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Rockhurst Bridge, circa 1894

Rockhurst Bridge, circa 1894

Growing Up at Cleverdale

By Richard K. Dean

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An excellent British book concerning the study of photography prefaced each chapter with a short quotation from Alice in Wonderland. In chapter one, Alice has arrived in Wonderland and asks the Mad Hatter where to start. The Hatter replies, “Alice, you start at the beginning.”  Thinking this approach is logical, I will mention I will start at the beginning.

I was born on July 6, 1913, in Brooklyn where my father had a drug store at the corner of Bushwick and Dekalb, in a mostly German neighborhood, with a trolley car on Dekalb. My early recollection, at about age 4, is of being taken by my mother on hot evenings in the open air trolley car to the Brooklyn Bridge and back. A similar car is now displayed at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake.

A good German doctor suggested that I be sent out of the city, so I was sent to love with an aunt and uncle in Glens Falls for several years until Dad sold his drug store. Originally the dean family had a farm in Kingsbury. My father had four brothers and two sisters. Dad worked at area drugstores until finally starting his own in Warrensburg.

In the summer before entering my senior year in high school, I caddied at the Sagamore Golf Club, staying in an old farmhouse nearby. At summer’s end, I picked up a severe sinus infection and was barely saved by a specialist. Recuperating and taking a year off from school, I began hiking with a Kodak box camera, and pursuing serious photography with an old 4 x 5 plate camera.

After graduation the following year, I learned of a photography course with top grade instructors at Rochester Athenaeum (now Rochester Institute of Photography) in a new department funded by George Eastman. I enrolled in the two-year course.

I was hired by Rochester Defender Co., first to do film testing, and then a new color print process called chromatone. I was given the task of demonstrating to professional photographers the process of producing color prints from color separation negatives. At the start of World War II I was transferred to the sensitometry department, with the job of testing photography products supplied to the armed forces.

After the war, Defender Co. was sold to DuPont photography products. Not wanting to be transferred to Wilmington, I returned to Glens Falls and started Dean Studio on the late 1940s. I mainly photographed dude ranches and resorts in the greater Lake George region. In the early 1950s, I started a wholesale post card distribution business.

Many cottage owners at Cleverdale became adjusted to reaching their cottages by crossing on the “causeway.” This was a dock-style series of platforms that traversed the swamp reached from upper Ridge Rd., of varying uneven heights that were continually being rebuilt. This one-way transit required waiting at either end while others came across. Turtles basked on logs along the sides.

The late Dick Dean with longtime friend Walter Grishkot

Our cottage was next to the tennis court that was part of the Pine Rest boarding house. Lucille Mead and I often practiced on this court when it was not being used by guests. An annual Kattskill Tournament was held when the owner of the Rockhurst Hotel came over. Mead’s Gifts & Ice Cream was located south of the court.

My brother Harold and I envied the boy across the road who had a fireworks stand, so for the next year, we ordered a variety of fireworks. These sold quite slowly, so we had to carry them over to the next summer, much to our dad’s concern.

Our dad bought an old rowboat for the cottage that we used when we went fishing, catching mostly bullhead and perch of Long Island. I made a sail from old awnings and used old cupboard doors foe leeboards and an oar on the stern for a rudder.

Our usual amusement during the summer was watching the steamboats land at the dock near the north end of Cleverdale each morning and afternoon; it was fascinating to see the passengers. When the Mohican pulled out, Harold and I would jump on the stern and dive into the foaming wake while the deck hands would try to catch us. One boy would climb to the second deck and dive.

We learned the difference in time between sight and sound. When the steamboats blew their whistles at Trout Pavilion across the bay, we could see the steam from the whistles before we heard the sound.

There was a nice path running along the east shore of Cleverdale. It extended from near the point and steamboat dock, in front of the cottages to Sandy Bay and a long dock. One day Harold and I walked to the Sandy Bay dock and found Alger Mason and his brother working on an old motorboat they had just bought for $1.50.

There was an old motorboat in the yard when Dad bought our cottage. We boys kept teasing him to put it I the lake, but he didn’t think it as in very good condition. Finally, to silence our teasing, Dad sawed up the boat, and much to his surprise, he found the hull to be in good shape.

We did have an outboard boat with a four-cylinder Sea Horse motor, which had lots of power. I decided to build a surf board to use behind the boat water skiing had not become popular yet). The materials I used did not make the board water-tight and I made the mistake of making it hollow. Consequently, it pulled very hard because of the water seeping in and it was slow to surface, but it could be ridden.

Our uncle Will Dean bought a used outboard, modified sea-sled, quite flat and with a four-cylinder Johnson Sea Horse motor. Starting was made easier by releasing compression with a lever on two cylinders. This was a fast boat, but very hard riding if you hit waves of any size.

The steamboat Sagamore created very long, low waves that were fun to ride at high speed in the outboard boat. One time I took some relatives out for a ride and came down hard off a wave, cracking a plank on the bottom of the boat. Fortunately it was a slow leak and we made it back to shore safe and sound.

A long sail cruise! Harold and I wanted to sail around Long Island, from the south end b Assembly Point, along the west side around the north end and back to Cleverdale. Unfortunately the wind died to a breeze so we were a very long time sailing around the island. Meanwhile, our mother was making repeated trips to the north end of Cleverdale searching for our sail.

I missed having my bicycle at Cleverdale, so I decided to ride it up from Glens Falls, on the Ridge Road. At the time, the road was gravel north of Oneida Corners, which made for very slow going.

Box Ball Alley, located near Scott Henderson’s boat yard, provided a break from the usual pastimes of swimming, fishing and boating. This was a rather short bowling alley with pins hung on a rod which could be re-set once knocked down by pulling on a lever at the front.

Most cottage refrigerators were ice-cooled. We would stop at Howard Mason’s ice house at Sandy Bay when arriving at camp, placing an ice cake on the car running board. Howard had installed a fresh water system for some Cleverdale cottage owners. The pumping station was near our cottage and whenever we heard the motor break down, we immediately grabbed pails and brought home fresh water for our home use.

Many years later, on our honeymoon, my wife and I climbed Pilot Knob Mountain on a nice clear day. I had a good German camera with me and I hoped to take a panorama shot over the south end of the lake, including the bays and points where I spent much of my youth. The Voigtlander sheet film camera came with separate holders, but I had a limited number. I took tree shots and had to re-load. In the meantime it became cloudy, so the last two images in the panorama did not match.

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