I received a lot of feedback on last week's column about the Hanmer Races, which carried this official title for the contest in the inaugural year of 1963, "Willard J. Hanmer Memorial Race."
Gene Walsh, Saranac Lake High School jock and Hall of Famer, former Enterprise sports writer and retired from NBC as a Johnny Carson PR man, lives way out there in California; but keeps in touch with his Saranac Lake (SL) roots. There is a story in my book about his grandfather, Dr. Russell. Here are excerpts from his e-mail to me:
"The Hanmer races column was terrific and brought back great and soggy visions. July 1963, I was in SL on vacation with Judy and the kids, and my brother Bob and I entered those first-ever canoe races obviously we didn't catch up to you, but we finished.
Major Day, left, and Peter Day
(Enterprise photo, no date available)
"Then in '66, '67 and '68 my softball team, the Cala's Cardinals of Northvale, N.J., which from '63 to '65 had annually played 3 softball games in SL in the summer, accepted a challenge from E-John's (E-John's Lounge, 90 Broadway 891-9870 owned and operated by Jack Lawless) team for a "war" canoe race. Buster Crabbe's camp generously provided the 8-passenger war canoes, which became a big attraction, one reason spectators flocked to the Broadway and Dorsey Street bridges to replenish parched paddlers by dropping six-packs of beer into the big canoes. For the record, Cala's won in '66 and '67, but Long Beach launched a team in '68 and trounced both Cala's and E'John's.
"And thanks for the info about E-John's 80th. Wish I could have been there; Steve Morgan's line is priceless - and true."
More race history
There was no by-line on this Enterprise story published in 1973 but try on this line "That year a new champion was crowned and his name is Roger Hesseltine. His brother Ronnie placed second in the race giving the family a measure of charisma that was difficult to tarnish by pretenders to the throne who found them both a retain a bulldog tenacity when the chips were down" and tell me that it could have been penned by any other than the legendary Bill McLaughlin. More excerpts here:
Glenn Corl, 34 years old, won the first guide boat race and then the story picks up here:
"Tony Duprey won in 1964 and 1965. Glenn Corl was a repeat winner in 1966 adding a second gold medal to his 1963 trophy. Duprey was leading again in 1967 when he snapped an oar in the rapids section of the Saranac River." (Now insert the Hesseltine story from above).
"John Seaman of Long Lake won the coveted title in both 1970 and 71. Billy Frenette of Tupper Lake won the gold medal in 1968 and was second in 1971.
"In 1967 it was decided to schedule a two-man guide boat race on Lake Flower which would bring out many of the treasured shells deemed too valuable to race over the river rapids course which was lined with rocks. The crafts, each carrying two men all started at the roar of cannon. It involved an exchange of oarsmen at two points during the contest which presented the hazard of capsizing while shifting positions.
Mostly locals in the race
"The event was consistently won by teams representing Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. Tony Duprey teamed with Gary Duprey to take honors in 1967. Ronnie and Roger Hesseltine won the crown in 1968. Bill Frenette with Dr. Ted Blackmar of Tupper Lake formed a winning combination in the 1970s. Peter Day and Glenn Corl were winners last year. Barry and Billy Cantwell, also former gold medalist may enter again this year.
"Over the years several fine women oarsmen have entered the singles event. Both Natalie Corl and Keela Rogers of Saranac Lake comported themselves well in the earlier 1960 races."
Well, there you have it more history. If the Hanmer really can be revived it will take a big, strong special committee established from Chamber members; reams of publicity, down the river to the Fish & Game and feature those slick, fast Kayak racers.