Manlius When I was a young editor of the Eagle Bulletin in the mid-1990s, Hamilton Armstrong initially treated me as a know-nothing. On several occasions, he called to belittle my editorial opinions, or question why I wasn’t following up on a story he felt deserved coverage. His phone calls, like his letters, could be harsh.
But as we got to know each other a little better, the Ol’ Burdock and I developed a mutual respect. He invited me into his home, which was a trip into the past. We talked about issues, about history and about people. He gave me a perspective that a 25-year-old simply doesn’t have, and he made me appreciate the importance of my role as local journalist.
Early on, we set guidelines for his letters: don’t libel anyone, stray from personal attacks, stay within our 500-word limit. Hamilton took those parameters and pushed right to the line. He would viciously attack a councilor’s or supervisor’s decision-making, while ensuring that he didn’t cross any legal boundaries. Following his signature, there would be a little note: “There are EXACTLY 500 words in this letter.”
We often didn’t agree, both on issues and on method. Hamilton felt the best way to get government to lean his way was to push… and he could really push. His biting commentary in print and his name calling and vocal outbursts at public meetings often led to a heated Us vs. Them attitude at Manlius Town Board and village of Fayetteville meetings. On many occasions, the Eagle Bulletin was criticized for publishing his diatribes and we lost a few subscribers who felt the Ol’ Burdock had pushed too far.
An example, from Sept. 24, 1997, when Hamilton directed his ire at Fayetteville Mayor Henry McIntosh:
“In your game of dirty pool, good things don’t count — all that counts is how much you can make Fayetteville look like one big McDonald’s from village line to village line … This says nothing about how two-faced you and your flunkies looked each claiming how concerned you were for the residents of the area.”