FAMILY TREES | RECOLLECTIONS | STRICTLY SOLVAY | ETC. | READ ABOUT IT | NAME DROPPING | SANDY POND

This website is named for the last names of the two people above, Stanley "Buster" Major and Helen Smolinski, my parents, who married in 1929.

My Major family emigrated to the United States from Ireland. Three brothers made the move. Charles Major and William Major settled in Skaneateles, New York; the other — John Major — continued west, to Buffalo.

The Smolinski family emigrated from Poland, though at the time their hometown, Kolno, was controlled by Russia. Our American Smolinski family also started with three brothers.

Also important in our family history are the McLaughlins who arrived from Ireland and settled in Skaneateles. My paternal grandmother was Rose McLaughlin.

Other trees feature O'Neill, O'Hara, Kane, Kaldowski, Carrigan, Doherty and others.

As a retired person I have time on my hands. Since writing was part of my job for many years, I pretend I am still working. And so I rattle on about family members such as Charlie Major Jr. (left), a Skaneateles judge, volunteer fireman and all-round character, who apparently can tame hawks.

My favorite story is about my sister, Mary Major Chard, who as a child had some interesting (but imaginery) friends. There are stories about my father, Stanley "Buster" Major, and my mother, Helen Smolinski Major, though Mom was a very private person and if she were still with us she'd order me to remove that story immediately.

Of particular interest is my late father-in-law, Oel Johnson, who survived the Bataan Death March, then had a long, successful career at Coca- Cola. There are recollections of several other people, as well.

Also included are stories about growing up in Solvay, New York, a village that built up around a chemical plant using a process developed by Belgian chemist Ernest Solvay. An important ingredient was limestone. The painting at the left is of the limestone pile, perhaps the most familiar image of Solvay from the old days. The painting was done by Edith Noble, who taught art at Solvay High School.

This section also includes newspaper stories about Solvay in the 1930s and early '40s, plus a tribute to the Solvay men and women who served with the military in World War 2.

That's a photo of my grandfather, John W. Major, reading a newspaper. Like other fathers of his era, he insisted on reading the paper first. Newspapers played a big role in my family, which may be why I became a journalist. Read all about it! includes several stories about family members, plus a few special interests. I owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Tryniski of Fulton, New York, and his website, which made it possible to read old New York State newspapers. I recommend it highly, though the website can be difficult to negotiate at times. Try it at: www.fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html

The importance of the place cannot be overstated in the lives of my immediate family and several close relatives. Our vacation destination was the same every year — Sandy Pond. Its name is misleading, though, yes, the cottages we rented were on a pond, and the pond had a sandy bottom, at least along its western shore. And much of the attraction was what the pond offered: fishing for dummies, though skilled anglers enjoyed it, too.

What made Sandy Pond special was the beach that awaited us on the other side of the sand hill that separated the pond from Lake Ontario. (That's my son, Jeff, climbing the long, narrow sandhill on the Lake Ontario side in 1976. Climbing that hill is no longer permitted.")

During my early years at Sandy Pond, and again in my later years, the beach was little-used and unregulated. However, during those middle years — the 1950s and '60s — Sandy Island Beach, as the owners called it, was wildly popular. When those owners were unable to maintain the property, the beach was trashed, then officially closed.

It has since made a comeback, thanks to management by New York State, which imposed strict and necessary regulations on what remains a special beach. And I hear the fishing in the pond has improved, too.

etc. is a collection of unrelated tales including a tribute Central New York food, observations on life, my favorite place names, favorite names of baseball players, plus a story about teasels, pictured, left, along with a 19th century baseball player and a flying saucer (because Charlie Major Jr. thought he saw one years ago). Teasels were at the heart of an important Skaneateles industry (one of the McLaughlins was known as "The Teasel King")."

My work at the Akron Beacon-Journal and later at the Providence Journal had me writing about television and interviewing actors. Naturally, some of the interviews were better than others, some of the actors more receptive than others. I've gone through a bunch of those stories and included several, with some revisions and updates, in a section called Name Dropping.

Among the celebrities interviewed are Bill Cosby, who was about to begin his first TV series, "I Spy"; Barbra Streisand before she became a Broadway star in "Funny Girl," and the stars and creator of "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

First, thanks to those kind enough to respond to this website, particularly members of the extended Major and McLaughlin families who have provided information and photographs.

I'd love to receive emails from anyone who has opinions, information or photos they're willing to share, Just click on the link below:

jmajor9863@aol.com