Judy Haggett, Interviewed by Marian Knight
At the Goldsmith Boathouse on Jelliffe Bay,
August 16, 2011
Marian Knight: My name is Marian Knight. Today is August 16th, 2011, a little after 1 in the afternoon and I’m at the boathouse in Jelliffe bay that is just off, on Bluff Head Road, and I’m talking with Judy Haggett, who goes back a long way, family and all in this community, so, hello Judy.
Judy Haggett: Hello, Marian.
Marian: I feel like a telephone, I mean a radio interview.
Marian: Well, we usually start with how did you first come to Hulett’s? What brought you here and your family?
Judy: Well, personally, for me, I arrived four days after I was born. I was born June 10th in Troy, NY and they brought me right from the hospital to the hotel. That was in 1943. My mother was the social director of the hotel and she went right back to work.
Marian: Your mother was who?
Judy: Pauline Wyatt Firth. So that’s…how my family started here, I’ll go right back to the beginning. My great grandfather purchased Hulett’s Landing from the Buckells, and that would be Henry and Cora Buckell.
Marian: And your great grandfather was?
Judy: My great-grandfather was William H. Wyatt. Ella Wyatt, was his wife. They owned hotels in Troy, NY. He was in the hotel business. He also had a hotel in Saratoga Springs and Lake Bomoseen. It was there at Lake Bomoseen that he heard that the Hulett House was for sale. So he drew up a contract with Mr. Buckell which I still have, very interesting.
Marian: Do you remember what year it was?
Judy: Yes, it was 1914. They started discussion in 1913 and it was purchased on the 31st of March, 1914. Mr. Buckell kept part of the property, the Lakeside Inn, which is on the point right next to where the old big boat dock used to be and sometimes that’s called Wyatt Bay or Bosom Bay, I believe. So the Buckell’s kept that as an Inn, and also several cottages, and my great-grandfather purchased the hotel and the golf course. I don’t know if there was a Casino there yet, I can’t find any information on that. I think that he built the Casino later on since I remember it and it was a more modern structure. So, along with that came several cottages, Edgewater being one of them, and I found in my research that Edgewater was set up for four people to live in it. We rented that many summers ago and it was comfortable for two, but not four. Delnoce was one of the cottages, all those cottages that face from Edgewater on up towards the hotel and some behind them were part of his purchase.
Marian: And Edgewater faces north, that’s on that side, and has a wonderful view, tiny little house with a gorgeous view.
Judy: Yes, a beautiful location. William Wyatt paid $45,000 for the hotel and cottages and an extra $500 for the inventory in the hotel, which included 225 chairs in the dining room and 114 beds and miscellaneous other things. All the service ware, it goes on for pages in the contract of what he’s purchasing for $500. And in the contract it read that when the Buckells decided that they wanted to sell that he would have first rights to purchase. After running the original hotel for two successful seasons, the hotel completely burned to the ground in the fall of 1915. A new hotel was built that winter higher up on the knoll overlooking the lake. Thankfully there were no guests or help in the hotel at the time of the fire. So they immediately collected the insurance and went about building the new hotel to more modern codes. The original hotel was beautiful, I don’t know when it was built. It sort of grew over the years starting with the old farm house where the owners before Buckell had added guest rooms. William Wyatt went a little bit further up on that knoll and built a 100 bedroom hotel through the winter and it was ready for business the next summer. That would be the summer of 1916, and shortly thereafter my great-grandfather died. My grandfather, Arthur Wyatt, became the owner of the Hulett House as well as the hotel in Troy. He was quite a young man when he took over the ownership. I would guess probably in his mid to late 20s. And not married at the time. Eventually he bought out the Buckells and then owned 14 more cottages and the Lakeside Inn. It was remodeled into their summer home. They removed a large section of the building and added a wrap-around porch. It had 11 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. One bedroom downstairs with a private bath, and the other 10 bedrooms were upstairs sharing one bathroom. Many years went on till I was born and I understand they were wonderful years at the Landing. Lots of dancing, the Casino was built and there were big bands that came in and formal dances and talent shows were held every week.
Marian: Yes, I’ve heard about some of those. I’m impressed with how it must have been.
Judy: There was a Sunday night talent show at the hotel and then the Thursday night talent show, I think, was at the Casino. They had the shows twice a week and, as I started to say in the beginning, my mom was a very gifted singer. She had gone to college and majored in drama. Didn’t graduate from college because she met Arthur Firth and they married that December. I think they were probably married in 1941 or ’42, wartime. The hotel was still doing fine during the war when I was born. So they brought me back to the hotel, they had a nanny for me. Mom went back to work as soon as she could and she and Doris Dickson, Doris was a Paige, her maiden name was Paige, and they were best friends and both very clever, talented women. They would write songs and choreograph dances, and put together these wonderful shows that included the help as well as the guests. They also had volleyball, shuffle board and two tennis courts. My parents were excellent tennis players. I recall there was always a big tennis tournament and a beautiful silver “loving cup” with the winners names engraved on it each year. There were regular hikes up Black Mountain and daily sightseeing trips on the Mohigan. The hotel would provide box lunches for guests on those activities. I can remember as a child loving the box lunches. I believe my brother Wyatt and I had our lunch that way most days.
Marian: What was in the box lunch?
Judy: Probably an apple, and a little carton of milk and a sandwich. When my brother Wyatt and I learned how to swim we were pretty much on our own. Just footloose and fancy free on the Landing. Everybody knew us. My parents were busy working. My dad helped out at the Hotel, and I just had the most fabulous summers, most of the time spent playing in the lake. And the Casino had boats that they would rent out, rowboats and canoes, and my brother Wyatt and I could just ask for anything we wanted and they’d give us a canoe for the day or a rowboat to paddle around in. When we were hungry for lunch we got our box lunch. We ate in the dining room every night.
Marian: Did you eat as a family?
Judy: We did. My grandparents were there, but unfortunately my grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack late September 1946, so I was only a little over three years old. Some of those memories that I was just talking about were after his death, but upon his death, being an only child, having two daughters, my mother, Pauline, and my Aunt Elaine, his will read that everything must be sold. It was more or less to ensure that my grandmother would be taken care of. They were hard pressed to find a way to get around that will and still have some connection with Hulett’s, because it said it had to be sold very quickly. So they formed a corporation, and I get questions all the time about the corporation, and I really don’t know a whole lot but I’d be glad to tell you what I think happened. Apparently Huletts was purchased by a corporation from my grandmother; she was the sole inheritor of Hulett’s Landing. Everything was sold for a total of $160,000. The corporation was made up of people who would had been renting cottages from my grandfather, whose families had been coming for many years and they wanted the place to continue like it used to be. One of the investors in that corporation was Mr. Eichler. The others were my great-uncle, who would be my grandmother’s sister’s family, Cotter and Augusta Nash. Now Larry Nash is back at Hulett’s Landing. He is the youngest son of three boys. Cotter and Augusta had a cottage that they rented from the family and the rentals were very, very reasonable. The Bordens, I just came across this, the Bordens paid $5 a month to rent wherever they lived, and they lived here through the winter and did a lot of work for my grandfather, too. So the names that I can recall that were involved in this corporation were John O’Brien, Cotter Nash, Frank Meehan, Blanch Meehan’s father, Terry Brady Sr. the Winegarten’s, George Eichler and my grandmother and my parents. I came across some paper work that looks like my grandmother, Mary Wyatt and my parents, put back $86,000 into the corporation. I believe that that gave them controlling interest, because it was purchased for $160,000. They paid in $86,000, so they had 51%, and the other people had shares in the remaining portion. The corporation ran for about five years and was eventually bought by Mr. Eichler. Our family spent the summers on the point at MaryArt with my grandmother. That was the name my grandparents gave the old Lake Side Inn. We lived in Delnoce during the winter while my Dad oversaw the harvesting of ice from the lake and many other projects. The corporation apparently had some financial problems. I don’t know what dissolved it, but Mr. Eichler bought it out. His daughter Margo was attending Cornell College and majoring in Hotel management, so he was the right person to do it. Our winters in Delnoce were magical for our family. My sister Lonnie was born the second winter we lived there. My brother and I attended the school house on the mountain.
Marian: Which house is Delnoce?
Judy: Delnoce is the largest of the cottages on the Landing and it’s right across from the fountain which they are now resurrecting. Well, it’s a duplex right now and the Kapusinski’s own it and they rent out both sides. It was a duplex then too, and we were in the bigger side and a man whose last name was Robbins, Ken Robbins, lived on the other side and he also worked for the corporation. The main focus of their being here in the wintertime was to harvest the ice from the lake, so I have vivid memories of my father and all the workmen going out with trucks and great big saws and jackhammers and cutting down into the ice and harvesting big chunks of ice and there was a conveyer belt that went up the back of the truck. They had big tongs that these men would lift the ice cubes with and pack the ice in sawdust in a barn at Phillip’s farm. During the summertime there was an ice truck that would deliver big chunks of ice to all the cottage people for their ice boxes. The rest of it was used in the hotel and the casino, probably. I went to the one room school house, my brother and I both attended it. Mrs. Cooper was the teacher. I can’t remember her first name.
Judy: Was it Beulah? My brother named the fountain lady Beulah. It probably was our teacher’s name because he always called the fountain goddess Beulah. We were there for kindergarten and then first grade and second grade. There were several students. I remember Linda Cooper was in my grade. She was my pal. We would take turns with the teacher, and she would spend some time with us and then give us a book. I learned to read there. See Dick run, see Jane run, see Dick and Jane run. She would go to the next student and work with them and we had to be very quiet and be good students because if we weren’t we were hit with a ruler. I remember it very well, so I must have been hit with the ruler on the hand. The highlight of the day when it was snowing was riding our sleds back home down the steep mountain road.
Marian: That was Dave’s favorite memory of the winter.
Marian: He and Ty used to do that.
Judy: That reminds me, Proctor Knight built the Knight Club at the bottom of the hill. Do you know when that was built?
Marian: No, I don’t know what year it was built. My husband might remember.
Judy: My parents rented that from Proctor Knight after Mr. Eichler bought them out. My mom was a fabulous cook.
Marian: Did she do the cooking?
Judy: She did. She did the cooking. And my father was the bartender, and I guess it was quite a popular spot. They hired some RPI students to be the waiters.
Marian: Was Jim Mettler one of them because he talks about working and being at the night club?
Judy: He probably was. But not when our family ran it. I still was grade school age then so I don’t remember too much about it, except that mom made wonderful hamburgers, fried chicken and spaghetti. My sister Lonnie was born a few years before they ran it. Her favorite thing to do as a youngster was collecting turtles. She was very good at it and still is. We had a caregiver with us every night while they worked. I remember going into the building early one morning and nothing had been cleaned up from the night before. There was money on all the tables and on the bar. I never did understand how that happened. They ran the business for a few years. Others followed in their footsteps and eventually the Knight Club also burned to the ground.
Marian: Yes, it did.
Judy: So I went on to become a teenager. Loved it. Just wonderful memories. The hotel was still there most of my teenage years. A lot of the help that worked at the hotel were all from Cornell, where Margot had gone. Great people.
Marian: Now Margot is…?
Judy: Margot is Mr. Eichler’s daughter and also an only child.
Marian: She married Al Kapusinski?
Judy: They were married the same year my husband and I were married and I did meet Dave here. I’d just turned 17, and my best friend Gracia Dexter, who lived over in Sunset Bay, Pickerel Bay, and I decided that this was the summer to find a boyfriend.
Marian: She found Fred.
Judy: We had heard that there was a new ranger on Narrow Island and he was a college man and quite good looking, so we made it a point to go by the island rather slowly one morning in her boat, her father’s boat, and it was this wonderful wooden, it wasn’t a Lyman, I think it was an Old Town, and the name on it was Gay Judy because her name, her nickname was Gay and her sister’s name was Judy but we used to pretend it was our boat. And there was a handsome young man on the dock and we thought it was the ranger, so we waved and said ‘hi’ and he said hi back, and we thought he waved for us to come back, and we said, ‘ we’ll be back later with a smaller boat,’ so we went over to her house and discussed whether we should do this or not. We decided we were brave enough, so we got in her canoe and we paddled back over, and the young man on the dock was Jack Bryan’s visitor and Jack was the new ranger that summer, and he had just graduated from Syracuse University and he’d invited his friend Dave Haggett up, just for a weekend. Dave had hitchhiked up from Nyack, landed across the lake at Werner Marine. Jack just had a telephone installed. This was the first telephone that was ever installed on Narrow Island and he called Jack at midnight. Jack came over in the state boat and picked him up and it was black as could be, he couldn’t tell what the place looked like. He happened to be down on the dock looking at this beautiful paradise, which just overwhelmed him, when we came by in the boat. And the rest is history. He got a job and he spent the summer. He went off to pilot training. I spent the next summer here and then I got a job at the Sagamore Hotel, my first job waiting on table. My parents used to come down with food for me and care packages and all that, and I lasted one month at the Sagamore. It was overwhelming, it was just too big and I missed Huletts. The summer of 62 was my last summer here. I went to a Junior college in Boston. We were married in ’63 and then my grandmother, Mary Wyatt, passed away in ’67 She had a life lease on Maryart, so as soon as she passed away it became Mr. Eichler’s home, he owned it. And our family had nothing, it was all gone. By that time my parents were divorced. My mom married a dear family friend who I always called Uncle Wally. His wife had recently passed away and he had a home over at Sabbath Day Point. So our family was at Sabbath Day Point till my mom passed away in ’99.
Marian: Really? I knew you were at Sabbath Day Point, but I didn’t know any of that story. Well, that’s a wonderful story and a very seamless narrative, I will say. I don’t think, I can’t think of any particular questions. Oh, well I would ask a more personal thing about your childhood here. What were the very favorite things you liked about the lake? You said swimming.
Judy: Yeah, I think I had gills in the side of my neck. I was in the water all the time. There was a float over at the beach in front of the Nash house. Rosemary Brown, Kim Brown’s sister, Pat Hurley, Rita Hurley’s oldest daughter and Margaret and Kathleen Fredricks and I would spend all day there swimming and sun bathing on the float. I also remember hitting a tennis ball against the backboard next to the tennis court. My parents never taught me to play tennis but I taught myself, they were too busy. So I would hit that tennis ball against the backboard for hours and hours. My brother and I would collect soda bottles and take them to Benjamin’s store and then get the deposits and buy creamsicles and fudgesicles. We dove for money off the dock because the guests always had change in their bathing suit pockets since food and drinks were served on the lawn from the casino. The loose change would fall out while swimming and Wyatt and I would dive down for the shinny silver coins after the swimmers left. Another favorite pass time was building forts out of the Adirondack chairs on the beach. We would cover them with towels and play all day long. This usually was a gloomy, rainy day project. In the evening we had movie night, music and dancing and the talent shows. My mother had me up on that stage singing “I’m Looking Over a Four-leaf Clover”.
Marian: Was that a fun time?
Judy: Yes. I was a little stage shy. I also sang “All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”,because one summer I didn’t have any front teeth.
Marian: That was young, six years old or something.
Judy: Yes. My grandfather from my father’s side was a dentist. They used to come up and rent a cottage, and when my teeth were loose he tied a string to them and then tied it on the doorknob of the door on the cottage and slammed the door and out went my teeth. Those are my main memories.
Marian: Fabulous. I can’t think of anything in particular to ask you further than that.
Judy: One thing that I thought was kind of interesting that I failed to mention was when William Wyatt purchased the hotel from the Buckells, Mr. Buckell was the Postmaster General and he wanted to stay the Postmaster General, so he made my grandfather his deputy. The first Post Office was on the rock by the boat landing. It was also a general store. It eventually was moved to Lands End road and Herman Benjamin had a general store behind the hotel. The Scott’s from Whitehall opened a store on Lands End and the post office moved to the present location.
Marian: Yes, they had a store there. By that time Benjamin’s store had closed. I think they overlapped a little bit. When my kids were growing up they used to trek down to Scott’s, that was the daily walk, to get ice cream.
Judy: That’s where we all used to meet and hang out there, but I think I’ve covered all the other things that people might be interested in.
Marian: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Judy: Just that I’m honored to be back in Hulett’s Landing.
Marian: It’s wonderful to have you here.
Judy: Dave and I love it here. Actually the reason we came back was Gary Goldey. Gary worked for American Airlines as did my husband, unbeknownst to the two of them that they had Lake George connections.
Marian: Very close connections.
Judy: Very close. They were flying together. Gary was the captain and Dave was the Co-pilot. Gary said, ‘Well I’m headed up for my vacation’ and Dave said ‘Me too’ and Gary said, ’Where are you going?’ and Dave said ‘Lake George’ and Gary said ‘Well, that’s where I go,’ and Gary asked Dave where on Lake George and Dave said, ‘Sabbath Day Point, but my wife is from Hulett’s Landing,’ and so that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Marian: Well, thank you very much, Judy, for adding your wonderful story to the Historical Society Collection. It was great fun talking to you.
Judy: You’re welcome.
Transcription by: Robert Stragnell
Edited by: Arnie Galbraith and Marian Knight
Friends of Historic Huletts Landing
A Project of the
Friends of Historic Huletts Landing
- O. Box 82
Huletts Landing New York 12841