Photo by Jesse Sumner Wooley
It is one thing — and a good thing — to see the moon rise over the mountains across Lake George, but it’s quite another to actually set foot on that moon. But at least one man who spoke at Silver Bay had been there, done that.
On July 9, 1982, former astronaut James B. Irwin came to Silver Bay and gave a evening talk entitled “From Outer Space to Inner Space.” Eleven years before, Irwin had been part of the Apollo 15 mission of July/August 1971, and the eighth person to walk on the moon.
After Irwin retired from the Air Force in 1972, he traveled as “a goodwill ambassador for the Prince of Peace,” speaking about how his experiences in space had made the presence of God more real to him. One wonders if the moon rose while he spoke that evening at Silver Bay, and gave the people leaving the auditorium something to think about.
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The rising of the moon over Lake George, at Silver Bay, July 2008; detail from a photo by Frieda Celeste Dunkelberg.
James B. Irwin works with the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the surface of the moon; photo by Astronaut David R. Scott.
In late August of 1922, Silver Bay hosted leaders in banking, labor and politics to discuss “Human Relations in Industry.” Among the speakers was John L. Lewis, soon to become a legend in organized labor.
John Llewellyn Lewis (1880-1969) was the newly elected president of the United Mine Workers of America, a position he held from 1920 to 1960. As a thundering advocate for coal miners, he brought them higher wages, safer working conditions, pensions and medical benefits. He was also the driver behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s.
Lewis was known for his bushy eyebrows and ever-present scowl, and his stormy visage appeared on the cover of Time magazine six times.
In August of 1922, Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, spoke at Silver Bay on Visitors’ Day, second-billed to the Governor of New York, Nathan Miller. Afterwards, they took the Silver Bay steam launch, Crusader, back to Lake George Village. Halfway home they had to abandon ship, but I’ll hold that part for a moment.
Adolph S. Ochs’ introduction to the newspaper business began at the age of 11 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He went to work as an office boy, printer’s devil and delivery boy for the Knoxville Chronicle. At the age of 19, he borrowed $250 to purchase a controlling interest in the bankrupt Chattanooga Times. In 1896, at the age of 38, he bought The New York Times, a money-loser with 9,000 readers. By the time of his talk at Silver Bay, he had raised the circulation to 780,000 and created an American institution, a newspaper that carried the motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
Nathan L. Miller was the governor of New York from January 1, 1921 to December 31, 1922. The father of seven daughters, he was opposed to women’s suffrage and told the convention of the League of Women Voters that they were “a menace to American institutions.” He was not re-elected.
To return to the voyage of the Crusader, the gentlemen and ladies of the party were still four miles north of Lake George Village when a rope left draped over a steam pipe began to smoke, prompting the passing out of life preservers and a run for shore. The boat was unscathed, but the voyagers chose to complete their journey by automobile.
Adolph Ochs had strong ties to Lake George. Around 1918, he purchased George Foster Peabody’s lakeside estate, “Abenia,” about two miles north of Lake George Village, and spent every summer there. Although he telephoned the Times every morning, afternoon and evening, he also made time for golf, friendships and rest.
There is an apocryphal story that, one afternoon near the end of his life when illness kept him in New York City, Ochs telephoned Karl Abbott, the owner of the Sagamore Hotel in Bolton Landing, and asked him to describe Lake George as he saw it from his window. For several minutes, Abbott described the water, the sky, the trees, all that he saw. Ochs thanked him warmly and said goodbye. Soon after, Abbott read in the New York papers that Ochs had died that evening.
“Two large rattlesnakes, one seven and one four feet long, were killed recently by a highway construction crew working near Silver Bay, Lake George. The larger snake had 21 rattles and the smaller had 11. The seven-foot reptile was taken from the ground by a steam shovel, and was killed by the workmen. The smaller was discovered crawling on the porch of a nearby house.”
— “Rattlesnakes Killed at Silver Bay,” The Salem Press, Salem, N.Y., August 11, 1927
The founder and director of the Westminster Choir, John Finley Williamson, held his summer sessions – for organists, directors and music supervisors – at Silver Bay in 1932, ’33 and ’34. To cap the 1934 session, Williamson assembled a choir of more than 500 voices to sing (after just one rehearsal) hymns including “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “Abide with Me,” “Beautiful Savior” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”
At the center of this giant a cappella chorus was the Westminster Choir, already in residence at Silver Bay for 10 days of Williamson’s 20-day session, using the time to tune up for their nine-week European tour of England, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Italy, Yugoslavia and Russia. Williamson was especially proud of the fact that his was the first choir to receive an official invitation from the Soviet Union, and the concert was broadcast live to the U.S.A.
Williamson founded the Westminster Choir in 1920 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio, and began the Westminster Choir School in 1926. The choir toured extensively, played Carnegie Hall and the White House (for President Calvin Coolidge), recorded for Victor records in 1926, and, in 1928, joined with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by Leopold Stokowski for a coast-to-coast radio broadcast.
In 1932, the Choir School relocated to Princeton, New Jersey. The dedication ceremonies included a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor at the nearby Princeton University Chapel with the Westminster Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, who contributed the orchestra and his time as a sign of his esteem for the choir.