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Moo-vie captures town in ’85


New DVD uses work of media pros who profiled Ancram

ANCRAM–In the 10 or so minutes it takes to watch this new DVD, a viewer encounters a slice of this town’s past a quarter century ago, when there were more cows than people.

The year was 1985: Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president, a gallon of gasoline cost $1.09, a loaf of bread $1, a first-class stamp 22 cents, and a movie ticket $2.75.

Back then Supervisor Gerry Simons was the man in charge, residents could choose from three places to buy gas, pick up a loaf of bread at two general stores, get stamps from Sue Stickle at the Ancram Post Office or Marge Hoysradt in Ancramdale and “Back to the Future” was playing at the movies.

The sights and faces seen around Ancram 25 years ago are the subject of “Ancram 1985,” a new DVD of 79 Kodachrome color slides shot by the self-proclaimed Two Harolds–Harold Faber and Harold Zuckerman. The scenes and people in the pictures are identified by narrator Joseph Dembo.

Mr. Faber was a longtime reporter and editor for The New York Times, who died in January. Mr. Zuckerman was a school administrator; he died in 2006; Mr. Dembo, a CBS radio executive and journalism professor, died in March. All three lived in Ancram and loved it.

The three men collected the slides, most shot in the summer and fall, in a carousel and gave a showing of their project at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society back in the day.

Several years ago when the Fabers moved out of town, Doris Faber gave the slides, an accompanying written script and a tape recording of Mr. Dembo’s narration to Ancram Historian Clara Van Tassel.

The two women still visit and during a recent conversation, Mrs. Faber asked Mrs. Van Tassel whatever became of the slides and tape and wouldn’t it be nice to somehow resurrect them.

Not having a slide projector anymore, Mrs. Van Tassel didn’t see how that was possible until she made some inquiries and paid a visit to Hudson Audio Video Enterprises, Inc., (HAVE) on Power Avenue in Hudson. The media service business was able to scan the slides, coordinate them with the voice recording and produce a DVD. Using some of the slides chosen by Mrs. Van Tassel, they also created a DVD cover incorporating the bridge over the Roeliff Jansen Kill at the Ancram Mill and a field of grazing Holsteins on the front. A map and other local scenes appear on the back.

“This is a look at Ancram, NY in 1985, a small rural town on the Roeliff Jansen Kill in Columbia County… The Town of Ancram is very fortunate to have these images and voice preserved,” reads part of the note written on the back by Mrs. Van Tassel.

The slides present an inventory of the town at the time.

The churches, the cemetery, the firehouse, the golf course, the Landowners’ Pavilion, the Opera House, the mill, Simons General Store, the bars, the liquor store, new businesses and even the landfill are all included.

The historic Morrison versus Sullivan prizefight in Boston Corners is documented, along with what used to be the annual Ancram Summer Fest at Blass Memorial Field.

Dairy farms figure prominently in the DVD, with dairy farming identified as the town’s longstanding major industry. At least two farms–the Millers’ and the Hoysradts’–date back to before the Revolution.

The population of the town was 1,300. There were 23 dairy farms and 2,100 cows. Field corn and alfalfa were grown to feed the cows, and large round hay bales were just starting to appear in place of small rectangular ones.

A few horse farms, some beef farms and exotic cattle such as Scottish Highlanders were all in evidence.

Historic houses, like the octagonal house and the Herman Livingston house, are pictured along with some old barns converted into new residential spaces.

But the most compelling pictures are of the people.

There’s Supervisor Simons, Mike Porter, Harold Miller, Ethel Miller and her dog Sophie, Pat Hoysradt, Ernie and Olive Sigler, Jody and Lizette von Gal, Carrie Kennedy, John Derrick, Betty Hamilton, Dick Staber on the banjo and his wife Rinny Staber the potter.

Asked her favorite part, Mrs. Van Tassel rattles off just about everything in the DVD, but admits the photos of the people, particularly those who are no longer living, will be cherished the most.

The total cost to the town to have 50 copies of the DVD produced was $900. The DVDs are on sale now for $20 apiece and can be purchased from Mrs. Van Tassel.

Town Supervisor Art Bassin said in a recent email that people should “feel free to pay more than $20 if you would like to make a contribution to help support the town’s historical preservation activities.” Contact Mrs. Van Tassel at (518) 329-0632.

To contact Diane Valden email

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