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.
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.
The Answer: “Floppy disks, the appendix, cassette tapes, the Latin language, and wisdom teeth.”
The Correct Question: “What are things that are useless or obsolete?” If you see that question on Jeopardy some day in the not-too-distant future, Alex Trebek might be adding one more element to the answers: the copyright claim. In fact, considering the beating that individual copy rights have taken recently, there’s an argument to be made that private copy rights have already gone the way of the dinosaurs. And there’s no role for cloning in this narrative.
Most of us (“us” as in frequent computer users) love Google for one reason or another. In many cases, it’s a love-hate relationship: we love the speedy access to so much information, but we hate the lack of privacy. We love the research capabilities, but we hate the way they use our personal information for advertising. On and on it goes. » Continue Reading.
Just a few months after applying, Lewis County’s Ottilia Beha was accepted, and in 1903 she began teaching in the big city. By 1909, she had taught at several public schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, and served as assistant principal at two facilities, gaining valuable experience.
In fall of that year, she was among 258 teachers to take the licensing exam for elementary school principal. Ottilia finished at the top of the group, leading to a promotion as principal of a Brooklyn school with 800 students and a staff of 19 employees. » Continue Reading.
For most of us, there are one or more teachers who made a difference in how our lives turned out. It might have been their kindness, teaching ability, understanding, or enthusiasm that inspired or affected us deeply. Whether you’re young or old, they remain “Mr.” or “Mrs.” to you throughout life, even if your ages differ by only a decade. It’s partly force of habit, but the special ones merit a lifetime of respect for one compelling reason: they made a difference.
For a great many folks attending school in Lewis County in the years on both sides of 1900, and an even larger group in a distant city, that person was Ottilia Beha. Such an unusual name was fitting for an unusually dedicated teacher. » Continue Reading.
Undaunted after the tough checker loss to August Schaefer, Watertown’s John Dempster remained in New York City and continued working on his game. Competitive teams representing the city were chosen from a pool of highly skilled players, which included Johnny. When the world champion, Wyllie, came to town again, he played against nine of the region’s best competitors and vanquished all but one, who managed a tie. The next two best finishers against the great Wyllie were Schaefer and Dempster.
While John continued to win big matches, his efforts were now focused on memory development. The skills he learned, combined with the influence of matches he once played against Yates, steered him towards a new career: playing blindfolded. He went public and demonstrated just how adept he had become. » Continue Reading.
When ESPN began broadcasting events like poker and eating contests, it was regarded as innovative (or disturbing, as in the case of eating contests). A major media member had turned its attention to games rather than sticking with the traditional sports world. Unusual though it may have been, the move was hardly groundbreaking.
It harkens back to previous centuries, when popular games like chess and checkers received daily coverage on the sports pages of many of the world’s newspapers. And more than 130 years ago, an amazing North Country boy was mixing it up with the best of them in the world of competitive checkers. » Continue Reading.
There were tough times when a lead pig died suddenly, forcing Fred Kerslake to regroup, find a new leader, and complete the training. But saddest of all was when he spoke of Jennie. In 1909, Rollo was the clown pig and a great performer. Kerslake called him “a wonder that does everything but talk, and after a fashion it actually does that,” referring to Rollo’s human-like responses to his comments.
Rollo rose to fame after the death of his mother, Jennie, a very special performer and friend. Said Fred, “She was certainly gifted with the divine light of human intelligence. Not only could she reason, but she could make her wants known with the aid of spelling blocks.” » Continue Reading.
The three mains stars hogging the limelight from Fred were pigs Jerry, Peggy, and Pete, whose antics were irresistible. Recognizing the possibilities, booking agents sought them for summer tours and winter vaudeville circuits. Rave reviews followed in Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other stops in between. Audiences couldn’t get enough of watching pigs play leapfrog, read, and count―it was both bewildering and hilarious at the same time.
Professionals were taking notice as well. Among them was Germany’s Carl Hagenbeck, who pioneered the displaying of animals in their natural habitats rather than in caged enclosures. Hagenbeck emphasized properly selecting animals with the right temperament for training or display (choosing only a few prospects from a large group), and then using what was described as “constant patience, firmness, and kindness” to train them. Still, there’s no denying that whips were used to tap or give a quick sting to an animal during training. » Continue Reading.
“That’ll do, pig.” It’s a line I’ve heard more than once from my wife and business partner, Jill (we’re always razzing each other about something or other). It is, of course, the famous line near the end of Babe, a movie we both enjoyed. We’re also fans of Arnold from Green Acres, and of the pigs who played leadership roles in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, Animal Farm. You can see a theme developing here―a bunch of very smart pigs who, in fantasy worlds, did all sorts of things that a reasonable person knows a pig can’t really do.
Can’t really do? Not so fast. Yes, Orwell’s pigs were the smartest animals in the barnyard. Arnold could get the mail and understand English. Babe could herd sheep as well as any sheepdog. But in the real world, the North Country once had something to rival them all. I give you Fred Kerslake’s pigs. » Continue Reading.
Having lived through the 1960s, I became familiar with protests, sometimes through personal involvement, but mostly from the outside looking in. Whether I agreed or disagreed with a cause, it was interesting to see the methods used by groups to get attention. Some spoke before crowds of other protestors; some led them in song; some shouted slogans and marched with signs; and some joined arms to create human barricades. Peaceful protest was the most effective, but it often carried a price.
People were frequently arrested, and though it sometimes involved getting roughed up a bit, it was soon realized that getting arrested itself was one of the best attention-getting methods. To do so in support of a cause, citizens really did put something on the line. » Continue Reading.
Life takes so many strange turns, you never know what to expect. We’ve seen that often while operating our own business, but recent events were particularly unusual, to the extent that I’d like to share them with you. Three weeks ago, near the end of that long stretch of rain nearly every day, we battled flooding and incurred some damage that cost us more than a few dollars. And up to that point, I had worked all day almost every day since New Year’s. That level of tired can get to you after a while, but an unexpected turn of events soon re-energized me.
While things were still unsettled, we received a phone call from a media outfit. It appeared to perhaps be a survey about television, and maybe about our viewing habits. We’ve received similar calls in the past, and with all the “busy-ness” going on, we could have ignored this one. » Continue Reading.
Remember that long-ago weekly ritual, the trip to the dump with Dad? I’m talking about the 1960s, and maybe in some cases the 1970s. If you’re not old enough to look back that far, you’ll be amazed (appalled) to see how trash, garbage, and another-man’s-treasures were disposed of by most folks.
It was a part of small-town life that we can now look back on and be thankful it has largely vanished. From a child’s perspective, the dump was a mysterious and somewhat scary place that you couldn’t wait to visit, and soon enough couldn’t wait to leave. » Continue Reading.
Remember the hit song, “Sixteen Tons,” recorded by several artists and taken to #1 by Tennessee Ernie Ford many decades ago? Whether or not you’re a fan of that type of music, most people are familiar with the famous line, “St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the Company Store,” meaning, “Hey, I can’t die … I’ve got bills to pay.”
The line referred to Company Towns of the coal-mining industry, where the company owned everything: coal, land, and houses. Workers were paid with scrip―coupons redeemable only at the Company Store, where prices were artificially inflated. » Continue Reading.
Last week’s coverage here of Airdmore, that unusual camping colony at Elizabethtown in 1922, prompted a number of questions for me, particularly about the unusual surname of the main player, Henry Aird. The name was familiar to me in only one regard―from the plumbing supply company, Aird Dorrance, based in Morrisonville, near Plattsburgh, and with facilities in Ballston Lake and Clifton Park. I wanted to know: could there be a connection between the modern company and the business founded more than a century ago by Henry Aird?
If so, then he left a remarkable and lasting impact on North Country history in an economic sense, creating jobs for more than a hundred years, all of them resulting from choices he made in his business career long ago.
So I started digging. Early on, the effort was plagued by the usual problems that require clarification, especially regarding early records. As uncommon as the name Aird is, there were Airds and Bairds in Elizabethtown at the same time, led by men with the same first name―Henry. Both were among the moneyed class of visitors who frequented the village. Keeping their stories separate was easy enough, but the Airds’ reuse of given names and middle names, and the inconsistent use of middle initials in identifying them in legal papers and newspapers, was another story. » Continue Reading.
Camping in the Adirondacks, popular now for well beyond a century, has evolved with the changing times. Roughing it in open lean-tos and makeshift shelters was largely supplanted by tent camping. Then, with the advent of the automobile, the mountains would never be the same. Auto-camping became hugely popular in a very short time. As the price of cars dropped to where the average worker could afford one, thousands of families took to the road to get away from it all, strapping tents, blankets, fishing equipment, and other gear to their vehicles.
Adirondack hotels remained strong during that time because their clientele tended to be “hotel people,” while auto-campers sought solitude, self-sufficiency, and adventure. But in an interesting experiment at Elizabethtown, one innovative entrepreneur explored the middle ground. » Continue Reading.
Last week in this space, I addressed the subject of cross-burnings in the North Country, which became common in the 1920s during a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the region, meetings were conducted by Klan leaders, and thousands of followers were added to their ranks. For many of us, it’s an uncomfortable part of Adirondack history, but there is another side to the story. Despite widespread intimidation spawned by secret meetings, robed figures, and fiery crosses, New York’s citizenry rose in opposition to the Klan policies of bigotry and exclusion. » Continue Reading.
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