Visitors can explore the Continental Army’s first major initiative during the Revolutionary War at Fort Ticonderoga’s upcoming living history weekend “Onward to Canada: Reinforcements Head North to Join the Attack on St. John.” The September 1-2 event will recreate how the American army prepared to invade Canada in the fall of 1775.
Special programming offered throughout the weekend will recreate a unique and busy moment in Fort Ticonderoga’s history when the “Old French Fort” served as hub of activity for the fledging American Army and a launching point for an invasion into Canada. Programs will highlight close-order marching; the issuing of muskets, supplies, and clothing to the troops; special tours, weapons demonstrations; and regimental training exercises. » Continue Reading.
When modern media is used to brand a product, it routinely addresses the subject matter directly, trying to draw attention immediately to the product. The advertisements found in old newspapers sometimes achieved the same goal in quite different fashion, using unusual or outrageous lines in large print to trick the reader. The blaring lead demands attention, and is followed quickly with odd or unexpected segues to information on a product. » Continue Reading.
For the past few weeks I just simply have not been in the mood for cooking. It has been hot and sunny, and sitting in the kitchen and standing over a stove – much less turning on the oven – holds about zero appeal. A lot of salads have been hitting the table, as we’ve had a bumper crop of lettuce this year. Herbs have also been plentiful, which makes for fun experimentation with different types of dressings.
Mostly I have been spending a lot of time outdoors with friends and family, bringing along a variety of Oscar’s ready-made salads, smoked meats and cheeses for picnicking. Ready-made has held a lot more appeal than actually whipping up my own potato salad or barbeque after a long hard day of relaxing. » Continue Reading.
Have you ever wondered what lies beneath Fort Ticonderoga’s stone walls? Fort Ticonderoga’s curator, Christopher Fox, will lead explorations of Fort Ticonderoga’s hidden past to see remarkably preserved evidence of the Fort’s original structures and catch a glimpse at some of the systems that keeps the Fort running today.
This special behind-the-scenes tour will take visitors into five areas of the Fort not accessible to the general public. In these areas visitors will see original French stone foundations of barracks buildings and cavernous spaces beneath the parapet walls preserving clues to how the Fort was built over 250 years ago and then preserved over the last century.
This hour and a half tour is scheduled at 1:00 pm each Thursday in July and August. Space is limited, advanced reservations are recommended or tickets, as available, can be purchased on the day of the tour at the Guest Services Desk in the Log House Welcome Center. Price is $35 per person with regular general admission. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at its Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY on Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15, 2012. The meeting will be webcast live (click webcasting from the contents list).
The meeting will include presentations highlighting the 40th Anniversary of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and recreational use statistics. On Friday, the board will determine approvability for a Ticonderoga meat processing facility and the Local Government Services Committee will hear a status report on local land use controls in the Park and review implemented APA-approved Local Land Use Programs. » Continue Reading.
Chilson Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate hold its second antique and classic firefighting equipment show at the department’s annual barbecue. The event, which is open to the public, takes place on Saturday, July 14th at the department’s headquarters, 60 Putts Pond Road in Ticonderoga. Festivities begin at noon and the barbecue will be served beginning at 2:00 p.m. The barbecue – a summer tradition for the Ticonderoga-Chilson community – includes chicken and all the fixins, as well as an afternoon of music, entertainment and fun for the whole family.
Last year’s event sold out, with more than 350 in attendance and a good showing of classic trucks; this year organizers expect even more antique and classic fire trucks, as the show is catching on with area departments and collectors. Antique and classic fire trucks from around the region will compete for trophies. » Continue Reading.
Fort Ticonderoga has unveiled its newest exhibit, Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution. The exhibit highlights over 150 of the museum’s most important weapons and is a comprehensive and expanded reinterpretation of its world renowned historic arms collection.
Divided into seven sections and including a wide variety of muskets, pistols, swords and powder horns (some of which are one of only two or three of their types known), the exhibit explores the weapons used in America from the early 1600s through the end of the American Revolution. The exhibit is included in Fort Ticonderoga’s general admission price and will be on display throughout the 2012 season. » Continue Reading.
Fort Ticonderoga is inviting Ticonderoga residents to receive a special Ambassador Pass for the 2012 season. The special pass gives Ticonderoga residents free admission to the Fort, special exhibits, interpretive programs, author series, re-enactments, King’s Garden, Discovery Gardens, the Heroic Corn Maze, and more.
Ticonderoga residents should resent their valid drivers license or other form of identification as proof of residency. Children under 18 years are eligible for free admission with their parent’s pass.
Ticonderoga resident and Fort Ticonderoga Association Board member Anne McDonald said “Ticonderoga residents have such pride in Fort Ticonderoga’s history – our community’s story. We are excited to have the opportunity to build a strong Ambassador program that connects the Fort and area residents in our effort to build a bright future for one of America’s most significant historic sites and in turn help revitalize our community’s economy through destination tourism.”
The 2012 Ambassador Pass includes:
● Free General Admission to Fort Ticonderoga
● Free admission to the King’s Garden and Discovery Gardens
● Free admission to Fort Ticonderoga’s Heroic Corn Maze
● Free Admission to special programs such as the Author Series and Re-enactments
● Updates and invitations on Fort Ticonderoga
Contact Fort Ticonderoga’s business office at 518-585-2821, or visit their website to download the Ambassador Pass form, or e-mail email@example.com.
The Fort welcomes everyone to join the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga. Friends Memberships begin at $20 and give many benefits including free admission to Fort Ticonderoga, free or discounted admission to selected events, programs, and trips throughout the year, and the subscriptions to Fort Ticonderoga’s Haversack.
In 2012 Fort Ticonderoga will unveil its new weapons exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution, numerous new programs, and major special events.
In late 1935, young Ticonderoga saxophonist Johnny Hayes sat in during a performance by a traveling orchestra from Boston. His performance so impressed the band leader that a permanent position was offered. Hayes had recently completed a summer stint at The Deer’s Head Inn (Elizabethtown), followed by a tour of central and northern New York cities with his own band.
He accepted the offer and began traveling with the orchestra within two weeks. It was the first step in a journey that would link him with many all-time greats of the Big Band Era.
By 1940, Hayes was appearing regularly on radio and in major dance halls as first saxophone with Van Alexander’s Orchestra. Swing magazine called him a key component of the band’s great sound. Alexander worked with a number of orchestras during his career and is regarded historically as one of the great music arrangers.
In mid-1940, Hayes signed with Buddy Rogers of movie fame (Rogers was also husband of actress Mary Pickford), playing first sax on a nationwide tour. In 1941, he joined another high-profile band of the day, Shep Fields and His New Music.
Johnny next hooked up with bandleader Hal McIntyre, an original member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When Hal set out on his own, his close friend Miller provided financial support for McIntyre’s new musical group, for which Johnny Hayes played tenor sax. For two years running (1942–43), Billboard magazine selected McIntyre’s band as “the most promising new orchestra.”
The band performed in movies (watch the first ten seconds for their name, and further to hear them play), on the radio, at dance halls, and at all the top venues across the country. Their weekly gig, broadcast from New York City’s Commodore Hotel, was a big hit, receiving high praise in Billboard, Swing, and the columns of top music critics.
Johnny routinely performed the band’s tenor sax solos. (Many of McIntyre’s recordings, made with Hayes as a band member, have recently been offered on CD.) Hayes played with McIntyre into the late 1940s, but also appeared periodically with many other of the era’s greats.
Besides a few recordings with the Ziggy Elfman Band (star trumpet player for Tommy Dorsey), Billy May, and Tex Beneke (with Eydie Gorme singing), he played with the legendary Les Brown and the Band of Renown. Brown’s band was linked to Bob Hope’s performances for 50 years, including 18 USO tours. Hayes played with them in 1944 and on other occasions, leaving no doubt about his musical capabilities in the eyes of his peers.
In the late 1940s, he also played and toured with Skitch Henderson, another orchestra leader who became a show-biz legend (among his credits, Henderson was the original bandleader on The Tonight Show, which starred Steve Allen).
For all his success, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Johnny Hayes’ musical life occurred before his orchestra career began. He was born in Ticonderoga in 1918, the son of attorney Richard Hayes and his wife, Lillian. At the age of three, his musical fate was nearly foiled by an accident: Johnny fell on a broken bottle, badly cutting his hand and severing a tendon. After an emergency trip to the hospital, the healing went just fine.
A signature moment in Hayes’ life came in March 1929, when Leonard Allerton of Catskill, New York, was hired to oversee the music program at Ticonderoga High School. Two years later, under his tutelage, 13-year-old Johnny Hayes was playing first clarinet for the Purple and White. He later turned his attention to the saxophone, and in 1933, in the New York State Music Contest at Syracuse, Johnny took fifth place among twelve contestants.
In his senior year (1935), hoping to earn another berth in the state finals, Hayes competed in the preliminaries at Massena, finishing first in Division Two for clarinet and first in Division One for saxophone.
At Syracuse, after facing off against 47 other boys and girls, he finished tied for second in the saxophone category. Landing in the top five made him eligible for the national championships in Madison, Wisconsin, but traveling that far was a pipe dream for most small-town folks struggling through the Great Depression.
Hayes had received financial support from the community for the Syracuse trip, and Leonard Allerton had raised Ticonderoga’s music program to a high level of performance, something the town was quite proud of. Everyone banded together once again, and with Ticonderoga businessmen leading the way, enough money was raised to send Johnny on his way.
Pre-performance jitters on the day of competition were normal, and were certainly capable of causing a sub-par performance. As if that weren’t enough, Johnny’s accompanist from the University of Wisconsin had failed to appear due to a flat tire while en route.
Disheartened, he was faced with going solo or withdrawing. Since he was the last scheduled performer of 42 in his division, Johnny delayed the decision as long as possible.
With three minutes to spare, his accompanist arrived. There was no time to prepare, so Johnny took to the stage and played “Emily,” the same tune that had earned him second place in Syracuse and a trip to Wisconsin for the National Music Contest.
Imagine the reaction in Ticonderoga that night when Johnny Hayes was voted the nation’s number one high school saxophonist. Best in the country!
Far lesser accomplishments (even a single tackle in a football game, for cryin’ out loud) will often find today’s youth strutting around, pounding their chests, and celebrating their self-perceived greatness. Where’s my star? Look at what I just did! Ain’t I great?
In comparison, you have to love old-time, small-town America. After besting the top musicians in the entire United States, Johnny Hayes, saxophonist extraordinaire, returned home with a wonderful comment: “I feel swell.”
In the days when humility was a virtue, other folks took care of bragging about you or honoring your accomplishments, and that’s what Ticonderoga did. Johnny’s success was mentioned in the county newspapers, and a school assembly was held, citing his achievement and crediting Johnny, Mr. Allerton, and the school community for the fine results of their cumulative efforts.
Best of all, at least from my perspective, was the celebration held on the evening of his return. Johnny was greeted by the entire school band, decked out in the new uniforms of the Purple and White. Placing Hayes at the lead, they marched him through the streets of Ti in a fine display of hometown pride.
At one point, the procession halted on the corner of Montcalm and Champlain. Requesting a solo, the crowd was treated to Johnny’s rendition of “Home Sweet Home.”
Pound your chest all you want, but it doesn’t get any better than that.
Photos: Advertisement for the State Theater in Ticonderoga, featuring a movie with the Hal McIntyre Orchestra, and mentioning Ti’s own Johnny Hayes.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Festivals abound in the winter months while towns around the Adirondack Park try to break up the winter with fun activities and a snapshot into an Adirondack life. With a lack of consistent snow, festival organizers have to be flexible with planned activities.
Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival will finish its 10 days of winter fun this weekend while Lake George continues to host weekend activities throughout the month of February. For the third year Ticonderoga will tackle the cold with fun runs, wagon rides and even a Sunday Pan Fish Tournament. On Saturday, February 11 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. the Ti Recreational Fields will host this event snow or no snow with a focus on area happenings. Don’t forget to walk to the nearby covered bridge and view the nearby waterfalls on the La Chute River.
Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mathew Courtright says, “There will be plenty of great activities that don’t depend on snow like the Fun Run and broomball. This is the third year for this event and each year the Ticonderoga Winter Fest growing. Of course, we always hope for more snow but we are prepared for anything.”
According to Courtright local businesses continue to work together to present a glimpse of the winter recreational opportunities around Ticonderoga from snowshoeing and sledding to hiking and fishing. Saturday’s one- mile Fun Run’s entry is either $2 or a canned good, both benefiting the local food pantry.
Perhaps ice fishing is more to your liking. On Sunday, February 12 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. the Ticonderoga “Best Fourth in the North” Committee is holding a Pan Fish Tournament. The winners in two categories will receive a 40% pay back split with a portion of the profits benefiting outdoor youth activities. Children under 14 will be entered to win a lifetime fishing license. The single or family (one adult and up to two siblings) each requires a $20 entrance fee.
If you are unfamiliar with the Ticonderoga area or know it solely as the location of Fort Ticonderoga, a festival such as this is the perfect opportunity to meet locals and find new favorite places to enjoy.
Registration is now open for Fort Ticonderoga’s Seventeenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 18-20, 2012. This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. 2012 Speakers include:
DeWitt Bailey, British author and 18th-century arms expert, on British weapons of the war.
Maria Alessandra Bollettino, Framingham State University, on slave revolts in the British Caribbean during the war.
Earl John Chapman, Canadian author and historian, on the experiences of James Thompson, a sergeant in the 78th Highlanders.
Christopher D. Fox, Fort Ticonderoga, on Colonel Abijah Willard’s Massachusetts Provincials in 1759.
Jean-François Lozier, Canadian Museum of Civilization, on the use of paints and cosmetics among Natives and Europeans.
Paul W. Mapp, College of William & Mary, on the role the vast western lands played in the battle for empire.
William P. Tatum III, David Library of the American Revolution, on the British military justice system, using ten courts-martial at Ticonderoga in 1759 as case studies.
Len Travers, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, on the “Lost Patrol of 1756” on Lake George.
The weekend begins Friday evening with a presentation by Ticonderoga Town Historian William G. Dolback on “Historic Ticonderoga in Pictures.” Dolback is also President of the Ticonderoga Historical Society and leading local efforts to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first settler in Ticonderoga in 1764.
Begun in 1996, the War College of the Seven Years’ War has become one of the premier seminars on the French & Indian War in the country. It features a mix of new and established scholars in an informal setting for a weekend of presentations related to the military, social, and cultural history of the French & Indian War.
Early Bird Registration for the War College is now open at $120 for the weekend ($100 for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga). Registration forms can be downloaded from the Fort’s website under the “Explore and Learn” tab by selecting “Life Long Learning” on the drop down menu and then clicking on the War College. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting Rich Strum, Director of Education, at 518-585-6370.
In an eight-month span in the 1930s, two Ticonderoga canines made headlines for something dogs are known for in general: loyalty. Few relationships are more rewarding in life than the human-canine experience, as anyone reading this who shares a dog’s life can attest. For those who have children as well … some might be loathe to admit it, but dogs provide many of the same positives without all the complicated baggage. » Continue Reading.
For the first year Fort Ticonderoga is providing a unique experience with “Hot Chocolate at a Cold Fort.” On December 3, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Fort Ticonderoga will have a special opening allowing guests to witness how soldiers celebrated Christmas in 1776.
One way to snap children out of their glassy-eyed “I wants” from the onslaught of daily catalog deliveries is to experience an 18th century Christmas celebration at Fort Ticonderoga.
There will be opportunities to learn of past traditions and the winter hardships of limited resources. Fort Ticonderoga is only open during the winter months on special occasions, so this will be an interesting treat. Stuart Lilie, Fort Ticonderoga Director of Interpretation says, “We hope this event will demonstrate how people were celebrating Christmas in 1776. On a basic level the goal is to show what the solders’ lives were like during the American Revolution to how we celebrate Christmas now.”
“At that time people did not have all the traditions that we have now. I think that true comfort of Christmas at that time and the other saint’s holidays was the camaraderie with the people around them,” says Lilie. “It was enjoying a simple meal that was perhaps better than they were used to. It was something as simple as a nice cut of meat. There was more focus on those around them. The simplicity.”
The event starts with a tour of the historic fort and will make use of re-enactors portraying Colonel Anthony Wayne’s Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion. The English and Dutch Christmas traditions of these Pennsylvania soldiers will be demonstrated. Colonel Wayne’s soldiers will also work around the mess hall to make hot meals for the officers, the sick and to try to find ways to feed the rest of the battalion.
Museum Curator of Collections, Christopher Fox will be on hand for the tour of “The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experience through the Eyes of America’s Great Artists” exhibit. This exhibits brings together 50 of the museum’s most important artworks with works including Thomas Cole’s “Gelyna.”
The fort tour will attempt to tackle such issues as shortage of clothing, medicine and how the long transportation from Albany, at the time, was an overwhelming challenge. Through it all the soldiers manage to make a festive gathering with very little.
Of course there will be a musket demonstration, as those soldiers need practice in case of a winter raid. There will be an opportunity to see how muskets work and learn how they were the main weapons during Colonel Wayne’s command.
So with a bit of history and a fun day at the fort we can witness how the Fort Ticonderoga soldiers appreciated what they had in a cold winter in 1776.
Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates), the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next book Adirondack Family Time Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga will in stores summer 2012.
Thanks to Pam’s archaic GPS, we found The Pub quite by accident. The GPS just dropped us in the middle of Montcalm Street in Ticonderoga, with no immediately visible sign of The Burleigh House (which we later found), the intended destination. We found a place to park on the street and looked up to find The Pub’s welcoming sign. Though not on our list of places to review in Ti, it certainly seemed to fit the criteria by name. We peeked through the tinted glass façade to see a well-lit, rather new looking pub, then ventured in.
Several patrons sat at the bar watching college football and chatting with the bartender. We selected a few seats at what Pam determined was a “P” shaped pine bar, and queried the bartender on beer and drink options. Though the pub offered no drinks unique to their establishment, Billy the bartender was quick to come up with a flavored vodka recipe with Whipped vodka, orange vodka, orange juice and milk. Pam found it not only nutritional, but tasty too. Several selections of both draft and bottled beers are available, and reasonably priced. Having arrived ravenous, we reviewed the menu and opted to share nachos with beer battered jalapenos and the tidier, eat-with-a-fork boneless chicken wings. Both were delicious and served appropriately with proper fixings of bleu cheese, salsa and sour cream. “If you don’t get salsa and sour cream, might as well not get nachos,” says Pam. A modest but varied pub menu offers appetizers, burgers, wings and fries. Most items are priced between $3.50 and $7.99.
The P-shaped bar, which seats about 15, is partitioned by a wall, and we realized that we hadn’t selected the best seats for a full view of the pub. Along the wall behind us were three bar height tables and two to three more on the wall on the other side of the room. With three pub tables equally dispersed, the pub appeared ready to accommodate any size crowd. Another pair of tables in the front of the room provide seating sidewalk-side for people watching. A pool table in the back corner is perfectly situated for unencumbered play; an opening in the center wall allowing contact with the bartender from the pool table without having to walk around to the bar.
The bartender, Billy, was friendly, professional and eager to answer our questions. The Pub has been owned by his brother, Jeremy Treadway, since 2009 but, interestingly, was owned by their grandfather from the 1950s to the 1980s, when it was sold, then closed for seven years. Jeremy later bought the place, bringing it back into the family. In the ‘50s it was known as Bob’s TV Bar, the first bar with a television set in Ticonderoga. It was later renamed the North Country Pub. A Native American chainsaw carving stands guard inside the front door. It came with the bar when they bought it in 2009 and the new owners felt it should stay.
The Pub is open year-round, Thursday through Sunday, and only closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Though opening times vary, there is an obvious pattern easy to remember: 4 p.m. on Thursday, 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Typically the pub closes at 12:30 a.m. Summer tourists and winter snowmobilers make it a favorite venue any time of year. the pub features Happy Hour on Friday with a buy 1 get 1 special until 7 p.m. and $10 buckets of beer and food specials on Sunday. Even if you miss their specials, pricing for food and drink is reasonable off Happy Hour too.
As a common meeting place for area professionals, The Pub seems to be the type of place to drop in anytime (Thursday through Sunday, of course). They offer live entertainment two to three times per month in the winter and every Saturday in spring and summer.
An information sheet on the bar indicated that a dart league was forming for the winter. If darts aren’t your thing, there’s always pool, foosball, jukebox music, trivia night and Spin-the-Wheel Fridays for entertainment. Four TVs should cover your viewing needs during any sports season.
If on street parking is limited, the pub has a parking lot behind the building for patron use. Several general public parking areas are also nearby.
Whether visiting The Pub on purpose or by accident, for drink, for food or for entertainment, you shouldn’t be disappointed in the clientele, the atmosphere or the staff. Though we can’t speak for the entertainment, the food and drink are good too. After you’ve liked Happy Hour in the High Peaks on Facebook, be sure to visit the pub Ticonderoga, NY and like their facebook page too.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
After impersonating Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker chocolate fortune, and bilking his Richmond fiancée’s mother out of $15,000 in 1928 (equal to $190,000 in 2011), Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne was sentenced to ten years in a Virginia prison. He was paroled after serving more than six years, but the gates had hardly closed behind him when Champagne was at it again.
Shortly after his release, the US Department of Justice was tracking him across the North Country. As he had done for years in the past, Bernard managed to move quickly and stay a step ahead of his pursuers.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea to leave prison after conviction on charges of impersonation and then return home to pass himself off as a federal officer, but that’s exactly what Champagne did. He also left Ticonderoga for several weeks with a vehicle that didn’t belong to him, prompting the town police force to join the feds in seeking his arrest.
Initially, their search efforts covered from the Albany area to southern Quebec. It was then expanded statewide, and finally extended across the Northeast. Two weeks later, Champagne was in Elizabethtown’s Essex County jail, facing local and federal charges.
What had he done? After arriving home from the prison in Virginia, Bernard needed transportation to execute his latest scam. At the automobile dealership of Charles Moore in Ticonderoga, he tried out a large Oldsmobile and expressed an interest in purchasing it. Moore accepted his promise to return with the car and pay for it when some expected funds arrived.
Champagne then visited stores, restaurants, and bars across the region, presenting himself as a representative from Washington. Presenting his official federal credentials, including a badge, Bernard saved them money by accepting a smaller direct payment of the liquor tax, which relieved them of paying the regular rate to county alcohol officials.
When local liquor authorities made their normal rounds, they viewed the receipts left by Champagne and knew immediately that something was amiss. By that time, he had scammed businesses across the region and then vanished.
An investigation failed to locate Bernard, but certain savings accounts were discovered. No one knew for certain where the money came from, but in banks located in Burlington and Saratoga, Champagne had $56,000 ($890,000 in 2011).
He was traced as far as Maryland, and then officially listed as “whereabouts unknown.” A week later, Champagne was arrested in Hyattsville, Maryland (still driving the Oldsmobile), and was brought north to face charges.
Five months later (in October), an Essex County jury found him not guilty of stealing the car. Their reasoning was simple: he had promised to return it, and with no firm timeframe in place, he hadn’t actually reneged on that promise.
As he had done earlier in the Richmond case, Bernard presented no defense on the federal charges. He pled guilty in Albany to three counts of impersonation and was sentenced to one year and one day in the US Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
In December 1936, Champagne walked out of prison once again a free man, and immediately proved himself an incorrigible lawbreaker. Without hesitation, he returned to criminal activity, and for the next several years left few traces of his whereabouts. (It was very difficult tracking his story today through newspaper archives and public records. Gaps were unavoidable. After all, seven decades ago, the FBI chased him for seven years before achieving any success.)
Having already served two prison sentences, Champagne had proven catchable, but the third time wouldn’t be easy for his pursuers. He worked multiple scams at the same time in a particular city, but when the heat was on, he slipped away to a new location. And there’s no denying that Bernard Champagne was one slippery customer.
His exploits out West provide a fine example. After several impersonations in San Francisco, he was indicted there by a federal grand jury in May 1942. But Champagne was already long gone, posing as a secret service agent in Salt Lake City, where he found at least six more victims. He was particularly adept at securing small cash amounts, which tended to attract less attention.
To make the process profitable, he worked several targets simultaneously. They were nearly always women, and many of them were widows. In Salt Lake City, impersonating a secret service agent netted him $5,000 from six targets. As if to intentionally taunt his pursuers, in two of those cases Bernard also claimed to be a special agent with the FBI.
This especially annoyed Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was very protective of the agency’s image. He turned up the heat on Bernard, but despite the intensified effort, their quarry from the North Country remained elusive.
The charges at San Francisco were followed by several other federal indictments: in Salt Lake City, June and November 1942; Danville, Illinois, September 1942; New York City, January 1943; and Cleveland, April 1943. Complaints had also been filed against Bernard in Omaha, Nebraska; Kankakee, Illinois; Daytona Beach, Florida; and in Maine.
FBI agents described Champagne as “a prolific impersonator,” but the true extent of his success is unknown. Because so much of his fakery escaped detection, it’s unclear how many identities Bernard actually assumed. One agent said he had “at least 50 aliases,” and at one point, there were 34 names documented. It was the list of professions, however, that really impressed them.
Among his successful impersonations were: a graduate of Columbia University; a doctor employed by the US Public Health Service; a secret service agent; an FBI agent; a member of the US diplomatic corps; and the nephew of noted politician Hamilton Fish, a ruse that allowed him to pass $600 worth of bogus checks ($8,000 in 2011).
On a grander scale were his military personas: an army medical officer; aide to General Arnold, who was chief of the nation’s air forces; a member of military intelligence; a lieutenant colonel in the army (good for another $8,000 in 2011); a lieutenant commander in the US Navy; and a nephew of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was commanding the Allied forces in Europe.
At times he claimed to have lost three brothers in the Battle of the Coral Sea; that his brother-in-law was an admiral; and that his grandfather was a navy captain. Those lies, offered convincingly, gave him legitimacy in the eyes of an intended victim. It was an important factor leading up to the payoff scheme: ensuring that he could secure the release of relatives in Germany. By carefully selecting his marks (victims), Bernard achieved continued success.
An FBI memo from summer 1943 notes that Champagne’s proclivity for “victimizing women, especially widows” was featured in a radio broadcast by the legendary Walter Winchell. Hoover, passionate guardian of the FBI’s reputation, felt that publicly citing a longstanding, unsolved case made the Bureau look bad. It was his baby, and he felt the need to respond.
The same memo confirmed that increased attention was now focused on Bernard: “An identification order was issued on Champagne during the past week, and a very active fugitive investigation looking to his apprehension is in progress.”
Less than two months later, Hoover had his man. Bernard’s modus operandus was well known, and information detailing it was disseminated to scores of law enforcement agencies. Anything remotely resembling his style was looked at, and a case in Ohio proved his undoing.
In the small village of Dalton, Bernard had targeted a widow, Gladys Mohn, in a real estate scheme. Presenting himself as Allen Steven Klein, a navy surgeon, he convinced Mrs. Mohn to invest $4,312 ($55,000 in 2011) in some Florida property, land that he said the government was going to purchase for airport development. The return promised by Champagne on her investment was $22,000 ($277,000 in 2011).
A glitch developed when Mohn went to Florida with Champagne to look the site over. After several excuses “prevented” him from showing her the property, which of course didn’t exist, Bernard finally abandoned her and vanished.
Mohn’s subsequent complaint to authorities, with details on how her “partner” operated, suggested that Allen Steven Klein may well have been Bernard Frederick Champagne.
On April 10, a warrant was issued for his arrest, adding to the list of previous indictments, but also triggering an intensified FBI manhunt. And this time, Bernard’s luck finally ran out when several FBI agents from the Cleveland branch arrested him in Dalton. At his arraignment the next day in Canton, Ohio, Champagne did what he had always done in the past—pleaded guilty.
Hoover addressed the media, mentioning several of the personas Bernard had assumed, including that of FBI agent. The Director noted, “Champagne operated from coast to coast, leaving a trail of disillusioned women who gave him sums ranging up to $4000 [$50,000 in 2011].”
Though his documented crimes may have been the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” an aura of mystery surrounded Champagne’s incarceration, much as it had his life of crime. After pleading guilty, he was held under $10,000 bond ($120,000 in 2011) at Cleveland for federal grand jury action. At that point, he seems to have vanished.
Perhaps the FBI avoided publicizing his story any further once he was captured. Champagne had defrauded hundreds of victims out of untold thousands of dollars—certainly the equivalent of millions of dollars today. To the embarrassment of lawmen, he had gotten away with most of it during the past seven years. Heavily redacted records limit our knowledge of his activities.
Despite the vast number of charges pending against Bernard in at least nine cities (for fraud and for impersonating federal officials), the Cleveland grand jury settled on a puzzling set of indictments: “Violation of the Mann Act, in transporting a waitress from Orrville [Ohio] to California via Winter Haven, Florida; violation of the Selective Service Act for not having his registration card with him; and posing as a lieutenant commander in the US Navy with intent to defraud.”
It appears that he served approximately 18 years in prison and was released in the early 1960s, returning to the North Country. Champagne passed away in 1977 at the age of 73.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to Almanack founder and editor John Warren.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.