Posts Tagged ‘Warrensburg’

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Introducing ‘Happy Hour in the High Peaks’

Please join me in welcoming our newest contributors here at Adirondack Almanack, Kim and Pam Ladd. Warrensburg natives, Kim and Pam are working on a book project, Happy Hour in the High Peaks.

Currently in the research stage, the pair plan to visit pubs, bars and taverns inside the Blue Line, and report their findings weekly here at the Almanack and at their blog.

With a goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park, Happy Hour in the High Peaks will feature reviews, history, lore, photographs and cocktail recipes with an Adirondack flavor.

Kim and Pam have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. Kim, is a freelance photographer whose sports images regularly appear in the Adirondack Journal. She has a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman.

Kim and Pam will begin their run here at the Almanack this afternoon with a look at barVino in North Creek, but they told me they welcome suggestions for places to visit, so let them know about your favorite haunts!

Photo: Pam (on left) and Kim (on right).


Monday, March 28, 2011

Warrensburg’s Own Dick Whitby, Notable Musician

Obituaries vary widely in their historical value. Sometimes they’re elaborate; at times they are understated; some leave out important facts; and some, well … some are just hard to explain. Like this one from March, 1952: “Richard A. Whitby, a native of Warrensburg, died on Wednesday of last week at his home in Albany. Survivors are his wife, Mrs. Kathryn M. Waring Whitby; two sisters, Mrs. Frank Chapman and Miss Kate Whitby of Yonkers.”

That notice appeared in his hometown newspaper. Accurate, no doubt, and surely succinct, but brevity isn’t always a good thing. In this case, the inattention to detail is stunning, and it’s quite a stretch from what’s true to what’s important. I’d like to take a crack at bridging that gap. Richard Augustus Whitby (not Richard E. or other variations that appear in many records) was born to Louisa and Richard James Whitby on January 22, 1879. The family’s background played an important role in Richard’s legacy. Once established, the Whitby surname remained prominent in the Warrensburg-Glens Falls area for decades.

In 1872, the Whitbys (they had two young sons) emigrated from Yeovil, England where Richard J. had operated a cloth manufacturing business employing 61 laborers. He pursued the same work in America, first at Leeds in Greene County and then at Salem in Washington County, finally settling in Warrensburg, where he was superintendent of the woolen mill.

Financially sound, Mr. Whitby was able to pursue his interests, which were family and music. He managed to combine the two in remarkable fashion, and mix work in as well. Each family member learned to play a musical instrument, and as they entered adulthood, each was employed in the family business. By 1899, son Percy was managing the mill with his father, while Eloise, Eustace (salesman), Kate (stitcher), and Richard (buttonhole maker) toiled for Whitby & Co.

As good as they were at making clothing, it was in the world of music that the family excelled. The Whitby dance band played countless gigs and was in great demand, but the family performed solos and joined other musical groups as well. In 1895, the GAR Band and the Citizens’ Band ended an ongoing competition by merging into the Warrensburg Military Band. Among the dozens of members were several Whitbys—Percy, clarinet and Musical Director; his father, Richard J., cornet; Eustace, saxophone; and young Richard A., baritone horn.

After a performance on baritone by Richard in 1893, one prescient local reviewer said Whitby’s effort “… would have done credit to a professional player.” Besides the baritone horn, Richard also played two related instruments, the euphonium and the trombone. By the mid-1890s, his euphonium solos were known far and wide, and highly praised.

During the next several years, he performed at dozens of graduations, church events, and the like, routinely accompanied by his mother, Louisa, on the piano. In the summer of 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Whitby and son Richard were the star attraction at the Leland House in Schroon Lake.

In 1896, the 17-year-old was hired by Scribner & Smith’s Circus to play slide trombone during the summer. In 1899 he signed with a traveling comedy and music act, followed by several years as trombonist for the Broad Street Theater in Richmond, Virginia.

Word of his ability spread, and in 1910, “Dick” Whitby was the trombone soloist for Carl Edouarde’s 60-piece band, a top act in Philadelphia and New York City. (Edouarde, who later composed film scores, conducted the music for Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon.)

In October, 1911, Whitby married Bertha B. Lancaster (yes, Bert Lancaster) of Peekskill, and the couple moved to New York City. All the while, Richard’s fame continued to grow.

Though he had made steady progress over the years, his rise now seemed meteoric. Outstanding performances in Edouarde’s band were soon followed by a stunning announcement in 1913: Richard had been offered the second chair in John Philip Sousa’s band, which for decades had featured some of the world’s finest musicians. Second chair meant the number two position, but Whitby was also promised first chair upon the lead trombone player’s imminent retirement.

It was a tremendous honor and highly regarded confirmation of his great talent, but there was a problem: Richard was still under contract to Carl Edouarde, who had no intentions of releasing him from a prominent run at New York’s Palace Theater.

He continued as lead trombonist for Edouarde’s concert band, and it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime had passed. But such was the talent of Richard Whitby that Sousa was willing to wait. When he became a free agent in 1915, Sousa signed Richard to an 8-month contract, beginning on April 1, 1915.

The timing was fortuitous. After three years of playing one main venue and going on only a short tour each season, Sousa’s band was suddenly once again a hot property. When Richard joined the orchestra, it was for an extraordinary tour reaching all the way to the West Coast.

San Francisco was hosting a major event, the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (the World’s Fair), celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal and the city’s own recovery from the horrific 1906 earthquake. Sousa’s band played on opening-day and performed for an extended run through May and June, allowing untold thousands to enjoy Whitby’s great solos.

The band might have played longer but for a telegram from New York, requesting their services for an upcoming extravaganza at the world’s largest theater, the Hippodrome.

Leaving San Francisco, the band toured the Northwest to great acclaim. Notable was a July concert before 17,000 attendees at a high school stadium in Tacoma, Washington. From there, the band toured through the Midwest and then played before large crowds in Pennsylvania, including a month at famous Willow Grove Park and two weeks at the Pittsburgh Exhibition, before finally arriving in New York.

Those were heady days for one of the world’s most famous bands, now performing at the 5,200 seat Hippodrome for an 8-month run. Critics raved, as did Theatre Magazine: “The astonished and delighted spectator feels like cheering all the way through the really wonderful program.” It was a smash success, but Whitby remained for only half the run (about 215 performances).

When his contract with Sousa expired at the end of the year, Richard returned to more familiar haunts. In 1916, he opened with a slide trombone solo for a Warrensburg concert by students of the famed Oscar Seagle. Whitby’s rendition of Patriot Polka was a tribute to his friend and former instructor, Arthur Pryor, author of the tune and acknowledged for decades as one of the world’s premiere trombonists.

Richard’s preference was to remain in the North Country, but no matter where he was, his talent and fame kept him in high demand. A renowned soloist who tested the limits of his instrument, Whitby starred for several years on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. The main venue he played there was the famed Steel Pier, which extends 1000 feet over the ocean and today sits directly across the Boardwalk from Trump’s Taj Mahal Resort and Casino.

He also did stints at New York’s Palace Theater, and in the 1920s was soloist with the Paramount Symphony Orchestra at the Paramount Theater.

When he was upstate, he played with Noller’s Band of Troy and the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra. Whitby lived in Albany for many years, and through the 1930s and 1940s was one of the city’s and the region’s most sought-after musicians. He was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest trombone players in the country.

Obituaries normally mention one’s accomplishments, and when Richard Whitby died in 1952, his hometown obit noted only two events: “… native of Warrensburg … died … at his home in Albany.” It suggests an innocuous existence marked largely by his entrance into and exit from life. Being born and dying are surely significant, but as you can see, there was some other stuff in between.

Photo Top: The John Philip Sousa Band performing at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition (World’s Fair) in 1915.

Photo Middle: A euphonium, one of the instruments mastered by Richard A. Whitby.

Photo Bottom: The famed Steel Pier on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Berry Pond Tract: Headwaters of West Brook

Purchased in 2008 by the Lake George Land Conservancy, the Berry Pond Tract protects 1,436 acres within the towns of Lake George, Warrensburg, and Lake Luzerne. This tract of land contains ecologically important wetlands, ponds, vernal pools and the headwaters of West Brook. The purchase was made possible in part through a loan from the Open Space Conservancy (OSC) and funding provided by the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation.

The Berry Pond Tract is home to many forms of wildlife. There are several active beaver populations and a small Great Blue Heron rookery. This purchase provides expanded outdoor recreational resources including some amazing views of the lake. It also connects nearly 10,000 acres of protected land and protects the headwaters of West Brook, the single largest source of contaminants to the South Basin of Lake George.

West Brook is one of the largest, most polluted streams in the Lake George Watershed. A substantial section of the downstream portion has impervious surface streamside, which contributes large amounts of stormwater runoff. Studies have indicated high readings of specific conductance (indicator of instream pollution), excessive amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorus as well as substrate covering algal blooms. West Brook is important habitat for wildlife and spawning fish, however most of the downstream substrate is silt and sand. The streams course has been altered and channalized, thus speeding up the current. There is very limited riparian cover along the downstream portions, most being of non-native species. The lack of cover results in higher water temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels.

Protecting the headwaters of a stream is important to the overall health of the stream, however what takes place in the downstream sections can adversely impair the lake. That is why the West Brook Conservation Initiative was formed. This project to restore and protect Lake George is a collaborative campaign between the FUND for Lake George, the Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association. The main goal is to eliminate the largest source of contaminants to the South Basin. For more information on the West Brook Conservation Initiative and the science behind West Brook, visit the FUND for Lake George website.

Access to the Berry Pond Tract hiking trails is via the Lake George Recreation Center Trail System. For more information on the Berry Pond Tract, check out the Lake George Land Conservancy website at: http://lglc.org or join me in a snowshoe during the Winter Warm Up, at the Lake George Recreation Center on Saturday March 12, 2011 from 10am till 2pm. Bring your family and friends to this free event hosted by the Lake George Land Conservancy. Warm up by the bonfire; enjoy tasty treats donated by local businesses and take part in a guided snowshoe or other activities for all ages.

Come out and join me during the snowshoe and learn more about the Berry Pond Tract and West Brook. I hope to see you there.

Photo: “All” West Brook, Lake George NY. Compliments Blueline Photography, Jeremy Parnapy.

Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes regularly about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Frazil Ice at Hudson River Ice Meadows

Just North of Warrensburg in the Adirondacks, South of the Glen, along the Hudson River is a unique habitat. This microhabitat is 16 miles and a sparse 115 acres, part of which is protected by the Hudson River Shoreline Preserve. This unique preserve goes by another name: The Ice Meadows. The only natural grasslands in New York State can be found here. What makes the Ice Meadows so special are the rare species of plants and insects that can be found in this cooler microclimate habitat.

During this time of year, the magic happens that makes the Ice Meadows what they are. Within the Hudson River, a collection of loose ice crystals are forming that look like slush in the water, this is called frazil ice. Frazil ice forms in super cooled water.

When frazil ice groups together, it forms pancake ice. Like the name suggests, it looks like yummy pancakes with upturned edges. These pancakes can be as large as 10 feet across. When the pancakes group together, they will cover the surface of the river with a skin of ice. This skin will grow and can reach a thickness of glacial proportions, as high as 15 feet.

The ice grows and pushes up on the shore and will scour the shoreline of the Ice Meadows depositing organic matter and removing trees. The thick ice can take into April to melt, which shortens the growing season, which maintains the cooler climate. This allows the unique alpine species to grow.

At least 5 endangered plant species and 5 threatened plant species are known to live in the Ice Meadows. These include: Ohio Goldenrod, Auricled Twayblade and the Dwarf Sand-cherry. A species of special concern is the dragonfly: the Extra-striped snaketail. There are other species found only in this unique habitat, they are common to alpine habitats and are generally dwarf species.

There are so few occurrences of the Ice Meadows in New York, that they need to be protected. Major threats include: invasive species, development and trampling by visitors. Little research has been conducted on this unique habitat that truly not much is known. There are only between 10-20 known Ice Meadows throughout New York State, they can be found along the upper portions of rivers near mountains.

If you want to view the Ice Meadows, they can be visited by the trail system that is just north of Warrensburg on Golf Course Road, or by visiting the canoe access site at the Warren County Fish Hatchery. For more information on the Ice Meadows or NY, check out the NY Natural Heritage Program website. Enjoy your visit into a unique world of glacier like ice shelves and miniature plants.

Photo’s: Top; Ice Meadows on the Hudson, Middle; Frazile Ice in the Hudson, Bottom; Glacier in the Adirondacks, Courtesy Blueline Photography, Jeremy Parnapy.

Corrina Parnapy is a Lake George native and a naturalist who writes regulalry about the environment and Adirondack natural history for the Adirondack Almanack.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

APA Meets Thursday: Warrensburg, Wells, Moriah, More

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, January 13 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The January meeting is one day only. Topics will include a variance for a sign at a new car dealership in Warrensburg, a shoreline structure setback and cutting variances for a proposed marina in Moriah, an enforcement action against an alleged wetland subdivision and substandard-sized lot subdivision in Wells, a presentation on Keene broadband project, military airspace and military aircraft use over the Adirondack Park, and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft policy for issuing Temporary Revocable Permits for State Lands and Conservation Easements.

The meeting will be webcast live online (choose Webcasting from the contents list). Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website. The full agenda follows:

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report where she will discuss current activities.

At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider two variance projects; a request for a variance from the Q-3 sign standards for placement of new car dealership sign in the Town of Warrensburg, Warren County and shoreline structure setback and shoreline cutting variance variances for a proposed marina in the Town of Moriah, Essex County.

At 10:30, the Enforcement Committee will convene for an enforcement case involving alleged wetland subdivision and substandard-sized lot subdivision violations on private property in the Town of Wells, Hamilton County.

At 11:00, the Economic Affairs Committee will hear a presentation on the Town of Keene’s town-wide broadband project. Dave Mason and Jim Herman, project co-directors, will explain the project history, how it unfolded and detail project accomplishments.

At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will be briefed on Military Airspace and Military Aircraft use over the Adirondack Park. Lt. Col. Fred Tomasselli, NY Air National Guard’s Airspace Manager at Fort Drum, will overview military airspace use. Commander Charles Dorsey, NY Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing Vice-Commander at Fort Hancock, will detail the expected deployment of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft for military training exercises over the Adirondack Park.

At 2:15, the State Land Committee will be updated by, Forest Preserve Management Bureau Chief Peter Frank, on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft policy for issuing Temporary Revocable Permits for State Lands and Conservation Easements. The draft policy proposes four types of revocable permits: Expedited, Routine, Non-Routine and Research.

At 3:00, the Park Ecology Committee will convene for a presentation from the Agency’s, Natural Resource Analysis Supervisor Daniel Spada, on his recent trip to China. The focus of the trip was the ongoing China Protected Areas Leadership Alliance Project. Mr. Spada will overview this project and describe his experiences with the various National Nature Reserve managers he visited with in Yunnan Province, China.

At 3:45, the Full Agency will convene will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

The February Agency is scheduled for February 10-11, 2011

March Agency Meeting: March 17-18 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Rebirth For The Warren County Fair?

Warren County once had one of New York’s most well-attended county fairs. In 1877, the Pottersville Fair (also known as the Glendale Fair) was established by the Faxon family, one of the Town of Chester’s leading families and owners of Chester’s largest employer, a tannery.

The fair was immediately popular, not so much for its agricultural exhibits – there generally weren’t any – but for its gambling opportunities. For thirty years gambling was the main attraction at the fair, and horse racing the main event. In 1897, the fair advertised “a fine program of races consisting of trotting and pacing, running, bicycle, and foot races in which liberal purses and prizes are offered.” 7,000 people attended the Pottersville Fair on a single day in 1913. Now there is a move afoot to revitalize the Warren County Fair (since moved to Schroon River Road in Warrensburg), which has suffered a series of setbacks that have made it one of the poorest attended County Fairs in the state. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Commentary: The Cast of ‘Opposing Smart Development’

Despite undeniable proof that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) almost never denies a permit, the usual anti-APA folks are currently rallying once again for another push against the regional planning and zoning board that has kept the Adirondacks from looking like a suburb of the Northeast megalopolis for more than 30 years. It’s time for those who support reasonable and responsible development in the Adirondack Park to step forward and let their voice be heard.

In case you went to the lobby during intermission, here’s a review of the cast of leading characters:

Maynard Baker: Despite his failed leadership that left Warrensburg perhaps the most poorly developed village in the Park – a virtual wreck of its former self – Maynard Baker persists in his angry denunciations of anything even approaching planning, zoning and smart development. Baker is the scariest of the cast, having once started a fistfight during the Battle of Crane Pond. His latest approach has been lawsuits, and threats of lawsuits. Most recently he is attempting to argue in court that veterans cannot access the Park. On Monday, Baker called the APA “terrorists” securing for all time that this guy is a dangerous demagogue.

Will Doolittle: Despite serious questions about his motives with regards to his reporting about the APA (detailed here, here, and here), Will Doolittle has started another campaign in the pages of the Glens Falls Post Star. That’s the same Post Star that called for the abolition of the APA in an editorial during Doolittle’s last round of APA attacks. You’d think that when your motives are questioned so seriously regarding your reporting of a particular subject, you’d leave those stories to someone else. Not Doolittle, apparently he and his bosses think it’s entirely appropriate to continue to put an anti-APA reporter on the job to cover the APA.

Kim Smith Dedam: One of only two women in the cast (Carol LaGrasse and her one-woman Property Rights Foundation of America is the other), Kim Smith Dedam is the Plattsburgh Press Republican‘s answer to accurate and judicious reporting of the APA and smart development in the Adirondacks. Her outright false claims, apparently designed to foster her agenda, are awful legend. Kim Smith Dedam can always be counted on to tell the story of development in the Adirondacks to the benefit of her handlers. Check out two stories that read like press releases: “Tupper Lake project projected to create 584 jobs” and “Veterans sue for seaplane access to Adirondack lakes.” Floatplane ban supporters? Kim Smith Dedam doesn’t think they’re necessary in a story about the ban on floatplanes, but that’s just one in what seems an unending litany of slanted stories about development issues in the Adirondacks.

Fred Monroe: When it comes to one-man bands, Fred Monroe plays the loudest. Overseeing the demise and awful strip development of Chestertown as the Supervisor of the Town Chester is not enough for Monroe, so he also collects a paycheck as the Chair of the economically challenged Warren County Board of Supervisors and a paycheck from bankrupt New York State as the voice of the anti-APA Local Government Review Board. That’s right, Monroe is paid by the Town, County, and State government – after a raise he gave himself last year, that’s more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salary. It’s no wonder that while he’s content to serve as a mouth-piece around the state for anti-APA activities and as the go-to guy for his media buddies, he came out last year to say that no, he doesn’t want the APA dissolved. And why would he? He’d be out of a job heading a one man (and one wife) tax supported board whose main focus has been to fight another tax funded board. That is the goose that laid the $100,000 egg.

Supporting Characters: The main characters are only part of an ensemble that includes such classic character actors as Don “Invasive Species Are A Bunch Of Bull” Lehman, the editors of Denton “You Can Count On Us” Publications, Betty “Blacklist” Little, Teresa “It’s US Versus Them” Sayward, and newly added to the cast, Doug “When I Get To Congress, I’ll Fight The APA” Hoffman.


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Lake George Clinic for Hudson Headwaters?

Lake George Town officials want the Hudson Headwaters Health Network to establish a clinic in their community, and have initiated discussions with the Network to determine its feasibility, Supervisor Frank McCoy has announced.

A clinic could be housed in a new building constructed for Lake George’s Emergency Medical Services squad, McCoy said at the Town’s monthly board meeting on Monday.
“Land is so expensive in Lake George that it makes sense to buy property for two entities,” said McCoy.

According to town councilwoman Fran Heinrich, Hudson Headwaters’ Tripp Shannon informed the town that a sufficient number of patients from Lake George visit the Network’s other clinics to justify a thorough investigation of the proposal.

Dr. John Rugge, the president and CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, said the Network staff’s meetings with McCoy and Heinrich had been productive. “We’re committed to working with the Town to meet the long term health care needs of Lake George,” said Rugge.

The expense of establishing a new clinic is among the issues that need to be addressed, said Rugge. Typically, municipalities provide a building, equipment and maintenance of a clinic, which Hudson Headwaters then staffs with medical personnel.

The not-for-profit network currently operates health centers in Bolton Landing, Chestertown, Glens Falls, Indian Lake, Moreau, Moriah, North Creek, Queensbury, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Warrensburg.

Other issues to be discussed include the functions of a Lake George clinic within the network as a whole and the development of a program that could be adapted to Lake George’s fluctuating population, Rugge said. “The population is like an accordion,” said Rugge. “It expands ten-fold in the summer. We would have to address that.”

As a federally-certified community health care centers, a Lake George clinic could be eligible for funding under the 2010 federal Health Care Reform act, though it may be at least four years before that money becomes available, Rugge said.

Despite those obstacles, Rugge said, “it’s a pleasure working with such a far-sighted administration. Whenever a community wants to work with Hudson Headwaters Health Network, magic can happen; obstacles can be overcome.”

A new facility for Lake George’s rescue squad, while urgently needed, will also take time to fund and construct, said Bruce Kilburn, the president of the Lake George Emergency Squad.
Founded in 1960, the rescue squad celebrated its 50th anniversary in February with a gala at the Georgian, intended to kick-off a fund raising campaign for the new building.

“We’ve outgrown our building on Gage Road,” said Kilburn. “Training, meetings, every day activities are getting more difficult to co-ordinate.”

With the loss of volunteers and increasing reliance on professional Emergency responders, who are frequently assigned over-night shifts, separate facilities for men and women are needed, Kilburn said.

“Without separate facilities, we could face sexual harassment suits,” said Kilburn. “That’s a big concern to us.”

Town officials anticipate assistance from Lake George Village taxpayers in the fund drive for new EMS headquarters, said McCoy. “We expect Lake George Village to step up to the plate,” said McCoy. “The Town funded fifty percent of the new firehouse.”

A number of locations for the new facility are under consideration, but none have been made public.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gates to Remain Closed at Hudson River Recreation Area

Saying the agency was “acting to protect natural resources and to curtail illegal and unsafe activities,” the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced it has relocated six campsites closer to main roads and will not reopen the gates at the Hudson River Special Management Area (HRSMA) of the Lake George Wild Forest. The gates, only recently installed to limit the area’s roads during spring mud season, will remain closed until further notice. “Unfortunately, due to funding reductions resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall, DEC is, as previously announced, unable to maintain many of the roads in HRSMA and must keep the gates closed until the budget situation changes,” a DEC statement said.

Also known as the “Hudson River Rec Area” or the “Buttermilk Area,” the HRSMA is a 5,500-acre section of forest preserve located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, straddling the boundary of the towns of Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg in Warren County. Designated “Wild Forest” under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, HRSMA is a popular location for camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and fishing. The Hudson River Rec Area has been a popular spot for late-night parties, littering, and other abuses.

Six campsites (# 6-11) have been relocated due to vandalism and overuse. Campsites #6, 7, 8, and 10 and 11 are relocated in the vicinity of the old sites and just a short walk from the parking areas. Parking for each of these sites is provided off Buttermilk Road. Site 9 has been relocated to the Bear Slide Access Road providing an additional accessible campsite in the HRSMA for visitors with mobility disabilities. Site 11 is located off Gay Pond Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicle traffic.

Signs have been posted identifying parking locations for the sites and markers have been hung to direct campers to the new campsite locations. Camping is permitted at designated sites only – which are marked with “Camp Here” disks.

Gay Pond Road (3.8 mi.) and Buttermilk Road Extension (2.1 mi.) are temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access. Pikes Beach Access Road (0.3 mi.) and Scofield Flats Access Road (0.1 mi.) may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits. As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road and Darlings Ford are closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open for non-motorized access by the general public and motorized access by people with disabilities holding a CP-3 permit.

Currently eight campsites designed and managed for accessibility remain available to people with mobility disabilities. All of the designated sites are available to visitors who park in the designated parking areas and arrive by foot or arrive by canoe.

DEC Forest Rangers will continue to educate users, enforce violations of the law, ensure the proper and safe use of the area, and remind visitors that:

* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;

* Cutting of standing trees, dead or alive, is prohibited;

* Motor vehicles are only permitted on open roads and at designated parking areas;

* “Pack it in, pack it out” – take all garbage and possessions with you when you leave; and

* A permit is required from the DEC Forest Ranger if you are camping more than 3 nights or have 10 or more people in your group.

Additional information, and a map of the Hudson River Special Management Area, may be found on the DEC website.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Marcus Granger: Warren County Fiddler, Poet, Hotelman

Not long after my father purchased the Warrensburg News and its old printing plant in 1958, he found in a box of papers a small booklet entitled “Guide to Schroon Lake and Vicinity,” with Marcus E. Granger listed as the author.

The booklet had been printed in the shop eighty years earlier. Although numerous guidebooks to the Adirondacks had been published before Granger’s, his was unique in two respects. His was probably the first guidebook devoted to Schroon Lake. Dr. Durant’s Adirondack Railroad had been completed in 1872, and the station at Riverside, or Riparius, brought Schroon Lake within reach of tourists for the first time. Second, and even more remarkable, was the fact that it was written entirely in heroic couplets. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cooperative Extension Offers Veggie, Herb Seed Starter Kits

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County is offering affordable vegetable and herb seed starter kits for the 2010 garden season beginning Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Each kit includes five different seed packs, growing directions, and garden row markers. The vegetable kits also include the Cooperative Extension’s “2010 Booklet on Vegetable Varieties.” The herb kits include information on starting a container herb garden. Each seed kit is only $5 (only $9 if you buy both).

Each VEGETABLE seed kit includes: Five different vegetable seed packs, full growing directions for each seed type, garden row markers and the newest The vegetable seed kit includes ‘tendergreen’ beans, cucumber, lettuce, squash and tomato seed packs.

The HERB seed kits include five different herb seed packs, growing directions, garden row markers and other information about starting a container HERB garden. The herb seed kit includes sweet basil, dill, green scallion onion, parsley and nastursium (nastursium produces beautiful edible salad flowers!).

Proceeds from the sale of the Seed Starter Kits will be used by the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H (Youth Development Program) and the Master Gardener Volunteer (Consumer Horticulture Education Program) to help support the many 4-H youth programs in Warren County and the Master Gardener Volunteer programs that provide science-based gardening information to people in our community.

The seed kits are available begining February 16 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Warrensburg, at 377 Schroon River Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885. The office is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Tel.: 518-623-3291.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas 1969: The View from Warrensburg

By the end of 1969, more than forty thousand American soldiers had been killed in the war in Vietnam. Despite Richard Nixon’s pledge in 1968 that his election would bring “peace with honor,” and after a year of peace talks in Paris, it was clear that the killing would continue. That’s the background of this editorial that my father, Rob Hall, wrote and published in his Warrensburg-Lake George News in December, 1969. On this Christmas, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought it might find resonance with Adirondack Almanack readers.

Our dream went like this:

It was my first full day in heaven and the day-room orderly told me that the Archangel Michael wanted to see me. I found him behind a golden desk in his office. “The Chief suggested that in view of your long career as a newspaperman you might like to publish a little weekly newspaper for us up here,” he said.

“I suppose it would occupy my time for me,” I said. “What shall we name it? The Heavenly Tidings, perhaps?”

He said any name would do and I remarked that I’d need a staff of two or three. I named several newspapermen I had known who had recently passed over the Great Divide. “Nope,” said the Archangel, looking over the big book on his desk, “they’re not registered HERE.”

“Well,” I said, “could you spare me an angel?”

“I should think so,” said Michael, “but will yours be a good news newspaper or a bad news newspaper?”

“Is there any bad news up here?” I asked.

“Only the tidings of wickedness from down below,” he said, “but we like to keep informed.”

In that case, I said, the Heavenly Tidings would be a mixture of both. “But what about my angel?”

“I can let you have Gabriella,” Michael said. “She’s a sister to Gabriel but as much the opposite as any sibling you’ve ever known. Gabriel is the one with the trumpet which he will blow on Doomsday. But Gabriella is so constituted that she is incapable of bringing anything but good news. If it’s bad news, forget it. She absolutely won’t handle it.”

“How odd,” I commented, and noticed that Michael seemed disposed to continue the conversation. He leaned back in his golden chair and adjusted his wings to the apertures in the backrest.

“It was a long time ago that we first became aware of Gabriella’s hang-up,” he said. “It was about this time of year and we had word from the Chief to keep an eye on the road from Galilee to Bethlehem. I gave Gabriella the assignment and thought no more of it until I came into the observation post and found her in tears.”

“I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” she sobbed. And when I asked her what was the matter, she said:

“Why that poor woman down there, riding that little donkey. And the kind old man with her. They are on their way to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Not only are their taxes out of this world, there’s no inn that will give them a bed. I just can’t make out my report. Every time I try to write, the tears get in my eyes and I can’t see to write.”

“I told her that it was her duty to report the bad along with the good, but it didn’t seem to matter. She just kept crying like her heart would break.”

I peeked through the observation window and I said, “Look, Gabriella, they’ve got a place in that inn.”

“Yes, but look at the accommodations,” she said. “Just a pile of straw in the barn.”

“Now Gabriella,” I said. “People who love each other can be happy under the most adverse circumstances.”

“But she’s going to have a baby,” said Gabriella. “And there’s not even a midwife around to help. Oh, this is terrible.”

I really couldn’t figure out any way to comfort Gabriella, but I noticed a beautiful bright star moving toward Bethlehem.

“Take a look at the star, Gabriella,” I said. “That surely means something.”

“How beautiful,” said Gabriella, and she smiled through her tears. “And look, it’s stopped right over the barn where those poor people are staying.”

The intercom bell rang for me and I knew it was the Chief.

“It’s come,” the Chief said. “I have a Son. Send down an angel and some heavenly hosts, the ones with the most beautiful voices. This is not an occasion to be minimized.”

I started to ask where, but the star gave me the answer. “Gabriella,” I said, “there’s great, good news, tidings of real joy. Get down to that barn right away, and I’ll send you some help. Are you in good voice?”

“You can bet I am,” said Gabriella, and she laughed joyfully, because she had got the message.

“On your way,” I said and patted her on the back. And with that Gabriella opened her wings and swooped down.

She was the first one there, and I tuned in to hear her song.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to men.”

Gabriella was happy when she returned to headquarters. “A beautiful baby lying in a manger,” she said. “Oh the good news that I’ll be reporting from now on.”

“And,” said Michael, “that has been her assignment ever since.”

I told Michael I understood, and that Gabriella would be assistant editor in charge of good news. I said I’d try to handle the bad news myself.

“And speaking of bad news,” I said to Michael, “what’s going on with Vietnam?”

“One of these days, that will be a proper assignment for Gabriella,” Michael said, “but not, repeat not, in this week’s issue.”

For news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror. Visit the paper online at http://lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper on Track to Open

Adirondackers will have two new old places to ski this winter. Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg will hold a volunteer work day Saturday to get the hill in shape for its re-opening. Another group of volunteers is trying to get a chairlift running again for skiing at Big Tupper, in Tupper Lake.

Hickory Hill has been closed for four years, so it won’t need an Adirondack Park Agency permit to resume business; however, Big Tupper has not been operational for more than five years, so it will need approval from the state land use agency.

“Everything seems to be falling into place,” Hickory president Bill Van Pelt said this week. A previous volunteer work day on Sept. 12 attracted about 30 people, who repainted buildings, tuned lifts, drilled a new well and created a new drop-off area, he said. Hickory’s new owners, a group of mostly local shareholders, are also pursuing snowmaking, he said, and they expect to have at least a partial system in place this year, but details are still being worked out.

Ticketing will be electronic, Van Pelt said, so when a skier passes through an archway to get on a lift, sensors will keep a tally of how many vertical feet the person has skied this season. Ticket prices are now available here.

To volunteer at Hickory Saturday contact operations manager Shawn Dempsey at skihickory@gmail.com. Dempsey advises: plan to come prepared with a lunch, hiking boots, gloves and any brush-clearing equipment, shovels, rakes.

Van Pelt said Hickory’s opening date will depend on snow and snowmaking. In Tupper Lake, volunteer organizer Jim LaValley said Big Tupper’s opening date is set for December 26. The mountain will go without snowmaking for now, LaValley said, but he’s optimistic about the forecast. “It’s going to be a good year because you’ve got El Nino spinning and the sunspot cycle has made its shift.”

APA staff made a site visit Wednesday, and LaValley said he expects to receive the operating permit by November or December. Volunteers are working continuously on getting a chairlift ready for inspection, improving the base lodge and electrical systems. There will be a call for a volunteer work day in the next few weeks, LaValley said, but in the meantime people who wish to pitch in can contact him at jim.lavalley@lavalleyrealestate.com or (518) 359-9440. Ticket prices have not yet been set. For future information a Web site is being developed at skibigtupper.org.

You can read more about Hickory’s and Big Tupper’s years of limbo here.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cornell Offers Green Jobs Forum in Warrensburg

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is working with Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute of New York to host a Green Jobs forum on Thursday, June 25, 10:00am to Noon. The forum will be broadcast to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations located in 14 counties across New York State via Cornell’s distance learning network. The forum is free and open to the public. Information on the following topics and issues will be addressed:

* what is meant by the term “green jobs”
* where and in what sectors of the economy do they exist
* information on available training programs
* what does the future look like for the “green jobs sector”

General information about the workforce development institute and information about what services are available to the public will also be discussed.

The Green Jobs Forum will also provide information on starting a home performance / home energy audit business. New York State currently has training programs in place and some financial incentives available to entrepreneurs and home improvement contracting firms that want to expand into the home energy audit field.

Seating for the Green Jobs Forum is limited so if you are interested in attending, please phone Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County at 668-4881 or 623-3291 to reserve a seat.


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