Interviewed by Marian Knight
Huletts Landing, Lake George, NY
Marian Knight: Well I’m Marian Knight and I am talking with Bill Condit on Lands End Road, who was here for a stay and this September 5th. So, Bill, I usually start with just asking how you came to Lake George.
Bill Condit: That’s easy. I’m told I was brought here in 1941 at the age of 3 or 4 months, with my parents who lived in New Jersey. Verona, New Jersey, we made, what was then a long trip, 6 or 7 hours generally every June, and we were one of the families that were lucky enough to stay all summer, so we would return right after Labor Day, usually a couple days after school started, because there was still some residual concern about polio. This was 1946-47, and so long summers, my brother Doug, who was four years younger and Dad and my cousins had long summers here. Next question or do you want me to just?
Marian: No, well I want to clear up who the people are that you mentioned. You said Dan and Dan is who?
Bill: Dad. My dad. Chapin Condit. And Marian Condit was his wife and they were both Cornellians. They met at Cornell affair as a matter of fact in about 1934 or ’35 and were married in ’36. Dad travelled all over upstate New York for Sunoco as what we would now call a field engineer. This was very convenient because he always seemed to end up somewhere between Albany and Plattsburgh at the end of a week and so then it was an easy trip up for him.
Marian: How are you related to the Reverend Condit? Father Condit?
Bill: Okay. Henry J. Condit was my grandfather who was the, he had the church in Brooklyn where he took Chapin, who was their first son, then, after five years moves to Nutley, New Jersey, and on to Ithaca, New York, then ultimately in Florida. Henry J. had two sons, who went into the ministry. His second son was Robert, Reverend Robert Y. Condit, who was, after a long congregational tradition for generations, my uncle Bob, Robert Y. Condit, was, joined the episcopal, went to a episcopal seminary and became an episcopal father. Edward Condit, Reverend Edward Condit was the third son and he became a congregational minister in Illinois and a couple of other places, and then went more into fundraising for the church for the rest of his career. So, we have, my grandfather is the oldest ordained minister I know in our family line but he had two sons who were ordained ministers, so it was following a father’s footsteps rather than a long family tradition.
Marian: Well, so I will let you continue.
Bill: Well, I guess I wanna back up, I’ll back up very quickly to the time our house was built but that’s in Hamlet Summers. It was built in 1876 because Frederick Condit had married a lady named Laura Chapin, which is where my father and I get our middle name. In Massachusetts and he had owned, Chapin had started the Woolen Mill and Frederick Condit took it over and made it quite successful, it became part of American Woolen about 1885. At any rate Fred Condit came up here to the area for summer. He stayed at one of the boarding houses in 1876, bought a property and brought D.W. Philips, his mill, main mill carpenter, millwright here to build houses and Hamlet Summers accurately records the number of houses that were built. That was in 1876 and I’ll fast forward from that to my dad’s stories about growing up here, which were that there were a lot of young people around. I know since World War II it’s been spotty, some periods of time there are 5 or 6 young people or 10 or 12 on Land’s End Road and Chase Road. A couple of girlfriends who lived on Chase Road and that the Riley’s, so all along Land’s End Road, but there were other times when there weren’t too many children in the area in the summer. So dad had lots of things to do because he went to work for Sunoco very soon after graduating from college, not, he graduated from college in 1922, went to work for Exxon and another chemical company for 7 or 8 years but joined Sunoco in 1930 as a field engineer initially for the whole company, centered in Philadelphia and then by 1940 he had, there were an engineer for Philadelphia and he had New York and New England so he covered a lot of territory as Sunoco grew, and he got to Lake George and was able to maintain and do some modernization of the house. He installed electricity about 1932-33, in there, mother said she already had electric lights when she came here. The kerosene lanterns were still around. He, after that of course, he had plumbing. There was an amazing device called the impact pump down, Fred Condit had down at our spring. We’re about 100 feet above the Lake vertically, 80 or 100 feet and halfway to the lake there is a very nice spring. Fred Condit had a little device the size of a typical above ground water pump and it basically took the flow and let it fall on a lever, fall a couple of feet on a lever and the lever went click and it pumped, if a cup of water fell on the lever, a teaspoon of water would be pumped up the hill, and so that, there had been a water reservoir up the hill prior to dad putting the electric pump in but that was a big accomplishment. So that takes to about 1945 when I begin to remember. My first memory is walking around the wading pool area at the foot of the, at the north end of high rocks and that was the original Frederick Condit dock where both Chapin Condit’s family, my father’s family and Robert, Reverend Robert Condit’s family did our swimming. So the Lake was wonderful. We had a boat which had been, we called it the Wheel, the original name, Howard Starr had given it to my father in the 1930s and when he had it it was called the Allegra it was a Faye and Bowen which would hold 12 or 13 people and we’d cruise around the lake very often on it. That was very early years were spent cruising around the lake with the family and progressing through being allowed to steer the boat to being allowed to run the boat, adjust the speed to being allowed to start the boat to being allowed to put the boat up at the end which of course was the payback I guess in any boat family for father training his kids to take over total control of the boat. We had an arrangement because at that time the dock, the Frederick Condit dock which is very exposed to the ice was badly battered and we had an arrangement with Elizabeth Hupp to store the boat at what now is the boathouse owned by Jim Hudson and we would bring the boat around to load the people in from Kitchell Bay to our dock and load people in but tying the boat up, it was 26 feet up long and tying a boat of that size to a flimsy dock is not safe so we had a very good relationship with Elizabeth Hupp and we took her and her guests out quite frequently, every week or two we’d take a boatload out to wherever they wanted to go, Silver Bay or Paradise Bay or occasionally Bolton.
Marian: Just to interrupt for the transcriber of this, Elizabeth Huff’s name was, how do you spell it?
Bill: Hupp. When finally somewhere around age 13 or 14 I worked summers painting porches, initially for Abby Bell Danforth, Isabelle Danforth painting porches and railings and by the age of 14 I had saved up enough money to buy an outboard boat of my own and so at about that time a family the Luke, Doug and Joann Luke and their son Doug Jr. and Kurt had moved in right at the top of Chase Road on the church side, toward the church, right next to Willard Nelson. Doug had a boat, got a boat about the same time, I think I got mine a few months earlier so we started water skiing with mine and then he got his and he had a little bit more power, I think he had a 35 horsepower engine instead of a 25 horsepower engine, these are things that which would probably be laughed at even for trolling for fish now but they were plenty good enough to get us up waterskiing so we waterskiied around Cooke Bay for almost every day most of the summer. The canoes and the weekly rides with the family were of course put aside in the ’50s when we were teenagers, so that was a wonderful time and Doug, Luke and I were people who were up here all summer. Other families often just came for a month, so we got to, we would be established and waterskiing by the time the first July arrivals came in and we would, same thing in August and then when many people came back for Labor Day and we would take a final water ski ride, and that was the main activity of the summer when we were here, and occasionally we were shamed into going up Black Mountain or something on our own, 5 Mile Mountain across the lake once, sort of, you boys are big enough to do that by yourself now. So we did some hiking but mostly waterskiing and swimming and more waterskiing than swimming. So that’s about it, now after I went off to college and went to Cornell and then stayed there for graduate school, got married to a beautiful lady from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, my wife Sallie. I got here less often. I no longer was spending the whole summer up here. Two of the years in college I came up and did maintenance. One year I worked with Harlan Foote to put a dock in and another year I worked on fixing up and adding on to our smaller cottage which we called The Lodge, which was originally built as my grandfather’s, my great grandfather’s one room study.
Marian: Where was that?
Bill: That was below As You Like It. As You Like It was the original Phillips’ farm house from 1876. The Lodge was 50 feet below the main house and it was originally only one room. One sizable room, probably 10 or 11 feet wide and 16 or 18 feet long, so it was a nice study, but you know, at some point, probably when my father was young it became traditional for the people with young children to live in The Lodge and there was a kitchen added on to it and a bedroom and that house developed, it was closer to the water, it was downhill and it developed into a house where a family with younger children would be quite happy, and so we had a good time there. Again, my father working in the New York area, originally New York and New England but he got an engineering assistant for New England also so he was really at that point covering northern New Jersey and New York State, he was able to be here a lot and was a very good time. When I graduated from graduate school and went out to Livermore, California to work on government research I still, I got three weeks of vacation to start with which is something that doesn’t happen these days (laughs). I worked up within ten years to 4 weeks of vacation so I was able to get here enough to start taking over the maintenance from my father and my brother remained in the east, so we kept the house until, in the ’90s with my daughters’, my first daughter got a job in Detroit with General Motors, my second daughter got a job in Columbus, Ohio in environmental research at the Battell Institute which a long time ago figured out how to make Xerox machines worked and owned a lot of Xerox stock but had migrated from that into environmental research and is a fairly large organization. The children were located in central Ohio and Michigan and we weren’t able to get here with the family more than once every two or three years so in, actually in 1998 we decided to put the house on the market and Bill and Sally Faber, William Faber had bought my uncle, Reverend Bob Condit’s house down the hill from As You Like It five years or six years before and they also bought our property. We sold and we continued to visit there for five years by an arrangement but now we come back to the Hamlet any time we can. Still from the middle of Ohio, but it’s not that bad a trip, I can easily make it in a little over 10 hours and if I have a family with me, we often have to stop for the night but it’s well worth the trip.
Marian: Just to add a note here, Bob Condit’s property was the one at the very end of Land’s End at the green houses at that time?
Bill: Well, yes. Reverend Robert Y. Condit had a house that was halfway to the water from As You Like It which was the 1876 house. The Fabers call it the 1876 house now and they’re correct. I argued with it but I checked their facts, I thought it was built later than that but I checked their facts and the 1876 house was the last house until the Robert Condit house was built across a brook actually that comes down. There’s the high rocks brook drains the ear of the elephant and thats a big brook in the spring, and that comes down heading toward the lake from behind the ear of the elephant and then makes a sharp left turn and goes in south of high rocks. Well there was always a little drainage that went down onto the Condit property, the original Condit property, and that was a brook so Robert Condit’s house was called Brook Nook initially and it was two bedrooms I believe initially and then they added, they either added an upstairs or, they had a total of four bedrooms and the nook underneath the house, because it was built in a V shaped valley, was a study for Robert Condit to write his sermons and he often spent a lot of time there and also he had a large church in Flushing, Long Island, Queens and a school associated with it, a Christian School associated with it which went up to a high school as I remember, so he had a place to do his work in the rooms underneath. It was quite nice. It was right close to the dock because of the way the property was laid out. The Robert Condits had their property and Bobby and David, Robert Y. Condit was the reverend and Robert D.S. Condit and Claire Condit were the kids. Claire was in the age of my brother Douglas and Bobby was a couple years older than I was so we went around a lot together, even had some, a couple of trips up here in the winter. Young Bobby had a custom when he got in his 20s of always having his birthday celebrated up here which was in January so I made it up for a couple of those. Some time he moved the date of celebrating his birthday from somewhere around January 20th to somewhere around December 20th so I remember we were up here one year when the lake froze. The houses were lightly insulated and very heavily wood heated. I remember one time being up here, this was not with anybody else around, preparing a crib for a dock where ice, rock would be brought in over the ice and it was -20 for a couple of nights and every night was below -10 for five and nights and I was just fine. And actually the surprising thing was that when there was no wind it wasn’t that bad at below zero during the day time working on the ice with the thick insulated boots on. I’ve seen all the seasons. I think that’s most of what I remember, you know, all the good friends who lived next to us, the Danforths, Nick and Julie and Lynn and Nina and the Starr family both the Dan Starr family and the Louis Starr family. We had a good crew here. In the ’50s there were two other people who joined the teenage crowd. There was, well the core of the crowd I guess was at that time was Bobby and Lynn when she was here Debbie and Dan Starr and Nick Danforth, my generation Nick Danforth. There were two editions in Elizabeth Hupp’s house, Jim Hudson came in because his mother I believe actually inherited the house or began coming to the house with the understanding that she would take it over or buy it from her aunt I believe who was Elizabeth Hupp. Then Brian Galbraith arrived in 1953 or ’54 and we were very friendly with Brian. I just learned yesterday, September 4th of 2013 that the Galbraiths had actually had a smaller house or cabin in Indian Bay and maybe its not small, I didn’t know them when they were there.
Marian: Well they bought that property from my father in law, it belonged to my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother.
Bill: They bought the Stabler house and that had always been the center of mechanical activity because Walter Stabler is probably 8 years, 10 years older than I was, had always had big outboard engines and then the Galbraiths moved in there was a sea plane. Do you remember the sea plane?
Marian: No I don’t remember the sea plane.
Bill: There was a sea plane that arrived, two or three times a summer, maybe in some summers more than that. I don’t know whether that was one of the Galbraiths or it was a suitor of Brian’s sister, but the sea plane was a big deal when it arrived and taxied into Kitchell Bay. The core of the, the interesting thing is the core of the people, although we’ve widely dispersed still get to see each other and keep in touch every couple of years and that was one of the good things about Huletts Landing. We will be renting and may someday start again. Unfortunately D.W. Philips is not available. Fran Borden and Bill Borden are adequate successors to that tradition, particularly after I really retire which I’m still in the process of doing and move to the east we will probably again locate here.
Marian: Theres something very magnetic about this place and about this lake. People come and they do not want to leave and they keep coming back.
Bill: Okay, I think that kind of wraps up my impressions.
Marian: Well that’s very interesting and thank you very much.
Bill: You’re welcome.