1934: Christmas in August at the Otter Lake Hotel

First in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country.

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Otter Lake Hotel. During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country. Photo: Larry Meyers/Fulton Chain of Lakes Postcards

My grandparents were known as Ray and Molly to family and friends — and they did their best to entertain hotel guests and encourage return visits.

Since the hotel was closed during the winter, one of the high points at the end of each summer season was the Christmas-in-August party before the last guests departed.

At one of these parties, a guest gave my grandmother a “Self Book” with a calendar, a page for important dates and journal pages for notes. Here’s the first one she wrote:

This book was given to me by Mrs. O’Donnell at a Christmas party held at Otter Lake Hotel August 14 – 1934.

Party highlights and guests

Grandma Charboneau then described the party in an entry that reads like a local newspaper community events column item:

A very lovely Christmas party was held at Otter Lake Hotel on August 14 – 1934. A lighted Christmas tree and presents with a poem for each was a feature of the occasion. Mr. James Burris made a delightful Santa Claus. After the tree and presents, the rest of the evening was spent in parlor games and music. Singing was enjoyed by both ladies and gentleman.

Otter Lake Hotel ice cream dish from the author’s collection. My paternal grandparents Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau ran the ice cream stand at the hotel before they graduated to operating the hotel itself. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Even better is the guest list, which includes some of my family members (in bold below):

Guests at the Christmas party – Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Miss Adelle & Hilda Migurt, Mrs. Nora O’Donnell, Miss Lillian Hundley, Miss Jennie Wilson, Mr. W.R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. &  Mrs. P. T. De Vries, Mr. James Burris, Miss Margaret Saum, Mr. Wm. Charboneau, Mr. Frank Owen, Norman Charboneau, Frederic Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau.

My dad, Norm, was 10 years old at the time. Uncle Fred, his brother and hotel roommate, was 16. My paternal great grandfather Will Charboneau, 76, lived locally. My maternal great grandfather Frank Owen, 72, was from Baltimore, Md., and known as “Pop” to the family.  My grandfather Ray was 46 and my grandmother Molly was 45.

Pop  Owen’s summers up north

I once asked my dad about Pop’s presence at this gathering. He said by then Pop had given up his Baltimore, Md., home and took turns staying with one or another of his children throughout the year.

My grandmother’s turn came in the summer so Pop could spend the hot months up north at the hotel. That’s how he ended up at the August Christmas party.

Pop was born in Wales and Dad considered him quite a character. “Every day he would put on a World War I pith helmet and march across the street and up the hill to Norton’s store, near the railroad tracks, to pick up the mail,” he said. A cousin told me Pop also drank a daily glass of Epsom salts and took cold bath as a constitutional.

I am grateful to Nora O’Donnell for giving Grandma Charboneau the “Self Book” that inspired her to write about this party and several other happenings that summer. There was even a brief entry about a Charboneau family reunion!

More in the next post. Please stop back!

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4 thoughts on “1934: Christmas in August at the Otter Lake Hotel”

    1. Thanks, Lynnette. I am fortunate to descend from ancestors who boxed things up and passed them along, which is how I inherited my grandmother’s journal. Alas, as you point out, these precious gems are not as plentiful as we would wish.

  1. Molly, you have created for us a lovely picture of your grandparents’ hotel and the “Christmas in August” event, and how wonderful to have your grandmother’s calendar book.

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