John Brodowski

December 5, 2015

Hudson, NY


Alanna Medlock

Alanna Medlock
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John was born in Hudson. His mother came to the United States as an indentured servant from Poland to work for the Tamarin Brothers. They had a store on Front and Warren Streets. She saved money to send for John’s father who made harnesses and barrels in Poland. They bought a farm in Greenport. The first year they had cows to milk and brought the milk into town to sell. The crop was poor that year. The second year, after John was born, the crops were good. They filled the barn. But lightning struck, burning down the barn and the house. After that his father went to the Lone Star Cement plant and worked there for 35 years. In the late 1920s, the family lived on Columbia and First Streets near Front Street. It was mostly a Polish area and they lived near the Polish Church. The Irish lived near St. Mary’s Church and the same with the Italians, the Jews, etc. 

John’s parents moved from the enclave of Polish neighbors, church, stores, etc. and bought property on 5th Street. It was important to be “American”. No Polish was spoken at home. There were few language classes so when John learned to read, he helped his mother learn too. Eventually she also got her citizenship paper and became an interpreter for friends and neighbors. She helped them do whatever or go wherever they needed to go. She did not accept cash; instead people brought eggs or bread as a thank you. 

Friday and Saturday were big nights in the city. The Salvation Army on 6th Street was playing instruments and collecting donations. There were three dime stores: Woolworth, Kresge’s, Newberry’s, an Army & Navy for men’s work clothes, a haberdasher, a tailor, doctors, lawyers  and more. Between 3rd and 4th Streets on Warren Street was a town newspaper, lawyer, bakery, liquor store, sports stores, restaurants, and churches, all on one block. Between 6th and 7th Streets was the main drag, the only block with a gas station and a paint store. Blocks of bars were prevalent but John and his friends would only go inside to shine shoes.

John and his family lived on State Street between 5th and 6th Streets so he went to the 6th Street School, going directly into first grade. The use of old world remedies was frowned upon by the teachers. They would have a milk break, buying a pint bottle for a nickel and the teacher gave them some crackers. After that they had some sleepy time and later recess for playing. Sometimes the teachers kept him after school to teach him more English.

At graduation John got both a school and a state (Regents) diploma. A Regents diploma was needed for college admissions. Instead of college, he entered the Army and went to Officers’ Candidate School. He was in service for three years. 


John was on a ship the Army commissioned to carry thousands of troops to Liverpool, England. However, a submarine was following them with the intention of sinking the ship. Instead the Captain took a circuitous route through the very rough waters of the North Sea where the submarine could neither follow scope nor catch them and they landed safely.

One day they boarded ships and headed to France for the Normandy Invasion. During the landing thousands of men were lost within minutes! John and all his 15 men got safely to shoreline, and quickly moved into the hedgerows. John described the composition and purpose of the hedgerows. He was wounded and sent to Paris, then to England. Instead of being sent home, he was sent to the Battle of the Bulge. Between France and Germany there was an underground complex; like a small city. It had railroad tracks for transport of men, equipment, and food. 

John met his wife Virginia in Maryland. After they married, they came to Hudson. He was immediately hired as a typesetter at the Universal Match Factory. Then he became a copy layout man. He started his own shop in his basement. When the property on Warren Street became available he bought it. He is the 3rd owner of this printing business. It has been up and down over all these years but with predictable busy and slow times. 

Regarding the changes to Hudson, John likes the influence of out-of-towners who have brought innovative, refreshing ideas to Hudson. Antique dealers and their stores fill empty storefronts.

Interviewer Bio:

Alanna Medlock

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