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‘Every village needs a junkyard’

I think this picture is so fitting with a Christmas wreath hanging over the Gold Mine sign in July. Orville Paye is posing with the business end of a five-pronged dung fork (who would know that other than this farm boy?), used in the barn to shovel — shucks, I can’t remember what. Knowing Orville, he is probably attempting a rough copy of the famous painting “American Gothic” by artist Grant Wood, showing the man holding a three-pronged pitchfork. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Paye Kent, Orville’s niece)

That was the title of a column I wrote 50 years ago, substituting for Enterprise columnist Bill McLaughlin, who was on vacation.

Now, before we get to that, I want to say a few words about my friend, the late Orville Paye.

If any town or village residents remember Orville at all, it was probably as the owner and operator of the Gold Mine, that emporium of something for everyone, located just a couple of miles out of town on Route 3, the Bloomingdale Road. Orville’s creed, supposedly, was, “Rather than sell one piece at $300, I’d rather sell 300 pieces at $1 — that’s where the money is.”

The Gold Mine was also the best place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which were purchased by Orville in his weekly trips to Canada.

Previous to the Gold Mine, Orville owned the junkyard at the end of Payeville Road. His father had operated a sand and gravel business on Payeville Road for many years.

Orville Paye (Photo courtesy of Barbara Paye Kent, Orville’s niece)

Here is what I know about Orville Paye:

He was a bright, kind and generous guy. He helped so many people with money, time and advice, sometimes to help a friend out of a jam. He was a natty dresser, right down to the shoes, and often wearing a sport coat.

I got to know him as a kid when we hung out at Mike and Sandy’s restaurant, located where the Waterhole bar is today. (Mike was Mike Mitchell, married to Santa “Sandy” Alphonso, who was born in Bloomingdale in 1910. That info is by way of my chief fact checker, Bud Duffy … but that is a story for another day.)

Orville was a teenager then, and we loved listening to his stories about the village. Once in a while he would buy our 5 cent root beer, served in a foam-topped glass from a spigot at the lunch counter.

Orville was a tough guy in top physical shape. His biceps were huge … He worked out, as not many men or women did at that time.

He won a Golden Gloves boxing competition in Vermont when he was age 16.

The junkyard was my favorite. Upon entering the junkyard, one could not see the building encased in the piles of junked cars. If one could find the door — I’m not kidding — it led to a pretty nice office, bed, bath and kitchen in the event Orville felt like spending some time there.

The end of the junkyard

“Every village needs a junkyard … Maybe to keep America beautiful the junkyards of the future will have to go underground … so for the life of me (us) we can’t figure out how the residents of Saranac Lake are going to get along without a junkyard.

“It will be unanimously proclaimed by the townspeople that the car crusher that is cleaning up the lot previously known as the Paye Scrap Metal Company on Payeville Road, now to become part of the North Country Community College, is a great thing for Saranac Lake.

“Orville Paye has run the metal company about all his adult life, I guess, and maybe even started working for Louis Goldberg when he owned the place back in the forties. He later joined in a partnership with Joseph (Shorty) McCormick, that other tycoon of the rare and antiquated automobile part.

“Shorty’s is located on Broadway, and one can stop there and get anything from a rear wheel bearing for a 1928 Whippet to a kanutten valve for the ‘Hill Holder’ on your Studebaker pickup.

“So it has always been with Orville’s junkyard. His lot was filled with cars of more recent vintage, along with some old timers, and one would be hard put to walk out on the street and find someone who had lived here any length if time that had not gone to the junkyard for some part that was unavailable in town.

“If one likes automobiles, it is a perfect place to browse, maybe somewhat like a rock hound does in the mountains and fields. My last trip over to the place, before the car crush began, was a couple of weeks ago, and I took some of the younger kids along.

“Sure enough, we discovered a semi-rare body pushed over into the bushes, a Frazier, 1947 or ’48, with the rounded hood and fenders and recessed dash. The inside door openers were push buttons, so there was as little as possible protruding that might cause injury in a crackup.

“Aaron ‘Red’ Hoyt (grandfather of the Hesseltine boys and girls who own the Chrysler agency) had the dealership for the car, along with the Kaiser and the smaller edition, the Henry J., in the building which is now the Casier Furniture Store on Bloomingdale Avenue.

“A car is a pretty special thing to a lot of people. Just to stand among the abandoned hulks and wonder about who used to wash and polish them, take their driver’s test in them, make love in them or get killed in them gives one an eerie nostalgia.

“That the machine has become so important to us, that should last twice as long, that takes up so much of our time and money should come to such a short, sad demise is surely a real ecological problem.

“With the junkyard gone, what will us poor people do when we need a right-hand lug nut for a left rear wheel; or a gauge to find out why the back wheel is turning forward; only to find out that the nut that holds the steering wheel causes the most accidents.”

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