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 6, 2018

The End of Ben Harder’s Very Hard Life

In October 1884, St. Lawrence County newspapers reported that a notorious miscreant, who had been arrested many times on various charges, had turned over a new leaf. “Ben Harder, of Black Lake, has reformed and is waging an uncompromising warfare against the fish pirates of the lake.” He had removed one illegal hoop net and a half-mile of illegal gill nets from Black Lake (in Morristown) and turned them over to the local game protector, who burned them.

However, rather than proof of reform, Harder’s removal of the nets was undertaken for a less than savory reason: to thwart his rivals. Charges of burglary and illegal fishing were brought against him, and a court appearance was scheduled for mid-December. When he failed to show, an arrest warrant was issued and successfully executed, but Harder, too drunk to stand before the judge, was locked up overnight. The next morning he argued to delay the case, but when that proved unsuccessful, he pleaded guilty to taking fish illegally and was sentenced to a month in jail. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Very Hard Life of Ben Harder

Ben Harder’s life story intrigued me after I encountered his name while researching a violent crime of more than a hundred years ago.

He was described as an elderly, disabled war veteran, a “helpless cripple, and he drags himself about from place to place on his hands and knees.” I wondered, could that have been true? Could he have made his way through life in that manner for more than forty years? The need to know was irresistible, so the digging began.

What resulted was in a way compelling, but hardly expected. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Plastic Mess Where Vacationers Go — See It Yourself!

Have you ever wondered what happens to the many pieces of plastic we contact in our daily lives? I wrote here recently on recycling, and the negative impact on others that littering can have. The best solution to wondering where plastics end up is to control their fate — by recycling and not littering. Trash left lying anywhere in the Adirondacks reflects negatively on the region and lessens the experience of both locals and visitors alike. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Old Trail: A Short History of Lyon Mountain

The recent recounting here of personal memories and good times linked to the old trail on Lyon Mountain told only part of the path’s history. A decade ago, a new trail replaced the old one, which had degraded with sections ranging from grassy to rocky to bouldery to muddy to extremely steep, muddy, and slippery. It was a mess compared to paths built by modern trail crews. In 2006, ADK’s Algonquin Chapter completed the plans for a new trail, which was built in the summer of 2008.

Without fanfare, a new trail replaced the old one, but a bit of fanfare might have been nice, considering the old trail’s age and historical significance.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lyon Mountain: Ballard’s Favorite Is Mine As Well

Lisa Ballard’s recent piece, “Her Special Mountain,” which appears in the March/April 2018 issue of Adirondack Explorer, struck a chord with me and rekindled some great memories.

In the opening paragraph, she writes, “You might climb many others, but there’s always one that’s yours… a favorite you climb over and over. It’s your go-to hike when you need exercise, you want to share quality trail time with someone else, or you need to get above the daily fray.”

Lisa’s choice is Lyon Mountain, which, at 3,830 feet, is the highest point in the northern Adirondacks and offers commanding views in all directions. She first climbed it via the old trail when it was being replaced, and soon after ascended on the new trail, which was completed in 2008. In September of that year, the Adirondack Almanack reported the change: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Littering Season is Upon Us

For any movie buffs out there, here’s a trivia question: what single substance is mentioned during memorable conversations in the films It’s A Wonderful Life and The Graduate? Hints, if you need them: in It’s A Wonderful Life, the word is mentioned by Sam Wainwright during a famous and subtly steamy telephone conversation with George Bailey and Mary Hatch (Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed) together on the other end of the line. In The Graduate, the word is uttered at a graduation party, and is part of an often-repeated line that was offered as confidential advice by Mr. McGuire to the college graduate himself, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman).

For me the word also comes to mind each spring, a season that seems to bring out the worst in some drivers. The winter cold apparently discourages littering — people who toss garbage out of their cars tend to do so much less from November through March. Apparently disposing of their trash in alternate fashion (maybe a garbage can or recycling container, god forbid) is more attractive than opening the car window during the cold season. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pilot Betty Pettitt Nicholas: Pioneer in the Sky (Conclusion)

In August 1995, the WASP community suffered a loss with the death of Marianne Verges, a non-member who admired their accomplishments and helped preserve their legacy by authoring the book, On Silver Wings: The Women Air Force Pilots of World War II (1991). The book’s final paragraph captures the spirit of women like Betty who saw possibilities, stood tall in a decidedly male bastion, the military, and fought for the right to make equal contributions to the nation’s future: “As with many others of their generation who forged their characters during World War II, the true legacy of the WASPs is found in their lives, the opportunities they expected and accepted for themselves and others through the years, and their exuberant vision of unlimited human possibility.”

Betty continued to maintain a high level of activity despite a couple of health setbacks late in the year, described in her own words: “… a fall on my face after Thanksgiving, and another fall resulting in a broken wrist. I think that’s enough falls for the time being!” At the time, besides working as historian, she was busy making edits and corrections in a reprint of Byrd Granger’s On Final Approach, one of numerous books covering the WASP story from many angles. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Betty Pettitt Nicholas: ‘A House in the Adirondacks and an Airplane, Too!’

In June 1982, Betty Pettitt Nicholas was awarded the Nicholas Trophy by the Indianapolis Aero Club as the previous year’s “most deserving woman pilot of the year.” It was the second time she was chosen for the honor, and as happened on the first occasion back in 1952, unusual circumstances surrounded the award. The trophy given 30 years earlier was named in honor of Dee Nicholas, who had been the wife of Ted Nicholas, a pilot and TV executive. A year after winning the award, Betty Pettitt married Ted, a union that ended 15 years later, in 1968, when he died of a heart attack.

Since that time, the Dee Nicholas Trophy had been retired, and was replaced by the Ted Nicholas Trophy. Which means Betty Pettitt Nicholas won a trophy named after her husband’s first wife, and another trophy named after him. To mark the occasion, a photograph of the honoree with seven of her good friends, all previous winners, appeared in the 99s newsletter. The Seymour Daily Tribune noted that the award was given “to the most deserving licensed woman pilot for her outstanding achievement and service in the field of aviation.” No doubt she was a good fit on both occasions. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pilot Betty Pettitt Nicholas: Pioneer in the Sky (Part 3)

Betty left the state aeronautics commission when the term of boss and close friend Cap Cornish, director, was ended by a newly elected governor in 1952. But, as Betty Pettitt Nicholas after her 1953 marriage, she remained busy in other aviation-related positions, and took frequent flights in the Cessna 170 that she and husband Ted had purchased. A trip in summer 1955 took them farther away from home than most: they journeyed to Quebec, Canada, and flew over her old haunts in the Adirondacks on the way home. She also took part in flying contests, and earned a bronze-and-glass candy-dish trophy in 1958 for winning a spot-landing competition (extreme accuracy in wheel touchdown).

Such was her life in the 1960s, flying for fun, taking part in air races sponsored by the 99s (in the first one in 1961, she finished sixth), and promoting aviation at every opportunity. She also found employment with the College Life Insurance Company, working as executive secretary to the president and chairman of the board. In 1967, she and Ted bought a new Cessna 150, and that summer enjoyed a trip to Montreal, where they experienced Expo 67 (the World’s Fair), one of the greatest events the city has ever hosted. How popular was it? In a nation of 20 million, and a province of about 6 million, attendance surpassed 50 million, a record that still stands. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pilot Betty Pettitt: Pioneer in the Sky (Part 2)

In October 1947, pilot Betty Pettitt moved to Indianapolis and joined a staff (for automobile maker Kaiser-Frazer) that included an unusual co-worker: a skywriter who handled the company’s airborne advertising. Skywriting was once expected to prevail as the prime advertising method of the future, only to drop into a steep decline when a new technology, television, provided a reliable method of reaching mass numbers of consumers without having to rely on the whims of weather. But for a few decades, skywriting was a very popular method of advertising and provided excellent employment for skilled pilots.

As luck would have it, Betty’s skywriting co-worker soon opted for a salesman’s position, leaving her as his obvious replacement. Something as complex as creating huge letters high in the sky would surely require extensive training. It wasn’t, after all, the same concept as writing letters by hand, as Betty explained: “When you remember that you are writing so someone below can read it, you find it is just like writing backwards on a steamy window so someone outside can read it…. It’s all done backwards and upside down.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mary Elizabeth Pettitt: High Flying Sky Pioneer

Of all the accomplished women among North Country natives, few if any have soared higher than Mary Elizabeth Pettitt. That is true both figuratively, in light of her many achievements, and literally, because she was an airplane pilot.

When she made the decision to become a pilot in the mid-1930s, it was unusual for the time, and daunting: 97 percent of all pilots were male. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Adirondack Uranium Rush (Conclusion)

The failure of Adirondack Uranium and Mineral Corporation in early 1957 dominated the news cycle, but there was still activity in a half-dozen Lewis County sites where prospectors were searching for uranium.

In May of that year, there was also related news on the eastern edge of the Adirondacks. After an aerial survey detected radioactivity along Route 22 between Ticonderoga and Whitehall, a mining company obtained options to explore the farms of John DeLorme and Earl Shattuck to verify the readings and determine if suitable quantities of ore were present. They weren’t. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Adirondack Uranium: A Lewis County Boondoggle

In late summer 1955, after two months of surveying and studying uranium deposits in Saratoga County, Robert Zullo and his partners, George McDonnell and Lewis Lavery, saw their claims publicly dismissed in print by a business rival, who told the Leader-Herald there were “no major deposits of uranium in the Sacandaga region.” Geologist John Bird of Schenectady had been hired by a Wyoming uranium-mining company to survey the area, and after thirty days, he had found uraninite only in “ridiculously small” quantities. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Adirondack Uranium Rush (Part 3)

Under the newly formed Mohawk Mining Company (MMC), the trio of George McDonnell, Lewis Lavery, and Robert Zullo had high hopes of successfully developing uranium deposits they discovered near Batchellerville in Saratoga County. Plans were made for radiometric surveys of the sites, and they began pumping water from two feldspar quarries to examine the deeper rock for additional specimens. Tests were also planned on old piles of mine tailings that caused Geiger counters to react. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Adirondack Rush of ’49: Searching For Uranium

After the big news of a possible uranium ore bed near Plattsburgh failed to pan out in early 1949, the search for ore continued locally and nationally.

Many magazines, including Life (“The Uranium Rush”) and Popular Mechanics (“The ’49 Uranium Rush”) featured stories on the phenomenon that was sweeping the country. The coincidence of timing — the 100th anniversary of the 1849 California gold rush — made for enticing newspaper headlines as well. » Continue Reading.