Friday, February 27, 2009

Clambakes With "The Pittsburghers"

I found these photos in our “Honeymoon” album. Barb and I were married June 26, 1982 when we were both active duty Navy stationed at Naval Facility, Argentia, Newfoundland.
A few weeks after we were married we took leave to visit my folks at Sandy Pond and her folks in Illinois.
Our longtime friends from Pittsburgh: the Newtons, Hopkins, Schaefers, and Cannons held the annual clambake at their rented cottage that year – that’s where these photos were snapped. There was always some goofy lawn games held and it was a real hoot. We could really laugh - the neighbors could hear us within a one-block radius. This was real fun.
I know my Mom did a lot of cooking for the annual clambake and it was all gooood – Seneca Chief corn on the cob picked fresh from Dad’s garden, Mom’s Manhattan clam chowder, raw and steamed clams, homemade potato and macaroni salads, Hoffman’s hot dogs (courtesy Uncle George), burgers, etc.
Sometimes the clambake was held in Dad's back yard.
It was always the biggest party of the year and we all had a great time.
Offshore shot - Barb, Uncle George Kappesser, Dad (Ed Kappesser) waving.

Under the Bigtop...

Under the Bigtop...

Barb and Me - Beach the day after....


Kip and former girlfriend Dana

Kip, what's this all about?

What are they doing? I don't recognize the guy in the yellow shirt, but there's Kip Kappesser and Patty Newton.

Peg Hopkins and Ms. Cannon is in the yellow shirt - not sure who's wearing the blue pants.

Another round... what's the name of this game?

Now they are mixin' it up.

My Uncle Al Glosky, Cousin Jim Kappesser, some guy in a green hat, and Doc Newton toss eggs...

More fun with the dangle-ball game.

Cousin Jim Kappesser

Ms. Cannon (sorry I have forgotten her first name!) and beau.

Sandy Island Beach the day after: L to R is Barb, Martha Liszewski, the Liszewski boy (I forgot his name), Mark (Goose) Liszewski, Kip, and Dana.

Aunt Esther Kappesser is up to something here. Do you recognize the children?

They really liked the dangle-ball competition...

From another clambake I think - Nancy (Newton) Smith, Peg Hopkins, Amy Kappesser, (I don't recognize the young lady in yellow), and Jean Cannon subjecting theirselves to the egg-toss competition. Bob "Hoppy" Hopkins is seen walking out of the photo to the left.

Now Rob and Nancy (Newton) Smith's company owns the cottage where these 2 clambakes were held - The "Acutech Lodge" I believe they call it. Elisabeth Smith, their daughter, writes that she has hosted an annual 4th of July party there for the last 8 years now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Ghost Channel

Here is an old photo - not entirely sure when it was taken, but I seem to remember my Dad telling us a story something about a flood or storm in the 50's before the St. Lawrence Seaway was controlling Lake Ontario's water levels.

In the foreground you see 3 people observing a flood of water covering the relatively narrow peninsula that separates Sandy Pond from Lake Ontario. Judging by the whitecaps on the water there is a strong wind too.

This area of the peninsula is where the tall tree-laden dunes end about 150 yards north of Hog Nose Point. The photographer was facing south when he snapped this, the lake is on the right, the last big dune (covered with trees)in the middle, and Hog Nose Point in the Pond is on the left. This "Ghost Channel" as I call it existed quite some distance south of the current channel. Maybe some old-timers remember this and can correct any of this sketchy info I am posting here.

A couple years ago I found an old geological survey map at a that showed this new channel, and as soon as I locate it again I'll add it to this post.

I marked on this photo the approximate area where the "Ghost Channel" was...

Apparently the Ghost Channel was there for a few years after it formed. I also recall something about somebody either filling it in doing some kind of construction (or destruction) related to this that would be illegal on many levels today. The "Nature Conservancy", if it had existed then, would have had a big issue with that, you betcha.

Today the area where the Ghost Channel existed is filled in with sand and trees and cottages are built here. You would never know there was a channel there at one time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Celebrating Life in Upstate New York

Growing up and living in Sandy Pond for the first 25 years of my life seemed very normal to me - until I moved away.

Let me illustrate...

Jeff Foxworthy on Upstate NY:

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 36 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Upstate New York.

If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because Saranac Lake is the coldest spot in the nation, you might live in Upstate New York.

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you might live in Upstate New York.

If you instinctively walk like a penguin for six months out of the year, you might live in Upstate New York.

If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Upstate New York.

If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Upstate New York.

If you have had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in Upstate New York.


1. "Vacation" means going South past Albany for the weekend.

2. You measure distance in hours.

3. You know several people who have hit a deer more than once.

4. You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.

5. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.

6. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

7. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

8. You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

9. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.

10. Down South to you means Albany.

11. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.

12. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.

13. You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."

14. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Upstate New York friends.

You Might Be From Upstate New York if....

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work
there, you might live in Upstate New York.

If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might
live in Upstate New York.


You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including

You install security lights on your house and garage and leave
both unlocked.

You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend / wife
knows how to use them.

You can identify a southern or eastern accent.

You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.

A brat is something you eat.

Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.

You go out to fish fry every Friday.

You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Growing up, living at Sandy Pond, for me was a wonderful time in my life. It was like living in a paradise without the tropical weather. I am so glad that my folks decided to live there and raise their family there. There was always something fun to do and I don't believe I knew the definition of "bored" until I got older and moved away from there.

No matter what time of year it was, Lake Ontario would sporadically generate a "3-day blow" - that's when the Lake roared and wind would howl and buffet and bend big trees back and forth for about 3 days on average. The Winter winds would blow in off the Lake over the Pond as an unending, mindless force that could freeze your eyes open.

Any ice on the Lake was hazardous at best but the ice on the Pond would get to 3 feet thick by mid-February. As kids, if the ice was clear of snow, I remember my brother Kip and I and some of our friends ("The Pond Boys") would take our metal-runner sleds out on the ice, sit down, unzip our coats and hold them open as sails, and the wind would wisk us away at an alarming rate. Sometimes we did it on ice skates but I wasn't very good on skates so I usually stuck with my sled. Now that was FUN! I wonder if kids still do that there...?

I was introduced to ice-boating when I was about 12 years old around 1966. My Dad, Ed Kappesser (or "Kap" as everyone called him), had an old friend named Don Dix who lived near Oneida Lake and owned and raced ice boats. (Kap and Don grew up together in the Syracuse area and often visited Sandy Pond for fun when they were teens in the early 30's).

Anyway, if the ice was clear and the wind was right, Dad would call his buddy Don and he and another buddy would tow their ice boats up for a day or sometimes the whole weekend. This was a standing arrangement between the 2 friends for 20 years or so in the '60s and '70s when I lived there. Mr. Dix didn't have the small factory-made ice boats that you may be familiar with. His ice boats were hand-crafted out of mahogany and maple and they were long and wide with huge light-weight sails. I don't remember if he said he built them himself or hired a boat builder.

The principles of ice boating are similar to sail boating except the speeds are much higher and so it could be dangerous if you lost control and let the wind tip you over. The runners on Mr. Dix's magnificent craft were about 2 or 3 ft. long and made of sharpened steel (like skates) and were arranged in a triangular pattern, the front one being the steering runner and the 2 back ones stationary - like a tricycle. Believe it or not, if conditions were right he said you could get them up to 70 or 80 miles per hour. When your were piloting one of these you sat only a few inches off the ice so it seemed like you were going 80 when you were probably only going 40.

If I remember correctly, Mr. Dix had 2 big racers and one smaller trainer and he let us kids sail the trainer. The trainer could probably do 60 MPH on a good day but I was pretty nervous with it and didn't get a lot of practise in so I don't think I ever got it above 40. My older brother, Kip, who is a natural athlete, got her up to top speed in only one afternoon of practice. It was glorious. You could tell you were at the max speed it could do with the wind you had when one of the back runners would lift off the ice a foot or so and you shot down the ice on only 2 runners.

If you went parallel to the direction of the wind then you would eventually match the speed of the wind and when that happened things got peacefully silent and all you could hear was the noise of the runners sliding along the ice. It was like being in a bubble with the landscape whizzing by - what a rush! You could get a lot more speed if you went crossways with the wind of course. An getting back involved a tacking zig-zag pattern as you could expect.

I have told this memory to many people from all over the country for many years since I moved away from the Pond, and I have almost always received a reaction of dis-belief. It's not surprising if you come to realize that there are probably not a lot of locations in the country that have the ice and the strong wind like from the Lake for some real fast ice-boating.

Eventually, after Dad retired and I had joined the Navy, he and brother Kip bought a couple factory-made ice-boats. They were smaller than Mr. Dix's but I understand Dad still had a blast "not acting his age"...

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Sandy Pond - The Secret Paradise of Home

This is one of my favorite photos. It brings me back to my youth, enjoying a place called Sandy Pond. This would have been a quiet evening, perhaps 80 degrees outside. You're sitting at the end of the dock with your friends. The fresh sunburn on your back itched a little as you closed your eyes and listened to the long drone of an outboard motor - somebody's out for a sunset ride...

I lived my first 25 years at Sandy Pond. It's located on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in Upstate New York. It is a resort community with a population of thousands in the summer and a few hundred in the winter.

You knew your neighbors...



Two teenagers, Tom Snow who's family lived in Potsdam NY and had a camp near the Elms Golf Course and his buddy Mike McGuane who's Mom owned a store on Route 3 near the "4-Corners", drowned tragically near that island while duck hunting one fall. Their shallow duck-boat overturned in bad weather. A third boy - my friend Danny Lapham, survived.

Being a "native" of Sandy Pond is much different than vacationing there. It's not better or worse - just different.

You endured the climate. The winters were cold and windy with abundant snow and ice. I remember the ice getting as thick as 3 feet. The springs were chilly and sunny, the fall seemed cloudy and damp. But the summers were perfect...

We attended Sandy Creek Central School. Kindergarten through 12th grade at one location. There were 62 people in my graduating class. After 13 years in the same class, we knew everybody. You just don't get that kind of schooling everywhere and I cherish it.

Growing up, exploring the world, we were blessed with the massive playground called Sandy Pond, 24/7, a permanent vacation of sorts, it was like a dream you did not want to awake from.

This web log is for memories of this place I used to call home...



My Dad first visited Sandy Pond in his youth during the 1930's. Dad and his good friend Don Dix would visit often, having youthful fun at this little resort. Dad (in the middle) with friends at Sandy Island Beach, Sandy Pond Circa 1933.

After World War II, Dad, a veteran and a State Trooper, married Mom, a Nurse, in 1948.

Dad on his Harley Police Special


They bought about a half-acre of land on Ackerman Tract on the south shore of Sandy Pond. It was originally called Ackerman's Grove.
They cleared the land, Mom contracting a wicked case of poison ivy when she was wafted by the smoke of the burning brush.

They built a small house (with a nice fireplace) out of cinder blocks and wood. I don't know why Dad used cinder blocks - perhaps he liked the security they offered. He was a policeman and veteran, and it was the atomic age with the Soviet menace armed with nuclear ICBMs. Or maybe he just liked to do masonry work. In any case he did a good job and their home still stands firm 55 years later.
Mom started having babies in 1953. They had 4 children and I was the 2nd born.

Pete, the youngest, hadn't been born yet when this photo was taken.

Brother Kip, Me, Brother Pete, Sister Amy, Halloween 1963 - (3 weeks before president John Kennedy was assassinated...)

Dad built on to the original house doubling it's size and adding a basement (which they called a "cellar") and attached garage. It was all cinder block of course - and grey. Some visitors would chuckle and say it resembled a bunker. We called it home.
After a few years Dad walled off the garage and built two more bedrooms... This photo shows the part of the house Dad added as their family grew. I have not yet found a photo of the entire house.
The old garage of course is at the head of the driveway - the 2 side-by-side windows in front of the mini-van were installed at the header of the old garage door. That's bro. Kip getting the winter salt off his car...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snowbelt! Winter Life in Upstate New York

Lake Ontario shoreline in February at Sandy Island Beach. The wave action continuously pushes the ice up to form these hollow ice hills. In the spring, despite dangers, we would cautiously explore them.

Here is an AP news article from last winter about a blizzard in the Snowbelt Region of Central New York where I lived my first 25 years.
I added the photos and captions.
The town of Redfield referenced in this article is situated a little east of my old homestead at Sandy Pond on Lake Ontario. Redfield usually got a few feet more than we did. Sometimes we would go there to play in it.
I miss snowmobiling, ice-boating, and ice-fishing, but I don’t miss all the work getting it out of the way!

Village May Set N.Y. Mark for Snowfall
Feb 11, 2007 10:45 PM US/Eastern By WILLIAM KATES Associated Press Writer

REDFIELD, N.Y. (AP) - This village in upstate New York's snowbelt gets a lot of snowfall during the winter, but last week's total—more than 11 feet, unofficially—might be an all-time record.
Before it began to wind down Sunday, persistent streams of squalls fueled by moisture from Lake Ontario during the last week consistently dumped lake-effect snow in this western New York region.

Figure 1. Pine trees laden with snow. It makes the tall pine woods very quiet and serene...

All that's left—apart from the massive dig out—is to claim the record for the most snowfall in a week. Redfield's total of 136 inches would break the state record of ten feet, seven inches that fell in nearby Montague over seven days ending Jan. 1, 2002, said Steve McLaughlin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Buffalo. A National Weather Service official will travel Monday to verify the amount.
"In all my life, I mean my entire life combined, I've never seen this much snow at once," said Jim Bevridge, 47, of Timonium, Md., who drove up Thursday for a long weekend of snowmobiling.

Figure 2. Significant snowfall like this can cave in a roof. Rooves are specially constructed to withstand the snow load. First you shovel the roof, then the driveway...

McLaughlin said the proper way to measure snow requires taking readings about every six hours. It's very important with lake-effect snow.
"It can be light and fluffy. If you did hourly measurements, you might come up with 24 inches, when there's really only 16 on the ground. It needs to be able to pack some," he said.

Figure 3 After you dig out your car you have to open the hood and scoop out all the snow packed around the engine and electrical system...hopefully you haven’t left a window cracked open…

The heavy snow is common along the Tug Hill Plateau, a 50-mile wedge that rises 2,100 feet from the lake's eastern shore. It usually gets about 300 inches—roughly 25 feet—of snow a year.

Figure 4. At this point you can't feel your arms anymore. 4 foot snow loads like this weigh more than a ton...
We also weren’t allowed to play on the snow-banks or drifts along the road because once you reached the top you could touch the wires.

The hamlet of Hooker holds the state's one-year record with 466.9 inches, about 39 feet, in winter 1976-77. Redfield receives an annual average of 270 inches—more than 22 feet.
The weeklong snows left behind surreal scenes. One house appeared to be in a cocoon. The only signs of parked SUVs were their radio antennas or roof racks rising above the snow. Dug out sidewalks looked like miniature canyons.

Figure 5. These guys are under at least a ton of snow... They have drank too much wine or are nuts- or both!

Some of the more hardened locals, however, aren't impressed.
"It's snow. We get a lot of it. So what?" said Allan Babcock, a lifelong resident who owns a popular diner in this village of 650 people located about 38 miles northeast of Syracuse. (Al was a star football player at the old Alma Mater a couple years older than me.)

Figure 6. My Mom used to require my brother and I to shovel out the kitchen window after we I finished the roof!

Roads were mostly cleared Sunday as workers turned their attention to removing the snow and trimming down 10- and 12-foot-high snowbanks.

Figure 7. Obviously roads need heavy equipment to clear them. That is a huge, truck-sized, snow-blower clearing drift-bound Highway Rte. 3, about 5 miles south of the old home. There was always rumors about somebody's dog getting chewed up in one of these monsters...

Figure 8. All clear. My brother and I encountered a skunk in one of these canyons after the blizzard of '78 near Barnes Corners NY. That’s when I learned that you can't run very fast with a snowsuit on!!

The intense blast of snow hasn't been blamed for any deaths in Oswego County. Elsewhere, however, more than a week of bitter cold and slippery roads have contributed to at least 25 deaths across the northeastern quarter of the nation—five in Ohio, four in Illinois, four in Indiana, two in Kentucky, seven in Michigan, and one each in Wisconsin, and Maryland and elsewhere in New York, authorities said.

Figure 9. This is a power plant on Lake Ontario about 20 mi. from my Parent’s house.
That's a car buried in the foreground.

Figure 10. Icicles are a hazard. They can weigh up to 100 lbs.If one breaks off on you it can ruin your day.

My alma-mater Sandy Creek Central High School usually had one of the best high-school wrestling teams in the region. It’s because most of the guys have wicked upper body strength from – guess what? – shoveling snow!