An eye for a good story – The Daily Gazette

A 1945 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Richard Ellers had a keen eye for a good story.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Ellers and his family moved to Amsterdam and rented an apartment or apartment on the top floor of a commercial building on East Main Street.

There was only one pane of glass in the windows and Ellers said: “I can still hear the rattle of the snow chains on the cars driving below. Sometimes every third or fourth tinkle was counterbalanced by a double thump, which was the sound of the ends of a broken chain hitting the underside of a fender.

The apartment was a few doors west of Coogan’s Grill, operated by local Democratic political boss William Coogan.

There was a side door to Coogan’s in the lobby, originally the ladies’ entrance. Ellers said: ‘I knew that door well because before I was of age my father used to send me to Coogan’s to buy him a liter of beer. I entered through that side door, paid Mr. Coogan, who then delivered the pint to me, in a bag, in the hallway.

When the Mohawk and Bigelow-Sanford carpet factories in Amsterdam produced linen, not carpet, for the armed forces during World War II, high school students became part of the workforce.

The Board of Education changed the high school day to start and end early, so that male students could take part-time jobs in factories.

Students worked four-hour shifts after school. Ellers worked at Bigelow-Sanford Carpet, helping to make woven canvas army squad tents in the factory.

Ellers wrote: “Our job was to pull large sections of canvas for the women who sat in front of huge industrial sewing machines stitching sections together.

“We helpers pulled the canvas while the women sewed. You were wearing your oldest clothes because the dark green sealant/fire retardant on the canvas was coming off on everything it touched.

“The seamstresses wore very large aprons, as well as long cuffs on their forearms. I think when summer vacation came around, they put us on full eight-hour shifts. I don’t remember if the high school girls also took jobs.

Ellers paid tribute to a Market Street pool hall owner known as the Reverend Louie Allen, “We called him Reverend, partly because he was strict about behavior.”

Ellers said no swearing was allowed at Louie’s, “But he was always ready to shake ‘dice’ for money or just for a soda and his back room was a haunt of poker players and shitty shots.”

Allen’s first-floor pool hall was on Market Street in an alley that led to the police station. The building was demolished for urban renewal in the 1970s.

Ellers was voted by his high school classmates in 1945 as the wittiest and loudest boy. He witnessed FDR’s presidential funeral and wrote a first-person account for the school newspaper, The Item.

Ellers skipped his high school graduation ceremony in May 1945 to enlist in the United States Navy, serving as a gunner’s mate on minesweepers in the Pacific theater, reaching the Philippines and Japan before the end of the war.

Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he studied at the school of journalism at Kent State University, from which he graduated in 1953. He worked as a reporter and photographer for the Warren Ohio Tribune Chronicle from 1954 to 1965 then for the Cleveland Plain Dealer until upon his retirement in 1992. His reporting included presidential political campaigns, science and nature, industry and human interest.

Ellers, 93, died in July 2021 at her home in Warren, Ohio. He had married Martha McLaughlin in 1956 who survives, together with two children.

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