In honor of our anniversary this year, filmmaker/member Jill Malouf is collaborating with founding member Marci David and others in creating a movie that looks back to our earliest beginnings and our years on Quail Street. In these clips, longtime members share their stories. Enjoy!
Clips and screen shots provided by Jill Malouf.
We Were Amazing!
ALISON COLEMAN: I’ve been thinking a lot about this group of faces, many of whom I have known in different times of my life, but I think all of whom, back in the 70’s were doing some really radical things and in Albany, I’m thinking about the free Thanksgiving dinner which is now in, what, the 40th year? I’m thinking about Movement for a New Society that some of us were involved in. I’m thinking about the food buying clubs, The Free School, Equinox. We were all doing amazing, amazing work. We were the radicals of that time! Save the Pine Bush! We had these wonderful ideas and we just did them. We were amazing!
BETSY MERCOGLIANO: We grew up in an incredible time where people were questioning and challenging and saying, “No, no, let’s not do it that way. Let’s do it this way,” all the time in so many areas. I mean, The Free School was an enormous hub of that. We had a store, we had school, we had a birthing center. We were just doing all kinds of stuff and saying, you know, thumbing our noses to officialdom.
ALISON: I don’t know how to take that history and use it now, but we had the energy back then. We had the ability to think through…we weren’t even necessarily “thinking” through problems, so much as just jumping in and doing. We created things almost instantly. We took the steps that are now the Co-op.
BETSY: We were basically saying, “You know what? Why do we have to buy it the expensive way by…” blah blah blah blah blah …how come we can’t all join together and throw our money because that’s what we were doing down here anyway! We were all poor! We were throwing our money together, we were throwing our backs into building each other’s houses and raising each other’s kids and helping each other birth them at home and all that stuff.
I grew up here in that sense, in the coming into my young adulthood, with all this, you can do anything. You can do anything with communication, understanding, willingness to negotiate and work with, and your strong back and brains.
Quail Street Life
SID FLEISHER: I always remember, at least when we were in Quail Street, the…what did we call those groups? We had a name for all of the different groups. Like we worked on the building maintenance group, and Ed [Miller] was the head of the finance group I think at the time, weren’t you? (Yes, he was) He was the finance guy, yeah. And we used to sit around on the old 5 gallon plastic buckets and have our meetings which were board meetings, but anybody could go to the board meeting, anybody could vote. Well no, I don’t think anybody could vote, but anybody could go to a board meeting (oh yeah, they were always open) and lots of people came to the board meeting and talked and then the board would vote!
MARCI DAVID: There was a vegetable burger that someone had made and they were selling them, but they weren’t inspected and the health department guy was very interested in this and he said you can’t sell them here. At the end of the day, when the health department guy’s official workday was over, he came back and bought some because he wanted to taste them! (Laughter)!
ALAN MCCLINTOCK: I remember when Michael, our night manager Michael Ferrindino’s daughter, who was 11 years old, worked as a cashier on Quail Street. One day, Ed Miller came in and he said, “You can’t do THAT!” And we thought, “Well, why not? She’s a great cashier! She never asks anybody their sign…she was all business!” (Laughter) And we realized that, “Oh, there are child labor laws!” And, “Oh, there are laws that relate to what we’re doing here?”!
MARGARET INDERHEES: As the first bookkeeper, I had no idea. I was just collecting the money and, you know, people give me money and I’d put in the bank account and then we would write a check to Air One. It was really pretty simple, but we filed the DBA, so we were on the state’s radar. So a few months go by, and I get an envelope from the State of New York saying you have not filed for sales tax. You haven’t sent in your … we weren’t collecting anything because we weren’t selling anything that we collected sales tax on, but I still needed to file this form. Who knew? And they were going to fine us $10,000. It was some enormous amount of money. It definitely involved me calling somebody up and crying, at the state of New York saying, “I didn’t know!” I didn’t know! We’re just a little buying club! So we didn’t, you know, we were just making it up.!
ALAN: And our learning curve was, it grew with every year that we existed really, because we would have to deal with all of these new things that we … I mean, we were really a group of people who had no interest in anything that was remotely capitalistic, you know, so running a business and having a business model and having a plan for the future, having a strategic planning group…ppffttt! It was NOT something we talked about! And, so, the evolution of the store, really, was again, organic. These were things that we had to learn how to embrace.