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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 14, 2010
Capturing the harmonies of a bygone era
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND His upbringing made him outgoing, says Willard Osterhout.
He lived over Osterhout’s Indian Ladder Lodge until he was 12.
“Eleven members of my family lived there; we all became extroverts,” he said. “There was always music. The jukebox was always playing. And, when I was in bed on Friday and Saturday nights, I could hear the band in the dance hall.”
The dance hall was called the Blue Room. But it wasn’t the “just meant for two room…where I can smoke my pipe away with your wee head upon my knee” that Bing Crosby crooned about in the song “Blue Room.”
“It was the Big Band era,” recalled Osterhout. “They played fox trots and rumbas. Over the dance floor was a recessed ceiling with blue fluorescent lights…When you turned out all the other lights, there would be a blue glow on the dance floor.”
Osterhout, at age 69, is writing a book about the lodge and his family. He has previously written four books on local history, featuring the different hamlets in Berne, where he lives.
His father, Deforest, and his two uncles, Wyman and Everett, started the New Scotland business at the corner of routes 85 and 157, on the road to Thacher Park, in 1932. Their father had run Helderberg Cold Spring, a “stopover place” nearby in New Salem, he said. The family sold the lodge in 1957.
Osterhout is looking now for others to share their memories and photographs of the lodge. “People in their 70s or 80s will have fond memories of times they spent there at weddings or anniversaries, or birthdays,” he said.
“It was one of the premier night clubs in the Capital District,” said Osterhout. “If you had company visiting, that was one of the places you had to go.”
The lodge had the largest bar in Albany County, Osterhout said. “It was a mahogany bar, 98 feet around, put in after World War II.”
It also had a dining room, called the Skyview Room with 11 picture windows. “When you sat down to eat, you could see the mountains of three different states…New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont,” he said.
Both of his parents cooked for the lodge. And his father, when he was finished cooking, also tended bar. The work was constant since the lodge was open seven days a week.
“My first job was washing glasses in the back bar,” said Osterhout. “I graduated when I was 14 or 15 to making drinks in the service bar.” The waitresses would pick up trays from him, laden with “big drinks” Tom Collinses, High Balls, and Old Fashioneds.
It wasn’t all work, though. One of Osterhout’s favorite recollections is of riding the dumbwaiter behind the bar. “It would drive my grandfather crazy,” he said with a chuckle.
He also recalled what it was like to get trapped in the big walk-in cooler downstairs, which happened not infrequently.
“You’d beat on the pipes for the draught beer, and they could hear it upstairs,” he said.
Now only the memories remain. The lodge no longer stands. But Osterhout is working to preserve those memories in tangible form his fifth book.
Anyone who wants to share photos, taken either inside or outside the Indian Ladder Lodge, may call Willard Osterhout at 872-1606 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.