A few weeks ago, I found an aluminum basket at a shop in Massena. In style, it mimics baskets that are traditionally made from black ash. Available information indicated it was made by someone who worked at Alcoa some years ago.
A Monitoring and Managing Ash (MaMa) workshop has been set for Thursday, August 2, from 1 to 4 pm at the Nicandri Nature Center, 19 Robinson Bay Rd, Massena, NY.
The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle which is lethal to native ash trees, has been confirmed in Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties, as well as very near the southern border of Jefferson County.
Developed by the Poughkeepsie-based Ecological Research Institute in cooperation with the US Forest Service, MaMA offers tools to help citizens identify ash that may show some natural resistance to EAB. It is believed that these so-called “lingering ash” may hold a genetic key to finding resistant strains of ash, thus saving them from extinction. » Continue Reading.
A few weeks ago, the Adirondacks and North Country lost a native who led a unique life, a man who three years ago added “author” to his resume. Robert “Bob” Manning of Massena passed away on September 28 at the age of 81. My personal connection with him is a strange one indeed. We met back in 1966, but I hadn’t been in touch with him since 1969, so you might suppose that our phone conversation in 2014, when we became reacquainted, might have been a bit awkward.
It sure could have been, but not for the reason you might be thinking — that 45 years had passed. No, that wasn’t an issue at all, but these next few lines should help explain my use of the word “strange.” When I knew him back in the 1960s, he was a Catholic priest and one of my schoolteachers (nothing odd about that). He called in 2014 to ask if he and his wife could come and visit me (and there it is!). » Continue Reading.
On May 31, an open house will showcase the new wood pellet heating system at the Massena Chamber of Commerce and explain how municipalities and nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 each in financial assistance to switch to fully automated wood heating systems. The chamber installed its modern, high-efficiency wood pellet boiler in 2012.
Area residents are invited to the open house to learn about this automated way to heat with wood, and the financial assistance that is available to help with purchase and installation costs.
The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative, a program of the Northern Forest Center, is offering financial incentives to 10 municipalities or nonprofits in St. Lawrence, Hamilton, Clinton, Franklin, or Essex counties to help with purchase and installation of qualifying wood pellet boilers, which use a local, renewable fuel instead of oil or propane. A residential incentive program is also underway, focused around Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Saranac. » Continue Reading.
In 1964, plans were made to celebrate the success of Massena’s nationally famous friend with a special event: Hal Smith Day. Virtually every business and every family in town became involved in the planning, with such crowds expected that tickets and reservations for many events were in hot demand.
Included in the festivities were a group breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a royal welcome that featured a crown made of (what else?) aluminum from the local plant; a visit to the hospital, where he entertained patients; an autograph session at a vacant store transformed by area merchants into a replica of the Mayberry jail; all-day limousine service; band music at several venues; the theater playing movies that Hal appeared in, and autographs for each attendee; a reunion with old schoolmates; induction as a member of the St. Regis Indians; and at the Highland Hotel that night, Hal appeared in the floor show. » Continue Reading.
Hal Smith‘s heavy workload was more than paying the bills, and in 1952 he began building a home in the San Fernando Valley. Bit parts in so many TV shows led to appearances in multiple episodes of popular programs like Broken Arrow and Have Gun, Will Travel, and countless opportunities in the world of commercial advertising. For several years he was too busy to get away often, so in late 1959, instead of visiting his parents in Old Forge, he flew to Detroit to buy a new Dodge, drove to the Adirondacks, and brought them back to California for a six-month stay. » Continue Reading.
In early January 1938, Hal Smith, described as an “impersonator, vocalist, and musician,” left WIBX in Utica to sing, do impersonations, and perform production work for stations WGR, WKBW, and WEBR in Buffalo. Without missing a beat, he was soon serving as master of ceremonies at high-profile events, and leading a band known as Pop Martin and His Boys while hosting a radio show by the same name. He was also regularly featured on WEBR with well-known Buffalo singer Joan Hutton, on a pair of shows titled “Music is My Hobby” and “Linger Awhile.”
Despite doing well in Buffalo, Hal returned by mid-year to WIBX in Utica. One reason for the move may have been his relationship with the station secretary there, Vivian Angstadt. In early August 1938 they applied for a marriage license, and were wed in Utica on the thirteenth. After a stay at Lake Placid while touring the Adirondacks, they returned to work at WIBX. » Continue Reading.
For Hal Smith and his siblings, there always seemed to be a new act in the works. When she was 18, Hal’s sister Bernadeen presented the Follies of 1932 in the local opera house in January, a show that included the Smith children singing and dancing. In April of the same year, the PTA sponsored a circus act as a stage production, with dozens of cast members led by Hal Smith as ringmaster. In two different shows presented in June, including a band concert, he sang solos.
In September, at the beginning of the next school year, Bernadeen and Kathleen directed, acted, and danced in a four-act play. Just three weeks past his 16th birthday, Hal sang a solo in scene two, and between acts he sang with Joe Calipari and his orchestra.
While still directing plays and shows, the Smith sisters enrolled in Potsdam Normal School in the fall of 1932. Hal continued taking acting roles, but more and more was performing as a singer. He joined the newly formed Massena High School choir, and in November, when the school band played on radio station CFLC (in Prescott, Ontario, opposite Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence River), Hal was the solo vocalist. » Continue Reading.
For millions of people, holidays are all about going home, returning to one’s roots of family and friends. That concept was epitomized by a North Country man who attained great fame in Hollywood, but to his great credit never forgot the home folks — and to their credit, the home folks never forgot him. Whenever he returned to the North Country, or old friends visited him in California, there was always an exchange of love, admiration, and deep appreciation.
He was born in northern Michigan in 1916 as Harold John Smith, about as anonymous a name as one can imagine, and likely one that stirs no sense of recognition. But if Otis Campbell were mentioned, many would instantly recall Mayberry’s affable town drunk from The Andy Griffith Show. » Continue Reading.
Twice within a week recently, earthquakes were felt across the North Country, and just a few minutes later, folks were chattering about it on social media. Mainstream news outlets quickly picked up the story and posted it on their websites. That’s quite a contrast to the early morning hours of September 5, 1944, when the Associated Press agent in Albany received information about an earthquake in northern New York. “Anybody killed?” he asked. When informed no one had been hurt, he showed little interest.
Likewise, when the state geologist in Albany was notified that a whole lotta shakin’ was goin’ on, he said, “There is no need to be alarmed. It is improbable they [the quakes] will be anything but quite small.” You win some, you lose some. In this case, both the reporter and geologist lost―big-time. They missed the call on what still stands as the most destructive earthquake in New York State history. » Continue Reading.
With a nod to Dog Days of Summer, an event this coming Saturday at the Adirondack Museum (Blue Mountain Lake), here’s a look at a few North Country pooches that made headlines in the 1930s. Many true dog “tales” (technically, “tales” aren’t true, and these stories are, but I couldn’t resist) involve the saving of lives by barking during the early stages of house fires. » Continue Reading.
In days of yore (pre-internet times), I once subscribed to more than a dozen different magazines. Further back, in the 1960s and 1970s, there seemed to be a magazine for just about any subject that anyone was ever interested in. I was reminded of this recently when a saw a cover titled TWINS. The subject matter was everything related to twins: having them, being one, doctoring them, parenting them, and so on.
What really surprised me was the subtitle: The Magazine for Multiples Since 1984. I’d never heard of it, but it has been around for nearly three decades. It also reminded me of some twin-related North Country stories I’ve collected over the years. Here’s a sampling. » Continue Reading.
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