My bride and I credit the vintage Adirondack lifestyle (and it’s 21st century progeny) for luring us away from Manhattan in 2006 to become North Country full-timers. But what exactly is the Adirondack lifestyle? And has the notion evolved from the time patinated vintage Adirondack stereotypes of yesteryear?
Actually it’s not so easily defined, perhaps because there are so many different perspectives on what makes living (or even vacationing) in the Adirondacks desirable. High Peaks, Great Camps, cozy little lodges, Champlain Valley, agriculture, hunting, fly fishing, ice fishing, back country adventures, extreme sports, and the list goes on. Although a portrait of our Adirondack experience will evolve out of these blog posts, I won’t presently attempt to define the vintage Adirondack lifestyle. Though often attempted, any single face of of the Adirondack experience is an abstraction, often even a caricature or a stereotype. The real Adirondack experience is vast, rich and dynamic. It is precisely this richness and diversity which appeals to us. It is precisely this evolving character which inspires us to get involved with the people and organizations that have welcomed us.
The video from which the still above was captured, the first in a series of three, is called Land of My Dreams and it was apparently created by Joseph J. Harley in the late 1940’s. It captures a nostalgic (if extremely dated) caricature of vintage Adirondack living, more precisely the rustic “camp” lifestyle popularized during the mid 1900s.
The story takes place on Bluff Island in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake, New York. My great grandparents had a house that Joe built himself from scratch. The DEC took the house down after a law was made that people could only camp on certified islands in the lake. Joseph J. Harley was an amateur film maker who made many other movies and won awards for them. (YouTube.com)
Douglas Yu (@tourpro) over at Adirondack Base Camp put me onto this quirky vintage short, but he wasn’t able to share much more about the film or Harley. (Note: unfortunately these videos are now private, and no longer available.)
I couldn’t find much information about the filmographer, but at one point he was President of the American Cinema League.
Many of the artifacts that I’ve collected since purchasing Rosslyn fall into this hazy no-man’s land of vintage Adirondack collectibles (postcards, magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, brochures, videos, etc.) It’s challenging or impossible to determine the background for many of the artifacts, and they occasionally include dated or peculiar elements such as the “black face” character in the the second video. And yet, taken together they provide a context for the quirky tale I have to tell. I’ve decided that this blog is the perfect way to preserve and share these artifacts, characters and stories which don’t find their way into my Rosslyn Redux memoir or the Redacting Rosslyn monologues.
By collecting these artifacts into a “digital museum” I hope to showcase some of the esoteric ingredients of the vintage Adirondack lifestyle (and its contemporaneous offspring) which seduced us, aggravates us, intrigues us, perplexes us and inspires us in this new chapter of our lives.