"I worked the farm like all the boys in the family," Don Lanthier said. He has lived at the corner of McLaughlin and Pleasant avenues in Tupper Lake for more than 60 years.
"Dad had a farm behind Sunmount he bought after World War II," Don said.
Don said he and his brother Johnny were the oldest of nine born to Wilfred and Gladys (Hunkins) Lanthier.
Donald Lanthier at his home at the corner of McLaughlin and Pleasant Avenue.
(Photo — Newton Greiner)
A Lanthier family photo, taken in their living room in 1982, shows Joanne and Don at front with their youngest daughter Kristy in the middle, at back from left, are Kathy, Darcy, Karen, Garry, Larry and Kevin.
Don's father was born in Ontario, Canada, and his mother was from Tupper Lake.
Wilfred came to Tupper in the early 1900s with his dad to look for work, "and lived on the same street I live on now," Don said.
The rest of the family joined them in Tupper Lake later.
"They also lived on this same street," Don laughed.
Life started for Don in Sissonville, a row of employee houses built by the Oval Wood Dish Company on Demars Boulevard.
"We lived on Ohio Street," he said. "Ohio Street is the only sign that still exists of Sissonville, a house on the peninsula. Jutting out into the Pond was once a pump house for the Oval Wood Dish. There was a big tank out there, too." It's gone now.
Don and his wife Joanne settled into the corner house on McLaughlin soon after Don's 1952 graduation from Tupper Lake High School. Joanne left school before she graduated, and Don first worked at the OWD, which still made wood bowls, spoons and platters from local timber. He never made spoons but rather was drawn to outside work on the maintenance crew. His job included "keeping up the roads with a little tractor and mowing around the plant. After that, I would go up and mow the golf course fairways."
"Looking for a better career, I started working in the woods for Earle Fletcher in Harrisville," Don said.
On the St. Lawrence Seaway, Don worked at building the Eisenhower Locks, "where I ran a D8 dozer, backfilling."
He even worked on the Adirondack Northway one summer during its 1960s construction.
"I ran a scraper that summer," he said.
In his early 20s, he started a new career, in logging. His first logging job was at Elliott Hardwoods, where "we cleared a lot of the power line trails from Niagara Falls," he said. "I worked on several parts of that. At Elliott's, I worked as a partner with Bobby Trudeau. Back in those days, Elliott's used D6 bulldozers as skidders."
Later, Don and his brother George rented a skidder for a year and went to work for Ray North. They both eventually bought skidders and worked for Doug King on the DeGrasse. The tract included the old railroad bed from Conifer to DeGrasse, once owned by Emporium Lumber Company, which built Conifer. When the Draper Mill closed, it was transferred from Drapers to Yorkshire Timber.
Doug King was the manager. "We worked there for 10 years all the way into Tooley Pond," Don said. "A lot of acres, maybe 30,000," he guessed.
Don believes in maintaining his equipment to the highest efficiency, and according to his friends, he was often found changing the oil or maintaining the machine long after the day was done.
Never much of a fisherman, Don does recall going bullhead fishing with his dad, but hunting was his passion He said he bagged a 180-pound eight-point buck once, and got some other big ones over the years -?although not quite as big.
He's seen a giant bald eagle flying through the woods, and once witnessed an eagle dive down to the road and carry away a rabbit.
His youngest daughter, Kristy, was born in 1978. He never missed any of his kids' milestone celebrations until a heart attack forced him to miss Kristy's sixth grade graduation.
"It also ended my career in the woods after 30 some odd years," he said.
A big-time Yankees and Giants fan, he loves to watch them, and he recalls his years of playing football for the Tupper Lake Lumberjacks.
"I never was a skier, but I skied enough on the side of the mountain with the skidder" he grins. "We cut the side of Big Tupper and you have to be careful on those skidders."
His brother was seriously hurt in a skidder accident.
"Once I went over a ledge," Don said. "At least I went over it straight."
He worked the forest near Newcomb on Syracuse University Park. In his younger days, he worked for Wilfred Dechene and Tino Martin, where he hooked tongs for him.
"The logs, piled wood on wood, were frozen together," he said. "The only way to break them loose was to drop another log on top of them. Dangerous work on the ground in deep snow."
A barely visible scar, emblazoned down the middle of his forehead recalls the time he stopped a chainsaw kick back.
"It happened right here in my yard," he said. "Once they didn't make you wear any protective gear, but later we wore the equipment, chaps, helmets - everything, I forgot all that in my own yard," he recalled smiling.
He said his brother George passed away last year.
"He didn't work in the woods as long as I did, but he was the easiest-going guy you'd ever want to know," Don said. "When I'd get mad about something he'd just say, 'Oh well.'"
Don has also worked security at the Woodsmen's Field Days. One year, his tug-of war team was called the Crybabies.
"Crybaby was the name Ray North called me," Don said. "
Don swears Ray didn't know how to count, and "We'd get done loading a pile of logs, and he'd always say there was less in the pile than we were telling him. He always got on us for the numbers of logs we put up. I'd know it was 300 and he would argue, and that's when he started calling me Crybaby," Don laughs.
Don now lives alone in his neat home, where it seems he's always been, but he's rarely alone. His sons come over a lot, and the whole family comes over. His daughter and grandchildren make frequent visits, and they were there that day.
"The whole family is so close," Don said. "When my wife was sick, they took care of her. I think my wife and I raised some great kids.
"You won't get a much better family than that," a friend said.
He gets out a family photo that son Garry's wife Louise made for them on their anniversary and thumbs through to a family photo. It's a typical 1960s family from an Instamatic camera. It's a little yellowed but everyone's smiling and it's a happy scene.
"I guess it's having a good family and friends that keep me going," he said. "Most of the family was born here and they've stayed around this area. We always had a lot of parties here while Joanne was alive with all of her brothers and sisters coming around.
"I've made my living in Tupper Lake and I don't get why people are trying to stop Tupper Lake from advancing. It makes me mad.
"We lumbered on Big Tupper, and we treated the land right, and that land would make a nice place for beautiful homes and second homes. And I don't understand how a few people can put their thumbs on our heads."
What was the most interesting thing that ever happened to Don? Without hesitation he said it was marrying his high school sweetheart in 1953. Donald Lanthier met Joanne Boushie while both were at the Tupper Lake High School and they had a happy life with their seven children: Larry, Garry, Karen, Kevin, Kathy, Darcy and Kristy.
Joanne has been gone since Jan. 9, 2013 after almost 60 years of marriage. She is very much missed by all of them.