Our Beginnings and Early History

In 1942, James Foley, who had moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to Schenectady, began to pursue the idea of establishing a dance group for married couples similar to The Benedicts of Cleveland, dedicated to socializing and formal dancing.

It was the era of the Big Bands. It was also wartime! The country was in the midst of retooling its industries to meet the demands of the war effort. General Electric was foremost in World War II production. Daily lives of the people were affected in many ways: food and gasoline rationing, limitations on clothing purchases, victory gardens, curfews, blackouts, sirens, and air-raid practices. It was clearly a time when diversion and a social outlet were needed.

Foley's proposal drew much support, and a Founding Committee was formed. On November 30, 1942, the committee met to begin work on a constitution for the Schenectady-based THE BENEDICTS. Interest grew rapidly. By January, membership had grown to 147 couples, consisting mostly of GE employees and others in Schenectady affectionately referred to as "the uptown people."

Hotel Van Curler, 1941. Postcard from the Begley Library image collection, Schenectady County Community College, in cooperation with the Capital District Library Council Digital Collections, <Hotel Van Curler 1941>, retrieved November 25, 2008, with permission.
   The "first dance," scheduled for January, 1943, was cancelled because of a ban on pleasure driving and was actually held in February at the Hotel Van Curler, now the site of the Schenectady County Community College. The dance was informal and began at 5:30 p.m. with "highballs" and a buffet-style supper. Members danced to a four-piece band. They arrived in different ways: walking, riding a bus, or car pooling with a member who had a gas coupon. The program ended at 9:30 p.m. There was a curfew in effect, and buses stopped running at 11:00 p.m.
More than seventy years have passed, but The Benedicts is still a strong and dynamic organization with a vibrant and enthusiastic membership that continues to grow beyond the limits of Schenectady and into the communities of the greater Capital District.

We have evolved over the past seventy years and have matured along the way. We remain energetic, enthusiastic, and focused on the future. We are confident that, as the years go by and the leadership passes from one group of member couples to another, our goals, traditions, and friendships will remain, and we will always be proud to say: "We belong to The Benedicts."