Heather Nellis/Recorder staff Fort Johnson resident Noreen Skee-Miller-Walter is pictured outside her father Charles Skee's warehouse at the site of the former Yund, Kennedy & Yund Knitting Mill at Eagle and Kline streets Thursday in Amsterdam. Skee operated Amsterdam Wrecking and Salvage Company there until his death in October 2011, and the warehouse was featured this week on The History Channel's antiquing show "American Pickers."
Recorder file photo Cast and crew members from the show ÔAmerican Pickers' are shown in Amsterdam in August.
By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
Earlier this week, The History Channel's antiquing show "American Pickers" featured the collection of an Amsterdam demolition man who saved the Rug City's history from his own razes during urban renewal.
For anyone who missed it, the episode will air again Monday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz on Aug. 22 visited Charles Skee's warehouse at the site of the former Yund, Kennedy & Yund Knitting Mill at Eagle and Kline streets.
That's where Skee operated Amsterdam Wrecking and Salvage Company for decades before passing away in late October 2011, amassing a collection that his family long predicted would land him on the popular show.
"We always talked about it during family get-togethers for holidays and birthdays, about having the American Pickers come to the warehouse," said Skee's daughter, Noreen Skee-Miller-Walter. "Then one day I was down here, and a scout came by and asked if we wanted to be on the show."
Walter and her brother David Skee are featured on the episode, though all of Charles Skee's five children are working to cleanup the site, sell their father's collection, and one day sell the building to help their mother, Adeline Skee.
Charles Skee was a World War II veteran from Starkville who enlisted in the Marine Corps just a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was only 16, but lied about his age, so he was shipped to the Pacific Islands to fight in the war.
Upon his discharge, he returned to the area, and in 1944, he married Adeline. The couple moved to Amsterdam the next year.
Charles Skee first tried his hand in construction, but Walter said his best career fit was in demolition.
But as a history lover who had a tough childhood, Walter said it was impossible for her father to let anything go. His family struggled when he was a child, having operated the Starkville Hotel before it burned down. They never fully recovered from that loss, Walter said.
"He saw history and value in everything," Walter said. "Sometimes, people would complain about how he took his time taking down buildings, but he wanted to make sure nothing was wasted."
That meant for some good picking for Wolfe and Fritz.
The episode is centered around what the channel describes as picker Danielle Colby Cushman's $8,000 "splurge" on the remains of a 1935 Indian Chief motorcycle. Fritz and Wolfe conjure a scheme to recoup their funds by restoring the bike to sell it at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
To pay for the restoration, however, Fritz and Wolfe say they need "a good pick to get us out of the hole we're in."
Enter Skee's warehouse.
"This is that pick," Wolfe said in the episode, later calling it "the honey hole."
Amongst the $3,000 worth of relics the pickers purchased includes five "new old stock display heads," which Wolfe estimated as from the 1940s, based on their hair-dos and glass eyes.
Walter said mannequin heads were from Lurie's Department Store and Holzheimer and Shaul, both clothing stores that Skee demolished decades ago.
Amsterdam city Historian Rob von Hasseln said both buildings were demolished in the late 1960s/early 1970s during urban renewal to make way for the mall, now known as the Riverfront Center.
"Charlie Skee did a lot of the demolition during that time," von Hasseln said.
Holzheimer and Shaul was located at the corner of East Main and Church Street and known as Amsterdam Style Center -- women's dresses, smart apparel, juniors, handbags, et cetera, Von Hasseln said.
Lurie's was located at Main and Walnut streets on the ground floor of Hotel Warner, he said.
"Well-known to amused children around here as a place where pneumatics -- whoosh -- took the money from the cashier up the main office," von Hasseln said.
"They were two of people's favorite places to buy clothing downtown," he added.
With a basket, Wolfe purchased the mannequin heads with a basket $75, said he'd sell them for $50 apiece.
Another purchase included a stack of Willie Nelson concert posters Wolfe estimated to be from the 1950s. The posters feature a clean-cut Nelson, and advertise the concert at the Lincoln Street High School in Gloversville.
Walter said her father was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, which paid Nelson to play there.
Wolfe said the posters were printed by Hatch Show Print in Nashville. He said the Country Music Hall of Fame bought the company to preserve it.
Wolfe bought the pile for $350, noting "these posters are really rare." He said he planned to get them authenticated and appraised.
Walter said she didn't sell everything the pickers wanted, however. She saved some pieces for local collectors, like Chuck Phillips, who's own collection can be best seen at CP's Family Restaurant in Hagaman.
Phillips scored one of the Willie Nelson posters a month before the pickers filmed. You can see Walter and David Skee talking about that sale on the episode.
Phillips went back to the warehouse with his friend the day after the pickers were there and bought some additional pieces the pickers wanted, but Walter denied.
"There were some pieces I thought should stay here," she said.