Only the truth in Millerton NY
"Music and Poetry from the pen of Suitcase Sam"
Suitcase Sam plays guitar and banjo. The name came from when he was Town of North East Town Justice. If you came in front of him once maybe a fine. But come back the second time bring your
suitcase because you were going to the Crow Bar Hotel.

An American

By Sanford Kaplan

Dad came from Russia as young man,
Learned to speak English in a short span,
In 1918 went to war as an ambulance driver,
Performed his duty – returned a survivor,
Proud to be an American home to stay,
Joined the American Legion right away,
It was a family thing – all took part,
The American Legion was close to his heart,
Memorial Day – The parade was a sight,
Everyone in uniform – polished and bright,
Bands play – everyone marched in time,
Guns fired a salute to men lost in their prime,
They gave their lives for us to be free
Dad was proud to serve our country,
America was truly worth fighting for,
He prayed there would not be another war,
But over the years wars didn’t end,
He supported our country – he wouldn’t bend,
World War II began on a quiet Sunday,
Sacrifice and rationing were here to stay,
Dad was a warden – patrolled the street,
Blackouts observed – darkness compete,
He did his part here at home,
And prayed for peace to come,
Peace came but – Korea and Vietnam,
Called Americans again from the calm,
Through it all there was no doubt,
American ideals would win out,
He stood behind our country always,
He was proud to be an American all of his days.
Copyright Suitcase Sam Productions
October 2005

I was born in Great Barrington, MA and raised on a farm. My father was away buying cattle and my mother milked the cows in his absence. When I was an infant, she used to bundle me up and lay me in the feed cart along with some warm stones while she milked the cows. In the summer, my mother ran a boarding house for families who wanted to escape New York City. When I started school, it was a big problem because I did not want to go to school. My mother used to flag down the bus driver and have him wait while she chased me out in the fields, captured me and put me on the bus. My mother told me stories of her youth in New York City. Both of my parents immigrated to this country from Russia when they were teenagers. Neither of them spoke any English when they arrived in this country. They spoke both Russian and Yiddish with a little German and Polish. My mother grew up on the streets of New York and Eddie Cantor was one of her cousins. The family thought that poor Eddie was crazy because he used to sing and dance on the streets to earn money.

My father served in the US Army during World War I as an ambulance driver in France and was awarded citizenship after the war. He was always very proud of his service to this country and his patriotism inspired my song, "An American".

In 1942, my family purchased a farm in Millerton, NY and we moved into the village because my mother did not drive and my father was often away buying cattle. I graduated from Millerton High School and played basketball and the saxophone all through my high school years. I attended SUNY at Delhi and graduated with an Associate Degree in Agriculture. I was offered a Federal job in the agricultural field after graduation but decided to return home and work on the family farm. I milked cows, drove a team of horses, did the haying, assisted with the difficult calvings and generally tended to the health of the animals. Most of all, I enjoyed riding horses and raising the foals. Also, I kept hunting dogs and spent hours hunting birds, woodchucks and rabbits as well as deer. We ran a weekly Livestock Auction at the farm and milked 100 dairy cows. In 1966, our dairy barns were destroyed by fire and we lost most of our livestock. This fire marked the end of our farming years. My farm experiences inspired the following songs: "Farming", "Farm Boy", "Palo" and "Time Goes By", "Fawn", "Riding My ATV", "Fall".

In 1971, I was elected to the position of Village Justice and later I was also elected as Town Justice. I served on the Town Board for 4 years because at that time, the Justice was automatically a Board Member. I served in the Justice positions for 24 years before I retired. I found this work interesting and challenging. My years as a judge inspired me to write "The Judge" and "Court". The name Suitcase Sam was derived from a nickname which I received during my years on the bench. If a defendant came before my court once, he deserved a second chance, but if he came back a second time, he had better bring his suitcase and be prepared to serve some time in jail. I was known for being tough but fair and I did not have very many repeaters. Our town was quite wild when I took office because we had several bars and there were always Saturday night fights. Within a year, I had things quieted down in my town.

After I retired from the Justice Court, I stayed involved in politics. I was elected to the Town Board for a four year term. I also ran for Town Supervisor two times but was defeated. The principles of my life are those which my parents taught me:

to be always truthful and honest and to never be in a position where someone owns you. These maxims are probably the reason that I was not successful in politics. I resigned after three years on the Town Board when I saw that the other members were not adhering to the law and were leaving themselves open to a lawsuit.

At the age of 72, I looked for a new interest and decided to return to music and learn to play the guitar. I took lessons on the electric guitar for about a year and found that it was not for me. Then I met Denise Jordan Finley and she introduced me to the acoustic guitar and encouraged me to write songs. I found that I really loved writing the stories of my life. I also liked to write about politics and to vent my frustrations with our local boards. That is how I began to write some rap songs like "Are We Really Free?", " Wake Up - It’s Time For A Change" and "Stand Up". I also have written songs about our small community such as: "The Clock", "Immigrants", "Beer", "Red Neck Deli", "103.3 Food Drive", and "Friends Around The Campfire".
I wrote the song “Are We Really Free?” after several experiences with the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals in our town. On one occasion, I applied for a variance to allow a locally owned hardware store to move into an existing but unused auction barn on my farm. I was told by the Chairperson that I has to submit a complete personal financial statement to prove a hardship. That request was incorrect according to the law which requires only a financial statement pertaining to the building in question. However, I did not have the money to hire a lawyer and fight the board. At one point, the board came to inspect the site and one member stated, “ I have no sympathy for people who inherit property.” As a Town Board member and a concerned citizen, I have followed the actions of these boards for the last 30 years. I have watched as time after time, businesses have been discouraged and turned away from our town by the local boards. Hipotronics, a hi-tech electrical business, was even forced to close their plant here when the Planning Board would not allow them to add on to their building to accommodate their growing business. This plant was located on a 20 acre site.
I wrote “Rappin in the Country” because the local politics in our town is in such disarray. Everyone likes to complain but no one cares enough to take action. A recent episode regarding assessments revealed glaring abuse of the system by certain elected and appointed town officials. Our town suffers from the lack of a tax base and soon only the very wealthy will be able to live here. There are no job opportunities for our sons and daughters and they cannot afford to buy a home here. There is a sad lack of shopping opportunities in our area. Our town was originally a busy commercial center with 3 grocery stores, 10 gas stations, 4 feed stores, 2 department stores, 3 factories and 50 dairy farms. We have now evolved into a tourist center with high-end specialty and antique stores in which local people cannot afford to shop. With only one grocery store in town, the senior citizen subsisting on only Social Security finds grocery prices unaffordable and the closest discount stores are 25 miles away.

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