Remember When: Saratoga Memories From the Last 25 Years

When a local magazine has a birthday, it’s really the stories at the heart of its community that are being celebrated. So, to toast our silver anniversary, Saratoga Living asked longtime Saratogians to share their fondest memories from the last 25 years of Spa City living.


“I met my husband in the Gaffney’s parking lot. My car was frozen solid from an ice storm, and I was ending my work day at the nail salon I owned. He ran and got me a can of de-icer…the rest is history. We’ve been married 24 years.” –Joanne H. Roulier

“My first customer at Saratoga Candy Co. was a new dad whose daughter was just born. He came in looking for some goodies to pass around at the hospital. I didn’t even have cash in the register yet! But I had gum cigars for him. Over the years he’s come back in with his daughter—she’s now 25—to say hi.” –Dawn Oesch


(The Saratogian)

“Most people have a sense of nostalgia for the big chains like Blockbuster or Hollywood video, but for us, none compared to The Drive In Movie Store. After the kids finished school on Fridays, they would pile into the van—often with a friend or two—to go check out the newest movie releases. The manager, Joe, was always ready to share the best recommendations. No matter your mood or the genre, he’d seen it all. And he wasn’t the only one. Customers and employees alike would share their impressions of their favorite new and old movies. There was just this sense of friendliness and community between the stacks of DVDs and VHS tapes.” –Kerry Conley


“My parents started their own Italian restaurant called Lanci’s (our last name). They bought it when it was a hot dog joint and turned it into a hidden gem. My whole family worked there and it felt like the people who walked in our restaurant were walking into our home. My mother not only mastered Italian wines and knew what to pair with my father’s cooking, but she also made the most delicious dessert sampler: ‘tre bambini’ (the three babies)—panna cotta, chocolate budino and tiramisu.” –Juliana Russell


“My Gramp came over from Italy, and his father created The Empire Fruit Company and then Tarantino Insurance Company, both on Division Street. Gramp was so proud of downtown Saratoga and all the treasures the town provided. In 2007, we purchased his home on the Oklahoma Track, and every morning during training track season it never fails to amaze us. Every day we are grateful to my Gramp for having the vision to build a house that will be carried down as a legacy home within our family.” –Sue Jeffreys


“I was at the final weekend of Thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, September 5. Part of the thrill was getting to watch the 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra, who was undefeated at that point, in the Grade I Woodward Stakes. She was racing against seven colts, including a Belmont winner, and no filly had ever won that race. When it started, she got to the front very quickly, but a horse from the back of the pack started picking up steam and catching up to her on the final stretch. With just meters to go ’til the finish line, Rachel Alexandra was able to give a little more, and won the race by a head. All 31,000 people at the track that day were on their feet and screaming at the top of their lungs. That day will never be forgotten and goes down in my memories as my favorite day at the track—ever!” –Maureen Roberts

“Coldplay came to town on July 27. We had already turned our kids (then ages 7, 12 and 15) into super-fans, but our family was not ready for such an unbelievable show. Giant yellow balloons floated overhead as the band played ‘Yellow’ and paper butterflies exploded out of confetti cannons into the night. Somewhere in between, Chris Martin joined us all out on the SPAC lawn. It was pure joy. We knew that Coldplay was destined for greatness, but for just one special night they were here with us in our own backyard.” –Gabriela and Kevin Bartlett


“On April 21, an activist community was born under the canopy of a legacy American elm. Two years before Sustainable Saratoga’s Tree Toga crews started planting trees each April, the organization recruited volunteers to conduct a tree inventory. The data these volunteers collected was the foundation upon which the city created its visionary, first-ever Urban Forest Master Plan in 2013. To me, the tree inventory team captures the spirit and power of Saratoga’s many volunteer communities. If you ask, Saratogians will pitch in.” –Tom Denny


“The weekend of October 10 was our 50th class reunion (we were the first class from Saratoga High School to graduate outside at the Hall of Springs). We began with a mixer at the Parting Glass on Friday, and Saturday night Panza’s did an incredible job for dinner and dancing. After returning to the hotel, Joe Slocik, Bob Rowe and I decided to walk up to the OBI since the hotel bar was closed. Imagine two guys and a girl in their late sixties locking arms and skipping up and down the Maple Avenue hill. All their wives could do was follow behind us and shake their heads.” –JoAnn Hughes

“I kicked off Chowderfest at Peabody’s, where I was enjoying chowder and a beer that most would call ‘water.’ (Hey, I knew the day would be a marathon, not a sprint.) I ended up calling a good friend of mine who lived in Boston at the time. After a quick phone call, and being the foodie that she is, her ass was headed to Saratoga Springs. Three hours later, she was sitting next to me.” –Steve Bouchard 


“I lived above what is now Hamlet & Ghost. We’d barbecue and watch live shows at Gaffney’s from the roof, play cards in the back of Smoking Sam’s cigar shop on Caroline Street when the streets were too crowded, and when it snowed, we’d start on the top of the stairs on the other side of Broadway and ski all the way down to our apartment.” –Brad Cranston


“I used to live a block from the track next to the Horseshoe. I loved looking out my window and seeing people carrying their coolers and chairs to the track. I’d come home from work and hear the music from the Horseshoe. In the summer of 2019 I was training for a big MMA fight I had at Madison Square Garden, and every morning I’d take a 3- to 5-mile run by all the stables and the track and watch the sun come up.” –Brandon Jordan


“I’ll never forget what SPAC looked like in 2020. I had a meeting there that July and when I saw the overgrown lawn with grass two feet tall, I immediately began to tear up. I didn’t get back to SPAC until July 13, 2022 for the ballet. I’ll never forget that night and what it felt like to see the dancers on our stage again, feel the energy of the audience, experience the life back in the amphitheater—and of course admire the perfectly manicured lawn again.” –Leah Ferrone


“I coach the boys cross country and track teams at Saratoga High. This season, we had a young man on our team, Othmane Kerroum, who had religious obligations during the month-long Ramadan. Because he is required to fast all day, it was best for him to run in the evenings, so he could eat before and after his workout. We decided as a team to commit to an optional day of fasting on April 6, followed by a team practice after sundown and then a team meal, right on the track. Through this experience, we were able to collectively relate to the commitment Othmane had shown to his faith, as well as to his training. It was one of the most memorable nights I’ve experienced as a coach, and it made me proud to be a part of the Saratoga community.” –Shane Zanetti    

1998 Snapshot

What was happening in the Spa City 25 years ago?

  • Blues Traveler, Barenaked Ladies and Paula Cole perform as part of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival at SPAC on August 2
  • The Horse Whisperer, which filmed scenes in Saratoga Springs, is released
  • Newlywed Marylou Whitney arrives at her annual gala in a flapper-era Ford Model T
  • Opera Saratoga (then Lake George Opera) performs its first season at Saratoga’s Spa Little Theater, which becomes its permanent home for the next two decades
  • Longfellows and Saratoga Arms hotels open their doors
  • Siro’s hosts free daily public handicapping sessions during racing season
  • Fred Clark answers a Hewitt’s Garden Center ad looking for someone to play Santa Claus and the Saratoga Santa is born
Broadview retirement ad

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