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Rocky’s visit to the Adirondacks was a hit

August 5, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , The Leader Herald

Read today's news and it again appears that the "campaign trail" will be a newsworthy part of the American political scene for times to come.

Some say there has got to be a better way to get elected to public office. Not much has changed:?Turn the clock back some 50 years and you will hear, "The governor is coming, the governor is coming!"

It rebounded throughout the forested southern Adirondacks: Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a gubernatorial candidate, was planning a visit to Hamilton County.

He was the first to ever do so. He had promised to visit every New York county during his campaign.

The planned visit included landing by seaplane on Lake Pleasant and meeting with an assembly of local residents at the Speculator public beach. It created some unusual excitement and interest in the sometimes-ignored Adirondack county. I found myself in the middle of the intrusion into our daily routines.

At the time, I was the supervising principal of the local school district. My phone began to ring: "Do you know the governor is coming to town? Are you going to close school so the kids can see the governor?"

Nothing in education law says that you can close a school because a governor is coming to town.

The phone "conferencing" with the school board members was soon underway. Some members of the board felt it was important to take the kids to see the governor "who someday might become the president of the United States."

We gained a positive consensus from the entire school board, loaded up the buses, and took the some 300 students to the public beach.

Rockefeller landed on schedule and was transported to the beach by boat. The party members passed out posters and brochures and invited the children to get Rocky's autograph. They surrounded him, and he began signing. It did not last long.

I was standing nearby to keep the students in order and I overheard Gov. Rockefeller utter to one of his associates out of the corner of his mouth, "Will someone get these kids off of me?"

Sensing our welcome was over, I announced loudly: "Time to get back to school; the buses are loading," and our day of fame with the governor became a part of history.

Longtime Albany columnist Barnett Fowler wrote of that day in one of his Albany Times Union columns. His memories, much like other Adirondack stories, were not the same as mine.

He noted that when the governor landed, becoming the "first gubernatorial candidate to ever visit the county," he was offered a 1929 Rolls Royce to drive to the Speculator Ball Park. It was a limousine owned by the McVoys of Poland, N.Y.

He was "delighted," got into the Rolls and drove it himself to the park.

McVoy and Earl Farber, Hamilton County Republican chairman, rode with the governor.

Barney estimated that 700 turned out that day, and they were treated with free sarsaparilla soda at a stand labeled "Have a Drink on Rocky!" (I did not get my sarsaparilla; I guess I left too soon.)

Nelson Rockefeller had been elected New York state's 49th governor in 1958, served several years, and also served as the United States' 41st vice president from 1974 to 77.

He was a good friend of the Adirondacks - a great supporter of parks and forest preserves. His record of accomplishment while in public service ranks high in the history of our state.



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