Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fertilizer Plant / The Ice Arena

Not every memory or River Vale is necessarily pleasant! Sometimes in my time frame of memory, probably in the early 40's, it seems as though someone built a plant adjacent to St. Andrews cemetery on Cedar Lane. This thing was an eyesore to begin with, but when they started cooking their vats of manure everyone probably forgot what the thing looked like. The smell that came out of that place was beyond description. They usually cooked the stuff at night, but in the summertime and before air-conditioning everyone slept with their windows wide open, and boy, did that things smell! We lived over by the firehouse and the smell made it directly to our house and came in every window. The town fathers tried to get the thing out of town, but as today, the plant people tied things up legally, so there it stayed. One wonderful night, the place caught fire and pretty much burned to the ground before the firemen arrived. Thus an happy ending for the town residents!

The Ice Arena

In about the year 1938 or 39, John Handwerg constructed the largest building in River Vale. It was his ice arena on River Vale Road at the intersection of Prospect Avenue, adjacent to the then Public School No. 2. He brought a minor league team into town made up of mostly Canadians, who came down here with the hopes of making it into the "big time" league in New York City. I can remember going to several of these games and this was surely as big time as it ever got for a seven or eight year old River Vale kid like myself. At that time, my father worked for John Handwerg and I had pretty much the run of the arena. I can still remember how scary it was to be in the room with the big compressors running with all the accompanying noise. I was always glad to get out of that room. The sport was starting to catch on and attendance was picking up when Canada became involved in World War II. It seemed as though all the players left immediately and thus, no team. I do remember one night when our mayor, Mr. Blakeney, who had a front row box seat, got hit in the mouth by a wayward hockey puck and it messed him up quite a bit. The arena closed up as a hockey rink and for awhile was just a recreational ice rink. This didn't last for long, and it was then closed down. During World War II it was a warehouse for Lederle from Pearl River. After the war, it became a factory that manufactured canvas sporting goods such as boxing mats and things like that (Premier Athletic). The building still stands as one of the few industrial buildings in town. Was exciting while it lasted! Dick Button, the olympic skater, learned how to skate here.

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