Down the hill: An oral history of Glasco

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.

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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.

There are 29 comments

  1. Richard DePasquale

    I enjoyed this so much and learned a lot. My father Dominick DePasquale was born there and we lost him 3 years ago. My Aunt and Uncle still live “Down the Hill”.
    I remember going to Riccardi in second grade when my dad
    was in Korea and we lived on Hudson Street with my Grandma (Anna Boxie). One of the things I remember was everybody had a nicname. My Grandpa
    was called Johnny “Boxie” (always had a box of matches)
    my Dad was (Dollie to the girls and Beefy to everyone else. My Aunt Theresa was “Maxie” because she would always box with the guys and Max Baer was the Champ.
    Anyway great memories of all the people there.

  2. Albert Bruno Jr

    I loved this too! I remember the nicknames as well! some of the interesting ones(I don’t know where they all came from)
    Pissy,a man named Peggy,Booger,Crutch,Duck,Slaughter,Kidoy,Hawkman(my Dad)Do-gigger,Rabbit,Yatah,Buttocks,Choep,SilverFox,Shep,Sling,Pickles,Puppy.and who can forget,,”Lily Punkin”? Most of the people, Growing up, I never knew their real names! But as a child, we had to RESPECT all of them! Growing up in GLASCO, meant every adult, was like another “parent” When Hillary said, “It takes a village to raise a child” I KNOW she must have been to GLASCO!

  3. edward cavanagh

    I caught the end of the 50s to the early 6os in GLASCO,I as brother were “long ears” and we served with Father Damn at ST josephs as alter boys, and I was part of the band with the old professor below freddy davies place.I have been all over the world,worked all around the country,including with cajuns “coon asses” and have never found a closer, family centered community as GLASCO, thanks for the great article. THE LAST OF THE IRISH COWBOYS….EDDIE CAVANAGH

  4. Audrey Klinkenberg

    Robert, will you be publishing a book on this? If so put me down for two copies at least.

    Audrey Klinkenberg
    Town Historian
    Saugerties, NY

  5. Gabrielle

    My grandfather was born and raised in Glasco. His name was Stephen Mormile, he died a few years ago, but the men in his family worked at the brick yard, the ice house, and whatever other work they could find and the women worked in the garment factories. I know that they lived in the lower village until they collected enough defective bricks to build a house that I guess was “up the hill.” This would have been from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. Pretty amazing stuff. I love hearing the stories of ice skating on the Hudson, and really just how much of an enormous part of life the river was for the people there. Does anyone know how much assimilation to American culture was encouraged? I know that the women in my family kept a lot of Italian traditions, but my grandfather was told to never speak Italian and mostly defied all of his Italian heritage.

  6. Kim

    I love local history. One correction though, Cementon was mostly Croation not Polish. Those were my ancestors and they came to work in the cement mills. But much like Glasco in that they were tight knit and brought similar traditions ( especially since in the old country they were only separated by a small sea).

  7. Louis P. Timperio

    My name is Louis Timperio and I am the grandson of Louis Ferraro who lived, worked and raised a family of 13 children in Gasco (down the hill). My grandfather worked at the brickyard, gardened, raised chickens and pigs and baked bread in a woodfired outside oven. The dress factory was owned and operated by Mike Ferraro, one of my grandfathers brothers, some of my aunts and uncles worked there. There were 9 girls and 4 boys, they were as follows, Anna, Catherine, Jane (my mom), Rita, Lorraine, Leona, Gloria, Julie and Josie. Of the boys there were, Jake, Vince (The Village Cobbler) and his twin brother Peter and Louis (Cap). The reason I am going into detail is because on August 1st, 2015, last Saturday. the Descendants of Louis & Josephine Ferraro had a family reunion at the Glasco mini park. Although there was only one surviving sibling (Leona), there were many of the children, grandchildren and great and great,great grandchildren. I spent many a happy day in Glasco as a child. I can remmember with great fondness spending time at Costello’s Saloon (sitting at the bar eating lupini beans and watching all the locals playing cards and singing), Joe Amendola’s general store, Washburns store right at the river and Lukies store on Hudson street. And as was mentioned in a previous post, everybody had a nickname. Toppie, Boxie, Charlie boy, Snookie, etc. These were the “back yarders”. I am 71 years old and spent a large part of my childhood in Glasco “down the hill” and I would not trade that time for anything. We were poor, but we ate like royalty (fresh vegetables, fresh sausage, homemade bread and pasta). We were family, we are family, and enjoyed being together.

    1. Sue

      Louis Timpiero, the saloon you called Costellos saloon I believe was my great grandfathers business, Siscos Tavern. It was a saloon , delicatessen and restaurant. The name Sisco is not well known because he had 7 daughters and no sons. When John Sisco died in the 40’s it was sold by my grandmother and her sisters.
      They all lived on the 2nd and 3rd floor.

  8. John Perronw

    I grew up summers in Gkasco at the Schoentags bungalow colony owned by Charloe Marianella at the time
    I spent my summers tigers from 1952 until the colony closed on Monday he late 60’s
    It is a shame you hat it is a storage facility now . There are so many family memories there .

  9. Emily Cafaldo Naccarato

    I grew up down the hill in Glasco. You call us the poor people, but we were rich, we had a roof over our heads cloths on our back and family that loved us.!

  10. Romona Schermerhorn

    Thanks for sharing, this has brought back so many great memories. My grandfather was Louis Greco and he lived on Geniva Street in Glasco. Everyone knew my Uncle Tommy Greco aka Godsey. Spent many of summers and Sundays there. Family was always important and I’m so glad they instilled that in us. Wish we could go,back to those days.
    If you publish a book I would Definetly be needing a few copies.
    Romona Schermerhorn
    3950 Draughon Road
    Eastover, North Carolina 28312
    910-229-2310
    wizozny12401@yahoo.com

    Thanks again for sharing

  11. Nancy Belycia

    I was married to John DePasquale Jr. They called him Johnny Boxie too. My son Mark DePasquale lives in Saugerties close to Glasco. Cafaldos Park. I loved that town. Aunt Rosie still lives down the hill. We love her. She was my sister-in-law. Johnny passed away bak is couple years ago. We all miss him so much.

  12. Kathy

    Great memories. My grandmother, Helen Rea worked at ‘Butsie’ Ferraro’s factory. My uncles, Carl, Tom and Frank Rea were all barbers. My grandmother, ‘Doonuell’ could get rid of a headache with a bowl of water, oil and a match! Halloween parties at the old fire house, religion with Lovy Sasso and P.O. Box 211 at the post office. The smell of gardens and wild flowers on a hot summer day….Glasco forever in my heart.

  13. Christine Scarselli

    I as well grew up in Glasco. My fathers (my father was called Big Ant back in the day)parents Rose and Charles scarselli had a vegetable farm, it was called Delta Farm. I grew up on that farm, I loved working the fields with my gramdpa, planting and harvesting vegetables. People from everywhere bought vegetables there, and also with my grandmothers exceptional green thumb started growing beautiful flowers. Which brought more people to the farm. I remember my grandma wrapping the flower pot with colored foil and a ribbon to dress up the plant for what ever holiday it was at that time. I remember riding on the tail gate of my grandfather’s plymoth station wagon from one planting field to another harvesting vegies of all kinds and bringing them back to the vegetable stand where my grandmother would sell veggies. On the farm was a mother cat called Candy, she had many litters of kittens, I always had a kitten in my hand to play with. I have such found memories of my childhood growing up in Glasco on the Farm. The house still stands but the barns all recently have been torn down. So so sad.

    1. Bob Swingle

      Delta Farms, was the first farm stand, that I remember as a child, ever going to, with my parents. To this day, I can not find any tomato on any farm, that tasted so good, they were as sweet as a piece of fruit, (I know tomato’s are a technically a fruit, but Delta Farm’s tomato’s were the tomato, more like a “fruit”, than any other, must be the Glasco soil.), no salt, pepper, or any seasonings, we would each have one on the way home, delicious. I, also, remember the prices, back then, leaving with a couple of fresh farm produce filled bags, for under two dollars. I would like to add, that I, grew up just up the road, in Barcley Heights, and with many great friends, classmates, and coworkers at Victory Markets from Glasco. My mom worked for Frank Greco, first as his secretary, when he was head of Ulster Social Services, and later, as Saugerties Deputy Town Clerk, for many years, while Frank was Town of Saugerties Supervisor, my sister worked at Timeout Savings Bank, which Frank was the Chairman of the Board, and Chief Stock Holder of, so my family, always had close ties with the Greco’s. And, I worked for Greco Brothers for five years straight, back in the late seventies, early eighties, and then on and off, for another ten, or twelve years, when things were slow, in the electrical trade, (Hi Al!). I consistently, heard many, many stories, from Frank, Tommy, Sharky (Joe), Jack, and Brother-in-Law, Barney (Vince Ferraro, who also owned several of the dress factories, in Glasco, back in the day.), of Glasco’s history, and full of all Glasco’s colorful, and close knit community. Day in, and day out, we would be visited, by many of the Glasco nicknamed folks, that you, and all these commenters, mention. Glasco, will always be a part of me, and a major part of my life, and upbringing, I was blessed, to have been welcomed, into this wonderful community, on the Hudson.

      1. Bob Swingle

        Rondout Savings Bank, darn spell check! Sorry about that. It was Rondout Savings Bank, that Frank basically was the main owner of, and ran.

  14. JOHN BARONE

    Regarding the Origin of the name Mulford as in the Mulford Engine Co.

    The Mulford family resided in Glasco and one prominent member, Mr. Charles Mulford, in 1886-7 along with James Williamson, William Simmons and Clarence Dunham established the Glasco Ice Company. They had built the largest ice house in the world measuring 760 feet long and it had a capacity of 90,000 to 100,000 tons of ice. It was situated on the Hudson River midway between the Long Dock of Saugerties and Glasco. On January 25, 1912 it became a total loss to fire, but not to Mr. Mulford. He was the last surviving member of the founding group and he sold his interest in the company to Simmons and Brewer of New York two years prior to its complete destruction in 1912! (In business, timing is everything!)
    The previously founded Mulford Fire Engine Co. #1 that the family established to protect its business interests and nearby residents merged with the Washburn Hook and Ladder Fire Engine Company #2 in 1949 after sharing the same fire hall next to the RC church since 1900. The newly reorganized and renamed fire company continues to this day as the Glasco Fire Company.
    Regards, John Barone
    (A first generation Italian whose Grandfather and Grandmother came to Glasco from the Cosenza Province villages of Dipignano and Paterno Calabro with my father, Luigi (age 6) and uncle Carmine (age 4) in 1906. They took many relatives and friends from both villages with them to Glasco. Just check the Ellis Island Archives April 1906 ship’s log and see the names of your folks on board. And of course many others came a short time later to Glasco from the same area. Do you know why??? It’s not the BS that you think. )

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