From the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 20, 1992

Recalling days of youth in SL

BY BOB KAMPF

The railroad article in the Enterprise's Adirondack Park Centennial issue brought back some fond memories to me. In the winter of 1932/33 my aunt, my cousin and myself took a weekend excursion by train from Grand Central Station to Saranac Lake. The round trip fare was $7! No, that's not a misprint, it was $7 round trip. And there were no added taxes or fees, just $7 in the old large bills. I doubt many people today have ever seen these much larger bills used for currency until the U.S. went off the gold standard in 1939 when the present smaller ones came into use.

Now back to the train. We left Grand Central Station in New York City about 7 p.m., got to Utica/Remsen about 1:30 pm. The train had 12 or 13 cars on it and at Remsen two locomotives were attached, necessary to climb the grade into the Central Adirondacks. They chugged and puffed up to the high spot at Big Moose (elevation 2,100 feet, I believe). From there we moved much faster to Tupper Lake, Lake Clear Junction and finally to Saranac Lake in time for breakfast at the Miss Saranac Diner on Bloomingdale Avenue. Remember it? Who could forget!

Being right next door we stopped in for a visit after breakfast with our old friend Seon (Dubby) Dyer, public stenographer in the Hotel St. Regis. Seon was one of the world's greatest Mahjong players.

Now for a bit of family history. My aunt, Augusta Smith, lived in Saranac Lake from 1909 to 1926, and my cousin, Dorothea (our family historian) was born in Saranac Lake. They lived at 19 Bloomingdale Avenue, just in front of where the Elks is now. The Mullen grocery store was right next door. Church Street Extension wasn't there then, only being built later, connecting Main Street with Bloomingdale Avenue. However, the William Morris Playground was there, being built about 1920.

My cousin Dorothea still comes to Saranac Lake every summer and/or fall with her husband and son, Earl and Austin Dridge. They own the historic Rice Cottage on Lake Street. One story of interest Aunt Gussie related to us was that during the fire on Mt. Baker, (I believe it was in 1911) they were readying Saranac Lake for evacuation, but a change in weather saved the day for the village.

Now getting back to the railroad, possibly some older residents will remember a quarterly publication called "Four Track" with news and notes of the railroads and routes they covered. This was put out by the telegraphers and station masters along the lines of the D&H and New York Central. Yes, the Delaware and Hudson was humorously called Delay and Hesitate, and the old Delaware Lackawanna and Western was called Delay, Linger and Wait... too bad the Monorail, which a group of us were trying to put through in the '70s, didn't come to pass because it would have been a boon to the entire North Country.

I remember Saranac Lake on and off since 1923 and now living here since 1958 on the Hilltop in Ray Brook at the site of the old Overlook speakeasy, just up the hill from the Black Cat, another speakeasy, both here during prohibition days.

How many people remember Beanie Barnet and his publication "Trotty Veck Messenger?" This little periodical, a booklet of cheer for shut-ins, was born out of the Saranac Lake cure era but spread well beyond this village to every state in the U.S. and many foreign countries.

I could ramble on further with more North Country history but will leave that to my old friend and historian John Duquette, since I am sure his facts and dates are a little more precise than mine.

In remembrance of the good old days...

(Editor's note: Bob Kampf is the meteorologist at Hilltop Weather Station, Ray Brook.)