The Altona Flat Rock is a rare and spectacular site I’ve referenced here in the past, and was the subject of my first book written long ago (it was updated in 2005 with new glaciology information). Besides details on the unusual topography, glacial remnants, an incredibly persistent fire, and one of the world’s largest dams when it was built in the early 1900s, there was also a human history to tell. [Read more…] about Jefferson County’s Charles Sherman: Huckleberry Charlie
Community Christmas trees are an American tradition that bring people together regardless of income, faith, political persuasion, or pretty much anything that divides us. Whether sponsored by a city, town, church, or civic organization, community trees are placed in an outdoor public setting for anyone to enjoy.
It’s a rare treat to share something so nonpartisan: whatever you might personally like about the holidays is what you’ll take away from viewing the tree or sharing in song and merrymaking with fellow citizens. And it’s nice to know that America’s first community Christmas tree, the one that spawned a movement still going strong more than a century later, was an Adirondack balsam. [Read more…] about Community Xmas Trees: Historically Rooted in the Adirondacks
In late July 1934, the average life of Watertown’s Vincent Sparacino took a sudden, drastic turn, becoming anything but humdrum. Vincent was an Italian immigrant who came to America in 1906 when he was 16 years old. The family settled in Watertown and operated Sparacino & Company, a fruit wholesaler that later branched out into vegetables. By the late 1920s Vincent and his brother Tony were partners in the business with other family members. Vince was a hands-on guy, frequently driving a delivery truck to customer sites around the city.
On many days after finishing work and taking supper, he drove to a nearby grocery store, parked outside, sat in the front passenger seat, and played the car radio. His good friend of many years, Patsy Carbone, ran the store, and whenever there was free time, Patsy came out to visit. [Read more…] about Watertown’s Ketchup Murder Case
The word hero is often tossed around loosely, but when it comes to wounded soldiers, no one argues that it’s fitting — so what does it say about someone else when wounded soldiers call them heroes? Consider American women during World War I. Although many wanted to, they didn’t have to serve because of their sex, and could support the troops by important actions at home. But some chose to place themselves near the front lines, and with no weapons to defend themselves. Their only protection came from nebulous agreements by both sides not to bomb hospitals and care centers.
That’s what nurses did, risking their lives to comfort, save the lives of, or ease the deaths of, soldiers. Which explains why so many wounded men referred to nurses as the real heroes. A fine example of that circumstance, with an unusual twist or two, involved Ruth Williams of Ogdensburg. [Read more…] about Ruth Williams: A World War One Nurse Overseas
Artistry — in terms of painting, drawing, sketching, etc. — escapes me. While I admire and enjoy it, the combination of vision, creativity, and especially ability seems foreign, even though I lived with it while growing up. Through learning to read and constantly employing skills in that area, I gradually developed a certain comfort in the world of words, but none of it came to me magically, which is how I viewed the artistic capabilities of two of my siblings: without any lessons or instructions, they could just do it. [Read more…] about John Casilear’s Love Affair with Lake George
This appears to be the easiest North Country riddle ever, but humor me and give it a try anyway. What is very tall, very hairy, probably didn’t smell very good, and set tongues wagging when it was seen in the northern Adirondacks several times in early 1933? Just to be safe, take a moment and think about it. Hey, you never know — it could be a trick question. But if you’re still stumped or not certain of your answer, here’s another clue that might prove the clincher: it was known for having very large (OK … BIG) feet.
If you answered anything other than Gil Reichert, you’ve been successfully misled. No apologies here, though, for the description above fits both Reichert and your likely choice (Bigfoot) to a T. [Read more…] about Something BIG Was Once Afoot in the Adirondacks
This includes the ongoing question considered by many of my Adirondack friends and acquaintances who are authors: should I sell printed copies, or is it better to go digital with e-books? Or maybe a combination of the two? It’s an issue I’ve addressed here in years past, particularly in 2013 and 2014 when the e-book explosion rocked the industry, leading many experts and non-experts alike to conclude that the end for printed books was clearly in sight. [Read more…] about Local Writers: Latest E-book and Print Trends
An oldies channel recently played an old favorite of mine from the past: “Signs,” which originated with a Canadian group in 1971, the Five Man Electrical Band. A line of the song called to mind a rather interesting hike from long ago. The second stanza begins with, “And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight,” a lyric reminiscent of certain signs that once caused me more than a little consternation.
In the late 1970s, while exploring the fringes of a unique natural area in Clinton County, I found myself on a very old, rocky, uneven road that crossed both state and private land. The owners of the private land, according to my map, had taken liberties with their property claims, planting some of their posted signs on state-owned land. [Read more…] about A Little North Country Sign Humor
History credits the discovery of uranium to a German chemist, Martin Henrich Klaproth, in 1789. In 1896, just over a century later, a French chemist, Eugene-Melchior Peligot, discovered uranium’s radioactivity. Uranium ore, known as pitchblende, was revealed shortly after by Marie and Pierre Curie as the source of radium, which they mentioned as a possible future treatment for cancer.
Polish born Marie, (her name was Sklowdowska) was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, and the first person to win twice — in 1903, in physics, for her work on radiation, and in 1911, in chemistry, for discovering polonium and radium. Only she and Linus Pauling have won in two different fields. (She also developed the practical use for x-rays that dramatically enhanced patient care on the battlefields of World War I). [Read more…] about Marie Curie Once Visited the North Country