Children: ten girls and three boys
An excerpt from an interview with J. Fred Maloney by William Langlois, September 4, 1970
Part of the Reynoldston Research and Studies Collection Economic & Social life in Constable, New York 1890-1940. Copyrighted material. Used by permission.
Mr. Maloney: I went up to the Adirondack summer resorts to work when I was about sixteen, I guess. I can't remember them exact dates, you know. And, I used to work up at the summer resorts; they'd start in spring and in the fall I'd head for Massachusetts or somewhere down there to get a job for the winter. Last time I was down there I was in Cambridge and I worked on a freight elevator for the Dover Stamping Company, but then in the spring, I'd naturally come home and go back to the Adirondacks.
Mr. Langlois: Where in the Adirondacks did you work?
Mr. Langlois: Were they big places?
Mr. Maloney: Oh, tremendously big places! At that time, it was a big operation all of them. Wealthy people would come in on a Pullman train. I'd see thirty or forty of the Pullman cars on one train, and they'd come in, the engine would cut off and go to Malone, to the Roundhouse, and after it got daylight and the people got up, why then at the Saranac Inn, they had what they called a 'tally-ho', like one of them western outfits and they'd go out and bring the people in. And then a wagon would go out and bring in the baggage. When they'd come in in the spring and they'd stay there until Labor Day, and then go home.
Mr. Langlois: How big was Paul Smith's back then?
Mr. Maloney: Well, I can't tell you how many rooms there was in the hotel, but they owned a big sawmill and they had a lot of boats on the lake.
Mr. Langlois: Who was they?
Mr. Maloney: Smith's. There was old Paul and he had two sons: young Paul and his other son was Phelps. And, they become very wealthy. They was the first people that put electric lines in; they put an electric railroad in from Lake Clear into the hotel. And had an electric plant to light the hotel and so on. And they run boats, it was on Lower St. Regis and Upper St. Regis and then Spitfire, a chain of lakes. And he had a lot of boats people would ride on, pleasure boats. And under the floor it was all batteries and people would get in there, canopy top, you know wicker furniture and so on and travel around. And at night you would run your boat into a spear in the boat house hitch your light on to charge your batteries in the night. Of course they had a lot of horses and all that.
Mr. Langlois: About what year was that?
Mr. Maloney: Oh, I can't remember.
Mr. Langlois: About how old were you?
Mr. Maloney: Oh, I was probably seventeen when I worked for him. So, about 1906 or 1907, somewhere around there.
Mr. Langlois: Did you enjoy working at the resort?
Mr. Maloney: Yes.
Mr. Langlois: Was the pay good?
Mr. Maloney: Well, it was probably the best there was in this country at that time.
Mr. Langlois: And, how much was that?
Mr. Maloney: Oh, probably thirty-five dollars a month, but of course I got a lot of tips too.
Mr. Langlois: What did you do exactly?
Mr. Maloney: Well, the first year I was there, I ran one of the boats and the next spring I went up, and it was too early to start up a hotel business—the hotel wasn't open yet—and so Phelps said he'd give me a job in the mean time; he said they was building a big building, what they called a 'men's building.' He said, "there's an old carpenter up there. The other carpenters won't work with him. He's a wonderful carpenter and everything else, but he can't get along with any of the other carpenters. I had a dozen different fellows to help him, and he won't work with them. So, I went up there and Phelps said to him, "I brought a fellow up to help you. And, this old fellow said back, " No, that's all right." So, I just stood there and I never offered to do a damn thing, but when he told me to do something, I'd do it. And, we got along fine and after a little while he took an interest in me, and showed me how to handle a saw and do it right, showed me how to draw different thing with the square, and different things. I was there probably a month with him and Phelps came up one time and said, "God, you got this fellow here yet?" And, "Yes," he said, "He's as good as any carpenter you got on the job! He had a lot of what would be considered good carpenters. Of course, this old fellow'd been training me and I was just scared enough of him by God I remember everything he told me. And he said I tell you what I want: "This fellow ain't a helper any more, I want you to give him carpenters pay from now on. And I think that was about three dollars a day. And of course I didn't have any tools and Phelps says: "if that is the idea, go to the store and get what tools you need and pay for them. I said: "I haven't got any money to pay for them yet until I get paid from you." Well he said: "just charge them to me. So that is the way I got my tools to get started."
Mr. Langlois: What tools would a carpenter need back then?
Mr. Maloney: Well, you would need a lot if you were a real carpenter.
Mr. Langlois: Can you remember what? What tools did you buy?
Mr. Maloney: I bought a ripsaw, a handsaw, a square, a plane, hand-axe, a hammer, and a ruler, I guess that's all.
Mr. Langlois: What kind of tools did the old carpenter have? Did he have anything you didn't?
Mr. Maloney: He had every kind of a tool. He had two mammoth great big tool chests, and everything and the best of tools and all of the most modern tool at that time that any man could have were in them.
Mr. Langlois: Were many of them homemade?
Mr. Maloney: No, they were all bought.
Mr. Langlois: Where was he from?
Mr. Maloney: I can't tell you where they were from. I don't know. I can't tell you about that. But, that hotel: there was a great big boathouse. The lower part and that was just for your boats to run in and people to get into the boats, and upstairs there was a casino; where they could go up there at night, you know, you could read and do whatever they wanted to do and upstairs. And, you could buy stock right there, on the market—millionaires that would go up there! They'd go up there and sit all day, and buy stocks!
Mr. Langlois: Do you have any stories about your work in the hotel? Did anything funny happen to you while you were driving the boats?
Mr. Maloney: No, nothing happened, but the guests used to like to have Paul Smith, now that is the older man; and, at that time, he was a very small man, whizzled up and he looked just like pictures you and I have seen of of John D. Rockefeller—the old fellow, you see, the one that made all that money in the 1930s, not this fellow who is spending it [Nelson Rockefeller]—well, that's just what he looked like. But the guests would like to have him come out, so he'd get onto the boat for a ride, and he'd done the entertaining.
And, I remember one time he was telling one of his stories and he said, "Over there, there used to be a big island and there used to be quite a nice number of good-sized cabins on it, but that began to settle and it kept going down and down, and it's down somewhere at the bottom and nobody's seen it in a long time; it settled at the bottom of the lake. Well, you can imagine what that was just a damn lie, but them guests, you know, they loved it and they'd ask more than a thousand questions each; it'd take an hour for him to answer the questions about that, and he'd look at me and wink after a while! That was some of the little humor things.
Now, the two brothers: Paul was a big man, and he always was in the hotel. He was the hotel manager, and so on, and every time he'd see anybody he'd shake hands and was all smiles and put the old soft bull right to them. Phelps was just the other way. He was a manager on the outside with the boats, the electric power line that run over to Lake Clear, and manager of all things on the outside. And he was just the opposite. He was raring to go all the time. He used to have a flat straw hat, a flat crown you know, and if you could see him carrying that hat and swinging it, well, you knew there was hell to pay somewhere! But I liked to work for him and was a very fine man. He used me fine.
And, he come to me one time and he said, "Say, we got a guest up at the hotel and when she goes up over the boathouse, they had a bar there and everything. And she was some kind of a foreigner. And he said: "She sat there until about twelve or one o'clock at night and then she's dead to the world. Would you take a job? Get somebody to help you and carry her up to her room in the hotel. And, I said, "Yes, of course. So, we used to go down there and pick her up. She was just as limp as a rag; one'd take her by the shoulders, the other'd take her by the legs, and we'd carry her. Phelps was one of these fellows if you were doing something for him, he appreciated it. Now, he said, "When you take her up there, you understand she doesn't know a damn thing, and by God you're doing quite a bit—you're losing a night's sleep, so if she offers you any money take it, and if she doesn't and if she's got a purse with her, you take fifteen or twenty dollars from it. Make it worth your time. Your losing your sleep, make her pay! That's the kind of a man he was. And we used to take her up every night. That was our job.
Then there was another time...there were hardly any cars. Once in a while there would be a guest that would come in with a great big Cadillac and chauffeur, but it was all sand roads. And Barnum Pond, that is about three and half miles from Paul Smiths [NY]. So they went down and somebody sent word that they were stuck in the sand. So he come to me says to me: Do you want to go down and get him? I says: "yes. So he called the barn and told them to have the best team of horses they had to pull ready and I would be up to get them. Well he says: "You want to get a fellow to go with you. So we went down and pulled this old Cadillac or whatever the hell it was out of the sand and took it up. He says: "they will ask you how much it is? "Now you charge them $25.00 and give the other fellow with you $5.00 and put the other $20.00 in your pocket. So I figured I like the job because that was practically a month's wages if you know what I mean for the ordinary man that was around there working. And I like it.
Mr. Langlois: Were you saving money at that time?
Mr. Maloney: Well, I wasn't saving too much, because I had to help support my grandmother and my two brothers; they were going to school, but I made enough so that we all lived well enough and by going east in the winters, why, we kept things going. And, of course, my mother was sending what money she could earn back.
For the full interview, see Reynoldston Research and Studies Collection - Mr. Fred Maloney