Almanack Contributor Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.



Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Horse and Carriage Blocks Had Many Uses (Conclusion)

Because of their intended function, horse blocks were accessible to anyone and there was no reason to guard them — except for one night of the year. Pranksters annually targeted them in several ways on Halloween: flipping them if they were too heavy to carry off, piling several on the property of an unsuspecting owner, or placing them in unusual locations, like in the middle of road intersections.

A drastic change in transportation technology — the automobile — marked the beginning of the end for horse travel and several related items that were present just about everywhere: horse blocks, hitching posts, and watering troughs. Progress required the removal of many horse blocks, which had become obstructions to pedestrians and were frequently struck by cars, sometimes causing fatalities. (Driving skills were seriously lacking early on, and there were few regulations, so accidents were common.) » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Once Common Horse Blocks Weren’t Just for Horses and Carriages

The most popular genre by far on nighttime television through the 1960s? Westerns. While children were allowed to watch some of them, several shows specifically geared towards the younger set were shown on Saturday morning. Watching heroes — Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro, three of the best — escape tense situations and catch bad guys was unforgettable.

Among the skills of any cowboy star (or stuntman stand-in) worth his salt were the hurried mounting and high-speed dismounting of horses (usually their own faithful steed, of course). It’s an impressive feat when you consider that horses are pretty high off the ground — which brings us to our main subject: how to get down off a horse. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Golfer Babe Ruth Played at Plattsburgh’s Hotel Champlain

Babe Didrikson’s visit to the North Country in 1934 was historic, especially for Plattsburgh, where it was acknowledged as one of the greatest moments in the city’s history. She was an American hero (thanks to a startling performance in the 1932 Olympics), undeniably one of the world’s top athletes, and a phenomenon because of her high levels of talent in various sports. Plattsburgh’s remote location in New York’s northeast corner makes it difficult to get noticed, so Didrikson’s visit was regarded as a major coup.

Coincidentally, she wasn’t the only Babe from the stratosphere of sports fame to visit Plattsburgh in the 1930s. Even more unlikely is that both Babes were among the most famous athletes in America, and both were able competitors in sports other than the one that brought them the greatest fame. Didrikson, a track-and-field gold medalist, brought her basketball team to Plattsburgh, while Babe Ruth, a baseball giant, came north to play in an international golf tournament. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

A North Country Man Exposed Racism, Confronted It, and Helped Bring About Change

In the late 1970s, the New York State Human Rights Commissioner was about to find the Plattsburgh Elks Club guilty of violating state laws against racial discrimination. Rather than acquiesce, the club opted for a drastic, self-punishing move: refusing all public rentals of its facilities rather than allow local blacks to rent them. Surrendering their official “public accommodation function” (under state regulations, renting the building or grounds to anyone) was accomplished by adopting a new rule: “The use of the club’s facilities and accommodations shall be granted only to members of the Elks, to sodalities, auxiliaries, and other organizations associated or affiliated with the Elks, and to their guests.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

1970s Plattsburgh Elks Resisted Local Integration

Context is everything. So, without cherry-picking, here’s the exact, complete quotation from a longtime member and former leader defining a prominent group in Plattsburgh back in 1976. “The Elks are a fraternal organization based on the principles of charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity. Membership is open to men 21 years of age or older who are citizens of the United States, believe in God, and have not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral issues. There is no discrimination against race, religion, politics, economic status, or any other circumstances.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

William C. Geer Invented Plane-Wing Deicing Device

Based on his remarkable career as an inventor and the immeasurable but tremendous value of three creations of his to businesses and millions of individuals — a better golf ball, gas masks, and the industrial adhesive Vulcalock — it seems there should be a historical marker at William Geer’s birthplace and perhaps a museum wing up north, or at least an exhibit featuring his story. And that’s without even considering his greatest invention of all: the airplane-wing deicer.

That’s right, a North Country man, born and raised, did that. Unlike many inventions that are completely replaced by better alternatives in the future, Geer’s device originating nearly 90 years ago remains a standard, as noted in modern B. F. Goodrich Technical Bulletin 101: “Then, as today, the ice removal process is much the same…. the basic operating principle of the pneumatic de-icing boot hasn’t changed.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Vulcalock: Inventor William Geer’s Industrial Game-Changer

In the northeast corner of New York, just a few miles from where I grew up, is the village of Rouses Point. Lying directly south of Montreal, it has long provided access for rail shipments to U.S. markets. Where the main highway heading west exits the village is an underpass beneath the rails, so road traffic is not impeded by trains, but it’s a different story within the village, where the tracks cross three streets. I loved it as a young boy when my dad got stuck at one of those crossings, which forced us to sit and watch as sometimes more than a hundred rail cars crawled by — boring for adults, but for a young boy, it was a rare chance to see all sorts of rail cars up close.

Among them were many tanker cars, which — I didn’t know it at the time — resulted from an invention by a little-known North Country man whose work had repercussions around the world. His name was William C. Geer, who, as recently was shared here on Adirondack Almanack, created a golf ball that endured for decades as a professional standard, and a gas mask that helped protect millions of Americans who fought during World War I. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

A Local Inventor Helped Supply WW1 Gas Masks

Recently on Adirondack Almanack, two inventions of Ogdensburg native William Chauncey Geer (who lived in Potsdam for ten years of his youth) were addressed, one of them a writing implement to replace pens, pencils, and crayons (an idea that was ultimately relegated to oblivion). The other was a highly successful project resulting in a standard golf ball used by professionals for more than two decades.

Three of Geer’s other works deeply impacted America and the world. The subject here is the third most prominent among them — the gas mask. Its importance rose unexpectedly to critical levels during the First World War when the Germans began engaging in large-scale chemical warfare. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

William C. Geer, North Country Inventor, Had A Ball

Whether you’re a fan of golf or sports in general, you’re probably aware that Tiger Woods recently won the Masters. His impact on golf history has been tremendous, but the latest chapter in his saga has been inspirational for several reasons: through lengthy, rigorous effort, he overcame physical obstacles that would have ended most sports careers; as an old man, he defeated all the best young players on the planet (he’s only 43, but athletes in their forties seldom win the biggest events); and overall, it was a rare comeback effort that most experts dismissed as impossible because of the factors just cited — and we do love comeback stories.

But this isn’t about Tiger Woods and it isn’t a comeback story. It’s about a remarkable North Country man who affected in a positive way untold millions of people around the world through his inventions, including one of his lesser creations — a new and improved golf ball that was the industry standard for decades. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Some Old Adirondack Laws Were Nothing To Sneeze At

For a long time now, my youngest son has operated a research laboratory in Singapore. Moving there from America was quite the culture shock, but he was clearly impressed with how clean everything was, a result of many laws that we in the US would consider overbearing. He remains very respectful of the culture there and wouldn’t joke about some of their laws, including one reinforced by signs in and near elevators: No Urinating in Lifts. For me, it instantly begs the question: was this common enough to merit a statute?

But before we scoff at the rules in other countries, consider a few of our own from right here in the Adirondacks. A foray into my vault of odd items culled from the pages of old regional newspapers yields a few similar gems. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Gouverneur’s Rhoda Fox Graves, NYS Political Trailblazer (Conclusion)

The Ogdensburg Journal-Republican, forced to eat crow after rejecting Rhoda Graves’ claims of Warren Thayer’s corruption, applied twisted logic to justify their stance and the senator’s behavior. They opened with: “Senator Thayer has retired…. It was found that he was on the payroll of a utility corporation and, we feel, working against the interests of the average resident of this district who has been forced to pay unjust rates.” The words “we feel” simply did not apply. There was no question he had been putting the financial screws to his voters while protecting a power company and lining his own pockets.

And then came the kicker, a painful contortion of words—possibly the weakest excuse they could have drummed up—to justify years of unethical, anti-constituent acts by the man they supported. “Senator Thayer was at least consistent. During his entire political life, he has been a close ally of the power groups, a fact that he has never denied. Head of a power company, he was elected to the Assembly and then the Senate, and could not have been expected to change his views.” In any day and age, no matter what your politics are, that’s a sign of having drunk the Kool-Aid. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Rhoda Fox Graves, NYS Political Trailblazer (Part 4)

During Rhoda Fox’s efforts on behalf of the Republican Party from 1918 through 1923, there was plenty of praise for her in the media and no criticism, but she was a non-office holder. When she decided in 1924 to run for an Assembly seat, anti-woman resistance was evident, gently discouraging the idea by praising her activism but insisting the job was best done by a man. When she surprised most people and won, the anti-woman factions maintained their stance but were forced to grudgingly accepted her.

Now, with the announcement of a run for the Senate, the kid gloves were off. The party split, evidenced by the strong support she received from the Watertown Daily Times and the virulent attacks emanating from Ogdensburg, especially in the Republican-Journal, when Rhoda’s opening salvo went right to the heart of the matter. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Gouverneur’s Rhoda Fox Graves, NYS Political Trailblazer (Part 3)

After a year in office, Rhoda Graves won reelection to the New York State Assembly, while five other female GOP candidates elsewhere in the state lost. In January 1926, she sought the chairmanship of the social welfare committee, a position already held by a senior member (from Niagara) who was unwilling to surrender it. She was instead given charge of public institutions — not her preference, for sure — but chairing any committee was another historic first for New York women.

Rhoda’s second year in office was an active one. She pushed a bill restricting the slaughter of tubercular cows to their home county rather than performing the job at a central location; was in a serious train derailment that killed the engineer, but she and Perle emerged relatively unscathed; argued for higher tariffs on incoming farm goods to protect locals; was reelected vice-chairman of the County Republican Committee; and won reelection to the Assembly. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

1921: Rhoda Fox Graves Runs For Assembly

Rhoda Graves was active in Republican politics in 1917 when New York passed women’s suffrage. When it became the law of the land in 1920, it made the possibility of holding elective office an attractive option for some women.

In 1921, Rhoda’s close friend, ten-year assemblyman Frank Seaker, retired from public office, and William Laidlaw, nominated to replace him, served for the next three years. It’s not clear what the machinations were behind Laidlaw’s decision not to run for another term, but there’s no doubt the big announcement that followed was the work of Rhoda, Perle (her husband), Frank Seaker, and supporters among party leaders. Seeking the GOP nomination for an Assembly position was none other than Rhoda Graves of Gouverneur — a woman! » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Gouverneur’s Rhoda Fox Graves, NYS Political Trailblazer

Bucking the odds is a common theme of Walter-Mitty-type fantasies — overcoming daunting obstacles to become a winner, or a hero at some level. Few of us actually live the dream, but sometimes it happens, and during Women’s History Month, an incredible North Country example comes to mind: Rhoda F. Graves of Gouverneur in St. Lawrence County.

The extreme unlikelihood of her becoming a historic figure in state politics makes her story all the more compelling. And the details are amazing. » Continue Reading.