I never meant to write a book. I never dreamed of writing a book. But I had to record certain things, little incidents, sharp memories, bits and pieces of my Schroon Lake years, growing up in the thirties.
I loved Schroon Lake - I loved the lake, of course. I learned to row a boat, paddle a canoe, how to swim first. And I loved being able to run out the door and disappear, into the woods, beyond Grandpa's lawns and Grandma's flower gardens. I could get away, out of sight, and be in my own world.
The fall of '38 I started school just up the street from my home, at the handsome new Schroon Lake Central School. It had been built by the WPA. It gave a lot of men real work, a job. I didn't think about that. Even for those who still had money, the Depression cast a long shadow. It was the reason we began to live in Schroon Lake year round. Overnight I was no longer a summer person. I was worried - I was the new kid. That first day of school, Miss Rowe's class, 2nd grade, facing 17 strange faces. I was scared but I tried not to show it.
I can still smell the Lifebuoy soap, bright pink, a curious smell - medicinal. My mother was angry: "Why should I have to mark a chart to tell the SCHOOL, when my children have baths. It's none of their business. And when they brush their teeth, and wash their hands after....".
Baths were a luxury in those days. Plenty of kids had no running water - it had to be pumped up out of the ground. The outhouse was not just a joke. In the winter, the poorest kids had a dark ring on each wrist just above where their long underwear began.
We had a child die in our class. He was a boy who had befriended me. We passed notes to each other. I saved them. Before Christmas, he died of typhoid fever from unclean water. Our class was taken by school bus to pay our respects: he was in a blue suit, with a dark blue tie, his hands clasped on his chest.
Why mention the thirties, those years of the Great Depression. So cataclysmic it's written with a big "G" and a big "D". Why? Because those years were bad for everyone. Why do I mention a date? Some say dates don't matter, they aren't important. My story revolves around dates.
People have asked me: "How can you remember thing so long ago?"
We had a multi-generational family, nine people in our small farmhouse. Only no one used that long word - multi-generational - back then mainly because most families were like that. People got old, they moved in together. It worked because it had to work.