In 2002, we began to think about spending summers in Clayton, rather than put up with the heat and humidity of Tucson summers. In 2003, we got serious about it. We bought a trailer in the fall, and in May of 2004 I set sail, so to speak, for Clayton. The idea was to pull the trailer to Atlanta, where I would help our son and his wife by installing stairs from a ground floor closet into an attic above their garage. Then Carol, who at the time was working, would join me and the two of us would go on to Clayton, to anchor at French Creek Marina. We did that, but by the time I had pulled that 26’ trailer all the way across the country, I knew I was not going to do it again. We decided that after living in Clayton for the summer, we would leave the Jayco there, and pick up where we left off again the next summer. We were able to get Wilbert Wahl to move the unit across the street, and site it in a shady lot between two other permanent residents.
We went home in September, after I started a deck at floor level with the trailer, intending to come back next year and finish it. In February of that next year, I had five “small” heart attacks, followed immediately by a quad bypass. But we were determined to continue our summer residency in the Thousand Islands. I called Jim Schnauber from my hospital bed and asked if he could, or knew someone who could, finish my deck. And could he get it roofed and screened while he was at it.
He did. The sturdy deck lasted us another four summers - 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. We skipped Clayton in 2008 because of the astronomical rise in gas prices. In 2010 we sold it. We sold the deck separately, to some friends down the street. It’s still there, in use. We miss it, but it became impossible to sustain a full summer in Clayton. I took this photo in 2005, when the deck was new. In a fit of nostalgia I did a quick sketch of it. It’s the photo we used as a sales tool.
This is the watercolor of Rotary Park I call “Friends at the Bench O’Knowledge. The drawing and the watercolor were done a few years ago, after I had done a digital version. The reference photo was taken in 2010, when the CCS Senior Class of 1960 reunion was held, after which we took a sunset boat tour. Thus, the perspective is from the water as we passed, waving at our friends, pictured in the drawing. We have enjoyed some 17 years of camaraderie with those folks, sitting on those once wooden, now plastic benches, or at Frink Park, further down the street. I used to hang out at those benches in my preteen and high school days, watching the River and the people pass by.
The drawing of Riverside Drive and the parking area, in front of the boat line pavilion and (then) McCormick’s, is from a 1960’s photo. I don’t have the photographer’s name or recall where I saw it. That area used to be referred to as the Pickle, but in reality, the Pickle was the median in the center of Riverside drive, which was removed when I was a toddler, or maybe a little older than that. Since I passed my driver’s test 63 years ago, and when I worked at McCormicks, I have no idea how many times I have parked in the area pictured. One of the cars could have been mine but wasn’t. I don’t know the exact date or year of the photo, but I’m fairly sure we weren’t there, since we did not spend a lot of time in Clayton between 1960 and 1970. We were married in 1965, busy with two small children, and were only there in 1970 for the three days of my 10th high school reunion. I was in the Army from 1966 to 1972, and occasionally went to Clayton from Fort (then Camp) Drum for a meal or just to see what was happening there. It has been fun to watch the changes (and lack of same) since I was a kid there.
The drawing of the boat slip is a place that no longer exists. Turgeon’s Marine was where my dad kept his 18’ Lyman for the years. It was right where that 2005 photo caught the boat tied to the dock on the left. He always required that our boat be docked stern to, never bow in. That way the boat would ride better while moored, and we could cast off and be right out on the River, without turning around. Of course, that made for landing and mooring at the end of the trip being more tiresome, but he never minded.
The drawing of the two older gentlemen in the center console outboard is of me with Bernie Miller, when Bernie took me out for a little perch fishing off the Bartlett’s Point shore. The big white wall to our port side is, of course, the La Duchesse, moored at the Antique Boat Museum. This is a digital painting/drawing, from a photo taken by Margie Miller from her dock.
The following digital drawing is of the tall ship Fair Jeanne, from a photo I took on another boat ride with Bernie. On that one, he let me take the wheel as we returned from a spin down to Alex Bay and back to Clayton. I was able to guide the boat up through the channel past Millionaire’s Row without hitting anything, and that brought back memories of doing so in past years, in the family boat, or a rental.
The digital drawing of the Round Island Post Office is from a photo I took on another boat ride with Bernie. My dad and I used to drift fish here quite a lot, and in those days, the tour boats came through this channel between Round and Little Round Island. Careful boat handling was necessary then, because even at a relatively low speed, those boats left quite a wake. We also drifted in other narrow spots, like Picton Island Channel, where you had to pay attention to both your fishing and boating skills.
I hope you have enjoyed my memory pieces as much as I enjoyed creating them. Perhaps, when we are done with our move to New Mexico, there will be more. We plan to make the trip to Clayton for a couple of weeks in August, so we will be no doubt making some more good memories. Until then, thanks for reading!
By Joel F. Charles
Joel Charles graduated from Clayton Central School, where his father was Principal for 17 years. He graduated from Syracuse University. He was active with the Boy Scouts for 25 years and Rotary for 20 years. Joel holds the BSA Silver Beaver Award and the Rotary Paul Harris Fellow Award. His career spanned teaching and working in the insurance industry. When he retired to Tucson, AZ, he took up acting, directing, painting and building sets for several Tucson theater companies. He has continued his painting and writing with articles appearing in the “Thousands Island Sun.” He has been a photographer since high school, with his favorite subject being the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands. See his article "It Started in School with Prof…" October 2017, TI Life and Memories from My Sketch Book I in our May, 2021 issue
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