by Ed Reilly

A most extraordinary human kindness

Once upon a time - no, this is a true story, one about an extraordinary human kindness. The people involved are known to many of you, as is the story, but it deserves a wider audience.

When I and my family moved to Niskayuna over 30 years ago, the 1600 block of upper Union Street was a bit different than it is now. Salamack's was smaller and on the corner. Merritt Willey, now the County Clerk, ran a bakery next door. And the "anchor stores" of that block were Kay's Drug Store and the Economy Market. The proprietor of the Economy was Harry Henry Harrison who displayed a triple "H" on his car plates as proudly as did Hubert Horatio Humphrey of Minnesota.

The Economy was an institution in its day. You didn't merely trade there, you joined an extended family. As is expected of a neighborhood convenience store, the prices were a bit higher than at a supermarket, but that didn't matter. One didn't need money to shop there anyway; Harry carried a long and generous cuff. Who needed MasterCard?

And the Economy delivered. More precisely, Walt did. The highlight of our children's week was the day he came breezing in, a heavy box full of groceries on each shoulder. They preferred a visit from Walt more than one of their own to a toy shop. Mostly, they wanted to see what was in the order, but they also liked to watch to see Walt duck his head to avoid the overhang over the stairs to the kitchen, something which, to the detriment of his noggin, he had failed to do on his first visit.

Just as Salamack's is larger and relocated, so is Simon's men's store. At the time, it was across the street from the Economy, next to what is now the Troy Savings Bank, then a 5 & 10. Simon Bernstein and Harry Harrison were, and still are, best friends. Sadly, Harry's first wife died, and then later his second. Time passed on, and, in 1982, Harry sold the store, and it ceased to be a market. He sold the store, but he didn't leave Union Street.

By this time, Simon's was in its present location. Whenever I went there, there too was Harry, visiting with Simon. Come dinnertime, Harry did not go to his home on Londonderry Court, behind mine, but rather home to dine with Simon and his wife, Ruth.

Life without the Economy is less fun, but must go on. Mostly, we use supermarkets, but rather recently discovered that Arthur's in the Stockade not only delivers, but Walt is their deliveryman! Arriving after a several year hiatus, he came into the foyer as if nothing had changed, moved up the stairs with the same duck of the head, and placed his boxes on the very table he had known so well. In honor of the occasion, we bought a Mae Russell painting of Arthur's that had been hanging in Town Hall and gave it a place of honor in our dining room.

Meanwhile, the time came when Simon turned over his store to his son Michael, but the pattern continued. Simon and Harry, the Sunshine Boys, continued to hang out at the store and dine at the Bernsteins' in the evening. Three years ago, Simon and Ruth broke the news to Harry that the doctor had advised Simon to move to a warmer clime; they were going to retire - for real, this time - to Florida. Harry was crestfallen, but the Bernsteins thought he'd get over it. After all, he still had many friends and relatives in the area.

When the dreaded day of departure came, Harry tried to say good-bye, but couldn't bring it off. He broke down and cried. "Take me with you," he pleaded. "Please don't leave me; take me with you." And they did.


Postscript, 7/97: Sadly, Simon died earlier this year, but Harry is still going strong. Merritt Willey died in office a few years ago; our current County Clerk is John Woodward.