Locals talk about the Glasco’s history and what it was like to grow up there.
Robert Aiello grew up in Glasco and is writing a memoir of life in the hamlet. He represents the area in the Ulster County Legislature. He had a hairdressing shop in the village, and is now working as a hairdresser at Freedom Haircuts on Main Street. What follows is his account of Glasco’s history and his own memories of growing up there.
The name Glasco comes from a glass manufacturer in Woodstock. The glass was taken to Glasco for shipping, and that’s where the name comes from, but the big industry was brick making. The area has good clay, and the Hudson River made it economical to ship bricks to New York City.
People came from European countries to work in industries here, and people of the same nationality settled close to each other. Glasco was mostly Italian. Cementon, up the river, was all Polish. The Washburn Brothers opened the first brick yard in Glasco in the 1890s, and turned out 8,000 or 10,000 bricks per day. They had a company store, and company housing. You can still find lots of old bricks around the Glasco mini park. The brickyard closed in the late 1950s.
My grandparents came from Calabria in the 1880s, and my grandfather worked in the brickyards – that’s where you worked. It was a backbreaking, strenuous job. There were a lot of dress factories as well as the bricks.
In those days, if you lived close to the river, that was the lower village. It was the poorer section. If you made money, you moved “up the hill.” If you lived down the hill it was rougher, that was equated with working in the brickyards.
My father went to school at Riccardi School. Before school, my grandmother would make lunches for the workers. She would layer them – the hot things down at the bottom, like sausage; the next layer would be bread and something else, and the heat would come up and keep the food warm. After he helped with that, that, my father would go to school. They made maybe fifty cents a week.
As I remember living in Mr. Washburn’s places you did your shopping in the company store. I wouldn’t call them houses, because they weren’t, they were just kind of shacks, maybe bungalows.
There were also five or six dress factories in Glasco, and my mother did that most of her life. In this area – Kingston, Saugerties – there must have been several thousand women working in dress factories.
Most of the stores were on the river in Kingston, and people would take the ferry down the river to Kingston.
In those days, everybody had a garden -everybody. That was how they got much of their food. And my uncle also had fruit trees. He would peddle his fruits and vegetables after working all day. Everything was homemade – they raised chickens, they raised pigs. When they slaughtered a pig, everyone would help. Then they would have a party. This was all Italian families; they took the Italian traditions and brought them here.