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The curfew in Saranac Lake, 1944

October 3, 2009

The village of Saranac Lake looked a little different in 1944. There were about 8,000 residents and there were a couple of thousand temporary residents; tuberculosis patients and their families staying here or families visiting on a regular basis.

Last week I wrote about the trains blocking Margaret Street, which was a complaint often entered in the police blotters of the 1940s and 1950s; blocking Margaret Street and sometimes Bloomingdale Avenue, the trains were long and arrived often, so the RR depot was always full of people. The parking area was crowded with taxi cabs, railroad express trucks and delivery trucks. It was an exciting place for young teens to hang out.

The newsstand in the corner of the depot did a land-office business in 1944 selling cigarettes, candy, newspapers and magazines. Wings were about the only cigarettes available and cost 11 cents a pack. Remember the ads telling us that Lucky Strikes, Camels and Chesterfield cigarettes had all gone to war, meaning they went to the guys and gals in the armed services. Life magazine, The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's magazines were 10 cents a copy, and most big city newspapers were a nickel. The Enterprise was three cents a copy.

Article Photos

Those old D & H locomotives were huge. This one was stopped at the Union Depot but with a seasoned crew it was ready to roll.
(Photo — Adirondack Collection Saranac Lake Free Library)

Need curfew enforced

Ed Duprey was a sergeant in the Saranac Lake PD in October of 1944 and had made this entry for the patrolmen in the police blotter:

"There have been complaints received by some members of the village board about noise outside the Hotel Saranac after the bar closes. The board also complained that the curfew law is not being enforced. They want all children and parents brought into court for any violation of this law. They also want the officers on the street on foot more. This is an order from the village manager. Will all officers see that this order is carried out?"

A later entry, but still related to enforcing the curfew:

"There is a lot of talk about soldiers picking up teenage girls on the street and in the bars. Hence the earlier order. Officers will go into bars and other places where young girls hang out. Any that are under age are to be taken home and summon there parents in. This is what the village board wants. Any out after 9:30 p.m., if you are not sure of their age, make them prove it." Ed Duprey

The bars were full of soldiers, not local servicemen home on leave, but the hundreds of GI's that were on R & R staying at the Lake Placid Club. The Club and Northwood School had been turned over to the U.S. Army for 14 months from October, 1944 until November 1945 but operated by the Lake Placid Company.

At 9:30 p.m. we head for home

The curfew in effect in 1944 (I believe it is still on the books today) proclaimed that all youths under 16 had to be off the streets by 9:30 p.m. unless accompanied by their parents or some responsible adult. I thought it was quite well enforced back then because Matt Jones or some other officer would send us home if we were still hanging out in front of the movie theater or in front of Bernie Wilson's.

I know it was a big deal when we turned 16 and I just could not wait to be able to stay out after 9:30. At that age, I was a junior in high school, as most kids are today, and feeling pretty big. That fall the high school band had a concert at the Pontiac Theater, and after it was over I asked another band member, Jean Keating, if I could walk her home. She said yes, and as I was still walking on cloud nine on the way home about 11 p.m., the police car pulled up beside me. Now remember the cops knew every kid in town but I didn't realize that at the time. They asked, "Would you like a ride home?" I answered, "I'm 16!!!" They replied, "We didn't ask your age, we asked if you wanted a ride home, get in."

They drove me to 5 Pine Street without any directions from me. I ducked down in the back seat of the police car when we went through town so no one would see me, and when they pulled up in front of the house I leaped out of the car without a word to them. I sure didn't want my parents to see the cops driving me home.



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