Reporter’s Notebook: The Book With Everyone’s Number

For a split second, when the radio DJ said he’d be playing oldies from the ’90s, I thought he meant the 1890s. For many of us, the 1990s don’t seem long enough ago for the music to qualify as “old.”

More than music can change over just a few decades, which hit home for me when John Jesek, a collector of cool vintage stuff, dropped a copy of the 1990-91 Cold Spring-Garrison telephone directory on my desk. Its 100 pages illustrate how, like it or not, time marches on. 

phone book

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church published this 1990 phone book as a fundraising tool.

Start with the fact that, 33 years ago, there was a phone book. When was the last time you used one to find a number? Or talked to a live operator? 

This directory wasn’t courtesy of Ma Bell or AT&T. It was published by the vestry of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church as a fundraiser. Local businesses purchased advertising and residents gave donations. Three thousand copies were distributed, mostly by mail. 

Longtime Philipstown residents might issue a nostalgic sigh even before opening the “old” directory. The emergency listings on the front cover include Butterfield Memorial Hospital and the Carolyn Lahey Medical Arts Pavilion. 

Some of the advertising might also prompt inhabitants of a certain age to reach for a tissue. Icons that have gone the way of the telephone booth include Dockside Harbor Restaurant, Butterfield Pharmacy, the Old Foundry Gun Shop, the Plumbush Inn, Salmagundi Books and Ron Bowman’s M&R Sunoco station. 

Three travel agencies advertised in 1990, including Four Seasons Travel at 97 Main St., which boasted of being “fully computerized.” Harry E. Hustis and Son was among the last milkman-era businesses. And ponder Dynamic TV Repair. What? In 1990 people didn’t just discard their televisions and buy new ones? 

Lifelong residents and newcomers continue to lament the absence of a hardware store in town since C&E Paints closed, but in 1990 Cold Spring had two. Ed’s Variety, Paint and Hardware at 103 Main was the other. 

While the ads document former businesses that no longer exist, they also highlight enterprises that remain community stalwarts. Familiar names include Badey & Watson Surveyors, Clinton Funeral Home, Cold Spring Depot Restaurant, Downey Oil, Erickson Bros Well Drilling, Harold Lyons & Sons, Philipstown Tree Service, Pidala Oil, Pidala Electric, Polhemus Construction, Riverview Restaurant and Thrift King Auto Service. 

No fewer than 18 real-estate agencies advertised in the 1990 directory, but only three operate today: Limited Editions, McCaffrey and Nora Preusser, although the latter is now AD Preusser. 

I’ve lived in the area since the late 1990s but some ads provided information that surprised me. The Countryside Motel on Route 9 operated a fish market and served fresh lunches and dinners. 

The Helpful Elf at 6 Chestnut St. provided catering and “hundreds of volumes of pleasantly priced” cookbooks through a catalog service. 

I apparently missed out on the Sunday Burgermeister Brunch at Breakneck Lodge. 

Ruth Eisenhower, who would later entertain and serve customers at Grey Printing for years, operated Creative Types typing service at 38 Garden St. 

Not all the directory’s advertising conjured up pleasant memories. John Marciniak rescued me more than once with his towing service and I quickly grew to like the man. Seeing the ad for Garrison Garage was a reminder of his murder outside his shop on New Year’s Eve in 2008. 

Thankfully, a few things struck me as funny. 

The Hudson Peddler country store didn’t bother including its address. The ad simply stated: “Located on the other side of the tracks.”

The Cold Spring Fire Co. listed two numbers, one for fires, the other for “social calls.”

And Hudson Valley Security Systems asked, “Are you alarmed?” and provided the answer: “You should be.”

The phone number for Cold Spring Pizza was 265-9512 — same as today — but the area code was 914 rather than 845. 

What old but then new music was playing in the background at the time? The top song on the Billboard charts in 1990 was “Hold On,” by Wilson Phillips. But a re-release of “Unchained Melody,” which had been a hit for the Righteous Brothers in 1965, also reached No. 1. That’s a great oldie, no matter the year. 

6 thoughts on “Reporter’s Notebook: The Book With Everyone’s Number

  1. Great article, Mike, lovely to read. It reminded me of so many people, including our friend Carolyn Krebs, who owned Salmagundi Books and was active on town committees. Back in those days, the independent bookstores were threatened by Barnes & Noble. These days, every business is threatened by Amazon.

  2. I am so glad to see the St. Mary’s vestry continued printing the Cold Spring-Garrison phone directory into the 1990s. My father and grandfather were members of the vestry and printed them for years. I remember helping dad cut and paste names, addresses and ads on our dining-room table. My sister and I got to pick out the color for the cover! I wish I could find one from the 1950s or 1960s. [via Facebook]

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