[Lenny Schmidt (L) & Peter Gillette on the ‘Going to Gramma’s House’. A 73- mile bike trip from Owego, NY to Lake Winola, PA. Circa 1960]
How many kids, in the innocent ’50’s can say they were lucky enough to have a river in their backyard? Not many would be my guess. And it didn’t hurt that the Gillette family owned Hiawatha Island, one of the most famous and historic tracts of land in New York State.
I was a patient of Dr. Tracey Gillette on several occasions. Our regular family doctor at the time was Dr. Philip Nichols. If Dr. Nichols was busy, Dr. Gillette would almost always take me. After all, that’s what small town doctors did in those carefree days. And it certainly hurt that Dr. Gillette’s only son was one of my best friends.
Pete and I became the best of friends.
If not for him, we would never have had the numerous island adventures that enlivened our teenage years.
. . .
If not for him, we would never have produced, directed and acted in at least four eight mm home-made monster movies. [While we played at film making, a guy our age named Spielberg was doing the same thing in California.]
. . .
If not for him, Greg Stella, Chuck Carter, Pete and myself would never have found a cozy nook hidden behind the shelving in the school library. Behind those shelves we discussed philosophy, religion, fools and kings. [All with the librarian’s knowledge and permission. Making trouble was not on our minds.]
. . .
Pete missed several months of eighth grade at St. Patrick’s School in Owego, NY. The entire class knew that his father had terminal cancer. Tracy Gillette’s final months were spent taking his wife, 6 daughters and one boy on a tour of America.
We all suspected that Pete would follow in his father’s footsteps…take up medicine. Lord knows he had the brains for it. But instead he ended up in the construction business as a laborer. He suffered a back injury which ultimately contributed to his death, passing on September 2nd.
I cannot walk down Front Street, even today, over 60 years since I last spoke to him, without a million memories filling my brain. People tend to keep memories alive. I intend to do this
for Pete’s sake.