Scanned from page 5 of The Skaneateles Press, December 19, 2007.
This page is intended as an archive for the writings of
Charlie Major, a well known Skaneateles native.
A shot of Fennell Street when the railroad tracks still ran down in front of the mill.
This photo may not be what you think. Some of you will say it is the Tallcot Mill, others the Old Stone Mill, but to others it was the end of the railroad tracks. To Jimmy Bartlett it was the beginning of the tracks.
This community has always helped those with disabilities even before that word was part of the lexicon. There are many in the community that we collectively look after today, even if just with a pleasant, "Hello."
Jimmy Bartlett, a highly educated individual, came to Skaneateles later in life from England where he had been employed by a newspaper to edit and proofread.
He lived in a one-room shack that was built by donations on Fennell Street by St. Mary's Cemetery. He was a bachelor who made his own meals. I am not sure whether he had a small pension and/or received welfare assistance but he managed to get along. On most afternoons he would go to McKeever's bar, later to become the Town House next door to Milford and Major Law Office, now the site of Riddler's, formerly Herb's, after it was previously Riddler's and back again.
Often Jimmy would spend a good deal of time there as everyone enjoyed his company as he was a brilliant individual and a great conversationalist.
Some evenings, a now prominent lady in our village living on Genesee Street in the village, who was then a school girl neighbor would come over and read the evening paper to him, in exchange this gentleman would help her with her school work.
He did not have any means of transportation and many a friendly motorist would give him a ride to the village center. So you ask, “Why was the railroad important?”
He was blind.
When he left McKeever's someone would guide him to the end of tracks at the mill or the beginning of the tracks for Jimmy. He was blind but he still could count. He would then walk on the railroad ties and when he counted to the magic number of ties, he would turn right toward his house which was across the street from the tracks. At this point his dog would greet him and help guide him into the shack.
When he passed away in 1956 there was a front page obituary.
This is just a short story of a unique individual in our community, who some have forgotten or for most are learning about him for first time.
Skaneateles is certainly a place that has attracted a lot of unique individuals.
A shot of Stott's Garage on Genesee Street
This photo is not the Bridge Market. Recently the Chamber of Commerce had a contest asking numerous questions about the village. In answer to the question "where was the original Bridge Market?" some answered that it was at this location. Wrong! This was Stott's Garage for as early as I can remember and it is now the location of Valentine's and the Village Bottle Shop.
The Bridge Market was next to the bridge, if you can imagine that, where the Blue Water is today. The Bridge Market burned down in March of 1963 in a spectacular night fire. It was then owned by Bob Feldman who rebuilt the building and a few years later purchased Stott's and moved his grocery store over there with the name Bridge Market.
Now Chief Perkins is concerned with young people jumping off the outlet bridge. He should have been around in the 1940s through the 50s. We jumped off the bridge and the roof of the Bridge Market, which was about the same height as the Blue Water or a little higher. It seemed a long way down when standing on the roof but the water in the channel was deeper then, as sediment has filled it in today. The city brick boathouse was not there although the city had a smaller wooden boathouse that made the channel wider than now.
Chief John Thompson would come over and yell, "Hey you kids get off there," and then leave. Later Chief George Davis used the same method after watching the show of jumpers for a while.
The show was really something when Bob Keegan and George Joyce were there, as they would do swan dives off the roof after getting a two-stride running start. They had to clear the rock retaining wall, which is still there today, and not go out too far as they had come up quick so as not to hit bottom or the city boathouse. The rest jumped although it was too high a jump for some and they stuck with the bridge.
In March 1963, I had another chance to jump as I was on the roof as a fireman when the middle of the roof collapsed. We had used a ladder on the back from a lower roof to get onto the top roof. We started to get off in a hurry and Cliff Abrams was last to go down the ladder. He pulled the hose with him and unfortunately I lost track of the hose and had nothing to follow in the heavy smoke. I was able to find the edge of the roof and took off my boots and coat to jump into the channel, as I knew how far to jump, then I remembered Fire Chief George Spearing saying something about putting the "duck" in the channel and use a hose line from it. Since I could not see anything, with my luck, I was afraid I would land on the duck. I got off by following the edge of the ladder and fortunately Cliff left the ladder.
I guess I will never get another chance with Chief Perkins and his force guarding the bridge but on the other hand, maybe they never thought of looking at the roof.
If you read this, don't try to jump from the roof, as water is way too shallow even when high in the summer.