Born: Oct. 11, 1925
Died: May 13, 2007
Orville V. Paye was a businessman who dealt in a wide range of material.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 15, 2007
Orville V. Paye
Born, Oct. 11, 1925 in Saranac Lake, he was the son of George and Maude (Rock) Paye.
Orville was a lifelong resident of Saranac Lake and had owned and operated the Gold Mine since 1964. He graduated from Saranac Lake High School at the young age of 16. He graduated from Clarkson University at the age of 18 with a degree in radio engineering.
After college, the U.S. Government recognized Orville's aptitude for math and radio engineering and recruited him to work on a top secret project during World War II. He was also very active in local, state and national politics.
Orville received a lifetime achievement award from the Republican National Committee and the Eisenhower Commission for his unwavering participation in the party. Orville was a true Republican. He was also an arts enthusiast who enjoyed the ballet, music and reading.
He is survived by his sister-in-law Margaret Paye of Saranac Lake; two nieces: Barbara Kent of Saranac Lake and Linda Greyson and her husband Jon of Orange City, Fla.; three nephews: George Paye and his wife Vicky of Saranac Lake, William Paye and his companion Irene Snyder of Saranac Lake and Steve Paye and his wife Muriel of Ash barrow, N.C.; many greatnieces and nephews, including his special nurse Angie Kent of Bloomingdale; and his long-time close friend Genevieve Clarkson of Saranac Lake.
He was predeceased by his parents; his brother George Paye; and a great-nephew Johnny Kent.
Calling hours will take place from 2 to 4 and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16 at the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake. A funeral service will follow at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home with the Rev. Patrick O'Reilly officiating.
Following cremation, interment will take place in Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 14, 1996
To Orville, this place is a 'Gold Mine'
By Ken YOUNGBLOOD
SARANAC LAKE - What else would you call your business, if your last name evoked pay and your first name had ore in it? Saranac Lake's Orville Paye dubbed his place on the Bloomingdale Road the Gold Mine.
And what does Orville sell at the Gold Mine? Windows, doors, ski boots, pictures framed and unframed, or just the frame itself, used refrigerators, stoves and Kitchen sets, 33 different kinds of blenders, wagon wheels, flag poles, fishing rods, toasters, fruits and vegetables as well as flowers and pumpkins in season, Venetian blinds, sugar bowls, Crisco cans full of assorted nuts and bolts, anything and everything imaginable.
"I went to Aubuchon's to get a mail box," says Paul Patnode, "but they "didn't have any, so I came over here."
"Mailbox?" Orville ponders, pinching his chin in contemplation. He then navigates around islands of junk that make an archipelago around the Gold Mine; In the wink of an eye Orville comes with a mail box big enough to accommodate a year's worth of free credit card applications.
"No, no," says Patnode, "that's a "country mailbox; I want one of those you can nail on your door."
Sure enough, five minutes later Patnode gets into his pickup with just the ticket. He knew Orville would have what he "wanted but does he know Orville?
"Come to think of it," Patnode says, "Orville's kind of secretive about his own life."
Not quite. Given the choice between bartering for whatever is at hand and bragging about his past, Orville always shuts his mouth and opens his wallet.
I don't like money," said Orville one day this summer while he rang up one after another customer in a line that stretched from the cash register out the door. "I like making, money."
"Dang that Orville," curses Chuck Brumley, a big grin holding in check a fist slamming through the air.
"I get snookered every time." Brumley thought he had finally got the upper hand when he traded an over-run of Adirondack Mountain Club Cloudsplitter magazines for a sack full of potatoes.
"I put that 50-pound bag oh my shoulder, thinking, hot damn, but when I got home every one of those potatoes had sprouts growing out of them. Orville'd gone and snookered me again."
Like father, like son
Orville's father, George Paye was in the sand and gravel business. He made $40,000 in 1931 building the Olympic Arena a small fortune in a time when you could buy the best house in Saranac Lake for $500.
Orville remembers his father's benevolence. George owned six houses on Payeville Road, and from 1931 to 1943, these families, surviving on their $200 a month relief, lived rent free.
Another time George went to Paul Smith and said, "You know, there are two, three hundred, men out of work in Saranac Lake and I know where we can get some cedar posts." George convinced Smith that his thousands of acres of timber would run off if he didn't fence in his holdings.
"My father and seven other men in Saranac Lake established a group called the Lone Order of the Wolves...Bill Herron, Happy Benway, mostly Irish Catholics. Some couldn't write their names but they were all smart businessmen."
Each of the eight put $1000 into a holiday kitty. Orville can remember boxing food every Thanksgiving and Christmas, then riding around town in one of his father's trucks, making food drops along with coal, wood and other necessities.
George died in 1947 at the age of 64. "The biggest funeral in Saranac Lake," Orville remembers with pride. Maybe a little of the old man rubbed off on Orville.
"My philosophy of life is, we were put here on earth for one reason. Not to reach down with both hands and get what we can, but to reach down with both hands and help those less fortunate - it's the only reason we were put here."
Certainly a lot of his school teacher mother had. He could read and write at age four. And all the way through high school he never brought a book home. He was the class egghead, but he was also the guy who whipped off the other boys homework during study hall. And like his dad, he along with Herbie Goldberg and Warner Dietz and a few other young teens started up their own fraternal organization in 1939 — the Patriots of America. "It was a boys club, so we had to lead by example. Couldn't smoke or drink or carry on."
Orville graduated from high school at the age of 16, then, attended Clarkson University. For 28 months he made a daily commute to Potsdam, back when the roads were onerous: After receiving a degree in Radio engineering, he went to work on a government project in Rochester the nature of which he will not disclose to this day.
The only thing he will admit is that it was a critical war time project; he defers all further discussion by saying, "You've got to remember, I lost half my classmates in World War II."
Making a dollar
In the latter years of World War II automobiles were in short supply because factory production was devoted to the war effort. That's when Orville learned how to make money from other people's castaways.
"By then even bicycles were in short supply, so I went around and collected old bikes for the parts. I built maybe 18 or 19 bikes when a guy from Hartford, Connecticut came by and said, 'I'll give you a hundred dollars apiece for the lot of them."
Flush with a hefty profit, Orville decided to graduate to cars in the late '40's. His friend's father, Louie Goldberg was doing a good business buying cars at $10 a piece, so Orville put an ad in the paper, stating that he was buying cars at $15.
He soon received a call from a Park Avenue man who said he had three and went on: "Two run perfect, and so would the third, but I robbed the distributor off of it. Only thing, I gotta have $50 a piece."
"Fifty dollars apiece!" exclaimed young Orville. "What are they made out of, gold?"
"Well, no," replied the Park Avenue gent, "but they are Rolls Royces." Orville bought all three for $150 and sold them the next day to a taxi dealer in Lake Placid for $450.
The shortage of automobiles continued in the post-war boom days, and so Orville began buying new cars at retail prices in the North Country and driving them to Florida where dealers would pay a premium to avoid the six month wait on deliveries.
His dabbling in the automobile business peaked with the shipment of 2000 new cars in one month to South America where rich plantation owners, miners and industrialists were willing to pay any amount to get their hands on the car they wanted. In order to avoid hefty import duties, Orville would have to take the heaters out so the bills of laden could indicate the autos were shipped not fully equipped.
"We had a warehouse full of heaters," Orville recounts with a chuckle.
One man's junk…
Soon young Orville had enough cash to buy out Louie Goldberg's scrap metal business. He soon learned how profitable it was to live off what other people throw away.
"In the scrap metal business you see what people go out and pay for every little piece of copper and iron, then down the road just throw it away. I never realized what a big deal the scrap business was until I found out these scrap metal corporations in the U.S. controlled the economy of several nations."
He cited Luria Brothers in Philadelphia, which owned so much connected to the steel industry, they ran the Dominican Republic. "You can't make new steel unless, you have scrap because of the impurities in iron ore."
Orville learned some valuable lessons during the 15 years he ran the scrap yard on Payeville Road. He was doing a third of a million dollars a year in business, shipping $5000 in steel to Montreal alone, every week winter and summer. He was shipping another $100,000 a year to Albany in copper, brass, aluminum, and other metals.
"The worst thing about my-business was I wasn't making a dime's profit because I had 19 employees. "With 42 Cents on the dollar in Workman's Comp in such a high risk business, his labor, costs were killing him.
"I was working seven to seven, they were going home with fat paychecks in their pockets and at the end of the year I'd be $10,000 in the hole.
"What happens to most people [in small business] is they don't have illusions of grandeur when they first start off. But they're so successful six months later they go broke because they try to take too much business. The best advice is to know when you reach your peak and stop right there and operate at that level. You can only do so much business."
And so Orville shifted his focus to buying and selling other kinds of castaways. He would answer classified ads, and go around to garage sales. Every Saturday night there'd be an auction at his OK Auction Hall in the old Grange Hall in Gabriels.
For a buck he picked up a hand-painted Daum vase entitled "Waiting for Rain." He sold this two and a half-inch vase for $2500. Another time $175 bought him a rosewood Steinway piano, with "E.L. Trudeau, Christmas, 1888" inscribed in gold leaf. That sold to a retired concert pianist for $2000.
He also picked up what may well have been a Picasso painting from a member of the Mellon family living in Lake Clear. Although it was never authenticated, TV3's Jack LaDuke did a story on it. "After that there were so many people in here, I was stumbling over them. They were in every nook and cranny looking for a find."
"Well, I've never been in here, so I just stopped by," said a slightly ruffled Orville. "So you're having a little trouble."
It seems that Stan had over-invested in penny stocks and now was having trouble meeting his business loans. Although they had just met, Orville lent them the money to get out of their pinch. But the boutique shop continued to struggle. By now the Gilberts and Orville had become friends and frequent dining companions. One Saturday night over dinner they proposed selling the business to Orville for $8,000. "I did an inventory and they didn't have maybe $4,000 in antiques. When I went back and told them, they said it was a rude awakening.
"'Everything is priced twice what it's worth," I said, and offered them $4000. In the first two weeks in the business I did $2900 worth, and that was in the dead of February, don't forget."
Stan Gilbert came in, looked around and said, "Where did everything go?"
"I bought it to sell, not to look at,'" Orville replied. ""You spent 95 percent of your time wiping the dust off the dishes that sat here, month after month.'"
One day in the early '70s Orville Paye heard local merchant Bill Myer say, "Shame, how money's so tight."
"I said to him, 'Money's not tight. People have been screwed so many times, they're holding onto it."
He remembers how every spring his father would go down to the Gladd Brothers and buy two new Ford trucks and every fall he'd return and ask, "How much do I owe you for those trucks?" And he'd write them a check. Times had changed, but not everybody changed with the times.
"Tell you what I'll do," Orville challenged Myer, "'it's 10 a.m. and I'll bet you I can start out right now and go around and see some friends of mine. I'll be back here at noon with $20,000 in my pocket."'
Myers said no way, and the bet was on.
By noon Orville was back with $40,000.
Orville still buys and sells. At age 71 his day starts at 5 a.m. "I don't work because I have to work, I could stop working today and live a comfortable life, but in six months I'd be in my grave."
A gold mine
Mornings you'll find him behind the counter at the Gold-Mine, which some people might, say, looks like it would qualify for waste-site funds under the recently passed Environmental Bond Act.
"I've actually neglected the Gold Mine in terms of cosmetic looks," he admits. "I've had too much work to do. If I were triplets I could do it, but I can't afford to hire someone to clean it up. I couldn't make any money, you know."
Orville claims to have carted away 30 loads of rubbish in the week preceding this interview. And he readily confesses that he has too much of everything.
"Half the stuff is people bringing to me and giving to me." He'll come into his yard and see a sink or a refrigerator sitting there. As often as not he doesn't know who has left it and when he does he never says anything because "they think they're doing me; a favor, but they're not."
By noon, during the growing, season, four or five days a week he's on his way to Canada to buy produce. He knows these Canadian farmers by name, their children and, their personal struggles. Knows them because, he admires their hard work and a sterling character that reminds him of the America he knew when he was growing up.
"They're involved with their neighbors, and love their country, but love their church and family above all."
At the border, he takes delight in calculating all the numbers on the bill of laden in his head. "I can read upside down," he says.
And so while the customs official is working away at his computer, Orville is busy converting kilograms, multiplying pounds time's cents, adding everything and figuring out the percentage of the duty tax. Newly-posted customs officials are always astounded at first when Orville comes up with the correct bottom line figure by the time the computer is done whirring.
Afternoons and weekends he's either going around buying used furniture and other goods or working on one of the two dozen buildings he owns in town. But he's careful not to violate another of his cardinal rules. "Do nothing to excess; everything in moderation," Orville Paye intones. "If you eat too much you become a glutton. If you drink too much, you become a drunk. If you laugh too much, a fool. If you love too much you become disappointed and smother the other person like molasses. If you work too much you become a drudge. No matter what you do too much of, it's not good for you."
And so how does Orville avoid being a drudge? You might see him at a Pendragon production, or if you were out at the Cobblestone Farm this summer, listening to a Bartok recital. He loves both classical music and ballet. And every year he tries to get down to Bethlehem, Pa. for the world's largest music festival. For six years running he would leave for a trip to California's Disney Land, stopping on the way in Las Vegas to indulge in his love of gambling.
For 16 years after Disney World opened in Florida he celebrated holidays in much the same family tradition as his father instilled. He knew of lots of kids in Saranac Lake who would never get the chance to leave the North Country, let alone go to the Magic Kingdom. So every Thanksgiving and Christmas he'd load up his car with three, four or five children and take them to Florida.
For his many acts of generosity he has eight god children sprinkled all over the country. And one stepdaughter, a gal who went to work for him when she came here to attend North Country Community College. "Diane adopted me," chuckles Orville.
He helped her through college, and now enjoys seeing her happy in a lucrative management careen. She is not the only one whose education Orville helped finance. Maybe this fleshly gold mine does have a slightly rumpled exterior — but dig deeper and you'll find a precious spirit, gentle and wise, kind and unassuming.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 19, 2020