Recently, while I was relaxing at mahogany ridge, I began chatting with a couple who intrigued me with a question, “what do you know about the turkey farm which had been up behind the Quick Chek on Route 9W?” Normally I have some recollection of places which decorated the landscape of our town in previous decades, but this time I didn’t. I replied I would get them an answer, so here it goes.
Way back when, well, really not that far back, just the beginning of the 20th Century, there was a gentleman from Marlborough, Adam Henry Knaust, who was the owner of a construction company. Adam and his wife, Victoria Carrie Stewart, had a son they named Adolph Stewart Knaust, who married Ruth Staples, and this is the individual we’ll chat about this week and his contributions to our Town.
Rudolph’s early days were being a high school student who excelled in athletics and, upon graduation, began working in the family construction business. While this was a sound endeavor and good career path, in the mid 1930’s, Knaust Turkeys came to be a holiday food staple in our area. Over the next thirty plus years, the chickens and turkeys raised by them were a go to item for holiday meals. They raised different varieties, taking pride in the quality of their poultry. Come Thanksgiving, people could place their orders for a fresh dressed fowl of a size suiting their needs, with home delivery possible.
As the business prospered, they purchased more acreage along State Route 9W in 1942, enlarging their operation to accommodate the public demand and Knaust’s Gobble Farm came into existence. Approximately 3,000 turkeys would be raised in a normal season at this location.
The Gobble Farm hosted family days in the fall, offering the community a chance to visit and have some fun, including pony rides for the children. Adults were provided with free coffee and a turkey sandwich, with the children given candy bars. However, as with any business, there are always dangers. Two years after expanding to the farm in Middle Hope, they suffered a major fire which destroyed one of their buildings with all the turkeys inside which was a major financial setback and a diminished quantity of quality birds for the holidays. Another example was, in 1952, a pack of dogs jumped over the fence and killed over 200 chickens. This was not an isolated event, with other farms in the area experiencing similar slaughters. The threat was so great to the area farmers, the dog warden issued a recommendation all dogs without tags to be shot if found creating havoc like this, based on guidance from Albany.
By the end of the 1940’s, Adolph Knaust expanded and just to the west of the farm, along State Route 9W, his new venture was offered to the public, The Middle Hope Drive-In! Even in the ads for the Gobble Farm, it was noted to drive through the entrance to the Middle Hope Drive-In to reach the farm. Many of our younger readers have not experienced the adventure and freedom of a drive-in movie, though a few venues are still available in our area.
Today’s offerings are nothing like Adolph’s! He had various fundraising shows where a portion of the proceeds would be donated to support local first responders, like the Cronomer Valley Fire Department, the Orange County Chapter of the Association for the Help of Retarder Children, and Muscular Dystrophy. Before the main hit movie of the evening began, talent shows were often held and prizes awarded, sometimes up to $100, with the chance for a television audition in New York City. On the stage in front of the movie screen, before the movie started, performances could be viewed of acts like Troy Graves and his Wonder Horse, Trojan Sunbeam, or the world famous Suzai Marionettes! There were free pony rides for the children and on special nights, fireworks!
Mr. Knaust was always on top of his game and strived to keep everything state of the art. In 1954, he introduced us to the latest in movie phenomena, Cinemascope! The movie that night? The Robe with Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature.
Every spring our residents looked forward to the drive-in opening, normally in mid-March. As the spring time weather was often on the cool side, in 1966, Adolph purchased plug in electric heaters, at an approximate expense of $15,000, which would plug into the post where you parked your car and grabbed the speaker to place in your window. The heaters would turn on and off as needed to keep the interior of the vehicles warm, allowing the drive-in to open earlier in the season and close later in the fall.
All good things come to an end, and by the mid 1960’s, the Town of Newburgh was expanding and property was in high demand. In 1966, after the all the approvals were in place, Adolph was granted a 20 building lot subdivision, known as Ash Acres. Houses were soon seen being built on the farm and as they say the rest is history.
Gone are the $1 Dollar Good Will deals and family car load nights at the drive-in, hiding your buddies in the trunk to get in free, yummy turkey sandwiches at the snack bar, bringing a blanket so the kids in their pajamas could sprawl out on the grass while watching the latest Disney flick, and the dreaded forgetting to take the speaker out your window before leaving. All we have there now is the Quick Chek convenience store. I wonder, is progress always progress…