As we dig out our cars and driveways from yet another Albany snowstorm, I wanted to share a story from a snowy winter 90 years ago. This tale is told in the memoirs of Arthur R. McKinstry, St. Paul’s rector between 1927 and 1931.
In those years, McKinstry tells us, Albanians stored their cars from December until April because of the cold and snow. For transportation, most used trolleys and taxis, renting a car and driver for special occasions.
St. Paul’s rectory was next door to the church, so you might think that McKinstry’s transportation needs would be minimal. But he was also vicar St. Stephen’s in Elsmere. Sundays meant two trips to Delmar: one in the morning for the service and one in the afternoon for the church school. And of course he would be regularly called on for visits to parishioners, weddings and funerals.
For winter transportation, McKinstry relied on the Albany Motor Renting Corporation, whose garage was located conveniently just up Lancaster Street from the church. This firm offered a variety of services, including taxis, weekend excursions in the country and limousines for weddings, funerals and other special occasions. They boasted that their fleet included the popular Cunningham Car, manufactured in Rochester, New York.
In his frequent trips with these drivers, McKinstry learned that they had nicknames for the ministers they frequently transported.
When I begged my informants to tell me what they called me, the chauffeurs balked. However, after much persuading they consented to reveal my nickname. They said, “When you came to the city we didn’t know very much about your terminal facilities. The first funeral we had at St. Paul’s Church was in the dead of winter, a very cold day, and after getting the congregation nicely seated, we all went off to a speak-easy. We had expected you to last at least thirty minutes. But you fooled us. You lasted only fifteen minutes, and we got bawled out by our employers. So we call you “Two Minute Charley.”Arthur R. McKinstry, All I Have Seen: The McKinstry Memoirs by the Fifth Bishop of Delaware 1939-1954 (Wilmington, Delaware: Serendipity Press, 1975), 36-37.
After leaving Albany, McKinstry had quite an illustrious career, including connections with two presidents. As rector of St. Mark’s, San Antonio, he conducted the wedding of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. And with the intervention of President Franklin Roosevelt (whom he had come to know quite well during his Albany years) he was offered the rectorship of Washington D.C.’s St. Thomas Church, Du Pont Circle. McKinstry declined that offer, but ended his career with another Du Pont connection, as the fifth bishop of Delaware.