Les Corbin’s Famous Photo of the Ice Punt

By: Manley L. Rusho

Volume 16, Issue 8, August 2021

Editor's Note: Manley Rusho now lives in Florida year-round. Fortunately, he has started to write about his life on Grindstone Island and the St. Lawrence River. His daughter, Cindy Rusho Hagemann, suggested he share some of his writing with TI Life, and this Editor is most grateful! The first piece describes this iconic photograph taken by Les Corbin. What a gift Les gave to the River through his photographs, and what a gift Manley is giving us now, with his memories!

Iconic photograph taken by Les Corbin, 1946, Clayton NY. [photo courtesy ....]

There is an old photo taken by Les Corbin, in 1946, of a small wooden boat in the icy river, with six men in it – just as it’s leaving the Clayton Docks. The sail is hoisted, ice is all around, and the destination is Grindstone Island – two miles away. The little boat is the US Mail boat carrying the mail to the Island: letters, packages, magazines, newspapers, along with groceries and other supplies, for the residents of the Island.

The boat is an ice punt, sloped at each end, with handles to assist with handling the boat into and out of the water, when the ice was strong enough to support the boat. On this day, we were to sail in open water to the Island. Within a few minutes, we were clear of the ice and guided by the oar held by the man in the rear, pushed by a light southwest breeze, we sailed between Calumet Island and Governors Island – east of the wings and on to Grindstone Island. The journey took about an hour to reach our destination.

The men in the boat that day were almost a cross-section of the people who called the Island home:

The captain in the front handles was Lawrence Garnsey, a US Navy veteran from WWII, home now, and making the daily mail run from Clayton to Grindstone. Lawrence was from one of the oldest families on the Island; his brother and a sister were farmers on the island.

Seated in the middle seat was Paul Carnegie, a farmer and caretaker, a common trade on Grindstone that included opening cottages, cleaning the winter’s debris from the lawns, and making repairs to boats and cottages. It was Paul who provided the tennis balls for the Grindstone Lower Schoolhouse, for the children to play games such as Alley Over and baseball (substituting tennis balls for real baseballs). Without these donations from Paul, I am not sure we would have had any sports equipment on the Island, since nothing ever came from the Clayton school district.

The man with the fedora hat was Matti Pananen, who arrived on the Island in the 1920’s to an abandoned, rundown farm. He was a very hard worker with brains; Matti was a very great herdsman, he owned one of the first Ford 8n tractors on the Island, and he also ran a saw mill.

Standing with the oar was me, Manley Rusho. I was just 15 years old at the time, and was born and raised on Grindstone Island, but was attending school in Clayton for my high school years. I was headed home for the weekend to do some muskrat trapping with my brother.

To the rear was Jack Garnsey, going home I guess, to his family who lived on a farm in the center if the Island. Jack’s two brothers had gone off to WWII and had returned to the Island.

The man at the rear of the boat was Emmet Dodge, the postmaster of the island. He could usually be found repairing or building some structure, house, boat house, or dock. He was the man to call for these types of projects. Emmet and his wife Nellie had provided two sons for the military in WWII.

By Manley L. Rusho

Manley Rusho was born on Grindstone Island nine decades ago. This Editor and his many friends wish him continued good health and we thank him for sharing his memories with us.

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 8, August 2021, Essay, People, Places, History

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