A Night Spent In History: Singer Castle hosts guests for a night they won’t forget

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY LIVING
Singer Castle as seen from the back courtyard.

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The U.S. Invasions of Canada

The Battle of the Windmill was a battle fought in November 1838 in the aftermath of the Upper Canada Rebellion.

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The House That Wouldn’t Be

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO

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How the Dewey Decimal System Got Its Name

Melvil Dewey

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How ‘Vacationland’ Got Its Name

HISTORICAL ARCHIVE WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES NEWS CLIPPING

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“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.”