Ethel Loveless

May 31, 1989

328 Columbia Street, Hudson, NY


Marcella Beigel

Marcella Beigel


Ethel’s parents were Richard Zero Cochran and Annabel Gladson Cochran who came to Hudson in 1945 from New York City. She has one sister and one brother. Her father was too young for WWI and too old for WWll.

Her great-grandmother Anna was a slave and a poet. As an elder she lived in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Ethel’s uncle, who was the first in the family to own a car, would drive everyone there for a Sunday visit. Her great-grandmother was a tall, dark brown woman with beautiful eyes and prominent features. She came from Charleston, North Carolina. She had two children, Ethel’s grandmother and her sister Lara. Ethel’s grandmother Janie (there is a picture), her great-grandmother’s daughter, and her daughter, Ethel’s mother, look just like her.

There was discrimination in Charleston even among the blacks. Her grandmother talked about her friend who was very fair. At that time fair skinned people would try to “pass”. Light skinned blacks were separated from the dark skinned in Charleston. 

Her grandfather was a carpenter and cabinet maker.  He taught her father carpentry as a trade. Four generations of the men in her family learned and employed this trade. Her father’s father lived at 114 Columbia Street with a carpentry shop. Along with the skills, the tools have been passed from one generation to the next. Her brother also added plumbing and electrical work to his skills.

For two years her mother was ill. Ethel, although young, did all the cooking for the family. She had no resentment; rather she hoped and helped her mother get well. During the Depression, her father didn’t have a job. Often the men didn’t have jobs but most of the women did have service jobs. Due to finances, the family was living with her grandmother and Aunt. This created a stressful situation.

Because children were brought up to be good citizens, her mother disciplined her children. Neighbors would not spank but chastised kids if they saw them misbehave. They didn’t have babysitters; they took care of their own kids. Everyone took care of children, and children did everything at home. During the Depression the women of Ethel’s family worked in service for very wealthy families in New York City. Her employer also hired her children to help at the dinner parties. They lived in New York City, Park Avenue or The Grand Concourse.

When Ethel’s mother had extra money because her husband had some work, she bought things for the children first. Ethel’s mother was very talented with many skills; as a seamstress, milliner, painter, beautician, and caterer.

Her parents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary at the Elks Club. At the age of 86 years old, they were married for 66 years. Her father died in 1985. Her mother died in 1988.  Ethel's mother, father and husband are buried in Hudson, but grandmother and grandfather are buried in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Ethel has a precious Bible that had belonged to her grandmother. Her mother practiced the old custom of “turning the Bible” with a key. A specific knot tied it closed. Her mother cautioned that before turning the Bible the occasion must never be frivolous and you must be a Christian. Her mother and Ethel turned the Bible together once when they had been robbed.

The adults played games like Whist, Packino, card games, checkers and dominoes at home. In New York City they always entertained.  On Sundays they always attended Church, and in afternoons they went to BYPU Baptist Youth. Afterwards they had free time, often choosing somewhere to dance. In New York City Ethel’s Mother and father taught their children to dance. Her father was a prize waltzer and called the set. Growing up, Ethel said, young women never spoke to boys or people unless they were introduced. At 16 she had a coming out party.  Her future husband Ralph crashed her party! They were married two years later.  He was an MP stationed in Jersey City during WWll. He never went overseas because Ethel was pregnant.

Church played a big part in her life and in that of her whole family.  On Sundays the men wore starched dungarees to Church. Her parents were especially fond of the Little Church singers. On Sundays her second husband always visited sick friends. Several members of the Church regularly made hospital visits, especially Mrs. Mosley.

Ethel decided to move to Hudson because it was safe. However, the men in her family disagreed, not wanting to leave New York City. Initially Ethel lived with mother and sister at 348 Columbia Street. Now she lives at 340 and has tenants in 346 and 348. Deeds to her houses interchangeably say Columbia Street and Diamond Street. Her mother opened a Chicken Shack at 346 /348 on Columbia Street which employed many family members. They mostly served fried chicken, potato salad, red rice, yams and string beans. On Saturday nights they played the jukebox.

When they first moved here, they didn’t even know how to make a fire in the coal stove. People put a sign in the window asking Mr. Cohen to bring ice for the icebox.

Father helped their Church by building the doors and cabinets. He also helped the Colored Citizens Club of Hudson, (CC Club). It was a group of black men who have been together for more than 55 years. Ethel believes it is the only black-owned club between here and Buffalo. When younger men came to town they wanted to expand it. They sold bonds to raise money which helped to build the Little Church on Third and Columbia Streets. The women had Ladies’ Auxiliary. Ethel has the History of the Club preserved.

There were a couple of bars on Columbia Street. They were coarse, rough, and gruff. Hudson in 1945 was wide open, running numbers right on the street. Most of the houses on Columbia were bordellos. You never saw the women outside. The police chief ran them. When the family first moved to Hudson, the Minister Reverend Allen from Shiloh Baptist Church visited them thinking they were opening another Bordello! Most of the houses/bordellos on Columbia Street were owned and run by white people with white girls. Their neighbor Mr. Nolan owned a bar. As the girls arrived in Hudson to work, they went to him first. He approved them and placed them in one of the several bordellos that he owned. On weekends there was often violence between particular families, around the gambling, bars, and bordellos. 

Ethel married again in 1967. Ethel, her mother, and her brother catered the party at the old Colored Citizens Club. Her second husband worked on New York Central Railroad (before it was Amtrak) for 30 years. He was a track man who was also called in if there were any other problems. In addition, he worked on the hole, (tunnel) on weekends. The workers wore high-water boots and brought in their food to remain there for the whole weekend. Most of those men died of colon cancer, including her husband.

They were poor when she was young and many members of family died young. They often used homemade medical remedies. They made their own cough syrup with honey, raisins, lemon, horehound, rock candy and little whiskey. Just let sit before drinking it.

One of the memorable events in Hudson was the snowstorm in 1960’s. It was during the holidays and the whole family was snowed in together. They all walked from house to house to visit, and everywhere there was plenty of food. Ethel also remembers the fire at the house of Mary Burr. She was elderly and lived alone in her house on the 300 block. Carl Logan rescued her from the house. Ethel recalled the Dayline boat that went to Albany. The churches from New York City would sponsor the whole congregation to sail on the Dayline to Bear Mountain.

Message for the Future from Ethel: The Family that prays together, stays together.

Interviewer Bio:

Marcella Beigel

Marcella Mary Kane Schneider Beigel (Marcella Beigel) was the RSVP Director and originator of the BLACC Oral History Project. She moved to the Columbia County area at the age of 60 and was involved in many civic projects in Columbia County. She believed in the importance of the area’s black history and enlisted seniors to cull old newspapers as well as interview local residents in order to gather information on this history. She also was instrumental in creating a curriculum guide for local schools of the history that gathered in this collection.

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