The Hoffman Family and Memories of Growing up in Amsterdam

Donated by Robert Deal Hoffman


John1 HUFMAN was born in 1776 or 1779 in Manheim. He married Ann BIDELMAN (also spelled BYDELMAN and BIDEMAN). She was born 5 Oct 1783 in Herkimer.

Charles HOFFMAN (also spelled HOOFMAN) [John1] was born 11 Jun 1815. He married Louisa TIBBETS. She was born in 1822 or 1825.

Harry HOFFMAN [Charles2, John1] was born 8 Nov 1848 in Amsterdam, NY and died 14 Oct 1928. He married Amanda WINDECKER. She was born 23 Apr 1839 and died 30 Nov 1920.

Fred Wilbur HOFFMAN [Harry3, Charles2, John1]was born 13 Jun 1871 or 1873 in Amsterdam, NY and died 11 Nov 1936 possibly in Gary, Indiana. He married Ella McNEE.

Clarence R. HOFFMAN [Fred Wilbur4, Harry3, Charles2, John1] was born 15 Jan 1894 in Amsterdam, NY and died in 1963 in Amsterdam, NY. He is also buried in Amsterdam. He married Margaret DEAL. She was born in 1894 in Amsterdam, NY and died in 1982 in Millersburg, Ohio. She is also buried in Amsterdam.

by Robert Deal Hoffman

In the late 30s Amsterdam, NY was in a depression, probably most of the country. Population was close to 30,000 and the racial mixture was Polish and Lithuanians mostly living in the Cork Hill area, Italians, mostly living in the 5th Ward across the river, and Irish and white Anglo-Saxon protestants living on Market Hill.

I received $0.25 if I went to Sunday School ("a must") at the 2nd Presbyterian Church. It was spent at the Tryon theater for a movie serial, Flash Gordon, and candy on Saturday afternoon.

The Public Schools were made up of neighborhood elementary schools, one Junior High and one Senior High School. There was no bus transportation. I went to the Arnold Ave School grades K thru 5. In the attic of this school there was an attic that had no heat, had a very low ceiling and a basketball basket. Sixth grade was at Academy Street School, then Junior High 7 thru 9 down Market Hill and then Senior High partly back up the hill. Some students had very long walks. We had a big sports program which I was part of.

The weather in Amsterdam was very bad in the winter. We had snow piled up on the side of the street December thru March. It was black snow from the "soot" from the coal furnaces that most people had. We got coal through a shute in a basement window to a storage box. My job was to put water in a spot in the furnace daily to keep humidity in the air.

How did I get to Senior High? We had to go through a field. Who would be the first person to make a path in the foot of snow?

As the snow melted in March we would have match stick races in the water along the curb on the way to Arnold Ave school after we came back from lunch. The school had no cafeteria.

I was responsible to get my milk, $0.11 a quart, and a cube steak, $0.22, from the small grocery store. Thats about all I ate. I had a mutt dog named "Pal" who was very happy to see me when I came home from the war after two years overseas in Europe.

Amsterdam was a "big" commercial city which had two of the largest rug mills in the nation (Biglow Sanfords and Mohawk). Brooms, buttons and light clothing were big items. All the commercial stores were on Main St. (a mile long). Holzamer and Shaw, a big store had a unique payment system. The clerk put the bill and your money in a container which went up overhead on a track to an office which took the money and sent back the change and receipt. As the war came upon us, all the companies were making items for the military. Many people went to Schenectady, NY (15 miles) to work in the General Electric Co. and the American Locomotive Co. (now making tanks). The main transportation was trolley cars and busses later on.

Other than the Rug mills, the big thing Amsterdam was noted for (in later years) was the movie star Kirk Douglas. He wrote the book "The Ragman's Son" and Amsterdam became famous. Yes, his father was a Russian Jew and he had a horse and wagon, coming up on Market Hill collecting rags and junk. They lived on Eagle Street. My Aunt's house was on Sweeney street, the next street over, on the east end of town. I met him occasionally as a child, although he was a bit older than me. Fortunately as an 8th grader, I got to go to Camp Agaming for two weeks. Who was my camp counsellor? Ozzie Dempsky. I had the pleasure to meet him at a book signing store in Scottsdale, AZ, last year. We briefly talked over old times.

I guess that's about all I can think of right now - oh yes, I had a paper route of 60 papers, 6 days a week from 9th grade thru High School with help (Amsterdam Evening Recorder). When the price was $0.18 a week, I got no tips. When the paper went to $0.24 a week, I still got a few pennies from a quarter. We were in a Depression!

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Established: 10 Feb 2004
Copyright © 2004 Robert Deal Hoffman / Lisa K. Slaski
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