Schroon Lake

Johnny the Boat Boy

By  John R Vollaro                     March 1, 2006

    I always enjoyed being around boats and the water while at Schroon Lake. As fate would have it, when I was about 15, our neighbor started a boat rental and service business.  He built a substantial dock facility on the lake to accomodate his boats which ranged from canoes to 20 foot motor boats. They were the latest models and I was facinated by them all.

    When it rained they would fill up with water and I volunteered to do the necessary but tedious job of bailing them out. THis allowed me to get close to them and I studied every nut and bolt. When the mechanic came to repair them, I looked over his shoulder and fetched the tools he needed. He rewarded me by letting me "test" the boats when he was finished with them. The owner, (Bob Downs) realized he could get an enourmous amount of work from me for a few boat rides. I responded by doing more and more until he became concerened that I might not show up when it got busy. He solved the problem by hiring me and by the end of the summer, I was running the boat livery business. Everyone seemed astounded when I installed an old telephone between the beach and the rental office but to a ham radio opperator, this was an obvious thing to do.

    The job held a thrill a minuet for a 15 year old and I was soon driving an Army surplus truck to the beach filled with gas cans for the boats, (a job I previously did by hand). Business picked up and we soon installed a gas pump at the beach. I began to sell  between two and three hundred gallons of gas a day in addition to the rental business.

    Working in the sun all day afforded me a tan that any playboy would die for. I played it up with a captains hat and a "Big Name Button". Soon Johnny the boat boy was well known on Schroon Lake. My reputation was further enhanced by my rescue efforts. Because I was always crusing the lake for one reason or another and knew what to look for, I could spot trouble a mile away. Sometimes I could anticipate trouble by watching what people were doing. Some would go to close to shore or stand up when they should be sitting down. Whenever anyone ran out of gas or had engine trouble, I would tow them in, fix their problem, and send them gratefuly on their way. They would usually leave a substantial tip with me and were happy to come back for gas or service.

    One day I spotted a motor boat circling in the middle of the lake with no one in it! I approached cautiously and was amazed to see a man in the water trying to stay afloat with a young girl clinging to his neck. She fell overboard and he jumped in to save her without shuting the motor off.  I rushed over and managed to get them both in my boat. He was ok except for a mean gash on his leg, and she was hystericle but otherwise ok. I managed to catch his boat and stop the motor. After they calmed down, I sent them on their way and never heard from them again. They surely would have drowned if I had not happened along.

    My job payed $1 per hour plus tips and the use of any boat that wasn't rented on my day off. If business was good, (and it always was), I got a $100 bonus. The money barely payed for the outragous insurence I had to buy for my car but I was happy if I broke even at the end of the summer. My experiences and memories however were priceless. Is it any wonder that Shcroon Lake holds a special place in my heart?

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