I’ve been in Hudson for nearly three years and like most newcomers, I’ve kept an eye on Hudson’s burgeoning real estate market. During my quest to find a large studio space, I immediately took notice of the For Sale sign at the former Chinese buffet restaurant on Green Street and paid attention once renovations began. I barely noticed the glass shop behind it, Pulver’s Glass, until I needed a piece of glass cut for an antique table. Little did I know I would be walking into a fourth generation Hudson family business and eventually hear all about Hudson’s past that has nothing to do with whaling.
Did you know there were at least five movie theaters in Hudson? And that you could win a live goose at the end of a film? Did you know Blinky the Clown lived here? Did you know there was a WWI monument in the park by the courthouse on Union Street that just disappeared one day? This small mention of a Hudson business has turned into a two-part article. What follows is Part One.
According to the current owner, Eric Mortenson, his great-grandfather, Charles Edward Pulver, known around town as “Ed” and his wife Elizabeth opened the original store on Warren Street in 1914. A framed photo of the storefront hangs in the shop. The awning reads “C. Edw. Pulver” but I couldn’t make out the address. Mortenson texted his mother and she said it was around the 200 or 300 block and the building is no longer there. The store was located at the former parking lot of Hudson Electric, which closed about five or ten years ago. The primary business was always glass but the original store also sold sporting goods, guns, toys, bikes and it was an Indian motorcycle dealership!
His mother, Teresa, and his five siblings all helped out at the store. He also informed me that the store moved to 720 Columbia Street facing the 7th street park in the 1900’s. There was a car dealership with a showroom on the second floor, which is now the parking lot of the St. Charles Hotel. Cars repaired at the dealership, in the last step of the process, would be taken across the street to Pulver’s for auto glass. Subsequently, it moved to 90 Green Street in the mid 1980’s.
I noticed a newspaper clipping of George Pulver, Sr on the wall. It was the son of C. Edward Pulver, Mortenson’s grandfather, who joined the U.S. Army. The Hudson Register, at the top of the front page reads: “20,000 Women Go Mad. George “General” Pulver Joins Uncle Sam’s Forces.” The date was Friday, April 10, 1942. In another clipping, there was mention about Private Pulver being promoted while fighting in the North African campaign during WWII. It was all fascinating to me because I grew up in the outskirts of the northwest suburbs of Chicago in a constant state of ennui.
Like most people who grow up in Suburbia, once you leave, you never look back. I had to look back after my semester abroad in Rome, Italy because like every American woman who travels to Italy, I met an Italian and needed to bring him to the suburbs to meet my parents because we wanted to get married. After showing me Rome and taking me to numerous villages around gorgeous Tuscany, the most I could say to him while driving around where I grew up was, “that used to be a roller rink in the 80’s. It was called Fireside Roller Rink. Then it was a Chuck E. Cheese. Now it’s a beauty supply store.” He found where I lived in the city of Chicago to be more interesting. As he was older and already had a job, after I graduated and we got married, I moved to Milan to be with him.
For me it was always about big cities. I never lived in a small town and barely met anyone who came from a small town. Personally, I only knew Small Town, USA through movies and books. I have a developing suspicion that people from small towns tend to keep their roots there.
Before moving here my impression of Hudson was Small Town, USA based on its size and location and I was looking forward to experiencing it. My favorite part of traveling is meeting local people and hearing personal stories and connections to their city or village. After moving so many times as an adult and traveling everywhere, I grew envious of people who had deep roots where they grew up.
After a while of living in Milan I had been to Venice numerous times. There was an express train between Milan and Venice. A typical day would be to attend a full-immersion Italian class in the morning, hop on the express train with a classmate and have lunch in Venice. Strolling through the streets of Venice had a different feel once I met an Italian professor who grew up there. He told me the story of when he fell into the canal when he was six years old and couldn’t swim. His mother jumped in to save him but she couldn’t swim either. A passerby jumped in to rescue them both and they were all in the newspaper the next day. As we walked around, he told me personal stories of the various locales that tourists tended to miss. Venice becomes more than a mere tourist destination when you hear stories from real people.
I didn’t get a small town vibe from Hudson when I arrived because everyone I met was a NYC transplant. Perfunctory chit chat always circled around which disaster drove them out of NYC: the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 financial crisis, hurricane Sandy, divorce, retirement and now COVID-19. I didn’t find a “local vibe” until I joined the ladies at the Verdigris knitting group at 135 Warren Street on Thursday nights.
An intimate side of Hudson’s past comes alive when you hang out with this group where 68 is the new 28. Every time I asked a question about Hudson, the ladies would provide bits and pieces of its history. Isn’t that so-and-so’s son? The one that bought the purple house? I remember her when she was one of my students at Hudson elementary school. That used to be a store and their son married the daughter of the other store at 4th street. I was hooked.
When I participated in the Women’s March down Warren Street, I met with one of the knitters, Marjan, who grew up in Hudson. As we marched she casually told me a three generation history of Warren Street. She would point to a building and tell me what it was when she was growing up, when she got married and when her grandchildren were born, and an anecdotal story of the owners. It was an incredibly different way to walk down Warren Street from simply shopping and eating. Naturally, when I wanted to know more about Pulver’s Glass, I shot an e-mail out to the Verdigris knitting group.
One knitter told me her mother was 97 and only remembered a Woodrow Pulver. When Mortenson called me to tell me my glass was ready, he confirmed that Woodrow Pulver was his uncle. A number of knitters remembered the Pulver shop on Columbia Street because they got their bikes there when they were kids. “I got my three-speed Raleigh bike from there.” They also bought their own kids’ bikes there. Another knitter is Facebook friends with one of the Pulver kids because they grew up together and sent her a message for me. (I hope to have details in next week’s article). She said she vaguely remembered that they lived in a house on Joslen Boulevard near a water tower and that it may have been part of the Underground Railroad. Mortenson said she may have been an aunt but he wasn’t sure.
As this story was going to press I received a call from George Pulver, Jr. himself and we spoke for two hours! He recounted a vision of Hudson I would not have been able to find by searching online. He was able to fill in details from all the leads I received from the knitting group. I will add two highlights from our conversation and save the rest for a continuation of this story in next week’s issue describing everything he told me.
First, he filled in the details of the locations of the Pulver shops. His grandfather, Ed, and his wife, Elizabeth, opened the store in 1914 at the 200 block of Warren St. The building no longer stands. The need for a bigger space led to a move a year later to the corner of 7th and Warren at 623 Warren which was a jewelry shop. (Currently, La Mision is located in the space and previously it was an ice cream shop called Lick). Due to physical issues with the space, the store was moved one building down on 7th which was owned by the same landlord. In 1926, the Pulver store was moved to 720 Columbia and it remained there until the mid 1980’s when it made its last move to its current location at 90 Green Street. Ed and Elizabeth had six children. The oldest son was George Pulver, Sr. He and his wife, Geraldine (“Jerry”), had two sons George Jr. and Joseph. George Sr. eventually took over the business when it was located at 720 Columbia Street, followed by George Jr. who moved the shop to it’s current location. His son Eric now runs the family business.
Second, he is an avid photo and postcard collector, as was his father and grandfather. In short, George Pulver, Jr. now holds a three generation collection of photographs and postcards about Hudson or with a strong link to Hudson.
To be continued…