“I have been so upset by world events that my mind has been almost completely paralyzed.” — Béla Bartók
In the midst of the dark days of World War II, a frail man named Béla Bartók came to Saranac Lake for his health. Although he was one of the greatest composers in human history, many Saranac Lakers might have seen him as just another invalid, tiny and pale, wrapped in his dark cape against the cold Adirondack weather. Bartók and his second wife Ditta fled their native Hungary eighty years ago, as fascism and antisemitism swept across Europe. He had dedicated his life not only to composing, but also collecting and arranging the folk music of Eastern Europe. Nazi Germany was threatening to erase the cultures of the Roma and other peasant peoples of the region. In the face of such terror, Bartók was depressed, impoverished, and sick with a form of leukemia that acted like tuberculosis. He and his wife moved from one cramped, loud, New York City apartment to another. He had ceased composing.
Among the finest Christmas seasons in America’s long history is the year 1945. We’re constantly bombarded with how special the holidays are, so it’s tough for any one year to stand out as extra special, but 1945 makes the list. Events across the Adirondacks that year epitomized the nation’s attitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all about celebrating, even though the most destructive war in history had just ended a few months earlier. We often mumble mindlessly that we’re proud to be Americans. But the first post-World War II Christmas was the real deal, worthy of the word “pride.”
To set the scene, consider the events that had transpired at that time. After being mired for a decade in the worst financial collapse in our history (the Great Depression), Americans had begun preparing for what seemed inevitable: joining the war in Europe. And then, between the Pearl Harbor attack and the war’s end four years later, hundreds of North Country boys and men were killed in action. Thousands more were injured or missing. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Experience (ADKX), formerly the Adirondack Museum, is set to host a free open house event and community collecting day on November 11th, from 10 am to 4 pm, in support of the ADKX 2020 seasonal exhibition From Wilderness to Warfront: The Adirondacks and World War II.
This exhibition, planned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, is devoted to the connections between Adirondack people and the global conflict. From regional industry and tourism to first-person accounts, the exhibition will explore diverse stories — those previously untold as well as those well-remembered — of regional mine workers, Mohawk code-talkers, Tuskegee airmen, and the countless local men and women who bravely served on the homefront or abroad during the world’s deadliest conflict. » Continue Reading.
The fall Lyceum lecture series at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall is set to kick off on Tuesday, September 24th.
The theme of this season is “Hidden in Plain Sight,” and the five lectures will examine well-known things from unusual angles and look at objects and ideas that have been hidden from plain view. » Continue Reading.
My father was a young high school teacher in Florida on December 7, 1941. Following Pearl Harbor, he joined the Army and made it his career, including in Army intelligence assessing future security threats.
I once asked him what he thought, on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, were our chances of winning the war. His answer was “not good”. He was confident in 1941 that America would fight courageously, and could build a massive military force, and that our role as the arsenal of democracy could prove decisive. But the key question was whether there was enough time left? » Continue Reading.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), St. Lawrence County, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) have announced a public meeting has been set for Friday, July 20, 2018, to provide the public with a comprehensive presentation of cleanup efforts at the former Jones and Laughlin (J&L) Steel Company site (Benson Mines) at Star Lake.
The Magnetic Iron Company began developing the area on top of what they believed would be a valuable ore body in the late 1880s. The Benson Mines Company started open pit mining operations at the site and produced magnetite and non-magnetite ore intermittently until the mine closed from 1919 to 1941.
Holocaust survivor Murray Jaros is set to give a talk at the Hadley-Luzerne Public Library, 19 Main Street, Lake Luzerne, on Thursday, July 12th at 7 pm.
The talk – “My Story from Nazi Germany to the Solace of Lake Luzerne” – looks at Jaros’s days as a young boy in Nazi Germany, his family’s trials and tribulations, escaping the Nazis, his survival during months of hiding and his eventual journey to Lake Luzerne. » Continue Reading.
In August 1995, the WASP community suffered a loss with the death of Marianne Verges, a non-member who admired their accomplishments and helped preserve their legacy by authoring the book, On Silver Wings: The Women Air Force Pilots of World War II (1991). The book’s final paragraph captures the spirit of women like Betty who saw possibilities, stood tall in a decidedly male bastion, the military, and fought for the right to make equal contributions to the nation’s future: “As with many others of their generation who forged their characters during World War II, the true legacy of the WASPs is found in their lives, the opportunities they expected and accepted for themselves and others through the years, and their exuberant vision of unlimited human possibility.”
Betty continued to maintain a high level of activity despite a couple of health setbacks late in the year, described in her own words: “… a fall on my face after Thanksgiving, and another fall resulting in a broken wrist. I think that’s enough falls for the time being!” At the time, besides working as historian, she was busy making edits and corrections in a reprint of Byrd Granger’s On Final Approach, one of numerous books covering the WASP story from many angles. » Continue Reading.
In June 1982, Betty Pettitt Nicholas was awarded the Nicholas Trophy by the Indianapolis Aero Club as the previous year’s “most deserving woman pilot of the year.” It was the second time she was chosen for the honor, and as happened on the first occasion back in 1952, unusual circumstances surrounded the award. The trophy given 30 years earlier was named in honor of Dee Nicholas, who had been the wife of Ted Nicholas, a pilot and TV executive. A year after winning the award, Betty Pettitt married Ted, a union that ended 15 years later, in 1968, when he died of a heart attack.
Since that time, the Dee Nicholas Trophy had been retired, and was replaced by the Ted Nicholas Trophy. Which means Betty Pettitt Nicholas won a trophy named after her husband’s first wife, and another trophy named after him. To mark the occasion, a photograph of the honoree with seven of her good friends, all previous winners, appeared in the 99s newsletter. The Seymour Daily Tribune noted that the award was given “to the most deserving licensed woman pilot for her outstanding achievement and service in the field of aviation.” No doubt she was a good fit on both occasions. » Continue Reading.
In October 1947, pilot Betty Pettitt moved to Indianapolis and joined a staff (for automobile maker Kaiser-Frazer) that included an unusual co-worker: a skywriter who handled the company’s airborne advertising. Skywriting was once expected to prevail as the prime advertising method of the future, only to drop into a steep decline when a new technology, television, provided a reliable method of reaching mass numbers of consumers without having to rely on the whims of weather. But for a few decades, skywriting was a very popular method of advertising and provided excellent employment for skilled pilots.
As luck would have it, Betty’s skywriting co-worker soon opted for a salesman’s position, leaving her as his obvious replacement. Something as complex as creating huge letters high in the sky would surely require extensive training. It wasn’t, after all, the same concept as writing letters by hand, as Betty explained: “When you remember that you are writing so someone below can read it, you find it is just like writing backwards on a steamy window so someone outside can read it…. It’s all done backwards and upside down.” » Continue Reading.
Of all the accomplished women among North Country natives, few if any have soared higher than Mary Elizabeth Pettitt. That is true both figuratively, in light of her many achievements, and literally, because she was an airplane pilot.
When she made the decision to become a pilot in the mid-1930s, it was unusual for the time, and daunting: 97 percent of all pilots were male. » Continue Reading.
On Thursday, October 19th, 2017, at noon, the St. Lawrence County Historical Association will host a panel of local residents who will recall their experiences during the 1940 U.S. Army Maneuvers that were held around the North County.
This panel is part of the Brown Bag Lunch Series, lunch time lecture series dedicated to the memory of Patricia Harrington Carson, who founded the series during her 24 years as a Trustee of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, October 3 at 7:30 pm, the Whallonsburg Grange Hall will present “Why World War Two Still Matters,” with Andy Buchanan. This is the second lecture in the fall Lyceum series entitled “What’s the Big Idea?” featuring six lectures from authors, educators, journalists, and scientists.
This lecture will focus on the redivision of the world that emerged from the ashes of World War II, new “spheres of influence” reverberate in the present. How US domination was assembled, deliberately and consciously, during this period and its consequences. » Continue Reading.
The word Adirondack calls to mind many things — natural beauty, family playground, sporting opportunities, colorful history — but nothing so dark as prisoner-of-war host.
Yet during the last world war (let’s hope it was the last), followers of Hitler and Mussolini populated the North Country. Volumes have been written about the suffering endured in POW camps, but for countries adhering to the Geneva Conventions, there was a clear set of rules to follow. Among them was that prisoners must receive adequate provisions and supplies (food, clothing, living quarters), and if put to work, they must be paid. » Continue Reading.
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