My Studies

I have been a student learning about local history for much of my life. Even before I started college and my first public lecture, I digested great insight through regional historical societies. Here, the like-minded passions of fellow members acted as a nexus of information and friendships. As the youngest member of the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society, I eagerly waited for the first Friday of each month when they would hold their monthly meetings in the Mulberry Senior Center of Middletown, NY. I reveled in their meetings that began with an informal gathering where members would sell and trade railroad items. They followed Robert’s Rules of Order and established a pattern that I would later diligently follow as the youngest member and later president of the Hudson Valley Bottle Club. What I loved best about these monthly meetings were the featured lectures that followed, complete with images that captured the once rich history of local railroads. I always had to leave early because my parents worked the following day, but those meetings left an indelible mark on my psyche. 

Dedication

Inspired, I dedicated myself to learn, acquire, and assemble information that I would soon share with my fellow members at the Woodbury Historical Society (WHS). I first joined WHS at age eleven and was elected to their board of trustees at fourteen where I still serve today. At WHS, I began to discover my interest in presenting history to the public and the first of these projects was known as “Fifty Items that Tell the Story of Woodbury.” Modeled from a New York Times article titled “Fifty Items that Tell the Story of New York,” the general idea was to bring together fifty artifacts of all shapes and sizes that told the story of our local history. The presentation attracted well over fifty items and brought out new finds and individuals interested in our town’s history. One year later, I gave my first lecture before WHS titled “The Erie Railroad’s Shortcut Then and Now” which attracted more than one hundred people. That lecture would be one of more than thirty that I would give before graduating from high school. One lecture, as a junior in high school, caught the attention of a regional reporter for the Orange County Magazine. That article made its way to the history department at Marist College where one of the professors brought the article to their meeting insisting “this is the kind of student we need to get here.” 

College Student, Author, and Guest Lecturer

Two years later, I would attend Marist.

In high school, I didn’t play any sports but the local libraries, senior centers, and museums became my arena and field of dreams where I was able to soar while sharing my passion for local history. Each lecture was a unique opportunity to communicate and connect with a diverse audience. This was my “Facebook” with one exception; we actually met in person—face-to-face.

The COVID-19 Pandemic would present some of the most difficult obstacles. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some members of these historical societies become infected and perish from this awful virus. Societies, in general, suspended their lectures and meetings—instead opting to move to an online setting. I choose to use this time to write and, beginning in March 2020, I published “How Bottles Talk To Us, and the History They Tell” in the Antique Bottle and Glass Collector magazine. That followed with the May 2020 release of Marist’s Hudson River Valley Review which printed my essay “When Steel Rails, Glass Bottles, and Fresh Cream Ruled the Country; Orange Country’s Role in the Birth of Transporting and Marketing Milk” (coming in 2022 is another article in the review titled “The Rondout Valley’s Glassy Past: The Ellenville Glass Works, A Forgotten Hudson Valley Industry”). The Antique Bottle and Glass Magazine would feature another submission in October with my article on “Tin Tops—The Pioneers of Milk Bottles.” Finally, the Orange County Historical Society published my essays on “The Erie Railroad’s Race for a Shortcut: The Story of Woodbury’s Three Sister Railroad Stations” and “Orange County’s Forgotten Trackside Past: The New York, Ontario and Western Railway’s Meadowbrook Station and the Cornwall Railroad Triangle.”  During that time I also continued work on my upcoming book “Spoiled Milk—The Lost Dairy Farming Empire of Orange County, New York.” 

PodCasting

In the spring of 2021, I produced and debuted a series of podcasts entitled “A Walk Through Woodbury” which investigates one topic on local history per episode. To date, I have produced four episodes: “The Dairy Farms of Woodbury,” “The Jewish Bungalow Colonies of Woodbury,” “When The Railroad Came Through Woodbury,” and “Famous Residents of Woodbury.” Each story features incidental music (performed by me) and sound effects to help move the story forward. Additionally, special guests our invited to our recording sessions while hosting a regular roundtable of experts. There is also a mini-video series called “In A Woodbury Minute” which explores individual facets of history in two to five-minute segments. Six episodes were published during the summer of 2021. These podcasts can be found here: https://alexprizgintas.com/mypodcasts/.

My Undergraduate Senior Year

In the fall of 2021, I returned to my last semester as an undergraduate student at Marist College to complete my studies in history with a minor in Hudson River Valley Studies and a concentration in public history. Following this, I officially graduated on January 31, 2022 summa cum laude. I will be returning to Marist in the Fall of 2022 to pursue a Masters in Public Administration. During my last year of undergraduate studies, I began my second internship at the Hudson River Valley Institute where I focused on producing a thirty-five minute film on the impacts of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the Hudson Valley which we can see here:

In April of 2022, I was awarded Marist College’s internship award for my two internships with the Hudson River Valley Institute and, principally, the production of a thirty-five-minute documentary on the local legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Marist College Internship Award

Here are some images of my local lectures that you might enjoy:

Early on, local historical societies were a fundamental building block for my studies since the like-minded passions of fellow members guided my own interests in the field. Seen here is a circa 2014 meeting of the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society in Middletown, NY. I am seated to the right of the banner.

Historical Society in 2013. Over one hundred people attended and this would be the first of over thirty presentations on local history that I would give from 2013 to 2018.


Mount Saint Mary College
Preparing for a lecture on Edward Henry Harriman’s Incline Railroad, with some cello accom animens, before Mount Saint Mary College’s Desmond Campus in Newburgh, N.Y.
Orange County Citizen of the Month
In 2018, I was awarded Orange County’s Citizen of the Month award by county executive Steve Neuhaus for my efforts in preserving local history.
I was presented a citation from the New York State Assembly by Senator James Skoufis for my work in the community. Also pictured are Woodbury town historian Leslie Rose and long-time mentor Herman Galberd.
Association of Public Historians NY State
Myself before the Association of Public Historians of New York State when I gave my lecture “Orange County’s Dairies and their Milk Bottles” in late 2017. Also present is Hudson River Valley Institute program director Christopher Pryslopski (left) and Orange County historian Johanna Porr Yaun (right).
Marist College CURCSA
Marist College has given me the wonderful opportunity to broaden my horizons in local history and expand my research capabilities. Seen here is my interpreted history of Orange County’s dairy farms at the 2019 CURSCA (Celebration of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity)conference. To the left are Mr. Christopher Pryslopski of Marist College’s Hudson River Valley Institute and Dr. David Woolner of Marist College’s history department as well as a senior fellow and resident historian of the Roosevelt institute.
While I am a history major at Marist College, I find that history and music often go hand-in-hand. This was certainly the case at Marist’s 2019 Woodstock Retrospective—celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival. Here, I am with with (left to right) Dr. James Johnson of the Hudson River Valley Institute, internationally-noted author and CNN commentator Douglas Brinkley, and past Marist President David Yellen. I performed Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze at the conference, which was enhanced with a looping station amplified and various guitar pedals to replicate that “acid rock” sound.
Despite my intensive work at college and the negative effects of COVID-19, I still try my best to publicly present local history since it is a vital way of interacting with the community. Seen here is my August 2021 lecture on Orange County’s dairy farms before the Mamakating Historical Society—one of the first in-person lectures I gave after two years.