SARATOGA SPRINGS - In the age of social platforms, event hashtags and electronic invites, it was a dinosaur. Suddenly one recent weekday morning, it was no more.
The Caroline Street Register stood fixed to a building on the south side of Caroline Street for approximately a half-century – the notice board a tapestry of flyers and posters and postcard-size bulletins that for several decades freely publicized city staged events. An adjacent plank which runs along the billboard’s left side lists 20 different businesses – and alongside, each business’ motto - a heavy plank reminder of the city’s funkier and hands-on, do-it-yourself past.
When the building was undergoing an exterior paint job recently, workers removed the large sign, apparently targeted for the trash pile. Local resident Stephen Smigielski was working at a nearby eatery at the time.
“I saw it sitting against the lamppost, just waiting for the dumpster,” Smigielski says. “The garbage truck was pulling up and I was like, whoa, whoa…”
Jim Stanley, who runs the Tin & Lint located a few yards from the board’s long-standing position, estimates the register has clung to the Caroline Street wall since probably the early 1970s. The business listings had been updated and repainted at least twice since that time, he added.
“I grew up in the ‘70s in Saratoga Springs,” Smigielski explained. “I remember a lot of the places being boarded up when the town was not as booming as it is now. That sign was always there. It was there when we were teenagers. I didn’t want it to hit the bonfire.”
Smigielski rescued the sign and placed it in a toolshed for safekeeping. Beneath a stencil burgundy-fade that reads “notices,” it remains as it was, festooned with staples and push-pins and swatches of flyers that existed the day the board came down. The “register” position holds a listing of businesses that date to the 1970s - some which continue to exist to the present day, others not as fortunate and obliterated by time.
Desperate Annie’s – with its’ motto “Lively Libations,” the Tin & Lint - “an American Bar,” Gaffney’s, Sperry’s, and the Vault – “coin shop and baseball cards,” maintain their respective businesses on Caroline Street.
Some have been replaced by other businesses: E.H. Holland (“70 years of Service”) most recently was the site of One Caroline Street Bistro; Boyce & Drake plumbing and heating currently sites Hamlet & Ghost; Madame Jumel’s “dining emporium” has been transformed into Dango’s pub; Aiko’s is today the Spa City Tap and Barrel, and Side St. Saloon (“Drinks Galore”) morphed into Clancy’s Tavern.
Gone are the Coronet Press (“Printers Extraordinaire”), Ambience Unlimited (custom audio environments), Jah Skates and Reggae Shop, Esthetiques (European nail and skin care center), Duval’s (games of chance), Hal Bigelow (custom cabinetry), Kitsch (non-essentials), Northwind Graphics (silkscreen prints), The Sideline (food emporium) and Discline – whose motto was “CD’s Forever.”
Some of the businesses existed in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, which suggests that may have been the last time the registry was updated.
Preserving the sign was Smigielski’s main purpose. He has no specific plans regarding its future destination, other than it should be somewhere where people can see it and where it will continue to be preserved.
“I’m not looking for financial gain, but I am looking for it to find a home,” he says. “Even if it sits in a shed for the rest of its life, my first thought was: let’s save this.”