Schroon Lake

Schroon Lake

by Lueza Thirkield Gelb


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Schroon Lake by Lueza Thirkield Gelb

Awarded "Best Memoir" by the Adirondack Center for Writing, Schroon Lake is the memoir of a girl born to wealth and privilege, watching the money go down the drain until there was nothing. She watched, listened and absorbed her family disintegrating yet staying together in a multi-generational household. It wasn't only money that drove them apart. The family survived at great emotional cost, the girl watching and listening and finally here, telling the story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780977880027
Publisher: Pulpit Harbor Press
Publication date: 10/01/2007
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lueza Thirkield Gelb was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in the first part of the twentieth century, two years after the stock market crash, and grew up in the Adirondacks before and during the Second World War. A graduate of Wells College, she has a Ph.D. in History from Teachers College--Columbia University, and has taught at Pace University and Marymount-Manhattan College. She lives in New York City with her husband Bruce S. Gelb, former Director of the USIA and Ambassador to Belgium. The Gelbs have four children and six grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

At odd times when I had seen my brother through the years, I had tried to glean from him whatever memories he still carried with him. Although he seemed not to remember being with Mother in that northwest bedroom in our old farmhouse, he said he had been haunted by an overheard whispered conversation between our parents, after he was supposed to be asleep. He barely heard Mother's voice, but Daddy's whisper carried across the pitch-dark room into his crib.

"I'd like to go as far away as I can get and never come back," he heard Daddy say. Dwight said that because of those words, he felt afraid every time Daddy left for Albany or New York; he was never certain he would see him again, but he couldn't voice this fear.

We found we had a joint memory of Daddy in the passenger seat of the high old touring car, a favorite of Grandpa's for our far-ranging picnic excursions. The back seat and the floor were crammed with picnic hampers, buckets with ice in them, assorted thermoses--everything covered with white sheets to guard against dust and bright sunshine. Grandpa was driving and he expected E.B. to direct this lead vehicle in the caravan of family cars by knowing every obscure, unmarked country road, paved and unpaved. Dwight and I were still small enough to share Daddy's lap, one of us on each knee, and were thrilled to be at the front of the family outing.

Out of the blue, Daddy jumped to his feet, holding each of us clamped to his chest, as we met an unexpected car coming toward us at a remote four-way crossing.� "Hello, Texas!" he shouted at the other driver, who shifted gears heading in the opposite direction. Daddy turned quickly and stood us on the seat, facing backward while he waved his arms over his head at the startled driver disappearing in Adirondack dust.

"Now why in the Sam Hill would you do a darned fool thing like that, E.B.?" Grandpa sputtered. "You could've caused an accident jumping up so fast."

Daddy settled us back astride his knees. "I had to give a friendly wave to those folks from the Lone Star State," he said. "They were good to us."

Did our father perhaps want to run away from Schroon Lake and its household of women and problems, back to a place where something, who knows what, had called to him. Had he felt more at home in Texas? Was it the era of his life that he longed for? Or some opportunity he still felt he had lost or missed, maybe?

What People are Saying About This

Betsy Kepes

"Lueza T. Gelb took years to write her memoir, "Schroon Lake" and the effort was worth it. . .In trying to understand her mother and father Gelb asks "why." Why did my parents do what they did and why do humans make mistakes?. . .Gelb's writing is clear and vivid with each scene highly detailed especially her childhood memories from the years she idolized her father. . .Perhaps I found this book especially intriguing because it reveals bits of life behind the gates, down one of the long private drives of the summer people in the Adirondacks. . .Is it ever possible as an adult to look back on childhood and understand who our parents were? Maybe not, but Gelb does an admirable job trying."--(Betsy Kepes, North Country Public Radio, Canton, NY)

Jerry McGovern

"Like all good memoirs of childhood, it reminds us of how we become adults. . .this is a fine book--candid, ruthless, mature. It's filled with compassion for complex and damaged people in a special place. . .Schroon Lake by Lueza Thirkield Gelb is a memoir worth reading."--(Jerry McGovern, Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, NY)


I never meant to write a book. I never dreamed of writing a book. But I had to record certain things, little incidents, sharp memories, bits and pieces of my Schroon Lake years, growing up in the thirties.

I loved Schroon Lake - I loved the lake, of course. I learned to row a boat, paddle a canoe, how to swim first. And I loved being able to run out the door and disappear, into the woods, beyond Grandpa's lawns and Grandma's flower gardens. I could get away, out of sight, and be in my own world.

The fall of '38 I started school just up the street from my home, at the handsome new Schroon Lake Central School. It had been built by the WPA. It gave a lot of men real work, a job. I didn't think about that. Even for those who still had money, the Depression cast a long shadow. It was the reason we began to live in Schroon Lake year round. Overnight I was no longer a summer person. I was worried - I was the new kid. That first day of school, Miss Rowe's class, 2nd grade, facing 17 strange faces. I was scared but I tried not to show it.

I can still smell the Lifebuoy soap, bright pink, a curious smell - medicinal. My mother was angry: "Why should I have to mark a chart to tell the SCHOOL, when my children have baths. It's none of their business. And when they brush their teeth, and wash their hands after....".

Baths were a luxury in those days. Plenty of kids had no running water - it had to be pumped up out of the ground. The outhouse was not just a joke. In the winter, the poorest kids had a dark ring on each wrist just above where their long underwear began.

We had a child die in our class. He was a boy who had befriended me. We passed notes to eachother. I saved them. Before Christmas, he died of typhoid fever from unclean water. Our class was taken by school bus to pay our respects: he was in a blue suit, with a dark blue tie, his hands clasped on his chest.

Why mention the thirties, those years of the Great Depression. So cataclysmic it's written with a big "G" and a big "D". Why? Because those years were bad for everyone. Why do I mention a date? Some say dates don't matter, they aren't important. My story revolves around dates.

People have asked me: "How can you remember thing so long ago?"

We had a multi-generational family, nine people in our small farmhouse. Only no one used that long word - multi-generational - back then mainly because most families were like that. People got old, they moved in together. It worked because it had to work. -- Lueza Thirkield Gelb

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Schroon Lake 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Rose_DiGrazia More than 1 year ago
The book is a slice of life of the days of yore. Her memoir is comprised of two elements that make it an ideal gift item. It is comprised of both art in the beautiful photographs and history in the telling of the story of what it was like to live during the Great Depression. The book is a memoir that tells the story of the trials and tribulations her family went through in upstate New York and San Antonio during the 1930's. The book is filled with lots of old, black and white photos. The photos and the writing are the true art of the book. The book illustrates not only in words, but also in family photos what it was like to live back then. The photos offer a candid view into the life of the author and her extended family. Art is evident in her writing and her ways of expressing herself in words so eloquently that help the reader visualize every aspect of the story. This book comes at a perfect time for it parallels the economy now with people losing their livelihood.