Coach Tom Carroll

Our teachers and coaches are among the most important role models who guide us through childhood and, from time to time, I like to feature one in this column. Today I’m remembering Tom Carroll, a Fulton physical education teacher and coach. Among the many young people who Coach Carroll worked with are three Fultonians and lifelong friends: Doug Blake, Steve Janas and Mike Pollock, who shared their memories of Tom Carroll with me. But before discussing Tom specifically, we talked about those influential adults in general.

“We looked up to all our coaches,” Mike said. “They each brought something to our practices that helped shape the players we became.”

“During our football years our coaches were Roger Neilson, Buck Godici, Floyd Boynton and Tom Carroll,” Steve explained.

“They balanced each other out,” Doug said. “One of the things I remember about Coach Carroll was his sense of humor. He made it fun—and football practice is not fun.”

To find out how Tom Carroll developed his coaching style, I needed to learn about his life before working with Fulton students, and Tom’s son, Tim, shared some details about his father’s younger years. Tom was born in Watertown, but his family moved to Fulton when he was a child and it was during his school years here that he participated in several sports, including football.

Around the time of his high school graduation, Tom and his friends were hearing about the escalating Korean War. They all signed up to serve in the military, with Tom entering the Marine Corps. The GI Bill provided him an education at Ithaca College, where he continued his passion for sports as a member of their football team. Tom then had a long career teaching and coaching, including in Mexico and then in Fulton.

It was as head coach for Mexico’s football team, beginning in 1961, where Tom honed his coaching skills. In his first season, though in previous years they’d struggled to win, Mexico went undefeated in Oswego County. I asked Tim how his father turned the team around so fast.

“Dad brought his training from the Marines to coaching,” Tim explained. “He developed a strong practice schedule and expected the team to follow his rules. I heard a story about a couple of his Mexico team players getting caught smoking. Dad’s punishment was to make them smoke a bunch of cigarettes with a bucket on their head, so they’d get a full exposure to smoke. He’d learned that in the Marines.

“But Dad wasn’t only about hard and fast rules; he was also a peacemaker of sorts. He was able to talk to people, often talking them down when they were angry. When we lived in Mexico, I remember hearing from my bedroom window an upset mother who’d come to confront my father late at night. She thought her son wasn’t getting enough playing time on the football team and was yelling at my dad. He brought her inside, got her a cup of coffee and talked with her to help her better understand the circumstances.”

Tom brought his successful coaching strategies to Fulton in 1967, where he taught physical education and health and became an assistant football coach. “The coaches taught us the elements of the game,” Doug said, “and Coach Carroll knew his X’s and O’s. But he was also easy to talk to. He got his point across without being mean.”

Like many coaches, Tom cared about his players beyond the football field. “When I graduated high school, I wanted to go to Ithaca College and play football,” Steve remembered. “Coach Carroll put in a good word for me at his alma mater.”

Tom’s interest in helping others went beyond school. “Dad had service in his blood,” Tim said, “and he found many ways to serve. He’d struggled with drinking and got help for himself, then took a job with the Employment Assistance Program, where he counseled others who were struggling. He was also a man of faith, which got him through a lot of his trials, and he became very involved with the church.

“Dad made sure we kids went to Mass regularly, including holy days. I remember being on the baseball field in the middle of a game and Dad showed up to take me to Mass. He motioned me to come off the field and, even though my coach was yelling at Dad to keep me in the game, I knew my father wouldn’t budge. But Dad also believed that if you got to church before communion you could leave right after communion—it was about the sacrament to him—so I was back on the field and had only missed a few innings.”

Tom also coached the high school’s golf team, a sport for which he had a lifelong passion. After retiring from teaching in 1973, Carroll became an unofficial ambassador at Fulton’s Battle Island Golf Course, often helping others improve their lives beyond the golf greens. Tom’s friend and coworker, Sonny Allen, shared this story at Carroll’s funeral, in 2009:

“I would visit him at Battle Island where he was the starter. A starter is responsible for determining where and when a person can begin his golf game. Many times someone would be upset with his position in line or scheduled time to go. By the time he left the first tee, Tom would have the person relaxed and friendly.”

When Tom’s health declined, he was visited by many fellow teachers, former students and friends. Among them were Mike, Steve and Doug. “We went together to see him,” Mike said, “and we had some good laughs remembering our football days. But we also knew that Tom was a coach who saw what sports could mean beyond the playing field. He showed us how to be teammates, but he was teaching us more than that. He was teaching us about life.”

Tom Carroll, a Fulton teacher and coach, is remembered in today’s column

Tom Carroll, a Fulton teacher and coach, is remembered in today’s column

Shakespeare in Fulton

Our city has always offered a variety of leisure activities for its residents. Sports enthusiasts enjoy golf courses, basketball leagues, the Pathfinder Fish & Game Club or gardening. Community-minded organizations like Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary continue to find meaningful ways to support our city. But until recently I never knew that for over one hundred years Fulton was home to a group of women devoted to the work of William Shakespeare.

Founded in 1909, Fulton’s Shakespeare Club was the brainchild of Mrs. William Sylvester. According to Club paperwork loaned to me, Mrs. Sylvester sought to provide culture for women in our city and she began by suggesting to members of her First Baptist Church that they form a group to discuss Shakespeare’s writings.

The club’s format was established in its first few years, with the women meeting on a weekday afternoon to read a Shakespearean play aloud. During its first year, the club devoted its attention to “Romeo & Juliet.” Spending an entire year on one author, let alone one play, seemed extraordinary to me, but a newspaper article about the club noted that in the early 1900s reading Shakespeare was a cultural fad.

I learned more about the club’s meetings. When roll call was taken, each member answered with a quotation from the book or play being read. In later years, members responded by naming a Native American tribe or a landmark in New York State.

As the group gained popularity, more women wanted to join. Early on in the club’s existence it was determined that a membership of 20 women would be maintained. When a new person was invited, she needed the approval of all other members before being allowed to join. Daughters often followed their mothers into the club, which was the case for Darle DeLorme, whose mother, Jane Shaver, invited her to become a member. Recently, Darle shared her memories of the group:

“Meetings were held in the homes of members. Every month, one woman would act as hostess.  Tables were set beautifully. Table clothes were ironed, silver was polished, and candlesticks were placed. Favorite desserts were baked; tea and coffee were served.  The tradition of a turn-of-the-century tea party became the hallmark of the Shakespeare meeting.”

As Darle explained, after refreshments, the club president would thank the hostess, and the meeting was called to order.  Each month a different member presented a program of her choice. Among the club paperwork I reviewed was a scrapbook covering highlights of the group’s ten decades. Inside the book’s front cover I found a folded map of “Shakespeare’s Britain,” a colorful illustration of the villages and points of interest mentioned in his many plays.

By the 1930s, club minutes noted that the group had read 16 plays in its first 25 years.  As the club matured, it ventured from Shakespeare’s writings to include reviews on other authors or destinations of interest for travelers. There were even discussions on Broadway plays, artists and musicians. In 1934, club members decided to begin each meeting with ten minutes of current event discussion.

The variety of topics enjoyed by the Shakespeare Club is evident in the overview of their 1934-35 year. Its October program explored the effect of geological conditions on the Settlement of New York. A month later, the club discussed Women Sculptors of America. January 1935’s meeting covered current politics with “The New Deal: Is it Proving a Benefit to the Nation?” Local history was a worthy topic, too, when a club member presented her paper on “Fulton from 1800 to the Present Time.”

Three decades later, a summary of the 1964-65 year included a study of South America’s plants, birds and animals; a review of Milton Eisenhower’s book, The Wine is Bitter,” about Vice President Richard Nixon; and a talk by young Alan Drohan, an American Foreign Exchange student who’d spent a semester in Denmark.

The group even took outings, including, in the 1930s, visits to the Oswego Country Club, Fayetteville’s The Carolina, and Green Gate in Camillus. In November of 1980, two carloads traveled to the Syracuse Stage for a production of “The Comedy of Errors.” Shakespeare’s play was favorably critiqued by the 11 club members in attendance and the trip’s organizer even managed to get the group backstage to meet the play’s leading man!

The Shakespeare Club occasionally donated books of historical interest to the Fulton Public Library, often in memory of a recently deceased member. In 1990, the group chose The Irish Novel: A Critical History, by James Cahalan, in memory of Rita Rowland. “She was proud of her Irish ancestry and was a talented amateur writer and poet,” club member Janice Fay noted in a newspaper article.

Janice was also a writer, as is evident by her 1961 “Sketch of Sally,” an obituary of sorts for her friend and fellow Shakespeare Club member Sarah Schulz McCarty Smith Stacy. Here’s some of what Janice wrote about Sarah:

“Her adult life was full of much happiness, but she bore more than her share of tragedy. Three times she was widowed, yet she remained outwardly a blithe spirit. Her philosophy may be found in some words of counsel she gave about a dear friend who died suddenly. Mourn in private, was her advice; grief is apt to leave others nonplussed if one displays large quantities of it.”

By the new millennium, women’s lives were vastly different from those of one hundred years before. Many women were working outside the home and a free afternoon was rare. In 2017, members of the Shakespeare Club voted to dissolve, and, as Darle noted, “the last official meeting was held in May of 2018.  Fond relationships within the group blossomed and became dear through the years.  Though literature was the focus, friendships were woven into the fiber of the 1909 Shakespeare Club.”

For more than 100 years, a group of Fulton women gathered to discuss the works of William Shakespeare and other topics, as shown in this 1965 photo.

For more than 100 years, a group of Fulton women gathered to discuss the works of William Shakespeare and other topics, as shown in this 1965 photo.

History in a Fulton Cemetery

While doing research for my Nestlé book, I learned about the Swiss chocolate makers who immigrated to Fulton to start our candy factory. Some of those chocolatiers became permanent residents of our city and were buried in the Mt. Adnah Cemetery. Since my parents and grandparents are laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery, I’d never been to Mt. Adnah, so, on a warm summer evening in 2017, I made my first visit there, hoping to locate the burial plots of those early Nestlé founders.

Pulling into Mt. Adnah, I noticed how different I felt being on the cemetery grounds after driving Fulton’s busy streets. Aside from knowing that I was in a sacred space, there was something about Adnah’s abundant shade trees and roadways curving up and down hills. It felt like I was following a country lane back in history.

Those feelings were confirmed after I read the book “Historic Overview of Mt. Adnah Cemetery.” (Copies of the book are available at the Fulton Library.) The work by historian Christine Lozner, published in 1991 and recently reprinted, tells the story of how Mt. Adnah came to be.  Ms. Lozner’s thorough review takes us back a century and a half to the founding of Fulton’s first cemetery.

The year was 1851, and Mt. Adnah was about to become one of America’s few “rural cemeteries.” This new type of burial ground was a result of large cities forming in our rapidly-expanding United States. Crowded urban conditions meant families no longer had large backyards, farm fields or rural churchyards to lay their loved ones to rest, but people still wanted a peaceful setting to remember them. Rural cemeteries, established on the outskirts of those cities, were the answer.  When Fulton-area residents decided to create Mt. Adnah, it became the first such cemetery in Central New York, founded before Oswego’s Riverside Cemetery (1855) and Syracuse’s Oakwood Cemetery (1859).

In the mid-1800s, Fulton was not yet a city—that would happen fifty years later—but the two towns of Fulton and Oswego Falls that would one day merge were already home to five Protestant and one Roman Catholic church. When it began, Adnah offered burial sites to everyone, no matter their religion. (When St. Mary’s Cemetery opened in 1873, Catholics began being laid to rest there.)

Ms. Lozner’s book points out the warm welcome Mt Adnah planners received. She noted that community support recorded in the Cemetery Association’s minutes included fundraising efforts by “the Ladies of Fulton and a community band that provided a concert for the benefit of the Mt. Adnah Cemetery.” Once money was raised, the Association “resolved to purchase from James L. Voorhees 36½ acres of land on the southeast edge of the village.”

Work on the cemetery began in 1853, when surveyor Peter Schenck laid out 12 acres of the property. (An additional eight acres were cleared and added soon after.) Schenck was already familiar with the Fulton area, having created the first comprehensive map of the two towns in 1848. After visiting other rural cemeteries, Schenck included what he considered their “essential elements” in his Mt. Adnah plans. Perhaps most important, as Ms. Lozner pointed out, was what the Christian caretakers of Adnah wanted for their cemetery: “Nature was healthful, wholesome and salubrious…it was the environment closest to God and therefore capable of teaching moral lessons about life.”

Ms. Lozner also uncovered the origins of the cemetery’s unique name: “Adnah is a Syriac word meaning ‘rest’ or ‘repose.’ The cemetery thus became ‘The Mount of Repose,’ a peaceful, beautiful dormitory where friends and relatives rested from their labors, and the terrors of death were minimized.”

As I read Mt. Adnah’s founding principles I began to understand why driving through the cemetery stirred my emotions. Mr. Schenck planned Adnah so that “hillsides climbed over the tops of others, the route through the grounds provided the visitor with a surprising and captivating sequence of internal views.” Ms. Lozner noted that the cemetery had a small lake and fountain to reflect the beautiful property. (It was later filled in when more space was needed.) Even the abundant shade trees I had noticed were intentional: Schenck suggested pine and red and white oaks, as well as ornamental shrubs and plants.

In 1854, a fence was deemed necessary to protect the cemetery from cattle wandering into the property from nearby farms. Adnah’s original bylaws stated that hitching posts be provided so horses would not be tied to trees. A cedar picket fence was constructed in 1855 and a more permanent gate in 1866. By the turn of the century, a cast iron arch welcomed visitors. It greets us today.

All those efforts helped maintain the beauty of Mt. Adnah, but it was in the design of headstones, monuments and mausoleums that the cemetery’s intentions were raised to an art form. One shining example of this was a chapel built in 1909 as a protected space for religious services. Built of Gouverneur granite with copper lanterns, pinnacles and trim, the Gothic style building stands in the form of a Greek cross. Its heavy oak doors feature copper knobs and iron hinges. The chapel’s interior is detailed with a mosaic floor of Italian tile and walls of pressed brick. Stained glass windows let sunlight in.

As Fulton grew, additional burial space was added, bringing Mt. Adnah to its current 44 acres. Today it welcomes many visitors, not only those attending to a loved one’s burial site, but also by people looking for a quiet setting to reflect.

Like all of Fulton’s history, Mt. Adnah requires care and attention, and its board of directors is dedicated to preserving this gem. If you’d like to help, you can make a donation to “Mt. Adnah Cemetery Association,” 706 E. Broadway, Fulton, NY 13069. As one board member reflected, “Mt. Adnah will always be a jewel in the fabric of Fulton.”

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