January 10, 2013

A greening of minds

Artists exhibit work as 'Guild Celebrates Charlie Green'


---- — SARANAC LAKE — New Jersey Copestone Lodge 147 put $100 in fellow mason Charles “Charlie” Green’s wallet to “take the cure” for tuberculosis in Saranac Lake.

On June 11, 1922, he arrived in the village made famous through the pioneering-tuberculosis studies of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who established the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium.

Green, after sustaining a broken hip, died in the General Hospital on Jan. 13, 1987. He is buried with his wife, the former Nita Parsons, in the Pine Ridge Cemetery.

The life of the charismatic grocer of Charles Green’s Foods of Quality is highlighted in “The Market Show: The Guild Celebrates Charlie Green,” an exhibition opening at 5 p.m. Friday at 52 Main St. in Saranac Lake. Green’s former grocery is the home of the Adirondack Artists’ Guild.

“He was born in Lancashire, England,” said Diane Leifheit, show curator. “He came to the United States (New Jersey) with his family and came to Saranac Lake later. He stayed for that month and stayed for another month.”

Leifheit gleaned basic facts about Green from his obituaries written by Shawn Tooley of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Ed Hale of the Watertown Daily Times.

During World War I, Green served with the New Jersey 78th Division Medical Corps. He joined Copestone Lodge in 1920.

After several months in Saranac Lake, lodge members sent Green an additional $150 to continue his curing and advised him to purchase some long underwear.

“He ended up staying,” Leifheit said. “He established a dry-goods grocery where our place is. It was the time of the cure in Saranac Lake. People were coming up to stay in the summertime.”

At his Main Street store, Green hired teens to deliver goods within the village.

“One was Howard Riley (local history columnist for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise),” Leifheit said. “He told me about all the times he had to run around as a kid. All these anecdotes have been really fun to dig up. Barbara Day, her mom and grandmom shopped there all the time.”

Day’s grandmother entered the store, list in hand. Green handed Day’s mother a brown-paper bag.

“She would call out the items she wanted. Charlie would call the price,” Leifheit said.

Day’s mother wrote the prices down on the bag. When the order was complete, she tallied the figures while Green packed the groceries in a box. Afterward, he checked her addition.

“Last year, we found a bag of receipts with Green’s market on it. We’re using them in the exhibit to represent different market ideas that we have known,” Leifheit said.

Remembrances of Green, including a poem written by Dr. Maurice Kenny, will be interspersed with images of Green with and without his starched white grocer’s coat or wrapped shin-length aprons, as detailed in his obituary penned by Hale. 

Green’s famous and infamous clientele included the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and gangster Legs Diamond and his red-headed moll, Marion “Kiki” Strasmick, an ermine-coat wearing Bostonian.

In photographs, it seems Green had a smile for everyone. He was very civic oriented and was the recipient of the 1969 Good Neighbor Award, 1977 Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and special king of Winter Carnival in 1978. Besides Masonic Grand Lodge citations, he was recognized for his Lions Club involvement.

Green and his wife lived above the store.

“They both ran the store,” Leifheit said. “They had cats. One cat at a time would live in the store and do night watch and keep the rascals at bay.”

Pumpkin and Sammy were among the feline sentinels that perched on a stool or lazed in a shaft of sunlight in the store windows. Friday’s reception includes a “Memory Book,” where attendees can record their recollections of Green.

“Charlie was really charming,” Leifheit said. “People liked coming in and meeting with him. He had a grand old smile. We moved up here in 1983. He had things that the grocery stores didn’t have. He always had the one thing you couldn’t find anywhere.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO WHAT: "The Market Show: The Guild Celebrates Charlie Green." WHEN: Opening reception, 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. WHERE: Adirondack Artists' Guild, 52 Main St., Saranac Lake. CONTACT: 891-2615.