Slow down a little the next time you cross the Myer’s Road bridge over Salmon Creek, and take a look at the stone installed on the lakeside, Myers-side corner last August.
The stone designates the bridge as the “Nicholas ‘Pal’ George Memorial Bridge,” but if you talk with Nick’s nephew Marion George, it also marks the memories of the people who lived in the somewhat rough and tumble lakeside village of the 1930s and ’40s.
“I call Nick my brother, but he was really my uncle,” Marion said.
Nick’s parents, Marion’s grandparents, helped raise Marion after his mother died in childbirth.
“I was his shadow growing up,” Marion said.
The span of Myers Road between the bridge and the alley Myers Lane was the center of a boy’s life in Myers then. Marion’s father, George Abraham George, owned a beer garden on the south side of the alleyway and his grandfather Abraham George had a store on the north side.
Marion had a barber shop on that corner as well “until The Beatles closed me down.”
Two doors to the north is the old gray house of five generations of the George family – Nick’s parents, Syrian immigrants Abraham and Helenie George, Marion’s parents George and Mary George, Marion, and now his son Brad and Brad’s daughter, Brianna.
Marion said that the house was a speakeasy before his grandparents moved in, with a false wall that lifted up to reveal a large closet where the illicit booze was stored and a hole in the bedroom above where the money was kept.
“When my son remodeled, he found an old whiskey barrel,” Marion said.
Demand for the liquor and beer was at least partially driven by crewmen off the barges that came down the lake to load the boats with salt.
Most of the Myers men worked in the salt mines as well, according to Marion. Nick left school at 15 to work in the store when his father’s lumbago flared up. When his father got better, Nick became a laborer at the mines, loading boxcars and trucks and running the payloader.
When the day’s work was done, they’d go to the bridge.
“The guys would get together on the bridge and shoot the breeze,” Marion said. “It was the after work congregation point. People would say ‘go see Nick on the bridge.’”
Marion remembers the boys on the bridge.
“There was Gus Isaac,” Marion said. “My brothers Al ‘Otsie’ George and Gary ‘Monk’ George. The brothers Cal, Fred and Bob Caliel. John George. Casper ‘Coach’ George. Just about everybody had a nickname. Jeff Solomon Jr., Dick Solomon, Tom ‘Talkie’ Marshall, who lived next to the bridge. Abe ‘Ebo’ Abraham, Cal Abraham, Danny Francis, … Frank Trinkl and Donald ‘Smokie’ Wagner.”
As boys, the gang would play basketball in the flood-ravaged houses between the railroad tracks and the lakeshore and get salt pills from Salt Point for sling-shot battles. Nick and Marion would cut ice from the creek in the winter and store it for Marion’s father’s beer garden in layers of ice and sawdust.
They’d go to church on Sundays in the Syrian chapel on the hill above the creek.
As young men, they would hunt ducks, rabbits and pheasants in the tangle and marsh of Salt Point. And in the evenings, they’d go see Nick on the bridge.
“The town they all came from was called B’malke, in Syria,” Marion said. “I always wonder how they found this place. I guess that they knew somebody who worked here and let everyone know that there was work, so they all migrated here. It was like they picked up that little town in Syria and put it down in Myers.”
The old bridge was built from creosoted logs and planks laid cross-wise in two layers. Spring floods would drive logs against the pilings.
In 1937, they tore it down and replaced it with the current bridge.
“At the ribbon-cutting, they dedicated the bridge to Nick,” Marion said. “He was the first person to walk across it. Then the whole thing got lost in the shuffle.”
Nick died in 1998 at the age of 70, and 20 years later, the Town of Lansing Highway Department built an earthen pedestal for the stone bought by the George Family.
These days, Marion comes to the bridge to think about his “brother Nick,” to pull weeds from around his memorial stone and to remember that whole gang of young men who got together there come evening.
Suicide Prevention Walk Slated for Myers
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold their “Out of Darkness Greater Ithaca Walk” Sept. 14 from noon to 2 p.m. in Myers Park. Check in and registration will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Library Hosts Innkeeper
Lynette Scofield, former owner and innkeeper of The William Henry Miller Inn in Ithaca, will present “My life in serving breakfast to 20 or how to fold a fitted sheet” on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Lansing Community Library.
Scofield’s presentation will cover the history of her inn, a typical day in the life of an innkeeper, stories of interesting guests and recipes from Scofield’s new cookbook “Eight Broads in the Kitchen.” The cookbook will be for sale afterwards.
This event is free and open to the public. Call 607-533-4939 to reserve a spot.
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