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Pat Howard: Fifty years of blue skies

September 25, 2008
By SUSAN MOODY, Special to the Enterprise

In 1956, Elvis made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine. America was at its peak on the world stage and life was pretty good for the average person. The Korean War was over and, although the Cold War was on,"It did not faze me in the least," Pat Howard said.

Pat's father, Timothy, was a plumber and sometimes had to take jobs as far away as Detroit for the pay to come in, along with Pat's mother, Mildred, to keep the family secure and happy.

Bloomingdale was quite a community in the early 50s - there were shops, including a book store and then Norman's General Store, which was a major North Country wholesaler of groceries.

Article Photos

Pat Howard
(Photo —Susan Moody)

In the summer, with a couple of other kids, Pat worked on the delivery trucks, helping to carry goods as far as Plattsburgh. It was exciting and a way to see a bit more of the territory while earning money for his first car.

He got his license when he turned 16 and shortly afterward bought a grey 1936 Chevy coupe. About four or five friends from Bloomingdale followed this same rite of passage, and when Pat drove his Chevy into Saranac Lake, there would often be a caravan of old cars, empty except for one teenage driver.

"The cost of gas was not an issue then and a car might cost about $50," said Pat.

Pat described himself as "a loner" during his years in school and preferred solitary pursuits, but he managed to participate in several extracurricular activities that are provided to students in small schools like Saranac Lake High, including four years on the track team, membership in the Boy's Club and acting in the junior class play.

Pat still found time to hang out with his Bloomingdale buddies and enjoy traditional Adirondack fun, such as canoeing, fishing and hunting.

In his senior year, Pat met his future wife, Marjorie-McNicholas, who had graduated from high school the year before and was working at Newberry's. She was a gregarious girl with lots of friends and she had been a majorette, so Pat knew and liked who she was.

If you ask Marjorie how they met, she jokingly says, "He picked me up."

One summer day, Marjorie was walking to the hospital to visit a friend when Pat, in his Chevy, plucked up his nerve and offered her a ride.

"He was very shy," Marjorie said. "But afterwards, he called me and we began to date. He became less shy and we went to the prom in 1956."

Pat Howard graduated from Saranac Lake High School in 1956 and within months began a career that has lasted for more than 50 years at the Saranac Lake-Adirondack Regional Airport.

The Trudeau Sanatorium had closed its doors a few years earlier and jobs for young people were hard to come by. But Pat had no desire to leave the area or Marjorie and felt fortunate to find a way to stay at his Adirondack home.

"I saw an ad and applied," Pat said. "It was dumb luck that got me that job. Most of my classmates had to leave Saranac Lake."

When he began work for Colonial Airlines in September 1956, Pat did a little bit of everything. Back then, there were flights to New York and Montreal and one even through to Bermuda.

The planes (DC-3's and DC-4's) held up to 60 passengers and flights were pretty steady from May through September.

"Businessmen would arrive from work on Friday still wearing their suits and then would go back on Monday, dressed for work," Pat said. "We got to know the passengers by first name - now that kind of travel is done on the private planes. At one time many of the Paul Smith's students used the airlines too - the roads were not very good and air travel was relatively cheap. Then, there was a taxi to meet every flight." Over the years, several politicos have flown into the airport, including Richard Nixon, Jackie Onassis, both Hillary and Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

The airport has also seen 12 to 15 different airlines.

"Mostly changes in the airlines have had little impact on the operations," Pat said.

One trend has been the shrinking of the size of the commercial planes and an increase in the size and number of private planes. Currently, Cape Air services the airport with a Cessna 402 - the smallest aircraft yet.

"I am not able to estimate the number of private crafts, but it has increased greatly in the last few years," Pat said.

Married in1957 and with two children by 1961, Pat had risen to be the airline manager. The job required him to travel nearly weekly, and when it became disruptive to his family life, he took a job as an airline agent.

In 2000, when he retired from the airport, Pat happily joined Dick Glad in managing the Hertz Rental Car Agency and is still there today. Pat has done just about every job at the airport, and his only regret is that he never learned to fly.

Pat and Marjorie have kept busy with their family of four children and 10 grandchildren. His commitment to community service saw Pat on the Saranac Lake Village Board for eight years, including two as deputy mayor, a member of the chamber of commerce board of directors and a longtime member of both the Lions and the Elks Club.

"I have lived in Saranac Lake since 1957 and I am absolutely positive that this village is presently a very vibrant community with more opportunities then ever and heading to a great future," said Pat.



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