September 10, 2005 Lois McClure
Ship's Log
 
 

CREW MEMBER

Scudder Kelvie
Scudder was born in Brooklyn, NY and learned to sail in the Adirondacks when he was eight years old. He began working for the Lake Champlain Transportation Company on the ferry in 1989, which led to jobs in traditional sail, and tug and barge. Scudder joined the museum this year and serves aboard Lois McClure as Second Mate.


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GREETINGS FROM THE CREW!

Albany, New York
Scudder Kelvie

The day before Labor Day Lois and crew set off on an epic voyage from Troy, New York, arriving an hour and fifteen minutes later at Albany’s Riverfront Park. We were here for Albany Heritage Day, sponsored by McCadam Cheese. Labor Day itself dawned clear and sunny, the sort of warm but comfortable fall day we’d all dreamed about after the heat and humidity and muggy, sleepless nights we’d been through over the summer. Over the summer?!?! Can it be that autumn is really upon us? The calendar says so, but the crew of Lois McClure learned early on that calendar days only mean so much. What’s happening right now, and what we have to plan for, is all that has any real meaning. Things that happened a few weeks ago, or even a few days ago, quickly become very distant memories. We’re on the Grand Journey of Lois McClure, sailing from history into the right here and now.

Albany Heritage Day was organized, not surprisingly, to celebrate the heritage of this Dutch settlement on the banks of the Hudson. Vendors set up shop to show off their wares. A blacksmith forge was fired up by the Farmer’s Museum of Cooperstown, NY. The F ASNY Museum of Firefighting had a miniature antique fire engine. And who could forget the mechanical milking cow which our friends and terrific supporters at Cabot set up to bring the experience of cow milking to one and all? And, needless to say, there were tours of our canal schooner all day long.

While we were open for tours over the next several days, there was also time for the crew to explore a little. Of particular interest to us was the Albany Heritage Area Visitor’s Center, located at Quackenbush Square, very near the site of the original settlement of the village once called Fort Orange. Featured there are some fine exhibits on Albany’s early history, including an exhibit on archaeological excavations that our own Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is involved with, doing conservation work on 18th-century rum vats from the site.

Another popular destination for our crew was the New York State Museum. There we found one great exhibit after another, ranging from natural history to cultural history, New York City to the Adirondacks, the Erie Canal, a restored carousel, and a powerful display of artifacts from the World Trade Center attack. Some of us were able to visit U.S.S. Slater, a restored WWII destroyer escort, and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Everywhere we went it seemed we were welcomed with open arms as fellow travelers in history and cultural heritage.

I took a few minutes on my way to the NYS Museum to visit the top of the Corning Tower, the tallest building between New York City and Montreal. There, almost 40 stories above Albany, I watched the city. I could just make out the stack of our little tug C. L. Churchill, made up alongside Lois. Down the river, way down at the end of the Port of Albany, was the crane at Scarano Shipyard, where our masts waited to be rigged again. I could see orderly blocks of brownstones, some beautiful, some neglected and decayed, all crowded by great, sweeping highways which cut the city apart. Industrial lots, housing projects, elegant old hotels, modern office buildings, all lay before me. Imagine what Henry Hudson would have thought!

And I started to think, then, with all this history and heritage in mind, just where do we fit into this? When does a traveling replica like Lois McClure become more than an entertainment attraction, and become something of greater worth? I’m not sure, really, of the full answer to that, not yet, but I think the answer lies in looking at the communities we visit. What’s been done right? What’s been done wrong? Where did cities and towns like Albany come from? Boats like our canal schooner played a huge role in the development of the Hudson valley. The commercial opportunities presented by this waterway built these towns, after all. So how does social and cultural change happen anyway? What have these places and their residents saved, and how has that made life better? What’s stayed the same, and are those things good or bad?

All along the Hudson Valley, and for that matter all around the country, communities are turning back to their waterfronts, long neglected when their industrial utility ended. Town after town is finding new life derived from the old. Is it too much to think that replica sailing vessels, or heritage area visitor centers, or maritime museums, can be positive engines for this kind of revitalization, the kind of revitalization that simply makes better communities?

More questions than answers here, I realize, but if visitors to the canal schooner Lois McClure likewise come away with more questions than when they boarded, if they leave wondering about things they hadn’t wondered about before, if they leave with a new curiosity about the places they live, then have we done what we set out to do?

Maybe, just maybe, that’s the real measure of the success of this Grand Journey.


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