My first foray into local history was in 2000 when Steve Dunn and I co-produced the WMHT television documentary “Historic Views of the Carpet City: Amsterdam, N.Y.” Amsterdam is my home town. That same year my first book came out, self published. You Can’t Go Wrong: Stories from Nero, N.Y. and Other Tales (2000).
It was a compilation of satirical newspaper columns I had written for the Troy Record and Daily Gazette of Schenectady about Nero, a mythical Upstate New York city settled after all the good classical names such as Troy, Utica and Syracuse had been taken. Nero is a place so negative that “I don’t blame you” is a compliment.
In 2000, I pitched the Daily Gazette on doing “Focus on History”, stories from Montgomery and Fulton Counties. The column ran every other week until 2004 when it became a weekly fixture of the Saturday paper. Until his death last year, the column was edited by the Gazette’s incisive city editor Irv Dean.
In 2004 I went back into radio at Roser Communication Network’s WVTL AM-FM in Amsterdam. I’m on every day 6-10 a.m. with Amsterdam area news, guests, some calls and music and chit chat segments with co-host Dave Greene. I’m the pretentious twit and Dave is the frugal guy. Within reason I get to do what I want to do on the show.
My first radio job was in Amsterdam in 1962, followed by on air stints in Boston, Cambridge and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. My best known gig was doing the night time talk show “Contact” at WGY in Albany/Schenectady from 1980 to 1993. Dave Greene did overnights. Yes, coming back to Amsterdam means I’ve come full circle.
I’ve had difficulty working my history material into the WVTL radio show until this year. For some years I read my weekly column on the radio which was all right. But it seemed that to make better use of my Mohawk Valley bully electronic pulpit it would be good to do a regular segment and interview people about history.
“The Historians” is a weekly segment that now airs on my show on WVTL most Fridays from 9:05 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The station frequencies are 104.7 FM and 1570 AM, plus you may listen online at www.wvtlfm.com
Since “The Historians” began on February 21 of 2014 there have been over 30 guests. The show often is broken into two half-hour segments. The episodes are archived on my personal website at www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians
One of the recent guests, of course, was Peter Feinman. Others have included horse racing historian Michael Veitch, Paul Grondahl from the Albany Times Union on Erastus Corning, Bill Buell of the Daily Gazette on Schenectady’s Socialist Mayor George Lunn, Peter Betz of the Leader Herald, Presidential and baseball historian David Pietrusza, Adirondack historian Don Williams, Northville historian Gail Cramer, Wanda and Ron Burch, Amsterdam historians Robert von Hasseln and Jerry Snyder. Other guests have been drawn from historic sites: Old Fort Johnson, The Walter Elwood Museum, Johnson Hall, Fort Plain, the Herkimer Home, the Iroquois Indian Museum and Schoharie Crossing. You can hear them all here.
I remain passionate about the importance of local history. Producing a radio interview show about history is relatively easy to do. It’s like having a two or three person seminar on a historic topic. And you never really know who might be listening.
Archiving the programs, even for a couple months, makes it possible for people interested in a given topic to access the audio when they want to. It may not shock you to learn that even with good intentions, people forget to listen to a radio show at the appointed hour. A long term archive is probably a good idea for the future.
It may be hard to replicate “The Historians” or another kind of radio history show in other areas of the state, although maybe Chuck D’Imperio will do it. You may have heard of D’Imperio, the morning host at country station WDOS in Oneonta. He has written several history books for Syracuse University Press including Great Graves of Upstate New York and Unknown Museums of Upstate New York. He also does a very wry newspaper column.