Other books by Marty Podskoch
Fire towers are an essential element in the history of New York State having stood for nearly a century as guardians of the vast woodlands in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. While lightning had always been a threat to the forests, it was not until the late 19th century with the advent of the railroads serving new communities and expanding tourism that forest fires became a serious threat to life and property. Locomotives shot burning cinders and sparks starting fires that reached into the forests where loggers had left treetops and limbs, ready fuel for what became gigantic fires that destroyed thousands of acres, drove people from their homes, and darkened the skies in distant cities. In 1903 and 1908 the destruction was disastrous and the state was spurred by public pressure to create a new, more effective system to contain the rampant flames.
In 1909 the state began to erect primitive lookout stations with observers on duty throughout the fire season perched atop crude log towers with open platforms. The observers lived in tents or log cabins nearby. Over the next decade these lookout stations evolved into metal towers with enclosed cabs rising as much as 70' above the forest floor. Later, cabins were built to provide durable homes and the towers became a preferred destination for generations of hikers who would climb the towers for the panoramic views and listen to the lore of the nature-wise observers.
Marty Podskoch has become the chronicler of the history and lore of the fire towers of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. His interest in the subject was aroused in 1987 when he visited the tower on Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. The observer was so enthusiastic about and proud of his work protecting the forests and educating the public on fire prevention that he inspired Marty to learn more about the towers. His research has taken him thousands of miles throughout the mountains of New York visiting the observers, the forest rangers who supervised the towers, and their families and friends as he gathered stories and pictures about their adventures "on the mountain."
Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts covers the 26 fire towers in the northern part of the Adirondack Park that includes St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex Counties. The book contains many hundreds of human-interest stories the author has gathered in personal interviews, and hundreds of photographs. Danger flashes down in lightning bolts that fry telephones and make hair stand on end! Porcupines gnaw everything! Bears abound! Families survive nicely in tiny cabins, and always the towers stand and sway in wind and rain staffed by men and women dedicated to preserving our precious wilderness.
349 pages, 465 illustrations, 27 maps, 8.5 x 11, 2005
Sample of one chapter at http://www.catskill.net/purple/adkntext.htm
Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts
"This book tells the story of the towers in the words of the observers who staffed them, their spouses, children, and friends. Marty Podskoch spent many months of travel throughout the Adirondacks tracing down these folks. This is a remarkable piece of research and a must-read for those of us who climb fire tower summits and wonder about the towers' history." --John Freeman, author of Views from on High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills
256 pages, 325 illustrations, 29 maps, 8.5 x 11, 2003
Fire Towers of the Catskill: Their History and Lore
At one time there were 23 fire towers in and around the Catskill Mountains. The author has researched the history of each and gathered stories of the rangers who supervised them and the pilots who replaced them.
120 pages, 150 illustrations, 8.5 x 11, 2000
From Chapter 22:
Gallis Hill Fire Tower was removed from the Kingston area in 1950 by Conservation Department workers and moved eight miles north of the village of Woodstock, where it was rebuilt on Overlook Mountain (3,140 feet). This new location gave a commanding vista of the eastern Catskills.
The state received an easement from landowner Wilbert D. Newgold to build the tower, cabin, telephone line and truck road from Mead Mountain Road to the summit.
Observer Barnet "Barney" Howland and rangers Frank Border, Aaron Van De Bogart and Herb Lepke Sr. helped move the 60-foot tower. Howland says, "We used a bulldozer to widen the old road that used to go to the old Overlook Mountain House. Then we built the tower and cabin. I loved my job, but I had to give it up to get a better-paying job so I could send my daughter to college."
The tower began operating in 1951, and Barney Howland reported seven fires, followed by 23 fires in 1953 and four fires in 1954. After 37 years service the DEC closed Overlook Mountain Fire Tower in 1988. "I was sad to see the tower closed down because the fire observers were very good at teaching the hikers about fire safey and ecology," says retired Forest Ranger Roger Blatter of West Hurley. Overlook Mountain offers one of the best views of the Catskills. According to Blatter: "From the tower or from the ledges, the hiker has a panoramic view of the Berkshire Mountains, the Hudson River, the Ashokan Reservoir, the Shawangunk and the Catskill Mountains. You can see seven states."
"Johnny Baldwin was one of the observers at Overlook," says Blatter. "He was great with the hikers at the tower, but he wanted to keep it in good shape. Well, word got out that he was strict."
Baldwin chuckles, "Sometimes I had trouble with some of the hikers and campers who wanted to break into my cabin by the tower. I learned how to catch rattlesnakes from Ranger Aaron Van De Bogart and people knew this. Well, I used to keep a black snake in my cabin to deal with rodents, and sometimes it would crawl up on the chair and peer out the window. The hikers would see this and word got out that there was a rattlesnake in the cabin. After that, I had no problem with people trying to break into my cabin."
"I also had a tame deer and a tame bear cub that I called Tedra," says Baldwin. "One summer Tedra got lost, and I looked for about a week. One day I heard some people screaming and I rushed to see what was the matter. I saw Tedra at the base of a tree going through some backpacks. Two hikers were clinging to the top of the tree screaming for help. When I got to Tedra, she jumped up into my arms. The hikers couldn't believe their eyes, and reluctantly climbed down after I told them that she was tame."
Baldwin liked to have fun with the hikers. Sometimes he would bet the visitors that he could climb up the tower on the outside steel bars faster than they could using the stairs. "They thought it was impossible, so they'd start climbing up the stairs and I started on the outside," says Baldwin. "They would stop on the stairs and look at me in amazement. While they stared at me, I made it to the top before they did."
Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: History, Memories and Legacy of the CCC
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. It targeted single men, 18-25 years, and veterans in relief of families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression. The program provided unskilled manual labor to environmental conservation and to development of natural resources in rural lands.
The US Army supervised the camps, which had 200 men each. The earliest camps were set up in these Adirondack towns & counties: Arietta & Speculator (Hamilton); Bolton Landing (Warren); Tahawus, Newcomb, Schroon River, & Port Henry (Essex); Wanakena & Benson Mines (St. Lawrence); Paul Smiths, Goldsmiths, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, and Fish Creek Pond (Franklin). There were eventually 26 camps in the Adirondacks.
Enrollees signed up for 6 months and worked a 40-hour week for $30/mo. The government sent $25 to the enrollee's family and the enrollee received $5. The young men received good food, uniforms, and medical care. At first they lived in tents; later they lived in wooden buildings. These young men and special camps for war veterans were able to help their families and now had a sense of worth.
In the Adirondacks enrollees built trails, roads, campsites & dams, stocked fish, built & maintained fire towers, observer's cabins & telephone lines, fought fires, and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in WW II. Nationwide, enrollees planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways. In nine years, 2.5 million young men participated in restoring public appreciation of the outdoors.
In 2006 Marty Podskoch turned from chronicling the history of fire towers in the Adirondacks to gathering information on the CCC camps in the Adirondacks. Over the next five years Marty traveled to towns in and around the Adirondacks and gave presentations on the CCC camps. CCC alumni, their families, and friends shared their stories and pictures.
Clarence Petty, wilderness guide, pilot, district ranger, and conservationist, was one of the persons Marty Podskoch interviewed. Clarence first worked in 1933 as a forester at the Tupper Lake camp. He then advanced to camp superintendent at many other CCC camps till the CCC ended in 1942.
Petty stated: "Marty Podskoch records the accomplishments of the CCC camps throughout New York State, many in the Adirondacks. His interviews with CCC enrollees and their families and the marvelous photos of camp life captures the vitality of the young men who worked so hard to improve our forests, which had been ravaged by fires and lumbering. We must not forget their labors in the woodlands and state parks that continue to be enjoyed by millions today."
The 352-page, large-format book is available in local stores in a paperback edition for $20.00. Include $3 for shipping. It can also be purchased by contacting the author at click for email address or (860-267-2442) or at 43 O'Neill Lane, East Hampton, CT 06424