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.”

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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

Thanks 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.



Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Clay

On Saturday evening, February 10, 1855, the First Baptist Church hosted Cassius Marcellus Clay, who had been invited to speak by the Skaneateles Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. There were 18 inches of snow on the ground in the village, but the Kentucky planter, politician and emancipationist was not hindered.

Born to a slaveholder, Clay’s awakening came at Yale University, where he heard abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak. Garrison’s words were to him “as water is to a thirsty wayfarer.”

When he inherited slaves, he freed them and paid them wages to remain on his plantation. He was elected to three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, but lost support because he called for ending slavery. In 1845, Clay began publishing an anti-slavery newspaper. Threatened with death, he barricaded the doors and set up two four-pounder cannons inside, but a mob broke in and carried away his printing equipment. He took to carrying two pistols and a Bowie knife.

In 1849, while making an anti-slavery speech in Foxtown, Virginia, Clay was set upon by six brothers, who beat, stabbed and tried to shoot him, but their pistol misfired. In the ensuing melee, Clay was seriously injured but killed one of the brothers with his own knife before fainting from loss of blood.

Clay’s 1855 appearance in Skaneateles was decidedly more low-key. The Skaneateles Democrat noted, “Mr. Clay is not the most forcible orator we have heard, but yet acquitted himself well on the occasion and left a very favorable impression on his hearers, of the sincerity and worth of his personal efforts.”

In the course of his two-hour lecture, Clay predicted that sooner or later the two antagonisms, those for and against slavery, would meet and our country would suffer all the horrors consequent upon a civil war. In that, he was terribly correct.

In the months to come, the Skaneateles Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society hosted more anti-slavery speakers in the village. They included Joshua Reed Giddings in March, the Rev. S.H. Brown in April, Antoinette Brown in May, and Frederick Douglass in July.

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“Cassius M. Clay,” Skaneateles Democrat, February 16, 1855

In 1912, Herman Heaton Clay, a descendant of African-American slaves, named his newborn son Cassius Marcellus Clay in tribute to the emancipationist. In 1942, that son gave his own son the same name, Cassius M. Clay Jr. In 1964, after his conversion to Islam, Cassius M. Clay Jr. changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Cassius Clay Bourbon

Cassius Clay is today remembered by a namesake bourbon, with a cannon on the cork top.

Cassius Clay’s life during and after the Civil War will reward your further exploration.

The West Cove

Lakeside Studio

Friends received this photograph as a housewarming gift and it raised a number of questions: who took the photo, where and when was it taken, and who was sitting on the breakwall.

The “where” was easy; the photo was taken at the Cove, or the West Cove as it is also known, on the lake side of West Lake Street.

The “who” and “when” is a little more difficult. In the lower right-hand corner is the imprint of the “Lakeside Studio,” a part of the firm of Livingston, Williams & Hunt (later just Williams & Hunt), dry goods merchants who sold postcards of Skaneateles they had printed in Germany. This narrows the search down: the date to between 1899 and 1930, and to two photographers, Izora N. Cayvette and Manford Lindon Shattuck.

Earlier, in 1885, the Lake Shore Studio was established by Frank Lincoln Harris, upstairs from the store of Herbert A. Livingston. In June of 1895, Harris left the village and moved his studio to Cortland, N.Y., where he was assisted by Izora Cayvette between 1896 and 1901.

After working in Syracuse as a photographic retoucher, Izora “Zora” Cayvette came to Skaneateles in 1907 and became the house photographer for the Lakeside Studio.

Zora 1

In July of 1918, Zora Cayvette left Skaneateles, moving to Florida, and M.L. Shattuck took her place. Whereas Cayvette was primarily a portrait photographer, Shattuck also had artistic leanings.

Shattuck 1

American Photography, August 1921

My best guess is that Shattuck took the photo of the West Cove in the 1920s and, going out on a limb, I would suggest that the young man on the breakwall is Sedgwick Smith. His family had the wherewithal to commission a photo, and he is seated not far from the Smith family home, just across West Lake Street, where he spent most of his life.

For fans of the West Cove, here are a few more images:

What Is It 1884

The Cove (and Charles Poor’s “What Is It”) in 1884, photo possibly by Lindsay Poor

Dog in Boat LS Studio

A dog in a boat, which became a postcard in 1905…

Dog in Boat 1905

Shore Dog 1907

Dated 1907, but I’ll bet it’s the same dog.

Harry Pierce Sunshine Fitch Boathouse

Harry Pierce’s “Sunshine,” photo courtesy of the Skaneateles Historical Society

The Cove Early

Cove and Fitch

West Cove Pano

Panoramic postcard by Williams & Hunt

West Cove Tinted

Tinted postcard by Williams & Hunt