"Punkie" the Canoe Comes Home to St. Lawrence

Divergent Canoes in the SLU Libraries "Punkie" the Canoe Comes Home to St. Lawrence A Rushton Canoe Named "Punkie"

On Friday January 23, 2004 a Rushton canoe was installed in ODY. This particular canoe has a long association with the University and so what follows is a brief historical note that details this relationship. During the recent renovation of the Owen D. Young Library a conversation developed about the possibility of acquiring a canoe that might represent the connection between St. Lawrence and its past connections with the Adirondacks, but there was a slight problem: there did not seem to be a Rushton canoe available. In 2003, however, University Librarian Bart Harloe became aware of a Rushton Canoe located nearby that might be available for this purpose. Negotiations quickly ensued and it soon became clear that this particular canoe (a Canadian Rushton) had been originally been purchased by Laurentian Ed Blankman for his son Peter and therefore would be a perfect fit for the Library and its planned historical exhibit.

Ed Blankman had a long connection with St. Lawrence, beginning with his graduation from SLU in 1929 and continuing through his long career in the English department where he taught from 1936 until 1973. Subsequent to his tenure in the English department, he served as University historian and archivist until 1981. Atwood Manley in his book Rushton and His Times in American Canoeing (Adirondack Museum/Syracuse University Press, 1968) described the original purchase of the canoe as follows: "The Canadian canoe, named Punkie, is one of the all-cedar Rushton smoothskins found by Professor Blankman's brother Lloyd of Clinton, New York. Lloyd Blankman inquired about Rushton canoes of an old guide and woodsman, Earl Taylor, who acknowledged that he had three stored in a barn … The Punkie was purchased from Rushton about 1891 and the two others between 1911 and 1914 by the same individual ..." Atwood Manley further reported that this particular canoe needed repairs and this is indeed confirmed by Ed Blankman's son Peter in a letter to University Librarian Bart Harloe (June 2003): "I don't recall the order in which he bought his Rushtons, but I do remember being thrilled that I was going to get Punkie. I also remember accompanying him to Cranberry Lake, where an old Adirondack character and boatman named Rudy Hayes (I think) restored the canoe in his workshop that jutted out into the lake. Rudy had to put in many new ribs and added the fiberglass, which at the time (sometime in the 1950's) was accepted practice, I believe. Watching this craftsman do his work, amid all the sawdust and pieces of wood and old boats, as the sun warmed the lake and we could hear the waves underneath his workshop - still a vivid memory more than 45 years later." Peter Blankman further recollects that this particular canoe "was tippier than the aluminum variety, but skimmed the surface beautifully."

BH 1/25/04