Most of the staff here at North Country Public Radio are real lifers in the North Country. Some, like our general manager Ellen Rocco, who hails from Manhattan, didn’t come from here. But as anyone who knows Ellen knows, she’s hugely rooted in the North Country and has a depth of memory about the area that belies her southern origins.
That depth of memory is something you run into a lot here. Recently I had occasion to drive to Philadelphia with our news director Martha Foley and web manager Dale Hobson. As we drove down 11 through DeKalb Junction and Gouverneur, Martha and Dale talked about restaurants and stores that used to be along the road, and people they’d known throughout the decades.
As we drove by mysterious, seemingly-abandoned buildings I’d long wondered about, Dale and Martha chatted about what had happened to the people who’d owned those businesses, and in some cases still did (although they only opened them sporadically), how their lives had moved on, and, a few times, the wild times had within.
Some former institutions that come up pretty often include Connie Barr’s in Canton (I just found out it’s Connie Barr’s because the guy who owned it was called Connie Barr, and I’m told by Dale that it’s “memorable for its chili cheeseburger topped with raw onions and mustard, cheap pitchers of beer, and long-lived house softball team”) that used to be where the Nice & Easy gas station and convenience store is now, and the Canton Diner, where the McDonald’s is now.
And our chief engineer Bob Sauter told my husband about a vegetarian restaurant where Canton’s island park is now.
There are also many abandoned buildings in northern New York—places that “used to be” something, and are now just shells. In fact, there’s even a web site devoted to them.
I’m really intrigued by all these “used to be” places, and I’m sure there are many, many more that I’ve forgotten.
As a newbie to the area, I don’t have a lot of “used to be” knowledge about the North Country. But I’m very curious about what used to be in the place where I live now. And in the place where you live now. Can you help? Comment below with your favorite “used to be” place—the weirder, the better. It may end up the subject of future inquiry in this space, and you may end up learning something new about what it used to be.