Remember St. Clare's

1940s - The Beginning

1940s | In the Beginning | Dedication | Petition | History Timeline | Photos | News Clips | Headlines

In the Beginning...The Story As It Was Seen and Heard in 1948

The late Barney Fowler, a much beloved journalist and storyteller, penned the following article in 1948, about St. Clare’s Hospital and its origins. The column in which it appeared, Seen and Heard, By Barnett (Spec) Fowler, was a regular feather in the now defunct Union Star.

Few realize it, but the current St. Clare’s campaign is based upon a need which broke loose in a behind-the-scenes movement in 1942, when a man in Schenectady began to route public opinion into petition channels. He’s never been given credit, and it’s about time he was. We know the story; we were in on it.

On or about Oct. 26, of the mentioned year, Frank A. Dickershaid, a roofing and sheet metal worker of 1911 Guilderland Ave., called us up. He was troubled, and said so; he was troubled about the growing need for hospitalization in Schenectady...Together we worked out a plan. We called the office of Bishop Edmund Gibbons of the Albany Diocese and asked the status of the planned Catholic hospital. We were told that it was still a ‘planned affair’ and that a demonstration from the public was needed to bring the whole matter to a head. There was, at this time, a parcel of property on McClellan St. owned by the diocese. After several talks with the officials who nominally would be in charge of such a gigantic undertaking, we began to contact local priests. One priest, who acted pretty much as a spokesman, said that if petitions were signed by at least 20.000 persons were presented, it would be indicative of enough interest in the hospital to get it going. Remember now, this was in 1942.

Frank Dickershaid got busy and a petition was drafted. Frank had it printed and began its circulation. It began going through the GE works with the rapidity of a prairie blaze, and signatures appeared by the thousands.

It brought out the fact that this county, with a population of approximately 125,000 persons, had only one general hospital, the facilities of which, in 1942, "were woefully inadequate to care for the needs of the community." It ended thusly: "It is our understanding that the Diocese of Albany bought property in Schenectady some years ago with the intention of erecting thereon a hospital. If this is so, we respectfully urge that construction of such a hospital be started as soon as possible." The petition also urged solid support of any campaign.

Thus, through the efforts of Dickershaid, the immediate desire and the need became a tangible thing. Some time afterwards, the diocese purchased and additional piece of property on McClellan Street site. Many times this writer had visited the late Harry Furman, who controlled the property. Furman was a firm believer in the new hospital project; felt it was needed, and said he would give the new construction "a break" when the new property was acquired.

The need was established, the property was acquired. The matter lay dormant then, probably because of the war - until suddenly, at various spots throughout the county projects were talked over. Scotia, for instance, came through with big ideas about a hospital. We checked into this and found that leaders there felt the property for the new institution would be "donated." BUT we were asked not to print the locations because it was felt the price of the "donated" property might go up! Town of Rotterdam started something too, but a three-hour session with the leader of this movement resulted in cancellation and a natural death.

By this time public fervor was mounting. We finally called Bishop Gibbons’ office again and told him the situation in the county. We were told that the answer would come "in about three days."

Three days later we called, and the announcement came through: St. Clare’s Hospital campaign would become a reality. Everyone knows what happened after that. The stories, broke, the meetings were held. The result was as could be expected under campaign leadership of such a capable man as Laurence G. Magner. It boomed, it zoomed, it roared onward! Only increased building costs stymied it.

That is why tonight, at the Hotel Van Curler, there will be a meeting for another hospital campaign. We don’t know if Frank Dickershaid will be there - but even if he won’t, he’ll hear about it. And if he reads this, he’ll know that publicly, for the first time, his own efforts will have been recognized, efforts that occurred years ago, when public opinion, the most powerful of all things, had to be routed and channeled so that a good thing for Schenectady would materialize.

We’re leaving at the end of this week after 18 years of service at The Union-Star. But believe us, we leave happy and sorry. Happy that guys like Dickershaid can start things moving as a citizen, sorry that we won’t be having the privilege of working with men of his kind.

1940s | In the Beginning | Dedication | Petition | History Timeline | Photos | News Clips | Headlines