Our article on the Charles Freihofer Baking Company celebrating 100 years in the Capital Region brought a flurry of emails and phone calls in the days after the story appeared on March 10.
Many commented on their favorite treat, and most remembered putting the sign in the window of their house indicating to the Freihofer driver to stop. A few people mentioned how the horse knew the route and didn’t even need the driver, and one Schenectady native, a woman, even felt compelled to call me and sing the entire “Freddie Freihofer” song to me.
The photo of Uncle Jim Fisk in the WRGB studios with the children also conjured up readers’ memories of their own experience on “BreadTime Stories,” as it was also called.
Ann Parillo, host of the cable TV public access show “Schenectady Today: In and Around the Capital Region,” is among those planning the 50th reunion from the Scotia-Glenville High School class of 1963. Parillo shared the story with a group of her classmates, and many of them responded with their own Freihofer memories.
Here they are, and if anyone would like to add their Freihofer memory to the list feel free to comment here or email Gazette reporter Bill Buell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I remember Freihofer’s and the wonderful treats that they brought with the magnificent horse. I couldn’t wait until they stopped in front of where I lived, in a second-floor flat on Eastern Ave in Schenectady above Walter’s Refrigeration. I also remember the ‘rag man.’ He came by with a horse and yelled ‘rags, rags, rags.’ At the time, I must have been under 5 years old. I think he may have also collected fat for the war effort.”
— Ann Parillo
“Loved the story. I can still taste their wonderful sugar cookies. My mother always had a wonderful garden full of fresh veggies and raspberry canes. This abundance was partly to do with the rich Mohawk valley soil, but mainly thanks to Freihofer’s. All the housewives would continuously ‘tsk, tsk’ over the horse droppings during the delivery hours. But after sundown, they would see who could be first to pick up the free fertilizer. And I imagine there were some disparaging words exchanged when their pails would come home empty.”
— Arlene Yaunch Barry
“We were at the end of Freihofer’s Scotia route on Bruce Street and one day the horse took off without the driver. Went all the way back to the barn, through the Schenectady traffic. Horses have a great instinct for the barn!”
— Ron Koenig
“Now that’s nostalgia for me. I can remember visiting my grandmother in the Bellevue section of Schenectady and waiting for the horse-drawn bakery wagon. It was before the war because my Uncle Art was there and he was in the tank corps for WWII. That put me about 5 years old. Also at one time my father took me to the Freihofer’s barn on upper Albany Street to see the horses. More recently, when my mother was still alive we would go to the day-old store that was at the location where the old horse barn was located. Thanks.”
— Erv Simkins
“Freihofer’s had a Louisiana coffee cake that my mother used to buy. One day the Freihofer’s man came when my dad was home and answered the door. He asked for the Louisiana ring, looked at it and said, ‘This isn’t what my wife buys! This has pecans on it.’ Well, it was the right one — only my mother always ate all the nuts off before she served it to my dad. Good old memory lane!”
— Sandy Lutz
“Growing up on a quiet, dead-end street in the Woodlawn section of Schenectady in the late 1940s and early 1950s was an interesting mix of some urban and some rural.
“As a part of my household duties, I was in charge of posting the sign in the front window to alert the Freihofer’s deliveryman that my mother needed him to stop. She had mixed feelings on this because of the horse. Invariably, when he stopped in front of our house, he defecated right in front of our driveway! My mother ranted and raved about this and questioned why he picked our house and not the house of the crotchety old man two doors away.
“After the horse continued on his well-learned route, she would rush outside with a shovel and pail to scoop up the souvenirs left by the horse. But all was not bad. She would then take the pail and shovel and head to her perennial flower garden and mix the contents of the pail with the soil. It apparently worked – free fertilizer and her flowers were spectacular!
“Freihofer’s wasn’t the only one with horses. Our milk deliveryman had a horse and wagon, too. He delivered milk daily, along with butter and heavy cream. In those days, milk contained a high quantity of heavy cream which would rise to the top and in the winter the freezing temps would push the cream out of the paper caps on the glass bottles. She captured that cream and dessert that evening almost always had whipped cream topping …. yummmmm!
“The dairy horse always was sway-backed and looked like he was only a few steps away from the glue factory. But he knew the way too!
It’s amazing to me that we all remember these simple things and often forget what were then the monumental events of our childhood. But we know the way too! I’m thankful we have those memories.”
— Catherine Ritchey
“I remember the Freihofer horse and wagon from Pershing Drive in Scotia. My mother would put a sign in the window and soon after the wagon would stop. To my amazement the horse would stop even if my mother forgot to put the sign up ... guess it couldn’t read, but what a memory.
“After getting married and two daughters later we had moved to Glenville. We now were serviced by the Freihofer’s delivery truck, which would also stop if the sign was in the window.
“One day my oldest daughter, then about 5 or 6 years old, answered the door and proceeded to look over the selection of sweets in the driver’s basket. She soon spotted a white cake with coconut on top and told the driver that it was ‘poison’ and we would not want it.
“My wife arrived on the scene soon after and explained that it was my fault. Seems I don’t like coconut and said it was poison on more than one occasion.
“The somewhat relieved driver went on his way ... Oh, my wife bought the damn cake .... I still get no respect.”
— Keith Welsh
“My grandmother was half-owner in a two-family house at 813 Pennsylvania Ave., Schenectady. I remember when the family visited on the days when Freihofer’s horse and wagon was expected, my grandmother would tell (not ask) my brother to watch for the horse and follow it with the handy shovel until it deposited its “apples.” My brother was instructed to scoop up the poop and deposit it on the flowerbeds. I apparently was too young for that chore.”
— Russ Wege
"Well, I don’t go back as far as the horse-drawn Freihofer delivery wagon but I do remember getting delivery with the Freihofer truck back in the mid 1960’s on Evergreen Boulevard in East Glenville. I can’t tell you what the truck looked like, the time or day of delivery, or even what the delivery man was wearing, but I do have vivid memories of what he toted up to our house: a large steel box- like thing that would open up into two halves, just like an old gigantic tool box. Inside, of course, would be all the Freihofer goodies, some on one side of the pull-out and more on the other side, with a bunch of stuff on the bottom. Dad and I would choose our favorites and then pay him for his service. Our favorites were the Louisiana ring and of course the chocolate chip cookies, some of which I am still trying to work off until this day!"
— Mike Schowe
"My grandfather Emerson Gardiner took care of the horses and the stable for 25 years, retiring from there about 1943. He and his wife lived on Furman Street and he walked to the bakery every day. He received a gold watch and great thanks from the owner.
"When I was a little boy around 1932 or so I would go over and with the wooden shovel would help feed the horses that were there at the time."
— Robert Gardiner