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A Brief Look Back on Fifty Years of the New York Chapter

By Jim Fry

The following information is based on newsletters, recollections, and information provided by Rosemarie Papanyanopulos, Gay Arsen, Fred Knapp, Werner Brack, Jane McKay, and Bob Emmerich. As a relatively new member I got a kick out of learning these little tid-bits of information. I hope you will find them interesting also –Jim Fry
The first meeting of the chapter was held at the home of Earl Morse in Great Neck, LI, on November 25, 1951. There were forty-one members recorded at that time and included Clement Bowers, Guy Nearing, Paul Vossberg, Nat Hess, and Harold Epstein. This first meeting was presided by the chapter’s first president, Donald Hardgrove. Speakers for that meeting were Guy Nearing, Paul Vossberg, and Donald Hardgrove. An astounding $21 was reported in the treasury.
The slate of officers for the fledgling chapter were President Donald Hardgrove, Vice-President Harold Epstein, and Secretary/Treasurer Nat Hess.
In 1955 Harold Epstein took over as President with First Vice-President
Nat Hess, Second VP Edmond Amateis, and Secretary/Treasurer Mary Fleming.

In the early days, Dinner meetings were held at Schrafft’s Restaurant in NYC for the convenience of out-of-state members and the cost of the dinner in 1963 was $3.75 per person and included cocktails! Dr. John Wister was the speaker.
For many years the chapter also participated in the NY International Flower Show with many forced Rhododendrons from the homes of ARS-NY members like Sid and Clara Burns. In 1963, the chapter set up a 200 square foot garden at the NY show and won two gold and one bronze medal. The energy and passion for this hobby during those times was astounding.
Spring Flower Shows and some meetings in the fifties and sixties were held at Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall, NY Univ. at Farmingdale, Planting Fields, and Walt Whitman Mall. One of our members, Bob Emmerich, remembers his very first meeting in 1963 at Roosevelt Field. Try finding a parking space, let alone meeting room, at that place now!
Pretty much right from the start, many meetings were held at Planting Fields, the estate of William R. Coe. In 1949 this estate was bequeathed to the people of NY State with the intent that it become a public arboretum for horticultural education and research. Closing in 1971 due to a lack of state funds, Planting Fields was reopened in 1972 after many people, including Sid Burns, formed "Friends of Planting Fields" to raise funds for the daily operations of the park.
The NY Chapter has held their share of conferences and conventions. Averaging once every 10 years, conference/conventions were held in 1965, 1978, 1988, 1992, and 2001. In ’92 ARS popularity was high making that conference especially well attended.
Our chapter has also had its share of outstanding hybridizers. Among them, but not including Associate members, are: Clement Bowers, Howard Phipps Sr., Paul Vossberg, Frank Arsen, Dick Murcott, Nat Hess, Jack Rosenthal, Ray Kruse, Henry Dumper, Betty & Emil Hager, Phil Waldman, Werner Brack, Bud Gehnrich, Donald Hardgrove, George Woodard, Bob Furman, Sid Burns, Lou Hindla, Bob Emmerich, Dorothy & John Knippenberg, Al Raustein, and Jane McKay.
Some of the "milestones" of our first fifty years:
1960 NY Treasury $284
1963 Educational courses featuring Donald Hardgrove, Paul Vossberg, Gordon Jones,
Bill Bowden, Harvey Gray and Gus Mehlquist
NY Membership rose by 43 members to total of 251
1964 NY Treasury $2000
ARS proposal to raise annual dues to $7.50. (That’s too steep for me!)
1965 December meeting notice asked all members for their ZIP codes which the post office requires on all mail after Jan 1, 1966. (That’s 7 digits!)
1965 ARS Convention at Planting Fields
Flower Show had special class for ‘Cynthia’ (I haven’t seen it at a show in the past five years!)
1966 New York Chapter’s first "Early" Flower Show. There were 60 entries.
1968 First Newsletter with articles and stories
Last Dinner meeting at Schrafft’s in NYC. Orlando Pride was the speaker on Pennsylvania grown azaleas
Oct Plant Sale featured 15" dauricum for $ 2.00, 10-15" Boule de Niege 5.25 and 20" fargesii for 5.00!
1969 International Flower Show in NYC. Ray Kruse chairman
Late Flower Show had ‘Oxydol’ as best Decid. Azalea (I thought that was a soap!)
NYC Dinner meeting at Commodore Hotel $12. Speaker: Ted VanVeen
Annual Dinner at Milleridge Inn $6.50. Speaker: Lawrence L Carville
1970s May Flower Shows were held at Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington NY
1971 Azalea study group formed
1988 Rhododendron species on Long Island study group formed with that information being compiled in "Rhododendron Species on Long Island: Growing Experience" by Don Garber and published in 1992.
1994 Spring Plant Sale first time at Old Westbury Garden’s 3 day Opening Weekend. Prior to this, most of our plant sales were in the parking lot at Planting Fields. These sales only lasted 3 hours and involved such events as the 50 yard dash, Get your hands off my plant-I saw it first Azalea Tug-of-War, and wrestling for elepidotes.
Good-doers among our members were exemplified by their willingness to work for the chapter in hybridizing, education, and everything else that keeps a chapter alive and growing. They were recipients of bronze, silver, or gold medals:
1963 Dr. Clement G. Bowers, Paul Vossburg
1978 Gordon Jones
1978 Sidney V. Burns
1969 Gordon Jones
1970 Clara & Sidney Burns
1971 Betty Hager
1973 Henry Dumper, Dorothy Knippenberg
1974 Dorothy Schlaikjer
1975 Bruno A. Kaelin, Robert Gartrell
1976 Joann & Fred Knapp
1977 Jane McKay
1978 Gay & Frank Arsen, Howard Phipps
1979 Howard Mason, Dick Murcott
1981 William Tietjen
1983 Robert R. Emmerich
1983 James E. Cross
1989 Herman C. (Bud) Gehnrich, Nat Hess1990 Martha & Jordan Prince
1994 Patricia & Werner Brack, Philip Waldman, Jack Rosenthal
1998 Elizabeth & Richard Becker, Hanna Kennedy
2001 Al Muller
Our chapter presidents provided leadership to keep the chapter in good health for their terms.
1951-54 Don Hardgrove
1955-56 Harold Epstein
1957-60 Nat Hess
1961-65 Sid Burns
1966-67 Henry Dumper
1968-69 Mrs. Emil F. Hager, Jr.
1970-74 Fred Knapp
1974-75 Dennis Stewart
1975-78 Dorothy Schlaikjer
1978-81 William Tietjen
1981-83 Rosemary Kern
1983-85 Jane McKay
1985-89 Bud Gehnrich
1989-91 Jordan Prince
1992-95 Werner Brack
1995-97 Al Muller
1997-99 Brendan Earls
1999-2001 Charles Rasweiler