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About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

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Villager Portrait—Chick Galella

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Chick Galella 2

Chick was present and in uniform during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.  On the day before Veteran’s Day in 1999—nineteen years ago—I interviewed my friend, Armando “Chick” Galella.  The article below was the result of that interview.  Chick is one of the few who can say he witnessed the attack, the event which launched the United States into World War II.    

Chick Galella’s family moved to 26 Barnhart Avenue in 1922 when he was only one.  He and his older brothers, Frank and Alfred, were still very young when their father died on December 3, 1923.  The Depression hit before Chick reached his adolescence.  Money was tight, but North Tarrytown seemed like a place where friends were always invited to dinner.  As a youth he was slight of build; that is how he got the nick name, “Chick.”

Chick Galella 1Among Chick’s best buddies were John, William, and Roger Horan, Jack Maguire, Paul Danko, Bob Sherry—all of them gone now.  Betsy Conover lived in the big house at the end of Barnhart and Alice Duquette lived on DeVries Avenue in Philipse Manor.  Groups of kids went to the pavilion at Kingsland Point Park, where they had a Juke box.  At the park they enjoyed dances and swimming.

Like other local boys, Chick earned money for his senior dance by caddying at Rockwood Hall Golf Course.  Chick graduated in 1939, but employment prospects were not good, the GM plant was operating on a single shift.  One day in 1940, he was sitting on the stone wall in front of the school building on Beekman Avenue, with friends Charlie Bannon, Lou Caney, Eddie Delfay, and Jack Maguire—they all decided to enlist in the U. S. Army. 

Chick started out at Fort Slocum in New Rochelle.  Chick “shipped out” on the USS Hunter Liggett from Brooklyn Army Base.  He passed through the Panama Canal, and arrived a Fort McDowell, CA before sailing for Hawaii.  He was assigned to the 53rd Signal Corps at Hickam Air Base, right next to Pearl Harbor.

Hawaii was beautiful.  Chick’s unit worked on establishing telephone communications at Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, and on the Island of Kauai.  They were trained well.  In the event of  trouble, their job was to protect the equipment that would reestablish vital communications.

In those days, friendships and simple pleasures were about all a serviceman could afford on seventeen dollar per month.  He could take a trip into town with friends like Jack Horan (NTHS, class of ‘37), or spend a Sunday morning reading the paper after breakfast.  It was a quiet Sunday morning after breakfast, December 7th, 1941, when the world changed abruptly for Chick.  The change came sharp, loud, and violently.  He remembers the concussion of the bombs, the columns of black smoke and the Zeros roaring over head—the ensignias visible on the attacking planes.

Chick and his company did their jobs that day.  They managed to get their equipment to safety.  It would be needed to reestablish the essential communications between the bases.  He soon learned that his close buddy, Jack Horan, had responded to the attack by doing his job too.  Jack’s barracks were less than one hundred yards from Chick’s.  Jack was killed by shrapnel in the second wave.  John Hersey wrote of Jack Horan, “He was trying, in the face of unpreparedness and unawareness to fight back.  That was a good and brave way to die.”  Chick says, the heros are the ones who did not make it back.

In the days and months following the attack, Chick’s company grew to a battalion.  Chick had a high school diploma, and promotions came fast. Within a year and a half Chick was serving as a sergeant-major.  His unit crossed the Pacific, with assignments in Peleliu and Tinian.  In the summer of 1945, they landed at Okinawa on “D+3.” 

It was a grim place of heat, death, and hasty burials.  The enemy planes from Japan paid regular visits.  Chick still has some of the Okinawan “invasion money” issued to the GI’s.

When Chick returned home, one person came down to the Tarrytown Station to greet him—his mother.  He had left home at the age of eighteen, he returned a twenty-three year-old man.  He went to work as a mechanic at Tom Brown Chevrolet in Pleasantville, soon he joined the car dealership’s sales force.

In 1947, he married Leda DiFelice at the old Immaculate Conception Church in North Tarrytown (present-day Sleepy Hollow).  Leda was born in Abruzzi, Italy, and she came to the US in 1936, at the age of twelve.  The DiFelice family lived on Chestnut Street, and Chick’s aunt lived in the red house on the corner—that is how the couple met. Chick and Leda moved into their present home on Depeyster Street in 1951, a historic house built in 1851.

In 1954 he began working at Cawood Motors in North Tarrytown.  The owners, Allen and Harry, lived on Fremont Road in Sleepy Hollow Manor.  Then Frank Mirenda took over, and the business became Frank Chevrolet.  Chick worked for Frank and then Frank’s son-in-law, Joseph Carlisto, and then Joseph’s son, Robert.  Unlike so many men of his generation, Chick never worked at the GM plant.  He says, “chasing the iron horse” was very hard work. 

Chick served as a village trustee from 1969 to 1979.  He ran for mayor too.  In those days the burning issues in the village were the Hudson River Expressway and federally-funded housing—Urban Renewal.  Chick feels that the village should be led by those who have their hearts in the community.  He thinks Sleepy Hollow would gain by having its own zip code. Chick has high hopes about the village’s future. 

I asked him what is important in life.  He said, give of yourself with an open heart, and you will get something invaluable back.

 

 

[Copyright © 2018 Henry John Steiner]

“Target Man”—John B. Jervis

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

John Bloomfield Jervis was one of the great American civil engineers of the nineteenth century.  Late in that century, many of his achievements had been eclipsed by even grander designs than the seemingly indelible marks he left on the American landscape—particularly in the State of New York. Yet perhaps Jervis’s greatest success was himself.  He was a man whose mind, ambition, and character allowed him to rise from cart driver to the grandest of civic “architects.”  He changed the path of his own career from what might have been a life of menial, physical labor in upstate New York, to that of a “masterbuilder” of the early United States.  His works were instrumental to making New York State “the Empire State.”

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

As we walk the terrain of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown today, we encounter the great products of Jervis’s skill and imagination.  There is no doubt that his productions transformed this community in many fundamental ways.  The Hudson River Railroad is just one imposing example—still significant and still in operation after 170 years.

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A Local Native American Creation Story

Commentary by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

“…God was with the woman who dwells with him, and no one knows when that was, or where they had come from. Water was all there was, or at any rate water covered and overran everything… What then took place, they say, was that the

Creation Spirit Woman

Creation “Beautiful Spirit Woman”

aforementioned beautiful woman or idol descended from heaven into the water. She was gross and big like a woman who is pregnant with more than one child. Touching down gently, she did not sink deep, for at once a patch of land began to emerge under her at the spot where she had come down, and there she came to rest and remained. The land waxed greater so that dry patches became visible around the place where she sat, as happens to someone standing on a sandbar in three or

Creation waves

Creation waves

four feet of water while it ebbs away and eventually recedes so far that it leaves him entirely on dry land. That is how it was with the descended goddess, they say and believe, the land ever widening around her until its edge disappeared from view. Gradually grass and other vegetation sprang up and in time, also fruit-bearing and other trees, and from this, in brief, the whole globe came into being much as it appears to this day. Now, whether the world you speak of and originally came from was then created as well, we are unable to say.

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Twenty Years Later—Recapturing Sleepy Hollow

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Just a few personal thoughts…

I reflect with gratitude on an important date in Sleepy Hollow history, something particularly meaningful to me. Twenty years ago this month, along with many other dedicated folks, I helped to recover Sleepy Hollow’s identity. It was lost and we found it. That I am able to say this means a lot to me.

Henry Steiner-and-Chris Skelly.jpg

Henry Steiner and Christopher Skelly, Co-Leaders of the 1996 Sleepy Hollow Renaming

December 10th, 1996, was the rewarding culmination of a significant struggle. Through it, we were able to reinstate the legacy of Sleepy Hollow as an important historic and legendary American place. My colleagues and I saw the thing that we had worked so long and hard for finally come to pass. Many committed women and men joined in the campaign, and among them was my friend and Renaming Campaign co-leader, Christopher Skelly.

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The Holiday Fish …or… Mutants in the Hudson

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Introducing the tomcod

Before we suburbanites came to Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and the other river towns, there were the millionaires—our neighborhoods are carved from their estates.  Before them, there were farmers—they displaced (to put it nicely) the Native American farmer/hunters who inhabited these lands for thousands of years. But even before the native people there was the humble tomcod, swimming in the Hudson.

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Sleepy Hollow’s December Fish

December has long been the month for tomcod (Microgadus tomcod), also known as the Atlantic tomcod, tommy cod, frostfish, poulamon (French), or winter cod. I wonder how many hungry, bygone residents of our community have sustained themselves on tomcod when there was little else at hand? Few of us give these small creatures a passing thought, or even know that they exist at all. Be that as it may, they are out there now, along the edge of the Hudson—a modest little fish. It is described as an “in-shore fish,” rarely swimming into deep water, sticking to shallows, estuaries, and tributaries. And it loves the cold, being able to tolerate extremely cold temperature and significant fluctuations in water salinity.

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Native American Fish Fire-17th century

The similarity and dissimilarity of the tomcod to the codfish

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Native Son—Rockwell Kent

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

The solitary figure in an austere landscape is the emblem of Rockwell Kent’s rugged individualism. Kent’s work is homage to the mystic power and beauty found in both man and nature. The “elemental” reigned supreme in the artist’s view of life, nature, and his art. One familiar example of this theme is the bookplate he designed for the Warner Library about 1947. A man stands, book in hand, near the crest of a hill; the wide Tappan Zee and the hills of Nyack lie in the background. This image and Kent’s distinctive artistic style were etched into my memory from the time I first borrowed a book from the Warner Library as a young child. As I recall, there was a time when Kent’s bookplate was pasted into the endpaper of nearly every book in the library.

 The scenes of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown are no match for the stark drama of Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, Newfoundland, and Greenland, which fills much of Kent’s work, but these Hudson Valley hills served as the artist’s spiritual incubator. The man was a set of contradictions, a sociable introvert, a cantankerous sentimentalist, a mix of Victorian formality and radical non-conformity, an avowed socialist whose patrons included corporations and the wealthy. This strange mix would lead to a kind of artistic and political rejection during his lifetime; some might call it a suicide, others a crucifixion.

young Rockwell Kent

Young Rockwell Kent

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Just In… A Note from the Past… Rockwood Hall

Rockwood Hall about 1911

Rockwood Hall about 1911

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

My friend Ed Murphy just sent me a message from Las Vegas.  It’s always great to hear from him, because, whenever Ed gets contemplative about his hometown, he generally fills in another piece of the Sleepy Hollow picture.

Rockwood Hall is one of Sleepy Hollow’s wonderful scenic assets, and a favorite with many of us:

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The Celebrated Wife — At Home in Sleepy Hollow

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

AUT_5204

Years ago, I got tired of writing about prominent nineteenth century males. The women were out there somewhere, but they often operated behind the scenes. How do you write about nineteenth century women if they are required to live in the shadows of men? Jessie Benton Fremont provided an unheard of solution; she wrote about herself and her life.

This woman led a momentous, varied, and courageous life in which her finances swung between wealth and poverty. In the end, she was forced to support herself and her family by writing. Jessie spent some of her happiest years and most stressful days in Sleepy Hollow.

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Thanksgiving Past

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Thanksgiving 1959. Could it be fifty-five years ago? My Austrian grandmother, grandfather, and aunt would drive up together to Tarrytown from their apartments on the Upper West Side for Thanksgiving dinner at the Steiner house on Crest Drive. The bread was picked up early that day from Alter’s Bakery on Cortlandt Street, with Mary gently cautioning from behind the counter that the loaves were still too warm to slice. And the car ride back to the house, with the German corn-rye bread speaking its aroma to my nostrils in its strange foreign tongue. The bread was a local creation that all the assembled adults lauded without reserve, filling me with a kind of youthful civic pride. The children would make “pipes” from the crust of a bread slice, a crust that had the texture of prime beef.

Alter's Bakery & Cortlandt StThe dinner that my French mother prepared was standard Thanksgiving fare. Maybe the string beans almondine would not appear on every table in the community. We had rice instead of potatoes, but, until I married an Irish-American, I had no idea of the magnitude of sin that was being committed. Indeed, even the Pilgrims were immigrants and had to be schooled in the correct way to set a Thanksgiving dinner by their Native American hosts.

1959-pink-ge-cropped

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The Sleepy Hollow Tracker

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

I wrote this article about Sleepy Hollow resident Tony Morabito in 2009. Tony passed away in September 2014. I will always remember him fondly as a Sleepy Hollow/North Tarrytown orginal.

morabito2morabito1

It was the late 1950s. A lone horseman rode the trails of the Rockefeller estate near Eagle Mountain, a part of the Rockefeller Preserve.   A lone archer emerged from the woods dressed in a plaid shirt and dungarees. The rider brought his horse to a halt.

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