Born: 1895, in Ray Brook

Died: 1980

Married: Lillian Duprey, December 7, 1918

Children: Norris, Violet Doty, Arthur, Nathan V., Lillian Lange, Russell ("Bugs"), Patricia Beaulieu

Arthur L. Pratt was a World War I Veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy as a trainer on the fleet maneuver ship U.S.S. New Jersey. He was the custodian of the River Street School from 1943 until his retirement in 1960. He is especially remembered for creating "The Slide" of snow and ice and a skating rink on the school playground for the children. He is buried in Pine Ridge Cemetery.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 23, 1978 (quoted extensively in Howard Riley's column of December 23, 2017)

An embodiment of the true holiday spirit, Arthur Pratt spent a lifetime giving to others.

Seventeen years of River Street School pupils, teachers and parents have one sum indelibly engraved on their memories:

Mr. Pratt + Winter = The Slide

Arthur Pratt, custodian of the River Street School from 1943 to his retirement in 1960, was according to retired Principal Mrs. Albert (Bertha) Pozzi, ‘far, far, more than a custodian. He was a friend to all the teachers and a father to the children. I think he unzipped more stuck zippers and got more children ready for class than any other single person. He taught them to garden, and he made them a skating rink … and The Slide.’

Assigned to River Street School as custodian after two years under Superintendent of Grounds Lawrence Sweatt at the high school, Pratt took over in 1943 and was immediately faced with one of the North Country’s most vicious winters.

For three nights and three days, as many remember, temperatures remained 30 below and then rose to the -10’s for two weeks. The new custodian brought in a cot and lived in the school basement to make sure the old furnace didn’t flicker out during the night on its wartime allotment of fuel.

As temperatures rose, and penned in pupils became restless, the late Miss Edna Cook, then principal, begged, ‘Oh, Mr. Pratt, couldn’t you do something to keep them occupied? Make a little skating rink or something?’

Mr. Pratt made a very small rink that year in the backyard.

‘The ground tilted too badly to make it larger, but they loved it. In the spring the children brought shovels and we worked hard together leveling that yard. Next winter we had an oval.’

The third winter he had a big rink all over the play yard. Everyone was skating after that; the school basement was filled with skates ‘Then,’ he adds modestly, ‘I made them The Slide.’

Teachers and parents remember this skating rink vividly.

‘There’s where a lot of our best speed skaters got their start,’ claims Mrs. Gordon Partridge, an ex-River Street room mother, ‘Jimmy LaFountain, Irene Foster, Norman Johnson and Elaine Smith. That school was the envy of the whole community with the rink and The Slide.’

Pratt was a natural leader of children

 ‘Pratt was a natural leader of children, Mrs. Pozzi recalls, ‘a friendly, happy man who had something going with them every free minute. There was no discipline problem when he was around.’

An enthusiastic gardener himself, Pratt started the children on a Victory Garden beside the school, choosing such plants as lettuce, radishes and cucumbers which would grow quickly. A different class was let out for a period each day to work in the garden, with the children learning to sow, weed, cultivate and harvest.

The produce was served in the school cafeteria to the pride and enjoyment of all.

‘The children helped him with the flower gardens too,’ Mrs. Pozzi relates, ‘and he tied the planting in with our classes in elementary science. All around the school there were beautiful flowers. The kindergarteners had their special garden of sweet peas along the play yard fence. They were a lovely sight from the school cafeteria.’

‘They had a great time,’ Pratt says, ‘ and a lot of them have nice gardens at their homes today. Little Mary Partridge was especially good. She worked in a greenhouse when she grew up and I think I was the one who got her started.’

“Little Mary,” now Mrs. John Peria, Jr., agrees that it was Pratt who cultivated her passion for flowers. ‘Oh, Mr. Pratt!’ she exclaims, ‘he made us the slide.’

The slide

The Slide, outstandingly treasured in the memories of all River Streeters of its era, was a little Bobrun the children slide down on piece of cardboard.

As soon as the first flake fell, Pratt began to pile the snow; higher and higher and longer and longer. There were no mechanical scoops to help; he did it all by hand, shovel load after shovel load.

Excitement grew in River Street School. A snowy day; wow! A thawing day; ugh.

At last the packed snow was high enough, and Pratt began to scoop out a slide in the middle, banking it at turns, fashioning long runs of speed.

“All this time,” Mrs. Pozzi recalls, ‘everyone was saving cardboard. He insisted they use cardboard so they wouldn’t wear out their clothes. We all brought boxes to school.’

Finally Pratt, choosing as bitterly cold a night as he could, ‘stayed up most of the night,’ Mrs. Partridge relates, ‘icing The Slide with water. The first day of the Slide was a Big Day at River Street.’

Pratt kept The Slide open as long as possible, weather permitting. Everyone had fun on it, especially the little ones. Nobody had to own skates or be able to balance.

 ‘What a friend he was to the teachers!’ Mrs. Pozzi recalls. Nothing was too much for Mr. Pratt…he gave us all the help we wanted and never grumbled and, of course, at holiday time with the room decorations we were all after him.’ ”

Mr. Pratt Retires

...Pratt crowned his final winter at River Street School with not only the skating rink and The Slide, but by teaching the children how to build an ice palace.

On his retirement, in the school decorated by his pupils’ bright gardens, the teachers gave a reception, he recalls…’it was a wonderful party’…surrounded by teachers Mrs. Pozzi, Mrs. Lenore Bouyea, Mrs. Les Carr, Mrs. Francis Coughlin, Mrs. Tuffield Latour, Mrs. Sidney Smith, Miss Marjorie Reed and Miss Irene Ross; the cook, Mrs. Marilda Robare, Superintendent of Schools Donald Walker and Mr. Sweatt. He received a purse of $100 gathered in pennies, nickels and dimes by the children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

He was born in Ray Brook in 1895; served in the United States Navy in World War I as a trainer on the fleet maneuver ship U.S.S. New Jersey. He married Lillian Duprey on Dec. 7, 1918 and had seven children: Norris, Violet, Arthur, Nathan, Lillian, Russell and Patricia. Mrs. Pratt died on their 58th wedding anniversary, Dec. 7, 1976.