COOK STREET COFFEE – Saturday was a wonderful day. The roads were clear and I was able to drive to Massena to meet friends at our regularly scheduled weekly 10 a.m. time together. Although I enjoy my time spent with my Saturday morning friends, on this Saturday it was the time spent later that morning that was so very special.
I traveled across town with directions to the home of Dan and Rita Henry in my notebook. Although I had seen Mr. Henry on a number of occasions, I had never officially met him until last October when there was a very special celebration for a remarkable celebrant. It was on that day that our paths crossed first. Last week I received a telephone call from Mr. Henrys daughter, Sheila Mockry, inviting me to stop by – we made arrangements for our Saturday visit.
What a delightful visit – what an extraordinary and fascinating gentleman Mr. Henry is. I could smell the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee as I entered the Henry home. Yes, there was even a cup of coffee shared – how very thoughtful.
As we visited I was presented with a DVD that I will treasure for it is a wonderful piece of the history of Massena recorded by Mr. Henry. How honored I was to receive this bit of Massena history and how marvelous it was to learn from the one who had recorded this history about life in Massena now over 50 years ago.
The hand written title on my DVD is Dan Henrys Home Movies 1956-1958. This recording, though, is far more than mere home movies with the life of the Henrys three sons and two daughters recorded to show at family gatherings. These movies have recorded the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway – Eisenhower and Snell Locks, the Power Dam and Long Sault Dam. They are remarkable films with even some aerial views.
Mr. Henry told me on Saturday that he was working at ALCOA as construction began on the Seaway. I worked for ALCOA on the St. Lawrence River, he said, explaining that ALCOA had a river crew. He was part of that river crew, which worked to keep the ice out of the canal. It was a beautiful place to work, Mr. Henry told viewers during his movie. He also commented it was a great job – a beautiful job.
I could see a lot of it (the construction) going on at work, he said. I could see it every day – Eisenhower Lock and the power house.
Mr. Henry took his 8 mm. camera with him and recorded the history of that time. He commented as we visited, I never used a tripod I held it pretty steady. And that he did – when the St. Lawrence Seaway enthusiast in our home came in the house that evening we both watched the DVD I had been given earlier that day.
The viewer is taken back to 1956-1958 as the movie unfolds. We watched as dynamite was set by the crew to clear ice. We also got to witness clearing the land for the new Lake St. Lawrence with massive trees cut and burned and buildings, including the Country Club taken down to clear the land for the Seaway construction.
As we watched we saw the area before the lake was raised and Eisenhower Lock when it was still dry. What an extraordinary sight. And then the viewer gets to watch and experience the water coming up. A crowd gathered to watch the lake form and be chronicled by Mr. Henry. It took two to three days to raise the lake to where they (Seaway officials) wanted it, Mr. Henry tells the viewer in his narration.
My husband and I, who have visited the St. Lawrence Seaway now for 50 years this summer, watched with amazement as Eisenhower and Snell lock and the tunnel were formed before the arrival of tourists.
The viewer has the opportunity not only to see history unfold before their eyes, but such fun to see Mr. Henry and his co-workers, who he names in his narration – and the Henry family (I believe I even spotted Sheila in this marvelous movie).
Perhaps my favorite part, though, are the aerial scenes. Mr. Henry had told me on Saturday that he had earned his pilots license and so flew over the area. He took his camera with him in the airplane and took home movies as he flew across the seaway construction. What marvelous photos those are – I even had the opportunity of seeing his pilots license during our visit. There was even an amazing picture of a rainbow from the airplane. Perhaps this World War II veteran and ALCOA employee missed his calling as a film producer!
Mr. Henrys production comes complete with background music and bonus clips at the end of the main movie. Today when purchasing DVDs there are usually bonus clips – the movie concluded and Mr. Henry appeared sharing some additional notes and photos of one of the tug boats he had piloted.
Thats how things were, Mr. Henry concludes his movie. How grateful I am that Mr. Henry took time to film this important event in the history of Massena. And how thankful I am that he then took the time to transfer each 8 mm. movie to a DVD format for easier viewing. What a marvelous job, Mr. Henry. And how grateful I am that he thought of me to share his DVD with – I am honored by this treasured gift.
Mr. Henry has also given a copy of this DVD to the Massena Museum. I would urge you to take a moment and visit the Museum and hopefully you will be able to view this film of life the way it was in an earlier time – recorded and narrated by Dan Henry.
I have a beautiful job, too, Mr. Henry, for it is through this column that I have the most amazing opportunity of meeting the most extraordinary people like you and your wife Rita – and your daughter Sheila, too. My heartfelt thanks for recording a part of Massena history and for sharing it with others – and for sharing your knowledge and story over coffee on a Saturday morning. What a pleasure it was to spend time with you this week – I hope we will be able to visit again soon.
WITH THANKS – My heartfelt thanks to Lori Collins at Hairitage House on East Orvis Street, for making sure connections were made this past week so I could have this marvelous opportunity of visiting with Dan Henry, his wife, Rita, and daughter Sheila, too.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one. Quotation from the movie Pocahontas, a Dec. 12 puzzle from the game show Wheel of Fortune.