At the age of fifteen, William Anderson of Troy was a busy boy. Besides working as a messenger for the common council and handling desk clerk duties at a local library, he had toiled as a newsboy for the Troy Times since he was twelve years old. Newsboys were once a critical part of operations for most newspapers. Instead of being hired, they were independent, which was good for the newspapers but not so good for the boys. They purchased papers and hawked them on the streets, earning a tiny amount of profit for each one sold, and taking the hit for papers that went unsold. » Continue Reading.
Long ago, in the Lewis County town of Denmark – just a few miles south of Fort Drum, coincidentally – lived a family famous for its drumming skills. The Clarks’ unusual abilities began with the father, Orrin Clark, who served five years as a militia drummer.
Among his many children were sons George (born in 1844), John (1853), and Hiram (1856). Less than three weeks after his seventeenth birthday, George enlisted in the army, joining an infantry regiment. Displaying a musical talent similar to his father’s, he served as a drummer (the official military rank was Musician) for the next three and a half years. » Continue Reading.
On January 7, 1933, the lives of two North Country men converged briefly nearly 300 miles from home in the Jamaica section of Queens in the City of New York. By odd coincidence, without ever meeting, they were fatally wounded within a few feet of each other. The older of the two was Walter Murphy of Ausable Forks, who joined the New York City police force in June 1926. The following year, he was cited for bravery after stopping a runaway horse (the cause of many deaths and injuries in those days), and in early 1933 he made headlines for a murder arrest. He frequently visited family in Ausable Forks, and had just left there nine days earlier after spending Christmas in the Adirondacks.
On the fateful day, Murphy was off duty, and with a friend had stopped at a service station for gas and to make some minor repairs to his car. While cleaning up in the washroom, they overheard a commotion outside. » Continue Reading.
No matter what type of book you prefer, you’re almost certain to find something you’ll like at the Chronicle Book Fair, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sunday, November 8, at the Queensbury Hotel in downtown Glens Falls.
You’ll meet authors, publishers, booksellers and other folks – more than a hundred will be set up with displays – so there’ll be plenty of chatter going on throughout the day.
Tables featuring hundreds of book titles will be laid out in different rooms, providing great shopping opportunities for yourself or for the holidays. Strike up a conversation with an author about his or her work, they love to talk about what they’ve done or what they’re working on next. » Continue Reading.
The night of mischief surrounding Halloween seemed to often get out of hand when I was a child. While we were out collecting candy and anticipating the pleasures to follow, fire trucks and police vehicles were constantly on the run. It forever warped for me the definition of mischief. I could only guess that for children it meant rascally behavior like soaping windows, and for young adults it meant burning barns and vacant houses.
I didn’t know at the time that it was nothing new. The region’s old newspapers are filled with articles about Halloween arson, often referred to as mischief, dating back more than a hundred years. » Continue Reading.
Google, the self-professed best friend of authors everywhere, won a recent landmark case that has redefined copyright law. Grab a book off your shelf and read the brief copyright notice, which says something like, “No part of this book may be reproduced without permission …,” and mentions a few exceptions. It’s official now: that copyright “claim” is a dinosaur and needs to be rewritten to accommodate new interpretations of the law. Google (and other companies) can legally copy entire, copyright-protected books. They’ve already admitted to doing it millions of times over. While they can’t legally sell your book, they can use parts of it to drive Internet traffic their way and earn income.
The use of your book by others is still limited by law, but the court has said authors are not intended as the primary beneficiary of copyright protection. That was a new one for me. I had hoped that paying the government to establish my copyright meant just that literally—that my full book could never be copied in any way without me giving someone that specific right. But that’s not at all true. » Continue Reading.
Delving deeply into the history of Clinton Prison in Dannemora for an upcoming book (already in progress before the recent escape) has led me to profile many criminals who have done time there. Not all of them will make the cut for the book, but what stands out across a wide range of criminals is recidivism. It was not unexpected — Clinton is, after all, New York’s principal home for repeat violent felons and incorrigibles — but it’s often surprising how many people among those who have options choose crime as a way of life.
From the Albany area was a young man who had options, but typified those who eschew a mainstream lifestyle for a darker path. In the end we’re left straining for a hint of any redeeming value. » Continue Reading.
In August 1939, tanks began rolling toward the border. That short sentence should call to mind the beginnings of World War II, as German tanks headed for Poland. The very same thing was happening here at the very same time: tanks preparing for war were rolling towards New York’s border in August 1939. It was the 66th Infantry’s tank battalion out of Fort Devens, Massachusetts, crossing the Crown Point Bridge from Vermont to Port Henry and heading north to the Plattsburgh area for war maneuvers. Included were more than a hundred trucks and motorcycles and thirty-seven tanks. » Continue Reading.
In the 1950s northern New Yorkers had war on their minds. Thousands of average citizens put television, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Corvettes aside over concerns about World War III. Fresh on everyone’s minds was World War II, but the U.S. was right back into a mess in 1950 in Korea, where a three-year fight became one of the building blocks of the Cold War. On it’s ground floor were the everyday North Country folks who joined Operation Skywatch. » Continue Reading.
Plenty has been written about the loyalty of dogs and how they’ve saved or protected people—rescuing children in trouble, barking to rouse people during fires, or protecting their humans from wild animals, tame animals, or other humans. I’ve written on some of those themes here, and was once protected by my own faithful companion, who went above and beyond the call by fending off deer poachers coming after me with a cattle prod. Yikes! Perhaps a story for another time, but I have to say yet again … Good dog! » Continue Reading.
In the spirit of the September 10–13 Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration (check out what you missed, and make plans to attend next year), here’s a little Q & A fun from the battle itself, the War of 1812, and Lake Champlain history.
The answers immediately follow each question, so if you enjoy testing yourself and/or others, don’t peek. And if you’re not familiar with the Battle of Plattsburgh, it’s a fantastic story of Americans triumphing against great odds in both a land and water battle. As much as anything else, the victory at Plattsburgh helped end the war. » Continue Reading.
Labor Day honors the labor movement and the contributions of America’s workers, concepts that have been driven home for me many times through interviews with old-timers who helped build this country. Typical among them was Floyd Bracey, a proud Lyon Mountain iron miner who passed away in 1993. Referring to my factory job back then as “work” seemed unfair after learning about Mr. Bracey’s daily routine of more than three decades.
What follows are excerpts from our conversation in 1980 at the Bracey home in Lyon Mountain, about ten minutes west of Dannemora. » Continue Reading.
The 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry represented Washington County, New York, in the Civil War. Final casualty totals were about 166 dead (69 on the battlefield) and 158 wounded. Among those were 16 killed and 16 wounded from the town of Whitehall. The dead represent 16 grieving families and great loss for the community, a theme replayed again and again across the country.
Among the key words defining America is union, as in the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…,” and as in pledging “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” Yes, it’s even in our name—not America, but the United States of America. » Continue Reading.
If you’re up for a few laughs, here are some more headlines taken from old North Country newspapers. See if you can figure out the real story behind each headline—and don’t be disappointed if you only go one-for-four.
The first one may have been an editor having a little fun with word play, but the headline in the Hammond Advertiser from spring 1944 does make sense in context. If you haven’t already guessed, the year provides a clue to the article topic. The answer: World War II was a time of shortages in America, and the article addressed limitations on the amount of gas available for pleasure craft in the Adirondack region. » Continue Reading.
Lodestone’s definition—magnetic, to attract strongly—helps clarify the meaning of the following famous quotation: “A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.” Those are the words of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith. In more colloquial terms, here’s a very loose translation used by a movie star—Thumper in Walt Disney’s “Bambi”: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
It suggests that people respond well to kind and friendly words, which is true. That’s the concept behind a movement launched long ago by a North Country man. In this era of routine public rudeness, lightly veiled slurs, and yelling opposing views at each other as a substitute for substantive discussion, maybe it’s time for the League of the Kindly Tongue to rise again.
Yes, the League of the Kindly Tongue was once a thing, born of excessive gossip, rumors, rudeness, and … well, you get the point. It’s hard to imagine such a pro-civility movement taking root, but it did in a very big way. » Continue Reading.