So, what does the brown sign out on I-88 reading "Yager Museum" mean anyway?
Who was Yager? What kind of a museum is it? Why, once you have followed the brown sign off the highway, do you find yourself wandering around looking for it?
I've lived here for decades and have never been to it, so I figured it was about time I headed up West Street to Hartwick College to see what the Yager Museum was all about.
Donna Anderson, the museum director, met me at the front door and ushered me into a serene series of rooms carrying the museum's collection. I'll admit I don't know much about Willard Yager (1855-1929).
I know he was a journalist who catalogued virtually everything he came into contact with, built a replica Native American longhouse in downtown Oneonta and taught himself the language of the Mohawk to fully immerse himself in the culture. Yes, this was a guy with whom I would have loved to have had a cup of coffee.
And as for his museum, all I can say is, "Wow."
"Mr. Yager gave us the beginning of what is now a top-notch, multi-faceted collection," Anderson told me. "He blessed this college with his generosity and sense of history. About 3,000 visit here each year, not counting the students, of course."
The Yager Museum hosts clay pipes, pottery, arrowheads and too many Indian baskets, necklaces and objets d'art to count. This guy was a real pack rat. But it is beyond the original Yager donation that this museum really blossoms. In 1960, Hartwick President Henry Arnold decided to expand the museum's scope to include major national and international art acquisitions. The collection, though small, is superb.
"We have Hudson River School of Art paintings, sculptures and rarities from around the globe, an exquisite collection of American Impressionism and some pretty well-known names on our walls, " Donna told me.
And indeed they do. A painting by Childe Hassam, whose works have been collected by aficionados around the world, is over on that wall. And here on this one is a beautiful Rockwell Kent winter scene. And on the far wall are a number of awesome Hudson River landscapes. And don't even ask me who Emily Hatch is, but her 1928 life-size painting titled "The Spangled Scarf" will haunt you.
And they even have an original El Greco! The last time I viewed an El Greco was in 2007 at the Louvre in Paris.
I asked about one large, eerie statue.
"This is Saint Nepomuk. It dates from around 1700," the director told me. "He is the patron saint of drowning victims. You can only guess how he died," she smiled.
I inquired about a series of intricate metal icons arranged in shiny frames along one wall. "Now, here is a real story," she whispered. "These are priceless religious icons. They were smuggled out of Communist Russia during the Cold War by a man of the cloth from right here in Oneonta."
I won't divulge the name of this cloak-and-dagger Oneonta minister. I'll let you go explore this great story yourself at the Yager Museum.
Before leaving, I asked Donna what her favorite item in the museum was. She walked me over to an exhibit of 1800-era coverlets (bed coverings).
"It would have to be this one, right here," she said with a sigh. We stood in front of an astonishing large, blue-and-white fancily embroidered covering.
"It was made by a woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is signed (Catherine Eschenauer) and dated 1844. The amazing thing is that we also have her diary, which chronicles her long life, which was filled with both joys and tribulations. This coverlet really speaks to me. It is a great example of how the past can sometimes seem so anonymous, and then all of a sudden the personal aspects of an object reach out and touch you. I just love it," she said.
It truly is a stunning piece of work.
The museum (431-4480) is free, has easy access (in fact there are no stairs to it at all) and features a wonderful gift shop brimming with local handmade items and objects relating to the museum's exhibits.
So, if you think Guido Reni, Giovanni Bellini, Andrea Prevital and Poppo Pordenone are names of "lower deckers" who worked long ago in the D&H roundhouse, think again! They are 15th-century European Renaissance masters, and they're hanging around up on Oyaron Hill just waiting for you to come and check them out.
I'll catch you in two …'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
So, what does the brown sign out on I-88 reading "Yager Museum" mean anyway?
- Big Chuck
Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old
I asked Cam Morris, head of Eastern Travel/Oneonta Bus Lines, how many years her company has been handling the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.
Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
We just came back from a weekend in Manchester, Vt., and my wife insists that something "magical" happens when you pass the state sign. "I think they spray 'Vermont Vapor' out of the sign or something," she opined, "something that actually changes us."
Selections from the virtual mailbag
Well, it's time to open up the email bag, and it's really full!
Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
In 1969, I was "The Doughnut King" in Sidney.
- Monday, March 11, 2013
Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
Opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) has been called the "most distinctive American voice of the 20th century."
- Monday, February 25, 2013
Film clip a window into Oneonta's past
One of my radio listeners sent me an astonishing piece of video recently. I posted it on my Facebook page (go to Facebook, search "BIG CHUCK") and it has been viewed by well over 1,000 people in just a week.
- Monday, February 11, 2013
Many made stop at upstate naval base
My father was in the U.S. Navy. Not for long, but he did enlist out of high school in 1944. He did his naval training at Sampson Naval Training Base in Romulus. Shortly after Dad's basic training, he was honorably discharged because of a health issue. So, although his service was brief, I needed to find out as much about it as I possibly could.
- Monday, January 28, 2013
Local foods worthy of national spotlight
Well, President Obamaâ€™s second inauguration is over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction.
- Monday, January 14, 2013
Remembering lives of the not-so-famous
I write about 25 columns a year for this paper. And I must admit, this annual one is always my favorite. A lot of famous people left this world last year, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, singer Andy Williams and TV's George Jefferson actor -- Sherman Hemsley.
- Monday, December 31, 2012
Canines create unforgettable moments
Last year, I used my holiday column to pay tribute to my dog, Stella. The darn dog actually received fan mail after that, and has insisted that I do a shout-out to her canine colleagues each year around this time. So, to keep Stella happy, here goes.
- Monday, December 17, 2012
Nothing like an old-fashioned movie theater
What is it about a movie theater?
- Monday, December 3, 2012
Chuck's daughter returns to a town full of memories
My daughter Frances, OHS Class of 2000, came home for Thanksgiving last week after not having been in her hometown for nearly five years. I asked her to be my "guest columnist" to share her thoughts about coming home for the holidays. I hope you enjoy her story.
- Monday, November 19, 2012
Time to move on after grueling campaign season
Nobody likes a presidential election campaign better than I do. But this one darn near took a piece out of me.
- Monday, November 5, 2012
One nasty hurricane more than enough for one lifetime
Hey, Sandy! Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
- Monday, October 22, 2012
Latter-day stunt men still knew how to thrill
What is it with all these crazy stuntmen all of a sudden?
- Monday, October 8, 2012
Andy Williams, last of the great crooners
When singer Andy Williams died a week ago, it truly was an end of an era.
- Monday, September 24, 2012
Senator's farm was all I imagined
Many years ago, when I first arrived in Oneonta, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the senior senator from New York state. His top aide, Ross Frommer, used to come into the radio station for interviews and to tell my audience about the various legislative efforts involving "their senator."
- Monday, September 10, 2012
Family's history includes ancestor who knew Lincoln
- Monday, August 27, 2012
Making up for lost time on Facebook
If there ever was a true-blue phenomenon, it is Facebook.
- Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old