An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered

In order to best present the unique lifestyle of one from the North Country, the author, Ralph Hoy, takes the reader through some of the most memorable and impactful stories of his childhood in the Northern Adirondacks. Born in 1900, in the small village of Brainardsville, Hoy lived with his sister, mother, and father in a wooden house that had been built by his father. The introduction of the book is written by Candace Stone, a different author who had also grown up in the North Country in a village much like Brainardsville. While describing the book, Stone’s nostalgic memories brought up by reading this book only further support the authenticity of Hoy’s stories. Stone gives us a brief preview of Hoy’s autobiography while praising his intriguing delivery. After reading the book, I can confidently agree with Stone’s claim that Hoy “makes one long to see the forests and magnificent mountains surrounding the two most beautiful Adirondack lakes.”[1] After a childhood full of discovery and experience, Ralph Hoy found himself in careers as an engineer, musician, and an educator. As a director working for ALCOA, Hoy was given the opportunity to travel around the world, working in the film industry. In his later years, him and his wife together would establish the Adirondack Music Camp at Chateauguay Lake, NY, along with a nonprofit organization that provided recorded music to those in need around the world for the purpose of music therapy. In the beginning of the book, Hoy tells us about his Mother’s travel that occurred almost immediately after his birth. Throughout the book, one can clearly recognize the impact that this trip had on Hoy’s upbringing. From exploring on his pony, Lynn, to traveling the world later in life, the concept of discovering what the world outside the Adirondacks has to offer is a very present theme throughout the book. Repeating this theme helps the author emphasize the unique and isolated lifestyle in the North Country.

Growing up, Hoy is introduced to numerous styles of work which he is able to get a first-hand understanding of from several mentors and friends. One in particular was the blacksmith, Dick Barber. The author speaks about following the whistle of the blacksmith to his shop, where he would sit and watch Dick work for hours. Over time, Hoy learned certain skills just by watching the craftsmanship. When customers and friends dropped by, Hoy “would pry a story or two loose from them,” avidly listening to stories told about war in the Philippines or Civil War memories.[2] Once Ralph became a bit older, he was given small pieces of scrap and even given short lessons on how to use a chisel or saw. These memories give us a better understanding of how skills and careers were created at the time. Instead of engineering schools, techniques were passed down and children grew into career roles. Hoy constantly tried to “pattern his work after [Dick’s],” searching for the quality seen in a professional’s craft.[3] Unlike the myriad of office spaces and factories found in more concentrated parts of the country, Dick’s blacksmith shop was found within a large building used for the manufacturing of several different products. These are the sort of aspects that truly represent work in the North Country at the time.

Another method Hoy uses to provide a personal view of life in the North Country is by sharing stories of hardship that would not be common in other parts of the country. For example, one night, when the Hoy family was returning from the store, a glow in the distance caught the father’s attention as he ran towards his mill. He arrived in time to see the remains of the mill he had built with his own hands burn to ashes. Despite the tragedy, neighbors from all around immediately came to the family’s aid the following day, clearing out the left over lumber and providing the Hoys with support. Hardship was not only seen in everyday life, but it also affected work in the North Country. In one part of his book, Hoy remembers massive snow storms in early November, creating ten foot drifts. While the children had fun using the roofs of houses as slides into the soft snow, lumber crews worked days clearing paths and icing roads so that teams could transport heavy loads. In fact, some winters got so cold that sitting in automobiles was difficult. When drivers could no longer stand the numbness spreading through their feet, “they would run along in one of the tracks behind the loads” to regain blood flow in their feet.[4]

Reading these stories, it becomes clear what makes kids that were raised in the North Country so unique. Hoy dropped out of high school his junior year because he “yearned to spend time in the healthy atmosphere of the Great Outdoors.”[5] Despite hardships than may not be as likely to occur throughout the rest of the country, life in the North Country embedded a deep appreciation and respect for the outdoors. People fell in love with the simplicity of the lifestyle which is very well presented through Hoy’s impactful memories. By sharing several personal stories and showing how they impacted his later life, Hoy provides the reader with an understanding of the hardships and privileges of a life in the North Country.

Overall, I think Hoy’s writing does a fantastic job in describing the North Country lifestyle and providing examples to show the impacts of the surrounding environment. While I believe the book would benefit from a more overarching theme, Hoy accomplishes his goal of providing a personal account of boyhood in the Adirondacks. Furthermore, one can sense the casual attitude in his writing which, although some may criticize, I find it very relatable and in a way, creates a sense of connection to the author. Ultimately, with the use of several personal anecdotes, Hoy takes us through his life in the Northern Adirondacks and gives us an insider’s view of what makes North Country natives unique.

 

History of Altamont, NY (Web)[1]

By focusing on not only Altamont, but also surrounding villages and towns, this reading provides an unmatched understanding of the connected culture of the North Country. By using a deep knowledge of history, this cite enables the reader to gain an understanding of the modern day North Country and what has made it so special and unique over the past couple centuries. 
 

History, Tupper Lake, NY (Web)[1]

This reading does the unique task of observing a rather unstudied area, Tupper Lake, and giving us a perspective of what the settlement of a small North Country village was like. Giving us information of the previous Native American inhabitants and the beginnings of economic foundation. This article will provide a detailed account of the first growth within the small village of Tupper Lake with surprisingly precise details. 

 

 

[1] Seaver, Frederick J. "History of Altamont, New York." History of Altamont, New York. J.B. Lyon Company, n.d. Web. 11 May 2017.

[1] Tupper Lake, NY 12986. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2017.

[1] Ralph L. Hoy, An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered (California: Mendicus Press, 1878), Introduction.

[2] Hoy, An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered, 8.

[3] Hoy, An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered, 8.

[4] Hoy, An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered, 12.

[5] Hoy, An Adirondack Boyhood Remembered, 68.