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A Century Outdoors by

Don Mellor ‘71

BEGINNINGS

John Friedlander didn’t see it coming. He and Steve Reed had suited up to practice with the 1972 football team, and while “Reno” might have lost a step or two since his Bowdoin days, Friedlander could still squish out a cigar in an ash trash in his office, peel off his jacket and tie, and outsprint just about the whole team. So it came as a bit of a surprise when senior Vinny Cudiner decided to take him on. Vinny called it a fair shot; John still says it was a spear. He recalls just walking off the field and driving straight to the hospital.

Most schools’ winter carnivals consist of snow sculptures, a dance, and if they’re a really tough bunch, maybe a little coed broom ball. But at this particularly active school, the winter fete has rank beginners rocketing down an Olympic luge track and, nearby, novices trying their hand at biathlon - with real guns. (In 2002, the event was briefly interrupted when science teacher Mr. Martin was carted off in an ambulance after getting clocked by an errant inner tube flying down the landing hill at the ski jumps, piloted by a wide-eyed student from Dublin, Ireland.)

What kind of school, you may ask, would have a former Green Bay Packer as its headmaster, shaking hands later that day with a student who has just broken three of his ribs?

Northwood School had a modest beginning. In 1902, poor health sent founder John M. Hopkins to the Adirondacks. In the days before antibiotics, popular notion held that there was something curative in the North Country climate. Saranac Lake was nationally recognized as a center for healing, where patients would spend their days outside, bundled up in blankets, breathing in the cool, pine-scented air. The expansive porches that would later be identified with the Adirondack social scene had their beginnings here in these Adirondack cure cottages.

Well, it’s an active school. It’s a school that would be represented in every single Winter Olympics since 1964, a school with the most National Hockey Leaguers for its size anywhere.  It’s a school with ice climbing, rock climbing (five of its graduates having climbed America’s biggest rock face, El Capitan), and white water kayaking. It’s a place where once a year on Mountain Day each kid is out of the classroom climbing an Adirondack peak, and most years if you add their cumulative mileages, students hike the equivalent distance from Lake Placid to their school’s original winter campus in Florida.

Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins settled first at Rainbow Lake, where they supported themselves with private tutoring. Soon thereafter they moved their teaching to a rental house in Lake Placid with three boys, Caleb Loring and


View from the dock of the school’s original winter campus in Florida.

THE MIGRATIONS

George Tayler, and Malcolm Matheson. The Lake Placid School was born. By pure coincidence, fireworks lit up that first night sky over the Stevens House on Signal Hill, and though Mr. Stevens was probably unaware of the new educational venture, Hopkins told his boys that the display signified the birth of a school.  (Note to the Class of 1965: Sorry, you guys didn’t invent the fireworks tradition during your twentieth reunion.) Six boys would graduate that first year, leaving not “a seed potato,” according to Hopkins, to start the following fall. Yet the idea had taken root, and demand for the Hopkins’ services grew. Over the next five years, the enrollment held between twenty and thirty boys.  Right from the start, the boys of the Lake Placid School were encouraged to lead vigorous lives. In 1908 the school newspaper promulgated the official exercise mandate requiring boys to choose from either basketball, tennis, golf, crew, or track (which would include skating, coasting, and walking). For two hours a day, four days a week, all boys must be outside working their bodies after the rigors of the classroom. Like today, there was a little grumbling about the excesses of that mandate; still, it would be a tradition to last the next century and beyond.

But unlike today, when for much of the year that two-hour exercise dictum is served on the snows of Whiteface or the ice of the Olympic Center, our school’s first twenty-three winters would be spent in the Florida sunshine. Here, instead of skating and skiing, it was sport fishing, sailing, and exploring the Everglades. Hopkins’ original site for the school was Coconut Grove in a house built by an English sailor shipwrecked in the late 1800s. Later, in 1924 the school would move to a location by Hillsborough Lighthouse, near Tampa. Right after Christmas, the boys would pack up their bags and head south, returning to the Adirondacks just in time for black fly season. The original seal of the Lake Placid - Florida School was embossed with a pine tree and a palm tree, and the school newspaper was called The Migrator, recognizing the school’s dual identity.


During the Florida stay, each boy would learn to sail, mainly on the school’s flagships, Etta-May and Orion. Students and faculty would tour the Keys, fishing for sharks and skates (in 1909, one of them shot a 12-foot gator), and to satisfy their competitive urges, they’d hold sailboat races between Little Misery and Osana. And of course, given the social class represented in our early student bodies, there would be trips to Miami to check out the latest fashions. By 1925, however, it was clear that duplicate campuses, coupled with the huge costs of moving back and forth to Florida, didn’t make economic sense, and the Adirondacks became the permanent residence of what was now called Northwood School.

little more than a memory kept alive by photos on the wall. Students today, finding such ethnic labels offensive, see the tradition as a bit of an anachronism. In fact, the recent Board decision to change the school’s official mascot from the Indian to the Husky began as an impromptu student initiative several years earlier, when an informal vote picked the husky over several other North Country options. (A lot of us thought that the vision of old Bill Kelly’s dogs was the real inspiration here.) The new mascot wasn’t formally recognized at first, however, and throughout the 1990s the school’s newspaper The Mirror flipped back and forth, sometimes calling our teams the Indians, other times the Huskies. More often,

Winter home for the Lake Placid School.

During the migratory years, a tradition began that would last right up into the 1950s: the Seminole - Mohawk Competitions. When a boy was enrolled into the school, he was also enlisted onto a schoolwide team, each named after an Indian tribe. Florida’s Seminoles became the emblem for one half of the school while New York State’s Mohawks served for the other half. Only later, when the Florida winter school ended did the Seminoles become the Senecas. Tribal identity would be a big part of every boy’s life at Northwood, with competitions ranging from team sports to debating. (In 1928 the debate topic was “Resolved - The Ku Klux Klan is a thoroughly American organization and should be fostered.”) By the early 1960s, the Seneca-Mohawk traditions were

they would skip the issue altogether, referring to our players simply as Northwood.  The north-south migrations came to an end as snow and ice sports began to dominate Lake Placid culture, and for most of the extended Northwood family today, the Florida identity is gone. Instead, the name Northwood conjures up images of the North itself - spruce trees loaded with snow, dog sleds on Mirror Lake, and big icicles hanging from the school’s roofs. Few realize, however, that the name “Northwood” refers, not to the North woods, but to the northern sector of the Lake Placid Club property where the school buildings were built. For many years the school was a part of the sprawling Club, and its boys were granted the privileges that went along with membership.


WINTER SPORTS & THE LAKE PLACID CLUB

Winter sports in America can be traced largely to Lake Placid, and more specifically, to Melvil Dewey’s Lake Placid Club. Despite its legacy of bigotry and its sad end in fire and fraud, the Club in its heyday was central to the development of the town and the identity of the school. Dewey inaugurated the Lake Placid Club in 1895 (same year that the state legislature’s constitutional amendment declared all lands within the Adirondack forest preserve “forever wild”) Nine years later, in the winter of 1904 1905, just as Hopkins’ little school was getting started, a party of eight decided to spend the winter at the Club’s Forest Lodge. The group, including Dewey, his wife Annie, and their son Godfrey, survived an experiment that would later be called Winterclub. As it entered its second decade, the Club grew to accommodate an increasing number of “sno birds” who saw winter more as another season to play than a scourge that shut folks indoors. No doubt the locals, who knew better, scratched their heads. Dewey was an odd duck, so obsessed by order that he rearranged his mother’s kitchen cabinet according to utensil type, walked eleven miles to buy his first book (a dictionary), worked much of his early adult life on a system of library organization that would later bear his name, and took it upon himself to make spelling more phonetically logical. Melville became Melvil, lodge became loj, and Cobble became Kobl. In a 1925 letter to Headmaster Herbert Malcolm recommending that the school quit its Florida campus, he wrote:

We all believ in yu and want to help yu...9/10 of the peopl we hav talkt with hav felt the same way. Yu ar away the very best weeks of the year to be here. Now that yu relize this, I assume it is settled that yu abandon the Florida scool; but keep it secret til either yu or we see if we can’t get sumthing for yu toward the loss from Mrs. ......  It wud be worth good money to her to buy the good will of yur Florida scool and to hav yu refer to her any peopl who want boys to go there. The Dewey Decimal System caught on, but the Dewey spelling crusade didn’t (though every time I grade sophomore essays, I suspect a few residual commandos out there still fighting for the cause).

Part of Dewey’s genius was his grasp of the potential of snow and ice in the world of recreation. Dewey didn’t walk just to buy books. He walked as part of a lifelong exercise regimen that included working out with dumbbells right into old age. In fact, he chose Amherst because at the time it was the only college with a physical education requirement. Lake Placid, he decided, was the perfect place to encourage (actually, demand) healthful living. His Club was one part upscale leisure, one part Jack LaLane. 


Within a few short years, Lake Placid had become the winter recreation capital of the Northeast, or “America’s St. Moritz” as Dewey was fond of boasting. On Mirror Lake in front of the Club, guests were being towed on skis, ski-joring, behind horses. Out back they were whooshing down a chute from the roof of the golf house way down toward Route 86. Later, the Club would install rope tows, first on a small hill near the main lodge and later at Mount Whitney. Snowshoes collected dust and skiing took its place as the way to get around in winter.

kids you see in the foreground, dressed in their usher jackets, abandoning their duties and leaping the boards onto the ice to celebrate. Giacalone, Sutow, Hoarty, we knew it was you guys.)

Lake Placid took the world stage in 1932 when it hosted the second Winter Olympic Games. Melvil Dewey’s boasts about Lake Placid’s international winter sports status was confirmed when his son Godfrey returned from Lausanne, Switzerland, with the International Olympic Committee’s pledge to hold the next Winter Games at Lake Placid. Compared to the Games of today, the events of 1932 were pretty humble. There was a cross-country skiing race through the Sentinel Range, speed skating on the high school oval, bobsledding, and of course Sonja Henie. But Lake Placid’s 1932 Olympic Games didn’t disrupt life for the students of Northwood School. In fact, the school’s newspaper and yearbook made very little mention of the events going on across the lake. Fifty-two years later in 1980, however, when the Olympics returned, the events would play a huge role in the lives of students, many of whom held volunteer jobs at Whiteface and the Olympic Center. (Little known fact: in the closing minutes of the big game, when ABC commentator Al Michaels is asking “Do you believe in miracles?”, it is our own Northwood

Coach Fullerton.

COACHES AND MENTORS

In the early years, our own hockey team practiced both on Mud Pond (now Echo Pond) out on the Whitney Road and in the hockey box where today’s indoor tennis courts are located. We played many of our games on the rink at the Club. Northwood had a decent team, sufficient to take on such local powerhouses as Keene, Saranac, and Upper Jay. But the same year Lake Placid got the Olympics, we got coach Jim Fullerton. With his legendary leadership and Lake Placid’s new indoor ice arena, Northwood Hockey bloomed. By 1941 the team was undefeated, beating prep teams like Andover, Choate, and Lawrenceville, along with college freshmen from West Point, Saint Lawrence, and Hamilton. Each year at graduation, the Board of Trustees honors a faculty member who best embodies the traits of Coach Fullerton . “The winners’ actions must embody the qualities of honesty, integrity, compassion and love of students so valued by Mr. Fullerton.”


It’s especially fitting that Board Chairman Van Pine of the Class of 1955 gets to present the award. Van was our goalie back in Fullerton’s day, our only goalie. And so when coach Fullerton found him with a cigarette, young Pine was pretty confident that he’d get a break. Hey, there was no one else who even knew how to strap on the pads. Fullerton, however, was not a man to worry about such details: Pine found a seat on the bench while a replacement toddled out to play the net. In 1942 as the war raged and faculty were called to serve, the team bid farewell to coach Fullerton, who joined the Army. Yet even in his absence, replacement coach Forrest Riley led Northwood to an 8 - 1 winning season. Fullerton came back, of course, and continued a twentythree year legacy at Northwood before moving to Brown University in 1956.  But it wasn’t his win-lost record that etched his name in Northwood history. It was the man himself: the crew coach, baseball coach, hockey coach, student council advisor, athletic council advisor, in short, the most influential force in several generations of Northwood boys.

In 1968 Sports Illustrated featured two Northwood hockey players in its Faces in the Crowd column. Linemates Tom Mellor and Tim McAdam had broken the prep record for scoring over a four-year period. By now the Indians were playing an impressive schedule against the top college freshman teams in the East, and their travels would be a showcase for the college scouts. For the next thirty years, the school filled a niche for prospects who needed a tougher schedule than they could get in local high schools as they took aim at college hockey. Good coaching has a strong tradition at Northwood School. Following Fullerton, there was Charlie Holt, who would later earn a place among college legends with a stellar career at the University of New Hampshire (when I was an aspiring goalie at UNH, I finally grasped that I wasn’t making the grade when Coach Holt called me into his office and said, “Tom...”) Then in the 1960s it was Jack Tuplin and Bob Eccles and Billy O’Neil. In the 70s it was Brian Mason and Bruce Delventhal and Glen Thomaris, all of whom went on to college coaching. 

Goalie Van Pine. <

> The author’s brother, Tom Mellor.


Also among that list was future headmaster Ed Good, who began his teaching and coaching career in 1972, having played under Bowdoin coach Sid Watson. From the Northwood bench and classroom, Ed moved on to graduate school at Brown, a teaching post at Milton High, and a school head position at North Yarmouth Academy in Maine, before finally returning to Northwood to take over its leadership in the post-Friedlander era. While Ed Good was behind the Northwood bench, however, another legendary Northwood coach was a student at Dartmouth, earning --- varsity letters and building a reputation that would later earn him the title of Dartmouth’s Athlete of the Decade. Coach Tom Fleming brought two gifts with him. First was some kind of celestial blessing that bestowed upon him outstanding players. How’s this for Fate: Coach Fleming leaves Acton-Boxboro High in Massachusetts where his goalie was future NHL star Tom Barrasso and takes over a Northwood team with a kid from Pennsylvania named Mike Richter. But it wasn’t luck that made the man a Northwood legend. It was the man. When all the won-lost records, all the clever break-outs, all the mind-boggling statistics crammed into his head are judged by future Northwood historians, Coach Fleming will probably be judged much as Fullerton is judged. And like Van Pine’s story about his 1955 benching, others will tell of the time Fleming benched five of his best players (two for being late to breakfast, three for being out after curfew) for the semi-final game of the Northwood Tournament against the powerful Apple Core team from New York City. Northwood was the underdog even before Flem sat the miscreants, and when the B-team replacements stepped onto the ice, most fans presumed that Coach’s principles would leave us on the bottom side of a rout. But like all good story-book endings, Northwood beat Apple Core that morning and went on to win the tournament.  Flem behind the bench at Northwood.

Tom Fleming at Dartmouth.


Excellent and principled coaching, so fundamental to the bigger educational goals of the school, certainly hasn’t been limited to the hockey program. In 1962 Warren Witherell, Jr. joined the faculty after having made a name for himself as the national water-skiing champion and the first person to jump over one-hundred feet. Here in Lake Placid, however, he made his mark not on water but on snow. Like hockey in the pre-Fullerton days, Northwood’s ski teams had always fared respectably, but never before did they gain the kind of recognition they earned under Coach Witherell. The 1962 yearbook claimed that the ski team that year was the best in the history of the school. So did the yearbook in 1963. In 1962 it was Ni Orsi and Mike Raymaley, ranked numbers one and two in the state team, with Bruce Crawford, Jim Doig, and Bruce Fenn coming in at five, seven, and eight. Legendary Finn Gunderson earned an alternate spot. The next winter in the Eastern Junior Downhill, Rebel Ryan, Jon Joy, Mike Raymaley, and George Glasser finished near the top, with Ryan ranked best in the state. Later in the 1960s, coach Harry Fife led a Nordic team out from the shadows of the alpine stars. Cross-country races have always felt, well, a little tougher than their lift-riding counterparts. And as Naj Wykoff tells it, they weren’t surprised to be sleeping four to a bed on road trips while the downhill boys traveled in style. But to Naj, getting your own bed for the night just doesn’t seem as special as popping a wheelie in “superbus” by overloading the back seat just as Harry would punch it over the railroad tracks in Brattleboro, Vermont. When future Olympic ski jumper Jay Rand joined the team, the status of the Nordic program spiked even more.

Andrea Kilbourne (left) helped pave the way for girls’ hockey. Pictured with Sam Faber ’05.

Ni Orsi and Warren Witherell.

The first Olympic skier, however, would be Ni Orsi from the alpine squad (Jack Mulhern was Northwood’s first ever Olympian, playing for the US Hockey Team in 1956), beginning a string that continues today, over forty years later. Though no one has done the research, it’s probably safe to claim that Northwood School’s forty-year run is the best in United States Olympic history. Orsi competed in Innsbruck, Austria in 1964. Four years later, seniors Rand and Ulf Kavendbo (Canada) represented their countries in Grenoble. Tom Mellor earned a silver medal in hockey in Sapporo in 1972, where Joe Lamb skied Nordic Combined. 1976 was Brent Rushlaw’s first Oylmpics as a bobsledder. Brent was a terrific all-round athlete, remembered best for his hardnosed athleticism in the undefeated 1969 football team, coached by Bruce Colon. Brent went on to compete in 1980 and 1984. 2002 was probably our best Olympic year, with five athletes representing four countries in three events. Mike Richter played for US hockey, Kent Salfi wore the colors of Austria, Kei Takahashi came back for his second Olympic two-man luge event, representing his home country Japan. And alpine skiing was back again with Thomas Vonn. Most significant, perhaps was Annie Kilbourne, Northwood’s first female Olympian, winning a silver medal with the US Women’s Hockey Team, proving definitively that we had indeed arrived as a coeducational school.


YET IN THE WOODS

When people think Northwood sports, they usually think hockey and skiing. But that’s partly because team sports are played in public view. For all of our one-hundred years, there has been an equal amount of excitement and achievement taking place in the woods, on the lakes and rivers, and up on the cliffs. With Cobble in our backyard, with Mount Marcy dominating the view from the living room window, and with as many as five licensed professional outdoor guides among its faculty at a time, it’s no surprise that the Adirondack wilderness has played a huge part in every student’s experience. Hiking and camping has always been a part of Northwood life. The fall of 1909, for example, featured an overnight trip for the whole school, half of them holing up in the new cabin on Cherrypatch Pond, and the rest bivouacked under a big rock on the Whiteface trail “occupying themselves by trying not to freeze to death.” The same year saw the annual deer hunt take the train to Tupper Lake and return with five bucks. That Cherrypatch Pond cabin was the first of two built by the competing tribes. The Seminoles started in 1908, with the Mohawks following the next year. Not to be outdone by the new Mohawk place, the Seminoles added a “piazza” to theirs. They should have expended their energies thinking about structure not style, however. In 1911 their roof caved in from the snow load.

Mira Koberle ’06, Sam Rosenberg ’07, Hunter Smith ’08, Allison Birdsong, & Alex Armando ’06.

There’s no trace of those cabins today, and few students have even seen Cherrypatch Pond. Until the acquisition of the Cobble Mountain property in 1999, most Northwood wilderness experiences had been out in the High Peaks or on the constellation of lakes and ponds in the Saranac area to the west. Now that we own Cobble (with Nature Conservancy protection from development), outdoor programming takes good advantage of the small cliffs for climbing and rappelling and the expanding network of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In the late 1950s Cobble had a chairlift and a few steep ski trails, but those are gone. Only a few concrete slabs remain.  Kobl, they used to call it in deference to Melvil Dewey’s attempt to impose on the nation a more logically phonetic spelling, has always been a huge part of the Northwood experience, regardless of who held the deed. Every kid, at one time or another, has been lost out there on its maze of pathways, and more than a few have nearly slipped the surly bonds of earth on some mossy slab, perhaps catching a spruce branch before casting off the ledge. And many of us must admit - regretfully, of course - to taking liberties with the rulebook while out there in our wooded sanctuary.


It was at the school’s 85th anniversary reunion, when an older fellow cornered me for some story telling about the pranks he an his friends used to enjoy when they attended Northwood. I think he was from the 1930s or maybe even the late 1920s. “There used to be a path out there behind the school,” he said. “Some of the boys and I would sneak out there and smoke cigarettes. I’m sure it’s gone now.”  Later that weekend, I was chatting with a grad from the 1950s who told me with a proud grin that, “there used to be a path out there behind the school. It connected with the Mt Whitney Road. After curfew, we would sneak out down there and meet girls from town who would pick us up in their cars. The trail’s probably gone by now.” You can see where this is going. It wasn’t too long thereafter when I listened to a guy from the mid-1960s who said, “there was a path out there in the woods that headed up Cobble. I bet there are still empty beer cans up there, you know, th e kind you had to open with a church key. Boy, we were quite a bunch.” There’s a wonderful paradox at play here: in a school immersed in traditions, where patterns of action repeat themselves so reassuringly, every player still takes joy and pride in the belief that his actions are spontaneous and his own. I suspect that every generation who has passed through Northwood School, maybe even every class, is firm and proud in the belief that they were the wildest crew the school has ever seen and that the school today is well lucky to have survived their antics.  Teacher and coach Jeff Byrne was probably unaware of Northwood history when he suggested that we mandate a wilderness experience for every student by inaugurating an annual Mountain Day in 1977. He didn’t know that in October 1929, for example, The Mirror proudly touted that year’s Mountain Day as “a complete success.” The boys back then got out of classes a little early so that they could catch the Doris for a cruise around Lake Placid and a cookout on Moose Island, arriving back at the dock “in plenty of time to rest up for evening study hall.”

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Mr. Byrne had a slightly more ambitious picture in mind: to get every student out on the trail and to put Northwood students on as many of the High Peaks at the same time as we could. That initial resurrection of Mountain Day put students on Marcy, Algonquin, Wright, Big Slide, Dix, Gothics, Cascade and many more. They counted up the miles and were amazed to discover that the school had walked the cumulative distance to Jacksonville, Florida. The tradition has held on for over twenty-five years, and as of the turn of the millennium, we figured we were well into our second circumnavigation of the earth at its equator! Here in the summer of 2005, so much of what we were one-hundred years ago remains. Kids still swarm the night-time field for the snowball fight that is the inevitable celebration of the year’s first snowfall. They still get antsy as the study hall bell nears, and later in the evening, they still feign surprise when some teacher informs them that “the living room isn’t a soccer field.” They study hard, they play hard. And that’s why the memories are etched as deep as the five values carved in the rock at the base of the Victory Bell:  Courage - Integrity - Compassion Responsibility - Respect. Hard words to follow. Worthy goals to pursue.  But they were pursued then, just as they are pursued today, with lessons as diverse as the games kids play in the Adirondack outdoors. Yet the lessons wouldn’t have been possible without those amazing people and this phenomenal place, the teachers who taught so much by simply being themselves and the classroom that extends so far beyond the physical walls of the campus buildings. This is what you remember best: stalking a deer with Headmaster Howard, paddling a canoe with Yockie, listening to Harry Fife tell a tale that’s just too good not to be true, the smell of his pipe mingling with the smoke of the campfire. Trying just to keep up with Mike Hannan and Phil Clough on a mountain trail, feeling the reassuring hand of Fullerton (or Fleming or Witherell or Colon or Holt or Broderick) on your shoulder when the game is close. Discovering that, just like they said, it really is warmer in a snowcave than a tent, or realizing that the rope will indeed hold when you take that first step on your first rappel. These are the lessons and this is our school.

Don Mellor.


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