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Remember E.L. Gray?

May 12, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Probably nobody remembers Mr. Gray who was a prominent businessman in Saranac Lake. He died here Nov. 23, 1964.

Society names places and things for people and in a few decades or less no one is around who knows why such an honor was bestowed on that person. I was talking with Jack Lawless the other day and we pondered the naming of things such as the George LaPan Highway a leading family in Saranac Lake and there are still LaPan's around but how many remember George?

We knew "Uncle" George, as he was affectionately known, was president of the Adirondack Bank; a benevolent banker, kind and generous to all. He served on many community civic boards.

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He gave me my first car loan. I went in to the bank without an appointment, a teenager working at Carr & Dyer's Dodge Plymouth Agency located at 40 Main St., now Madden's Transfer and Storage. He asked my salary ($30 a week) and the price of the car ($320), a black, 1940 Ford club coupe convertible that Clayt Woodruff had traded inhe gave me a note to take to the teller and she gave me the cash.

Jeeze, it's easy for me to get off the track here.


So who was Mr. Gray?

Well, at least we know he had a business here because when he built his store at 46 Main Street he had his name engraved in the stone faade at the top of the building. Just look up before you enter the Blue Moon Cafe and there is his name, written in stone.

Michele Tucker, Chief of my Research Team and Curator of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library gave me a copy of his obituaryand then she showed me what is a historian's dream a massive scrapbook kept by Mr. Gary with newspaper clippings, not just from the Enterprise, but clippings from many of the New York City newspapers.

I remember reading that there used to be seven daily papers in New York City, and one, the New York World, had been edited by Harry Nason, later Editor of the Enterprise. He and his wife had come to Saranac Lake with TB and cured at Will Rogers.

Mr. Gray was born May 10, 1876, a son of Charles F. and Phoebe Washer Gray in a house at 18 Main Street. After attending local schools he went to work as a telegrapher in the early 1890s for John Harding at the old Algonquin Hotel on Lower Saranac. He later went to work as a telegrapher for the New York Central Railroad in Utica.

His obit said he purchased an interest in a bookstore in 1906 which he operated until 1956 and it reads that it was operated at three different locations obviously the last is where is name appears at 46 Main St. The 1956 telephone book carried this listing: "E. L. Gray & Co Stationery and Sporting Goods Store, 46 Main Street."

In 1913, he and Elbert Bellows opened an automobile agency (I believe it was a Hudson Agency where NAPA is located today on Upper Main Street) and later with Mr. Bellows, he operated the first bus company in the area serving Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Plattsburgh.

An active civic life

He served on the Saranac Lake Board of Trade, was a member of the Rotary Club and a member of the Church of St. Luke serving as a member of its vestry. He was very active in the Masons a member of Lodge 789 F&AM; the Wanneta Lodge, Royal Arch Masons; the Franklin Commandery, Knights Templar of Malone and the Karnak Temple Order of the Mystic Shrine of Montreal.

Here is just a teaser of the stories from the scrapbook that we will cover later in greater detail.

"Adirondack Enterprise, Friday, August 28, 1914 - Mrs. Lulu Wardner Toof, wife of Fred C. Toof, of Rainbow Lake, died at the Saranac lake General Hospital Thursday morning following an illness of several weeks of septicemia."

Maybe most readers will recognize that illness but I had to Google it "Septicemia is caused by bacteria in the blood that often occurs with severe infections."

"The New York Press, Thursday, December 8, 1910 Caesare Paoletti, a corporal of stokers on the steamship Italia, which got here last Saturday, yesterday was arraigned before United States Commissioner Shields and was remanded to the Tombs in default of $15,000 bail on the charged of having in his possession counterfeit $5 notes of the Mechanics and Metals National bank of no. 33 Wall Street, this city."

Here is the kicker. A Secret Service man who arranged to buy the bills in a bar on Broadway said it was the most perfect counterfeit he had ever witnessed even to simulating the silk threads in the bond paperbut then they misspelled "Treasury" as "Treasneg."



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