Janet Flory Clarke
Janet Flory Clarke
Interviewed by Marian Knight
Huletts Landing, Lake George, NY
August 22, 2014
Marian Knight: I am Marion Knight and I’m in the Gallery in Huletts Landing talking with Janet Flory Clarke who has lived her whole life here in Huletts Landing. This is August 22, 2014. So Janet, I started to say a minute ago that it’s very nice to connect with you finally after all these years.
Janet Flory Clarke: Yes, I know we were originally going to do this in 2011, but it’s a privilege to do it.
Marian: Has it been that long? Oh my word. Well, years go by and they collapse one into another.
Janet: Yes, it’s true.
Marian: So, we usually start by just asking how you happen to be here in Huletts Landing.
Janet: And that has a lot to do with the Knight family. Actually, I’ll mention first, I do have a twin sister, Catherine Flory, and she and I share the house at Point Comfort. Basically, our parents married in the spring of 1948 and moved to Bennington, Vermont. Then the following summer, their old friends, the Gills, saw them off in Lake George Village with their canvas clapboard kayak and they kayaked up the length of Lake George and Lake Champlain to Burlington and they rightly so liked the northern end of Lake George the best. So the following summer, in 1950, they came back to Lake George. And as my mother used to say, she needed to use the bathroom and they saw a sign “lots for sale”, so they ended up at the Knights’ house, the Big House, as we used to call it. And old Mrs. Knight, Proctor’s mother, was there with her grandson David. So David, who I think my mother said had just finished his freshman year of college, anyhow, he was 20 or younger, showed them some lots in Indian Bay and then he took them out to the point and he said it wasn’t for sale. It was his family’s picnic ground. Of course, my father really liked the point, so then they went back to the house and I guess Mrs. Knight and my mother had both read the same novel by Thomas Wolfe so that, I guess, they were discussing that. And my father reminded her of her son who had been killed in World War II so she decided that maybe the time was right and she would sell the point. So that summer, they purchased it. There were actually two lots. The first lot which kind of ends just before the rock. And then, the following summer, they purchased the front lot because, of course, in those days you did everything by cash. And, I guess, after they purchased the front, that was when Mrs. Knight died soon after that and that deed was not recorded until it was either like 1957 or 1959. They realized several years later, that it had just never been recorded. But things were a little different then. The one thing she said was she didn’t want to be able to see the house from Meadow Point. My father assured her that it would just be one level and you wouldn’t see it. She also didn’t want any boathouses in the bay because she felt they had ruined Pickerel Bay. And so, I think, everybody in Indian Bay, there are no boathouses. So, anyhow, then having purchased the property in the winter of 1950, there was an architect at the college named Bernard Kessler and he designed the house and in the summer of 1951, the summer before my sister and I were born, Earl Foote, who had just gotten out of the Korean War, built the house. And my father said that winter the cement mixer came over the ice to pour the footings because the road was rather primitive to go over to Whitehall. So, I guess he decided the ice was better. So anyhow, the first summer my parents were here was the summer before we were born. My mother said there were no screens. The chipmunks and the squirrels all came in and then, of course, my sister and I spent every summer here. My mother was a psychiatric counselor at Bennington College, so when college finished we would come up for the summer and then go back after Labor Day and it was, I mean, it was great. She would kayak us around to Irene Phillips, who we called the sheep lady, and we would walk up to Scott’s store every day and get groceries and if there was anything they didn’t have, Mr. Scott worked for the post office in Whitehall and he used to, his brother owned the IGA store, so he used to bring things over at the end of the day if you needed something they didn’t have. That was great. They were there til ‘73 with the gas crisis. And then, of course, there was the post office and Benjamin’s store near there and the bakery and everything. The post office is kind of the only thing left.
Marian: Yes, it is. That’s true.
Janet: My father used to come up instead of taking just one vacation because he didn’t have anyone to fill in for him. He was a pathologist in Bennington. He used to come up Thursday night and go down to Bennington Tuesday mornings. So that was what he did for the summer. I guess the other memorable person, Mr. Bartley, used to come a couple times a week with fresh vegetables and chicken. And he had, like, I still remember a turquoise and white station wagon and he had everything in the back of the station wagon. We would go to the beach and Indian Bay every day and then, later on, Mother and I would go play tennis at the Knights. It was, you know, a great way to spend the summer.
Marian: Yes, do you have any special memories, anything in particular?
Janet: Well, one thing I didn’t mention was that we used to take the Mohican or the Ticonderoga every summer when friends would come up to visit down to Storytown in Lake George Village and I did miss the last few years. You had to flag down the boat because the dock wasn’t as good and it was kind of sad, I think, we were probably about 13, when they finally stopped using the dock. And I think that was kind of a loss to Huletts, not to have that dock so that the boats wouldn’t stop here anymore. But that was a fun thing to be able to do. And actually, an old friend of my mother’s, she had a cousin in Washington who did, a couple times, take the train up to Lake George Village and then take the boat to Huletts. And we would meet her which is, of course, the way we used to get here.
Marian: That’s the way the Knights got here. It took overnight, a couple days to get here. They used to call Lake George Village “Caldwell”.
Janet: Oh, really.
Marian: But, that was years before.
Janet: Yes, I think it was kind of sad to lose the dock. I still remember the old hotel. That burned the summer we were five. I don’t really remember the old casino. We were like two years old then. My parents would remember that.
Marian: Do you remember any neighbors?
Janet: Well, actually, I did look in the minutes from Indian Bay and there was a note from Proctor Knight in 1950 in the minutes of Indian Bay and he said that he had sold property on the point to Dr. Flory and to G. Phillips and that was George Phillips. They were our neighbors on one side and Judy Dexter is still our neighbor on the other side. The Dexters were here as long as we’ve been. And then the Millers.
Marian: Are the Millers still here?
Janet: No, that’s now the Sunkenbergs, but they bought from the Millers. So that’s only been two families.
Marian: There are a lot more people in Indian Bay now.
Janet: There are a lot of little cottages they kind of added, but the Dingmans are still in the Bay.
Marian: Yes, I’ve seen them a couple of times. Yes, they are here and I think they rent their house, but they arrive early.
Janet: Right, they come early and late and that house is one of the older ones on the Bay, I think since the 30s, and at the end of the Bay, which was the Osgoods, I believe, and, of course, the Villamils. I think they all came when we were maybe around 10 years old. Before that was the Stevensons.
Marian: Dick Villamil bought from the Stevensons.
Janet: They were somehow related.
Marian: Yes, they’re cousins of Marian. Marian was a wonderful painter. Did you ever see any of her…?
Janet: Oh, Mrs. Stevenson.
Janet: I just remember she used to make doll clothes that we would get at the church fair, when they had it at the church. She would make petite little doll clothes.
Marian: Tell me a little bit about the church fair. Was it held at the church?
Janet: It used to be at the church years ago and I do remember her little handmade doll clothes that my mother would always get and they would paddle around. I think, I don’t know if she knew how to swim, but my mother said she would make him paddle very, very close to shore so if anything happened, she was like literally maybe 6 feet from shore, but that was a beautiful old boat house and actually I was speaking with Fluffy Villamil Collins and she said her brother did find some pictures of the boathouse. I said that I would like to see that because it was right on the water and had a balcony on the second floor.
Marian: It’s pretty much in the newer house, the one that Fluffy has now is pretty much in the same spot.
Janet: I think it’s back a little further.
Marian: But it’s not a boathouse.
Janet: But it’s pretty close. Well, apparently what happened with the old house was one year they were closing up and the door kind of literally fell off the hinges. I guess it was just riddled with carpenter ants and, in those days, I guess, I know we’ve had some issues with them, too, and if you see a big black ant, but unless, if you didn’t really, you probably weren’t that aware of it. I guess they had eaten it for years. So they sort of had no choice but to replace it.
Marian: Yes, Dave Cooper was the one who, I think he took it down and he was looking for solid material to work with and there wasn’t much. So he rebuilt it, I guess.
Janet: And from what I heard he actually built that house with prisoners from Comstock.
Marian: The original house.
Janet: That’s what I heard. No, this new one.
Marian: Oh, really. I didn’t hear that. I never heard that.
Janet: I’m not sure but that’s what I heard.
Marian: No kidding.
Janet: Another thing my father said, which he said that your family, that the Knights , acquired the property in about 1870 and he always told us it was to settle a $10,000 gambling debt in New York City. In lieu of the money, they were given all this property.
Marian: I never heard that story.
Janet: That’s what my father always said so I don’t know.
Marian: It was 1898 actually, not ‘70.
Janet: Oh it was, okay.
Marian: And it was bought from Paul Ferguson.
Janet: But that’s much later then because he always thought the 1870s.
Marian: It may have been a previous purchase. I don’t know, but I never heard that story. I hope that’s not true.
Janet: Maybe, it was a previous purchase then if they bought it from someone in the 1890’s.
Marian: I don’t remember the name of the man. We did look it up at Fort Edward at one point that Paul Ferguson bought it from. We celebrated 100 years in ’98, in 1998, that is.
Janet: Wow, that’s exciting.
Marian: Yes, lots of things, interesting things, come up in conversations like this. What about your sister? Where is she these days?
Janet: Well, we’re each, I’m an hour south of Providence and Barrington and she’s an hour north of Newbury Port. Some old friends of the family do come up and use the house and knew my parents, but you know we share it and come up as much as we can since we’re both still working.
Marian: So your mother was Mary Delia?
Janet: Nichols. Right.
Marian: And when did she die? What year was that?
Janet: She died in 2001 and my father died in 1993. So, luckily, one thing I didn’t mention was we were glad he wasn’t alive when we had that derecho. That was in 1995 on my son’s 13th birthday, July 15, and that was, that was terrible. We lost several trees on the point and a tree fell on the roof and did smash the middle big glass pane on the lake side and we had to get a crane to get the tree off the roof and then my husband did split that big window into two. Those were the only panels that he had to use safety glass, but the rest of the glass is all original. But that was terrible.
Marian: I’m sure it was, yes.
Janet: That’s the only really bad thing, I guess, that happened.
Marian: Well, that’s pretty good, yes.
Janet: Except, I guess, this summer, they had something similar.
Marian: Well that little storm from the north that just sort of came and destroyed property right in Jelliffe Bay. So that was serious, lots of trees down and quite a bit of damage done by the trees. So, well, we live here. You have to deal with that when it happens. The tree company that took down a lot of Sally Harder’s trees apparently did a very good job there. They cleaned it up well.
So, well, anything else you can think of?
Janet: We did have a beaver lodge a few years ago. It’s still there, but the beavers aren’t. But every now and again, we do have beavers.
Marian: Now whereabouts is that? On the Indian Bay side?
Janet: Yes, just up from the dock. There are a few bushes that are growing up, but the lodge is still here. I guess they probably figured they came down the mountain. I don’t think other people like them being around too much. The Dexters had them in their whole house a few years ago.
Marian: Well, they are indigenous.
Janet: No rattlesnakes, thank goodness.
Marian: Did you fish at all?
Janet: Years ago. My sister liked to fish but I haven’t fished in a long time and I know that’s one thing you notice is, like when we were growing up, my mother, we always caught the little sunfish and perch right off the dock. And in the morning, she would fix a little sunfish for herself and one for our Siamese cat. But now you look around the dock and there aren’t any little fish. I guess, too much fishing but I don’t see any fish around our dock anymore.
Marian: Is that right? I remember lots of sunfish floating around the dock in the spring.
Janet: Oh yeah, there used to be. Well, even the turtles, I guess. When we were growing up, there were a lot of turtles. Then some kids kind of eliminated them and, maybe, I’ll say a number of years ago, we had turtles on the logs, on the point, in the Bay. You’d see them in the day. But this year I haven’t seen turtles either. But it’s nice to, turtles are kind of fun to see. We have a heron.
Marian: A heron? Right out on Point Comfort?
Janet: Well, yes. You see them more like in June, you know, before it gets busy. Then I think, when more people come, they must sort of disappear for a while.
Marian: We’ve had a lot of loon activity this year.
Marian: Especially in Indian Bay.
Janet: They even saw an American Eagle, but I haven’t seen the eagle, but I guess there is an eagle around.
Marian: I think I saw it one time, not this year, but last year or the year before. I was sitting on the dock of our smaller house and this huge thing flew over and I looked up.
Janet: That’s exciting.
Marian: Anything else that you can think of?
Janet: Well, I’ve seen a few of, I told you about, the little orange efs. They are about 2 inches long, and my sister and I used to pick up, maybe, like 25. Then we would let them go again when we would walk to Scott’s store. But then the DDT killed them all off because they sprayed along the sides of the road with the DDT right where the efs were. But now, actually yesterday, when I was walking and it was kind of damp, and I saw two of them on one side of the road and they were both alive. That was nice as I’ve seen a few that got run over. They’re cute to see. I’ve don’t know how many places they are, but, they’re here. It was kind of fun to see them.
Marian: Did you, when you walked over to Scott’s, did you walk the road or did you go on the deer path?
Janet: Well, we used to walk on the road to Scott’s store unless we kayaked to Irene Phillips and snuck through the sheep.
Marian: Well Mrs. Knight, my husband’s grandmother, maintained ownership of the shoreline in Indian Bay for many years.
Janet: Oh, I still walk around that.
Marian: Right. So the kids in this family used to walk along the shore, through Dillinghams and the woods and it was called the deer path. It was a favorite activity of theirs. Scott’s was their destination. They would go there to get candy.
Janet: Well, yeah, I still do, right at the, between the two humps, I start the path right near the Suprunowicz’s house, and walk around the Bay and then, like you say, we did use to walk all the way around to the Knights’ house and there was a path from the Villamils, you know, straight back to the tennis court and that path we used to take.
Marian: That’s not so much used any more. Dick Villamil built his house in there, right there just off the main road.
Janet: Right, it used to seem like a long distance from the Villamils to the tennis court but, in reality, it’s not.
Marian: Well, around the road is a lot harder. Coming through the woods is better.
Janet: We used to take that path. All those little paths, I was thinking the other day when I walked around the Bay, that I’m sure they are Indian paths. Actually one thing I didn’t mention when, I don’t know if I should say this, but they’re no longer here, but when Mr. Watratz was building their house, they did find some Indian relics and my sister has some arrowheads and, unfortunately, my jewelry was all stolen a while ago, but I did have a necklace with teeth and beads which was from across the bay but I still do have it because it fell the on the floor and it was not taken. I have a shell that my father said was carved by the Indians. It’s really pretty with, like a circular pattern and it was from Indian Bay.
Marian: Really? Isn’t that interesting?
Janet: I guess, at the time Mr. Watratz said he was afraid to say anything because he thought, well maybe, they wouldn’t let them build the house. But it is kind of a little level area out there on the Bay, but anyhow, so he did find Indian relics when he was building his house, apparently.
Marian: Very interesting.
Janet: I guess my father was very interested in history so, for whatever reason, he gave him the arrowheads and the two necklaces, as well.
Marian: Where did the Watratzs go, I wonder.
Janet: Well, I mean she was, they were here for their whole life and then they had one son who inherited the house and he ended up selling it. Because there were, well that was interesting, five sisters who all had properties on the Bay. Lynn Meyer, Bliss, Watratz and right behind the beach, Groupie.
Marian: Carol Groupie is still around here.
Janet: Yes, Carol Ryan but there were, I’m pretty sure, there were five sisters and they all had property.
Marian: I didn’t realize they were all related. Interesting.
Janet: I’m only counting four. Maybe, it was four, but at least four – Lynn Meyer, Bliss, Groupie, and Watratz. They were all related.
Marian: Not Galabraith, I don’t suppose.
Janet: I don’t think so because they weren’t still on the bay when we moved over here.
Marian: They had moved over to the other side. This is all very interesting to see how many little interesting things come out when you start thinking about it.
Janet: It’s true, I guess. But the Indian relics, I don’t know if anyone has ever really looked for that part of the history in Indian Bay.
Marian: I don’t know that anybody has. You mentioned that you thought the paths were Indian paths or the remains of Indian paths.
Janet: Well, I know they used to say the Indians would still come here in the early 1900’s, but it would just make sense that you would walk around the whole shore, you know.
Janet: I guess, I just always think of it, Indian Bay, maybe because I knew there was proof that they did obviously, I guess, used to come in the summers in that location.
Janet: Well, I always assumed that was how it got its name and then with those Indian relics.
Marian: Yes, sure. If you have anything you think that the historical society would be interested in, we have a scanning program where we can scan anything and you can keep.
Janet: Actually, I did and I forgot to mention it today, but our house was written up in the 1954 architectural record and then, in 1955, in American Home Magazine and I did get those magazines to Mr. McMaster.
Marian: Oh good.
Janet: So he did scan them and I have the originals at the house, but as I mentioned to you, I do have a letter from Mrs. Knight, from David’s grandmother, Proctor’s mother, to my father. And I believe it was in 1950 asking my father to send her $100 to cover the taxes so that letter I should probably just donate because it might be enjoyable.
Marian: That would be fun to have. I’m sure.
Janet: So, I’ll just make a note to get that letter and give it to you and even that Indian necklace, I don’t know.
Marian: Well, maybe a photo of it.
Janet: Maybe, it belongs here.
Janet: Those two things and in the house my father also found something that he thought is maybe like the head of a tomahawk. It’s a stone that’s kind of carved.
Janet: But, I will give you the letter for sure.
Marian: Great. Well, I thank you very much.
Janet: Thank you, Marian. That was good.
Marian: It was very interesting indeed. It carries me back to some of the things that were going on when I first started coming up here in the 50’s.
Janet: What was your first year that you came up?
Marian: Well, I think I must’ve come up around 1950 or ‘51. I was still in college and I had met David and he had invited me to come and stay with his family. I think I did that maybe twice and they were in the farmhouse at the time. Proctor, he and Dave’s grandparents were still right there in the big house.
Janet: Yeah, I know old Dr. Knight had died by the time my parents bought the from Mrs. Knight.
Janet: I’m quite sure.
Marian: Because he lived after Grandma.
Janet: Oh, really, because I guess they never mentioned him. They just mentioned her. Maybe he just wasn’t there that time they went to look at the property.
Marian: Maybe, so.
Janet: So they only mentioned her.
Marian: He was a dentist. He had a practice in Brooklyn so I think he didn’t stay as long as she did.
Janet: Maybe he just wasn’t there.
Marian: She died in I think it was ‘54
Marian: He lived four or five years longer than that and he died in a nursing home in Fair Haven.
Janet: That’s interesting,
Marian: He lived several years after Grandmother died.
Janet: My son just moved to Brooklyn not far from where one of my husband’s grandfathers lived. That will be interesting to see to see where they lived.
Marian: Well, thanks again.