The mail boat by artist and craftsman Scott Ouderkirk
“A few moments ago the lake was a green satin scarf
with smooth furls for waves and a postage stamp park
for a border. Then the storm struck.
Wind unraveled the scarf to white shreds,
bent curbside saplings over, tore small branches
from trees and flung them onto the grass, while the rain
lashed tardy couples and sent them racing for cover,
drummed on the roofs of cars, boiled in the streets,
hissed against shopfront windows.
Then the storm was over.”
— “Ten Minutes in Skaneateles, N.Y.” by Mark Perlberg (1929-2008). First published in the journal december, then collected in Waiting for the Alchemist (2009)
“In the year 1912, the W.V.I.A. [Women’s Village Improvement Association] began an active campaign for the extermination of the house fly pest. At the suggestion of the Association, manure heaps were removed or covered. A gross of the approved type of fly trap was bought and these were sold and distributed over the village. This was followed later by a report from Dr. H.B. Wright, the health officer, on the good results from this campaign.”
— History of the Village Improvement Association of Skaneateles, New York (1929)
In the summer of 1922, a young novelist, poet and wanderer named John Dos Passos spent several weeks in Skaneateles, staying at a house rented by a friend’s parents. The friend was Dudley Poole, who Dos Passos knew from Harvard. After graduating in 1916, Dos Passos had gone to Spain to study art and architecture; in 1917, he volunteered as an ambulance driver with friends E. E. Cummings and Robert Hillyer, serving in France and Italy in the days before the U.S. entered World War I. Also that year, his poetry was published in Eight Harvard Poets. In 1918, he returned to the U.S. to train as a medic for the U.S. Army; stationed in Paris, he studied at the Sorbonne.
By the summer of 1922, he had published two novels, One Man’s Initiation (1920) and Three Soldiers (1921). He and Poole were living in New York City, but found it hectic and so retreated to Skaneateles. For Dos Passos, it was a short visit; he returned to New York, went to North Carolina for rest, and then on to Paris and Rome. Over a long career, Dos Passos wrote 42 novels, and numerous poems, essays, and plays.
With thanks to John Dos Passos’ Correspondence with Arthur K. McComb (1991) edited by Melvin Landsberg
Skaneateles appears in Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart (1991) when Iris Courtney, a student at Syracuse University, visits the summer home of a professor, Dr. Byron Savage, for whom she works as a student assistant, and meets his son, Alan, in from Paris:
“She senses that Alan Savage is one of those persons who speak ambiguously because their reading of the world and of others is ambiguous and ambivalent. But his handshake is forthright and friendly, and here on the lakeside terrace of the Savage’s splendid white-shingled summer house in Skaneateles, New York, in late August of 1963, Iris Courtney’s happiness is suddenly effervescent as a bottle of sparkling water violently shaken.
“Before dinner, there’s a rowdy game of croquet played on the grassy slope above the lake, with Mrs. Savage looking on. This long lovely summer Sunday shading into dusk. Below, Skaneateles Lake mirrors the flawless sky, bluest of blues. And there’s blue in the Savages’ immaculately tended lawn: hydrangeas, Mrs. Savage’s favorite flower.
“… does she like Skaneateles… it is beautiful, isn’t it; the Savages have been coming here for thirty years. Iris agrees that the lake is beautiful. Iris says that the lake is the most beautiful lake she has ever seen.”
As a fundraiser and tribute to veterans, in 2011 the Skaneateles High School girls’ lacrosse team sold American flags for $30 each and put them in Clift and Shotwell parks, each flag honoring a veteran of the buyers’ choice. The team plans to donate some of the money to the local American Legion post and use the remainder to pay for staffing, equipment and other costs during the lacrosse season.
“We always try to do something that gives back to the community,” said Bridget Marquardt, Skaneateles varsity girls’ lacrosse coach. In 2005, her Lakers won the New York Class C championship with a perfect 24-0 record, and ended the season ranked #5 nationally by Inside Lacrosse magazine. Her 2006 team repeated as New York Class C champions with a 21-3 record.
My thanks to the coach and her team, sterling examples of what high school athletics should be all about.
Photo by the Skaneateles Press.