June 24, 2013

Doc was surely one for the ages


---- — Another lifetime member of the now-defunct French Quarter Comedy Club — also known as Fountain & Lucas Market — has passed on.

Ira “Doc” Rowlson made it through 92 years. With his death, the area has lost a historian, super sports fan and a legitimate straight man.

Doc was the perfect foil for the Montcalm merchants of mischief — John Fountain, Les and Gary Lucas. Fountain & Lucas shall always be remembered as a place you could get a nice cut of meat and be skewered by the best. The Plattsburgh landmark closed its doors for the final time a decade ago after more than 100 years of pushing beef and baloney.

Doc was dentist to many in the North Country, including the Lucas brothers who couldn’t resist getting in a dig. “Doc, we saw your old dentist chair at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont,” referring to an old wooden seat bearing the deep scars of traumatized patients.

Doc always tried to counter-punch, but rarely landed a telling blow. One thing about Doc, though. He could take a shot and be back for more the next day.

I first got to know Doc shortly after arriving in Plattsburgh in 1971. We became good friends, especially after discovering he was one of the few baseball Giants fans around to trace his loyalties back to New York.

It didn’t take long for Doc to bring me up to date on area sports and to learn he was arguably Plattsburgh High’s No. 1 fan — at least through the sixties when his three sons (who he seldom referred to by name, but as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 son) were seeing active duty in the Orange and Black.

He was very vocal in his support of PHS, so much so that officials got to recognize the Doc’s harsh assessments. He never let on whether he was ever tossed, but I suspect he received more than one yellow card over the years.

Doc got into it again in the nineties when his grand-daughters were playing for Saint Regis Falls. It didn’t take long for Section X officials to get the needle from Doc.

Doc became a one-man Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee for Plattsburgh High School, responsible for seeing that PHS standouts from the twenties, thirties and forties received their due.

Doc took particular interest in getting Al Diebolt into the PHS pantheon. Diebolt nearly died in his youth from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. It was a painfully slow recovery, but Diebolt went on to distinguish himself as one of the top quarter-milers in the world in the forties.

Doc also proved to be an excellent neighborhood historian. He could pick out any home in Plattsburgh or Beekmantown and tell you who lived at the address, going back three or four families. He lived at the corner of Bailey and Oak and swore the place had been an old mob hangout. After he moved in, he spotted a dark car go by the place very slowly, as if they were casing the joint.

You could always get a rise out of Doc by bringing up the “Ginsberg” building on the corner of Durkee and Bridge streets. His quick response was “it’s not the Ginsberg building, it’s the Marshall building!”

Then would follow a 5-minute history lesson on the A.H. Marshall store and how it was second to none in the Northeast in the first half of the 20th century. If you didn’t believe him, Doc would pull out a Hardware trade magazine stating so. In case you haven’t figured, Doc was a descendant of A.H. Marshall.

He was also a partner in AuSable Chasm and for many years, distributed flyers to other attractions in Northern New York and Vermont. Once, in the Green Mountain State, he inquired as to where the Chasm flyers were and got a rather curt response. “We don’t put those out over here.”

Well, Doc returned to his side of the lake posthaste, found the flyers from the Vermont attraction and quickly deposited them in the trash. Even the good-natured Doc, could be pushed only so far.