Skaneateles: The Character and Characters of a Lakeside Village (2010) is back in print. A few years back, I printed 1100 copies, sold 1100 copies and moved on to other projects. But people kept asking for this one, and someone was offering it on Amazon for $75, so I decided it was time to reprint. But being four years and three books smarter, I decided to gently edit the book, removing a few irritating typos (the squirrel no longer runs around the truck of the tree), adding a few new facts and photos I’d come across, and fixing all of the existing photographs so they are sharper, clearer. And with the indexer at my side, NOT changing the pagination. So it’s the same, but better, and available again, most probably at the Creamery gift shop, on Amazon in a week or two, or you can just ask the author for a copy when you see him on the street.
Patrick J. Bolger was a hard worker and a capital fellow, but in describing the luck that followed him through life, the adjective “bad” fails to express the fullness of his misfortune.
Take, for instance, the fall from a hay wagon. That’s a bad piece of luck for anyone, but Patrick Bolger fell from a hay wagon onto a pitchfork. It was a summer day in 1891, and he was working as a driver for James Holmes in Auburn when the front wheel came off and spilled Patrick into Market Street, where the tine of a pitchfork that had accompanied the load of hay passed through his arm, “causing quite a serious wound.”
A hay wagon was involved in another of his misadventures as well. In August of 1898, a party of young people from Auburn enjoyed a hayride to Skaneateles where they were joined by Bolger, who was now a soda bottler working for the firm of Holmes & Bolger here in the village. Around midnight, after an enjoyable supper, one of the party held up a hat and challenged another to an exhibition of “high kicking.” The party’s host went first, and then…
“Mr. Bolger followed his lead but with different results. He jumped in the air, kicked the hat with his left foot but could not regain his balance, falling to the floor in such a manner that his right leg turned under him, breaking the knee-cap with a cracking sound that was heard all over the room.”
The newspaper account noted that this “put an abrupt end to the enjoyment and cast a gloom over the whole party.”
The year before, Bolger had come to Skaneateles, still working with James Holmes of Auburn, to open Holmes & Bolger Bottling. The new enterprise occupied the ground floor of the Rawlins Block (today home of The Kinder Garden) at 3 East Genesee Street, and Patrick and his family moved into the floor above. In May of 1897, the Skaneateles Press wrote:
“The firm has put in the latest improved machinery. They manufacture their own sodas, making various kinds, all of which give the best satisfaction and are their own recommend. Holmes & Bolger also bottle the celebrated Milwaukee, St. Louis and Rochester lagers, and the Robert Smith, Evans, Hudson and High-Hop ales, and also furnish Saratoga, Hawthorn, Vichy, Geyser, Kissingen and Apollinaris waters.
“The establishment is kept in apple pie order. The utmost cleanliness is observed in the process of manufacture of their sodas. The firm delivers goods to various dealers in this and surrounding towns, and also supplies private families. The firm has invested several hundred dollars in the business, and is a local enterprise that will be appreciated. The works are under the personal supervision of P.J. Bolger, the junior member of the firm, who accords prompt service and courteous treatment to all patrons.”
In July of 1897, however, an advertisement in the Skaneateles Press suggested that counterfeiting was afoot:
“NOTICE: [It] is a misdemeanor for any person or persons to buy, sell, give, take, trade, traffic, fill or use any bottle, box, syphon or keg with the following names or marks blown, stamped or branded thereon: Jas. H. Holmes, Auburn, N.Y. or Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles, N.Y. The special detective of the New York State Bottlers’ Association has full power to arrest and prosecute all persons found violating the Bottle Law. Anyone having Jas. H. Holmes or Holmes & Bolger bottles can send postal card to 38 and 40 Chapel st. Auburn, or Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles, and avoid all trouble.”
The bottles were not necessary for long. “Holmes & Bolger, Skaneateles” was a short-lived company. Perhaps Skaneateles was too small for a bottling business to flourish, and close enough to Auburn for the village’s bottling needs to be served there. In 1899, P.J. Bolger moved to Fulton, N.Y., with a new partner, and established a new bottling works.
However, in July of 1899, Bolger reappeared at a baseball game in Skaneateles, apparently healed from his “high kicking” mishap. In the course of the game, “P.J. Bolger, who by the way formerly resided here, kept third base supplied with a case of pop and any runner who reached third was entitled to a drink… After the game, a foot race was run and this was won by William Meagher, the undertaker, with P.J. Bolger a close second.”
Back in Fulton, however, Bolger was again injured, this time badly cut on the hand when a bottle exploded while he was bottling mineral water. And in 1904, his health failing, Bolger was forced to sell his Fulton bottling works and return to Auburn.
In January of 1906, Bolger died at home of the kidney ailment known then as Bright’s Disease. He was 39 years old, and left a widow and five young daughters. A choir of 100 children sang at his funeral. The Auburn Democrat-Argus noted, “His wide acquaintance made for him many friends. A man of generous impulses of head and heart, his charity was unbounded. He was a zealous worker for the church and its societies, loved his home and his family and his early demise will be deplored by all who knew him.” The next month, the people of Auburn held a testimonial concert and dance to benefit Bolger’s family. In friendship, at least, he had been very, very fortunate.
* * *
My thanks to the person who listed a Holmes & Bolger bottle on eBay and set me off on this quest.
A postcard of the main lodge at Lourdes Camp shortly after its founding; this would have been the main house on the Nichols estate.
One of the more colorful visitors to Roosevelt Hall was Ernest J. King who in July of 1935 spent a weekend as the guest of Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. King was the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, and already known as one of the more outspoken officers in the U.S. Navy.
Just three years earlier he had attended the Naval War College, and in his thesis noted that America’s weakness was representative democracy:
“It is traditional and habitual for us to be inadequately prepared. This is the combined result of a number factors, the character of which is only indicated: democracy, which tends to make everyone believe that he knows it all; the preponderance (inherent in democracy) of people whose real interest is in their own welfare as individuals; the glorification of our own victories in war and the corresponding ignorance of our defeats (and disgraces) and of their basic causes; the inability of the average individual (the man in the street) to understand the cause and effect not only in foreign but domestic affairs, as well as his lack of interest in such matters. Added to these elements is the manner in which our representative (republican) form of government has developed as to put a premium on mediocrity and to emphasize the defects of the electorate already mentioned.”
In 1938, he underscored his opinion by staging a successful simulated naval air raid on Pearl Harbor, showing that the base was dangerously vulnerable to aerial attack. He wasn’t taken seriously.
As WWII approached, King was appointed as Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and promoted to admiral in February 1941. On December 30, 1941, three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he became Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.
Following Japan’s defeat at the Battle of Midway, King advocated the invasion of Guadalcanal. The campaign was ultimately successful, and for the first time the Japanese lost ground. Throughout the war, King was widely respected for his ability, and heartily disliked. Historian John Ray Skates wrote, “Only British Field Marshal Montgomery may have had more enemies. King also loved parties and often drank to excess. Apparently, he reserved his charm for the wives of fellow naval officers.”
Franklin Roosevelt described him as a man who “shaves every morning with a blow torch.”
King’s view of press relations was simple. He said, “Don’t tell them anything. When it’s over, tell them who won.”
One of his daughters said, “He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.”
One hopes that the beautiful vistas and calming influence of the lake made him an enjoyable guest during his 1935 visit to Skaneateles.
Above, U.S. Naval Commanders in the Marianas Campaign, South Pacific. L. to R.: Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance, commander, U.S. Fifth Fleet; Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations and Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy; Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
In my earlier piece on “The Fays,” who in the summer of 1905 stayed at what is today the Sherwood House, I wrote about how Mr. & Mrs. John Fay copied their mother’s/mother-in-law’s act and took it on the road. I’ve since been able to find a souvenir token sold by Anna Eva Fay and an oh-so-similar token sold by John and Eva Fay. I’m sure these will bring me a double dose of good luck.
I know what you’re thinking: Budweiser in 1922? During Prohibition? Well, there are two possibilities. Although Anheuser-Busch was mainly producing Bevo as its near beer, they did produce a Budweiser near beer. (And it was Kin Hubbard who said that the man who named it “near beer” was a poor judge of distance.) But there was also a Budweiser near beer produced by the DuBois Brewing Company of DuBois, Pennsylvania, which sold in Erie, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Whichever Budweiser it was, we can be sure it was a pallid brew.