Monday, March 6, 2006

Warren County Convention Center – Another Round of Corporate Welfare?

Last week the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted to establish a “public” Authority which would use occupancy tax money to purchase the former Gaslight Village (who can resist humming the tune… “Gaslight Village, yesterday’s gone today). The $5.4 million property, owned by the Charles R. Wood Foundation, would be used for another convention center. Back in the day it was a railroad yard up the line from the Lake George [ahem] Spanish Colonial style D & H Train Station:

Back to 1998, the Albany Business journal, bastion of the coporate press and ignoring the more than half million dollar annual shortfall of the Glens Falls Civic Center, reported dutifully in an article entitled ” ‘Tin Box’ is all that’s needed for some conventions” that:

“Economically, the only way our community is going to grow is by lengthening the [tourist] season,” said Robert Blais, mayor of the village of Lake George. “The only way to do that is to make a suitable building to house the organizations we presently have coming to Warren County, as well as others who may want to come here.”

At his urging, Blais said, Warren County recently allocated $100,000 to the project, and a new convention center committee was charged with hiring a firm to conduct a marketing study to determine whether a center is feasible anywhere in the county. The spot favored by many interested in the project is Lake George, which already has proven itself to be a draw for the county.

Then we had:

Delays mean not only lost time, but lost money, however. “Warren County is surely losing millions every year by not having some sort of tin box–a rudimentary, simple convention center,” said William Dutcher, president of Americade Inc., a week-long motorcycle touring rally held in Lake George each year.

Dutcher pointed out that car clubs, motor home clubs, sports-oriented groups and regional conventions all would be attracted to the area if a facility were built to accommodate them.

Well that all worked out well for Blais and now we have the entirely architecturally incongruant and almost utterly useless tin box that’s design draws on Lake George’s lengthy local history of Greco-Roman vernacular architecture – the Lake George Forum – well that’s useless except for the local news fluff pieces on Zambonis, and events like Hockey, Bounce-A-Palooza, Hockey Camp, the Teen Dance and Bounce-A-Palooza Party, Hockey, another Brewfest, another Adirondack Living Show, more Hockey.

And still the convention center cowboys ride on…even in the face of the facts. Metroland this week [get it while it last – they still don’t have permalinks] is featuring a report on the proposed Albany convention center (stand back Jim Coyne):

‘Few cities learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of any others,” says Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In January 2005, Sanders became a focal point of frustration for many elected officials with their eyes on projects like the one in Albany, when he authored a highly critical report on the convention industry for the Brookings Institution, a public-policy think tank in Washington, D.C. Sanders found that various factors such as industry consolidation, telecommunication advances and rising energy costs have contributed to a nearly 50-percent drop in convention attendance since the late 1990s. But meanwhile, more than 100 U.S. cities completed or began construction of convention centers, increasing the supply of available exhibit space by more than 50 percent. This growing gap between supply and demand, concluded Sanders, “should give local leaders pause as they consider calls for ever more public investment into the convention business.

Pause be damned:

Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, who proposed the public authority operate
the Civic Center as well as the proposed convention center, said the county
could receive word from the state before legislative session wraps up in June.

Glens Falls Mayor Le Roy Akins Jr., Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais and Town Supervisor Lou Tessier all expressed support for the idea Wednesday.

Blais, however, conditioned his support on the inclusion of the Lake George Forum on the list of venues the public authority could operate, saying he’s concerned the Forum could suffer from competition with the authority-run venues.

“The Forum could suffer from competition” – do you think so Mr. Blais? According to Metroland:

Recently built or expanded convention centers in major cities (and tourist destinations) including Baltimore, San Francisco, St. Louis and Portland, Ore., all have failed to approach the number of booked conventions proposed in their initial feasibility studies, while new facilities scheduled to open in Boston, Omaha, Neb., and various other cities across the nation have struggled to prebook enough events to fulfill expectations. Like gamblers who refuse to leave the table, many of these cities have found themselves locked in one expensive, risky convention-related investment after another as they try to make up for their earlier losses.

Across the nation, the cycle has followed a similar course: New facilities are built when consultants report that the existing facilities are outdated, existing facilities are expanded when consultants determine that the current facilities are no longer adequate (the standard life cycle of a convention center is only 15 to 20 years) and massive hotels are constructed when neither of the two former plans generate the predicted financial windfalls.

So folks… does Warren County join the bandwagon – again? Maybe this time it can have publicy funded classic Adirondack Egyptian architectural details.

UPDATE 4/5/06: Maury Thompson at The Glens Falls Post Star (get it while you can) reports, in one of the most blatant examples of advocacy journalism we’ve seen in a long time, that even though convention centers are in the works for Lake Placid, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, Lake George, Saratoga Springs, Albany, and who knows where else, well, they are just a good idea. Thompson asked the opposition – well – nothing – they didn’t figure in his idea fair and balanced reporting.

UPDATE 4/24/06: Another entry from the folks at the Post Star – this time from a more balanced Madeline Farbman. The jist? Warren County is moving ahead despite long held desires from the local water quality folks to return the Gaslight Village site to a filtering wetland (get it while you can).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Taylor’s On Schroon Lake – Anti-Semitism of Days Gone By

Over at eBay, there is a unique item of Adirondack history for sale. A 24-page advertising pamphlet from 1910 for Taylor’s on Schroon (photo above). And there it is, one simple line: “Gentile trade solicited” – in other words Jews need not apply. In the first decades of the 1900s anti-Semitism and nativism were rampant in the Adirondacks as in the rest of the country. The Ku Klux Klan worked hard from its local base in Schenectady to establish Klan groups in Ticonderoga, Glens Falls, Saranac Lake, and elsewhere – some were quite successful. This tidbit, written by C.F. Taylor Jr., is one of the more rare blatant examples. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dick Cheney and Adirondack Guide John Cheney – Same Genes?

In September 1845, David Henderson (partner in the Adirondack Iron Works and husband of Archibald McIntyre’s eldest daughter) was searching for a source of water for his iron works. The company’s engineer Daniel Taylor believed that a half-mile long canal could be built between the Opalescent River and a branch of the Hudson nearby. Henderson, his eleven-year-old son Archie, and guides John Cheney and Tone Snyder set out to investigate the area. The following year, Joel Headley, in the company of John Cheney, returned to the spot. He related the hunting accident that happened there:

We are off, and crossing a branch of the Hudson near its
source, enter the forest, Indian file, and stretch forward. It is no child’s
play before us; and the twenty miles we are to travel will test the blood and
muscle of every one. The first few miles there is a rough path, which was cut
last summer, in order to bring out the body of Mr. Henderson. It is a great
help, but filled with sad associations. At length we came to the spot where
twenty-five workmen watched with the body in the forest all night. It was too
late to get through, and here they kindled their campfire and stayed. The rough
poles are still there, on which the corpse rested. “Here,” says Cheney, “on this
log I sat all night, and held Mr. Henderson’s little son, eleven years of age,
in my arms. Oh, how he cried to be taken in to his mother; but it was impossible
to find your way through the woods; and he, at length, cried himself to sleep in
my arms. Oh, it was a dreadful night.” A mile further on, and we came to the
rock where he was shot. It stands by a little pond, and was selected by them to
dine upon. Cheney was standing on the other side of the pond, with the little
boy, whither he had gone to make a raft, on which to take some trout, when he
heard the report of a gun and then a scream; and looking across, saw Mr.
Henderson clasp his arms twice over his breast, exclaiming I am shot!” The son
fainted by Cheney’s side; but in a few moments all stood round the dying man,
who murmured, “What an accident, and in such a place!” In laying down his
pistol, with the muzzle unfortunately towards him, the hammer struck the rock,
and the cap exploding, the entire contents were lodged in his body. After
commanding his soul to his Maker, and telling his son to be a good boy, and give
his love to his mother, he leaned back and died. It made us sad to gaze upon the
spot and poor Cheney, as he drew a long sigh, looked the picture of sorrow.
Perhaps some of us would thus be carried out of the woods. He left New York as
full of hope as myself; and here he met his end. Shall I be thus borne back to
my friends? It is a little singular that he was always nervously afraid of
firearms, and carried this pistol solely as a protection against wild beasts;
and yet, he fell by his own hand… Poor man! It was a sad place to die in; for
his body had to be carried over thirty miles on men’s shoulders, before they
came to a public road.

Cheney reported that Henderson had spotted some duck and had handed Cheney his pistol to go after them. The ducks fled before Cheney could get off a shot so he handed the still-cocked pistol back to Henderson. While Cheney and Archie Henderson were going for fish, the elder Henderson laid his knapsack and gun belt on a large rock when the pistol suddenly discharged sending the ball into his side and toward his heart. The Plattsburgh Republican later reported that the little body of water where Henderson died had become known locally as Calamity Pond.

Cheney (John not Dick) was also a renowned and experienced hunter, but a reckless one. Over the dozen or so years following his arrival in Newcomb in about 1830 he reported killing 600 deer, 400 martens, 48 bears, 30 otters, 19 moose, seven wildcats, six wolves, a panther, and what he believed to have been the last beaver.

One day I was chasing a buck on Cheney Lake. I was in a canoe and had put my pistol down by my side. Somehow the pistol slipped under me and discharged, the ball striking me half way between the knee and ankle. Being 14 miles from any habitation at the time and alone, I only stopped long enough to see what harm had been done. Then I seized the oars and started after the buck again as the thought struck me that I might need that deer now more than ever. I caught up with him and made short work of it, took him ashore, dressed and hung him up. But I soon perceived that if I ever got out of the woods I must lose no time. By then my boot was full of blood and my ankle began to pain me bad, so I cut two crotched sticks and with their help I managed to get out of the woods in about eight hours. I only stopped to set down once because it was so hard to start again.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), there were 34 shooting incidents in 2004, three of which were fatal. 2004 is the last year for which confirmed numbers are available. Tentative numbers for 2005 include four hunting deaths in the state.

Despite those tragedies there has been a nearly 70 percent decline in hunting accidents in New York State since the 1960s, due largely to increased training and educational programs for new hunters such as the state mandated hunter safety course. In the 1960s, when there was an average of about 720,000 hunters, there were an average of 137 hunting accidents. In the years since 2000, the number has fallen to 45 (about 688,500 hunters now take to the woods each year).

According to the DEC the best way to be safe while hunting is to: assume every gun is loaded, always keep guns pointed in a safe direction, keep your fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot, be sure of your target and what’s beyond it, wear hunter orange, and keep your distance from men named Cheney.

Suggested Reading

Through the Light Hole: A Saga of Adirondack Mines and Men

Adirondack Forest and Stream: An Outdoorsman’s Reader

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Another Wal-Mart On The Way – To Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks

The rumors were persistent, probably a sign that the deal was already done behind closed doors. Wal-Mart is coming to Saranac Lake and it’s going to be a big Supercenter: 121,000 square feet. “The Wal-Mart Supercenter would be considerably larger than the building Ames used to occupy ­– larger even than the entire plaza in which the building sits,” reports the Plattsburgh Press Republican:

In a news release, Philip Serghini, the retail giant’s public affairs manager, said, “Wal-Mart very much wants to become part of the Saranac Lake community so that consumers in the area can benefit from everyday low prices.

“We hope to design a store that is in keeping with this unique community.”

Whether Saranac Lake is as eager for Wal-Mart to join the community depends on who you ask.

Some cheered the news Wednesday evening, saying the arrival of Wal-Mart would finally bring to Saranac the kind of low-cost retail store it has been without for too long.

Others fretted, saying it could cripple local businesses and, in doing so, ruin the character of the community.

Saranac Lake and Lake Placid have both fended off Wal-Mart in the past. The nearest Wal-Mart stores are in Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga.

There will be a fight:

Mayor Tom Catillaz learned of Wal-Mart’s announcement from a reporter [a-hem… sure he did]. He, too, balked at the size.

“I really need to wait to see what their plans are,” he said. “Hopefully they’ve got plans for a smaller store.”

Mark Kurtz, whose Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance has kept a close eye on the issue, said the organization would have to learn more about the proposal before issuing a strong opinion.

Oddly enough, Carcuzzi car-repair co-owner Bob Bevilacqua (an owner of land that Wal-Mart is looking at) actually believes that “having a Supercenter here will keep tax dollars in the community.”

Who exactly is he kidding, beside himself? Apparently he’s done NO research on the costs of these Supercenters – goodbye local business, hello low wage jobs supplied with benefits from county services, hello New Jersey like development, goodbye tourism.

Good luck Saranac Lake – some resources are here.

UPDATE: An anonymous reader points us to a new blog: Adirondack Wal-Mart. A recent excerpt:

Does Saranac Lake need a large retailer? Sure it does. Do we need 121,000 sq ft of stuff for sale? Well it seems that could be a point of compromise. Would a downtown location for a retailer be a better option? Certainly a question deserving of an answer. Can the people of Saranac Lake, it’s towns and counties work together to find the answers? One would hope so.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Adirondack Almanack Update

Over the next few weeks as we approach our first year anniversary we’ll be making some improvements here at Adirondack Almanack. The first is the addition of occasional photos. Today we have the now long defunct Mohawk F-227 loading passengers at Warren County’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury.
While you’re here, check out our recent post on regional airline service and the mysterious crash into Old Fort Mountain in Ticonderoga.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Recent Interesting Adirondack Related Links

Canadian blogger Alan McLeod was over our way for a visit to North Country Public Radio last week. He even took pictures behind the scenes.

Adirondack Musing gives us a page on the recent vote in Plattsburgh over whether or not George Bush should be impeached. Here’s a scary tidbit from the Plattsburgh Press Republican story:

The most emotional voice against the impeachment idea came from Ron Long.

Long, his voice rising and face twisting with anger as he spoke, said the president has the right and responsibility to do whatever he has to in order to deal with enemies without and within.

“Hang the traitors, death to the left,” he shouted as several in the crowd wearing veterans hats cheered.

Also last week, CNY EcoBlog has revealed where all those Adirondack crows have been going each winter. It turns out that:

New York State has in fact hosted some of the largest roosts of American Crows for decades and possibly hundreds of years.

The American Crow from Animal Diversity Web.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! er that is unless you happen to live in Detroit.

Nearly 2 million people lived in Detroit in the 1950s; today it has fewer than 900,000. According to the Census Bureau, more than a third of those people lived at or below the federal poverty line in 2004, the largest percentage of any U.S. city with a population of 250,000 or more.

Detroit’s 2005 unemployment rate was 14.1 percent, more than 2 1/2 times the national level.

The city has announced deep cuts in services over the past year to cope with an enormous deficit. Hundreds of municipal employees have been laid off, bus service has been scaled back, nine recreation centers have been shuttered, and bulk trash pickup has been canceled.

374 homicides last year! This year – one Super Bowl!

UPDATE 2/5/06: Fans Call for a National Holiday – NY Gov and Condeleeza Rice Take In the Big Game

Friday, February 3, 2006

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Kicks Off Today

Since 1897 the people of Saranac Lake have been throwing a midwinter party – the 109th Saranac Winter Carnival begins today. According to their website:

The Winter Carnival’s origins can be found in Saranac Lake’s history as a world-famous health resort. In 1897, the first year of the event, the village was already a thriving community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness, its pristine setting providing rejuvenation for hundreds of tuberculosis sufferers drawn from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them.

The long, cold Adirondack winters offered an array of snow-covered mountains and ice-covered lakes, begging to be enjoyed on skis, sleds and skates. Thus, to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”.

The first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that sponsored skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.

This coming week (Feb. 3-12, 2006) will feature the “The Roaring 20’s” theme (that’s the decade, not the band) and will include two parades and two displays of fireworks along with:

Sports: Innertube, skating, and nordic and alpine ski races at Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah, skating races, snow volleyball, broomball, hockey, and snowshoe softball

Culture: Dramatic presentations by the Pendragon Theatre, a murder-mystery dinner theater, “an old-time amateur revue in the historic Harrietstown Town Hall, a Main Street Festival, a bevy of dinners, dances, receptions and concerts, and a slide show presentation.”

There will also be a display of traditional logging in the Adirondacks at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, but the centerpiece is the Ice Palace built using many of the old ice harvesting techniques:

The palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.

Legend has it though that the Palace was created to house the Winter Carnival Mascot Sara the Snowy Owl.

About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Pontiac Bay on Lake Flower; once a suitable ice thickness has been achieved, cutting with long ice saws begins. The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one-and-a-half to three feet thick, and weigh between four and eight hundred pounds!

These are moved onshore via a conveyor belt, and are maneuvered into place with “peaveys” – metal-tipped poles with hinged metal hooks – and ice tongs. The blocks are secured to one another with a “mortar” made of slush. While designs may vary from year to year, each palace has, on average, over 1500 blocks in it, and ranges from 70 to 90 feet in length and 40 to 60 feet in height. Within each design is an array of colored lights, that each night transforms the Palace into a vivid sculpture of ice and light!

Here are some links:

Early Ice Palace Postcard

Winter Carnival Profile from North Country Public Radio

Photo Gallery from the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

Photo Gallery from WNBZ Saranac Lake (2003)

Ice Palace, a children’s book by Deborah Blumenthal

Flickr Ice Palace Search (Includes Others Beyond Saranac Lake)

UPDATE 2/8/06: Adirondack Musing is posting some photos of the construction of this year’s Ice Palace.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Tupper Lake’s Adirondack Dark Skies

Associated Press reporter Michael Virtanen is now offering a nice piece on the Adirondack Public Observatory:

The not-for-profit Adirondack Public Observatory in its first year has raised about $40,000 toward a $500,000 goal, according to board members. They have chosen a site in Tupper Lake, about 110 miles north of Albany. The parcel, at 1,600 feet in elevation, overlooks the town beach and campground at Little Wolf Pond.

“We are in what’s called a dark puddle here,” Staves said, noting the contrast in nighttime satellite images of the Earth. “We can actually see the Milky Way, which is something you can’t actually see most places now.”

The observatory had been offered a spot near the new Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks being built on the other side of the village. The reason it wasn’t? “there was too much light pollution from nearby Sunmount hospital, said Jan Wojcik, observatory board member.”

Great planning folks… the lights from a hospital reduce the overall impact of having both facilities within walking distance. Imagine the draw for something like that – now imagine how many visitors to the new museum will leave the museum, climb into their car, and drive to the observatory – we’ll guess not too many.

Apparently some planners in Tupper Lake neeeds a lesson on light pollution.

MSNBC has a nice image (on a screwy web page) of light pollution in New York.

By the way, the Natural History Museum construction is well under way.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Transgender Discrimination in Glens Falls

The Glens Falls Post Star is reporting today that they “received three letters to the editor alleging transgender discrimination on South Street.” Though they are at pains to diminish the seriousness of denying people basic human rights, here’s the evidence:

Diane Bement, owner of Beamer’s Pub, said Adams came to her bar one day and used the women’s restroom. When she came out, Bement said she “told him to use the men’s room” in the future.

Old McDonald’s Too had a sign on its front door Tuesday that read, “No Drama No Drags.” The sign was posted by customers and remained on the door for about three weeks, said Harry Knoblauch III, who is in the process of taking over the bar’s liquor license.

Other hand-made signs in the bar address proper bathroom etiquette. A sign over the toilet in the women’s bathroom tells patrons who might be standing while going to the bathroom that they should be in the men’s bathroom. Another tells men that there is no excuse to use the women’s room because of a dirty toilet seat in men’s room.

After The Post-Star visited the bar, the sign on the front door was taken down along with another sign in the bar that read “no chicks with (expletive),” Knoblauch said.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In The Adirondacks Mining Accidents Once Occurred Regularly

According to the Associated Press the deadliest mining accident in American History was an explosion in a Monongah, West Virginia coal mine in 1907 in that killed 362 people.

Other recent mining accidents include:

2001: Explosions at a Jim Walter Resources Inc. mine in Brookwood, Ala., kill 13 people.

1992: A blast at a Southmountain Coal Co. mine in Norton, Va., kills eight.

1989: An explosion at a Pyro Mining Co. mine in Wheatcroft, Ky., kills 10.

1986: A coal pile collapses at Consolidation Coal Co.’s mine in Fairview, W.Va., killing five.

1984: A fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah, kills 27.

Here in the Adirondacks, mining accidents occurred with regular frequency in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company mines have claimed several men. William Otten was killed on March 13, 1928; later that year, 21-year-old Lyon Mountain miner Floyd Rounds was seriously injured when dust from an explosion was thrown into both his eyes.

Fred Brinks, an Englishman, was killed on July 9, 1927. Polish miner Aleksandra Dachkon was killed at the Lyon Mountain mines in 1920. Another Polish immigrant, Edward Suzbalia, a foreman and 18-year veteran of the Lyon Mountain mines fell into Number 11 Mine in 1909. He fell 200 feet landing on his head and died instantly leaving a wife and two children. “He was held in the highest esteem both by his superior officers,” the Plattsburgh Sentinel reported, “and the men with whom he worked and was considered one of the most careful and reliable men in the employ of the company.”

Three men were killed and one seriously injured in one terrible week in 1927. One was 50-year-old George Bouyea who fell 300 feet into a shaft at Lyon Mountain. The 18-year company veteran and foreman in charge of repairing motors was adjusting a cable at the top of a shaft when he lost his footing. He was instantly killed leaving a wife and seven children.

In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.

Foreign workers frequently went unnamed. “An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.

Dynamite was the culprit in a fatal explosion at the Harmony Shaft in Mineville in Essex County in 1901. During the day shift a charge of dynamite had failed to explode. When the night crew came on, George Baker was informed about the unexploded charge and Baker, James Tate, and Thomas McClellan went to the spot to correct the situation. The blow of the tapping bar exploded the charge of dynamite and Tate’s head was blown off. Baker was blinded, his arm broken and his face badly injured. McClellan was seriously hurt. Baker lost an eye but he and McClellan recovered. Baker was troubled by what had happened. His wife went insane and was committed to a mental hospital in Ogdensburg. Baker started drinking heavily. In 1915, fourteen years after he the mine accident George Baker tried to kill himself with a shotgun. He overloaded the shells and the gun exploded – not to be deterred, he took up a razor and slit his own throat. He was just 45.

UPDATE 1/6/06: Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio (NCPR) interviewed Lawrence Gooley, Adirondack author of “Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town” after reading about Adirondack mining accidents here at the Almanack. NCPR has set up a webpage where you can hear the interview here.

UPDATE 5/1/06: The Almanack is now an NCPR Featured Blog.

Suggested Reading

Lawrence Gooley’s History of the Lyon Mountain Mines

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Six Flags a Great Escape to Time and the Adirondack Tourism Industry

Today the ComPost Star offers us a typically un-insightful look – this time, they turn their ever alert fluff finder toward a recent gathering of former Storytown employees at the Chapman Historical Society in Glens Falls. The big news? The unflinching analysis? Here it is from the lead:

The secret was kept for more than 50 years by a select group who may have whispered among themselves, but never let out word of their small enclave.

Sunday, the secret was revealed as former Storytown USA employees got together for a “remember when” afternoon at the Chapman Historical Museum.

Diamond ‘Lil, the Marshall, several tough cowboys and the first Cinderella to ride in the pumpkin coach ‘fessed up to a little-known fact: Little Bo Peep was also a can-can girl at Dan McGrew’s Saloon.

So was Mary, who had the little lamb, said Joe Hanlon, of Lake Luzerne, who dated both damsels during the summers he spent working at the amusement park.

Wow… teenagers who worked at Storytown in the 1950s and 1960s dated… and the fake Little Bo Peep and Mary (we assume sans lamb) were also can-can girls… the scandal!

In case you hadn’t heard, Six Flags, the parent company of The Great Escape, recently put itself up for sale. Last month, finding no buyers, they took themselves off the market. Wouldn’t it have been great if Charley Wood [bio, obit] had sold the company locally or turned it over to its long standing employees to run? Apparently they were both low paid and hard-worked:

“Charley (Wood) kept us busy,” said Hanlon. “Between the shows we’d do at Ghost Town, we’d have to clean the stable then go around picking up cigarette butts. The girls did the can-can shows, changed clothes and played the other parts. He got eight hours of work out of us, all right.”

…Dick Spector of Glens Falls, recalled working at Storytown in the summer of either 1961 or 1962.

“I was an outlaw four days a week, I drove Cinderella’s coach one day and was the garbage man one day a week,” Spector said. “My pay was $1.10 an hour, except the day I did garbage I made $1.25 an hour.”

Woods made millions (and did give heartily to local causes), but today Six Flags / Great Escape Splashwater Kingdom / Storytown is still making big bucks, still paying a minimum wage, and only recently were discovered to have been pulling some tax scheme to apparently avoid paying sales tax (good luck finding that news anywhere on the web). Anyway, it would be nice if the Adirondack region’s largest and most profitable tourist hot-spot took a leadership role in anything but making money – say in paying affordable wages to local residents forced to work in the tourism industry?

Anyway, on a less annoying note, links to sites about two great old-time amusement parks of days gone by:

Time Town
Frontier Town

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

New Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Conditions Website

From the Adirondacks Speculator Region Chamber of Commerce comes a new website that offers snowmobile trail conditions laid out in tables that identify each route (with trail numbers, segments between intersections, and municipal locations), the date the trail was last groomed, the date conditions were assessed and the conditions (great, good, fair, poor, closed).

The page includes trails in Lake Pleasant, Speculator, Arietta, Piseco, Wells, and Morehouse. The page also links to Trail Etiquette, a Trail Map cover 650 miles of area trails, GPS points, a Webcam and Photo Gallery, and a discussion board covering the area plus Indian Lake, the Moose River Plains, and other areas of the park.

Here at the Almanack, we have always believed that appropriately placed snowmobile trails (kept out of wilderness and wild forest areas) are an important component to the Adirondack economy. Riders should accept and defend the seven wilderness “leave no trace” principles.

Links to area snowmobile clubs – enjoy.

Monday, January 2, 2006

In New York The State of The State is The State of The Adirondacks

We normally keep our post here at the Adirondack Almanack to regional concerns. But it’s time for Governor Pataki’s State of the State Address – and while the Pataki Administration has been piling it high and deep, a more sober assessment, relevant for those of us inside the Blue Line, comes from the People’s State of the State. A rally is planned in Albany for tomorrow to urge New York lawmakers to do something about poverty in New York including its “skyrocketing heating bills, lack of access to affordable quality health care, and high housing costs.”

Some highlights from their press release:

Food lines at food pantries and soup kitchens remain at historically high levels and expect the situation to worsen following federal budget cuts and changes in the federal TANF program.

If we look back in time 25 years, a few of our local churches were beginning closet pantries. Today we have 43 food pantries and 22 soup kitchens in Albany and southern Rensselaer County alone, serving more than 2 million meals each year. Programs do not have the resources to do what they are being asked to do,” noted Lynda Schuyler, Director of the Food Pantries of the Capital District.

Anti-hunger advocates are seeking an increase in state funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program from $22.8 million to $30 million. State funding is down $2 million from four years ago. Groups are also concerned about Congress’ elimination of all funding for the Community Food Nutrition Program, the main federal funding for anti-hunger organizations.

Unfortunately, there is probably no one monitoring the poverty situation in the Adirondacks (one of the poorest regions in the state) and no visible advocates for working poor families. There’s more here.

Another disturbing trend for our area is the effective elimination of the DEC ability to monitor our environment and deal with corporate polluters and exploiters. From Inside Albany this week we learned that nearly 800 staff positions have disappeared from the agency since the mid-1990s:

[Environmental Committee Chair Thomas DiNapoli, a Nassau county Democrat] invited DEC commissioner Denise Sheehan to answer questions about how the agency was coping with its severely reduced staff. However, she faxed her testimony, saying she was unable to appear. Sheehan gave no reason and didn’t send an assistant commissioner to read her testimony.

DiNapoli asked Assembly staffer Rick Morse to read Sheehan’s statement. It ran down a list of nearly a dozen examples of Governor Pataki’s “leadership” on the environment. They included the governor’s greenhouse gas initiative to cap carbon dioxide emissions. Also on the list were Pataki’s open space acquisitions. He counts 932,00 acres of land toward his goal of preserving a million acres. The statement did not mention the department’s decline in staff.

Not only were the numbers down, [Environmental Advocates] Tim Sweeney said. Governor Pataki’s general hiring freeze combined with early retirement incentives had stripped the agency of valuable knowledge. Valuable expertise and institutional memory had been lost in the retirements. The trend is likely to get worse. A comptroller’s report estimated that 38% of the department’s staff will be retirement-eligible by 2007. About a thousand more could go by then.

Worse indeed. More large scale developments like those at North Creek and Tupper, enormous development pressures on Warren and Essex counties, proposed wind farms in the park, roads being turned over to ATVs, snowmobile trails expanding every year, more visitors every year, all while year round residents deal with a serious lack of affordable housing, generations of local poverty, closing public schools, low-wage tourism jobs – the one state agency that should be taking a lead role on life in the Adirondack Park is asleep at the wheel.

2006 – here we come.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hops Around. Hops Around. Get Up and Get Down.

A while back (a long while back) William Dowd’s Hops To It post got us thinking about doing a nice piece on the history of hops in New York and the Adirondacks; Especially now that the Beer Hawkers have returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Over at the Northeast Hop Alliance, there is a nice recent NY hop history. While hops was a staple crop of New York farmers in years past it, only last year was the first beer brewed with all New York hops.

Hops, once a leading specialty crop in New York state, suffered from plant disease and insect pests. Prohibition in the 1930s also helped spell the crop’s demise, and 50 years ago, production ceased.

The last beer made entirely from New York-grown hops was brewed in the 1950s.

In the Adirondacks hops were an important supplemental crop for many farmers and hop picking provided income to many women and children as well. In Merrilsville George Lamson hired local women to pick his hops every year – Mrs. Henry Fadden wrote a poem about her hop-picking experience:

I went picking hops and though I worked with a will,
I had to go back with my box half filled.

To find my house in disorder, my dishes unwashed.
The children were sleepy, my husband was cross;

And because I didn’t get the supper before I swept the floor,
He kicked the poor dog and slammed the back door.

And said that if I would leaving picking hops alone,
He would give me a job of picking stone.

His advice was unheeded, I refused with disdain,
And resolved the next day to try it again.

Convinced if only I would do my best,
I could pick hops as fast as the rest.

But the weather was cold and I almost froze.
My fingers were numb and cold were my toes.

Thus for five long days I labored and toiled,
My work was neglected, my temper was spoiled.

And though you may think my experience funny,
I am resolved in the future to let the men earn the money.

The last reference I could find regarding the growing of hops in the Adirondack region was a 1949 notice of the arrival of “400 pounds of Bavarian beer hop roots” in Malone where “local growers hope to revive a once-flourishing New York industry.” Unfortunately, the importers were not mentioned by name, and how the experiement went was never revealed.

And who knew? Hops are good for you!

And while we’re at it:

Alan over at Gen X at 40, has our region on his mind – he’s looking forward to a trip to the Adirondacks, and at his Good Beer Blog, he has spotlighted Saratoga’s He’Brew 9 and declared his pick for Best Pub of 2005… drum roll please… is…..

Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George

Have a great new year!

Suggested Reading

The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs

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