Harold H. McGowan

 

Harold H. McGowan 1898-1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                  Harold McGowan 1970

 TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Tape 1

  Tape 2                                                                               

 Side A                                                                               Page 7

 Description of house  helived in as a child on Howard Street, Malone, NY; Description of the Franklin County Fairgrounds in the early part of the twentieth Century;  Description of some of the side shows at the fair; description of the horse racing at the fair; more about attending the air and attractions; Moving to Kingston, Ontario; description of his job in Kingston, grooming horses and various tasks and implements;

  Side B                                                                                Page 23

 Working with horses; Plaza Hotel, Malone NY; odd jobs for people; stories of working for Mert Drury and driving for him; Ploughing gardens and life in Malone, NY; Moving to Kingston Ontario and working in the raceways; description of working with hoses and at the race track in Kingston; Racing horses in Kingston;

 Tape 3                                                                               Page 39

 Side A

 More on the racetrack in Kingston Ontario; Descriptions of harness and hitches for horses for ploughing; more on training racehorses; Horse diseases and treatments; Horse racing in Blue Mountain, Ontario in the 1920’s:

  Side B                                                                                Page 55

 description of various odd jobs; Working as a milk delivery person; Description of the Willowdale Farm and operation; amount of milk produced by cows on this farm; Details of processing, delivering and selling milk from a milk cart in the 1920’s; more on farming and farm crops;

 Tape 4                                                                               Page 71                           

 Side A

 Storing and delivering cream; Description of his Routes for selling and delivering milk 7 days a week and customers in 1930’s; Description of working for the Farm;

 Side B                                                                                Page 85

 Description of the barns at Willowdale Farms; Stealing farm animals and not being able to punish the thief; Description of the communities of “Macedonia” and French Settlement in Belmont;

 Tape 5                                                                               Page 99

 Side A

 Barns being struck by lightening and burning; story of driving someone to Montreal; Description of a fight;

  Side B                                                                                Page 109

 Description of his first job doing road work around 1920; description of Frank King’s sawmill near Cromp’s Hill in Belmont; More on road work and ploughing;

 Click on Link for Transcript of Interview

TRANSCRIPT

Harold McGowan RRCD 1

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Harold McGowan RRCD 2

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Harold McGowan RRCD 3

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Harold McGowan RRCD  4

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TAPE 7

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[audio:http://www.reynoldstonnewyork.org/wp-content/02 Track 2.mp3]

  

CD:  FCRTR-120-2-A

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  CD: FCRTR-120-2-B

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CD:  FCRTR-120-3-A

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 CD:  FCRTR-120-3-B

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  CD:  FCRTR-120-4-A

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 CD: FCRTR-120-4-B

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  CD:  FCRTR-120-5-A

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  CD: FCRTR-120-5-B

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  Harold H. McGowan was a rural mail carrier associated with the Malone Post office for more than fifty years. Here is the the Route Mr. McGowan followed with his wife Genevieve until 1978:

 

The Star Route that Harold McGowan, my father, obtained during World War 11 (he was not draftable due to a deformed ankle), and which he and my mother, Genevieve Haskins McGowan, carried until 1978, began at the corner of Webster and Woodward Streets, at the southern edge of Malone village. My father subcontracted the job from his brother. Due to fear of being outbid, my uncle did not seek any salary increases for over 30 years, and by the ‘70s the job hardly paid a living wage. It was six days a week for 52 weeks, and furnish your own car. There was no pension, as my father was technically a government subcontractor, not a postal employee. From the 1950s until he retired my father drove and my mother sat on the passenger’s side and put the mail in individual customers’ boxes. They first sorted the mail at the Malone Post Office, tying it in bundles with a leather strap that buckled. The bundles were opened in turn as the route progressed.

 

The route continued south toward Lake Titus, along Route 11B, which my parents called “the Lake Titus Road”. There were hundreds of customers on the route, and I mention only a few of the special stops here. The first was at Aleck Burton’s, whose farm was just across from the Lake Titus entrance. My parents dropped off mail for Lake Titus campers at Aleck’s; he in turn delivered mail and groceries along the Lake, at one time with a scow. The next special delivery was to the Morgan estate, the only house on Lake Duane. Mrs. Morgan was a daughter of Mr. Bedford, who may have been in the oil business, and for whom the Boy Scout camp at Lake Meacham is named. My mother always got out of the car with the mail and went in the back entrance, where the kitchen was. This was the only house on the route with a maid and cook, to my knowledge. I think the cook was Esther LaBounty. The Morgan estate was not occupied in the winter, while the Morgans were in Florida. It had a year-round caretaker family though, who like the cook and my mother were local people who had known each other all their lives.

 

The next major stop was at the Post Office in Duane, my mother’s home town. The Duane Post Office was run from the former hunter’s hotel by Violet Garland Haskins, the wife of Charlie Henry Haskins. Charlie Henry was so-called to differentiate him from the other Charles Haskins, my mother’s father, Charlie Henry’s cousin. The Post Office was adorned inside with numerous hunting and fishing trophies, which fascinated me as a child (I learned that at least some rabbits turn white in winter by asking about a white rabbit skin mounted in the hall.) The large front room of the Post Office, with wicker settees, was the physical as well as the social center of Duane life. My father handed the “Duane Mail” to Violet in a grey mail bag, and she sorted it into individual boxes. Locals than drove or walked to the Post Office to pick up their mail for that day. On the way in they would say hello to my parents, who parked their car and ate lunch (home made sandwiches and coffee in a thermos) in front of the Post Office.

 

Across from the Duane Post Office lived Mattie and Elmer Haskins. Elmer was my mother’s uncle, her father’s brother, and a long time member of the town road crew, one of the few sources of employment in Duane. Mattie opened a gift shop on her front porch in the 1960s, and also became a Justice of the Peace, holding speeding trials at her kitchen table. Mattie’s sister Nellie lived about a mile away from Duane Center and in lae summer picked wild blueberries for a little extra money. One of the mailman’s side jobs was to take those blueberries for sale to Annabelle Herr’s store on Webster Street in Malone, and return the money to Nellie, who gave my father a quarter (which he gave to me). Another side job for the mailman was to give people rides to Malone; some would get in on the Lake Titus Road and ride all around the route to Malone. It was due to these side jobs that my parents met. He brought ice cream to Duane for my cousin Linda’s birthday party at my grandparents’ house – and met Linda’s young aunt.

 

From the Duane Post office the route continued east several miles to serve five customers, whose mailboxes were all in the same spot, the beginning of the narrow dirt road that lead to the former’s Shroeder’s Castle, the house of a hop magnate whose business failed, and who consequently committed suicide. The house was not visible from the road, and we never went back there to see it. Others who picked up their mail at this spot were two Lawrence brothers, who lived at the old Fox Farm, an enterprise in which their relatives the Reynoldses, founders of Reynoldston, once had a hand.

 

The route then back-tracked several miles to head north on the Studley Hill Road, a narrow dirt road with steep hills and gullies, and only five or six houses. The road ran through forest, with beautiful Fall foliage, but you could easily die on the Studley Hill Road if your car failed in -20F temperatures. This road ended at the Niagra Mohawk power dam in Chasm Falls. The next stop was at Wescott’s store, in Chasm Falls at the foot of the steep hill that lead past the Niaga Mohawk power station. Wescott’s was a real country store; it did not sell any quaint country collectibles, but canned food, cake mix, rifles and meat sometimes killed on the premises ( I once saw one of the two brothers who owned the store decapitate a chicken out back). My parents bought most of their groceries at Wescott’s.

 

From the “Bend of the River” on the Studley Hill road the route paralleled the Salmon River – the river damed to provide water power of Niagra Mohawk. After Wescott’s store we continued to follow the river north. We passed Abbey Cantwell’s house, and just north of it the three Harwood residences, grouped together. Wesley Harwood, the patriarch, was the son of Dr. Harwood, who practiced in the Bangor area. He had a degree from Harvard (he said he had originally planned to attend Cornell but that he and Clarence Kilburn had somehow changed places, with Kilburn going to Cornell and Harwood to Harvard) and had taught French (or possibly German) at a selective high school in the Bronx – Norman Mailer being one of his students. My father and Mr. Harwood always chatted at the mail box, and sometimes joked (for instance, about what St. Peter said to various arrivals at the pearly gates.) Mr. Harwood, as we always called him, knew I liked books – I was usually reading one in the back seat of the mail car. He started giving me Will and Ariel Durant’s History of the World for Christmas, until I had the whole set; he also gave me a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which I still have. He once showed me the small Catholic prayer book, in French, given to his father in payment for medical services. He had a complete set of Goethe’s works in his study. He was the only person I knew with a beard, and was usually dressed in a shabby shirt and shabbier khakis, working outdoors.

 

Mr. Harwood’s daughter-in-law, Jane, was a painting instructor. A friend of my Aunt Mary McGowan was her student, with the result that I inherited and still have a watercolor winter scene, looking south toward Chasm Falls from Jane Harwood’s window, and depicting Abbey Cantwell’s house and its next door neighbor.

 

From the Harwoods the route continued to Whippleville and its small Post Office, run by Doris Johnson, the wife of Norman Johnson, also a mail carrier. This tiny Post Office was in the Johnson House, and was so small everyone had to stand. Mrs. Johnson was unfailingly pleasant, and liked to laugh. Her son Jhon was or still is head of Alice Hyde hospital in Malone. Due to the small mail volume we only stayed there a few minutes. Both the Whippleville and Duane Post Offices are long gone.

 

The mail route continued past the country club and ended at a house just beyond the the “Rec Park” , less than a mile from where it started.

 

RH McGowan 2011

 

 

 

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