Meet the 'Mayor' of Garnet Lake and his One-Woman Staff: Paul and Ellen Scott
By Candace O'Connor
NCNE Contributing Writer
JOHNSBURG - His term of office hadn't expired, and in an election he would have been unbeatable. But in summer 2006, Paul Scott - the unofficial mayor of Garnet Lake - along with Ellen, his wife of nearly 64 years and chief adviser ("even when I didn't need advice," he grumbles with a smile), quietly stepped down and away. They sold their lakeside home and moved to Schaghticoke, just minutes from their son Hank and his wife Bonnie.
Their absence has left a gaping hole in the Garnet Lake community. And no wonder. For some 50 years, more than 30 of them as full-time residents, the Scotts were the " go-to" people of the lake: co-founders of the Garnet Lake United Rescue Patrol (GLURP); keepers of the dam; key figures in the lively July 4th parade; surrogate uncle and aunt to a generation of neighboring children; unfailing source of news and memories; critics of mindless bureaucracy; and staunch Republicans, mostly.
Their roots in the region run even deeper. Ellen Scott's grandmother, Mary C. Boyce, had owned property on the lake since 1925, and Ellen had spent summers there as a child. In 1943, she married Paul Scott, her high school sweetheart from Cobleskill, New York, and he fell in love with the lake, too. So in 1956, with three young children, they bought their camp from her family to use as vacation property. Then in 1961, Scott made an earth-shattering decision.
I came home one day and said, 'You'd better pack because we're moving up north, "recalls Scott, now 81, who had been selling cars in Fishkill, New York. We were 60 miles outside of New York City and it was too hectic, really too busy. We both come from a small town and we were looking for something much easier. Garnet Lake seemed to be it."
He bought Richard and Rose Hill's garage on Route 8 in Johnsburg, where he opened a Dodge showroom, repair shop and used-car lot. Over time, he became active in local affairs, serving as president of the Johnsburg Central School Board and of the North Creek Rotary Club, member of the Town of Johnsburg Planning Board and Chamber of Commerce. Ellen developed a passion for bridge and led the Cadet Girl Scout Troop, holding popular camp-outs on Paradise Mountain behind their cottage.
Soon they acquired a house near the garage where they lived in the winters, moving to the lake each April for the summer season. Just two years after their arrival, they felt firsthand the generosity of Adirondack residents, when the steam boiler in the garage blew up, touching off a fire that damaged the building and the new cars on display.
One after another, neighbors turned up to help, including Beecher Sawyer, a competitor in Wevertown , who offered Scott garage space until he was back on his feet. H. Hudson Barton IV of Barton Mines Co. sent over a repair crew and ordered a new Dodge for his fleet, while Franklin Hewitt of Olmsteadville provided a dump truck and men along with it.
"Anybody in town who was able did anything they could for us," says Scott, with gratitude. The phone rang off the hook - that's the North Country for you."
The event also included a kind of automotive miracle. During the fire, they hurriedly backed a car out of the showroom and parked it on Oven Mountain Road. Maybe the brake was not on or it was still in gear, but sometime later it took off on its own; coasting peacefully across Route 8 and down South Johnsburg Road, turning in and stopping on the Methodist Church lot. That's where we located it four or five days later,"says Scott.
But the Scott's found ways to repay the community. When the town of Johnsburg didn't have enough money to rebuild the wet, one-way dirt road that ran from the old red post office on Garnet Lake Road to the dam at the north end of the lake, Scott told the Supervisor, Sterling Goodspeed, to take what dirt he needed from the sandy hill on his property. Some 600,000 cubic yards later, lake residents had a brand-new road.
He also took part in GLURP, a two-man rescue squad that he cooked up with his neighbor and friend, Ed Stewart. "They had a lot of calls from cars in the ditch to fires out of control, things like that," says Ellen Scott. "Everybody said: " Well, is GLURP around?"
Once GLURP got a frantic message from Maxam's Lodge. A guest had cast her fishing line - and plunged a fish hook through her ear lobe. Grabbing a wire cutter and bottle of Scotch, Scott headed over. He poured Scotch on the area, snipped off the barb, retracted the hook and doused the wound with more Scotch. The woman recovered handily.
Then there was a spring day when a canoeist flipped over in the chilly lake water and thrashed around wildly, unable to swim to shore. An alert lake resident called Scott, who sped to the scene in his red motorboat. Using his World War II Navy Training, he managed to pull the drowning man up by the hair, just in the nick of time.
That naval experience--4,400 dangerous hours as a flight engineer in the Pacific Theater from 1944 to 1945--also came in handy one summer day before GLURP existed. Out of the blue a surplus Navy OS2U Kingfisher plane, flown by a pilot with too little experience, came swooping down to the lake. Just below was a fishing boat, and trying to miss it, he got confused.
"In a small airplane like that, with no brakes, you have to slow down by turning it sideways--this way and that--and easing up on the gas so you can land," says Scott. "Instead this guy hit the gas just as he touched the water and tore off a wing float."
A comical scene ensued in which the Scotts chased the limping plane around the lake, finally convincing the pilot to land on their beach. The plane sat there for three months until the owner could get parts, then he and Scott put it back together--and off it went.
When the Scotts recall their Garnet Lake life, such wild scenes play only a small part in their memories. More important were their friendships with an unusually close-knit group of fellow cottagers-the Bordens, Stewarts, Heithauses, Ringenwalds, Vanderveers,
Moshers and Parkers-who had children the same age and liked simple, old-fashioned fun. They played bridge and waterskiied, swam, picnicked and held horseshoe tournaments.
Occasionally, Paul Scott did something special for the two dozen kids, who got together daily. Once he repaired a war-surplus pontoon bridge and hauled them all to the end of the lake, giving them a peaceful day to drift home slowly. Another time he took a flatbed truck in trade at his garage and, loading it with hay, brought it home.
"When I got to the lake, I said 'anybody that wants to go to the movies tonight, I'll take them all in the back of the truck," he remembers. Adds Ellen: "We had a little theater in North Creek then, and it was the biggest mob they had ever seen. They ran out of popcorn and candy bars."
Overall, they were wonderful kids, but on one memorable occasion they got into trouble. While playing darts at Scott's garage, they sneaked some cigarettes from the freezer. Scott held a meeting on his lawn, issuing a firm ultimatum. The kids--every one of them--would tell their parents, and they would pick stones out of his lawn for an hour each morning until the debt was paid. It was a lesson they never forgot.
Paul and Ellen Scott know that for sure, because on their departure from Garnet Lake, many of those children-- now grown up-- sent fond wishes and memories. Those letters bring tears to the eyes of the Scotts, who have 8 grandchildren of their own and 11 great-grandchildren, scattered around the country. Their daughter Ann and son-in-law Gene Arsenault settled in their old house in Johnsburg, while daughter Penny Scott Baughman and her husband David live in Tucson.
by Penny Scott Baughman
G.L.U.R.P.,(Garnet Lake United Rescue Patrol) a rescue patrol my dad and friends: Ed Stewart, Pete Parker, Leon Borden, Dick Hills, Tom Heithaus, Walt Schultz & others around the Lake formed with their JEEPS and boats to rescue GL residents and/or campers up on state land or out on the lake if they were in need of help. My dad would call Uncle Ed Stewart or Walt Schutlz or Peter Parker and "We've got a GLURP call! Are you ready? We'll round all our help up and meet at my camp or Ed's camp!" My dad also had his big wrecker from his garage in town if the rescue required more than 4 x 4 JEEPS!
My dad plowing driveways out with our JEEP & snow plow for residents at the lake if they were coming to the Lake for a winter weekend or week. They would call my dad and he'd say, "Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it." He was such an amazing man, always there & ready to help his family, friends and even those he didn't know.
Of course, my mom & dad and Stewarts hosting the GLCA picnic every year for many years on the Scott/Stewart beach. I was young when the civic association was formed. Thank goodness they did or the damn & the lake would maybe be gone. I remember the people & families coming from all over the Lake bringing lots of food and so many activities being organized for the kids and adults. The most popular were the water skiing show behind our boat with my dad driving that the kids practiced for all summer! My dad always made sure we had plenty of gas for the boats for the weekend and would bring more home during the week if we needed it.
Another popular event were the relay races with canoes, floats, & swimming.
And of course, the most popular was the Annual Horseshoe Tournament for adults. Friends would come all summer to our beach to practice for the summer end picnic/meeting. Of course my dad loved giving some lessons/ instruction and challenging whoever wanted to play! Great way to improve your game & be ready for the Picnic Horseshoe tournament! Everyone looked forward all summer to the picnic and always had a wonderful time!
And Labor Day weekend was a bittersweet time for all of us- long time friends and new friends were packing up their camps and cars to head back home for the fall/winter season until June came around again for another wonderful summer. My folks and others with JEEPs would always be there to help people bring in their boats and docks for winter storage. Always a very close knit community, really one big family, enjoying one another and helping in any way they could. It takes a village... and that village would come together again in June. And of course, we stayed at the lake year round for many years ( we also moved to our house in Johnsburg for winter but still spent time at the lake ice skating, skiing & sleigh riding on the Army Hill(just up from Vander Veers camp) ice fishing & snowmobiling.) along with Gen Parker, the Maxams, Lester & Lida Ross, and Walt Schultz. And as time went on we added a few more year round residents. Always there for each other to help.