GRINDSTONE ISLAND NEWS - AUGUST 29, 1999
Audrey brought the schoolhouse to life on Tuesday evening. She picked up the old teacher’s pointer from the blackboard tray, pulled down her map of Grindstone, and opened her lecture about industry on the island, telling us to turn to page 3 in “Going Home, Grindstone Island”, the book she had passed out to each one of us. She began with the industry of the Indians who once lived on our shores. “In the picture at the top of the page, do you see that basket by the woman sitting at the end of the row at the right? That is an Indian basket. They made them from the splints of ash trees. The Indians up and down this part of the river continued this industry for many years. Indian women came around to the Grindstone farms to sell their baskets even in the memory of Ruth Kufchock, Dick McRae’s granddaughter.” It was Audrey Lashomb’s book we were using for a text and its photographs let us see what she was talking about, no slide lecture this. Audrey seemed to want to say, “This is how it was in this very schoolhouse even in the forties. She talked about the quarry, the cheese factory, the farms, and the blacksmith shop, where she said she used to walk on the waves. She said once she was giving a talk, and a lady asked her after the lecture, “if she really walked on the waves!” She then explained that the “waves” were the tracks on which the boats at Van Slate’s shipyard were let into the water. Since Van and Elizabeth Slate were Audrey’s great grandparents, she had walked on the greasy waves many times.
About thirty “pupils” sat at the desks listening to Audrey. I felt I understood how some of the big boys felt years before at the small desks. My knee hurt when I tried to fit it under the shelf. But we all enjoyed Audrey’s lecture. She always warms to the subject of Grindstone! We ate the cookies Mary Lou Rusho served with just as much gusto as the hungry boys must have devoured the warm lunches their teachers served them at noon when school was in session in the little building where we sat listening to Audrey.
Phyllis and Doc Schwartz were there, and Phyllis related all the times the wind had shifted direction that day. I was surprised that she had noticed because, she said it came around to the northwest a couple of times, and I thought, “I didn’t notice it, and I usually
pay attention to the north wind.” When she told me that son Mark was on a sailing cruise for a couple of days, I could see why she knew what the wind did all day long. The Schwartzes bought the former Hall place on the southwest side of the island and, along with the house and lovely flower garden, they became the proud owners of several fine wood boats, a sailing skiff among them, which they sometimes sail in the annual Harold Herrick Skiff Race. She also said the water was warmer for their morning swim than for their afternoon swim. I am always delighted to be talking to a fellow swimmer! Not many of the women my age on our side of the island swim much these days. Phyllis says it is has helped Doc keep able to get around this summer. Phyllis has only made the Hall gardens more beautiful, and that wealth of blossoms supplies the church with lovely bouquets each Sunday. (And Margaret Taylor always enhances Phyllis’s arrangements with great swaths of wild flowers from her fields. Amazing grace.)
The skiff race reminds me that I had a good note from Mary Herrick who had learned in the Grindstone news about this summer’s Harold Herrick St. Lawrence Skiff Race. “You have to know how much I missed being there. As you must have heard, I have moved to Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod as of last September. …I’ve kept the house in Cape Vincent, however, and shall return from time to time. I have clipped out the article and will send it to Ted Overton who was my husband’s close friend and who gave the trophy in his memory….Please remember me to my river friends.”
Another old river friend surfaced this week with the clang, clang, clang of Emmet Dodge’s old windmill being dismantled. David and Debbie Neuroth are taking it, for old time’s sake back, to their home in Oklahoma where it will be used to pump water to a duck pond on their land. Last summer they transported two tons of granite blocks to build a fireplace in their new house, and David credits that sturdy fireplace with keeping their house standing during the tornado that felled their neighbors’ houses. Their carrying all those blocks in Darrel Hayes’ little “tin” boat all the way across the river from the island’s north side on a windy day is a story in itself. I guess getting the windmill to Oklahoma will be no problem at all! Debbie is Doug and Virginia Cook’s daughter. Doug was minister at the Grindstone church in the late fifties, and bought the old Emmet and Nellie Dodge home on Mc Rae Bay.
Dick Petry, this year’s minister at the church has spent spent a lot of his time this week, when he wasn’t in bed with a cold, visiting with various people around the island, preparing himself for the Charge Conference. He has listened to the different points of view from people on Aunt Jane’s Bay, people on the Base Line Road, people on the South Shore Road, people on Thurso Bay, people on Mc Rae Bay, people on the North Shore Road, and people at the foot of the island, and has tried to formulate what we all want to do to keep the church and the hall operating as one Grindstone community. Erma’s coffee cove has been, probably, the very best source of the hopes and wishes of the year round islanders’ many minds. What would we all do without Erma!
The Rogers and Crowder band, two men who sing the best of country music in an engaging and energetic style, played for the party at the hall on Saturday night. Their voices seem to fill the small room but not overwhelm it. They are good! The kids did the limbo, that unbelievable pretzel trick of slipping under a pole that is lowered and lowered and lowered, until the dancer can almost not slither under without touching the floor (touching the floor breaks the rule). I don’t think anyone has ever matched the famed Brown girls in doing the limbo, but there were some who came pretty close! This year the first group were all from 5 to 12 years old, and the second more expert group were all over 12. In the kitchen Dick, in his apron, listened to some more thoughts on island relationships and traditions while he cooked burgers, and Phil sold some handsome Dodge Hall sweat shirts that had just come in. When the tickets were drawn for the 50-50, Jeff Davis won, but he turned his prize right back to the Hall. A good crowd had a good time, and Bubby Bazinet and Carolyn did their usual faithful job of getting the band trundled, instruments, electronic equipment, wives, friends and all to and fro across the river.
Ada Bazinette sat beside me for a while at the party, and, looking up at the rafters of the old building, began to describe the dances that had once been held there when her mother and dad ran a store where the dances are now held. Audrey describes the store in her book, (the colorful spools of thread, the yard goods, the bread, the tobacco, the kerosene drums) but I had not known that the second floor, over the store, had been a ballroom. Leon Rusho, who sat on the other side of Ada last Saturday night, used to play his fiddle upstairs in that ballroom for the Saturday night dances, and Lawrence Garnsey used to “chord it” on the piano- (using, Ada emphasized, only the black keys). This must have been in the late thirties or early forties before the war, before Ada went over to high school in Clayton. And the tradition must have been a well-seasoned one even then. When the church closes in September, only Dodge Hall remains open as a community-meeting place through the fall, winter, and spring. In those months it binds the island together and gives the people left on the island and their relatives in Clayton, Watertown and the environs around, a place to enjoy each others company. An annual Halloween party is usually the first big winter event. The people who come from the mainland to the summer dances are mostly children and children’s children who grew up on the island and moved off when their children needed more sophisticated schooling than the island can now afford.
Next Saturday night, September 4th, will be the third annual benefit dance. All of the proceeds from the evening party will go to “Standard Dan” Hudson and his family to help them cover the medical expenses Dan’s bout with cancer has incurred this year. John Morrow will be the DJ and community donations will be raffled off. Donations for the raffle, or money may be sent or given to: Dan Hudson, c/o Dodge Memorial Hall, Grindstone Island, Clayton, NY, 13624. This is a chance, the islanders say, for them to give back something to a community, which has been so good to them, and it always occurs at the last dance of the year.
On Sunday morning, Debbie Donaldson, Bill Murray, and Jacie Marra danced an interpretation of some of the stories of Jesus’ casting his comforting shadow over His whole wide land. Together, they portrayed a strong, grace-full, and overarching presence that brings confidence and health to all people. This trio from Gananoque manages to bring the parables alive without being overly dramatic or self centered and without losing their concentration on the tales themselves. It was the power of our shadows that centered the thought of the whole worship service, the energy of the shadow which can change a moment irrevocably, like a word that cannot be taken back, like a promise that, once given, keeps on giving hope, forever. Carol Marsh sang about Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and the choir reiterated the grace in Jesus’ shadow.
The concerns and hopes of the task force appointed to study the relationship of Dodge Hall and the Grindstone Island Church were a reconciling shadow that brought a hopeful congregation together as summer is coming to a close and the church year ends. The members of the task force had worked long and hard to find their common ground and their common ways of both celebration and work. At the Charge Conference after the morning service on Sunday, (which was led by the District Superintendent, Wendy Rhodehammel) they asked permission to continue to function and to bring a definitive report and recommendation to the next charge conference to be held in the summer of 2000.
The issues that they bring to the charge conference will address:
l. The relationship between the Church and Dodge Hall with an emphasis that we are a single community of Island residents- summer and full time island families.
We believe the Church and Hall must be supportive of each other and of the common good that both seek to fulfill. A non-profit corporation established by the Hall may be the most practical solution to the issue of liability. The cost of insurance premiums covering officers and directors is a concern we need to address clearly.
2. The laws of the Church and of the State of New York regarding the use of alcohol must be respected and honored by all of their citizens.
3. We want to honor the request of Emmet Dodge specifying that his bequest, the Hall, be a creative center where children and youth of this Island Community and Church can have meaningful relationships. We want to provide constructive and enjoyable activities that will be beneficial to all.
4. As a Church, we want to support the year round program of Dodge Hall as an integral part of our deep sense of community and interdependence.
5. The Task Force recognizes the need to have Church and Hall support each other. The Church and the Hall Boards hope to work together to maintain our facilities and provide the kind of tangible support that affirms the ties that bind us together as one island community.
The members of the Task Force are Nancy Carlisle, Fred Jackson, Jeff Marra, Patsy Parker, Phyllis Schwartz, Urch Slate, and Richard Petry, pastor.
In the worship service, Wendy Rhodehammel announced that Dick and Mary Petry will return to Grindstone again next summer to continue their ministry to our island community. Both Wendy and everyone in the congregation rejoice in that expectation. The Petrys have cast a shadow of love and wisdom’s kindness over the island that surely will keep us in benediction through the winter months of separation.
Notes: After the church service next Sunday, the last service of the year, everyone is invited to attend the annual Squatters’ Picnic in the Marra yard up the road past the Hall. It is Pot Luck, so bring a covered dish. “But”, says Phil Marra, “come anyway if you forget the dish, because there is always more than enough food for everyone! In case of rain, the picnic will be in the carriage house.”
John Dower is now under the care of Hospice, and all of us pray that he and all his family find peace and comfort in these days when love becomes so poignant.
Betty Paxton sent word that wonderful Polly Daw died on Saturday. The whole River community will miss Polly’s keeping us alive to the world outside and to the world inside our own shores.
Ada Bazinette reported that Rob Lashomb broke his ankle on Saturday. Jackie, his wife said he will get the final report on Monday, and will be treated in whatever way the orthopedic group decides is best. The injury will make it hard for Rob to see that all of the boats in the marina are put safely up for winter, but Papa Bob, will be there to help, and it’s lucky that he’s had some needed rest this summer in his new state of retirement.
So he can stand ready.
So it is.