Fervid Rays, 1858

“The dwelling houses in Skaneateles are neat and tasteful buildings, very cleanly in appearance and the yards in front of them are filled with choice shrubbery and elegant flowers, which with the gravel and other walks running through them give the beholder the highest idea of comfort and convenience to be found within these habitations. There are also side walks of brick, stone and wood on each side of the principal streets, all in excellent repair, while the said streets are planted with a large and healthy growth of shade trees, the foliage of which is so thick and wide spreading as to completely shelter pedestrians from the fervid rays of the noontide sun.

“The business portion of the town is all situated on the lake shore (an unfortunate arrangement, by the way) and considerable activity and enterprise is manifested there, though we must confess that we have seen rather more of this sort of movement in Broadway, New York city. To sum up, as the lawyers say, this is a beautiful, quiet and orderly little village, and if a man has the requisite amount of dollars to support himself in style, he cannot pitch upon a more desirable location for a residence. We say this honestly and sincerely.

“Rather a laughable incident befell us while gauping about the streets. We were wandering along the one that runs close to the lake shore in a south-westerly direction, and just as we got opposite a fine Gothic house, with elegant surroundings, a lady came to the door with a broom in her hand. We stood like a great green horn as we are, gazing at the house with considerable intensity, when the aforesaid lady exclaimed with much animation to some one within, ‘Jane, Jane! Come here quick! There! Did you ever see such a well dressed Indian before?’

“Tis unnecessary to add that we ‘scattered’ like chaff in a whirlwind.”

 — From “Visit to Skaneateles,” Skaneateles Democrat, August 5, 1858; reprinted from the Onondaga Gazette, no author named.

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A Queen Among Us

Queen Mona

In January of 1944, Mona Ruwaldt was destined to graduate from high school as the valedictorian of her class and go on to college, but first there was a coronation. The young people of Hammond, Indiana, had collected 50,000 pounds of paper in a drive for the war effort. Mona and her classmate Doug Radicky were chosen to reign as the royal couple, the Salvage Paper King and Queen. Their photo appeared in newspapers across the nation.

Mona went on to graduate from Northwestern University with honors, followed by med school, a career as Mona Ruwaldt, M.D., and a life as wife and mother. Today, unaffected by her titled origins, she lives quietly on Lake View Circle, showing the grace of true royalty.

Mona CU

Photo: ACME Newspictures, Chicago Bureau, Tribune Tower, Chicago

The Prince

Stockwell 1

For three summers in the 1950s, a prince walked among us, and although his proper name was Harry Stockwell, he did not go by “Prince Harry.” He was, in fact, the voice of the Prince in Walt Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, singing “One Song” in his regal baritone.

Stockwell’s first appearance in Skaneateles was actually in 1935, on the screen of the Huxford Theatre in Here Comes the Band. In the 1940s, Stockwell was on Broadway, playing the lead role of “Curly” in Oklahoma. In the following decade, he toured the country in summer stock.

In 1952, he came to the big, blue tent of the Finger Lakes Lyric Circus on the edge of Skaneateles to portray The Red Shadow in “The Desert Song,” John Kent in “Roberta,” Prince Danilo in “The Merry Widow” and Captain Warrington in “Naughty Marietta.” The following year he was Tommy Albright in “Brigadoon,” and the summer after that he reprised his role in “The Desert Song.”

I would love to know if he ever did “One Song” as an encore, or perhaps after dessert at the Sherwood Inn or Krebs.

Stockwell 2

Handsome, 1819

“Skeneateles, a handsome post-village of America, in the state of New York, in Marcellus, Onondaga county, at the outlet of the lake of the same name; 163 miles N. of W. from Albany. It has 60 houses, a handsome Presbyterian church, several mills, &c. on Skeneateles creek; and it has a brisk trade.

“Skeneateles Lake, a lake about fifteen miles long, and from half a mile to a mile and a half wide, principally in Onondaga county; six miles at its north end being in the township of Marcellus. Its trout and salmon are very large. The outlet is at the north end near the village of the same name, and the creek runs north, through Marcellus and Camillus, about ten miles to Seneca river, affording many fine seats for mills. Skeneateles, in the dialect of the Onondaga Indians, signifies long; and hence the name of the lake.”

The Cyclopedia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature (1819) by Abraham Rees

Busted

ferret man

“The possession of ferrets shall be presumptive evidence of their illegal use.” – The Auburn Citizen, August 28, 1909

The practice of sending ferrets into burrows, to flush or “ferret out” the rabbits within, was brought to the U.S. from England circa 1880, but it sparked outrage and was eventually outlawed in most counties of New York State. However, in September of 1914, the Skaneateles Free Press reported:

“Hunters in this and other towns in Onondaga county are divided on the question of allowing the use of ferrets in the bagging of rabbits. Some declare this method is unsportsmanlike in the extreme—others claim it is the only way to insure a good bag after a hard day’s tramp. Farmers have made complaint to the State Conservation Commission that the animals [rabbits] have become so numerous that they are proving a nuisance which should be abated. Commissioner Moore had a hearing on the matter in Syracuse Wednesday and took under advisement the application of the Hunters’ Club for permission to use ferrets in this county. Such permission was given in several counties of the State last year. The rabbit season opens October 1st.”

In time, the more sporting individuals prevailed; rabbits were once more safe in their homes, and the practice of hunting them with ferrets is today illegal across New York.

Wine & Cheese

Snowed In

I’m not sure what is stranger about this novel set in Skaneateles: Is it that men can get pregnant, or that Skaneateles has a great little Indian restaurant? We do learn that Austin Baines, owner of Skaneateles Vine & Rind, smells like sun-warmed grapes on a hot summer’s day, that Skaneateles school teachers duck into his wine store on their way home, and that “Greek wines weren’t a big seller in Skaneateles,” but only further reading – which I do not plan to undertake at this time – will tell if more startling revelations about life in the village remain.