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Capital Region Scrapbook: Cat rescue, visit by clown (with photo gallery)

Monday, July 9, 2012
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John Gross of Glencliff Elementary School huffs and puffs his way across the finish line of the 60-yard dash, one of the events held during Niskayuna’s elementary school field day. A pal offers congratulations as Bill Erdman of Craig Elementary takes second.
John Gross of Glencliff Elementary School huffs and puffs his way across the finish line of the 60-yard dash, one of the events held during Niskayuna’s elementary school field day. A pal offers congratulations as Bill Erdman of Craig Elementary takes second.

Carol Barlette was thinking about horses on the run.

She settled for a cat on the lam.

Barlette changed her plans on Monday, July 8, 1968, and a small kitten was the winner. The young Scotia woman and her friend David Mongillo were traveling to Saratoga Raceway at 7 p.m. when they saw the cat enter a storm sewer opening under the railroad bridge over State Street.

Barlette forgot all about the horses. She decided to place her bet on the cat.

Schenectady Gazette reporter Gordon Boyd learned Carol called a local animal shelter, the city fire department and city Bureau of Service. Frank Mareno of the bureau showed up to help Carol and her prospective new pet.

The rescue operation was a job. Mareno lifted manhole covers in the area to locate the cat. The determined Mareno lowered himself into the holes to look for the fugitive, who played hard-to-get and retreated into other pipes. City police also pitched in: Patrolman Phil DiCaprio was sent to the scene to direct traffic and keep spectators away from the search and seize project.

“Finally near 8:30, after all practical solutions had been washed up and hung on the drying line of experience, a fire hydrant at Broadway and State was opened and the cat was flushed into the waiting arms of its new owner,” Boyd wrote.

Blinko and a boy

There were other feel-good stories around during the summer of ‘68.

Blinko the clown, a member of James Hetzer’s European Circus, showed up at the Latham Circle on July 3 to drum up business for circus shows at the Colonie Summer Theater. Blinko, whose real name was Ernie Burch, had been wearing greasepaint and clown shoes since 1938. He had worked with Ringling Bros. and Clyde Beatty; he had been seen in Cecil B. DeMille’s circus epic “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

“When kids ask why I have green eyelashes,” he told Gazette reporter Peg Churchill, “I always tell them that I eat an awful lot of broccoli.”

Blinko struck up a friendship with Michael Golonka, 3, who was at his grandfather’s restaurant, Otto’s, when Blinko made an appearance. The clown said he and his wife — fellow circus performer Maran Burch – had no children. “But I have a million around the world,” Blinko said. “They come to me with their problems.”

Competing, singing and dancing

Budding athletes were in action in Niskayuna, showing off their running and jumping skills at an elementary field day. In Schenectady, the city had purchased a “Game Time” trailer which offered games and converted into a full stage. Lozere Thompson, perhaps looking for the next Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer or Iron Butterfly, rehearsed groups of young singers.

Singing was OK for some. Dance was just fine for others.

First nighters were at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Thursday, July 4, for “The Nutcracker.” The holiday story must have a been a treat for people who had always wanted to experience Christmas in July.

 
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