ANDES NOT DEAD – March 2020

By Jim Andrews

When I bought my house 42 years ago, my neighbor across the street, Ethel Edwards, gave me a box of newspapers and clippings that the former owners of my house, Jim and May Mable, had collected and saved.  I never looked in the box but stashed it away in a closet.  Several weeks ago I pulled out that box to cull  what was interesting and worth saving.  Among the clippings was the following with “Catskill Mountain News   Aug 24–1956” scrawled in pencil alongside the article:

Andes Not Dead

Mr. Raymond awoke a town of 400 souls to the world around them by launching the forum.—Walton Reporter.

We have never heard that Andes was asleep.   If there is a village in this section which has been awake for a century it is Andes.  Andes furnished the state with a lieutenant governor, who, but for a change in the political picture, would have been governor.  Andes had the first central school in the Catskills, previous to that was the home of the Delaware County Institute [actual name was Andes Collegiate Institute] which attracted young men from many places in this state.  Henry Dowie of Andes went to New York many years ago and controlled the world’s butter market.  James Ballantine of Andes was outstanding in the state legislature.  Years ago an Andes hose company won the world’s record for hose laying. 

The central school is beautiful, the Andes cemetery is outstanding in grace and beauty as compared to other cemeteries in this part of the state.

Many years ago Sheriff Steele was shot in Andes when he began to sell farmer’s cattle at the request of landlords who acted somewhat like communist landlords of today.

There are many communities which need awakening more than does Andes.  It is a town of culture, patriotic and interesting history, of teachers, dedicated preachers, leaders in business and finance.

It was nice of Mr. Raymond to bring to the unusual village the Forum and the good speakers for other parts of the world but when it is called “an effort to awaken a town of 400 souls” that is another story.  If the speakers could have spent two weeks in Andes and found how a patriotic, typical American village lives, they would have learned much.

Fast forward 63 years.  In March last year, the pastor of our church, Rev. Marena Vittorio, asked me to speak to the congregation about “Andes Positives—good things happening in Andes”.  Initially I thought “What good things?”  For those of us who have lived here for more than a few decades, we immediately compare the Andes of today to the Andes we remember from our childhoods.  At that time, Andes was like every other small community—we were self-sufficient.  You didn’t have to leave town for much of anything other than furniture, larger appliances and possibly clothing, and if you were desperate, Liddle Brothers or the Corner Store could probably come up with some clothing to get you by.  With the demise of farming and related industries like feed stores and creameries, we lost many of the staple businesses that kept the town booming.  When confronted with coming up with what was good here now, I began to realize that there still was much good happening right here in Andes.

I started at the upper end of the hamlet and worked my way down to the center of town.  One of our newer businesses, Allison Oil, built a new garage and office building on the site of the former Town Hall.  Aside from providing many of us with reliable oil delivery, they also support many community endeavors.  There is an active and well kept Catholic church.  We have (and I have to put a plug in here being on the ASHC board of directors) an amazing historical society that has invested decades of time and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the Hunting Tavern, Pleasant Valley Meeting House and the Old Village Fire Hall. Connected with that is the Thrift Shop that is operated by the Society and provides a great way to recycle items people no longer want or need while providing a very reasonable retail outlet for the surrounding communities.  We have a thriving public library that provides a wide series of programming for folks of all ages and is currently in the midst of an extensive building project.  We have five restaurants that serve a wide variety of culinary offerings, a multitude of shops that, although not replacing the local businesses of 50 years ago, do provide a wide range of unique merchandise which attracts many tourists and keeps our streets active and alive for most of the year.  We maintain the Andes Central School and while small in number, it still provides a superior education for Andes students while allowing them to grow up in a small town atmosphere.  The school is also sporting a new stone bridge and the building itself is undergoing renovations and upgrades which will secure its physical presence in this community for decades to come.  Next door to the school is the town pool which has been the envy of surrounding communities for many years.  For decades Andes has been the only community to boast a modern, well staffed pool that has taught hundreds of local children how to swim while providing a welcomed recreational venue for residents.  The Presbyterian Church has an engaged pastor and congregation which supports several local missions.  Next door to the church, the Dirty Girl Goat Farm provides for a very much used Farmers’ Market where fresh, local produce can be obtained.  One of the newest additions to the community has been the Andes Medical Clinic associated with Bassett Hospital.  Again, we are so fortunate to have this valuable service at our doorstep.  We have a beautiful, well kept cemetery.  Unlike many local cemeteries, the Andes Cemetery remains independent and board controlled.  Romo Machine is another newer business–one which hires a full time staff.  One major asset this community has is the Fire Department and Emergency Squad.  The squad still is able to provide emergency coverage 24/7 which many local communities cannot provide.  They received a much-needed new ambulance this past summer.  The fire department has a fleet of modern fire-fighting trucks and equipment.  We have a Methodist Church which offers services each Sunday and the Cabin Hill Presbyterian Church which maintains a very active congregation.  We have a great town highway department which works diligently to keep the many miles of Andes’ roads safe. We even have a monthly newspaper, The Andes Gazette!

The community itself celebrated its 200th anniversary this past August. Not bad Andes!

This is by no means an all-encompassing list but highlights all the good that continues to happen here, 56 years after that first article was published.

Notes: It appears that the quoted article from the Catskill Mountain News was in rebuttal to a previous article published in the Walton Reporter.

The Andes Forum was a project sponsored by The Andes Central School begun in the early 1950s and continued through the early 1960s.  The purpose of the “Forum” was to bring speakers from other countries and areas of this country to speak, broadening the horizons of both the school population and the general public as well. This was a forerunner of The Andes Roundtable which provided similar educational opportunities from 2000-2018. I remember as a young grade school student, that my parents hosted a dinner at our home for the speaker from, I believe, Afghanistan—a Mr. Takari.  I still have his autograph!  Probably the most noted speaker to address the Forum was former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who addressed a crowd of over 800 (packed into the ACS auditorium) in March of 1954.   A related newspaper article reported that Mrs. Roosevelt drove 80 miles from Hyde Park alone in her car to make the address!  The Forum was initially moderated by Bernard Raymond and I seem to remember when I attended them in grade school, that ACS social studies teacher David C. Andrews served as moderator. One humorous aside:  Mr. Andrews once told us that one teacher wouldn’t attend the Forum presentations because they were held on Tuesday nights and that was when Red Skelton was on TV!! ~