Granville Then & Now – An aircraft carrier comes to Whitehall – April Fool’s

By Erik Pekar, Town Historian

It’s not often that April 1 falls on a Thursday, as it did last week. As such, it leaves a rare window of opportunity for those weekly newspapers that are dated for Thursday publication to attempt their hand at making April Fool’s Day jokes towards their readers. One of these rare opportunities came up in 1971, and James E. Roche, then the publisher of the Whitehall Times, seized the opportunity in a big way.

The April 1, 1971 issue of the Whitehall Times had a photo on its front cover of an aircraft carrier. The premise of the story was that an unnamed Whitehall organization had acquired the aircraft carrier, and brought it to Whitehall, where it was docked on the canal in the village. It was then revealed that the whole thing was a myth, explained as being the result of a lack of funds.

The Times’ Publisher Roche proclaimed it to be Whitehall’s “finest hour” and noted in his Skenesborough Scraps column of April 8 that for most, “more rational thoughts took over,” although adding that “one man, however drove up from Glens Falls to view the giant vessel tied up to the museum dock … and Publisher Manchester of the Slatetown Sentinel has reprinted the story in its entirety in this week’s issue.” MacArthur Manchester had the relevant section of Roche’s column reprinted in the Sentinel of April 15 and noted in an article in the same issue that “The Sentinel regrets any inconvenience its news story about Skenesborough’s acquisition of an aircraft carrier may have had with its readership.

+ + +

It was in April of 1961 that Rev. John F. Krzysko, pastor of All Saints Roman Catholic Church on Morrison Avenue in Granville, was transferred to St. Adalbert’s Church in Schenectady. By the time the article appeared in the April 13 issue of the Sentinel, Father Krzysko had already moved to Schenectady and resumed his duties there. The new priest for this Granville church was Rev. Anthony J. Merck, formerly of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Hague.

Father Krzysko came to Granville in 1940, succeeding Rev. Joseph Blonkowski. The old All Saints R.C. Church had burned in a fire that February. A new church was built over the spring and summer, on the opposite side of the rectory from the original site, and was dedicated on Labor Day 1940. Within the next few years, a new parish school hall was erected on the site of the old church building, the rectory was renovated, and the grounds were landscaped.

Father Krzysko’s Silver Anniversary in the Holy Priesthood occurred in the spring of 1960, an event that saw many in the area, of many denominations, visit to congratulate him. The Sentinel editor of the time noted: “Liked and respected by everyone who knew him, Father John will be greatly missed here where for so many years he has been ready to lend a helping hand to all. He wishes to tell his friends here that he is sorry to leave them and wants to be remembered to all. In Granville, we all are happy at his advancement, going from the smallest Polish parish in the diocese to the largest, but we all feel a personal loss at his leaving.”

Today, the former All Saints Roman Catholic Church is the Granville Area Food Pantry building. The parish school hall mentioned above is now the meeting hall of the Mettowee Valley Senior Citizens.

+ + +

William “Curly” Williams, Granville fire chief, had an announcement in April of 1961 for those who followed the fire trucks in their cars to the site of an ongoing fire. The relevant section of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law of the time was quoted, noting: “Outside of cities such drivers shall not follow any such fire apparatus closer than 500 feet or drive into or park within 500 feet of the building or area where the fire is located.” Williams said that “summonses will be given to ALL who break this section of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, to appear before the Justice, subject to a fine, imprisonment or both. The rule of the Vehicle and Traffic Law will be enforced in the future.” The rule is still on the books today, although the issue of people following firefighting apparatus to fires hasn’t been an issue for some years.