Kingston Roots

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Image courtesy Alex Proimos

I was recently out walking around in the Ponckhockie neighborhood of Kingston, on Labor Day, and heard a familiar sound. It could have been any hot summer day. A sound that goes back to at least the 1980s for me, but I am sure has been around since the first ice cream truck opened its sliding glass windows to the kids flocking to some relief from the summer heat.

A jingle emanates throughout the neighborhood that cannot be mistaken for any other service in this town. It was especially poignant on Labor Day, however, any day you hear “Union Maid” it means a cold reprieve is near in the form of ice cream. But, you had better rush out fast before it disappears down the block, headed for the Rondout or Midtown.

This is just one of many characteristics of this town that make it special. Think about it. Kids rush to get ice cream the instant they hear a Woody Guthrie tune championed by Pete Seeger from the dust bowl days. Gritty lunchbucket city. Those are the roots. It is nice to have people moving here to join us who also appreciate that.

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come ’round
She always stood her ground.

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn’t be fooled by a company stool, she’d always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
She’d show her card to the National Guard
And this is what she’d say

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

Visit the Daily Freeman for a video on the hard-to-find ice cream truck.

About Gregg Swanzey

Gregg Swanzey, a longtime advocate for the Hudson River and the Mid-Hudson Region, first moved to the Rondout neighborhood in Kingston with his family in 1986 fresh off several years as Captain of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Since then, he has crossed the Atlantic three times, served as Executive Director for a gubernatorially appointed Commission in Massachusetts, and traveled to far-flung places such as St. Petersburg, Russia; Reykjavik, Iceland; and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. After four years in City Hall as Director of Economic Development and Strategic Partnerships for the City of Kingston, he has recently come aboard as Executive Director for the Winnakee Land Trust based in Rhinebeck in Northern Dutchess County. On any given day you might see him out jogging on one of several rail trails that converge in Kingston, kayaking the Hudson over to Rhinecliff, biking Uptown to the Farmer’s Market, climbing to the top of Burger Hill in Winnakee's Drayton Grant Park, or hanging out at home in a classic 1920's Dutch Colonial overlooking the Hudson with his wife, Emma. His two daughters live and work in New York City but are regularly up the River for the weekend.

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