THE NEWS FROM ONEIDA LAKE
by Jim & Sue Kelly

Jim and Sue confess to really enjoy living on the lake--so much so, apparently, that they’ve begun a series of humorous articles featuring "the news from Oneida Lake”.

Patterned after Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegone”, Jim and Sue's articles provide a witty and welcome addition to our website.  We’re privileged to have their permission to reprint their stories here, and we’ll keep them coming your way as long as Jim and Sue keep writing them.

CHRISTMAS, 2000

Well, it's been a very busy week up here on the lake.  The whole lake community has been preparing for the annual Lights on the Lake Tour and Boat Parade.

About 15 years ago, a local contingent of fishermen went on a deep sea fishing trip to Fort Lauderdale over the Christmas holidays.  While they were there, they watched the Christmas boat parade that they have down there (they decorate their boats in Christmas lights and displays, and drive them up and down the Inter-coastal Waterway).  Not to be outdone by Fort Lauderdale, the fishermen decided right then and there that they should have a similar parade on Oneida Lake.  The only problem with this idea (and there seem to be problems with a lot of ideas that surface around Oneida Lake) is how do you have a boat parade on a lake that is frozen over?  Several suggestions were offered, some of which included dynamiting the ice to break it up (a particular favorite of Stinky Williams), or getting one of the Coast Guard Ice Breakers to come down from Lake Ontario and break up the ice.  After much debate and discussion (and a couple cases of Molson's), it was decided that they would forget about having the parade on the lake, but instead would decorate the boats, put them on trailers and haul them through town and around the lake.

The idea seemed to go over pretty well within the lake community, but those who didn't own a boat wanted to get in on the fun also, so a yard-decorating contest was added to the boat parade. So now, every year, The Great Oneida Lake Lights on the Lake Tour and Boat Parade occurs on the first Saturday night in December, after which a big party and concert is held in town. 

All agreed that this year's tour and concert was going to be the best yet. Harry Cannook, Jr. was going to be the Grand Marshal for the parade.  He was to be joined by his band, the Imperial Canadians, for the concert afterwards.  People all over town were working hard on their displays for the tour. Clancy McBeth over at the Lakeside Funeral Parlor and Crematorium was excited because he got to use the Mail Sled that he had recovered from the lake in his display (minus the skeleton of course).  It consisted of the mail sled ringed in lights with a big sheet of plywood painted white to resemble a letter with the address "Santa Clause, The North Pole".  Pete Sokal put a large Christmas tree in front of the Bait-N-Brew all decorated with lights, along with several small statues of fish, dressed in elf costumes, dancing around the Christmas tree.  Flo and Eddie, over at the Eat-A-Lot Diner, obtained a "Santa in Sleigh with Reindeer" display from The Home & Tractor Store and four large fish windsocks from the indoor flea market, which they stuffed with newspapers and rags.  They removed the reindeer from the Santa display, so on top of the Eat-A-Lot Diner is Santa in his sleigh pulled by four large fish. Over at the Catholic Church, Father Migliori put out his usual display in front of the parish hall:  life-size replicas of the three wise men following the Christmas Star.

He had affixed the star to the roof of the parish hall.  Problem  was, that at night someone kept sneaking in and putting fishing poles in the hands of the wise men.  After removing three different sets of fishing poles from the wise-men display, Father Migliori finally gave up and left them with the poles in their hands.  So now, instead of it looking like three wise men following a star, it looks more like three men in robes going fishing.  Father Migliori decided that he would join in the joke too and put a Santa hat and beard on the carp he had caught last summer, which was now hanging in the Parish hall.

Boat preparations were also going along well.  Stinky Williams was decorating his  boat to look like what Stinky envisioned blowing up the lake ice with dynamite might look like. Tommy Migliori had arranged for several young women from the Five and Dime Bar to be dressed in mini-skirted Santa costumes on his boat, and they were going to hand out free cans of Labatt's beer.   Robin Starling, from Fantasy Florist's, had covered his boat completely with Poinsettias.  Robin had also installed a new sound system on his boat, complete with loudspeakers, so that he could play Christmas songs sung by Bette Midler during the parade.

Everyone was excited and could hardly wait for Saturday--everyone, that is, except for old Ladd.  Old Ladd has a farm that sits right at the end of Toad Harbor Road on the lakeshore.  He is locally known as quite an old grouch.  It's been a bad year for old Ladd. Besides sinking his boat off Poddygut Shoal (which blocked the entrance to the main channel through town for a couple of days), there was the broken tractor on Main Street incident (which tied up all the traffic in town for a day), and the manure spreader incident (which stunk up the whole town for a day).  Needless to say the people in town were not happy with him and he was not happy with the people in town.  All of his neighbors had been asking him what he was going to do for a Christmas display this year but his response was either a grunt or a sneer.

The week before the parade a new display appeared on the roof of old Ladd's barn, in four foot letters, visible over the whole lake.  Lined in lights, flashing on and off were the words "BAH, HUMBUG".  This really upset everybody.  Tommy Migliori tried to shoot out the lights on old Ladd's display, but Sheriff Wysocki stopped him.  He didn't want Tommy hitting any of the houses behind old Ladd's place.  The Christian Ladies' Fellowship petitioned the mayor to have old Ladd's power shut off, but the mayor said that would be illegal under state law.  Finally, it was decided that they would just ignore old Ladd's "Bah Humbug". The rest of the town would enjoy the parade anyway.

In spite of old Ladd's sign, the tour and parade were a great success.  Tommy Miglori's boat won first prize for the boat parade (no doubt, the free beer), and Father Migliori's fishing wise men won first prize for yard display.  Harry Cannook, Jr and his Imperial Canadians were a big hit at the concert afterwards.  It was purely a case of "a good time had by all".

And that's the news from Oneida Lake, where all the women have too much to do, all the men drink Canadian beer and all the children can hardly wait until Christmas.

Copyright © 2000, J. W. Kelly.  All rights reserved.