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.



Monday, April 28, 2014

William Rush Merriam of Wadhams (Part 2)

05WRMerriam1885When the president began handing out appointments, William Merriam was a strong candidate for many positions. In business, he had recently been touted as the right man to head the Northern Pacific Railroad, of which he was already a director. In politics, he was mentioned as the front-runner for many very important positions: Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, ambassador to Germany, and ambassador to Russia. He was widely considered very capable of filling any of those positions, and had another thing going for him: no skeletons in the closet, and no scandals for the opposition to resurrect.

And it’s true: the rival party well knew of Merriam’s qualifications, his intelligence, and affability. His only problem came from within his own party’s ranks—yet it had nothing to do with politics, and little to do with Merriam himself. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 21, 2014

William Rush Merriam of Wadhams:
Minnesota Governor and More

01WRMerriamFrom humble North Country beginnings in a pioneer settlement, a local man rose to play an important government role on a national level. Work performed at the height of his career still affects every facet of our government today. It is also highly valued by researchers, genealogists, and historians as a great repository of valuable historical records.

William Rush Merriam was born in 1849 in the small community of Wadham’s Mills in Essex County, just a few miles northwest of Westport. Many members of the Merriam families in that vicinity played important roles in regional history.

At the time of William’s birth, his father, John L. Merriam, was involved in iron making. While a number of Merriams remained in the Westport–Elizabethtown area, John pulled up stakes when William was 12 and moved the family to Minnesota, eventually settling in St. Paul.

With a partner, John became successful in the field of transportation prior to the arrival of the railroad. At that time, St. Paul was known informally as Pig’s Eye, and was the commerce center of the Minnesota Territory. The name St. Paul was formalized as the capital city when Minnesota became the 32nd state in 1858. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 14, 2014

History: A Little Fun with Old Advertisements

1Cascarets1898Medicines and cure-alls distributed nationally were once regularly advertised in local newspapers, urging readers to try products that were available in nearby drugstores. One of the most common of these treatments was Cascarets, claiming to be different from Castor Oil and other meds that “irritate and lash the bowels into action, but do not thoroughly cleanse, freshen, and purify these drainage organs.”

Are you familiar with those wonderful colon-cleanse infomercials appearing all hours of the night? Back in 1898, Cascarets was making very similar claims: “…remove the undigested, sour food, and foul gases from your stomach … carry out of the system all the constipated waste-matter and poisons in the bowels which are keeping you half sick, headachy, and miserable.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Redefining Vermin: A Short History of Wildlife Eradication

Vermin01 BlackList1919Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries—the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.

While some of the phrases used above—“official enemies … kill them at every opportunity … new job requirement”—might sound like exaggerations, they were, in fact, official conservation policies of New York State a century ago.

It was all part of a Conservation Commission campaign in the early 1900s to eradicate undesirables (their word, not mine) from the food chain. The above-named animals were deemed undesirable in the realms of farming and hunting. They were just doing what comes natural—killing to eat, or gathering food—but those foods included barnyard animals, garden and field crops, and the vaguely defined “sporting” game that hunters treasured, particularly grouse, pheasant, and rabbits. Lest you think eradicate is too strong a word, the actual order in one state pamphlet was, “Destroy the Vermin.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Livin’ the Dream: Ticonderoga Native Whitney Armstrong

01WhArmstrongmoviedebutIf you’re just a regular Joe or Jane, you’ve probably at some point—say, while lying back in an office chair, or doing the dishes, perhaps mowing the grass—entertained a number of Walter Mitty-like fantasies. You know … stuff like, “What’s it like to be that guy or girl?” For men, that guy could be anything. What’s it like to be the smartest kid in school? The star center on a school basketball team? The ace pitcher on the baseball team? A great running back in football? Better yet, how about doing all that in college? Wow … BMOC, plenty of attention from the girls, the coolest among the guys. Might as well toss in a professional baseball contract … what sports-loving boy doesn’t dream of that?

If you’ve never been considered “chick bait,” daydreams might find you 6 foot 4 with a muscular build, and a face that others besides a mother could love. In place of your everyday job, reverie might find you a TV actor, or in movies. That would be cool—fraternizing and working with show-biz superstars. And hey, why not marry the world’s most famous model? She’ll need a great place to live … maybe the Hollywood Hills? And we’ll chum around with a top music superstar of the past century.

I’m going out on a limb, but here’s my guess: for the rest of our lives, most of us would relish having any one thing from that list. But all of them? » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Unintended Adult Humor from Regional Newspapers

19351106 MalFarmer earthquake headlineThis headline from the Malone Farmer says it all about the hardy folks of the Adirondacks: we don’t fear earthquakes, we embrace them! While it’s good for a laugh today, don’t bother calling the editor with your critique: that item appeared in 1935, when the words “rouse” and “arouse” were used interchangeably. They both meant to wake someone up, or to get excited about something in general. Since that time, the word used in the headline is mainly connected with one particular type of excitement.

While skimming old texts and newspapers from around the world, I often encounter amusing or downright funny headlines or passages like that, even though they weren’t meant to be funny at the time. The effect is the same, whether they were misprints, understatements, overstatements, or a change in meaning of certain words or phrases with the passage of time. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Print and E-book News

Books Image JW01The world of books, including both print and digital formats, is still struggling to find the way forward. Translation: publishing companies everywhere are seeking ways to monetize the process in sustainable fashion. Oh, sure … many have made their fortune on what are basically get-rich-quick schemes (in most cases, get richer quick), selling overpriced services to authors while filling their heads with dreams of a world anxiously awaiting their best-seller.

A typical teaser: “Your book will be available to stores everywhere, and to millions (if not billions) of readers around the globe.” True, it will be available to stores and to readers, but without someone marketing, advertising, and promoting it to give those stores and people a reason to buy your book, they won’t. They won’t even know it exists. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Lawrence Gooley: Old Values and Modern Education

SnowshoeingAdkAlmRecently announced changes in the college SAT test have elicited all sorts of opinions from experts, lay-people, and students. Some laud the changes, and some decry them. Most everyone agrees that change was needed, but it’s also clear that modifying the tests was a business-based decision to compete with the more popular ACT. The testing of college aptitude isn’t just a means of judging students’ capabilities: it’s also a billion-dollar business.

One change involves dropping the essay requirement (the essay will now be optional). As a person who enjoys good writing, I also realize the limitations imposed on professionals who are less than literate. A research scientist must be able to clearly communicate their experiments and results, and write scientific papers. Investigative reporters must ably report their findings. Company managers must convey messages to tens or hundreds of employees. On and on it goes. Strong writing skills are critical to professionals (although many rely heavily on very literate secretaries or assistants). » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Do Eagles Snore?

Bald EaglegovFrom a lifetime of experiences, and reading nature books since childhood, it’s true that I should know a little more about wildlife than the average Joe, but I lay no claim to being an expert. Learning something new is a principal reason for reading books, and of late, I’ve had occasion to indulge in several excellent Adirondack-related titles written between 1840 and 1920.

In one of them, a particular passage caused me to stop, backtrack, read it again, and then one more time in disbelief. Since other animal behavior described in the book held true, I supposed this one should as well, but I had reservations. Above all, one thing was certain: confirmation would be hilarious, at least to my thinking. The claim was that bald eagles snore. And not only that: they snore LOUDLY.

On camping trips I’ve taken in the woods over the years, odd and unusual night sounds have proved puzzling, and even intimidating at times. A snorting, growling sound, persistent for hours during a trip 30 years ago, somewhere on the eastern slopes of Lyon Mountain, would have scared me half to death had I been alone. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Watertown’s Show-Biz Pioneer: Charles Giblyn (Part 3)

3A CGiblynAdIn 1920, Charles Giblyn produced his first film for William Fox. (If the name sounds familiar, William founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner of today’s Fox TV and movie units.) The film, Tiger’s Cub, allowed Giblyn a homecoming of sorts. With his lead actress, Pearl White, who reportedly had the widest following of any star worldwide at the time, he came north for filming in Port Henry, about an hour south of Plattsburgh, where he once lived.

After producing a few more movies, Charles was sent to the West Coast on behalf of Fox, where he continued working. For a brief period, he assumed leadership of the Motion Picture Directors’ Association, but when Fox re-assigned him to more movie projects back East, he surrendered the top spot with the MPDA and headed for New York. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Watertown’s Show-Biz Pioneer: Charles Giblyn (Part 2)

2A CGiblynBy 1911, Charles Giblyn, now 40, had been acting for more than 20 years, receiving many great reviews for his theater work. That he often stood out was reflected in comments like the following, taken from the pages of the Los Angeles Herald: “Not Yet, But Soon, currently at the Grand Opera House, has just one thing to commend it to theater-goers. This is the acting of Charles Giblyn as a dope fiend. Apart from Mr. Giblyn’s work, the piece is silly, stupid, and boresome.”

He had also managed several stock companies, and in recent years directed many stage plays and vaudeville shows at LA’s Belasco and other theaters. The experience would serve him well as he plunged head-first into a new show-business medium: the world of movies.

The birth of the commercial film industry was at hand, and Charles quickly became a main player at the directorial level. By mid-July 1913, the New York Dramatic Mirror noted that “… Giblyn … is making quite a hit by his clever work in the moving picture field.” It was but a hint of what was to come. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Watertown’s Charles Giblyn, Show-Biz Pioneer

1A CGiblynDuring research, trivial bits of information often lead to the discovery (or uncovering) of stories that were either lost to time or were never told. For instance, did you know that a North Country man once directed Harrison Ford in a movie role as a young adventurer? Or that a coast-to-coast theater star hails from Watertown? Or that a man with regional roots patented a paper toilet-seat protector two decades before it was offered to the public? Or that a northern New York man was once a sensation after posing for a famous calendar? Or that an area resident was the go-to guy for the legendary titans of a very popular American industry?

If you’re at all puzzled, take comfort in knowing that the answers are simple, because one name―Charles W. Giblyn―is correct on all counts. A snippet of news, citing him as a former movie director, piqued my interest. The follow-up revealed a man possessing star quality and many talents, and an amazing career that today, for the most part, is long forgotten. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Charles Shaw, Ace Attorney From Jay (Part 2)

CPShaw 02 BookletDespite all his accomplishments, Charles Shaw’s career is largely defined by a decade-long battle he fought on behalf of the cable interests for rail control of New York City’s streets. Cable’s two main rivals: horse-powered rail and underground lines. Both had many powerful backers.

Initially, Charles was hired to perform one task: lobby the state legislature for specific modifications of a bill under consideration in Albany. After earning the modern equivalent of more than a quarter million dollars for his efforts, Shaw was retained by the cable men, who wanted San Francisco-type cars operating on 70 miles of New York City roads.

Charles became the leading voice for cable, and was often vilified for his intense lobbying efforts. He refused to give up, at one point leading a four-man legal team against a cadre of 38 lawyers. The New York Times and other newspapers saw Shaw’s plan as nothing more than a city land-grab. But still he fought on, winning some victories and eventually spending over a million dollars in the effort. How high were the stakes? It was estimated that lobbyists representing cable had coughed up close to $5 million … and had still come up empty so far. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Charles Shaw: Ace Attorney from Jay

CPShaw 01Among those to rise from humble Adirondack roots and pursue life in the big city was Charles P. Shaw, a native of Jay, New York, where he was born in 1836. “Humble,” meaning relative poverty, aptly described most North Country citizens in those early days. But Shaw may have had an advantage since there were two doctors in the family: his father, Daniel, and his grandfather, Joshua Bartlett. As educated men, they were more likely to stress among their family the importance of education.

For whatever reason, Charles was an excellent and precocious student. There survives in old newspapers an anecdote suggesting he was indeed an unusually bright pupil. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 20, 2014

North Country Winter: Extreme Snow Shoveling

ShovelingSnow01This season’s crop of unusual weather featured several stretches of bitter December cold the likes of which we usually see in January or February. Injected into the mix were periods of warm temperatures and rain, and in combination, those extremes caused problems for a lot of people—car accidents, frozen pipes, flooding, canceled events, and lots of other bad stuff. In general, though, it was the sort of stuff we North Country folks are accustomed to dealing with.

However, there is one group (of which I’m a member) that has suffered for weeks now, and it’s not over yet.  Despite enduring this lifelong affliction, I’ve never spoken to a professional about it so this amounts to a confession of sorts: I’m a shoveler. I’ll wait a moment for the jokes to clear from your head—“as a writer, you’ve been shoveling it for a long time,” and stuff like that. You’ll get no argument from me. But still, maybe I need help. » Continue Reading.



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