OGDENSBURG — For Ogdensburg natives Ray and Kate (Belgard) Finney, Oscar’s restaurant and bar meant a lot more than just its signature pizza, salad and a cold beverage.
Their chance meeting at Oscar’s led to 49-year marriage.
Mrs. Finney had just graduated from Potsdam State and was celebrating at Oscar’s when she ran into Mr. Finney.
“We met one night in Oscar’s. It was when I got out of college. He said ‘invite me out for dinner,’” said Mrs. Finney, “The rest is history. I am not the only one who met their future husband at Oscar’s.”
The Finneys were one couple amidst a sea of patrons at the Martin Field House, formerly the Knights of Columbus, reliving the glory days of Oscar’s on Ford Street, as part of a fundraiser for the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club on July 28 called Oscar’s Night.
Oscar’s, originally owned by Oscar Vernsey, was later owned by the late Jim and Ethel Anderson for over 28 years before they sold the restaurant and retired in 2009. The Anderson’s daughter, Amy Anderson, and their granddaughter, Casey Plumley, organized the night along with other family members as a way to help the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club, an organization Jim and Ethel Anderson always supported.
Sitting across from the Finneys was their friend, Ron Bettinger, who had just ordered some pizza from Maureen (Kelly) Silver, who had been a waitress for 12 years at Oscar’s, and was helping out that night along with a host of other former staff and friends of the Anderson family.
“We had been going to Oscar’s since (19)69 probably,” said Bettinger, who then glanced around at the red and white checkered table clothes and the signage on the walls. “It’s great. It brings back a lot of memories.”
You could eat in or take out. Anderson said that they sold upwards of 500 pizzas that night, many were uncooked for take out orders while all of the tables the Martin Field House were packed with waiting customers, eager to eat some Oscar’s pizza.
“All I wanted was a positive night and that’s what was given to me,” said Anderson following the event.
Jeff Smith was with his wife, Kasey, and friends waiting for some pizza and salads to arrive. Looking at the massive crowd, he hoped they wouldn’t run out.
“I hope they don’t run out before they remember to feed me,” Smith joked, adding, “This is great, they are going to do really well.”
Sitting next to Smith was Jim and Sheri McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy said that he had one requirement for the pizza they ordered.
“I want mine burnt. That’s Oscar’s pizza,” he said with a smile. Later that evening, McCarthy had a big smile and showed me his pizza crust. It was burnt, just the way he liked it.
Across the aisle, another group of friends were socializing at a table. Mary Grady and her husband, Bob, spoke highly of Oscar’s Night.
“This is awesome. What a great night,” said Mrs. Grady, “This brings back a lot of memories. We had a lot of fun times there. They did a lot of work to make this happen.”
Mr. Grady’s statement echoed a lot of others heard throughout the night.
“It was an institution,” he said.
The outpouring of support for Oscar’s and the OBGC was truly appreciated, according to Megan McNamara, assistant director of the OBGC, who also spoke later that evening.
“The OBGC would like to thank the Anderson family, staff and volunteers who made this fundraiser possible. The outpouring of support the community showed Wednesday evening was unbelievable. Jimmy and Ethel were long time supporters of the club and youth sports and their family came up with this idea to support the club in their memory. We appreciate all involved who made this event what it was…a walk down memory lane,” said McNamara.
Anderson thanked local businesses who donated to the cause that helped them be able to hold Oscar’s Night in the first place as well as the volunteers who worked the event.
“We would never have been able to pull it off if it wasn’t for the businesses who supported us and the community who came out and showed their support,” said Anderson, “I have to thank the Oscar’s team that pulled it off, they are just amazing. It was a great night.”