For the Love of Virginia – Part 4

After graduating from V.P.I. in 1940, my dad took a job with the General Electric Company and moved in with his uncle (also a G.E. engineer) in Schenectady, New York.  Dad never did move back to Virginia (but lived, instead, in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.)  My mother left her Virginia home when she married my father, in 1942, and she, too, never moved back to her beloved state.  During the years between 1942 and 1956, the transplanted Virginians tried to establish some attachment to the northern communities in which they lived, but they were both homesick for their relatives and friends.  It must have been hard for a wartime bride to feel at home in Schenectady, with all its scientists, industries, and rationing, especially for someone accustomed to Richmond society.

Dad’s bachelor uncle took a friendly interest in his nephew and wife and helped them to feel at home in the unfamiliar North.  A transplanted Virginian himself, he had moved to Schenectady in 1900 and had worked his way up from a construction job, to a training program (on test), and eventually to a responsible managerial position at G.E.  Uncle John, well connected and respected in Schenectady and at the plant, was approaching retirement age and had the freedom to devote some of his free time to his young kin.

Appy, as his friends called him, had developed a very special home away from home nearby – at beautiful Lake George.  He had purchased a “camp” at the lake in 1920, consisting of several lots on the west shore of the lake, and had convinced some of his friends to become his neighbors.  This camp, named Chilhowee after the village in Southwest Virginia where Uncle John was born, became famed for its Southern hospitality, as he welcomed friends and family from all over the world.  The camp provided a home base for his real career – as a conservationist dedicated to protecting the wilderness (Forest Preserve) of New York State, and, in particular, Lake George and its islands.

My father had been to Lake George many times.  As a boy he came up in the winter and learned how to skate and ski, and to try the unusual sport of skate sailing. In the summers he had a chance to swim, explore the mountains, and ride around in the extraordinary wooden inboard boat, a 1927 Chris Craft.  Dad must have considered Lake George a boy’s paradise, and he eagerly absorbed all the education available there – in hiking, camping, canoeing, survival skills, lumbering, and even ecology (though the term was not yet in common use.)

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