Memories  of Kate  Smith       

    as told by   

  Thomas J. Hadjis        


I met Mr. Hadjis via my web site. Owning one of her boats and loveing Lake Placid we found a common interest he was kind enough to relate a few stories about Kate smith and growing up in lake Placid when she was livening there.



Last night I was a guest at a dinner party on the shores of Lack Placid at the Whiteface inn here in Lake Placid. The host and hostess are new to the area and recently retired here. The name "Kate Smith" came up during the dinner conversation and I was asked if I ever met her since I had grown up here, (my family owned a restaurant here and still does,) I reminisced that I did know her and spent many days and evenings back in the fifties at camp Sunshine, Aunt Katherine's camp (I always called her Aunt Katherine). I also mentioned that I thought that one of her boats was for sale and located in Saranac Lake at Spensers Boats. So, curiosity peaked, I did a little searching today and came upon your web site I remember two of her "boats", the "cabin boat" as we called it,

  and "the runabout" which I expect is the one you restored. I recall how much she loved to get behind the wheel of that runabout and crank it up, and take us for a spin around the lake. I am most curious to know where your boat resides. I have no memory of how, where or whence came that boat, just that it was always in the water, at the camp every summer when I visited when Aunt K. was in residence.  

PS I owned a camp on West Lake and when I sold it I kept the 1950 Riviera CC, triple carbs and restored that. When my kids grew older I sold that also but it was a great boat and f-a-s-t.


 Thanks so much for the reply. Great picture. Brings back many memories of summer long gone by Looks like the photo was taken in Sunset Strait in front of her camp. When Aunt Kate would take us for a spin in your boat, she used to joke about making her two nieces, Kathy and Susie my sister, and me, get in on the port side so the boat would be on an even keel when she got in on the driver's side!


I expect I'll be around fort the fete in June (Kate Smith Com Society) I travel to Florida frequently during the year for a project I am working on there but usually am in town quite a bit. I have an evil thought  ( much to my daughters chagrin )to pick  up a classic 40-50 Connie or commander and after complete restoration, live on board. "But you don't have a yard " says my grandson Patrick."That's the point" says I. 


Last time I saw Miss Kate was shortly before she went to North Carolina to the long term facility ( she was suffering from diabetes at the time ). I met her at Hobos with her "bodyguard " Sal" and his wife. Sal used to help her onto the ice during her Flyer period of her life, and he and  his wife cared for her until she went into the facility. I recall sitting next to her and she had grown so thin that I hardy recognized her. Her mind however was still as sharp as the proverbial tack. I was raising three girls as a single parent, and she knew them as very young children that used to sit on her lap and remembered their names and that they were in the skating club, one by one  she asked how each was doing and made sure I gave them a kiss from her.


I could go on for hour's about Aunt Kate loading her mother, Grandma Smith (of course). her sister Aunt Hellene, the nieces and I into the wood sided wagon, Ford or Chevy. and going off to Peru, Malone and places I  cannot remember, hunting down antiques. Once found, she would make her deal, then would send the local mover to pick up the stuff. Some pieces went to NYC, some to the camp and some to Flo Donovan's antique store across from the Hilton. Aunt K. would spend hours there presiding over the goods and talking to tourists.


She would walk down to the family restaurant, LeBdurget, now ( Pete's stake house, which my sister owns sister being a best pal to niece Kathy back then,)  and to visit with me in my little coffee/ Bakery shop nest door, which is now a liquor store. I ran that during the summer courtesy of my Greek Immigrant father, who required we learn to run a business by age 14 ! One of my baking creations was a cream puff pastry filled with fresh whipped cream and sprinkled with confectioners sugar. They were kept in a small refrigerated display case located near the front door. Aunt K. would walk in and say a big "Hello every body" to customers sitting at the counter, lean on the register, chat, reach over and take a cream puff out of the display case, eat it, go "yum yum" and go do it again two or three times. She would then lean over the counter, give me a kiss and thank me for letting her eat up my profits. She was a classic.


As for a Cobra that was my dream boat as a youngster. During my teenage years I built a row boat, sailboat and a classics monoplane, which I raced as a teenager. It seems that some where  around that time the Cobra was  introduced I remember getting a ride in one out of George & Bliss on Lake Placid where I used to help the on the woodies on the week end when I was in high school ( I went to Northwood and the carpenters wife was secretary there) unlike the old  barrel backs, a different kind of classic, the Cobra was the slickest boat on the lake, gold fin, gold upholstery, total hedonistic. You are lucky to have one Those were good years I tell my kids, Any way sorry to go on so long, but memories stirred are  hard to quell. Thanks again for the photo


PS: Don't know if you ever heard this, but the rumor was the reason Aunt Kate liked Chris Crafts and not the other classics that were around at that time was because the founder's name was also Smith Don't know how true that one is, but it makes for a good story.  


Thanks I would love to keep in touch, maybe meet up with you  in June if you are up this way As for the photos you sent, I do remember the one on the dock. The dock Aunt Kate is standing on getting the hand off from Uncle T. which I believe was a publicity shot," was directly in front of the house "Ted Collins delivers the mail " or something like that, and was the dock she used daily for her afternoon swim every day the sun was out. As for the doggie on the dock or doggie in the boat, I cant remember either, But I do remember there was at least one doggie at camp, either hers or her sister's when she was in residence.

 Uncle Ted ( we were never allowed to call him by his first name or by Mr.) was a frequent fixture in those lazy summers years ago. My work day started early 4 AM, (I had to get up to "make the donuts" literally-we had a Downy flake donut machine in my little coffee/bakery shop, and my pappy made sure Camp Sunshine always had an abundant supply of donuts, God forbid !) I was usually free from mid-day on. So, often after I closed up shop I would play 9 holes at the lower club course then I would go over to the docks where Aunt K, Mr. Cook, or uncle T, would pick me up and take out to the strait for a swim, to play, have many laughs, then enjoy some great dinners.


Aunt Kate was a fabulous cook. Imagine, I will always think of her as "Aunt Kate" altho I just pulled my   Medicare card this month !. Her caretaker and his wife ( would you believe there names were Mr. & Mrs. Cook?) did most of the cooking, except for sister Helene, who would pitch in, as would I, but only  when asked, protocol was protocol , and I observed it dutifully, One recipe she would not allow anyone else to prepare was her recipe for smashed potatoes," Southern style, ya'll, from whence she came, supposedly. Her sister, Helene, and the two nieces lived in Tennessee and all had deep draws. I never verified  exactly where Aunt Kate was born or grew up. Some say Washington DC, some Greeneville VA.  and some say Memphis (maybe Nashville ) Her biographer said she was born in D.C. on May 1, 1907.  but for me, it was no matter.  She was the "Songbird of the South,"  Where ever that was.


As an aside, the web site from which I learned your email address has a boat moving from left to right, with a view of Whiteface in the background. Is that your site ? If so did you know that the boat graveyard for Lake Placid is located in the bay where the little motor boat has its genesis? There are many a classic boat's residing there at the bottom of the bay, and have been for well over  half a century, some of which I helped to sink as a youth, events of which now make me feel quite guilty about.  


PS. AS for "smashed potato ," recipe, I would love to share in case you like the stuff its a no brainer:

1 pound of PATATO'S, peeled and boiled and drained.

1 pound of BUTTER

1 quart of HEAVY CREAM, salt and pepper to taste dump in potatoes are drained and still hot.

Mash and stir until butter melts. Then add the cream. Blend until smooooooooth .Season serve. That's it? That's it!


PS.    I have an old Rushton canoe which I partially restored 15 years ago, except for the gunwales and  the canvas bottom. I did note that you  said you used muslin (canvas) when you did your boat bottom the old fashion way I am a little  nervous what I might find if I remove the canvas entirely. That is to be this winters project. Those boats are another classic, for us lovers of boats made out of wood.


Great Memories  of Kate Smith 

By MR. Hadjis