Looking Back 50 Years – Lake George in 1963
A half-century ago I was a sophomore at Syracuse University and manager of the Jolly Roger Boat Rental in Lake George Village during the summer. In celebration of that milestone I decided to take a look back at Lake George in 1963.
Art Knight and Cody Kirkwood owned the Lake George Mirror back then. Their office was located just off Canada Street in a glass-front building that is now Lake George Hardware Company on Dieskau Street in the heart of the village.
The Famosi Family opened the Fran Cove Motel in 1963 and it is still operated by family members Tim & Linda (Famosi) Kissane. Hurricane Hattie performed every night except Tuesday in the Tahitian Lounge at the Tiki Motor Inn and Gaslight Village offered continuous entertainment including a stage show, “meller” dramas, silent movies and variety acts.
Charles Mayard, Sr. owned the Mayard Center. He had the foresight to build the first “strip-mall” in the village after the Mayard Hotel burned to the ground in a fire in 1958. Mr. Mayard (that’s what he liked to be called by everybody) had two sons and a daughter who came from their mother’s home in California to spend the summers at Lake George with their father. One son, Charlie, worked for me as a dockhand. Sam Frost occupied the space closest to Canada Street and his family still operates the “Tom Tom Shop” in the same location and they now own the shopping center.
Right across the street was Vincent Colomaria’s Italian restaurant aptly named “Vincent’s”. Back then Vince catered to the dinner crowd until about 10 pm then the place became a hangout for the 18-and-older crowd (that was the legal drinking age back then). He didn’t even have a DJ or a dance floor but the place was always packed.
At the corner of Canada Street and Beach Road (where the Visitor’s Center is now located) stood Sky Harbor Restaurant. George McGowan operated the popular eating place which sported a huge circular bar right in the middle of the room.
Across the street from Sky Harbor was another popular hangout called Birdie & Dave’s. Thanks to the emerging popularity of disco lounges back in the ‘60s when the bar sold in 1963 the name was changed to the Peppermint Lounge and the taproom became a popular magnet for the 18 and over crowd…so popular that they charged a $5 cover charge just to get in the door.
Cover charges didn’t stop at the Peppermint Lounge. The East Side (as it was affectionately known back then) had several establishments which charged patrons just to get in the door. Mother’s (was Spagna’s), the Airport Inn (now George’s Place for Steak) and the Canteen (now a residence) had a cover charge. For some strange reason the Colonel’s Table (now East Cove) didn’t appeal to the college crowd but lured them in with an “Outlaters” menu served from 12 midnight until everyone left.
Does anyone remember Chief Uncas Inn where you could enjoy a Sunday night buffet for $3.50 per person? It was located on Lakeshore Drive on the shores of the lake and operated by the Brown family. How about the nine-hole, par three Yonder Hill Golf Course which now house the town offices?
Gilbert Lange operated Lange’s Pharmacy on Canada Street opposite Beach Road. It was billed as the Adirondacks newest and most modern pharmacy. The building still stands but the pharmacy is long gone. Next door the Lake Movie Theatre offered matinees at 2:30 daily and two complete shows starting at 7 p.m. There was a second pharmacy in the village in 1963. Leo Sullivan’s Rexall Drug Store not only offered prescription drugs but also had a large selection of Adirondack gifts and souvenirs. The business is still in operation although it is no longer a pharmacy.
Bob Blais was a patrolman for the Lake George police department and walked a beat in the Village. He eventually became a police captain, a deputy sheriff, Village Trustee and Mayor, as well as a business owner. Back then police officers, rather than traffic lights, controlled the traffic in the village.
Local attorney Mike Stafford had a one-man (boy) business and would walk the streets of the Village with a shoe-shine kit slung over his shoulder. Stafford spit-shined shoes for 25 cents and his goal was to earn $40 each week. “My mother would put half in the bank for me and would give me twenty bucks to spend,” he said with a laugh. “One week I bought every girl I knew a ring,” he recalled. “That made me the most popular kid in the village…at least for that week.” Stafford says he still has the shoe-shine kit.
The Adirondack Northway was being built in segments, which became I-87 as they were completed and linked to the pre-existing route. Construction began in the late 1950s on the portion of the Northway between the Thruway NY 7 and Latham. An extension linking Route 149 to 9N south of Lake George village opened in mid-1963.
Times change but the attraction of Lake George never fades. No one knows what the next 50 years will bring. I’m sure many people have memories of how Lake George used to be and how the Village has evolved. Just wanted to share some of mine with you.