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.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

“Wild Jess” Elliott: Setting the Record Straight

camp elliottJessie Elliott was a unique figure in the history of the Beaver River country in the west central Adirondacks. Visitors to the tiny settlement of Beaver River are still told she went to prison for her role in the bootlegging that was rampant in the lumberjack days of the early 1920s. She is listed among the “lawless ladies” in Niki Kourofsky’s recent book, Adirondack Outlaws. Pat Thompson’s memoir about life in Beaver River claims Jessie rode her steed through the settlement with her long hair flowing and a pistol in a holster on her belt. More fantastic stories about Jessie can be found in Bill Donnelly’s Short History of Beaver River where she is described, among other things, as a good-looking Calamity Jane, a bootlegger, and a prostitute. The truth underlying the legends reveals a much more complex and interesting wilderness woman. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ed Zahniser: Lilac Time in Bakers Mills

lilac bush courtesy wikimedia user JjronA favorite snippet of British poetry my father Howard Zahniser sometimes quoted was “Come down to Kew in lilac time, / It isn’t far from London.” His intense delight in the piece showed in how he would dip one shoulder and lean headlong into his audience — even if only one person — during a recitation. He used his body to punctuate his public speaking about wilderness, too, with his bob-and-weave guided walk-through of rhetorical emphases. “Come down to Kew in lilac time…” There are certain words a lifetime loads with meaning. Lilac was one. Whitman’s “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed …” Its poignancy suggesting spring but, too, its heavy nineteenth-century scent of death and dying. » 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.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

‘Imprisoned for the Cause’ Opening at Ti Historical

Suffragettes Picketing White HouseThe Ticonderoga Historical Society is set to open its 2018 season with a free program and exhibit opening on Friday, April 20 at 7 pm at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle.

“Imprisoned for the Cause” will look at the arrest, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of women peacefully protesting for women’s suffrage in 1917. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Buildings on the Forest Preserve: The Historic Classification

The management of historic buildings on the Forest Preserve has been a vexing issue for decades. State management has evolved over the years from a position of building removal to now accommodating historic buildings on the Forest Preserve through the creation of a “Historic” area classification.

The state has since built a policy of retaining buildings for public educational and historic preservation purposes. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bauer: Buildings on the Forest Preserve

The pressure by local governments and historic preservation groups on the state to keep the inner Gooley Club buildings shows some of the challenges the state has had in organizing a coherent management program for buildings on the Forest Preserve. This is not a new issue.

It’s been a struggle for decades. Different administrations have dealt with the issue in different ways over the decades; some making ad hoc choices with long-term implications for Forest Preserve law and policy, and others trying to sort out durable long-term solutions. This is the first of three articles that look in depth at the issue of buildings on the Forest Preserve. » 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.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Adirondack Scenic RR Names New Director

adk scenic railroadJack A. Roberson is the new Executive Director of the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society (ARPS).  He takes the position effective immediately.

In an announcement sent to the press.  President of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Bill Branson said: “Mr. Roberson joins the ARPS continuing a life-long career in the railroad industry. He brings expertise and experience in all aspects of operations, tourism marketing, and finance. His leadership will contribute greatly to implementing the long-term ARPS strategy to expand and improve rail passenger services into the Adirondack region.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Jessup Brothers in the American Revolution

Jessup Patent MapIn the mid-1760s, brothers Edward and Ebenezer Jessup moved from Dutchess County, NY, to Albany and engaged in land speculation in the Hudson River Valley and Lake George area.

The Jessups would become friendly with Sir William Johnson, who had built Fort William Henry in 1755.  Thanks to his close relationship with the Mohawk, Johnson became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Jessups acquired much of their land from Johnson and the Mohawks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Selma Film To Mark MLK 50 Event in Saranac Lake

selma filmIn commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a showing of the film Selma has been set for Thursday, April 19th, from 6:30 to 9 pm, in the Cantwell Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Adirondacks and the Making of the Wild West

buffalo bill's best shotAmong the exhibitions worth visiting in our area this summer is one I’m especially interested in seeing: the Shelburne Museum’s “Playing Cowboy: America’s Wild West Shows,” an exploration of the manifold ways in which William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and other Wild West characters influenced American popular culture well into the 20th century.

And not because I’m particularly or even remotely interested in the American west, wild or otherwise.

Rather, it’s because of the story’s links to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Glens Falls Water System Museum Talk Tuesday

Workers building forms for the Halfway Brook Reservoir dam, 1936. A talk on the Glens Falls Water System – Then & Now, has been set for Tuesday, March 27th at 7 pm at the Chapman Museum, 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls.

Chapman Museum Director, Tim Weidner will present the history of the development of Glens Falls’ water system from the 1860s, when a variety of ideas were floated to meet the growing community’s water needs, through 1936 when Halfway Brook Reservoir was constructed. To bring the story up to the present, City Engineer, Steve Gurzler will provide information about the current system, including the filtration plant in Cole’s Woods. » 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.



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