Flashback Friday Archive 2019-20: Flashback Friday: Week of May 8

Robert Sakoff
Robert Sakoff

May 5, 1870 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Messenger

Written for the Journal.

God-given rights were long withheld
From a despised downtrodden race;
But justice now, has men impelled
To grant this class a higher place.

Fraternal love shall wrong efface;
And due respect be shown to all
Belonging to the human race;
Both high and low, both great and small.

The Nation's faith will still secure
To everyone—for evermore—
True Freedom's rights; and these endure
In this broad land, from shore to shore.

We hail the changes so lately wrought: —
All honor to the good and brave
Whose statesmanship the blessing brought,
Whose blood was shed the land to save.

* The Fifteenth Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The amendment, granting African American men the right to vote, was adopted into the U.S. Constitution in 1870.

May 7, 1920 100 YEARS AGO
Rockland News

COMMUNITY CLUB WILL GIVE MINSTREL SHOW  Chairman Galbraith has started things going for the minstrel show to be given at the Community Club on the evenings of June 18 and 19. A meeting of the volunteer showmen was held last Friday night.
      Harry Gorham of Tallman will coach the circle and all who desire to take part in the show are requested to meet at the club house Monday, May 10 at 8:30pm for a try-out. It is expected that a lot of talent that has been undeveloped in the community will be brought out for this show.

May 6-7, 2020 100 YEARS AGO
The Journal News

LOCAL STUDENT SHAKEN BY BRUSH WITH DEATH  Robert Sakoff of Nyack is a 23-year-old graduate student of speech and hearing at Kent State University, Ohio, who came under fire from National Guard troops Monday when four students were killed.
      A student standing next to him on the campus green was hit in the hip, and fell to the ground, bleeding and in great pain.
      "I didn't know what to do, actually," Sakoff said this morning. "I didn't realize what had happened at first. I just tried to console the guy and stop the bleeding."
      Sakoff was on his way into town to buy his father a birthday card when he drifted over to listen to the rally of about 2,000 students that ended in a tragedy that has horrified and shocked students around the country.
      "I don't think anything would have happened if the Guard had not been there. Their presence was antagonizing, dropping tear gas into the crowd and things. Perhaps another building might have been burned, but in hindsight that would seem better than having four dead students.
      "I'm not a radical," Sakoff said. "But I'm angered beyond belief by what happened. I wouldn't say I've been radicalized, but I feel a stronger person. It has made me aware. I'm going to do something now about these things."
      Sakoff wears a beard and long hair because he is in a school play. "It's ironic but there's no way of telling who is who anymore," he noted.
      "I feel the war is wrong, but I have no answers," Sakoff explained. "Now President Nixon has overstepped his boundaries every way imaginable.
      "But even without the excitement over Cambodia this rally would have gone on. There was just a mood, a poor feeling about all the things that are going on, and it was spring, a warm day . . .
      "There were maybe eight or ten kids out of the whole group who wanted violence and were hurling rocks and cursing. It was nobody's fault, really, I think, there were just a bunch of scared kids on both sides. And we had been told there were just blanks in the Guards' guns."
      Shaken and sobered by his brush with death, Sakoff is home in Nyack as Kent State remains closed to all students and the town is sealed off in the wake of the shootings.

McALEVEY CALLS FOR ‘DAY OF MOURNING’  Ramapo Supervisor John F. McAlevey calls for a “Day of Mourning” Friday in Ramapo for the senseless deaths of four young people at Kent State University.
      McAlevey said "we must mourn for America when National Guard soldiers fire live ammunition into a crowd of college students.”
      He said the country must also express concern when college students set fire to buildings and throw stones at guardsmen told to maintain order.
      McAlevey said youth is becoming "hopelessly divided as mistrust and fear pervade the cities and campuses."
      He said he was confident that the nation's love for freedom and democratic institutions would be strong enough to overcome the present crisis.
      Echoing the words of Dr. Benjamin Spock who delivered a eulogy yesterday at the services of Jeffrey Miller, one of the four dead Kent students. McAlevey said he hoped the tragedy "and the enormity of the Kent, Ohio, massacre would serve a useful purpose in bringing" all sides a “realization of the depth of the divisions in our society.”
      He called upon President Nixon to reassess the effect of his recent decisions “to enlarge and extend an unpopular war."
      Supporting McAlevey for his proclamation, Irving Feiner, a candidate for assembly from the 94th District, said last night. "America ought to think deeply and hard about Kent. We simply cannot afford any more Kents."
      Feiner called on the four other town supervisors to issue similar proclamations in their communities.

STUDENTS SAVE AN OLD OAK  A magnificent 250-year-old native American white oak has been spared from the path of encroaching bulldozers by the determined efforts of a small group of elementary school students in Clarkstown.
      The tree, by order of the Clarkstown Town Board, will now stand "in perpetuity" as a monument to the dedication of the youngsters of Mrs. Joan Ferwerda's sixth grade class.
      As an outgrowth of Earth Day activities at the Woodglen School in New City, the students decided to continue their conservation work by cleaning up and providing access to a small county-owned park off Phillips Hill Road in the Dells section of New City.
      Hiking through the sparse spring undergrowth, the students stumbled upon the 60-foot tree, which measures 15 feet, 2 inches in circumference and has a branch spread of 110 feet.
      Now partially concealed by saplings and a few evergreens, the majestic tree, considered an exceptional specimen among Rockland's forest titans by local conservationists, will be isolated in all its splendor after ground clearing at the site is complete.
      Bulldozing operations were already underway for a development when the discovery was made. Checking with the town planning board to determine whether the tree lay within the boundaries of the tiny landlocked county-owned park or in the subdivision, the students learned to their dismay that it was indeed directly in the path of a proposed road for the development.
      That started the wheels in motion. A letter from the students to the planners explained their concern that bulldozing activities might damage the root system of the mighty oak and they asked the agency if it could redesign the access road to spare the tree.
      With the consent of the developer, the board rerouted the road, although details on protecting the tree's root system by avoiding a more than 6-inch grade change are still being worked out, said Charles T. Cassels, clerk to the planning board.
      Making it official, Frank Steffens, chairman of the Clarkstown Shade Tree Commission and newly appointed chairman of the planning board, submitted the resolution at Wednesday night's meeting to grant a permanent conservation easement to preserve the tree.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC's mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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