By: Ed Kennedy
Who else out there is from a small town? They are wonderful, strange, and intimate places where people know you and your family history by uttering your last name in conversation. The name of my small town is Cohoes, and its claim to fame is that it has the second largest waterfall in New York State right where the Mohawk & Hudson River meet. The Cohoes Falls actually do offer a stunning view after a storm, and worth swinging by if for whatever reason you’re passing through the Albany area. My favorite landmark in that town was, it is now another cookie-cutter development, a large patch of open space in the woods known as “The Gully.” The Gully was among the many meeting spots for high school and college kids to blow off steam; think “The Moon Tower” from Dazed and Confused.
After big events like the last day of school or Memorial Day, someone in your crew would eventually call and hit you with “I’ll meet you at The Gully @ 8:30.” Cell phones just started to become a thing, and people in a struggling upstate town did not have them, and people that had cells did not love sharing them….or maybe that was just Dupes. The meeting spot and time was a moral contract, and if you bailed, you were running the risk of being ostracized. People would start arriving at The Gully right before nightfall and would continue to trickle in and out throughout the night. People from all different cliques would come together and have fun. It didn’t matter if they were preppy, skaters, hardcore, straightedge, jocks, or “the dirties.” Sure there were some disagreements, but they were resolved by kangaroo court with stiff penalties like having to slam a beer if you were on the wrong side of the judge’s ruling.
People would bring what they had to make the gathering more enjoyable whether it was food, drinks, a firestarter, extra sweatshirts, and stereos (yeah I’m old). People would take on jobs like gathering kindling, carrying supplies, tapping kegs, and collecting cash. No questions asked, just do what you can to make the experience better. People learned things like independence, negotiation, social skills, structure, tolerance, and how to function without authority figures around. It was a rite of passage and was almost like some other kind of graduation in my home town and much like high school you got aged out, which was 19.
Now, looking back on those times, and that place, I smile at all the fun we had and the bonds that were built. I have not lived in Cohoes for over a decade, but every time I go back or see an old Gully veteran, we pick up right where we left off. It was a place I will never forget, and hopefully, this post will bring you back to a simpler time before responsibilities.