Saturday, December 27, 2008

Alex Peschel

I have a few pics I came across recently. They are of Alex Peschel, who I believe was the president of Orange and Rockland for many years. Although I never met him I know quite a bit about him from letters in the attic of his former family home at 10/12 West Street in Warwick and from stories about him related by his brother Ed (Eduard Peschel) to me. As a kid (1973-1978--while living in the Village of Warwick), Ed Peschel, Alex's brother, would let me go up into his attic where there were loads of what I considered "treasures." The object of these adventures was old stamps for my collection. Many of them I still have in albums from that time.

Both Ed and Alex fought in the Second World War and their mother, Sophie, saved all the letters they sent back to her, as well as many boxes of letters dating back to the 20s and 30s. I read through many of them, and it's a shame that I didn't have the foresight to preserve all those letters. I was more interested in the stamps. I often wonder whether anyone ever saved those letters or just threw them in a dumpster as the house has changed ownership a few times since the 70s. I was reminded of this with the new archives of World War Two correspondence that Tom Hanks promoted after the movie Saving Private Ryan came out. And as I am currently working on several oral history projects at my museum, I often wish that I had captured on tape some of the histories of my own home town that was a microcosm of all that went on in the nation's past.

Those letters would have been preserved for perpetuity if they were sent on to the Library of Congress, or was it the Smithsonian Institute where the archives of World war II correspondence is being housed? Maybe the house at 10/12 West Street isn't there anymore? I haven't driven through Warwick and revisited some of these sites in many years. I still have much of the contents of Ed's army footlocker from the war ( and the footlocker as well that he gave me when I went away to BSA camp---Beech Mountain BSA Camp in Livingston Manor that is also long gone) There were Stars and Stripes newspapers, Yank magazine, mimeographed memos from his battalion etc. from 1944-5, pictures of his encampment at Fountainbleu, etc.

In addition, Alex was in the CCC (Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program, the Civilian Conservation Corps) during the 30s. I remember finding his uniform from that stint, and once again that would have been of some local historical significance if it had survived. The pic of Alex on the horse posted here may be from the CCC period. I don't recognize the house in the background? Maybe someone will. Alex may have been at the Bolton Landing, NY CCC Camp, I'm not sure. I have seen pictures of that camp. There may have been a camp closer to Warwick? Sloatsburg? Again, correct me if I am wrong. The second photo of Alex I have posted may be at the MET in NYC, but this is only a guess. It looks like one of the lobbies. The negative is severely scratched. Both these pics were from negatives I found stuck in a school book that must have come from that attic way back when, and I printed them not long ago for the first time.

I also remember that the Peschel's had a luncheonette ( along with Mr. Paul Peschel's tailor shop in the front room of that house at 10/12 West Street and Sigmund's A&P across from Akins. Ed was the oldest, Sigmund, the second, and Alexander was the youngest. ) The luncheonette, I believe, was located where Serpentini Jewelry was when I was a kid. It has had many identities since then. The luncheonette existed in the 20s, and there were lots of printed menus and knapkins left from that establishment in the 10/12 West St. attic when I was rooting through it in the 70s. I also remember seeing pics of the luncheonette in its heydey in the Peschel family album that had some wonderful memorable shots of Warwick in the 1920s. Ed would often point out a photo of his first car a Whippet and his 1927 Packard that he had up until he left the service in 1947. He would often tell me this as he fixed me some kind of western omelette with a lot of salt or offered me a Limburger cheese sandwich which I would always have to remind him that only he liked. He initiated my lifetime love of Warwick's past. Those images and stories have stayed with me.

Getting my Christmas Tree (Robert Schmick)

A couple of days ago, my son Gabe and I went down the road to a "cut our own Christmas tree" farm. Being on our road, we have passed this farm many times, but we've never seen the owners. A couple of months ago they must have done a renovation on the house because I took a free used and very huge bay window from the roadside for a greenhouse plan I have. The farm consists of some barns that are in the midst of collapsing next to a house constructed within the past couple of decades. The "farm" is actually a large sub-divided piece from the original farm across the road, and only the 19th century farmhouse remains of that. Brooks Mills met us at the door, and it seems after some neighborly conversation that he, like myself, is a New York transplant to Maine having come here many decades ago from Mount Kisco in Westcester. What was even more surprising was that as a young man he had spent some time in Warwick working on a farm. he had a hard time remembering the name of the doctor that had owned the farm but eventually came up with the name Pfeiffer. I have never heard of a doctor with that name in Warwick but maybe someone has? It seems that Pfeiffer was then experimenting with many new farming techniques; he may have been dabbling in hydroponics at this time when it would have been new to agriculture.

A chance meeting with someone up here in Maine who had spent time in Warwick has not been unusual to my experience. The broker who sold me my house had went to Newburgh Free Academy in the early 70s when her father was stationed in the military near there, possibly Steward Air Force Base. She remembered apple picking in Warwick. The guy who hauled away some junk left on my property by previous owners had also lived in Newburgh and was familar with Warwick. These connections still amaze me as I have lived all over the place and often meet people who knew of this little town that I always thought when growing up was so remote from the rest of the world.