Talk about a historical scoop
It’s about a book not yet published. It’s still in the works, but I just happen to have a review of that book right here in my famous little history column.
The book may be fiction, but it is historical fiction … and here is the big deal: The review is by the author herself, a Saranac Lake native, and the book is about Saranac Lake in the 1920s.
The author is Amy Cheney-Seymour, daughter of Jerry and Paula (Fobare) Cheney, and it is my good fortune to be introduced to Amy through her dad, Historic Saranac Lake and Michele Tucker of the Saranac Lake Free Library.
However, in full transparency, as I write this column, I have not yet met Amy.
Happily, I have in my possession a copy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise dated Nov. 15, 1926. How better to find correct addresses and names — and, for instance, a big story about the 1920s economy in these classified ads:
“For Rent — 3 room furnished apartment, hot water, electric lights, all conveniences. $25 month. 82 Lake Street. Phone 116-W.”
“For Rent — 4 Room apartment and bath. $30 per month. 30 Dorsey Street — also — For Rent — Small 3- room house $20 month. 44 Dorsey Street.”
Now here is Amy, in her own words …
“I am writing a place-based historical fiction about a young woman who is murdered while working in a TB cure cottage in the 1920s. This book is for a class I am taking at Middlebury College’s Breadloaf School of English, and one requirement for the book was time travel. My protagonist, 17-year-old Hope MacManus Wood, sees the same ghost in her room for seven years. She scours Historic Saranac Lake’s records and even old medical records she finds in her attic, but the ghost is nowhere to be found in the patient lists of Carr Cottage (where I grew up).
“On the first day of Winter Carnival 2020, she accidentally travels back 100 years to the 1920s Winter Carnival, through a dumbwaiter, and gleans enough evidence to solve the entire crime. I have created a cast of characters from both time periods, weaving in E.L. Trudeau (of course) as well as my great-grandmother Margaret Wood Stern and many other family members and businesspeople of the era.”
Then I asked Amy about the “dumbwaiter” because I used one to lift the trays in a three-story cure cottage as a tray boy in the 1940s. The dumbwaiter is simply a wooden box — with shelves, in this case — located in a wooden shaft connected to rope pulleys to lift it to the other floors.
“Well, it starts with some signs. As she gets more curious about the ghost and starts her research, things happen. One night she is home alone, and she hears the dumbwaiter moving, which they haven’t used in years. Inside is a cup of warm milk in her grandmother’s china cup that is only used for special occasions. A week later — you guessed it — she leans into the dumbwaiter to try and hear the sudden kitchen sound coming from below, and slips into 1920.”