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Catalog Number 2005.034.0001
Object Name Tape, Cassette
Scope & Content An oral history by Jack (John) Williams of his early years in South Granville, NY, recorded by Stephen Williams on 9 January 2004.

How did slate workers live? Wonderful melting pot, got along well, visited homes growing up; hard workers, low pay, dangerous. His father said, "If you want to kill yourself, I'll give you a gun rather than work in a quarry."

The Welsh were the majority of skilled workers. The Alley (Water Street, River Street) was lined with bars. RAILROAD underpass, electric plant from dam in river, prosperous town, no empty space. Present building where Shaw's Insurance is located was Barnard's Store; also Ginsburg's, Wilson's (3 or 4 clothing stores), 2 drugstores. Several fires destroyed Main Street.

The Alley: "good" people didn't go there - few families, one policeman with 2 or 3 "specials" for weekends because of frequent brawls. "Red Czachek" was a "special" policeman , is still living at 94 years of age. He could sit at the freight dock at the RAILROAD station and watch the fights - murders (unsolved) - no ethnic gangs. 5 cents could get the bottom of lunch bucket filled with beer on way home.

Most workers did not have an automobile; bus service, station wagon to Glens Falls. The school is where the park is now, most kids had some schooling.

Jack Williams' grandfather was a farmer, father was an electrician, called "Peanuts" Williams. Other unique names: "Triple Bob" (Robert Robert Robert), Owen Owens Owens - don't know why 3 names.

Row houses behind shirt shop and (Agway). Also in Alley, poor people, but not judged by living there. No new immigrants except occasionally one or two.

Everybody had slate roofs then, now nobody can afford it - pay scale is much higher. Injuries? Community always responded, no welfare system from government. Rivalry for years between Granville "Slate Pickers" and Whitehall "Canal Rats" There were 75 in Jack's class from Granville, bigger than most other classes in the area, students came from Vermont and other towns. He went to school at Quaker Street School, Opportunities other than slate work after school included Cot Bed, farming, electricians, etc. Few went to college; Jack went into military service. He worked for Ray Matteson (Madison?) in the fuel business, gas station at 50 cents/day. When he returned from the service, he was amazed at the changes.

The population when he was growing up was several thousand (3,500 - 4.000). The artist, Gene Fairbanks, grew up here, became teacher, displayed work at art shows, community minded.

Automobile changed everything. Jack's kids grew up here; 2 sons, (one in Phoenix - OPUS; other, career in Air Force) and one daughter, an artist. Slate industry now? Never in it - Prospered lately.
Creator Williams, Stephen T.
Title Jack (John) Williams, Oral History