout the Hudson Highlands, but this one is quite special because this "Mountain Spring" belongs to us, the villagers of Highland Falls. During my formative years, spanning the 1950's to the early 1960's, the advantage of living in a small town included the belief that the world was pure and natural...and that included the water. At that time, water from every source in Highland Falls was probably as pure as natural spring water can be. From my earliest years, family walks often included a jaunt down the twisting road past long abandoned homesites, and the remnants of a small reservoir from the previous century. The walk terminated at the colorful Highland Falls train station, a building design that was reflected at the depots in small towns across the nation. The Hudson River to a child is a watery expanse that may instll fear, dread, and awe; but seems to always draw them to its shores again and again. People from the village are well aware that the shoreline of a river near a railroad track is not the scene one see's in photo's of vacation destinations; however, that fact doesn't detract from enjoying the experience. Backing up a bit, we return to 'The Mountain Spring'...and the drip, drip, gurgle that I was talking about. With spring water this tasty coming from a natural tap in the mountain, the Childs family took advantage of the spring's close proximity to the family home on Redoubt Street.
I remember having to walk two short blocks east on Drew Avenue before having to cross the double obstacle of Main Street and West Point Highway and eventually meeting the beginnings of Station Hill...with Gallagher's Woods to the north, and the Ladycliff College Campus to the south. I should point out that during these walks, our family usually carried containers of various sizes and shapes, in order to be able to return home with water, precious water, precious spring water to be enjoyed during the days following. Travelling down the hill was an easy jaunt, but the return taxed the growing muscles of the Childs children. After reaching 'The Mountain Spring', and often having to wait in a short line of familiar water seekers from adjacent neigborhoods, we filled the jugs and containers to overflowing and gathered for the return to Redoubt Street. What was at first an amble, was now a trek. Going up Station Hill, we paused quite often; placing the jugs on the road to the accompanyment of exasperated gasps and theatrical gestures. The walk up the hill actually wasn't that hard, but then again children do tend to be overly demonstrative when airing minor complaints. This simple joys of youth and family enjoying life made the Highland Falls experience what remains a wonderful memory today.
- A small touch of Highland Falls - Contributed by Kevin Childs -
As a final note to this remembrance, I do recall being told in the early 1960's that the spring water from 'The Mountain Spring' had been tested and found to unfit for human consumption. Does anyone have a copy of that report? Was this a case of water that was available to the general public, but not subject to fluoridation, being declared unfit due to that very fact? If anyone has the answer to my question, please post, email, or contact me in some way.
Luigi & Lucia
Kitty Helm Padgett submitted the following:
"For anyone interested, the following is a little history re: Luigi and Lucia Graziano as told by a cousin (Peder Hansen) in his words. Note: I have only edited this slightly from the original e-mail."
"Luigi and Lucia Graziano had boarders for years, who were largely stone masons from Italy that worked on many of the West Point projects as well as Old 9W. It is believed that either one of Luigi's brothers or cousins (in Brooklyn) was a baker and Luigi spent time with him before getting work at West Point. So, when he arrived in HF, one of his earliest entrepreneurial projects (after buying the house at 23 Center St., which had had a serious fire, was available at a discount, and rebuilding it) was to bake bread, selling and delivering it locally. For a while he delivered as far as Beacon (on the ferry). Apparently, winter was a more profitable time for his business because in those days the Hudson River used to freeze over quite a bit (no icebreakers then) and he didn't have to take the ferry to make deliveries.
The neat thing about the house at 23 Center is that it still had so many reminders of how hard our grandparents, and their kids, worked. There is (and since the house is still there (re: Zillow.com)) a wonderful old large brick bread oven in the rear of the basement. It's the kind with the big domed interior. In the middle part of the basement was a large double concrete containment where Luigi and his brothers would make wine each year from the grapes growing on the arbor (it is visible in many of the old photos taken in the garden). At the front of the basement there was a butchering room, lined with cork for insulation, with large hooks all around high on the walls and a sloping floor with a drain in the center. This is where the beef cows were slaughtered. Apparently what was the parking lot at 21 Center Street was a pasture, extending down to McCullum's Lane, where the barn building was. The best memory I have of our grandmother (Lucia Graziano) while she was still living, when I was about 3 or 4, we, my mother (Mary Graziano Hansen), grandmother and myself were in the driveway next to the house and our grandmother grabbed two ducks that were in the yard. We followed her into the basement to the area by the meat room, where she laid them out on the chopping block, grabbed a large hatchet and quickly cut their heads off. It was weird to see their heads on the floor, initially still quacking. So anyway, I guess between the garden, the cows, the bread making and running a supermarket, the boarders were a natural, or maybe it was the other way around. What's a few kids added to the mix? A different time of very hard working people.
There is one more interesting thing about house that you may not know. I recall when I was quite young, before or just after our grandmother died, that there was an old player piano on the north side porch. It was the now very rare kind that had all the instruments inside. No one wanted it, and I seem to remember someone (an adult, with money) actually paying the junk man $5.00 to haul it away. I'm thinking that it was probably left over from the earlier days of the house. The entire second floor had been turned into lodging for the boarders by our grandfather, then into apartments for rent, but before that it had all been open, because the entire space was a theatre. When you go into the attic you can see it, a nice big arched plaster ceiling stretching high up and over the apartment ceilings, from one side to the other. There were three very large diameter (2' or so) beams that stretched from one side to the other to help the walls support the ceiling, I guess. The stage was at the east end, and in the attic you can see the top of the proscenium stretching from one side to the other. The whole big square portion of the house on the east end of the main house had been added onto the main building. It was the backstage and dressing rooms area. When I was a kid I drew up many plans for restoring it someday but, of course, they were never to be."
- Submitted by kitty Helm Padgett-
The Scott Family - Remembered
Richie Scott - Tom Scott - Dave Whittier
From the pen of Tom Scott:
I can do this now, because these guys would kill me as I never heard a peep from the Scotts about their accomplishments. All information is newsprint, and recollections from my Mom, and others who knew. The three guys pictured above are my Dad on left, and his brother on HIS right (Richie Scott). Standing alone is their nephew, my cousin Dave Whittier who was the Grandson of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and was pretty much raised as a brother to the Scotts. Adding to his notoriety, Dave was the first High School kid to throw the javelin 200 feet! He was also a multi sport star at NYU, and my Mom's first College boyfriend there in the East Village. Moving along, my Dad was a multi county, and state track champion, who entered NYU, as an Olympic hopeful in the discus. When dad applied for entrance to West Point, he was denied due to his size. When he made all East at NYU, West Point finally relented and took him in. He did well in three sports for Army at West Point, highlighted by his play in the famous Army / Notre Dame football game at Yankee Stadium. He and his teammates were in the process of laying the foundation for Army as multiple National Champs. The years passed, and as a disabled Battle of the Bulge vet, dad played pro ball briefly, coached, and eventually turned down the job as Director of Player Personnel, for the Miami Seahawks; soon to become the Baltimore Colts. On the Navy side of the family, my Uncle Richie was inducted into the College Football hall of Fame with Pete Dawkins. Click HERE for a connection to the Hall of Fame website. The notice in the local paper (Middletown Times Herald at bottom right) was small, probably due to Uncle Richie being Navy. Richie Scott from up on Schneider Avenue, was the MVP of The Army / Navy Game that was voted the first 100 years of college football's best game. This was over the exploits of Blanchard and Davis, also known as Mister Inside and Mister Outside. He was Captain on the Navy Football team, President of his class, and Midshipmen Brigade Commander #1! By the way, he also starred in Basketball and Lacrosse, and I believe that his five Associated Press Lineman of the Week awards in a single season, still stands as a record. One last note about the photos; the hockey picture is obviously taken from the Big Rock on Long Pond.
-Contributed by Tom Scott-
More "Tales of Tommy" - aka
Edward Tom Donnery, aka
Tommy came upon a large H
signifying athletic prowess and achievement.
Regarding acquisition of the various pins, Tommy's explanation follows:
(The corrected version...updated by Tommy....ow lets see if I can remember how I won all these Pins.
Well I finally got the cheer pin thanks to Linda Matz. She gave it to me for dating a cheer leader but I really dated three. Arlene Spellman, Pat Tupacz, and Peg Sorge RIP. THREE of the loveliest young ladies that ever shook a pom pom for good old HFHS. I hope that Arlene and Pat are still cheering their family's and friends on to do good. I know Peggy is up in heaven cheering us all on to be better husbands, wives, parents and grandparents.
Now every time I look at that big H, I will have a smile on my lips and love in my heart for everyone I knew on high school. I want to thank Linda for giving me her cheer pin, as it makes the whole letter come together. I hope we can all get together again soon. Let's not wait to long.
Kevin Childs, you can now add this to make the story about the H have a happy ending. Hope to see everyone soon. I hope everyone can remember High School as the good days from long long ago. (Done...kc)
With love to everyone....Tommy
Albie's Car & Cigarbox Stories