We take roads for granted. I sure did as a kid riding from Syracuse up to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Blue Mountain Lake. We drove on Friday nights with my parents and eight brothers and sisters, all stuffed into a station wagon (they were like minivans in 1960s and 70s). My grandfather told us stories about when he was a kid and Route 28 did not exist!
Adirondack storytellers have recorded 160 first-person accounts about life in the Town of Keene, yesterday and today, and there are opportunities for all to participate in this Keene Valley Library project, even while staying home.
Arab Mountain (or, more often, Mount Arab) is a 2,539-foot peak located in the Town of Piercefield in St. Lawrence County, almost five miles west of Tupper Lake and nine miles east of Cranberry Lake.
The hike to the summit is relatively easy and short (a two mile round-trip), and one can climb the steel, 35-foot Aermotor fire tower (built in 1918) and enjoy the beautiful panorama of the Adirondacks from the cab. Just across from the fire tower is the old observer’s cabin which has been restored and turned into a museum. The museum, established by the Friends of Mt Arab (FoMA), contains a wealth of information on the use of Arab Mountain for fire observation. The cabin is open when the summit steward is on duty, from the late spring to early fall. In regard to peak-bagging challenges, it is part of the Fire Tower Challenge and the Tupper Lake Triad. (Editor’s note, fire towers are currently closed due to COVID-19, and the Fire Tower Challenge is temporarily suspended)
Much of the history given here is prior to Arab Mountain being established for fire observation in 1911. I delve into the history of its name, appearance on nineteenth-century maps, and use in early surveys. I also briefly discuss a nearby peak that is virtually unheard of and is unmapped: Gull Pond Mountain.
Marking 50 years of Earth Day (1970-2020) should not pass without paying tribute to the late New York State Senator Bernard C. Smith. The late State Senator and chair of the Senate’s environmental conservation committee combined a strong moral and ethical compass with political talent and negotiating skill to protect and conserve our state’s wild lands, wild rivers and natural resources from 1965-1978. He was a steadfast and very influential Republican proponent for the environment precisely when such a Republican was needed in Albany. He worked his political skills at the State Capitol, but his love for fishing and the outdoors was expressed at his home on Long Island and in the streams and rivers of the Catskills, where he had a camp near the Esopus Creek, and on the upper Hudson River in the Adirondacks.
The old neighborhoods of Saranac Lake are lively these days, as people of all ages take a break from solitude to go out walking at all hours. Like the TB patients of the past, we are eager to stretch our legs, breathe some fresh air, and wave to a friendly face across the street.
Moderate exercise was a key part of the treatment in Saranac Lake. Doctors recognized that exercise could boost the immune system by strengthening the body and improving mental health. Not all TB patients were bedridden, and those who were well enough to get out of bed went walking on their doctors’ orders.
During the years Saranac Lake was a health resort, many TB patients filled their time by making arts and crafts. These activities furnished a crucial sense of purpose for people struggling with isolation and boredom.
Before antibiotics, there was no real cure for TB, so doctors and nurses helped patients fight the disease by supporting their immune systems in every possible way. They provided good nursing care, healthy food, rest, moderate exercise, and attention to mental health through occupational therapy. At the Trudeau Sanatorium Workshop, and later at the Study and Craft Guild in town, patients and community members learned jewelry making, basket weaving, painting, and much more.
This past spring, we opened an exhibit titled “The Art of the Cure,” presenting some of the beautiful arts and crafts that grew out of our local history. Thinking about the parallels with our present times, I ducked into the museum this week to pick out a story from the exhibit to share.
In an effort to fill up the silence of social distance, many of us are turning to the comfort of music. Some older Saranac Lakers can trace their love of music back to a kind lady who lived in a little brick house up on French Hill.
Pilar Gordon Benero was born in Cuba in the year 1900. Her father was a well respected physician from a prominent family in Havana. The last thing she must have imagined was that she would end up living out her life way up in the Adirondacks.
At the age of 25, Pilar came to Saranac Lake with her sister Isabel, who was suffering from tuberculosis. Here, she fell in love with Manolo Benero, a TB patient from Puerto Rico. Pilar and Manolo married, and unlike thousands of other Spanish speaking patients who came north for the cure, they settled in Saranac Lake. Manolo worked as the office manager at Troy Laundry and delivered for Meals on Wheels. They raised two boys, Manny and Joe, talented hockey players who graduated from Saranac Lake High School.
On June 26, 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail words appropriate for our present circumstances:
“Our Misfortunes in Canada, are enough to melt a Heart of Stone. The Small Pox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians and Indians together. This was the Cause of our precipitate Retreat from Quebec, this the Cause of our Disgraces at the Cedars.-I dont mean that this was all. There has been Want, approaching to Famine, as well as Pestilence. And these Discouragements seem to have so disheartened our Officers, that none of them seem to Act with Prudence and Firmness. But these Reverses of Fortune dont discourage me. It was natural to expect them, and We ought to be prepared in our Minds for greater Changes, and more melancholly Scenes still. It is an animating Cause, and brave Spirits are not subdued with Difficulties.”
Beth L Hill, President & CEO of Fort Ticonderoga, is taking inspiration from this letter. The Fort is unveiling an online initiative to “Fortify Yourself” through digital educational programs, videos, and social media engagement. As well as access to an extensive virtual vault of rare museum collections. Visit their Center of Digital History to explore.
I’ve been thinking about ways that TB patients combatted loneliness. Spending much of their time alone, often far from family and friends, radio served as a source of entertainment and a lifeline to community. In 1927, a time when there were fewer than 100 radio stations in the United States, Saranac Lake founded its own local radio station, WNBZ. The people at WNBZ produced locally grown radio shows tailored to keep TB patients busy, like courses in literature and history and one called, “Let’s Learn Spanish.”
Thirty-three years ago, that champion of the Adirondack wilderness, Paul Schaefer, then aged 78, first introduced me to his Adirondack library. Among the first volumes he brought to my attention – because he valued it and had read it repeatedly since he was a younger man – was the transcript of the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention in Albany – the one that, after weeks of debate, by vote of 122-0 approved the “forever wild” provision protective of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.
Many years ago, Saranac Lake rallied to fight a deadly disease. Today’s news sure has us thinking about our local history.
Tuberculosis killed 1 in 7 people in the late 1800s. Highly contagious and with no known cure, fear and stigma surrounded TB. Unlike the new virus we face today, many of its victims were young people in their 20s. Like today, quarantine was often seen as an appropriate solution, and sometimes people were isolated against their will. A person’s ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status affected the kinds of treatments available.
My contract to edit Adirondack Almanack, which I founded in 2005, and have edited for the past 15 years, is not being renewed by Adirondack Explorer.
This took me by surprise and comes at a tough time, but the decision was made by Adirondack Explorer’s new publisher, Tracy Ormsbee of Albany. Since 2014 this Almanack has been owned by Getting The Word Out Inc., (dba Adirondack Explorer). » Continue Reading.
Prolific Adirondack researcher and writer William J. O’Hern’s new book Adirondack Timber Cruising takes the reader on a journey through the development of timber cruising, logging, and forestry and our relationship to forests.
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