Carmine Ciancetta

August 7, 2013

Claverack, NY


Marcella Beigel

Marcella Beigel
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Carmine was born in Hudson and lived here until he was 39 years old. His father Jimmy came from Italy as a teenager and settled in New York City and got a job working on Holland Tunnel. He had three or four cousins in Hudson. So he came to Hudson, met Carmine’s mother when she was 15 and married her. He used to do concrete work. 

Carmine didn’t complete high school and he learned all the trades on his own. His first job was at a mushroom factory in Hudson for $.35 hr. It was seasonal work only when the mushrooms were ripe. They went out of business so he worked at a refrigerator plant, until it went bankrupt after three or four years. He then worked at Universal Match Factory on printing presses making advertising on matchbook covers, but the spray to dry the ink interfered with his breathing so he quit. He then started photography, which was always of interest. He worked on black and white developing and mixing chemicals. He bought bulk chemicals and developed 4x5 sheet films for newspapers, drying, printing the photos and then putting them on the paper. The biggest part of the business was photo restoration, which was copying old photos.

As kids they spent time at the river. There were Hudson River Day Line trips, coming up from New York City in the morning arriving about 11am. The other boat left Albany in the morning going to Hudson. They were big river boats: Peter Stuyvesant, Alexander Hamilton, Washington Irving. They could carry 5,000 people. There was a recreational park at Kingston Point River. People could take the morning boat out and come home on the afternoon one, spending the day at the park. He did that with his mother once. During WWII these boats were used for troop ships, after the war the Day Line started again but only came to Poughkeepsie, NY. 

Train travel was good too: every 20 minutes the train arrived at the station, night and day. The old steam engines on the trains were dirty. On the lower end of Hudson women hated it. They would hang their clean sheets out and then the sheets would get sooty and they had to redo the laundry. Then the diesel engines started running, which ended the soot problem. They were noisy and would chug a mile away. If you lived on State Street below 3rd Street you could feel the ground shake when the freight trains went through Hudson, because Hudson is built on rock. The train had an excursion fare on the weekend allowing you to go to New York City for the whole weekend for $3 or $4.

Italians lived from 3rd Street to Allen Street, Robinson Street and down to the river including Union, Columbia, Warren, State and other streets that no longer exist like Chapel Street, and Pennoyer near the railroad. 

Carmine remembers back in the day kids had more discipline, did their homework, were home by 9pm or punished. There was no Little League, instead they started their own ball team. They went to different businesses that would sponsor teams, buy sweatshirts. The kids played on Robinson Street behind the health building. The ball diamond was there and still is. But parents were not there so there were no arguments. Everyone got along. Nobody had money for toys, so they would make scooters themselves by getting an old orange crate which was bigger then, nail the crate to an old 2’ x 4’, get two sticks for handlebars, take apart an old roller skate, and screw the wheels on to the front and back. For wagons they took a plank and baby carriage wheels, put a rope on it to steer and coast down hills. 

His family had six kids: three girls and three boys. He has lost two brothers and recently a sister. His family had a house on State Street where he may have been born. They lived there until 1941. It was his grandfather's house. Carmine’s family had the 2nd floor and his grandfather had the 1st floor. Carmine’s father worked at the cement plant as a master mechanic, making $16.00 a week back in the 1930s and 1940s. They also had a house on Union Street just above the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which they bought for $1,200.00. It needed a little work. Carmine and his father did all the work. The family lived there until 1961 when Carmine got married and moved to Claverack. Carmine met Carol by teaching accordion. First they rented a house on the corner of Routes 217 & 23. Then they bought their house for $10,000.00! Claverack used to be a wealthy area because of high taxes, but it’s not too bad now with STAR and Vet tax breaks.

Carmine’s father worked hard, took care of the family and was too busy working. In the 1960s his father got sick and couldn’t work anymore. He was a smoker and the dust from the Atlas Cement Plant caused him to have emphysema. He was too young for Social Security then. He lived to 85 years old and died in the 1980s. His mother died in the 1990s at 86 years of age.  Carmine helped support the family. But now no one is left, and no friends either. His family only ate at home, not in restaurants. They ate ice cream only from Memorial Day to Labor Day! He remembers the holidays when his mother’s grandfather would have the whole family for a big feast at his house for Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. 

There was an ice house on the corner until a few years ago. Pulver Gas & Oil Co. is where the Hudson City Park is now. His grandfather owned one of the houses on the left hand side. Back in 1929 when Prohibition started he had a boarding house and sold beer and food. With Prohibition, he couldn’t get beer so gave it up. The Lenox was the name still on the building until a few years ago when the building was torn down. It was located on Ferry Street. Back then Hudson didn’t have much. But it did have more work, it had more factories that made more varieties of stuff, and then the factories got unionized. People moved away when Hudson started to change. No work, so young people left for work. Carmine thinks Hudson is worse off now than it ever was. There is too much of an element of crime coming up here. People from cities move in then the crime rate follows them. Also New Yorkers came to Hudson and changed the whole neighborhood. They bought property and then dramatically raised rents so high that ended business for Carmine. People used to be friendlier; you didn’t have to be afraid to walk to the river past the high rise. Not today!

Before enlisting in the Navy during WWII he worked on the railroad as a telegraph signalman.  Towers controlled train movements, reporting to the dispatcher the arrival and departure of trains but electronics ended those jobs. Carmine also worked at the Rowles Studio to learn the trade before WWII.  

When Carmine owned Rowles Studio he learned much about the history of Hudson. An old timer who was 97 in 1957 would come to talk about the old Hudson River freight train night line that carried both passengers and freight from Albany to NYC. Another old timer talked about buildings in Hudson. Rowles Studio had a collection covering the years 1850 to 1930, made in 1950 by Forshew Brothers. They were the first studio. When they died, it became the Whitbeck Studio then the Rowles Studio. An older generation took it from 1900 to 1981, before it was taken over by Carmine. Carmine gave the Hudson Area Library History Room a set of those pictures.

He worked with Rowles till 1981. When the owner died Carmine bought the studio. He moved the studio from its location across the street from the Hook and Ladder Firehouse on Warren Street to an old building by the park. Carmine said the store was robbed frequently. Although the police said they knew who the thieves were, and dope was involved, they never found the thieves. Picture framing was good, better than the photo business until wood became too expensive. 

Most of the work was commercial work and not portraits. Environmental work he did on his own for fun. The B&W photos that the Library has were taken by Forshew Brothers who opened the studio, but Whitback and Rowles took most of the photographs, but not for hire, rather, they sold them for $2 - $3 and later as much as $10.00 apiece. When he bought the business he was told he had to make a set for the Hudson Area Library, The DAR, and another three or four sets to clear the estate. For some families he made a whole set of about 100 pictures. He closed the business in 1986 and retired due to inflation. 

Carmine played in an orchestra from 1957 to 1981, playing at banquets and weddings and he had a day job. He started playing accordion at 13 years old in 1939. The father-in-law of his grandfather left a “button accordion” that he was given. Carmine learned to play through members of family; his uncle taught him theory, his cousin taught harmony and theory and Carmine learned to read music. Carmine taught accordion to Italian and Polish kids for 20-30 years. 

Carmine played in a band until 1982 or 83. Then he played at all the nursing homes in the county. He enjoyed the band, learned a lot of new stuff. He played modern music, and games. He met many types of people through playing and traveled a lot. He misses it, and misses the people. Many people recognize him when he’s out from his days when he taught their kids or played at their parties.

Carmine has a 1982 City Directory from Polk Publishers, which lists every business in the city. Salesmen would come to get all the information, the address and what business did. It listed most of the people who lived in Claverack, Hudson, Stottville, Stockport. The directories cost $100.00 every year. He used the addresses for billing purposes.

He has his father’s book that lists all WWI soldiers from Columbia County but not for WWII. 

Carmine discussed the many fires that there were in Hudson; Evans Brewery from the 1930s when it was behind the Robinson Street School (they all went there) on Mill Street. It was a very windy day, blowing sparks all over the city; it set shingles on fire on many other roofs. They needed help from every other fire company in the county plus from across the Hudson River to help. Wind carried embers all over the city and completely burned up the plant. Another fire was the St. Mary’s School fire on the corner from 9G. The janitors would put whale oil on the floors in schools when cleaning, every floor was covered in oil, so when it caught fire, it burned like crazy. They had to pump water from the river, but it burned to the ground. Carmine’s house had a flat tin roof so the fire didn’t touch it.

Interviewer Bio:

Marcella Beigel

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