Smith, Norman

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY
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My father came here in 1917 or 1918 after the First World War. He had been gassed during the war and he came to the Helderbergs for the good clean mountain air. He stayed at Wagner’s Hotel in East Berne. Later, he bought a lot from Henry Binns, on route 910J, which is now 157 about a quarter mile up from route 443. Mr. Sheldon bought the second lot and my father bought the third lot next to Millers. Eventually, Mr. Sheldon sold the middle lot to my father and we ended up with all three. The first camp my father built was called Norsdale and where Puzulis’ is was called Shirleydale. Named after Mr. Sheldon’s daughter. Millers lived on Second Street in Albany, and their camp was later owned by Archie Warner and is now owned by David Filkins.

Camp Noradale

Archie Warner’s brother dug our well and then Mr. Shultes and John Hocks. They used dynamite on Johns well and blew mud over on our house, which was 150’ away. Then they started a well for Mahan and they had a kid go out to stop traffic while they blasted. When they blasted a big rock came down and hit the boy and killed him and Mahan’s well was never finished.

Edgar and Edward Geier

I started coming out here with my parents when I was 6 months old. There were the Geier twins, Edgar and Edward. Edgar was my father-in-law. Edward was Ruth Roemer’s father and they had the camp where Roemer’s are now. Ruth’s uncle Art Merchant had the camp where Mulls lived. Edgar owned the camp where my son Michael lives now. Mary’s mother and father built that in 1938. Edgar died in 1945, and after that my wife and I bought the camp from my mother-in-law. In 1973, we had built a new home on route 157 where Norsdale used to be and we came over here during the summer. My son Michael and his wife Debbie were living in Medusa and wanted to be by the lake so they got the camp later on.

Years ago, my father had a big rowboat with a motor on it. I remember a kid drowned and divers came up from New York City to try and find him. They were working off a raft, which my father towed around with his motorboat. I recall they used hand cranked air compressors.

In 1943, I put a 16 HP motor on that boat and much later I used a 22HP. At that time the Lake Association said they had a 16 HP limit and wouldn’t let me launch my boat in the lake so I had to have Ted Quay come over with his wrecker. He would back alongside the house and use his winch to either take my boat out or put it back in. I used to pay Ted $10.00 each time he came over. Eventually one of the other Lake Association members had a relative give them a boat with an 80 HP motor and that whole motor size deal came to an end. I think this all happened about 1951 or 1952.

Norm Smith's boat

I knew Ben Becker from Phillip Livingston High School. He used to be involved with the boys and girls camp across the lake and at times I would help out with my boat pulling water skiers.

I remember Jay Engel and his wife Lydia. Lydia was cross-eyed and I could never tell when she was looking at me.

Jay used to raise mink and I remember him fishing down by the dam to catch suckers to feed his mink.

Jay also had a pet bear and you could buy a chocolate drink in the store to give to the bear. The bear could remove the top with his teeth.

When we were kids they never had locks on the windows of the old East Berne schoolhouse. In the summertime, we used to go in and sit at the desks and write and do other things. Eventually Longs bought it and made it into a house. Longs also owned a boarding house down closer to Route 443. There was a barn between the schoolhouse and the Boarding house where there was an icehouse.

Jay Engel also had an icehouse, as did John Hoch. When we were kids, we used to help them load the ice. There was a sawmill across the street from Schuler’s, where we could get sawdust to cover the ice. I believe 90% of the ice cut was taken out up by Warner’s.

We are living in what was Mary Tenchers house. Bill and Mary were friends of our family since they came out here in 1948. They bought this camp and eventually made it into a year round house. After Mary’s death we inherited this place with the understanding that we were to live here.