1,431,000 Texans: Small World Stories

By: Cary R. Brick

Volume 14, Issue 9, September 2019

I was working in my home office one day a few weeks ago, half-listening to CNN - I took a break to go to my mailbox down the street ---it was a quick venture inasmuch as the temperature was 101 degrees. Alexa, my Amazon weather guru, said it “feels like” 114. I don’t know where she came up with “feels like” but I would have guessed it was at least 115.

Back at the desk, I went through the mail, reading every word of every piece with care. (Retirees can do that because we have the time.) First was the daily envelope from Publishers Clearing House.  The thickness of it was impressive, so I figured Janet and I were multi-million-dollar winners and the first cash installment was enclosed. Wrong. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow’s envelope from them.

Then I examined an ad offering bargain deals on cemetery plots, several of which offered “a shady location with a view of the duck and goose pond.” Do dead people really need “a shady location” with a view?  The shade sounded inviting on the “feels like 114” day but I don’t want duck and geese pooping over me six feet below.  And I certainly don’t want to shell out $5,000 for a plot offering such a feature.

Next came a letter from my homeowners’ association, informing me that our home and driveway would be power-washed the following week.  I thought, “I might just stand in my driveway to let them power-wash me if the temperature doesn’t slide downward.”

Next was a magazine which I hadn’t seen before— “Living.” I remember LIFE magazine but telling you that hints at my age. A featured story showed a picture of a young lady described as a “certified family nurse practitioner” offering school physicals at a local pediatric medical practice. I didn’t read any further given that the word “pediatric” is no longer in my vocabulary. “Geriatric” is, however.

Photo as pictured in "Living" August 2019 issue. [photo courtesy Living Magazine]

In looking at the magazine a familiar picture caught my eye. It looked like the Boldt Castle Power House! Huh?  YES, it was!  Titled “Shore Enough, 1,864 Islands That Offer all the Shoreline Satisfaction You Could Ask For.” A two-page spread in a slick Texas-based lifestyle magazine! Written by a lady who grew up in a Midwestern town on the Mississippi and current resident of New Jersey, the article could not have been written better by any one of the river’s chambers of commerce. She was generous in her praise and gave shout-outs to everything that make the islands what she called an “archipelago,” including:

• The two versions about the origin of Thousand Island Dressing complete with the legends of May Irwin, George Boldt and the Waldorf Astoria. She is a TI Dressing fancier.
• A “Gilded Age playground” for the wealthy and “laden with history…. the Thousand Islands remain to this day a fun-filled destination for anyone who’s up for a laid back, outdoorsy vacation.”
• An afternoon stop at the Thousand Islands Winery with its “welcoming big red barn “set against the backdrop of the TI Bridge.” High praise for the staff of the winery who offered the history of the wine region and more… “If you come here in the Spring,” she was told, “you can smell the sweet aroma of maple sugar shacks.”  Attention Chambers of Commerce on both sides of the River: the author said, “as a longtime pure maple syrup junkie, I whipped out my phone and quickly made note of this.”
• A glowing report of a visit to the Alexandria Bay Drive-in, “a throwback in time fitting of the area”: a nice reminiscence of vivid scenes of her childhood. She mentions the children “running gleefully back and forth to the concession stand knowing that someday this experience will be woven into their personal tapestry of memories.”
• A stop at Boldt Castle the following day. “As the boat tour made its way from Gananoque to the castle, we marveled at the stories of the shipwrecks, River pirates and bootleggers….” She especially enjoyed the story of the castle and the TI Bridge Authority’s restorations and made mention of the castle’s fairytale weddings
• “We spiffed-up and dined at the Saint Lawrence Spirits Chateau,” she writes. “the fork tender bourbon and butter wagyu received rave reviews from my native Texan and steak enthusiast husband. My entrée, wild caught pan crispy Lake Ontario walleye was perfection on a plate.” Sure sounds good!
•  Warm praise was given to fishing guide Matt Heath and a shore dinner, with Thousand Island Dressing, after a bountiful catch of northern pike and small mouth bass.
• “It was up, up and away on our final morning in the area.” She mentions the hot air balloon adventure offering a “birds-eye view of lighthouses, all kinds of river traffic, shoreline beaches and beautiful summer homes…that make the Thousand Islands a place to visit again and again.”
• She returned to New Jersey with (what else?) a bottle of Thousand Islands dressing.

What’s the gee-whiz significance of all this?

  1. It was written by a New Jersey freelancer who had never heard of the Thousand Islands other than on a bottle of dressing. She “discovered” our slice of heaven while perusing a map of the U.S., not through any marketing of the region as a tourist destination.
  2. The article appeared in every one of the 16 regional editions of the magazine, with a statewide circulation of 530,000!
  3. Its North Texas editions focus on 45 population centers, with an audience of 945,000; its South Texas editions focus on another 18 population centers with an audience of 486,000.
  4. Those readers are now potential Thousand Islands vacationers.  Demographics show they have high incomes, i.e. the means to visit our islands some 1,500 miles distant. The islands certainly offer relief from the “feels like 114” degree Texas summer weather!

Conclusion: The Thousand Islands story was featured in a lifestyle magazine,F circulated in 45 Texas upscale population centers through 16 regional editions with a circulation exceeding a half million and combined audience of 1,431,000. Cost to Island businesses? Not a cent! Not bad.

“Living” magazine also offered a tribute to a legendary Texas entrepreneur philanthropist who was the most colorful US Presidential candidate in recent memory.

Under the headline “It’s just that simple,” it notes Perot is  “recognized most broadly on the national stage as a legitimate third party candidate in the 1992 U.S. presidential election and garnering nearly 20 percent of the popular vote…H. Ross Perot---who passed away at his home in Dallas last month (July 2019) at the age of 89---will be remembered … fondly for his entrepreneurial spirit, unique sayings, and his affable  no nonsense personality.”

During his colorful campaign, the billionaire candidate explained his plans for the US, with chart after chart after chart always concluding with “it’s just that simple.”

He was no slouch. The President of the US Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying hundreds of thousands of Americans supported themselves and their families by going to work at companies founded by Ross Perot, over nearly five decades.

Tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans will remember he spent a fortune working feverishly on behalf of soldiers who he said were left behind, missing or imprisoned in Southeast Asia.

Personally, I’ll never forget my own Ross Perot experience.  He came to Washington to meet one-on-one with members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Northern New York then-Congressman (Dave) Martin.

He showed up at the Martin office, without an appointment and without the usual Presidential candidate gaggle of Secret Service, campaign handlers and press, only to find the Congressman was elsewhere. “OK,” he said with his memorable staccato delivery, “I’ll see ‘his man’.”

Within the minute he was sitting in front of my desk asking, “is your guy Martin a friend of our military men?”  I said “Yes, he’s a Vietnam veteran, a Marine.” That was good enough for him; he started to vault out of the chair without further conversation.  I couldn’t let that happen! “Just a second, here’s some Thousand Island Dressing from Clayton, New York” I said, retrieving a bottle from my desk’s cache of dressing for such VIP occasions. "Here’s a brochure explaining its interesting history" I said, “Read it at your leisure.” (I had purchased a case of dressing some weeks earlier from Susan Benas at the TI Inn in Clayton.)

” Thanks”, he said, reading the label and placing it in his oversized briefcase. “Very nice. Very nice. I’ll read its history on my plane. Very nice.” “OK, I’ve got to get over to (the) Rayburn (House Office Building) …how do I get there.” I said, “can you give us a minute for a picture with the staff?” He agreed and shook the hands and chatted briefly with the still-surprised Martin Congressional staff. “Okay, okay , where’s Rayburn?” Fearing he’d get lost, I offered to take him to the Rayburn Building, a 15-minute roundabout hike through corridors, escalators, elevators and a tunnel away from the Martin office. A few seconds into that trek, which I had made hundreds of times, I asked if he wanted to get there “quickly” or did he want “visibility and an opportunity to shake some hands.” Without hesitation, he accepted the latter offer. “Good idea. Good idea. Good idea.”

We took the longest route I could map in my head---several corridors, the busy cafeteria, the barber shop (with a well-known Committee Chairman in chair #2; they chatted) two credit union offices, the office supply center, a corridor of vending machines where he bought cookies that joined the 1000 Islands Dressing in the briefcase, the mailroom and the members-only gym, where he shook the hands of a few sweaty Congressmen.

Staffers were definitely not permitted through the gym’s unmarked door. Luckily, I knew the gym attendant who gave me a friendly nod. (I gave him some Dressing later.) As we left, I told candidate Perot that tens of thousands of tourists pass that unmarked door, clueless that behind it was a gym second to none in DC. “Interesting, interesting.“ Alas, we were in the Rayburn building. I showed him the bronze statue of Texan Sam Rayburn, the former House Speaker.” I knew him…good man…I’ll take it from here,” he said shaking my hand and with his speech pattern sounding like the keys of an electric typewriter (remember, it was 1992) at the hands of DC’s fastest typist.  “Thanks for the Dressing.”

I gave him directions and couldn’t resist saying “you’ll find it…it’s just that simple.”  

By Cary Brick

Cary Brick is a retired Congressional Chief of Staff, who spent 30 years on Capitol Hill. He retired to Clayton where he was active in civic affairs. Working with the US Seaway Administrator, he arranged funding to construct Clayton’s 1000 Islands Regional Pier.  He and his wife Janet, former Clayton Town and Village Justice, are currently in Houston. He is a frequent contributor to Thousand Islands Life.

[Editor's Note: After receiving Cary's submission I asked the publisher if I could meet the author, Annette Brooks. A phone call away, I was delighted to learn first-hand how Annette persuaded her editor to run with the story, even though this travel piece was far away from Texas. Unlike many travel writers, Annette does not request free nights, meals or excursions. She was quick to express her enthusiasm for her visit and was pleased that Cary Brick is able to share his small world story!

Do you have a small world TI experience that you would like to share.  If so, let me know!]

Posted in: Volume 14, Issue 9, September 2019, People, Places

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