The Snake Ranch
Tom Constantine wrote:
It was Halloween 1980 and a Classmate from our FEP Class was hosting a Party at 1001 State Street in Schenectady. Most of the “Green Class” of 1980 was at Robin’s Party, but also various GETSCO Field Engineers between assignments and even some of our instructors from the FEDC.
Another classmate and myself began discussing options for a place to live while working for GETSCO with David Lucier, the Manager of the Mechanical Program at the FEDC, who related to us the story of 1003 State Street, the house next door. In the late 1960’s David rented an apartment in that house to call “home” as he traveled the world as a GE Field Engineer. Since Schenectady was considered Headquarters for GETSCO, its’ Field Engineers had to cover their own expenses while there between assignments. The “Green Class” of 1980 was comprised almost exclusively GETSCO trainees, so we were quite interested in learning from someone with first hand experience.
During our formal training at the FEDC, with the assistance of Ann Fossella, many from our class could be found living at the Sheridan Village Apartments. This may explain, in part, our interest in finding optional accommodations. Our Class was not as savvy as subsequent generations of FEP’s, who upon arrival in the Capital District would find a good bar and ask a waitress where she would live in the area, if cost and location were not constraints. Those FEPs could be found living just off Broadway in Saratoga during their time at the FEDC. But, to our credit, we had survived college in the 1970’s, found a job with a large, respected Company and our parents were happy.
Once David Lucier no longer needed the apartment at 1003, GE picked up the lease on it, to be used as required for Field Engineers who were in town at the Company’s expense. Three members of our FEP Class, from Ireland, were living there at the time of Robin’s Party, so it had been used by GE for a dozen years.
In early November, about 8 members of the Green Class headed out in search of new, longer term accommodations armed with only the Sunday classifieds and a bunch of quarters, but feeling as though we had a commission from Lucier the Learned to carry on the tradition of 1003. It was dark when we reached 47 Island View Road, Cohoes, NY 12047 with the moonlight reflected from a newly fallen snow allowing us to see the house. It had been built on the Southern shore of the Mohawk River just about 300 yards West of the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Bridge on the Northway. Google the location.
This was soon to become home to seven GETSCO Field Engineers from “Green” FEP Class of 1980:
- Tom Pennella, 2. Pierre Boehler, 3. John Grimaldi, 4. Jerry Carlander, 5. Tom Luby, 6. Brent Homes, 7. Tom Constantine.
Sometime later, we were joined by two more GETSCO Field Engineers:
- Robin Ashley (Green Class, 1980) 2. Ed Kunkel (fraternity brother of John Grimaldi)
George Kennedy, our Manager at GETSCO while we were trainees, contributed both the name Snake Ranch and furniture to our humble accommodations. Tom Pennella located a couch in the dumpster at Sheridan Village which was put to good use in the den. Tom Luby contributed “gravity fed” bookshelves and a shotgun above the mantle. Barbara Lavigna loaned us a convertible divan. Brent had an oriental carpet that went well in front of the fireplace in the den. Pierre returned from a visit with friends in Greenwich Village with a Futon, a new invention to us that seemed to be of Japanese origin. Others in the house brought various pieces of furniture, Jerry had had a house in Clifton Park while in the FEP and some of his furniture found it’s way into the Snake Ranch. At least to me, the place always seemed well furnished and comfortable.
For almost two years the house at 47 Island View Road served us well, allowing us to have a home in the Capital District close to Schenectady, where we could leave cars, motorcycles, boats, clothes and all the various things collected upon our travels. In late 1982 the owners needed to sell the house, but by this time we were fully assigned and rarely in Schenectady for extended periods, so our need for permanent accommodations had lessened. In spite of this, an effort was made to find a second Snake Ranch, but getting the input of nine Field Engineers at this point was impractical with everyone being assigned.
I am sure everyone associated with the house has fond memories of their time at the Snake Ranch. Many things I had long forgotten came to mind when David asked me about the Snake Ranch, such as, the disposal of “disposable cars” purchased in Canada in the early days of Tax Equalization, and the idiosyncrasies of the house itself, like as the sulfur water and the sliding glass door between the den and the dining room. Also, we were fortunate to have good neighbors on Island View Road, where the Poole’s and the Grandchamps’ immediately come to mind, always there with a hot cup of coffee, a sympathetic ear and a helping hand.
Note: A lot of the effort that made the Snake Ranch possible can be attributed to Tom Pennella, being much more organized than the average 22 year old, who was able to coordinate collection and payment of the monthly rent and being the main interface between the Snake Ranchers and our Landlord (who was a Bartender at one of the hotels down on Wolf Road in Albany).
Accounted on Monday, 18-August-2008 (long overdue)
Last modified Saturday, Nov-13-2010 05:39 PM