Tag Archives: Otter Lake Hotel

1934: Summer season in Otter Lake, N.Y.

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

After my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau received a Self Book from a guest, she used the blank pages to write about events at the Otter Lake Hotel — which she operated with my grandfather William Ray Charboneau in Oneida County’s Town of Forestport.

Otter Lake Hotel (circa 1930). My paternal grandparents Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the 1930s. To liven up the summer season, they organized social events, musical performances and card parties like the one shown here on the hotel porch.  Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. She handled deliveries, coordinated hotel and kitchen staff and created an enjoyable atmosphere for guests escaping hotter climes to summer near the Adirondacks.

My grandmother’s newsroom style

Reading her entries, I can’t help but think that — with training and editorial help —  she might even have made a good local newspaper reporter. Her first short piece described a birthday party at the hotel.

A very enjoyable party was held in the dining room of the Otter Lake Hotel on Saturday, August 11 – 1934. The occasion being Mrs. P. J. De Vries birthday. A birthday cake and favors for all the guests were enjoyed. Also Mr. James Burrus passed wine to all. Guests were Mr. & Mrs. P. J. De Vires, Mr. James Burrus and Miss Margaret Saum [all from Brooklyn]; Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton.

A  cultural gathering place

In a later entry my grandmother reveals that, beyond being a guesthouse, the Otter Lake Hotel served as a cultural gathering place for the lakeside community — spreading goodwill by hosting performances.

A string trio and soloist gave a lovely concert on the evening of August 22 – 1934 in the parlor of the Otter Lake Hotel. The trio was composed of George Wald pianist, Eugene Gantner violinist and Edward Creswell cellist. Symphonic selections and Russian music were much enjoyed. Mr. Creswell gave the Liebestraum and Tarantella as solo numbers. Mr. Gantner gave Ave Maria in a very beautiful manner. Mr. Elliot Stewart sang several selections and rendered Old Man River in a wonderful manner. The concert was much enjoyed by the guests and people from around the lake.

Family on the guest list

A bridge party in full swing on the porch of the Otter Lake Hotel (circa 1930). My paternal grandmother wrote about 1934  hotel events in her journal. My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. Scan of a family photo by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother included herself and my grandfather among the August 22 concert guests (Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau). And I was surprised to see my Aunt Gig — who later married my dad’s oldest brother Owen — listed as a guest under her maiden name (Aline Des Jardin).

Guests present were Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. W. R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Miss Irene Hundley, Mr. & Mrs. Stewart George, Mrs. Arthur Logan, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Reese, Barbara Reese, Mary Berthalman, Aline Des Jardin, Mrs. John White, Mary White, May Mangan, Ed Unser, Sadie Underwood, Marie Sorenson, Mr. & Mrs.  W. R. Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton, Mr. & Mrs. Dan Tanner, Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Tanner and many others.

Roscoe Norton ‘s curtain call

Two other interesting guests at both events were Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton.

Roscoe Norton was the original owner of the Otter Lake Hotel. He was also instrumental in saving and moving St. Trinitatis Church, where my German-Swiss Zinsk ancestors worshipped. Today it stands on land he donated as Otter Lake Community Church.

My dad often told stories about Roscoe, who operated the Whistlestop general store/post office across from the hotel — like how he would put on his official hat when he went to the postal window in his small store, then take it off again in the general-store side, on again, off again all day long.

Dad even patterned a character after Roscoe in his Labor Day Mystery novel — so it was nice to see him listed with his wife among the party goers at the hotel.

Up next: My grandmother’s write-up of a 1934 Charboneau family reunion. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A holiday gift: My grandmother’s voice

My parents named me after my paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau, whose nickname was “Molly.” A large Welsh-Irish woman from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md., she stood over six feet tall — as did her many sisters.

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My Welsh-Irish paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau in the early years of her marriage (circa 1910). I met her in the 1950s when I was a toddler, but did not get to know her until I inherited her diary. Scan by: Molly Charboneau

According to my dad, she met my grandfather, William Raymond Charboneau — who went by “Ray” — while she was working as a nanny for a Baltimore family that spent summers in the Adirondacks.

In those days before supermarkets, my grandfather delivered groceries to their house. My grandmother answered the door — and before you know it she had turned her back on the hot, teeming city for the handsome young man from Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

My dad’s recollections

I met Grandma Charboneau when I was a toddler — and still retain a vague image of her towering figure descending the central staircase during a visit to our farm in Albany County, N.Y. To my great regret,  she died when I was just 4, so I never really go to know her except through my dad’s sporadic recollections.

“My mother used to say if she could operate a sewing machine, she ought to be able to drive a car,” Dad would declare out of the blue — a prelude to a tale about her frustration that she never did get behind the wheel.

I could sense her presence in these fleeting anecdotes — animated by my dad’s sense of humor, which he picked up from her. (How I wish I had jotted some of those anecdotes down!) But it was not until I inherited her diary that I first heard my paternal grandmother’s voice.

Grandma Charboneau’s diary

In 1933,  Grandma Charboneau received a leather-covered Five-Year Diary — complete with a lock and key — as a holiday gift from her middle son. “Hubert gave me this diary for Xmas. Wet & cold today,” she wrote on 1 January 1934.

Family photo of the Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau Christmas tree, in the cottage at Otter Lake, Oneida, N.Y. (1942). Scan: Molly Charboneau
December 1942: Christmas tree in the cottage of Ray and Mary Charboneau in Otter Lake, Oneida Co., N.Y. My grandparents and their sons lived in this small, lakeside cottage when the Otter Lake Hotel they owned and operated was closed for the winter. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

Dad told me Grandma C. was a great storyteller. But like most diarists just starting out, she seemed unsure what to put down when faced with the blank page.

So her early entries pretty much catalog the weather — and some bitter cold weather it was up there in New York’s North Country.

But by the time the 1934 holiday season rolled around, my grandmother, 45, had warmed to the task of expressing herself and reflecting in small snippets on her life and her family members who still lived at home — my Uncles Hube, 19, and Fred, 16; my dad Norman, 9; and my grandfather Ray, 46.

Dec. 22, 1934:  Married 24 years today. Time flies, but we have lots to be thankful for.

Dec. 24, 1934:  Went to midnight mass at Forestport. Then to Desjardins. Had a nice party. Home at 4:30 am. Trimmed the tree before we left. [Her oldest son, my Uncle Owen, was married to Aline “Gig” Desjardins.]

Dec 25, 1934: Didn’t get much sleep. Boys were up at 5:30 am. Had a lovely Christmas. Was well remembered. Chair & clock from R & boys.

Dec. 26, 1934: Can’t hardly get around the place. Christmas tree and presents all over the place. Boys have their toys everywhere.

I particularly love that last entry because I can almost see Grandma Charboneau standing there — hands on her hips — surveying the post-holiday wreckage in the small, lakeside cabin where the family  lived when the Otter Lake Hotel they owned and operated was closed for the winter. And her expression “well remembered” to describe pleasure with her Christmas gifts seemed to hint at her heritage.

My grandmother closed out the old year with one last entry:

Dec. 31, 1934: Fred, Hubert, Norman, Ray and myself had a little New Year’s party. Toasted the New Year with a glass of wine and heard it on [the] radio.

So let’s raise a glass and join them! Happy Holidays to you and yours from Molly’s Canopy — and best wishes for the New Year!

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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