A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Si Goldman (Jamestown), Russ Diethrick (Jamestown), Abby Pettengill (Lily Dale) , Donald Mackenzie (Mayville), Lester Dye (Forestville). Originally broadcast on local radio stations July 18 – July 22, 2011.
No. 136 – Si Goldman
Simon Goldman was born January 18, 1913 in Carthage, NY – a small village in Jefferson County about 25 miles east of Watertown. Goldman attended the local schools in the Carthage area and then attended Syracuse University, graduating with a degree in advertising in 1935.
Shortly after graduating, Goldman found work at WSYR radio in Syracuse. Just a year later in 1936, he was promoted to serve as the station’s merchandising manager. Also in 1936, WSYR’s owner, Colonel Wilder, purchased WJTN Radio in Jamestown and sent Goldman to Chautauqua County to serve as sales manager. By 1940, Goldman was appointed General Manager of the station. He was just 27 years old.
In 1943 during World War II, Goldman enlisted in the Army and spent one and a half years with the Armed Forces. He served as a member of the Communications Division of the 12th Army Group and participated in several major battles, including the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.
Following the war, Goldman returned to Jamestown to resume his position as Vice President and General Manager of WJTN. In March, 1955, he became president, general manager and chief owner of the James Broadcasting Co. Over the next four decades, the company would grow to own several more stations in the Northeast, and Goldman became a well-known and well-respected pioneer in the industry. He was a leader in various national broadcasting organizations and chaired several committees.
Among his many honors, Goldman was the 1974 recipient of the National Conference of Christians and Jews Brotherhood Award. He was also named Outstanding Broadcaster of Western New York by the Buffalo Pioneers in 1998. In the 1990s Goldman would spend his winters in Florida, but he never completely retired from James Broadcasting. During the months he lived in New York, he still went into work every morning. In early 1999, he was named to the millennium edition of Who’s Who in America. He died in May 1999 at the age of 86.
No. 137 – Russ Diethrick
Russ Diethrick was born in Patton, Pennsylvania, and moved to Jamestown when he was five. He is a graduate of Jamestown High School where he played baseball for coach Al Ayers. After graduation he began work at Marlin Rockwell before becoming a part-time assistant to Recreation Director Jim Sharp in 1958.
Diethrick became full-time Recreation Director after Sharp’s retirement. The title was later changed to Jamestown Parks, Recreation and Conservation Director and entailed supervising about 20 youth baseball leagues, all recreational sports for boys and girls in the city and several adult programs.
In the 1970s he served as assistant general manager, with Eric Gougin, of the Jamestown Expos of the New York-Pennsylvania League and is a past director of the league. Diethrick was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
Diethrick is a past district commissioner of the Amateur Softball Association of America, was tournament chairman for the Middle Atlantic Regional Babe Ruth Tournament and the first two 13-year Old Babe Ruth World Series which were held at College Stadium. He became a member of the National Babe Ruth Baseball Advisory Board in 1997.
On Aug. 9, 1997, Diethrick was inducted into the Babe Ruth League Hall of Fame. That same day, it was also announced that college stadium where pro-baseball has been played since 1941 would be renamed in Diethrick’s honor. Diethrick has also been fondly referred to as Jamestown’s “Mr. Baseball” for several years.
Today, Russ continues to be an active part of baseball in Jamestown. He has been the Host President of five Babe Ruth World Series held in Jamestown, including the first ever 12 and Under Softball World Series in 1999.
In addition to his involvement with sports, Diethrick is also heavily involved in various other community organizations. For several years he has also co-host the weekly “Times of Your Life” radio show with Jim Roselle on WJTN.
No. 138 – Abby Pettengill
Abby Louise Pettengill, was born on March 9, 1843, in Cleveland, Ohio. She was seven of nine children born to Matilda Wheelock and her husband Willard Burnham. She attended the Hillsdale Michigan College and at the age of 21 married Charles Pettengill, of Springville, Mass. They had 4 children.
One summer while Pettengill was traveling with her daughter from Cleveland to the Atlantic seaboard, she made the acquaintance of Mariann Skidmore, who was traveling in the same train. Pettengill soon became interested in two issues that skidmore was involved with – Woman’s Suffrage Movement and Spiritualism.
Skidmore told Pettengill about the Cassadaga Assembly, a small colony of spiritualists on the shores of Cassadaga Lake. She became so interested in what she heard that she changed her plans and instead spent her summer there. Afterward she attended each summer session and gradually became associated with the organization.
In 1895, Pettengill bought a hotel at the assembly known as the Alden house and renamed it the Leolyn after her granddaughter. She operated it for many years, entertaining dozens of famous guests including Susan B. Anthony. Today the hotel is owned by the Lily Dale Assembly is known as the Maplewood Hotel. In 1904, Pettengill was made the first female President of the City of Light Assembly.
No. 139 – Donald Mackenzie
Donald Mackenzie was born in Scotland on June 15, 1783. When he was just 17 years old, Mackenzie emigrated with his family to Canada. Soon, he and his brothers became involved in the fur trade and were engaged with the North West Company.
In 1810, Mackenzie left the North West Company to become a partner in the Pacific Fur Company, financed principally by John Jacob Astor. He was involved in the historical Astor Expidition, which lead to the discover of several western rivers. Mackenzie spent two years exploring and trading for the Pacific Fur Company in the Pacific Northwest. When the Pacific Fur Company sold all of its property to the North West Company in 1813, Mackenzie was appointed to return all important papers back east, which he did in 1814.
MacKenzie became reacquainted with the North West Company and returned to the Columbia region in 1816. He and his trappers made the first extensive exploration of southern Idaho starting in 1818 with annual expeditions through 1821. His trapping ventures covered most of southern Idaho and parts of eastern Oregon, northern Utah, and western Wyoming. Many of the names for rivers in this region can be traced to this period.
With the merger of the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company, in 1821, Donald Mackenzie was appointed Governor of the Red River Settlement. He left the Pacific Northwest and moved to Fort Garry for a decade, serving as Governor of the area including most of present-day Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, Canada.
In 1834, Mackenzie retired, and moved to Mayville were he lived for the next two decades. Among the distinguished visitors Mackenzie entertained and advised were Daniel Webster and William H. Seward, who later served as Secretary of State. He gave advice on where the international boundary should be established for Oregon, and also may have planted the seeds that led to the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
No. 140 – Lester Dye
Lester “Les” Dye was born in Forestville on July 15, 1916. He attended high school in both Wellsville, N.Y. and Williamsport, Pa. and excelled in both basketball and football. After graduating from high school, he went to college at Syracuse University.
While a student at Syracuse, the 6’ 1” Dye was a star on the Syracuse football team, as a wide receiver on offense, and defensive back on defense. He earned three varsity letters in football in 1939, 40 and 41. He was also a reserve on the basketball team, playing one game his sophomore year.
After graduation Dye spent one year in the Army during World War II. He then played two seasons in the NFL as an offensive end for the Washington Redskins from 1944-1945. After ending his career as a player he was a scout for Washington for a few seasons.
In 1948, Dye moved into coaching, as the head coach of Clarkson University’s football team. In 1949 he came back to Syracuse to begin a lengthy career there in many different capacities. From 1949 to 1959 he was the freshman football coach and an assistant on the varsity. It was Dye who named Ernie Davis the captain of the 1958 freshman team, helping to integrate the team.
From 1959 to 1968 he worked in Syracuse University’s admissions office with different director responsibilities, and from 1969 to 1973 he was the university’s Dean of Admissions. In 1973, Dye became the Athletic Director at Syracuse, and would serve in that capacity until 1978. During his tenure as AD, the basketball team would reach the Final Four for the first time – in 1975 – and he would hire a new basketball coach by the name of Jim Boeheim.
Dye was honored as a Syracuse Letterwinner of Distinction in 1974. He passed away in August of 2000.
Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.