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Geraldine Dowden Holmquist

NOTES FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH GERRY HOLMQUIST CONDUCTED ON FEBRUARY 21 AND MARCH 7, 2002.  PRESENT WERE GERRY AND HER HUSBAND BILL.  THE INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED BY GWEN PALMER AND BOB BAYLE.

Gerry's grandparents, Nil Michel and Justine Marie [La Rouche] Tremblay, came from Canada. They were married in Chicoutimi, Quebec. Her grandfather was a lumberjack. Her grandmother told Gerry that when Gerry's mother was born, the Indians in the area would come up to the window and look to see if the birth had occurred. Both her grandparents recalled there being many Indians in the area but they minded their own business, except in the case of the birth. . When their children were small they came to Fort Edward by boat down the Champlain Canal. He worked there on the Feeder Canal, but they lived on Stevens St. in Glens Falls. Her mother, Emelie Mary Tremblay, married Fredrick William Dowden. He also was originally from Canada and worked on the rail road. Fred was the son of Edward and Mary Ann [Taylor] Dowden. Gerry was born in a house on the comer of Stevens St. and Sherman Ave. in 1919. At that time the western part of the city was mostly inhabited by French and Jewish families.

Her family moved to Utica where her father worked on the railroad. Then they moved back to the Sherman Island area off the Corinth Road. The little community was first called Parklap, then The Colony. Her father worked for the power plant there. It was first called the power plant for International Paper, then Hudson River Power, then Eastern New York Power, and is now Niagara Mohawk. The company had put up Sears pre-fab houses for the construction men and the men that worked at the power plant.

Gerry went to school at St. Alphonsus. Because it was at least 5 miles from home, she stayed quite often with her grandparents on Stevens St. She recalls walking along the snow banks to school in the winter wearing high button boots. There was no lunch room at the St Alphonsus School at the time she was a student. She remembers usually walking to her grandparents for lunch. Sometimes a group of students would walk over to South St. and get a hot dog at Dirty John's for 5 cents and then go to the Boston Candy Kitchen, located then at the comer of Elm St. and South St., for a banana split for 25 cents. She graduated from St. Alphonsus in 1933,

She remembers hearing the animals moaning in the night at the slaughter house on the comer of Steven St. and Montcalm. St. A family by the name of Swirsky's owned the slaughter house.

As a teenager, Gerry went to school at the Glens Falls High School. She was now able to take a school bus from her home on Sherman Island, but still spent a lot of time with her grandparents on Stevens St. She said the other students would yell "here comes the cracker box for you". The bus was built with seats along either side, facing each other rather than rows facing the front. It was narrow and long. She didn't care much about sports, but went to the Eastern States Basketball Tournament games with her friends. After the games, or movies they would go to The Sugar Bowl, The Kansas Restaurant or The Commodore Restaurant. Both of these restaurants were on the first block of Warren St. She enjoyed going to all the dances. There were dances at the school, the Queensbury Hotel and the Country Club. She and her friends went to Crandall Park skating in the winter. When she was at home, they cross country skied and snowshoed on West Mt. and used to take their sleds up on Hartman Hill. Someone's parent would make sure there were no cars on the hill while they were sliding. Sometimes the men from the plant would take the fire hoses and all would help flood the field for skating.

In the summer her friends would go up to the colony. They would cook out on the out door fire place her father built. It was always so cold under the dam, ice remained there year around. They would fill a bucket with ice to pack the freezer container of the ice cream maker. After the handle was put on every one would take turns cranking to make the ice cream. They went swimming and fished in the Hudson River.. They took row boats out to fish for bullheads. Otherwise, they fished from the shore below the dam. If the water was very low, carp could be caught by hand or net. To swim in the river they had two choices. They could go to a beach at the end of the colony or finding it more challenging, they would go down by the dam or gatehouse. First they had to call and make sure the gates would be closed so they would be safe from being sucked into them. Once in a great while they would slide down the front of the dam into the water. One portion of the summer was affected by the log run. They learned from experimenting how to get around those logs by going over, around, or between them.

Gerry's family went on vacation in Maine in the summer. She usually took a friend with her. One year she remembers her father had a yellow car called a Viking with a rumble seat. They would start out about 4am because it took 8 or 9 hours to get there. She and her friend were wrapped in blankets , sharing space with luggage in the rumble seat for the whole trip.

During prohibition, one of the neighbors had a relative somehow connected with "moonshining" who often stopped to visit on his way to the City. She said when that big black car was there, we would feel a lot of excitement. He lived up north near the Canadian border. A portion of the road from there was known as the Pok-o-Moonshine Road because of the whiskey or "rum-runners" going over it between Canada and New York. She also remembers the troopers coming and arresting the people that had a still on Pitcher Road.

During the Depression days of little work and less money, The Colony was not as affected as some places. The people that lived there did realize that many were in need. If someone from the mountain came to the house looking for work or food, they were invited in for a snack and given food to take home with him.

Saturday used to be payday for most people. The stores downtown always stayed open late on Saturday. Neighbors would sometimes go into town together. Occasionally Gerry and her parents would come into town on the rail road tracks. The tracks started at the Sherman Island dam and ended at Finch Pruyn. They used the hand car [sometimes called gandy car] to make the trip. This was a small open railroad car propelled by hand pumping.

Gerry met her husband, William Holmquist, when they worked together at Black and Casey Service Station on Glen St. His family were from Sweden. They were married May 18, 1941 at St. Alphonsus by Father Quinlivan.

Gerry worked at the Power Company during the Second World War, replacing a man who had been called into service. In 1949 she lost her house there to another family who worked there and wanted the house. By then her husband was employed there, so when another house became available they moved back to The Colony. The Colony had a stone fence between the community and Corinth Road which can still be seen today. By 1956, the houses that comprised the community there had either been sold and moved off the property or torn down. Her parents were the last to leave. Gerry and her husband Bill had moved a couple of years before to Glen Lake.

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