Grindstone Island — All around the island, in Thurso, in Aunt Jane's Bay, at Mid-river Farm, this weekend is Old Home Day. This weekend, the hazy, chancey skies couldn't keep people away. Families and friends have gathered around tables laden with salads, watermelons, pies, cakes, and new concoctions no one has tried before. Midsummer is here, and suddenly, everyone startles — the leaves will begin soon to turn, and another lovely season on the River will have happened. None of us wants to miss it!
The church was full this morning to the last seat. Bob Smith acted as welcome committee and usher and seated people in the choir pews. The Rev. Carrie Stevens was even more inventive; he brought one of the red plush Victorian chairs down from behind the pulpit for Jeff Rand to sit in. Helen Ingerson came over from Clayton with her Slate relatives and Salt Garnsey drove a big school bus full of Slates to the church. In fact the church was chock full of Slates, gathered for a Slate reunion, though neither Buck and Brenda nor Erma could take time out from preparing for the traditional Old Home Day picnic at the beach to attend the morning session.
It's too bad the people working out in the carriage house (Erma, Buck and Brenda Slate, Chris and Dick Matthews, Junie Brown, Judy
Bacci, and Caroline and Bubby Bazinet) preparing the meal had to miss Helen Ingerson's singing "Beautiful Isle of Somewhere" for Mrs. Shirley who remembered that song from her long-ago girlhood.
It's too bad they had to miss Mr. Stevens' story-sermon. People who grow up Upstate learn to tell stories, which have a beginning, a middle, and an end, stories with images which they make speak for themselves. Game Stevens grew up seven miles west of Williamstown where his great-grandfather’s wheel finally broke down, for good, as the family tried to join the western migration.
There his grandfather planted a gape vineyard that, after the first frost of autumn, spritzed with sweet grape juice. There young Carrie and his friends slipped, in the early dark under the thick canopy of the arbor to "steal" whole bunches of the luscious fruit for skin-spitting contests; there he first learned from his grandfather (who always came around about two days later to say, "You know, Garrie, any time you boys would like some grapes, you're welcome to them) that "before we have the sense to ask forgiveness, God forgives us."
The story-sermon about grandfather, about God, continued on in a homily, living revelation of the depth and warmth of our memory of love. Too bad the people in the kitchen creating more tastes and scents and stories of love had to miss it!
But, when we had all, after church, gone on down the road to the picnic at Potter's Beach, we thought maybe their missing the service was worth it. Just about everyone agreed that the ham, Sis's macaroni salad with new, uncooked fresh peas in it, the ripe melon salad, the berry, pie, everything there, was the best ever. The rain held off, and all the old-time islanders sat around telling their own stories of boyish mischief, of family pranks, of the whereabouts of all the kith and kin, of new and old loves until late afternoon.
Meanwhile, down in Watertown, the family and friends of Phil and Yuvon Marra were gathering for a surprise party to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Debbie and Jeff and John, their children, planned a huge and wondrous celebration — and the last report, no one had "let the cat out of the bag," though there had been a few close calls.
Down at Aunt Jane's Bay there were more reunions: Lori Shirley, Mrs. Shirley's granddaughter celebrated her birthday at a picnic which was also to celebrate Garry and Diane Shirley's 30th wedding anniversary. They all came home to eat lobster! "No wonder," said Mrs. Shirley, "I couldn't sleep," Mrs. Shirley goes down to the hospital on Monday for her monthly blood transfusion to fight her chronic anemia. Clouds of angels will go with her.
And another reunion took place this week in Aunt Jane's Bay. Caroline Wright, who had been feeling poorly for several months, came back to the river, oxygen tank in tow, to spend yet another summer with her family on Long Point. Caroline Larsen, her granddaughter, reports that though she is very fragile, she is delighted to be back at the St. Lawrence River. Lizzy Meirs and Emily Holt, her two daughters, accomplished this amazing feat — with the help of the volunteers who man the fireboat. Mrs. Wright enjoyed every minute of the drama! She is 94 and the figure skaters and actresses among her progeny surely know her as a good trooper.
Yet another celebration occurred on the south side of the island: another 40th wedding anniversary. Even though their children could not get here, Ann and Bob Binhammer marked, with joy, their years together. But Bob is not going to retire! He says he has just gotten so he knows enough to teach well — that takes a long, long time.
And in Thurso, just across the road from the church. Bob Smith has been having a happy, happy reunion with his two daughters, Debbie and Lisa. Through their lighted windows their pleasure in being together has radiated out over the lawn, and Robert, Debbie's son has figured out more and more English to greet her friends with as the days on the island have passed. We wish they could stay, longer, so we could all share some of Debbie's stories of home in Burundi on Lake Victoria in Africa, and Lisa's stories of her lawyer-wife life. This weekend, when so many friends and family came to this little island for such a short time, we rejoice, but we also regret that we cannot spend time with all of the people whose lives have been part of ours in the past. Time skids past, and before we blink, they've all gone again.
On the north side of the island, there are more reunions. Wayne Grant's mother is visiting on Ford's Point — and, of course, that calls for another party. And more:
Sparky Howard-Smith brought his fiancée Ginger, to visit Spark's mother June Augsbury and Frank. The couple plan to be married in October, so there is more celebration yet to come.
Fleur and Bill Rueckert (North-side Bill) are visiting Mid-river Farm with their children, Cleve,
Elizabeth, and Julia. Fleur is the daughter of John and Aminta Marks. Fred and Joan also have son-in-law Tony Ares and his daughters, Monica and Camilla staying with them.
Saturday, Eric Grote and crew, Max Kenner, won the fourth annual Harold Herrick Cup St. Lawrence sailing skiff race that was held off Mid River Point. Seven boats entered this year, the most ever, and the wind held, so the finish was close at least twice. These rudderless boats waver, like butterflies, around the course, and take great skill to direct — the crew steering by moving forward or back in the boat. It is good to see more and more of these lovely crafts joining in the fun of the races. Next week the boats will again compete at the Clayton Boat Show.
A great party (yet another!) took place after the race at Mid-river , Farm. |
Before appending one last news item, here are some catch-alls: the Saturday night dance was good -lots of people - even though electrical problems delayed the start of music until almost 11 o'clock. Thanks to Erma Slate and Margaret Taylor, the parsonage was spic and span to welcome the Rev. Game Stevens and Cheryl for a week's stay. They have already gone around the island in their boat, spotting a St. Lawrence skiff
on their way, and are planning 10 canoe up into Walt Webster's long swamp some time this week to see the herons and turtles and gallinules and cattails and carp and - whatever else surprises them -maybe just plain cows.
Mary Lou Rusho taught Sunday school this Sunday, and although this is a guess, probably there was much excitement in the carriage house about the going and coming for the Old Home Day picnic, and much good food passed by eager eyes and noses. Next Sunday Weezie Grant will be the teacher. Mr. Stevens will again be minister on Aug. 2.
Here is a last news account from the Pannanen farm at the head of the island. Eva Hietakangas with her niece, Sylvia Shoultes and her daughter, Andrea, were back for Old Home Day and Sylvia brought this account of her son, Jeremy:
Jeremy Shoultes, son of Robert and Sylvia Shoultes of Cicero and Grindstone Island and grandson of the late Vaino and Mary Anderson of Grindstone, has placed second runner-up in the 16-18 age tap division in the N.E. US Talent Olympics held in Poconos, Pa. this June. He was the 1991 13-15 age tap. division first place champion. Jeremy also holds dance titles such as: 1992 first runner-up NYS Jr. Mr. Dance-Dancemasters of America, first place advanced tap division age 15 1992-Regency Talent Competition and 1992 Teen Male Dancer of Syracuse.
Jeremy is also active in Syracuse theatre productions, most recently appearing in 42nd Street, Oklahoma, George M., and a Showcase of Talent. He has also appeared on various Syracuse TV shows.
Jeremy is a sophomore at the Cicero - North Syracuse High School in Cicero.
So it is.