The recurring profusion of bottles and cans next to the basketball courts in Austin Park prompts one to wonder what could be afflicting our young athletes. Are hand tremors preventing them from grasping the bottles long enough to carry them to the trash can?  Has dribbling led to Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs) and numbed their wrists? Or is it only the “drop everything” excitement of playing on a court which once hosted Woody Harrelson? (The actor stopped here and shot baskets in June of 1994 while bicycling from Canada to Massachusetts.) Should the cause be medical in nature, one hopes that those beset will seek treatment.

Irving Noakes

Noakes Girls BBall

I could not help but wonder about the elfin character who appeared in vintage photos recently shared by Bill Hecht. A girls’ basketball coach who appeared to be shorter than his players, a scout master who was smaller than some of his scouts. As it turns out, this dynamo was Irving Noakes, a tireless organizer and physical training advocate, for many years the athletic director of the Skaneateles schools and coach of just about everything.

Noakes Scouts

Born in a log cabin (really) in 1886, on the shores of Lake Erie, Noakes grew up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Among his many youthful occupations was a stint as a cabin boy on the Maid of the Mist. When he was 15, his family moved to Cleveland; he played basketball and baseball, worked odd jobs in the Midwest, attending the nearest college or night school along the way. In 1915, he returned to New York to become the physical director at the Auburn YMCA.

In 1917, he came to Skaneateles. He coached both the Skaneateles and Marcellus football teams, giving each one 2 1/2 days of the week. I have no idea what he did when they played one another, but, as of 1925, Marcellus had won five of their nine meetings, and the 1921 league championship. On the diamond, Noakes’ Skaneateles baseball team won the 1929 county championship.

In 1930, Noakes left Skaneateles to head the Athletic Department at Phoenix High School, but continued to summer each year at his home in Mandana. He retired in 1952 and the following year was honored by 150 of his former players with a banquet at the Skaneateles Country Club.

Noakes died at his Mandana home in 1958. His obituary noted, “Mr. Noake’s ability as a coach and his congenial and friendly manner as a person added a luster to his name that will long be remembered among followers of sports in Skaneateles.”

* * *

Photos courtesy of the Skaneateles Historical Society, scans by Bill Hecht. Scout photo by E.L. Clark. Back row, left to right: Thomas “Toby” Rice, Kent Bradford, Francis “Mearsey” Mear, John “Johnnie” Rice, Donald “Spider” O’Neil. Front row: Robert “Bob” Horne, Donald “Don” Torrey, and Mr. Noakes.

“Noakes Is Coach of Two Schoolboy Football Teams,” Syracuse Journal, October 31, 1925

“Noakes Rites Held. His Varied Career Recalled Here.” Skaneateles Press, September 3, 1958


Gordie Howe

On the 4th of July, 1959, hockey legend Gordie Howe played golf at the Skaneateles Country Club. He was accompanied by his good friend Dr. John “Jack” Finley, the team physician for the Detroit Red Wings, a Syracuse native who did his pre-med studies at Syracuse University.

On the ice, Howe played 32 pro seasons, won six MVP awards and four Stanley Cup championships. He also spawned the term “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” (goal, assist, fight). His injuries included more than 300 stitches, most of them put in place by Dr. Finley.

On the links, Howe was a good golfer, generally within a stroke or two of par. As a boy, he worked as a greenskeeper at a course in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, so he could play golf all summer. And as an adult, he sponsored an annual charity tournament at Detroit’s Plum Hollow Golf Club.

When asked by a Syracuse reporter if he thought about becoming a pro golfer after he retired from hockey, he said, “No, I like golf but I want to keep it fun.” Below, he is shown with his Northland putter.

Gordie Howe

During his visit, Howe also rode on the mail boat. My thanks to notes kept by the late Don Stinson, and to “Keeping Posted with Bill Reddy,” Syracuse Post-Standard, July 6, 1959, via Fulton


Hockey Team

The Skaneateles High School hockey team of 1930-31. Top row, left to right: Coach Sedgwick Smith, David Flynn, Edwin Redman, Tommy Rice, Bill Duris, Don Patten, Bill Williams, George Vicary, and Howard Tucker, manager. Bottom row: Sid Howe, Dick Ettinger, John Fibben, Kent Bradford, Don “Spider” O’Neil, John Rice, Don Torrey.

Unnamed is the photo bomber in the basement window. That’s a story I would enjoy knowing.

Photo Bomber

Play Ball


The Skaneateles High School baseball team, probably in 1930. Top row, left to right, Coach Glenn Johnson, Albert Patterson, Kent Bradford, Allen Harse, Charles Kimball, Don O’Neil, Frank Harvey, James Feeney, Donald Torrey. Second row: Lester Leonard, Frank Hollier, Hobart Weeks, Paul Irving, Vernon Wilshere, Roscoe “Bumps” Farrar, Harold Church, Leon Wickham. In front, Eddie Gearhart, cheerleader.

With thanks to the amazing Bill Hecht.

The General’s Whiskey

Nutwood Whiskey

I have written before about General Marshall Independence Ludington, who lived in the Jewett mansion, today’s Masonic Lodge, but until yesterday I did not realize what a kindred spirit he was. In October of 1913, Ludington ordered four cases of whisky from W.H. Thomas Son Company in Louisville, Kentucky, including two cases of Saffell whiskey, said by historians to be a “delicate, golden Kentucky Bourbon,” and two cases of Nutwood Whiskey. At $15 a case, this was surely an excellent preparation for the winter to come.