Patterson in the 1950s


The United States emerged from World War II as the world's only economic and military superpower. Unlike the other war torn countries of the world, the continental United States was largely untouched by the war, and its factories and farms were operating at full capacity. The empires of Europe and Asia were crippled by the destruction the war had brought, and by the tremendous loss of life.

The unity among the victorious Allied nations would not last. The Soviet Union would emerge from the War as a growing military power that would rival the United States. Communism would grow to be a feared totalitarian form of government that would spread throughout Eastern Europe in the areas occupied by the Soviet army after the War's end. In the 1950s, the fear of Communism would increase, and lead to an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, with each country establishing a sizable stockpile of nuclear weapons. Fear of a nuclear attack led to the construction of bomb fallout shelters in private homes, public buildings, and factories and office buildings. These shelters were stocked with food and water, intended to provide a means of survival until the danger of a nuclear bomb's radiation had passed. School children practiced "duck and cover" drills, encouraged by the dubious premise that children could escape the lethal radiation simply by hiding under a wooden classroom desk. Adults volunteered to join local civil defense corps. Fear of the growing technical power of the Soviet Union would grow when it placed the first man-made satellite into space. The rise of Communism also grew in Asia, as Korea, split in two by the victors of the War, erupted into violence as Communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea, leading to the bloody stalemate the was the Korean War. So great was the fear of Communism in the United States, that neighbor would become suspicious of neighbor, since anyone was a potential Communist spy. The Congressional hearings of Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the early 1950s exploited these fears. Many ordinary Americans, as well as writers, musicians, and Hollywood stars were branded Communists, and were unable to find employment as a result. The United States would lead a war weary world with the creation of the United Nations, a forum for discussing global issues and possibly the world's best hope for preventing future wars.

America's eyes looked to the skies as a space race began, with the Soviet Union winning the race to place a man-made satellite into orbit around the Earth in 1957. Youngsters in America sat in their backyards with their families trying to catch a glimpse of the glowing Sputnik. The United States would follow the Soviet Union in 1958 with the successful launch of Explorer-I. Interest in the stars inspired amateur backyard astronomers with telescopes aimed at the night skies. The entertainment media responded with radio and TV programs set in outer space. But the same technologies responsible for space rockets also led to more powerful and dangerous missiles that made the possibility of an atomic war more likely.

The 1950s also brought other, less threatening changes to the American way of life. A new entertainment medium known as television would pull America away from their radios. And a network of new interstate highways would be planned that would link the nation's cities by automobile.

Patterson Prepares for the Unthinkable

Barely a few years past World War II, tensions again increased in the United States with the emergence of the Soviet Union as a nuclear power, and by the start of the Korean War. Food and fuel rationing was not needed this time, but fears of nuclear attack and a war climate because of the Korean conflict placed the country - and Patterson - on the alert. A network of volunteer air raid wardens served the same purpose as they did during the World War. Volunteers were also recruited to provide emergency first aid to anyone injured in an attack. Putnam County created the Putnam County Civil Defense administration under the direction of the Rev. H. Pierce Simpson, and a volunteer group of civil defense auxiliary police officers. The County Civil Defense administration included a Control Group comprised of the Rev. Simpson, Colonel M. Campbell Lorini, Major Walter Pilner, Marvin Arnold, Henry Dale, Jr. of Putnam Lake, Colonel Taylor Belcher, I. Mead, Howard Thomsen and John Dain. The Control Group developed plans, charts, and manuals for the implementation of civil defense services at the town level. The County Civil Defense administration operated from the Grand Jury room of the Putnam County Court House in Carmel. Eight local civil defense units were created throughout the County in the Patterson village, Putnam Lake, Brewster, Carmel, Mahopac, Kent, Putnam Valley, and Cold Spring. Robert Dwyer and Henry Dale, Jr. were the civil defense directors for the town of Patterson. A housing survey was also undertaken by the County Civil Defense group, and was completed for Philipstown and Mahopac by October, 1951, but still in progress for Patterson and Putnam Lake, and Carmel.

Radio Free Europe is depicted in this editorial cartoon from the September 13, 1951 edition of the Putnam County Courier. RFE was created by the United States in 1949 to broadcast news and current affairs to the Soviet block nations in Eastern Europe. Anti-Communist sentiment was strong in the United States in the 1950s. The Civil Defense Signals for Putnam County were published in the April 24, 1952 edition of the Putnam County Courier. Civil Defense drills were announced in advance. This ad appeared in the June 25, 1953 edition of the Putnam County Courier.

On February 7, 1951, a civil defense rally - one of many in the County - was held at the Putnam Lake Inn in Putnam Lake. The Inn was the headquarters for the Putnam Lake Control Center and civil defense program, and was on 24 hour call for fire or other emergency. Mrs. Sadie Klausman, Mrs. Vera Armitage, and Jimmy Halsted staffed the Inn. All members of the County Civil Defense Administration attended the rally along with government officials from Putnam County and the town of Patterson. The Putnam Lake Fire Department, Putnam auxiliary police, and local air raid wardens were asked to alert Putnam Lake residents about this important meeting. All community groups, clubs, and organizations were asked to attend. The goal was to have every Lake family attend the meeting. An informational meeting was conducted in Putnam Lake on February 17, and was led by Putnam Lake civil defense director Henry Dale, Jr., along with the Rev. Simpson, Putnam County Sheriff Frank Lyden, Colonel Lorini, and Major Pilner. A similar meeting was held at the Patterson Town Hall on February 27, chaired by the Deputy Director of Civil Defense for Patterson, Robert Dwyer. Fifty town residents attended. These meetings discussed the County's civil defense plans, and the need for a strong civil defense organization in Patterson. An appeal was made for 400 additional volunteers to staff a Welfare Emergency Services unit. The purpose of the unit was to provide food, shelter, emergency money, and clothing to Putnam residents who had been displaced by a bombing, or whose clothing had been contaminated by radiation. Special care was needed for children who might be separated from their parents. This unit would also staff a registration bureau that would be used to track the injured and homeless, and to answer inquiries from family members trying to locate missing members of their families. Volunteers especially suitable for the Welfare Emergency Services unit were those skilled in food preparation, clerks, stenographers, typists, children's welfare workers, family case workers, psychiatrists, social workers, and personnel administrators.

By February, 1951, Putnam County's network of civil defense volunteers numbered 1,500, but the County had a goal of 3,000 volunteers. A major emergency could affect a large part of the County's population of 16,000. Registration Days, or "R Days", were held to recruit new volunteers. "R Days" was the creation of Marvin Arnold of Lake Mahopac, who served as the recruitment and assignment director of the County Civil Defense administration. An R Day drive conducted in early February, 1951, resulted in 335 new volunteers, 36 from Patterson. Administrators from County schools, including the Patterson School, acted as the registration agents.

Also in February, 1951, a series of training lectures was given to area nurses. The topic was "Medical and Nursing Aspects of Atomic Explosion". Dr. William P. Kelly, local director of medical defense, urged all Putnam County nurses to attend one of the classes to prepare them for the aftermath of a nuclear bomb attack. Classes were held in the Putnam village of Cold Spring in the Haldane Central School, and in Dutchess County at the Harlem Valley State Hospital in Wingdale and Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie. The lectures discussed the latest treatments for radiation sickness and strategies for organizing the nursing resources after a bombing. Two U. S. Army films were also shown, each one dealing with the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Japan in 1945 at the end of the World War. These films were entitled, "The Medical Effects of the Atomic Bomb", and "Atomic Medical Cases". Seven nurses from Patterson attended the Wingdale class: Mrs. Richard Coombs, Mrs. Mortimer Dykeman, Mrs. Paul Townsend, Mrs. Haynes O'Hara, Mrs. George Walker, Mrs. Mary Hughes, and Mrs. Jesse Knapp.

Just as in World War II, the Red Cross was called upon throughout the country to be prepared to provide services in the event of an attack. The Putnam County chapter had a fundraising goal of $10,300 for 1951, to finance first aid and home nursing programs, hospital services, and blood collection drives. The National Security Resources Board asked the Red Cross to supplement its first aid training with additional training for the treatment of wounds typically associated with an atomic war. In Patterson, the classes were held in the Town Clerk's office, and were conducted by Dr. Frank C. Genovese, whose home and office was on Main Street (NYS Route 311). Red Cross branch chairman for the first aid program in Patterson was Junia Dykeman. Home nursing also classes were conducted by the Red Cross, and volunteers were recruited to teach the classes. The Patterson chairwoman of the home nursing program was Mrs. Erik Petersen.

Putnam County had no collection facility to accept blood donations. Donors were asked instead to sign donor registration cards, and leave the card with the Red Cross blood donor chairman in each town. In April, 1955, a need for a more formal program was realized, and a blood collection program was organized. Volunteers were trained to draw blood from donors, and to determine the blood type. Volunteer receptionists and recording clerks were also needed to administer the program. The County planned to form two groups of blood collection volunteers that could be put into service immediately in the event of a national emergency.

In March, 1951, radio amateurs, sometimes referred to as "ham" radio operators, were asked to join an emergency communication network in Putnam County. Herbert L. Brown of Carmel was the Emergency Coordinator for Amateur Radio Services for the American Radio Relay League in Putnam County for the County Civil Defense effort. Brown issued the call for volunteers who would participate in a plan to link the County command center in Carmel by radio to eight control posts spread throughout Putnam County. Specialized training would be given to the volunteers.

As in both World Wars, local fundraisers were held in Patterson for the benefit of the war effort and civil defense programs. The HAGS group, long active in the Patterson community, once again conducted many fundraising events in Patterson. A typical event was a stage play planned in March, 1951, when the Civil Defense committee requested that the group put on a play to raise funds for a casualty station to be established in the Parish House of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street (NYS Route 311) in the village. The HAGS were planning a spring dance for April, but cancelled those plans to concentrate on the play. A committee was formed, and Miss Isobel Rose Jones, who had directed the club in previous stage performances, was contacted for help with the new production.

The April meeting of the Putnam County Board of Supervisors included items on its agenda relating to civil defense in the County. The Rev. H. Pierce Simpson, County Civil Defense director until his resignation in October, 1951, told the Board that 400 auxiliary civil defense policeman would soon be completing their training program, and would need to be equipped with whistles, flashlights, helmets, night sticks, and identifying arm bands. A cost of $5-$7 per man was estimated by the Rev. Simpson. Simpson also informed the Board that John Dain's firm had donated 5,000 posters that explained what to do in the event of an atomic attack. These posters would be distributed to schools, libraries, and other agencies.

In April, 1951, the Rev. Simpson asked for thirty volunteers to man air observation posts, much as had been done during the World War. Air observation posts had been established on a standby basis in Cold Spring in Philipstown, Tompkins Corners in Putnam Valley, Dykemans in Southeast, and Lake Carmel in Kent. Simpson stated that even with radar, volunteer spotters would be needed. He cited an Air Force estimate that an all-out war would require 500,000 potters to plug possible gaps in the nation's radar network. Three tests of the posts were made by the Army Air Corps. The air spotter network was supplemented by a nationwide warning system connected by telephone lines. Any part of the country could be notified of an air invasion in any other part of the country. 146 command points were created in selected police and fire departments and other municipal centers around the country where there were sufficient phone lines and 24-hour telephone answerers to handle the needs of the system. The locations of the command points were kept secret. In the southern New York region, the system was in the charge of the Continental Air Command at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island, New York. The New York Telephone Company was responsible for coordinating the local system with the Bell Telephone System and the U. S. Independent Telephone Association. Under the plan, three types of warnings would be sent to the command points. "Yellow" meant that enemy planes were near or already over the North America. This signal would alert local civil defense officials, but would not be passed on to the general public. A "red" signal indicated that an air attack was probable and that emergency measures must be taken immediately. "White" was the all-clear signal.

In May, 1951, the New York State Health Dept. announced that it would offer a class in emergency first aid and self help to be offered on May 16 at the Putnam Lake Inn in Putnam Lake. The class, "Self Help and Neighbor Help for the Injured", was taught by Mrs. Martha D. Rush, the Civil Defense Medical and Health Director for Putnam Lake, and a certified instructor for the Health Department and the New York State Civil Defense Commission. The course included instruction on the treatment of serious bleeding, burns, and wounds. The course stressed that medical help might not be available for some time after an atomic attack, and it was important for everyone to know how to take care of themselves and their neighbors until medical help could be available. The May 10, 1951 edition of the Putnam County Courier noted: "Survival may depend on what everyone does for himself and his neighbor during the first critical minutes after an atomic bomb explosion."

On October, 19, 1951, the Putnam County Civil Defense auxiliary police volunteers participated in a test coordinated by County Sheriff Frank Lyden and deputy director for the auxiliary police, Henry Dale, Jr., both from Patterson. Patterson officers participated in the drill, under the command of Captain Jesse Knapp from the Patterson village, and Captain Louis Herman from Putnam Lake. The drill included traffic control, and anti-sabotage and other security measures at public buildings. The drill was part of a larger test Major Pilner and his staff at the County Civil Defense Control unit. Other tests were planned throughout the County.

A regional civil defense test was ordered by the New York State Civil Defense Commission for Saturday morning, December 13, 1952. When the warning alarm sounded traffic throughout the region, including Putnam County, New York City, Westchester County, and Rockland County came to a halt. In Putnam Lake, the civil defense control room was activated upon receipt of the alarm from the Putnam County command center in Carmel. Town and auxiliary police, fire police, and the fire department mobilized. The Putnam Lake command center was staffed by Mrs. Martha D. Rush, civil defense medical director, Mrs. Blanche Mai, welfare and housing director, Mrs. Evelyn G. Dale, Leonard Schultheis, Mrs. Vera Armitage, and Henry Dale, Jr., the civil defense director for Putnam Lake. Robert Dwyer commanded the control room in the village of Patterson. Because the drill had been announced previously, most Putnam residents remained at home, eliminating major traffic control problems. The drill was judged a success.

The Federal Office of Civil Defense Mobilization (OCDM) recommended that Americans in rural areas like Patterson build fallout shelters where a family could escape the deadly radiation of a nuclear blast. This 1959 OCDM photo shows a fallout shelter equipped with an emergency generator and a filtration system. The OCDM offered free designs for shelters that could be obtained by mail. Shelters were to be constructed of concrete that was at least 8 inches thick, have a sleeping area, and have stocks of food, water, and medical supplies. It is not known how many shelters were actually built in Patterson.

A major New York City test was scheduled for the morning of Friday, September 25, 1953. The test was ordered by New York State civil defense director, General C. R. Heubner. Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan counties were required to participate because they were considered "support area" counties that would come to the aid of the City in the event of a nuclear attack. The participation of Putnam County was minimal, consisting of a single County highway department truck that was dispatched to a rendezvous point located at the first toll plaza on the Saw Mill Parkway in Westchester County. At that location, the radio frequency crystal in the County truck would be replaced with one that would be tuned to New York City frequencies. In the event of an actual disaster, the trucks from the support counties would then be dispatched to New York City and become part of the City fleet. The test was very elaborate, and took months to plan. At 9:30 AM, all traffic in the City was stopped, and the public was required to seek shelter during the duration of the "red" alert. All radio and television stations also went off the air, with the exception of the two civil defense emergency stations, 640 KHZ and 1240 KHZ, which were part of the "Conelrad" system. Conelrad was designed to be the sole method of providing emergency information to the general public during an emergency. Normal broadcast activity resumed at the conclusion of the drill at 9:45 AM. Putnam County conducted a countywide drill later that evening, activating 350 civil defense workers around the County. Both drills were successful.

94 new auxiliary police officers received their badges at a ceremony at the Carmel School in May, 1954. The salute to the flag was given by the Carmel Boy Scout Troop, and a U. S. Army Chaplain, the Rev. Edward R. Miller, delivered the invocation. Alpha R. Whiton, Chairman of the Putnam County Board of Supervisors, Joseph P. Gaul, Director of Civil Defense for Putnam County, and New York State Police Lieutenant Stoneham delivered addresses. The oath was administered by Putnam County Judge John P. Donohoe. Putnam County Sheriff Frank Lyden of Patterson presented the new officers with their badges. New officers from Patterson included Capt. Jesse Knapp, Sterling Pugsley, William Burns, Edward Kitzpatrick, George Buechel, Charles Burton, George Burton, George Pfahl, Ralph Bass, Henry Thompkins, and Robert Oram. New officers from Putnam Lake included Capt. Louis Herman, Robert Bartro, John J. Benanti, Manuel Beja, Anthony Castellano, Henry Dale, Jr., Evelyn G. Dale, John Garay, James Halstead, William Herman, Robert W. Kuhlmann, Eric W. Scherer, Sam Werber, and Oscar Kellenberger.

"Operation Alert 1955" was a major national civil defense drill scheduled for June 15, 1955. The drill simulated a nuclear attack on 50 large American cities in the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Panama, location of the then American controlled Panama Canal. Henry Dale, Jr. of Putnam Lake, Director of the Putnam County Auxiliary Police, appealed to employers to excuse any employees who were auxiliary officers, so that they could participate in the drill. When the red alert was sounded, the auxiliary force in Putnam stopped all traffic, except for police, fire, and ambulances, or doctors on their way to emergencies. Drivers and pedestrians were directed to take any shelter available. If no shelter was available, drivers and passengers in cars and buses were instructed to pull their vehicles to the side of the road and remain in the vehicles with the windows open until the "all clear" signal sounded. Utility crews performing emergency repairs were allowed to continue working, but Post Office and other delivery trucks were stopped.

Civil defense drills, recruitment of volunteers for the County Auxiliary Police Force, and other types of volunteer recruiting continued through the end of the decade. The atomic war never came.

Patterson Joins the Korean War Effort

World War II ended the four decades of Japanese domination of Korea. The victorious Allied armies occupied Korea after the War, with the Soviet army occupying the northern part of the country, and the American army occupying the south. Two zones and two post-war political systems developed, separated by the 38th parallel. As it had in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union introduced the Communist system in the area of Korea it controlled, while the United States attempted to install a democratic system in area it occupied.

The Putnam County contingent of inductees for April 1951 poses in the Putnam County Courthouse for this picture appearing in the Putnam County Courier on May 3, 1951. Gerald F. Murphy of Putnam Lake stands on the extreme right. The June contingent of inductees included Douglas Yerks of Patterson on the right. The photo appeared in the Putnam County Courier on July 5, 1951. A Red Cross Ad reminds America that the July, 1953 cease fire agreement with North Korea only ended the shooting, and did not resolve the conflict. The caption on the photo reads, "Front line troops relax after the Korean cease fire. Hundreds of thousands of our men are still on watch in Korea." The ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on December 31, 1953.

A new war began when North Korean forces invaded the South on June 25, 1950. The young United Nations, led by the United States, authorized an armed intervention in Korea. Men were needed to fight a new war in Southeast Asia, and American men were drafted into the military much as they had been during World War II. Putnam County men were drafted each month, and several men from Patterson were among those called. As in World War II, a ceremony was held at the Putnam County Courthouse in Carmel each month to honor those being sent off to war possibly never to return alive. A typical ceremony included an address by Putnam Selective Service board Chairman Henry H. Wells of Brewster, who also served on the board during World War II. One of the Putnam town supervisors would also address the draftees, and a local clergyman, such as the Rev. George F. Weyand of the Drew Methodist Church, would speak briefly with each of the men. Relatives of the draftees would often be in the audience. The inductees would then be taken to Brewster to board a Harlem train for New York City, where they would transfer to other trains to reach their designated training camps. At the Brewster station, a Red Cross canteen group would serve the group coffee and doughnuts.

The Korean War provided work for local businesses with government contracts. Bobrich Products Corp. had 350 employees in its factory in Beacon, Dutchess County, New York. Bobrich purchased and refurbished a three story building in the town of Kent to expand its operations with an additional 100 sewing machine operators. These jobs typically were offered to women. The building was located on Ludingtonville Road, just over the Patterson town line, near NYS Route 311. The property was formerly part of the Cushman estate, which straddled Patterson and Kent. Bobrich was owned by Engelhard & Koenig, which also operated a furniture factory in the Towners section of Patterson. An employment ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on July 17, 1952. Applicants could call or apply for the Bobrich jobs at the furniture factory. A workman sands the floor prior to the opening of the Kent factory, in this photo that appeared in the Putnam County Courier on July 5, 1951.

The war generally went well for the United Nations troops until Chinese troops joined the war, fighting alongside North Korean forces. UN forces suffered many bloody defeats, and were pushed back towards the 38th parallel. A cease fire agreement was signed by the United Nations and North Korea and its Chinese allies on July 27, 1953. The conflict ended as it began, with two Koreas separated by the 38th parallel. The draft continued through the 1950s, and men from Patterson and throughout Putnam County were called for military service on a monthly basis. U. S. troops remain stationed in Korea, and a fragile truce with North Korea remains in effect, although the situation remains very tense.

Technical Sgt. George E. Morgan, a resident of Front Street in Patterson, receives a commendation ribbon from Col. L. H. Dalton for distinguished service in the Korean War. The photo appeared in the Putnam County Courier on March 18, 1954. The February, 1955 contingent of inductees leave for New York City on the 8:29 Harlem train at the Brewster Station. This typical sendoff included Brewster Mayor A. J. Durkin, Putnam County Draft Board Chairman Henry H. Wells, and Red Cross representatives who presented each man with a gift package. The photo appeared in the Putnam County Courier on February 10, 1955.

The Polio Crisis

Polio, or infantile paralysis, claimed many victims worldwide in the 1950s. Polio is spread from human to human, often through contaminated food or water. The polio virus can strike quickly, invading the nervous system, and sometimes causing paralysis within a few hours or days after exposure. Although anyone of any age can be stricken, a large percentage of its victims are small children. Polio epidemics swept through the U. S. in the 1940s and 1950s, causing much panic. Most new cases seem to occur during the summer months, and community swimming pools and other public areas were often closed during the hot summer months because of fear of contamination. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921, and was paralyzed from the waist down. An effective vaccine was tested in 1952 by a research team headed by Jonas Salk. The vaccine used killed polio virus that was injected into the body. It went into general use by mid-1955. An oral form of the vaccine using live, but weakened virus, was introduced in 1962 by Albert Sabin. But it was the Salk vaccine that provided the first protection from the polio virus, and mass inoculation programs began in the nation's schools and community centers.

Campaigns to fund research for finding a cure for polio took place nationwide. In January, 1953, the Mrs. Frank S. Lloyd was chairwoman of the Patterson fundraising committee. A square dance was scheduled for January 30 at the Patterson Town Hall, the former Jacob Stahl Hall on Main Street (NYS Route 311). The event was organized by committee member Mrs. Paul Dolan. Music was provided by David Akin of Quaker Hill in Pawling, and his orchestra. The committee also mailed fundraising letters to all Patterson residents, and placed coin collection cans at several local stores. By February, $300 had been raised from individuals and local businesses and organizations. The square dance raised $50.46.

The March of Dimes Campaign was organized to provide funding for research and treatment of polio. This ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on January 15, 1953. An immunization program using the Salk vaccine at Carmel High School on May 20, 1955. Patterson's Dr. Frank Genovese administers the injections in this photo from the May 26, 1955 edition of the Putnam County Courier,

In January, 1954, the Patterson March of Dimes committee was given a fundraising quota of $600. Mrs. Mortimer Dykeman was now chairman of the committee. The committee scheduled a movie night on January 30 at the Patterson Town Hall. Tickets were 25 cents, and proceeds from ticket sales went to the polio fund. The Town projector was used to screen the films, and was operated by John Cecatiello and John Pezzullo of Putnam Lake. A portable radio was raffled to raise more money. Forty local residents attended, and watched the following films: A History of Polio from 1916 to the Present, Backfire, and Animals of Africa. Mr. Pezzullo won the radio. Other local groups were also active. A film on polio was shown at the PTA meeting of January 20, and PTA members heard an address by a member of the National Polio Foundation following the film. The Patterson Girl Scout troop announced a bake sale to be held at the Patterson Post Office on January 23. Troop leaders Mrs. Laurence F. Hannon, Jr. and Mrs. Raymond Tirado appealed to the community to contribute baked goods to make the event a true community effort. $20.75 was raised. A Mothers' March of Dimes walk was scheduled for January 27, to solicit funds from residents who had not yet made a contribution to the Patterson polio fund. The Patterson March of Dimes group also sent fundraising letters to all Patterson residents, and placed coin collection boxes in local businesses.

The Salk vaccine became available in 1955, and an immunization program for Putnam County school children began in May, 1955, when E. S. Crowell, chairman of the Putnam County Chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, secured a supply of the vaccine to be given to first and second grade children. The Foundation made the vaccine available free of charge and the Putnam County Board of Supervisors purchased the necessary supplies and equipment to administer the vaccine. County doctors and nurses participated in the immunization program. School children in Patterson began receiving the vaccine on May 20, as part of a program in the Carmel School District. Parents were required to authorize their children to receive the vaccine by signing a permission form. Dr. Frank Genovese of Patterson and Dr. William P. Kelly, Jr. administered the injections, assisted by nurses from the Carmel School District. The immunizations took place in the Carmel High School. 176 children from the School District participated in the program. Other immunization programs would follow, and adults would receive the vaccine too. In July, 1959, 144 people received their second polio shot at the Parish House on NYS Route 311. The program was administered by the Patterson-Kent Nursing Association. The shots were administered by Dr. John DeCampo and Dr. Samuel Ross of Green Chimneys School, assisted by nurses Mrs. Jesse R. Knapp, Mrs. Frank Woron, Mrs. Joseph VanKeuren, and Mrs. F. Hap Kimma, and Miss Marion Welch of the Putnam County Nursing Association. The Salk vaccine would greatly reduce the number of reported polio cases to a fraction of what they had been.

Hurricane Diane

Hurricane Diane struck the east coast of the United States less than one week after Hurricane Connie struck the same general area. Hurricane Diane was a category 1 storm that made landfall in North Carolina on August 17, 1955. It weakened as it headed northeast into the New York area, and its classification was lowered to "tropical storm". The storm left much flooding and destruction along its path, which had already been saturated by Hurricane Connie, a more powerful category 2 storm. 400 people died as a result of the two storms. Hurricane Diane dumped six inches of water on Putnam County, which was minor compared to the 19 inches that fell in some areas of New England.

Hurricane Diane was one of the worst natural disasters to hit Putnam County. The heavy rains caused streams to overflow, flooded roads, halted train service, flooded homes, toppled trees, and heavily damaged homes and businesses. Most of the damage was sustained by the County's roads and bridges, but basements were typically flooded with as much as two feet of water. In Brewster, the New York Central's Harlem trains were blocked by two feet of water on the tracks. A torrent of water swept through the Brewster Station and washed out the parking lot south of the station, leaving cars covered by water. Train service north of Brewster was suspended for two days. In Patterson, a house on Harmony Road was spit in two when water undermined its foundation. NYS Route 311 was flooded between Front Street and NYS Route 22. Fish could be seen swimming in the water over Route 311. The East Branch stream flooded in many areas along its path from the Dutchess County/Patterson border to the East Branch Reservoir in the town Southeast. In Putnam Lake, most of the damage consisted of flooded roads and flooded basements. The Putnam Lake Fire Dept. was busy kept pumping basements, often called back to repump the same houses as they refilled again and again. Nearly every Lake road was flooded, and a few were undermined by water. The east shore of the Lake was particularly hard hit, with storm water burying Lake Shore Drive with rocks and sediment. A portion of Fairfield Drive was closed when water flooded over the dam. The Lost Lake section was flooded. Putnam Lake Road (now known as Doansburg Road) near the Green Chimneys School was flooded, and the storm waters undermined sections of Putnam Lake Road and Fairfield Drive. The old swimming pool on Haviland Drive, which was being converted into a ball field, became a pool once again when it filled with flood water.

The track of Hurricane Diane. (The National Weather Service) NYS Route 311 is under water between Front Street and NYS Route 22, in this photo from the August 25, 1955 edition of the Putnam County Courier.


The electronic cathode ray tube, which is the picture tube technology most often used in television sets and computer monitors, was invented by German Karl Ferdinand Braun in 1897. As with radio, numerous experimenting and experimentation led to the development of cameras and receivers that could capture an image and transmit it over the air to a receiver. Television was refined enough in the late 1940s to be considered for use as an entertainment medium, and many stars of network radio would graduate to television, bringing their radio programs with them. In the 1950s, network television provided an increasing number of hours of programming, and radio began to lose its luster. Consumer television sets were began to become affordable by the average American middle class family.

In television's early days, programming was essentially used to sell television sets. The RCA Corporation, for example, owned the National Broadcasting Co. (the NBC Network), but it also was a major manufacturer of television sets. The Allen B. Dumont Laboratories, Inc., based in New York City, created the Dumont Television Network, to provide a reason for consumers to buy its television sets. Television sets, like early radio sets, were built to be focal points in the living room of a home. The cabinets were often fine pieces of furniture made of wood, with ornate scrollwork and carved designs.

A Christmas sale was underway when this ad appeared in the December 20, 1951 edition of the Putnam County Courier. The "Thayer Howdy Doody Musical Rockers" was a product tied to a very popular early television program for children, "The Howdy Doody Show". Howdy Doody was a puppet character that was the star of the show. Phil's Service Station was located on Front Street next to the Judd/Brunow building. Phil's was owned by Philip Buxbaum. Phil's featured the new 1952 Motorola television set in this ad from the April 17, 1952 edition of the Courier. Unlike most of the early television sets aimed at consumers, this Motorola model featured a large 20 inch screen. Most early sets had much smaller screens. The set also had an anti-reflective glare coating on the glass, and a "leatherette" finish. Phil's expanded its television offerings with the RCA brand at the time this as appeared in the Courier on July 17, 1952. Although this RCA model was adaptable for UHF frequencies, UHF channels would not make an appearance until the 1960s, when the Federal Communications Commission required television sets to be equipped with both VHF and UHF tuners. Patterson Radio & TV carried the Dumont brand of television receivers. Dumont created its own television network to stimulate sales of its television equipment. Dumont broadcast from 1946 to 1956. Its two most popular programs were "Life Is Worth Living" with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and "Cavalcade of Stars", which launched the career of Jackie Gleason.

Early programming was crude and low budget and usually live, and production techniques were still being invented. Most of the television programming available to Patterson residents came from New York City, and signal quality was not very good. Things improved in March, 1951, when a new 225 foot transmitter tower was installed atop the Empire State Building in New York City. Television signals travel in a line-of-sight path to a receiver, and the Empire State Building, the tallest structure in the City, was a perfect location for a transmitter. Signal quality greatly improved in Patterson. The tower included transmitters for the local ABC, CBS, NBC, and Dumont network stations, and independent station WPIX. Three FM radio transmitters were also installed on the tower.

In September, 1952, the Patterson HAGS club voted to examine television up close, and write for tickets for a few audience participation programs broadcast from New York City. Local interest in television also took the form of a panel discussion on television at the December, 1952, meeting of the Putnam County School Boards Association. The topic was, "How Does Television Affect Education". The panel consisted of a student, a teacher, a parent, and a school board member. The teacher, Dominic Tedesco of Mahopac, stated that television could be an effective educational tool, and that the schools should provide guidance to students for choosing programs to watch. The parent, Robert Kristeller of Carmel, agreed that the schools should guide school children, because children might watch programs that would teach them too much about adult life too early for them to understand it. The student, Herman Kummerle of Carmel, stated that television, unlike books and radio, did not stimulate one's imagination.

Boy Scout Programs

A meeting was held at the Patterson School on February 16, 1953 to discuss the creation of Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs for boys in the Patterson village area. Scouting programs had already been established in Putnam Lake. The district Boy Scout leader attended the meeting to provide information on the programs, and offer suggestions on starting the programs in Patterson. A committee was formed to run the meeting and to begin the organization process, and consisted of Mrs. Thomas Brown, Mrs. Andre Lavielle, Mrs. Stanley Hoffman, Mrs. Lucian Warnecke, and Fred Dill. Putnam Lake Boy Scoutmaster Eric Scherer, Junior Assistant Scoutmaster Ernest Lehman and Putnam Lake program committee member Charles Parlo also attended. The Putnam Lake group invited Patterson boys to join the Putnam Lake Boy Scout troup until the village could create its own scout program. Shortly after the meeting, Leonard Parlo and George Martens of the Putnam Lake troup offered to act as den chiefs for a Patterson Cub Scout program that was in the process of organizing. At the end of February, eleven Patterson boys attended the regular meeting of the Putnam Lake Boy Scout troup. The boys were accompanied by Mrs. Julian Werneck, George Buschel, and Donald Renner. An appeal was made for volunteers who could drive the boys to Putnam Lake on a weekly basis so that they could integrate into the Putnam Lake troup.

Donald Renner accepted the post of Scoutmaster for the new Cub Scout program, and Joseph VanKeuren accepted the post of Assistant Scoutmaster. The program would be open to boys from 8-11 years old. In early March, an organizing meeting was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Andre Lavielle on Maple Avenue. The district leader for the scouting program attended. The committee now included Louis Warnecke, Lawrence M. Scaperotta, Leslie Ward, and Joseph Varotta. Mrs. Lavielle, Mrs. Robert Oram, and Mrs. George Pfahl volunteered to act as den mothers. Dr. Frank S. Lloyd agreed to act as institutional representative. It was decided to form troups of six boys each, and each den mother would organize the activities for her troup.

Meanwhile, eighteen Patterson boys attended the second meeting of the joint Patterson village/Putnam Lake Boy Scout troup. The Putnam Lake Boy Scout Troup No. 1 also received a donation of $100 from the Putnam Lake V.F.W. Post No. 5297, to be used for the purchase of camping equipment and other supplies. The Putnam Lake Boy Scouts, including eight village boys, enjoyed an all day hike in mid-March, led by scoutmaster Eric Scherer. Activities included a cookout, and various games and competitions.

By the end of March, the Patterson Cub Scout program was underway. An organization meeting for the organizing committee and volunteers, parents and their sons, was held at the American Legion Hall on NYS Route 311. Twenty boys registered for the program. Three packs were created, under the direction of den mothers Mrs. Andre Lavielle, Mrs. George Pfahl, and Mrs. George Pulling. Members of the committee continued to attend a weekly instructional meeting in scouting in Yorktown.

Our Town

In September, 1957, the film Our Town debuted. The film was a chronicle of life in Patterson in 1957. Over 1,000 feet of film were shot over a period of several weeks, and included such scenes as children at the Patterson School playing during recess, children playing elsewhere around the Town, and children attending the annual outing for Patterson children at the James Baird State Park in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County. The Patterson Fire Department was also featured, including the annual parade that took place in August. Aerial footage of Patterson was also included, taken from an airplane piloted by Bill Trudsoe. The film debuted as part of the Harvest Moon Dance hosted by the Men's organization of the Patterson Presbyterian Church on September 28, 1957. The dance and movie presentation was held at the Patterson Town Hall on NYS Route 311, which was the old Jacob Stahl Hall that was located across from the old DeBourbon property. Tickets were $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 16. The photographer was William Ebel of Towners, who would make a similar film in 1960.

Peter Johnson and John Lyden stage a mock fight for a scene from the film "Our Town". Linda Gronke and Earl Renner watch. The photographer was William Ebel. The photo was published in the September 19, 1957 edition of the Putnam County Courier.

Miss Putnam County 1958

The Miss Putnam County pageant was an annual event, often used as a fundraiser for charitable causes. On May 9, 1958, a dance was held in Patterson Town Hall on Main Street (NYS Route 311) to collect votes for Patterson's representative to the pageant, Miss Shirley Hudson. The total "votes" were based on the amount of money collected at the dance, with the proceeds going to disabled veterans in area hospitals. The votes would be counted at the County pageant on May 14, with the winner receiving the Miss Putnam County crown. The dance was sponsored by the Sgt. Ronald Grey American Legion Post, and music was provided by the Frank Woron band.

The coronation dance was held on May 14 at Quigleys in Lake Carmel, with Frank Woron's band providing music for the event. The master-of-ceremonies was Commander Royce Hall of the Sgt. Ronald Grey Post in Patterson. Patterson's Shirley Hudson, representing the Sgt. Ronald Grey Post, was crowned Miss Putnam County. She was crowned by Miss Patricia Litz of Putnam Valley, who was Miss Putnam County, 1957. Her prizes included a diamond ring.

Patterson's Shirley Hudson, Miss Putnam County, 1958, is pictured in the foreground of the first photo, which was published in the May 22, 1958 edition of the Putnam County Courier.