Aug 31, 2013

Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley...

Even as a kid I had a passion for old cars.  I attended local automobile club meets and longed for the day that I'd get my first car.  My brother Bill and I worked at a gas station one block from Union College, so we got to work on lots of student cars (remember, Service Stations actually serviced cars in those days).  As a result, we got to work on lots of Model A Fords, which were cheap and plentiful in the early fifties, and owned by many students.  It wasn't long before Bill and I were the "go-to" guys if you needed your Model A rewired or repaired or overhauled.  In addition to our regular job at Louis Brzoza's College Garage, we had a pretty lucrative backyard business working on Model A's.

One weekend Bill and I attended a meet of the Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley, known more commonly to its members as simply "AUHV."  I joined the club that very day (probably in 1952) and remained a member for many years.  It was a remarkable and very energetic club.  It had been founded in Troy, New York, in 1950, by a gentleman named Keith Marvin and a group of his car-loving friends.  The stated aims of the club were ecumenical compared to many of the one-marque organization: "
The AUHV (Automobilists of the Upper Hudson Valley) is an organization of persons interested in the collection, restoration, preservation and operation of antique, classic, special interest and sports cars. The Club encourages an interest in automobiles, their construction, design, history and related subjects, and discourages actions or philosophies detrimental to these aims."

As a result of the club's open mindedness, the variety of cars that showed up on any given weekend was remarkable.  One might find a relatively recent MG-TC sports car parked next to Pauline Snook's gargantuan 1915 Crane Simplex.  There were always an abundance of Model T's and Model A's as well as a generous sprinkling of early brass-era cars and heavy classics.

The members whom I particularly remember are:
Arthur Lee Homan, who, along with Keith Marvin, published a book entitled "The Cars of 1923," so chosen because that year produced more different brands and manufacturers than any other.  This book is a scholarly text with drawings and detailed information about dozens of American automobiles manufactured during the 1923 model year.  There are over well over 150 manufacturers represented -- a great resource for anyone interested in the 1923 model year.  Mr. Homan was a frequent contributor to the club's magazine, "The Automobilist," and published a history of the Moller Automobile Company, manufacturers of the Dagmar car, in 1960.

Keith Marvin
Keith Marvin -- Keith was the editor of the Troy Record newspaper and a walking encyclopedia of automobile-related information.  He was an Army veteran of World War II and worked as a staff and faculty member of the Hoosac School in Hoosick New York from 1944 to 1948.  Upon his induction into the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) Hall of Fame, part of the citation read, "Keith was a fancier of early Rolls-Royce automobiles and wrote extensively on the pleasures associated with owning one.  Keith was a member of: The Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) and President in 1986 and 1987, Antique Automobile Club of AmericaClassic Car Club of America, Co-founder of The Automobilists of the Upper Hudson ValleyEuroplateThe H.H. Franklin ClubThe New Brunswick Antique Auto ClubThe Rolls-Royce Owners' ClubThe Sir Henry Royce Memorial Fund, Honorary member of The Stutz Club, the Horseless Carriage FoundationVeteran Motor Car Club of America, Board member of Larz Anderson museum in Boston, Voitures Anciennes du Quebec, VFW, Sons of the American Revolution, Mary Warren Institute and the Willys-Knight-Overland Registry.  

 wrote or co-wrote seven books and published more than 3000 articles on automotive history, including feature articles, news items, obituaries, and book reviews for more than 70 publications.  He was a guest columnist for the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) newsletters and Roger Haynes' Tags'n'Stuff.  He was the recipient of the Peter Helck Memorial Trophy in 2003, the Byron C. Hull award for automotive history in 1962 and the Carl Benz Award from the SAH in 1985 as well as several awards for research and writing from the AACA.  Keith believed in simple easy to read license plates and was not an advocate of the optional graphic types.  He was a champion of the obscure makes of American cars of the 1920s.  His writings comprise in many cases the only written record of a forgotten period."  

To say that Keith was a "joiner" is an understatement!

One of the Snooks' Crane-Simplex automobiles,
now in a Maine museum

Pauline B. Snook
-- Pauline and her husband Frank lived in Schodack Center, New York, where Frank had an automobile repair shop.  They were both avid fans of large, luxurious, pre-World War I autos.  Among their cars were several very rare Crane-Simplex vehicles that the Snooks had rounded up and saved from the scrap heap starting in the 1930s.  Pauline was quite a mechanic herself and fearlessly attended meets driving one of the enormous Simplexes.  We often formed caravans to drive to meet locations, and I recall more than once Pauline's huge vehicle bringing up the rear with a prominent sign on its stern, "Antique Car Caravan - Caution - Do Not Pass - We Pull Over Often."  When we arrived at our destination, a common sight was that of Pauline covering one of the huge running boards with a table cloth and carefully placing the contents of a large picnic basket as she sat down to enjoy her lunch.

Bruce Armer sets up the
"Mother-in-law Seat"
on a 1904 Pierce Stanhope,
1 cylinder, 8 H.P.
4-passenger Runabout

Bruce Armer
-- Bruce was an engineer who worked at the General Electric Company in Schenectady.  Over the years, I recall Bruce owning a number of different early cars and he was a fellow who offered his help to many different members of the club.  Remarkably, our paths crossed many years later in an event that I described in an earlier blog entry.

Hollon B. "Bob" Avery -- Bob Avery had two sons who were close to my age and he took me under his wing when I joined the club.  One of the cars I own today is a 1948 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet.  Bob had one identical to mine for a long time before it was destroyed in a fire.  He certainly influenced my decision to buy the car I have.  He also had a beautifully restored 1914 Model T Ford touring car that we often took to meets.  He would come by the house and pick me up and later drop me off.  When I was somewhat older, Bob went back to the home where he'd grown up in New Hampshire and retrieved the remnants of a 1932 Model B Ford convertible coupe that he had owned when he left for the navy during World War II.  Regardless of the car's decrepit condition, Bob proceeded to perform a miraculous restoration which turned the car into a national prize winner.  He left the upstate New York area and we lost touch, but many years later made contact again through the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club.  After we made contact again, Margo and I visited Bob and his wife Marjorie a couple of times in their retirement home in Glasgow, Kentucky.

A 1931 Packard Series 840 exactly
like Owen Fraking's
Owen Fraking -- Owen was a Packard lover.  He acquired a small stable of very elegant and beautifully crafted cars, every one a Packard.  And he drove them.  And he was a man who offered to help any club member who needed assistance with anything mechanical.  One of his cars (my favorite, as a matter of fact) was a long-wheelbase 1931 Packard Series 840 DeLuxe Eight Sport Phaeton.  That very car, having passed through a few other caretakers since Owen's death in 2000, was sold at auction in 2010 for $198,000.  Owen certainly had good taste at a time when a decent 1930's Packard could be had for a few thousand dollars.
A 1929 Mercedes SSK exactly like Earl's

Earl Pfannebecker
-- Earl lived in Latham, New York, only about 15 miles from my home.  His house, an old rambling farmhouse, looked as if it had seen better days.  But crouched next to it was a gorgeous, state-of-the-art, climate controlled, 10-car garage.  He owned a number of very exotic and valuable cars.  In the early 1950's, he imported the first 1929 Mercedes SSK to be brought to the USA.  This was 
the last car designed for Mercedes-Benz by Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own company.  It was a stunning car and a huge hit whenever he drove it to a meet.  His car was written up in the Salon section of Road and Track magazine and they described it thus: "This car is the owner of Mr. Earl Pfannebecker of Latham, New York."  I also recall Earl's Cord L-29 Cabriolet, another magnificent machine.  And a search for Earl's name on Google today reveals that he owned Serial No. 66 of the Ferrari Series 375 plus.  I don't know what Earl did for a living, but he must have been very good at it to have been able to afford such a fabulous stable of fine vehicles.

Peter Helck in his studio
Peter Helck -- Mr. Helck was an internationally recognized artist who was perhaps best known for his automotive art, although he produced prodigious amounts of illustrations, advertising art, and what we today would call "fine art."  He was a very close friend of Keith Marvin.  Peter Helck was the proud owner of the 1906 Locomobile speedster known as "Old 16" that, as a youngster, he had seen win the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island.  As he described in his memoir, "Another factor in shaping future art objectives was the 1906 Vanderbilt Race. Here I saw my new-found friend Poole crouched beside driver Tracy in booming flight down the oil-soaked North Hempstead Turnpike. Who could have guessed that the 13-year old witnessing his first auto race would many years later own this very car, the Bridgeport-built Locomobile widely known now as 'Old 16'."  

On one occasion, I had driven with my brother to an AUHV meet in Altamont, New York.  It was raining cats and dogs and 
Old 16
attendance was low.  Suddenly, everyone's attention turned to the thundering behemoth plowing through the muddy fairground.  It was Keith Marvin wearing a rain-drenched slicker, replete with bevel-paneled aviator goggles and a leather helmet, driving Peter Helck's car, Old 16.  He stopped directly in front of me and motioned me into the other bucket seat, the navigator/mechanic's seat.  I climbed in and off we roared for a few laps around the old fairgrounds dirt track.  And times being what they were, I doubt if a single soul there gave the slightest thought to liability or any of the other reasons that today would probably make that joyous scene very unlikely.

The club was an energetic, friendly, and competent organization.  They knew how to party, but they were also sincerely dedicated to the restoration and preservation of historical vehicles.  I ran across an old newspaper article about one of the club's meets.  Note below the variety of cars represented - from Fords to Ferrari -- and distance people drove to participate.  It exemplifies the broad areas of interest that existed in the club and the lack of parochialism that unfortunately pervades many more recent car clubs.  Very few members even owned a trailer.  It was unheard of to trailer a car to a meet.

The Amsterdam Evening Recorder, on October 13, 1959, described a meet held by the AUHV the previous Saturday in Broadalbin, New York.  "Attending the meet Sunday with their antique or sports  model cars were Virgil Clow, Greenville, 1931  Ford; George Scokol, Scotia, 1929 Ford; George Bornt, Amsterdam, 1935 Terraplane; Anthony Sifo,  Schenectady, 1937 Cadillac; G. Shenandoah, Syracuse, 1938 Jaguar; James Zimmer, Syracuse, 1959  Chevrolet Corvette; Bob Sharp, Schenectady, 1953 Jaguar; Owen Fraking, Schenectady, 1932  Packard; Bernard Schaeffer, East Greenbush, 1926 Dodge Brothers;  Harold Elmendorf, Gloversville,  1923 Ford; M. W. Jewett, Schenectady, 1931 Ford; H. Bradford Albany, 1928 Pontiac; Ernest Bundy,  Cobleskill, 1926 Rolls Royce; Bruce Armer, Selkirk, 1932 Hupmobile; Vernon Magee, Oak Hill, 1917 Dodge; John Gerken, Scotia, 1922 Studebaker.

Walker LaRowe, Northville, 1922 Hudson Phaeton; Fred Soule, Hudson, 1949 Willys Jeepster; Pauline Gypsum, Albany, 1930 Buick; Harvey Gallagher, Amsterdam, 1920 Model T; Gus Elliot, 1923 Model T; Edward Sutton, Duanesburg, 1927 Model T; Charles Rothermel, Kinderhook, 1926 Ford; Sam Napoli, Troy, 1924 Dodge Brothers, Roger Chase, Syracuse, 1924 Model T; Clayton Thomas, Bovine Center, 1941 Packard; Kenneth Watkins, 1916 Buick; H. Cole, Ballston, 1930 Chevrolet; Robert Elmendorf, Johnstown, 1929 Ford A; William Tanner, Johnstown, 1930 Ford A; Douglas Maidment, Gloversville, 1930 Model A; Pauline Snook, Castleton, 1915 Crane-Simplex; Earl Pfannebecker, 1931 Rolls Royce.

George Herold, Schenectady, 1929 Graham Paige; Morris Safford, Guilderland Center, 1923 Model T ; David Ormiston, Gloversville, 1915 Model T; James Cook, Gloversville, 1931 Franklin; R. J. Dunham, West Glenville, 1922 Jewett; Robert Mehl, Ballston, 1941 Packard; John Englis, Broadalbin, 1959 Volkswagen; H. Lee, 1951 Ferrari-Vignale; Ronald Kosinski, Broadalbin, 1929 Ford Club Sedan."

Aug 26, 2013

Great Find...

Sunday was part of “Restaurant Week” in and around Huntsville.  Mary Ann and I had decided to go out for an early Sunday afternoon dinner (or late lunch) at one of the many local restaurants that were running promotional specials.  We decided on a barbecue place that we’d never visited, the New Market Barbecue in New Market, Alabama.  We were very pleasantly surprised.
We each ordered a pulled pork plate with ribs as our second meat.  This included two sides and a dessert.  We tried the smoked mac and cheese (honest!) and cole slaw.  Mary Ann had the chocolate pie and I had the peanut butter pie as our desserts.  I also got a sampling of their brisket to try.  Everything was very good.  The meats were moist and tender.  The meat was falling off the ribs.  The side orders were tasty, fresh, and generously served.  The desserts, all home made in house, were wonderful.  The provided sauces were OK, but I prefer a wider variety of sauces than I saw.

The young man who waited on us was friendly and very helpful, recognizing that we were new and not familiar with the menu.  While we were eating, one of the owners, Libby Webb, came by to welcome us and make sure we had gotten everything we needed.  She was bubbly and outgoing and very enthusiastic.

We will definitely go back.  As a special bonus, they were running a giveaway for folks who “liked” them on Facebook.  I entered and got an email after we got home notifying me that I had won third place – a large bottle of their special Barbecue Rub.

Aug 25, 2013

Farmers' Woes...

The 1932 Model PB Plymouth in front of a non-blooming cotton field
Today I took my 81-year-old 1932 Plymouth business coupe for a little early morning jaunt.  We cruised around the neighborhood past corn, soybeans, cattle, horses, and cotton fields.  It was partly cloudy and about 70 degrees.  Because of all the rain we've had in July and August, everything is uncharacteristically green and lush.  Mary Ann read in the paper that the wet weather may be disastrous for the cotton farmers.  Apparently it delays the formation of the flowers, which in turn delays the formation of the cotton bolls.  The Florence (AL) Times-Daily reported on the situation recently:
"Fewer farmers in northwest Alabama have grown cotton in recent years because of increased costs and unstable prices at harvest time. Franklin County farmer Thomas Murray said he still grows some cotton on his 1,250-acre operation “because I’ve always had good luck with it.” He also grows wheat, corn and soybeans.
“This has been the coolest and wettest year I’ve been around in more than 30 years,” Murray said. “The weather has been mean to the cotton crop. We were 30 to 45 days late getting it in. We usually have it planted in April, but it was May this year because it was cold and wet. We just haven’t had the 95- and 100-degree heat we need for cotton, either.”

Murray said his cotton crop yielded about three bales per acre last year. “This year I hope to make a bale per acre,” he said."

Aug 7, 2013

Soap Box Derby...

I visited my friend Dan Shady the other day.  He had just come back from a trip to Georgia with his grandson Daniel.  While driving through south Georgia, they spotted something at an antique store that they had to bring back.  See for yourself.  A vintage Soap Box Derby car.  Ultimately, it will hang from the ceiling of Dan's shop.

Aug 3, 2013

Vacation Time!!!

I suppose this vacation really began the first time I encountered the Dry Branch Fire Squad on YouTube.  That occurred when I was working at Sikorsky Aircraft in 2006.  I fell in love with their music.  And eventually I figured out that they put on their own music festival, the Grey Fox Festival, held each year in July in upstate New York.  Several months ago, I mentioned to Mary Ann that I'd love to go to that festival some time.  Before long, we were planning a trip to upstate New York centered around the festival.  We got airline tickets using frequent flyer miles.  Mary Ann found a rental cottage very close to the music venue.  We reserved a rental car for the week.  We even planned to go into New York City one day to attend a play and go to a nice restaurant.  Everything was falling into place.

We were scheduled to travel to Albany on Sunday, July 14.  As we left for the airport that morning, we had two large suitcases, each weighing in at nearly (but not over!) 50 pounds.

The Cartilator at the World's Largest Wal-Mart!
 We also had carry-on bags with our personal items, medicines, iPad and computer.  We were ready!  And everything ran on time.  We arrived in Albany in late afternoon, installed the GPS in the rental car (Hyundai Sonata -- surprisingly nice!) and headed out to find a Wal-Mart to stock up on groceries.  What we encountered was the t
he largest Walmart in the U.S. covering 260,000 square feet and two floors, located in Crossgates Commons in Albany, New York.  They had escalators between the two floors and a "cartilator" to move the carts up and down.  You put your cart on this gizmo, get on the escalator, and your cart arrives shortly after you step off the escalator.  It's magic!

Thank goodness for GPS.  By the time we had gotten our groceries, it was getting dark.  I programmed the GPS with the address of the cottage.  We headed in the general direction of Oak Hill, New York, population 376.  The roads in upstate New York follow the contours of the land.  These roads evolved from horse paths and carriageways.  They don't go in a straight line.  We wound our way on ever smaller roads, eventually lacking even a stripe.  But the trusted GPS got us to the rented cottage.  We unpacked the necessities, got the groceries stowed, fired up the small air conditioner, and retired for the night.

I had noticed when we entered the cottage that it smelled as though it had been smoked in.  That was a warning sign.  By morning, Mary Ann was having difficulty breathing.  She was having an allergic reaction to something in the cottage.  We didn't take time to figure out what the allergen might have been.  We packed our stuff, loaded the car, left a message for the landlady, and headed back to Albany to find a more suitable accommodation.  On the way, we drove by the site of the music festival to make sure we could find it later in the week.  The place was a bustle of activity, with staff and volunteers putting the finishing touches on months of preparation. We ended up at a Marriott Courtyard in the medical district, close to the interstate, clean, and non-allergenic.  Problem solved.

We had finished our relocation by late morning, so we went out to find some lunch.  Using Urban Spoon as our guide, we happened upon Delma's Diner.  What a great surprise.  I later wrote a review on Urban Spoon that tells the story: "While on a vacation in upstate New York, my wife and I found Delma's Diner because it was fairly close to our hotel. We encountered Becky, the world's greatest greeter and server. She alone would have made this a memorable meal. But wait, there's more! The food was terrific. First of all the menu is gargantuan, with Greek, Italian, Mexican, and American selections. Over the next several days, we returned 5 more times and never ordered the same items. Everything was exquisite, with generous portions of very good food. I only wish Delma's were closer to my home! Give this place a definite Thumb Up! (Try the Reuben; you won't regret it.)"

After leaving the diner, I suggested we try to find the USS Slater, a World War II Destroyer Escort.  I served on a similar ship in 1964-65 and have known about the Slater for many years.  It is on the National Registry of Historic Sites and is open to the public as a museum ship.  Most impressively, it is the last ship of this class remaining afloat.  The hulls of the DE's, built for a maximum of a couple years of service, are only 3/8" thick.  It's quite remarkable that this ship, launched in 1944 (She'll be 70 next year.) is still intact.

USS Slater (DE-766) -- Afloat in Albany
Again, using the GPS, we found the museum ship.  Mary Ann stayed in the air-conditioned car while I approached the ship.  The signage indicated that it was only open to the public Wednesday through Sunday.  Nonetheless, I went into a "ship's store" on the pier and spoke with a young lady, explaining that I had served aboard a similar DE.  She informed me that I could go aboard and she summoned Tim Rizzuto, the Executive Director of the Museum Foundation that operates the site and coordinates restoration efforts.  Tim was there in a flash, introduced himself and said I could have the run of the ship but asked me to be careful as I wandered through the vessel. There were several people engaged in restoration work evident as I walked aboard.  I mentioned to Tim that I had been Chief Engineer and Executive Officer of the USS Maloy (DE-791), so he immediately
A volunteer working on a Slater main engine
recruited one of the engineering restorers to escort me belowdecks.  Over the next couple of hours, I received the grand tour.  The restoration work, done completely by volunteers, is remarkable.  I met one gentleman, Clark Farnsworth, who has been working on the ship every week for the last 13 years.  He is 91 years young!  They have a very dedicated robust volunteer organization.  It was a wonderful experience, visiting a ship that brought back many fond memories.  I appreciate the efforts of these hard-working volunteers.

After we bid farewell to the Slater, we drove to Schenectady, the city I was born and raised in.  It's only about 15 miles from Albany.  We first drove to 849 Union Street to see the house where I was raised.  Mary Ann had never been to upstate New York, so I wanted to share the Schenectady scene with her.  The old homestead looked better than the last time I saw it, but still is in need of some serious TLC.  It currently serves as a children's counseling center.  It's hard for me to realize that the house, completed in 1902, is well over 100 years
St. John's Church
old.  We drove around the neighborhood as I pointed out where several of my friends lived, where I pumped gas as a kid, some of the architectural highlights, etc.  We then proceeded to the Church of St. John the Evangelist.

St. John's was the church that dominated my early life.  We lived only a couple blocks away, so I went to Mass there, attended the school, served as an altar boy, sang in the choir, and was a member of the boy scout troop.  The building dominates the neighborhood.  Much to my disappointment, as I attempted to take Mary Ann into the church to show her its spectacular interior, I discovered that the building was locked!  I guess it's a sad commentary on the state of our society that we have to lock a place of worship.  We moved on.

Union College (now Union University) is directly across the street from St. John's church.  We drove through the Payne Gate (named for John Howard Payne, who wrote "Home Sweet Home") and cruised around the formerly all-men's campus.  This was my childhood playground, as it was one short block from my home.  I pointed out a few of the academic buildings and some of the fraternity houses.  This short tour brought us to the GE Realty
Homes in the GE plot
Plot.  This unique neighborhood is well described in Wikipedia: "Originally an undeveloped tract owned by the college, it was sold to General Electric (GE) at the end of the 19th century to help the college pay off a debt. The company's executives subdivided it, laid out streets according to a plan inspired by New York's Central Park and built houses on the land, with covenants requiring a minimum lot size and house value. Two of them were among the first fully electric houses in the U.S., used as models by GE. Also settling in the neighborhood were some local businessmen and politicians, and the research scientists who worked at the company's research laboratory a short distance away. They were collectively responsible for over 400 patents. Some of the key events in their research happened within the Plot, as many took things home to work on."

The Stockade District
The next stop was the Stockade District, a section of Schenectady rebuilt shortly after the village was burned by the Iroquois in 1698.  Many of the old buildings, some over 300 years old, are still being lived in.  We drove through the area and then along Front Street to see if my youthful "Watering Hole" was still there.  It is and is apparently thriving.  Then we proceeded to the Mont Pleasant area of town to visit the site of my high school which looked exactly as I remembered it.  Enough of the old home town.  We returned to Albany for a quiet dinner and much-needed rest.

Tuesday we had decided would be the day to visit Lake George and other sites to the north of Albany.  From 1940 until 1948, my family spent the month of August in a rented cottage on Basin Bay at Lake George.  I wanted to show Mary Ann the Adirondack Mountains and there’s no better way to do it than to drive through them.
The Grandstand and Clubhouse at Saratoga Racetrack

We left Albany around ten o’clock and headed to Saratoga Springs.  This year marks the 150th season of horse racing at Saratoga and the season was scheduled to open the next Saturday after our visit.  We drove to the Visitor’s Center in the central shopping area and got some maps and information.  We drove around town to look at many of the spectacular old homes (There was lots of money in Saratoga!).  Looking for a place to eat, we bypassed a little sandwich shop that had no air conditioning, drove to a place that was closed, and finally settled on Shirley’s Restaurant.  We had a decent, but not great, meal.

We headed back into town to drive around the neighborhood of the race track.  I wanted Mary Ann to have an opportunity to see the clubhouse, built in the 19th century.  We drove around the area of the track, bustling with activity – dozens of trucks and horse trailers, horses on the training tracks, groundskeepers at work, and plenty of spectators there to take in the proceedings.  Once we had seen the sights we got back on Interstate 87, the “Adirondack Northway,” and headed for Lake George.  

A cottage similar to the one
my family rented on Basin Bay
We exited just south of Lake George Village and drove north on Route 9N, a 2-lane mainstay also known as Lake Shore Drive.  I was looking for the road that would turn off to the right and go by the house my family used to rent.  I asked Mary Ann to be on the lookout for “Basin Bay Road,” hoping there might be a marker.  We passed a number of vaguely familiar landmarks – Trinity Rock, Still Bay, The Moorings, the Lake George Club, and Diamond Point.  I finally said, “It’s got to be along here somewhere.  It might be called ‘Cotton Point Road,’” remembering the name of the point that defined Basin Bay.  Within a few hundred yards, I made a sharp turn onto Cotton Point Road.  I’m sure I scared the driver who was tailgating us.  We drove along the edge of the bay and it looked exactly as I remember it from the 1940’s.  I pointed out to Mary Ann the cabin that I believe we knew as “The Birches.”  We turned around and headed back north to the small settlement of Bolton Landing.

The spectacular Sagamore Hotel in Bolton Landing
Bolton Landing was where we grocery shopped and picked up our mail when we lived at the lake.  It’s grown but still looks like a lazy tourist town.  We spied an ice cream store, parked and went inside for a cooling break.  As we sat eating our ice cream cones, we overheard a family next to us talking about Fort Ticonderoga.  Mary Ann asked how far that was.  We concluded that it was about 40 miles north, so of course we decided to go there.  We continued on Route 9N past the Sagamore Hotel, a stunning Victorian landmark that was, during the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, the Jewish hotel at a time when anti-Jewish prejudice was alive and well in upstate New York.
The Inn at the Silver Bay retreat
We drove north past the uphill side of rattlesnake-infested Tongue Mountain, past Sabbath Day Point (what a great name!), and Bass Bay.  I turned right on the road to the “Silver Bay Association” just to show this place to Mary Ann.  According to Wikipedia, it began as a farmhouse, and in the 1890s it was expanded and became a lodge capable of supporting 80-100 people.   In 1897, Silas Paine, a Standard Oil executive, vacationed at the resort and decided to buy a portion of land adjacent to the property.  By 1898, Silas had a large resort addition linked to the original house, and during 1900 and 1901 he added several cottages to the complex.  The structure was bought by the YMCA in 1904, and assumed its final, well-preserved form during expansions between 1925 and 1926 under the supervision of architect William E. Clark.  The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

We continued north toward Ticonderoga, passing The Hague and the Roger’s Rock Campground.  Unfortunately, we arrived at the site of Fort Ticonderoga too late to take the tour.  They had closed their gates for the day.  I suggested we take a different, somewhat straighter, more direct route back to Albany – Route 22, which coincidentally goes through Whitehall, New York, the city where my mother’s family lived.  I had never driven this section of Route 22 before, but as I tried to picture where I was in relation to Whitehall, it dawned on me that we would be driving right past the farmhouse where my great uncle Robert Neddo (after whom I’m named) had lived.  The GPS helped me realize when we were approaching the South Bay of Lake Champlain, and sure enough, there was Uncle Bob’s house.

The sign on the Neddo Cemetery
I asked Mary Ann to watch out for Neddo Street as we approached Whitehall.  I thought that the Neddo family cemetery was on that street, and I wanted to take some pictures of gravestones as part of my genealogical research.  We spotted Neddo Street, found the family graveyard, which was unlocked, and I got my pictures.  We continued on without much excitement all the way to Albany, had dinner, and found our hotel, tired but having enjoyed a busy day.  We took time to drive to the railroad station to extend our tickets from Hudson, New York, to Albany, since we had originally planned to catch the train at Hudson.  It also gave us an opportunity to reconnoiter the parking situation at the Albany Amtrak station in preparation for Wednesday’s excursion into the Big Apple.

Wednesday we arose early in order to be at the Rensselaer/Albany Amtrak station by 7:45 to catch the 8:20 train to Penn Station.  This adventure had started a few weeks before when I learned of a play telling the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I had forwarded the information to Mary Ann.  She had called me at work a week ago reminding me that the play, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, was going to be playing in an off-Broadway theater while we were in upstate New York.  We decided to get tickets, take the train to the big city, go to the performance, and have a nice dinner before returning to the capital district.

Amtrak along the old "Water-level Route"
Our train left right on time.  It was clean, modern, and comfortable.  Amtrak uses the rails formerly owned by the New York Central System on this route.  It used to be advertised as the “Water-Level Route.”  It follows the eastern shore of the Hudson River as it winds its way between New York City and Albany.  The views are delightful.  I was able to follow our progress using the GPS function on my iPhone.  Acting as tour guide, I’d let Mary Ann know of every upcoming feature in the river or place of interest.  In a little over 2 hours, we arrived at Penn Station.

San Marino's Breakfast Room,
where we enjoyed a cool lunch
Descending into the subway lines below Penn Station, we caught the E train southbound to Spring Street.  When we rose to street level, it was as if we were hit by a blast furnace.  The heat index at the street was well over 100 degrees.  We could see the SoHo Playhouse from the point where we emerged from the subway, but we were two hours early for the show.  I had researched the local restaurants and suggested we walk around the corner to the San Marino for lunch.  We found it with no trouble and entered the cool relief of air conditioned space.  We were greeted and seated by Miguel, a gentleman who clearly has several years’ experience in the food service industry.  He was an extremely gracious host and made sure that we did not feel in the least bit rushed.  We enjoyed a pleasant, leisurely lunch and remained in the Mediterranean environment of San Marino until show time.  

The cast of "Bill W and Dr. Bob"
We quickly walked around the corner and into the theater.  The SoHo Playhouse seats exactly 168 people.  It is small enough that you feel as if you are immersed in the drama on stage.  It was easy to hear every spoken word.  And the play was extremely moving – well-written, historically accurate, and very well performed.  Both Mary Ann and I were glad we got to see it.

We decided to return to Albany immediately rather than remain in the city to have dinner.  The heat was having an adverse effect on Mary Ann’s breathing and we felt that it was best to get her into an air-conditioned environment as soon as possible.  We took the subway to Penn Station, got our tickets changed to an earlier train, and were soon on our way back north.  We arrived in Albany around 8:00 PM and found a wonderful Iberian restaurant called Barcelona, where we enjoyed a memorable dinner.  We returned to our hotel and didn’t set an alarm.

We awoke Thursday morning, turned on the news, and realized it was going to be another scorcher.  This was a disappointment.  We had planned a vacation in the north so we might enjoy some cooler weather.  Mary Ann is sensitive to the heat.  And here we were, right in the middle of the worst heat wave upstate New York had seen in 11 years!  Mary Ann was still feeling the effects of yesterday’s activities and heat and dust and car fumes and God knows what all.  She indicated that she’d like to take a day of rest to recuperate, but told me that if I wanted to go somewhere and do something by myself, that would be perfectly fine.  In fact, one of the things I’ve talked about for years is to go to some of the roots locations of my ancestors to do some genealogical research and fill in some blanks in my family tree.
I got on line and found the phone number of the Whitehall Historical Society in Whitehall, N.Y.  I called and made arrangements to meet the Town Historian, Ms. Carol Senecal at 10:30 AM at the building where the town archives are stored, 12 Williams Street.

The Griswold Library
I arrived promptly and Ms. Senecal was already there.  The archives are upstairs over the Griswold Public Library, housed in a residential building built in 1855 and donated to the library.  The newspaper office in Whitehall burned to the ground in 1932, destroying all the archived newspapers.  Because of this loss, the historical society has depended heavily on donated scrapbooks that have been meticulously cataloged by volunteers.  I looked through 5"x 7" cards that were organized by surname.  Under the Neddo name, I might see a card that says "Neddo, Eva - Marriage, 1903, See scrapbook 126, page 60."  Ms. Senecal would retrieve the scrapbook stored in an adjacent room and sure enough, on page 60, I would find the newspaper notice I
The "Irish" church
was seeking.  I had brought my camera and photographed relevant cards and newspaper articles.  I spent about three hours on just the Neddo and Archambault names.  After a tour of the other rooms and a thorough explanation of how every item was organized, I bid farewell and drove in the direction of the Irish Catholic church.

Whitehall, like many other cities at the turn of the twentieth century, had churches to serve ethnic groups.  Whitehall had a predominantly French-Canadian church, the Church of Notre Dame de Victoires.  Across town was the predominantly Irish church, Our Lady of Angels.  In recent years, the French church was demolished and the two parishes combined.  The Irish church has been renamed Our Lady of Hope.  I found it open and took some pictures before proceeding up the mountainside overlooking Whitehall to the Skene Manor.
Skene Manor

Skene Manor is a Victorian mansion built in the 1870's by New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph H. Potter.  When I was a child, it was a very elegant and expensive restaurant.  On rare occasions when we visited relatives in Whitehall, my grandmother would 
take us kids to lunch at the Manor.  It is currently undergoing restoration and is once again serving meals, although I did not go inside.  I looked around, took a few pictures, and headed back to Albany to join Mary Ann.

After I returned to the hotel, Mary Ann asked if I might find a drug store and pick up a few items that we needed.  I headed out in search of a CVS pharmacy that my faithful Garmin said was nearby.  It turned out to have disappeared, but in the course of actually locating a drugstore, I found a large mall that included a movie theater and several nice restaurants.  We had actually commented a couple of days before that neither of us had ever eaten at a Cheesecake Factory, and this mall included one of those.  I returned to Mary Ann  after picking up the odds and ends and duly reported the results of my reconnaissance.  We decided that if the heat wave continued, Friday would be a great day for a movie.

Friday dawned with another 95 degree plus forecast.  We decided to hang around the room and read for a few hours, then have a nice early dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, followed by the movie World War Z.  We did exactly that.  The meal was wonderful; the movie not so much.

Saturday was more of the same weatherwise.  The news was all about the effects of the heat wave.  It was obvious we weren't going to be going to a music festival today.  But that wouldn't slow down the Meads!  We decided to visit the Albany Institute of Art and History.  I have always been a fan of the Hudson River School of 19th century art.  According to Wikipedia: " The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains; eventually works by the second generation of artists associated with the school expanded to include other locales, like New England and the Maritimes."  The Albany Institute holds one of the largest collections of Hudson River school works in the world.  In early afternoon, we proceeded downtown and found the gallery.  The display of art was breathtaking.  One of my favorites was Thomas Cole's 
Romantic Landscape with Ruined Tower, shown here:

After leaving the Art Institute, we decided to see another movie!  We returned to the same cineplex we had been to the previous evening and selected The Heat as our movie fare.    This was one of the funniest ("Laugh Out Loud" funny) movies we've seen in years.  The plot is summarized in IMDb as, "An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord."  Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy had us in stitches.  Highly recommended for adults.  The language is a little too salty for the kids.

Sunday was a very nice day with highs in the upper 80's.  We debated driving down to Oak Hill to take in part of the festival (Remember -- the reason we planned this trip?) and decided against it.  We decided to go instead back up to Saratoga to visit the very fine automobile museum located in one of the old plants that was used to bottle the natural sparkling water.  First, we had to pack.  Recently, Mary Ann bought a small, hand-held luggage scale for times like this.  After carefully swapping a few items from one bag to the
One of the beautiful BMWs
other, we got each one to weigh 49 pounds.  The limit without penalty is 50.  We had a light breakfast and headed for Saratoga on this beautiful Sunday.  

The museum was smaller than I expected with a travelling exhibit on the first floor and part of the permanent collection, "The Cars of New York State," on the second floor.  The temporary exhibit was entitled "BMW, the Ultimate Driving Machine."    It is a seven-month major exhibition of significant BMW cars and motorcycles from the 1930's to the present.   It included BMWs ranging from the sporty pre-War 328 roadster – one of the most successful competitors of its day - to the
The 1931 Pierce Arrow
supremely elegant postwar 507, the winged CSL of the 1970's, noted BMW racecars and much more. There were cars from the BMW Museum in Munich and the BMWNA Collection.  
The 2 wheeled BMW’s were compliments of the Nettesheim Museum in Huntington, NY. They were also quite varied from the first R32, R62, an R12 and many more.  The permanent collection included my favorite, a 1931 Pierce Arrow Dual-cowl Phaeton, Charles Lindbergh's 1928 Franklin Airman,  a couple of Maxwell's, and a 1947 Playboy.  We stayed at the museum a couple of hours and then headed for the airport.

The trip home wasn't quite as pleasant as our earlier flights had been.  Because of storms in Atlanta, everything was running late.  We got out of Albany about an hour late and the flight from Atlanta to Huntsville was delayed a couple of hours.  Nonetheless, we slept at home, very tired, but filled with wonderful memories.

And I've been checking out YouTube videos of the Grey Fox Festival.  We would not have survived the intense heat.  Maybe some other time.