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This could not happen today

March 13, 2010

One never knows what event in this strange journey of life will come back to haunt us. This is what happened to Mrs. Blanche Griswold, an acquaintance of mine, back in February 1965.

An agent for the John Hancock Insurance Company, Blanche was tall and handsome, as some women are, and always smartly turned out in dresses and pearlsso it apparently was no surprise to anyone as she strode across the runway at the Lake Clear Airport (she had checked her luggage) and boarded a flight to New York City on her way to Florida.

Let me set this scene a little bit better. Mohawk Airline then served the local airport. The Enterprise, where I was the editor, had made a deal where we traded airline tickets for advertising. So when a staff member had to go to NYC, Albany or other destinations served by Mohawk, we simply tore off a ticket from a couple of books in my desk drawer and when out to the airport and got on the plane.

Article Photos

Rob and Lisa Gillis and their children, Libby and Riley, hang out with Ollie the Otter from The Wild Center at the Big Tupper Ski Area. Libby and Riley are Howard Riley’s niece and nephew. A 1967 photo of then-Saranac Lake Mayor Howard Riley and then-Tupper Lake Mayor Adam Palmer with Kennedy at Big Tupper weren’t available.
(Photo provided)

Usually we would walk by the airline agent and wave the ticket, but not alwaysso anyone with ticket in hand walked out and got on the planeand the stew would collect the tickets once the plane was in the air!


Oops! Wrong plane

I was alerted and consequently remembered this story when Enterprise Editor Peter Crowley sent me a blog from John R. Bohrer on the huffingtonpost.

The Enterprise reported that the Caroline, the Kennedy family plane, was parked on the runway waiting to depart when Blanche walked out of the terminal into the open hatch of the plane and took a seat the story went on

"When the Kennedy plane landed at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Mrs. Griswold reportedly got off with Mrs. John F. Kennedy, her children, Sen. Robert Kennedy and six of his children, other members of the family and Secret Service agents.

"When the Mohawk flight arrived shortly afterward, Mrs. Griswold was at the gate to claim her baggage. Then, an airline spokesman said, she inquired if she was eligible for a refund."


From Mr. Bohrer

"She didn't waste any time looking closely at the craft she was boarding, perhaps because there was no line and it looked like it could shut its hatch and depart at any moment. At the door, the widow Griswold, a 58-year-old insurance agent, was stopped by a man who looked like a Fed (he was). The man asked where she was going, she said 'Florida,' and he didn't stop her.

"Mrs. Griswold spoke with the Senator and his sister-in-law, the children ran around and ate lunch. She was aboard the Caroline, the twin-engine Convair that John F. Kennedy had traveled 225,000 miles in during the 1960 presidential campaign.

"To the papers, Robert Kennedy remarked, 'She was a very nice woman. But she thought it was a little crowded for a commercial plane.'"


Jim Loeb weighs in

In 1967, Jim Loeb, Enterprise publisher, wrote an editorial about the incidenthere are excerpts:

"Few people around here will forget the nationwide publicity this area received just two years ago when Saranac Lake's own Blanche Griswold dashed out to the Lake Clear Airport, etc., etc.,

"We make use of these few lines to inform Mrs. Griswold that the anniversary of that event is to be marked Wednesday by the return of the Caroline, almost exactly two years later. If Mrs. Griswold has any travel plans, she should start packing.

"The senator is coming for some skiing at BIG TUPPER (my emphasis) and a fund raising reception at the Hotel Saranac at which time Mrs. Griswold would be very welcome for the regular price of $100, since she got a refund on her Mohawk ticket two years ago."


A ripe old age

Blanche died in the year 2000 at age 94 and her obit in the Enterprise listed her as Blanche G. Carr. She was originally from Malone and attended Purdue University. After a divorce from Carl B. Stebbins, she married J. Laurence Griswold who died in 1963. She then married William L. Carr in January 1967. Many in Saranac Lake will remember him as a partner in the Main Line Garage he died in 1979. She was survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Sally and Robert Tyldesley of Brantingham.

And in conclusion, knowing Blanche, I am not sure getting on the Kennedy plane was a mistake.



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