“Real Beer” Brewed in Watertown During Prohibition

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY LIVING

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It’s a Pirate’s Life For Me!

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY LIVING
Alex Mosher throws “pirate treasure” into the crowd during the pirate invasion for Bill Johnston’s Pirate Days in Alexandria Bay.

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Sackets Harbor played pivotal roles in fighting War of 1812

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES British troops advance on the American troops during a reenactment of the war of 1812 Saturday afternoon in Sackets Harbor.

STEPHEN SWOFFORD / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
British troops advance on the American troops during a reenactment of the war of 1812 Saturday afternoon in Sackets Harbor.

Apparently, I am not alone in this as I’ve read that the majority of the British populace doesn’t much remember the War of 1812 either. The British history books tend to only mention it briefly, and even then in the context of the Napoleanic Wars instead of a war of its own right.

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Holiday fashion across the decades

Decmeber 1945

Decmeber 1945

Northern New York women dressing for the holidays in the 1940s focused heavily on accessories. At the annual Christmas Teas held by the College Women’s Club of Jefferson County, the women in these photos showed off popular fashion trends of the decade. These women finished off their looks with festive hats, broaches, and belts to celebrate the season.

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Poring over letters: Remembering a veteran father and his service in WWII

JASON HUNTER / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Vietnam veteran Thomas E. Latimer poses for a portrait Thursday at his home in Canton holding a letter his father, Robert W. Latimer, wrote during his service in World War II and a sabre his father took off a German soldier.

JASON HUNTER / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
Vietnam veteran Thomas E. Latimer poses for a portrait Thursday at his home in Canton holding a letter his father, Robert W. Latimer, wrote during his service in World War II and a sabre his father took off a German soldier.

By JAKE NEWMAN
JNEWMAN@OGD.COM

Dozens of decades-old letters, pins, awards and souvenirs littered the dining room table of Thomas E. Latimer Thursday morning as he and his aunt, Ann L. Huntley, reflected on the journey of Robert W. Latimer, a World War II veteran and Mr. Latimer’s father.

“My mother, his grandmother, kept every letter she ever got from all of the boys,” Mrs. Huntley said.

“I just came onto this stuff. It was in a box in the closet and I think probably my grandmother had given it to us a long time ago,” added Mr. Latimer, who is a Vietnam War veteran.

The elder Mr. Latimer, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 85, was a native of Pierrepont and a member of the 69th Infantry Division in World War II. He entered the war at the age of 16, according to his son, and was discharged in 1946.

“He had the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement on the grounds when they first got there. Then he had the Silver Star which is much higher, for bravery. His Purple Heart, of course, is the highest,” Mrs. Huntley explained.

“He had a lot of battle stars from all of the battles he was in too,” Mr. Latimer added.

The letters Mr. Latimer possesses were written from the front lines of conflicts in Europe and were mainly meant to let his family know he was safe and to check in on his loved ones at home.

“Of course, everything is censored so they couldn’t tell anything about the battles or the fighting so much, they’re not allowed,” Mr. Latimer said.

Mrs. Huntley, who had multiple brothers serving in World War II, said she remembers the relief her family felt when letters from her siblings arrived.

“They mean that he is safe, that we can breathe another day not worrying. But the next day, of course, you go right back to worrying,” Mrs. Huntley said.

Mrs. Huntley recalled the mailman who always made sure each military family received correspondence from soldiers as quickly as possible.

“If there was a letter from Bob or Jim or any of our people in the service, he would bring it right to our house immediately. He didn’t have to do that,” she said, fighting back tears. “We looked forward to seeing his card.”

“Being up in the front, they liberated a lot of slave labor and everything in the camps. They can’t write about a lot of that stuff and you’ll see in some of the letters that in the villages and towns in Germany that they were in, he would say that he got postcards, but he would say ‘I can’t use the postcards until we are so many miles from this town,’” Mr. Latimer said. “He tells about some of the Americans and Australians, Canadians I think … different prisoners coming through that were liberated.”

The 69th infantry division, also known as the Fighting 69th, was on the front lines for plenty of battle action, according to Mr. Latimer.

“In one of the letters, it tells about how the 69th was the first into Germany, the first across the Rhine River and the first to meet up with the Russians,” he said. “Even though he was a young fellow, he was in the spearhead all the way up through.”

Mr. Latimer said his father’s division saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and along the Siegfried Line.

Although most of the information about the war itself was not allowed to be written, the elder Mr. Latimer did recount some stories from his experiences to share with his family back home.

“He said one night, they snuck out with a set of lights off a Jeep and set them up in the middle. The Germans were down one side and (the Americans) were down the other side,” Mr. Latimer recalled. “They set the lights up in the center and they ran a wire back and hooked it to a battery. When those Jeep lights came on out in the middle of that, he said those Germans opened up. They thought they were coming across.”

Although there were hundreds of thousands of soldiers in World War II, the young serviceman managed to run into a fellow north country resident, according to a recollection from the younger Mr. Latimer.

“They came into a meadow or clearing … there’s a tank, an American tank in the middle of this clearing or field, woods all the way around it. One track has been blown off by a shell or something. The Germans had been shooting at them,” Mr. Latimer recounted. “They cleared all the Germans back out. And then, as happened a lot … they picked a couple young guys to walk across that clearing out there to see how they were in the tank. They went up to the tank and lo and behold in the tank was Robert Barstow from Potsdam, New York. Who would expect, with all of these millions of men that they would run right into somebody that he knew?”

The letters were not the only artifacts that brought back memories for Mrs. Huntley. She indicated a silver, sheathed blade that was included in the collection and remembered an encounter she had with her brother after he returned from the war.

“I remember one time he was home and he had the bayonets, he had a long silver one. My sister and I were looking at it. We were just young of course and we were admiring it and we said ‘well, how in the world could you ever kill somebody like that?’” Mrs. Huntley recalled. “He said, ‘when you’re coming over a knoll of sand and the other side of that knoll is a whole mess of Gerries (Germans) coming at you and you know it’s either you or them, you better make sure it’s them.’”

Mr. Latimer said he had not looked through his father’s military history in some time and was finally reading the remainder of his letters from overseas. He said the letters were the only way to know what his father had experienced in World War II.

“Dad never talked about it,” Mr. Latimer said, but noted, “I am proud of him.”

Opening ceremony held for new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum in Massena

BOB BECKSTEAD / JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS Ambassadors from the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce joined with officials in cutting the ribbon on Thursday to officially open the new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum in Massena.

BOB BECKSTEAD / JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS
Ambassadors from the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce joined with officials in cutting the ribbon on Thursday to officially open the new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum in Massena.

By BOB BECKSTEAD
BBECKSTEAD@OGD.COM

Visitors got their first look at the exhibits in the new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum during the facility’s opening ceremony Thursday.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, speakers thanked the many people who had contributed to it — from the Massena Town Board and town of Massena employees, to the Massena Museum’s staff, volunteers and board members, to Carol and Dick Maginn and Heritage Homes for taking on the renovations of the building at no cost to the town, to local attorney Randy L. Peets, the principal donor who set the project in motion.

The facility is named in honor of Dr. Philibert, a native of France who came to the north country to work at SUNY Potsdam and settled in Massena with Mr. Peets. After she lost her battle with cancer, Mr. Peets sought a way to honor the woman he had shared his life with, as well as her love of art and culture, and chose to fund the purchase of the former SeaComm building for cultural purposes in her memory. He then donated the building to the town to use as a cultural center and the new home of the Massena Museum.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Randy Peets for the donation of this beautiful building and for our ability to house the museum at this cultural center,” museum board President Joseph Macaulay said.

“It’s a great facility obviously. We are fortunate to have this facility,” Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said.

He said town officials had a significant investment in the building, between $20,000 and $30,000 in materials and manpower to make the building the permanent home of the Massena Historical Society. Without the help of Mr. and Mrs. Maginn and Heritage Homes, the project would have taken much longer and would have been at a greater expense, according to Mr. Gray.

“This facility now belongs to the people of Massena,” he said.

Mr. Gray encouraged visitors to take an initial look at the exhibits, and then go back and look at them again to gain a better understanding of Massena’s past.

“You’re going to get an excellent history of Massena,” he said.

The cultural centre and museum features not only permanent, but temporary exhibitions, and the first temporary exhibit seen by visitors as they walk through the doors is from the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg.

Mr. Peets said he had contacted Laura Foster, director and curator for the Frederic Remington Art Museum, to see if they would like to have the first temporary exhibit, and the answer was yes. Now, two items from the museum are on display in the center of the new facility.

“It’s a teaser which can be enjoyed on its own,” Ms. Foster said, encouraging visitors to travel up Route 37 to visit the museum and see more of the work.

BOB BECKSTEAD / JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS Massena Town Councilman Sam Carbone looks at one of the exhibits during Thursday’s opening ceremony for the new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum in Massena.

BOB BECKSTEAD / JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS
Massena Town Councilman Sam Carbone looks at one of the exhibits during Thursday’s opening ceremony for the new Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum in Massena.

In the meantime, they’ll be able to enjoy some of it in Massena.

“It has been really wonderful working with a philanthropist of vision, Randy Peets,” Ms. Foster said, calling it “an opportunity for Massena to strike out in a new geographical direction.”

Mr. Peets said he was also proud of historical murals that decorate the walls, courtesy of the New York Power Authority.

“The murals are perfect for this building. I love these murals,” he said, detailing their history back to the time of Robert Moses and their association with the man who played a larger role in shaping the physical environment of New York state.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said she was impressed with the new facility, which formerly housed SeaComm Federal Credit Union’s downtown branch.

“Walking into this room, the thing that came to mind was the sense of treasure,” she said.

Standing near Remington exhibit, she said the cultural centre and museum was not only a place to reflect on Massena’s heritage, but also a link to Massena’s future.

“It really is a place that links Massena to the rest of the north country,” Mrs. Russell said, calling Massena “a community where the arts have flourished.”

Town Historian MaryEllen Casselman said it had taken a lot of work and time to move from their former East Orvis street location to the Main Street facility, but it was worth it.

She said among the exhibits visitors would find is a timeline of Massena’s history, starting around 1792 and working up to the Seaway era. There will also be rotating exhibits in the Dick and Carol Maginn wing of the building.

“You can expect to see various things here,” she said.

Mr. Macaulay said they were hopeful to add another exhibit, but they didn’t currently have the space. They want to display a hearse and a sleigh that was built in Massena, and they hope to have a 30-foot-by-30-foot extension built for those items.

Make connections at History and Genealogy Fair

PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS LACLAIR Re-enactors will return to this year’s History and Genealogy Fair. In this photo from last year at the Jefferson County Historical Society are, from left, Theodore Schofield, William Bamann and Jeffrey French from the Walter H. French Camp 17/Sons of Civil War Veterans.

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Waxing nostalgic for a past we love

l_autumn_2016_p1

Longtime north country residents herald days gone by as region continues to grow.

For many, nostalgia is more than just reminiscing about the past, it’s an emotion or feeling they have when thinking about certain memories — whether it’s a particular place, experience or time.

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Summer 2015: History

Region takes flight

Capt. Frank Burnside, far right, was the first to successfully pilot an airplane in Northern New York. His flights occurred at the Jefferson County Fair in September 1913. A crowd of more than 3,000 witnessed  as Capt. Burnside and his Thomas airplane took off from the exhibition field, soared to a cruising altitude of 2,000 feet, and reached an astounding 50 mph, before safely landing on the makeshift airstrip. Photo courtesy earlyaviators.com.

Capt. Frank Burnside, far right, was the first to successfully pilot an airplane in Northern New York. His flights occurred at the Jefferson County Fair in September 1913. A crowd of more than 3,000 witnessed as Capt. Burnside and his Thomas airplane took off from the exhibition field, soared to a cruising altitude of 2,000 feet, and reached an astounding 50 mph, before safely landing on the makeshift airstrip. Photo courtesy earlyaviators.com.

Capt. Frank Burnside first to pilot north country skies

By Lenka P. Walldroff

It may surprise some visitors to learn that the north country boasts a number of international airports. Here in Watertown, the “International” in “Watertown International Airport” has raised a few eyebrows, but small as it may be, our humble airport gets the job done, ferrying passengers to and from Northern New York to destinations around the world. Eyebrows and square footage aside, north country airports are but a whisper in the region’s long-standing relationship with aviation. [Read more…]

Spring 2015: History

A ‘most American thing’

The original Thousand Island Park Tabernacle Building, ca. 1884.  Photo from Watertown Daily Times archives.

The original Thousand Island Park Tabernacle Building, ca. 1884. Photo from Watertown Daily Times archives.

The Chautauqua Movement and Thousand Islands Park

By Lenka Walldroff, NNY Living

Pop quiz, history fans: To what was President Theodore Roosevelt referring when he said: “It’s the most American thing in America.”? [Read more…]