Nyack Sketch Log: Piermont Remembers

by Bill Batson

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This relic from Robert Gair’s paper mill is a steam driven flywheel called a flywheel. It is now the centerpiece of Piermont’s Flywheel Park

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, Piermont Library is inviting village residents (through Zoom) to have a voice in how Piermont is remembered. Piermont Remembers provides online “Oral History Chaperones” to schedule and conduct recording sessions, providing convenience and social distance. This project is being guided by the Piermont Library Director, staff and board and the Piermont Historical Society. Organizers hope that Piermonters will consider Mother’s and Father’s Day as the perfect occasion to help their parents tell stories of yesteryear.

I am honored to have been invited to develop and implement this project along with my colleague, David e. Bell. Here are a few vivid recollections from as far back as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, plus more information about the project and information for those who wish to contribute their personal or family history as Piermont Remembers.

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Zoom Turns Isolation into Connection

In late 2019, Piermont Library Board member Victoria Hertz asked that I develop a proposal for a community-based oral history project for the Hudson River village. Having organized the Nyack Record Shop Project, an oral history project in Nyack that brought together the cultural, civic, business, and the religious community in 2018 and One Good Story, a biographical film with vignettes of local artists for the Rockland Center for the Arts with David Bell in 2020, I eagerly signed on.

The Piermont Historical Society converted this former railroad station into a museum, exhibition hall, and interpretive center

Like everything else in our lives, my discussions with Vickie were derailed by the global pandemic. However, as we all began to adapt to the demands of  our extended quarantine, technologies emerged that allowed us to continue to function as a society, while still maintaining the social distance necessary to promote public health. Of those technologies, Zoom presented itself as a perfect platform to collect oral histories. In some ways, for people who have mobility issues or have moved away, Zoom is actually a more accessible oral history collection tool. “The Library is glad to be kicking off this project to celebrate the 125th anniversary of our library. We have been able to craft a unique project that uses today’s technology to capture the stories of yesteryear. Our goal is to capture each and every thread that makes up the weave of our little village.” says Piermont Library Director Kristine Palacios

Piermont Historical Society Provides Early Bird Prospects

Help Piermont Remember Participants who lived, worked, or worshipped in Piermont are welcome to share their stories through Piermont Remembers. For those want to help organize their recollections here are some prompts: List of Possible Topics

  • When and why you settled in Piermont
  • Any interactions or stories of older Piermont residents/characters/mayors
  • Favorite story(s) of time spent on the pier/along the creek/marsh
  • Paper Mill
    • fireman’s carnival
    •   inside conditions/photos
    •   tearing it down
  • Parades/Holidays
  • Memories of old shops on Piermont Ave
  • If applicable, where you worshipped
  • Hurricanes, floods, tearing down TZHS etc,
  • Raising children in Piermont
  • Winters in Piermont/living on one of the streets up the hill
  • Any conversations with those who rode the train (or with Tom or Belle)
  • Anything else related to Piermont from years ago (no specific dates but definitely before the condos were built)
  • Favorite photos (show us and describe)
  • Purple Rose of Cairo

Participants will be interviewed via Zoom. If an interested party does not have access to Zoom, we can record your oral history over the phone. To register email piermontremembers@piermontlibrary.org to request more information or visit piermontremembers.org. Piermont Historical Society volunteers provided a list of 25 Piermonters to kick off the Zoom-based oral history campaign, including Turning Point owner John McAvoy, nonagenarian Millie Weber, and former Piermont Mayor Chris Sander. PHS Board Chair Barbara Scheulen and Board members Betsy Franco Feeney and Lola Esnard are part of the working group that has been advancing the project. The mission of the PHS is to preserve and protect the integrity of Piermont’s architecture, history, and cultural heritage, and to celebrate the history of Piermont. They have been instrumental in creating a historic district in Piermont, preserving the Piermont train station and transforming it into a local history museum and creating documentaries and exhibits that focus on the unique and impactful history of the village, including histories of the paper industry, the railroads and the pier. “The Piermont Historic Society treasures the memories of the people who are making this project so meaningful. The stories that make up the rich tapestry of Piermont are being told by people who lived, loved, and worked here–some whose families have been here for generations. Working with the library, we will ensure that these vignettes will keep Piermont’s history alive for years to come,” said Barbara Scheulen of the Piermont Historical Society.

Piermont Remembers Previews

As a person who has been involved in several oral history projects, there is one constant that will never cease to amaze me. Each oral history that you record is more fascinating than the last. There are some eyewitnesses to seminal events who share details that are as captivating as they are compelling. But even in those epic tales, the lines that linger with you are the human scale tragedies and triumphs and often the moments of discovery when the subject remembers the world that they discovered as children. And all of us have those stories. Here are 2 examples from the oral histories collected so far:

Millie Weber

I was born in the first war. World War I. 1918. We lived in a two family house, there were 10 Children. Two of them were babies. I was one of the babies.

The doctor came to every house. My father was the only one that could take care of people, luckily. The doctor told him to feed them food that was as spicy as they could eat.

I was a baby, but I remember whenever I’m sick, I always wished I had hot peppers.

Mildred Oslica

It wasn’t a regular parade. It was a parade of men dressed in work clothes. I learned later that these men. were the conservation corp. They built the park at Tallman Mountain. They came with shovels and picks and swords and hammers slung over their shoulders. You know, like rifles.

They built Tallman Mountain State park, which became our summer haven because they had two pools.

How to Participate in Piermont Remembers

If you or someone you know has a story to tell, email piermontremembers@piermontlibrary.org to request more information or visit piermontremembers.org.

Piermont Remembers invites the public to consider using the occasion of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to schedule recordings for their parents. Families and the public will forever have access to these historical documents so that future generations can explore, in sometimes vivid detail, the lives of their loved ones. An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Piermont Remembers” © 2021 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.