The one-year anniversary of the infamous Dannemora prison break recently passed, so here’s the story of an inmate linked to a pair of unusual breakouts, excerpted from my book, Escape from Dannemora.
Despite media stories claiming early on that Richard Matt and David Sweat were the first-ever escapees from Clinton Prison, some in the past did it in even more spectacular fashion, and overall, hundreds managed to escape under various circumstances. Among them was Jack Williams, a participant in two Clinton exits involving unusual components featured in no other Dannemora escapes. Continue reading
When presidential historians and scholars rate America’s greatest leaders, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is among the few who nearly always appear among the top five, along with Washington and Lincoln. While others certainly served admirably, those three achieved elevated status by facing stern tests of leadership during great crises in our history: the battle for independence, the fight to preserve the Union, and in FDR’s case, both the Great Depression and World War II.
It’s less well known that Roosevelt very nearly didn’t serve as President due to assassination attempts prior to his first inauguration. One of those stories brought ignominious headlines to the North Country over a period of several months.
Roosevelt first won the presidency in November 1932. The 20th Amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933, officially establishing January 20 as the new inauguration date for all future presidents, and making FDR the last President to be inaugurated on March 4. He very nearly didn’t survive the waiting period. Continue reading
In the northeast corner of New York State, the first weekend in June features Museum Days, during which 16 facilities in Clinton County offer free admission. We were among many who appeared as special guests on both days, offering our books for sale and visiting with attendees, which meant talking a lot about “the good old days.” From that experience, I can assure everyone that a trip to the Babbie Rural & Farm Learning Museum in Peru, where we spent Saturday, is a great idea from several perspectives.
As a museum, it’s a real pleasure, and for children and adults alike, it’s fun and entertaining. But it occurred to me that it’s also a priceless gift to people in their sixties or older, and to the offspring of those folks who have heard stories about childhood chores, tools of yesteryear, and appliances that preceded modern devices. Continue reading
Fervent pleas for aid to missionaries around the world are common, and by no means a recent phenomenon. Take, for instance, the effort led by Episcopalian Bishop Richard H. Nelson in the Albany area in 1913. Said the Glens Falls Daily Times, “It is the intention of Bishop Nelson to organize a missionary league in the diocese for the purpose of raising sufficient money to carry on the work of building up parishes in the neglected sections.” Nelson displayed a map of those neglected sections, where, he said, “The condition is almost unbelievable.”
When I was much younger, one of the most beloved and respected teachers in our local school left to work in the missions in Africa. She described many of the same problems voiced by Nelson: poverty, illiteracy, poor spiritual condition, and a disturbing lack of morals. In both cases (Nelson’s and the teacher’s), the viewpoint was from a devout Christian perspective (our teacher was a Catholic nun). Continue reading
Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was realized that airmarks could be used by enemy planes, so the order was given to remove 2,500 airmarks that stood within 150 miles of the nation’s coasts. Six weeks later, those marks were obliterated, undoing six years of labor—but shortly after, the blanket order was modified. Why? The absence of airmarks was causing military pilot trainees to become lost. The new order allowed airmarks within 50 miles of flight training airfields.
The national program resumed after the war, with improved methods (including government-supplied plywood templates for lettering) and greater participation, but it’s truly remarkable that despite historic advances in communications and airplanes, the airmark system remained in use into the 1970s.
If you’re old enough to have flown locally back then, you might recall some North Country rooftop markings, some of which are listed below with their year of origin. Most were maintained until the system became outdated. Continue reading
We take navigation for granted today, what with Siri, GPS, radio communications, radar, and services like Google Maps. But imagine you were a pilot in upstate New York back in the 1920s, when aviation was first coming into its own. If you took to the air, as many citizens did, how would you avoid getting lost?
The answer quite often was — you probably wouldn’t, and with potentially fatal consequences. Many pilots died in crashes after running out of fuel while trying to find a destination. Continue reading
To the dismay of Minerva, NY’s high-profile educator Ella Lynch the struggle for quality American schooling continued through the 1920s, seemingly based on that wonderful definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
The newest plan to fix an admittedly broken system was to add another grade: kindergarten. Continue reading
In 1922, Ella Lynch’s Bookless Lessons for the Teacher–Mother was published, offering help to those parents wishing to effectively teach their children.
At the time, big battles were brewing on that front. Attempts were under way to legislate rural schools out of existence and force centralization. Continue reading
Ella Frances Lynch – well spoken, thoughtful, and passionate in defining the problems with America’s public school system – refused to back down from proposed reforms. She was right and she knew it. Newspapers featured Ella’s editorials regularly, but the biggest attention-getter was a series of articles she wrote for Ladies Home Journal beginning in 1912. The title: “Is the Public School a Failure? It Is; the Most Momentous Failure in Our American life Today.”
Said Lynch, “Can you imagine a more grossly stupid, a more genuinely asinine system tenaciously persisted in to the fearful detriment of over 17 million children, and at a cost to you of over $403 million each year—a system that not only is absolutely ineffective in its results, but also actually harmful in that it throws each year 93 out of every 100 children into the world of action absolutely unfitted for even the simplest tasks of life? … The public school system is not something to be proud of, but a system that is today the shame of America.” Continue reading
Beginning here is the story of an unknown but truly remarkable woman, an educator from Adirondack history. But first, some related information is helpful for perspective. For starters, here’s a sampling of complaints about our educational system: low graduation rates; undeserved diplomas; graduates lacking in real-world skills; students woefully unprepared for college; students without self-discipline, and more. Those are all issues today, but the very same items were also cited in 1970.
Since that time, our spending on education has risen by about 85 percent, but we’ve improved very little, still stymied by the same problems. In the meantime, we’ve fallen far behind many other countries, while still spouting that we’re the greatest country in the world. If we don’t find the answers soon, the hollow ring of that claim might well become deafening. Continue reading