GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - AUGUST 22, 1999
The week began at the church, as the week before ended. The island is not like a town where there are many centers of activity, the town halls, the school gymnasiums, the auditoriums, the playing fields, the YMCA, the YWCA, the various churches on every corner, the restaurants, the bars, the country clubs, the political party offices, and on and on and on. Here on Grindstone, there are only the church, and the hall, which was bequeathed to the church by Emmet Dodge as a place for the young people of Grindstone to meet and have a good time. Those young people have grown older, and produced a new group of young people who still think of the hall as their meeting place where they have a good time. And when they need lots of seats placed in rows, they use the church sanctuary as an auditorium and meeting room. The tables, the chairs, the cooking pots have been always used in whichever building they were needed, even, sometimes for parties at home, like the party for Emma’s baptism, and returned, usually to their traditional place. The church and hall have always been one, and the denomination of the church has meant so little that the Sunday morning congregation is made up of probably a small proportion of Methodists and a considerably larger proportion of congregants from a wide variety of denominations, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, whatever churches you night find on the many street corners of a town. So on Monday evening a good group of the parishioners gathered to hear Muhammad Khadija, a Muslim, give a slide talk about Jordan and the city of Petra in the wilderness north of the Red Sea. It was interesting to have the archeological sites compared from the point of view of an Arab. Petra seemed much less a Roman ruin and much more a memorial construction for burying the dead, like The Valley of the Kings in Egypt, and a new site in Saudi Arabia shown in Muhammad’s slides.
The rest of the week was friendship time, visiting with all the old friends gathered together on the island for August. Dick and Mary Petry came to visit us one evening with a pan of Mary’s sweet rolls. Yuvon and Phil Marra and Carol and Bruce Faust spent several afternoons riding up and down the country roads, over the new trails at the foot of the island, and up among the rocks to the lookout on the Slate back pastures. They said they hadn’t been to most of those places since they were children. Yuvon talked about living in the old Kendall house right there at Potter’s Point, and not far from the Slates, that has now fallen down, about riding the horse bare-back to go with their little dog to bring in the cows for milking, about helping her mother with the milking when her father had to be away and squirting a little milk into the cat’s mouth, about watching her mother and father cut the hay when it was ready to harvest, turn the rows over with hand rakes, and fork it onto the wagon to take it to the barn, where they again forked it up to the loft. There the children carried it back further into the loft so the little barn could hold all the hay the horses and cows needed for winter. “I don’t think it seemed like work to us, then,” she mused. “ It was just something that had to be done. It seemed like fun.” I remember the house they lived in. It was still standing when we came to the island in 1962. It was built in that long, low clapboard style so typical of many comfortable, New York State houses, with inviting center doors. The barn stood, a bit rickety by then, close by the house. There was another empty house a bit farther from the river that Yuvon said was the Potter house. Our children Used to shout in its direction every time we walked down the road to the beach. They called it the “echo house” because their calls came back from it loud and clear.
On Thursday, John and I dropped in at Remar to visit with Bob and Audrey, and Jackie and Robbie Lashomb, and then went across Theresa Street to see Bob and Ada Bazinette. They were home where they have been pretty much tied since Bob became ill, and we had a good old nostalgic natter about our young lives on Grindstone, the Bible School, the amusing things our kids did, about the church and the hall (of course), and, of course, about Bob’s health, but as little of that as Bob could manipulate! Both of them were like their young selves, and the conversation rambled up and down through the years we had known each other. As we left, John told Bob not to get up to shake hands, but Bob from his inimitable position squatting on his heels on the couch (no one else can do that!) leapt up lively as a new tennis ball, to say good bye and shake our hands. Ada looked young and pretty. She has always been a good care-taker, happy in doing it, and Bob is still a joy to her. The painting on the wall of Amber in the Grindstone church made me remember the love and care she gave that first granddaughter during the little girl’s early years. It is hard to believe Amber was born so long ago.
We’d thought we’d get over to see Lolita before she left for Michigan, but time seems to fill up easily, and there was young Robert Smith with time when he would sit while Joyce, his grandmother regaled him with stories of her baseball card collection and her otherwise-minded high school days, and let me paint him. I take tarts when tarts are passed! And the other side of the island is a long walk and a different life away. Debby Smith’s friend’s mother in Burundi, by the way, has been given her visa to visit the U. S. and she even has hope that the young people in the family who have been promised the support of Debby’s home church will also be given visas. (That makes Burundi seem not so far away. And a high school student from Rwanda who got off the bus with Alice Berkeley at the schoolhouse picnic made central Africa seem even closer . She and Debby delightedly greeted each other in whatever language it is they speak together.) (Do have a good year Lolita, until we meet again!)
There were a whole lot of people at the schoolhouse picnic on Saturday afternoon. The nice thing about that picnic was that there was not much formal talk; Fran Purcell greeted us, and so did Mary Lou Rusho. Rebecca Lashomb and Renae said a word or two about what they have done this summer, but mostly the greeters let us get about the business of eating our pot luck and enjoying each other. Renae is making progress on her “video” and it will be ready for viewing next summer. This week she is off on a bus to Greeley, Colorado to visit a teacher’s college out there in the mountains north of Denver.
The afternoon reminded me of the sunny last day of school in the schoolhouse, in l989, when the kids were having a tug-of –war and everyone was having a good, though slightly sad time eating and talking in small groups scattered about the green, grassy, leaf shaded playground. Now, inside, the schoolrooom looked as though the teacher’s bell might be about to ring for class to begin. Beside the road, a teacher from 1924, Miss Hazelwood, climbed off the bus saying she hadn’t been back to Grindstone in (I couldn’t hear how many years, but I think it had been a good while!.) Aletha was delighted that her father-in-law, Bob Williams, won the Grindstone Island “throw” that Audrey designed, with the island in the middle and the names of all the old settlers around the border. And Bob Lashomb and John Marks shared with each other the joys of retirement. I wasn‘t sure either of them had really experienced “retirement”, but they seemed to like it. Several women took turns making sure everyone signed a get-well card to Maggie Ennis who has to undergo yet another operation on her leg. She’s upbeat,” says Rex. “She’s feisty”, calls Janet!
On Tuesday, August 24th, at 7:00 p.m., Audrey Lashomb is going to give a lecture at the schoolhouse about Industry on Grindstone Island, sponsored by the Grindstone Island Schoolhouse project. Audrey is the author of “Going Home, Grindstone Island”, the book we’ve all enjoyed all summer.
In the evening, the schoolhouse party moved up the road to the Hall where the St. Lawrence River Rat Blue Grass Band played good country music, and Bob Smith, on the island for the first time this summer, called three squares. Bubby Bazinet, our Grindstone caller directed three more before midnight. Pastor Dick, wearing the apron signed by all the dancers at the hall last week, and his “faithful-in-all-things”, Mary, cooked hamburgers until we called the two of them to come join a square. I couldn’t tell that Mary hadn’t square danced before, many times! Dick said he needed to get a little more practice. It was a fine, old time party. And, I think, even the young people enjoyed the music and dancing their grandparents had, years ago, enjoyed every week. One old timer even led his grapevine twist into another square, taking those earnestly trying young folks by surprise. John and I walked down the hill after the dance with Christine Carnegie and her grandfather who had been in our square. Christine, her grandfather told us proudly, had won the “Triple C Award” for character, commitment, and courage, a statewide award that was presented to her on the last day of school by Senator Elliot Spitzer. It is a remarkable mix of young people, children, parents, grandparents, good friends, ministers, relatives and new faces that come to the parties on Saturday night.
Next week, the music will be by the “Two Guys”, and there will be a limbo contest. Now that is strictly for young folks!
On Sunday, Emma Paxton was baptized. The church was full to overflowing. There were aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends and strangers filling the pews. Emmy seemed to enjoy the whole thing wide-eyed in her mother’s arms. Emmie Sorth told us about the silver baptismal chalice that she had presented little Emma for the occasion. It had been given to Teacher Emmy by the students of the Ridgewood Public School when she retired after 25 years of teaching there, and had been on her mantle in Georgia filled with holly first and then with wild flowers. But she decided the best thing it could do was hold the holy water for little Emma’s baptism. Many others sang their blessings for Emmy, Hazel Burlew, Alvin Taylor, and the growing church choir. Joan Flint and Anna Larson played a flute duet for her, and good wishes abounded.
Afterward it seemed as if the whole of the congregation wended its way in the usual vehicles, bus, four wheelers, trucks, old cars and new cars, down to Salt’s and Kitty’s lovely green acres on the north shore for a wonderful lunch, and more good times just talking with each other. Erma sat in the shade of two trees that nestled close to a great granite outcrop, looking out over the party to the bay. “My mother,” she remarked, “thought this was the prettiest spot on the whole island. Every place is nice, but this she thought was the prettiest. Her mother had lived here so Ma always remembered how it was.” Kitty and Salt give many good gifts to all of us on the island, and the blue sky and blue river, this sparkling day, and Emma was certainly one of the loveliest of them. Mother Betty bustled about welcoming everyone, getting the serving dishes in place, and later cleaning up the same dishes, and saying “good-bye” while many many grandmothers took turns holding always happy Emma. Then the long parade of island people wended its way up the winding road going home contented. Jada Lashomb came to each of us, giving us a farewell kiss. She leaves for SUNY Potsdam this week to study dance. Jada is the daughter of Stub and Karen Lashomb. Her kiss reminds us that summer is coming to an end. It is nice to have that lovely afternoon to take with us wherever we go.
Yuvon and Phil were late getting to the christening party because just as they were leaving a boat pulled up to their dock in Thurso Bay, and two young men, who turned out to be Emmet Dodge’s grandsons, helped their mother out and onto the dock. Their mother was Tiny Purvis, the last one living of all of Emmet’s children. The three of them walked up the road to the church, and loitered a bit at the crossroad. I don’t think they made the treck down and up the hill to the old Dodge place that was torn down many years ago. They couldn’t have seen the houses, but the apple trees still stand, heavy with fruit. Tiny must have enjoyed the scents of them from the dock where they landed.
And, speaking of apples, an hour or two ago, Yuvon and Phil and Bruce and Carol, and Brenda arrived at our back door with a warm apple pie, cheese and crackers and pepperoni! They’d come to watch the fireworks in Gananoque from our porch. Grindstone apples make maybe the best apple pies in the whole country! They’d gathered up these in their t-shirts from the old orchard near Erma’s house.
Note: Sunday, August 29, 1999, Charge Conference and Pot Luck, The St. Lawrence District Superintendent, Wendy Rhodehamel will be here.
So it is.