By Buffy Calvert
Picture a lumber storage barn, big, spare, and utilitarian, transformed by twinkling lights, a disco ball casting kaleidoscopic patterns on a dance floor circled by white tables and chairs. As your eyes adjust to the magical light, you notice dart boards and horseshoe back stops along the walls. The owners of this exciting place, Bill and Laurie Day, explain that the pins and pits have been removed for the season. He is a sturdy, handsome, compact man with dark hair, graying at the temples. She is tall, blond and beautiful. Both are enthusiastic, warm, and eager to tell about their “Barn” on Redden Lane off Main Street, home to the Andes Horseshoe Club.
On the mantel stands the elegant New York State Pitching Association rotating trophy, won this year by the club with their names inscribed for all time. In fact, two members of the club, Adam VanValkenberg and Pat Armstrong, won trophies at the World Tournament in Springfield, Illinois last summer.
The Delaware Horseshoe League sponsors two teams in Andes: one, sanctioned to hold tournaments, at the Barn, and the other at the Summer Shack behind the Hotel. Bill and Laurie enjoy this company. “Horseshoe people are so much fun, laid back and down-to-earth.” One hundred and twenty members play, of whom 15 are “sanctioned” by the New York State Pitching Association to play in tournaments. To gain sanctioned status the player must accumulate enough ringer points to qualify.
Adam VanValkenberg, who teaches at ACS, brought a group of students over to the Barn to learn the fundamentals of horseshoe pitching. A new generation of pitchers is on the way.
During the winter Bill and Laurie engage in a Pool (billiards) League at the Hotel and the Barn. There is some talk that the Andel Inn may become a third site. Dart Boards line the sides of the barn, an inside sport that is gaining momentum.
Does that sound like enough activity for two people with full-time jobs? Not for this couple! They also enjoy snowmobiling. Never satisfied to go it alone, filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm and unfazed by hard work, Bill organized the 500 member, 10 Township, 90-mile trail Central Catskill Trail Association. They sought and secured permission to cross every parcel of private or public land, using coordinators who worked in their own areas. They promised in return insurance coverage and policing of the trail to remove any trash. The club won the Best Club award from the NYS Parks and Recreation Department in its first year. These past two years, the Days have sponsored snowmobile safety classes at the Barn.
How did this dynamic duo come to Andes? Both were born nearby: Bill in Arena (now under Pepacton’s waters), Laurie in Delhi. Laurie’s parents, Sheila and John Stratton, moved her and her younger siblings, John, Tracy and Susan, to Chenango Forks, where Laurie excelled in basketball and synchronized swimming. She spent summers with her maternal grandparents, the Doughertys on Fall Clove Road. There she met John Little whom she married in 1982. They rented the Stevens’ dairy farm. Laurie worked as a bank auditor and helped out with farm chores.
In 1991 they lost their herd and barn to a fire. Laurie waitressed and cooked at the Hotel to make ends meet. One day in the midst of pie baking she got a call from Jan Stevens at the school, “We need help!” She has been cooking daily and for many special occasions at ACS ever since. The fire so devastated the Littles that the couple separated in 1992. Laurie moved with the children, John Ryan (Ryan) and Elizabeth (Beth) to the Highlands.
Meanwhile, Bill’s parents, Hilson and Rose Day, forced out of Arena by the city by eminent domain, moved to Roxbury. Rose worked in the Adirondack Bat Factory in Arkville. When the factory closed in 1966, she elected to transfer to the home factory in the Adirondacks and Bill moved with her. At 17 he married Lou Ann Williams. They had 5 children: Beth Ann, Roxanne, Forest, Christine and Jacob. He has 12 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.
He dropped out of high school (where his chief interest was basketball) and went to work at a charcoal plant, then a shoe factory, followed by a stint at Adirondack Bat. He started a garage and by the early 80s became a home improvement contractor working as far afield as Andes.
Thus it was that, staying during a lengthy local project in Marty Donnelly’s apartment, he chanced to meet his “Lovely significant other” who waited on his table at the Andes Hotel. Soon they moved to the former Bud Gladstone house on Gladstone Hollow using the big barn to store the Weathertite Home Improvement Company office, supplies, trucks and equipment, and their snowmobiles.
The Days have known great joy and great sorrow. They celebrated their marriage in a lovely ceremony and party at the Barn. They suffered the tragic death of Bill’s son Jake in a car accident, and a major loss this fall when the Gladstone Hollow barn went up in flames. Mercifully, the valiant volunteer fire companies were able to save the house and no one was hurt. They have already started to rebuild.
Ryan and Beth Little shone as athletes at ACS. Ryan graduated from Finger Lakes Community College with 3 Associate degrees: Resource Conservation, Conservation and Law Enforcement, and Fishery Technology. He is currently foreman of the crew of Weathertite Home Improvements. Beth is studying Early Childhood Education at SUNY Cobleskill. Her ambition: to start a Day Care Center. Keeping up the tradition is John Smith, Bill’s eldest grandson, who is a senior at ACS.
Bill and Laurie say firmly, “We like to be community minded,” citing the memorial dart tournaments they sponsor. All the proceeds go to an unfunded project, the Margaretville skating rink, sending girls to camp, the village flags, and, in 2009, Community Day expenses. Next year they may refurbish the ANDES WELCOMES YOU signs that mark the entrances to the Town.
Community minded? They are superlatively so, bringing people together to play, to learn, to enjoy each other’s company, to excel. Bill and Laurie enjoy every minute of all the behind-the-scenes work it entails. Their zeal, competence and spirit enrich our community life beyond measure. ~