Interviewed by Marian Knight
Huletts Landing, N. Y.
August 22, 2013
Marian Knight: I’m Marian Knight, and this is August 22, 2013, and I am talking with Linda Donaldson at her home, Crosswinds, here in Huletts. I usually start by saying what brought you in the first place to Huletts Landing.
Linda Donaldson: My grandfather owned property here and he had died by the time I was born in 1943 but my grandmother was still alive and I’ve been coming up here every year of my life since 1943, so I guess you could say I came here because my parents were here and my grandparents were here. My grandfather died the year before I was born, he had purchased the property in 1923, but his family had been coming to Huletts since the late 1900s, he was born in Cambridge, NY, which I think is fairly close by, and his father, Joshua Beech, I think owned property in Cooks Bay, they owned the house that was the Dixon’s for a long time. And then when my grandfather married my grandmother he wanted a separate property for their family so he purchased Cedar Knoll, the old house from I think Jim Hudson’s family, judging from the other personal histories. So, I have some historical connection with both of the properties. I remember as a child being in the house that was the Dixon’s house for a long time and meeting my great aunts who by that time were very elderly and as a child being a little afraid of them because they seemed so old, they probably weren’t much older than I am right now but they seemed quite elderly at the time. Anyway, my grandfather had come up here quite often as a child and we have a picture of him in the 1890s sitting on the porch of the farmhouse of Cedar Knoll, the farmhouse up the hill. And I think, actually I made some notes, I think originally we were related to the Kitchells in some way, the bay is called Kitchell Bay and I believe that one of the Kitchells was married to a relative of Joshua Beech’s and maybe thats how they first came up here. So that’s how I came up here in the first place.
Marian: So what are your fond memories?
Linda: What are my memories? Oh I guess one of the things I thought I might talk about is what my parents talked about. My mother in particular because my grandfather was my mother’s father and my mother, my mother’s name was Betty Beech, Elizabeth Beech and her younger brother was William Beech, Bill Beech and they came up very, well, at least from 1923 on when my grandfather bought the property and they used to tell stories of how they came up here because they were here before the road over the mountain, so they used to come up from New York City where my grandfather was a doctor, they’d come up by train, and then they’d take one of the steam boats that went up and down the lake, they would take the boat up to Huletts Landing and then come down to the house. They had all sorts of stories about things like, which, this used to just astonish me when I was a child, they had no refrigeration so they had an ice house and in the winter they would chop big chunks of ice out of the lake, put them in the ice house and I guess it was stored in saw dust so that it would stay cold all summer. Then they would have these big sides of beef and other supplies brought up and stored in the ice house and that would last all summer for them. My grandmother would be up here all summer, I think my grandfather probably didn’t stay all summer because he was a practicing doctor. He would come up for a big chunk of the summer anyway but my mother and uncle had a lot of memories of growing up here and what it was like before the road over the mountain existed and once the road did exist I remember their talking about, my grandparents had at least some servants, I think my grandmother had a cook that would be here all summer and they had a chauffeur who lived in the little boathouse down here and they used to torment him as children will do, tease him and everything. What else, let me see if I can think of any.
Marian: Where was your family at that time?
Linda: Well my grandfather had grown up in Cambridge, had moved to New York. They lived in Brooklyn, they lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn. My grandfather was at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, that’s where he met my grandmother, whose maiden name was Mildred Fletcher. She came from Raleigh, North Carolina. She was the chief nurse when he was, I guess the head of obstetrics and gynecology and thats how they met. I do know, according to the family lore, his sisters, he was the only boy in a family I think of five, and his sisters were very upset when he got married because they had assumed he was going to support them (laughs) for the rest of their lives and instead he got married and had two children. Lets see what else. What other kinds of things, do you want me to talk about the house? About Cedar Knoll? The house was a farmhouse. It was, it had no insulation in the walls, the heating was all by wood-burning stove. There was a big stove in the kitchen which I remember as a child, again a wood-burning stove, it had no real control, so you had to know what you were doing to operate it. I remember an old crank washing machine with the two rollers to roll out the laundry and there was an old coffee grinder in the kitchen which I remember being fascinated by because again it was a crank coffee grinder, nothing was electric. I mean we had electricity but it was very primitive. It would go off quite frequently. My other, another memory I have of that house is, because it was so old, we had bats living in the house and at night sometimes around dusk especially the bats would come out and they’d fly around in the living room. We, my parents were very active as tennis players and I remember taking tennis racquets down from the wall and people swinging at the bats to try and get rid of them as flew around. Lets see what else might be… the house up the hill was renovated in the 1980s because it was falling apart and we basically cut off the north end of the house, cut it in half. There was already a split between the two ends. A gap of about a foot and a half. The northern end of the house was in the worse shape so my parents took it down and rebuilt that end of the house, made it smaller. And in part they did that so that my husband at the time, whose name was Frank Flegel, Katie’s father, we were coming up to visit my parents and they wanted a separate place where we could stay, and so they renovated the house and I’m very glad they did because it’s a lovely house. Let me see what else I can talk about. Is there anything specific or should I just ramble on?
Marian: You can ramble on. I’m also interested in things you did that you remember, particular incidents that happened, family and whatever comes to mind.
Linda: Well as I said I was up here every summer. When I was born in 1943 my father was in the Armed Forces in Africa. He was a physician as well and so I would come up here when I was, the first couple of years of my life with my mother, and we would stay with my grandmother who owned Cedar Knoll, had inherited it from her husband and occasionally my uncle Bill would also be there. And my earliest memories actually are of my mother used to, so that she wouldn’t have to watch me every minute, I was telling Katie this today, she couldn’t believe it, she would put me on a tether. Basically I had a little vest and she would tie a long rope to my back so that I could wander around and play and she wouldn’t have to worry that I would fall in the lake. So some of my earliest memories are of being tethered, especially when she used to go over, my mother was very active in tennis and when I was young she used to play with Dr. Emerson, who was Bunny Wilkening’s father. The two of them played singles a lot and sometimes they would play at the Landing on the courts near the big hotel and my mother would tie me to something and she’d go out and play with Dr. Emerson and I’d sort of putter around the backboard. So those are some of my earliest memories up here. You know, just these very vague impressions of, you know, watching my mother play tennis and when I was older I used to hit against the backboard myself. Other early memories I have are of my grandmother in particular who was sort of the central figure up here. She was up here all summer and I think she must have been in her 60s when I was born.
Marian: And what was her name?
Linda: Mildred Beech. Mildred Fletcher Beech. Some of my memories of her, she used to sit on the porch, she had a glider. Do you remember the old gliders? She used to sit on the porch in her glider and receive visitors. One of her favorite visitors was Uncle Ely, Ely Jelliffe. He would come over and sit there and I remember his visits. I remember him fairly well.
Marian: Were you related?
Linda: I don’t think we were related, it’s just that somehow they got on well together and I think they both liked to gossip, and so he would come over and they would basically sit there and exchange news of the Landing, so that was how my grandmother knew what was, especially down on Bluff Head because there were really three or four different communities up here. There was Lands End and Bluffs Head and then the Landing and I think Indian Bay was sort of like another little separate community. So we didn’t necessarily know what was going on in Bluff Head unless Uncle Ely would come over and tell my grandmother, so I do remember that. I remember my grandmother reading to us on the porch. I don’t know if you remember the Thornton Wilder books, does that ring a bell with you? All the books about animals and they all had these sort of anthropomorphic names and I remember her reading, sitting next to her and having her read all of those tales, the Thornton Wilder tales to us, and my other main memory of her was she was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. My brother Bob and I, who were great baseball, used to play baseball a lot as children, would lie in bed with her at night and listen to night games on the radio, of the Brooklyn Dodgers. We knew all the, the entire team and all of the roster. Okay, some of the other memories I have of her: She had two boats. She, they had a speed boat and an outboard. My grandmother loved to fish and she used to take the outboard out in the evening, I guess around dusk is a good time to fish. She knew a lot of the fishing holes around the lake, and actually, when she died, my father found a book in which she had listed all of the great places to fish. And my mother and my father used to go out later on in my life and fish, and then somehow that book disappeared, I don’t know what happened to it, but somebody has a lucky.
Marian: I wonder if that has changed at all.
Linda: That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. My guess is that a lot of them are probably the same. I know one of them was off of Gull Rock out here. Yes, and the boats, I was gonna say, the boats, the speedboat, and this was my grandfather I think had named the boat, was the Go-like-hell spelled like an indian name and the outboard was the Go-on-ya, also spelled like an indian name and when my uncle, after my grandmother died my uncle bought a boat and he called it the Go-like-hell 2 but we have not named a third generation as Go-like-hell. Let’s see, what else. Another memory I have from childhood is of Bob Adams, have you ever heard of? He was, he worked for my grandmother and I think he was pretty much full time, although possibly three or four days a week, but he lived in Dresden and was part Mohawk indian. The very, sort of, a really central figure in the lives of me and my brothers, because he was always here, he was very generous with his time so that he would show us how to do different kinds of things. I have a very vivid memories of this man who I don’t know anything about his background except that he worked for my grandmother. He had a workshop under the north end of the house, what was sort of like a cave and if you went in there it was like going in a secret place. Let’s see what else. We had a party-line telephone.
Marian: A what?
Linda: A party-line telephone. They were very, I guess that was common up here.
Marian: Yes, we had one until just a few years ago.
Linda: Really? I think ours, I think the 60s was when we got rid of ours. Our ring was two short and one long, and I remember my grandmother was always convinced that people were listening in on her conversations, and maybe they were. She used to say, don’t say anything very important on the phone because people are listening in. My grandmother used to insist that we have our big meal of the day at lunch so we would have dinner every day at 12:30 or 1 o’clock and my grandmother, I have, I’ll show you the gong, my grandmother had this big gong that she would beat and when we heard the gong that meant we had to come to eat dinner, and my mother, who always wanted to be active and doing things during the day was very upset that this was, that we had to stop everything, drop everything and come and eat dinner in the middle of the day. Okay, my mother’s passion was tennis. She played with Dr. Emerson as I said. They also played at the Goldsmith court which is up in your neck of the woods.
Marian: Yes, it’s just beyond the property on the east side of Bluff Head Road I think.
Linda: Yes, just where the asphalt ends and the dirt road begins.
Marian: That’s where it is now, I assume then from what you say that’s where it has been.
Linda: Yes and I remember playing there when I was a child and there was this sort of sandy area in the back at one end where the ball would just go dead. They’d also play at the landing and she’d play at the Cerosky’s court when we got older we’d go down and play at the Cerosky’s and some of my memories of that are of two or three times a week we would go there at around 9:30 or 10 in the morning and there’d be a whole group of people. Dick and Jimmy Lyons, Jack Jelliffe, the Ceroskys of course, my family, the Van Rhyns and we would play round robin for about four hours, and that’s some of my happiest memories of being up here is just playing this round robin tennis down at the Cerosky court. That was when I was older of course. John Michael White was one of the people who would play and he would always bring these shandies, I guess they’re called, do you know what they are? Half, no-no, it’d be half beer and half lemonade, and people would be, so by the end of the time we were playing it was, everybody was very happy (laughs), the game was starting to deteriorate. The other place I would play when I was a child was the Danforths. The Danforths had a court as well, I don’t know if that court still exists. Nick Danforth was a contemporary of mine.
Marian: Who was?
Linda: Young nick, Nick Danforth and he and I used to play tennis on that court fairly often.
Marian: Do you still play?
Linda: I haven’t played for a couple of years, I played a lot as an adult but I had some injuries and I haven’t played. I’m hoping to start again at some point. Do you play?
Marian: I used to play. I haven’t played for two or three years, my husband who is going to be, have his 80th birthday in a week is still a, well he played with Betsy Stratton’s son Kerrie, they hit some balls, but otherwise he hasn’t played in about 6 months, but he’s been a really adamant tennis player too.
Linda: Well that’s good to know if I ever get to playing again (laughs) I know somebody I can call to play.
Marian: You can come down on our court?
Linda: Do you have a court?
Marian: On Meadow Point?
Linda: Oh you have a court down there?
Marian: Well it was down there in the earlier days, then when the war came and the men were all away it was our, it just was allowed to get overgrown and when we were early married Dave’s father wanted to have that court resurrected so he asked Dave to do it, so Dave with the help of a few people rebuilt that court.
Linda: Is it a clay court?
Marian: It’s a clay court.
Linda: Because I know the Hansens had a court as well and one summer we spent an entire summer pulling weeds out of the Hansen court to try and get that back in shape. So I guess that you could probably do a story in itself about all the tennis courts in Huletts Landing.
Marian: They took a certain amount of work.
Linda: Well I know Dick Van Rhyn also had a court on Bluff Head. They do take a lot of work. I mean, more power to the Ceroskys who maintain their court. Theirs is a clay court as well. Okay, let me think of what other. I guess the other person I wanted to talk about was my Uncle Bill who was a very important person to me when I was a child. When we only had Cedar Knoll he lived in the same house so I’d be up here in the summer. When I was a child, my brothers and I, I have two younger brothers, Bobby and Tom, and the three of us would come up for two months and we’d stay with my grandmother and often my uncle was also there, and then, and sometimes my mother. And then my father would come up for one month in August. My uncle was just, I just remember him as this wonderful, funny person. I mean of all the people in family he probably had the most funny and wicked sense of humor, so I associate him with laughing and having a good time. And my other memories of my uncle, one of the things we used to do up here after dinner was we’d have a croquet match on this lawn down here, where this house is now built. We would play probably for an hour and half or two hours. We would have a series of matches and my uncle was one of the, my uncle and mother were both very competitive and one of my strongest memories is of my uncle hitting my ball and everybody else’s balls into the lake when he got (laughs) when he would hit us and have a chance to send the ball, one of the balls someplace else he would hit us into the lake so that you would, it’s a pretty, well, there, at the time, all of this shrubbery that we have now right next to the lake wasn’t there, there was some but it wasn’t as much, it was a lot easier to hit the ball into the lake. He, my uncle inherited the property next door from Lil Peters who was a second cousin I think of my grandfather’s. I don’t know what exactly all the family connections are but I know she was related to us and when she got to be elderly he did a lot of things, did a lot of shopping and he would do errands for her and make, check on her, make sure she was okay. As it turned out she then decided, he didn’t know this, but she decided to leave her property to him instead of some cousins I guess she had who had never shown much interest in the lake. So that was in about the early 80s, 1980s, and he sold half of the property to Dick and Ginny Lyons and then built the house next door on what was left. My brothers and I inherited that from him. This was around the same time that my grandmother died, she died in 1981 and after she died my mother and father built this house that we are talking in right now. We now have the three houses, the old house, Cedar Knoll, this house and then the house next door which is called Key Ledge after my uncle because he lived in the Florida Keys and its built on a ledge so we sorta named that to honor him. So that’s, that’s another thing I’m grateful to my uncle for, is to leave us his property.
Marian: It’s a wonderful thing.
Linda: Well it is and it isn’t. I mean, it means that there’s a lot to maintain instead of one house we have three houses to maintain. Other memories I have of up here, when I was a child we were very active. We did a lot of waterskiing and canoeing and aside from the tennis, walking. I remember walking to High Rock, which, is at the very southern end of Huletts, it belonged to the Condits but they let everybody walk up there and it was so crushing to us when Bobby Condit decided to actually build a house up there. I mean of course, we had nothing to say about it but I remember vividly sitting up on that, have you ever been up to High Rock before they had built the house?
Marian: Not before, no. That house was on the church house several years ago and I went up to see it then.
Linda: Okay. I’ve never seen the inside, I’ve seen the outside of course from the lake, but before it was built you could walk up there and sit up on that ledge and have a great view up and down the lake. What else, I remember the stores, Benjamin’s store over at the landing near the post office and Scott’s store later. And the church, I remember going to the church when I was a child and I think I spent most of my time looking at the window, the big stained glass window, it’s a beautiful window, lovely window. I still like going, watching that window when I go to church. There were places we were not allowed to go, or I wasn’t as a girl. One was the casino because it was considered to be a bad influence (laughs) and the night club, I remember that was, there was something very exciting about the night club, which is probably your family.
Marian: My father in law, Proctor, he owned it and he built it.
Linda: I remember when it burned down, it was a major event. I think it burned down in the winter though because I know we weren’t here.
Marian: I don’t remember but not in the middle of the summer, no, it burned down some other time, yep, you’re right. I don’t know when, maybe Dave would remember that.
Linda: But it was also, I think because it was a night club and it had, you know, liquor was served there, there was something forbidden about that. Other things I remember, I made a list of people that were, the Danforths, I was, I knew the Danforths fairly well because little Nick who was my age, and I still see him when he’s up here from time to time. His sisters, Nina and Julie I guess. I’ve seen both of them up here. The Condits, Billy and Doug Condit especially, because Billy was also around my age, and Billy actually now rents from us, or has the last two years at the end of the season. Doug Condit was a great friend of my Uncle Bill’s. The Newells owned the house across the road which is now owned by Mr. Cavino. It was, I knew, brother was my age, Walter Jr., and his sisters, I remember thinking they were very glamorous, they were several years older than I was and they always had boyfriends over but that was very interesting, but they were unusual because they were from Whitehall. They had a, they lived in Whitehall and had the house over here. The Ijimas, Henry and Grace Ijima who, when I was, probably, well I would say Grace was probably about 25 or 30 years older than I was, but again, I remember them vividly from the summers I had up here and they had inherited from Dr. Peterson, whom I never knew, but I remember my uncle telling me the story of how he had adopted them. I guess he was in Japan after World War II or during, at the end of World War II and he had adopted Henry and Grace. I believe that’s the case, I could be wrong on the timing, it could have been in the 30s that he adopted them but I’m pretty sure it was that he was in Japan and I don’t know if he knew their parents or not, but that’s how they ended up coming here. Anyway, that’s sort of what I wrote down from all my notes but if you have any questions I can try to.
Marian: That was very interesting, your talking about the people around and your associations with them. My experience of this community is that, it’s been separated, you know, you have the Lands End community and people, you were mentioning that earlier, and the Bluff Head people and the Landing people.
Linda: And Meadow Point I think is its own little separate community.
Marian: Well, yeah, it was just family all those years and now of course it’s divided up when David’s grandmother died, the one woman who owned it. The intention was to give a place to all her grandchildren and that happened and then, and also didn’t happen, and anyway, we have a lot more people down there then there used to be in the old days.
Linda: I think that’s an issue for all families, I mean our family here, I have two brothers, each of them has two children and I have my daughter Katie and the next generation there’ll be five owners of these properties and after that who knows. It means that either you have to figure out a way to share or some people have to decide they don’t want to be part of it. It’s an issue I think for a lot of families. And with the tax situation also it means that, I think it’s sad that some of the older families who were up here for generations have had to sell, I don’t know if they’ve been forced to sell or if they just decided they want to because it’s so hard to maintain it economically but I just think, you go in the cemetery and see a lot of the old names of families that have been here for a long time and who can’t stay.
Marian: And some of the people are building these beautiful new houses never the less have to rent them. We have houses that we rent, otherwise we, in order to pay the taxes.
Linda: Right, we rent our houses all summer. If we’re not here we hope that the houses are rented so that, and we’ve been lucky, we’ve had some very very good people. We take care of the houses, thats, its so important to have people. But yeah, I agree, I think that when I was a child here, we knew people on Lands End, we knew a few of the people down on at the other end, but it was, my mother played tennis with Dr. Emerson so she knew that family. My brother growing up knew Sandy Stragnell because he and Sandy were about the same age. You knew people by your activities and how you got to know them.
Katie Flegel:Excuse me for interrupting, do you feel that Bill, your uncle was a bit more, because I remember you telling me he would ride his bike up and down and just sort of, he was a bit of a gossip too I think, and he would kind of visit people outside of just this bay.
Linda: Yes, his nickname was the town crier (laughs). He used to visit people. He’d bring them their newspapers and then he’d sit and chat and find out their news and their mail, he’d pick up people’s mail and then deliver their mail and find out what their news was and then he’d go on to the next house and he’d share the news.
Marian: A little bit like the milk man or the bread man (laughs).
Linda: He was their, the equivalent of the internet at the time. He was the twitter of Huletts Landing.
Marian: This was Linda’s daughter Katie, made a few comments here on the tape.
Linda: Yes, Katie Flegel, her last name is Flegel.
Marian: Well this has been very interesting, is there anything else more?
Linda: I can’t off the top of, I made up some pages of notes and I’m sure I’ll have other memories that I could type up and add to them but I just would say that this was such an important place, has been such an important place in my life. There’s something about Huletts Landing that makes it very restful, very peaceful. It’s a place you come to sort of unstress yourself, to sleep well. To sort of feel the power of the natural world. Especially if you live in the city, it’s just, it’s so wonderful to be up here and I can’t imagine not being able to come up. It would be very hard to give it up.
Marian: The lake is so beautiful.
Linda: It is.
Marian: People who come can’t get over how wonderful and how gorgeous this lake is.
Linda: And I think particularly this community because it is very quiet, it’s not commercial, there’s not a lot going on, so you have to be the kind of person who likes come to a place where there’s not a lot going on. It’s quieter than a lot of vacation spots, that’s part of its charm for me.
Marian: Well I thank you very much for your words and for a very interesting.
Linda: Oh you’re welcome, thank you for coming over.