Born: August 14, 1917
Married: Margaret McLaughlin
Children: William Shakespeare ("Shakes") McLaughlin and Shannon McLaughlin Stratton
William McLaughlin was born in Saranac Lake on August 14, 1917, the son of Hugh and Hazel (English) McLaughlin. He attended local schools and went on to college, where he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to return to his hometown for treatment.
He was a popular photographer who specialized in newspaper images. He was employed by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for many years. He was also a well regarded cartoonist, newspaper reporter and columnist. He was a familiar sight around town, with his tan trench coat and his camera. He covered many events locally, including the various board meetings, fires, and any event that was newsworthy.
January 13, 1986.
Columnist Bill McLaughlin dies after long illness
By CHARLES DECKER
SARANAC LAKE - Daily Enterprise columnist Bill McLaughlin, whose colorful accounts of village life captured readers' hearts and imaginations, died Sunday at his Franklin Avenue home after a lengthy, illness. He was 68 years old.
An inimitable wordsmith, McLaughlin chronicled his hometown and the mountains surrounding it for nearly four decades. He began his distinguished writing career with the Enterprise as a reporter in 1950, and wrote his last column for the paper on Nov. 16, 1985.
In between, he worked as a reporter-photographer for several newspapers including the Albany Times Union, Syracuse Herald American, Plattsburgh Press Republican and Lake Placid News.
His writing was seldom constrained by so-called journalistic objectivity. His fierce, parochial pride shone through virtually all of his stories, inevitably leading him away from the role of reporter to that of columnist.
He was a man of wit and words — seldom spoken but smartly written in a unique and slightly eccentric style that set him apart from-his peers. He leaned heavily on alliteration, shunned conventional clichés, and delighted in creating unusual catchphrases. To McLaughlin, the land he loved was never simply the Adirondacks, but "the land of mole and muskrat," or "the land of mustn't touch."
His writings reflected a mixture of cynicism, satire and sarcasm, as well as the distinctive narrative form he stamped on his re-recreations of colorful moments and characters from the village's past.
He was an all-around journalist, as capable at writing sports as news, and as competent with a camera as he was at the typewriter. He was also an accomplished cartoonist, accompanying many of his articles with caricatures or sketches to get the point across, invariably with a twist of humor to lighten the message.
Easily identified in his rumpled trenchcoat and loafers, McLaughlin was a familiar sight at area meetings and activities and was especially fond of attending and promoting local sports events. He is credited as a cofounder of the immensely popular Willard Hanmer Guideboat and Canoe races, the village's premier summertime sporting event.
Despite an open disdain of authority, his involvement with the community led him into local politics. He served on the village board as a Democratic trustee from 1976-1985, and was the founding chairman of the Saranac River Commission.
McLaughlin was as devoted to the past as he was to the future of his hometown. He wrote often of the village he knew as a youth, and never let a chance go by to remind readers of the exploits of the leading citizens and athletes of days gone by which he affectionately dubbed "the cobweb era."
He was especially, proud to write of the accomplishments of Saranac Lake's early athletes, many of whom were his classmates at Saranac Lake High School, from which he graduated in 1937. Recently, he was named first chairman of the committee overseeing the new Saranac Lake High School Hall of Fame, which he inspired with his hundreds of articles about his alma mater.
An above-average athlete himself, McLaughlin played varsity football and track in high school, although his tall, slim physique left him better equipped for the cinders than the gridiron.
After high school, he attended and graduated from the Wanakena Ranger School. He continued his education at Syracuse University and the University of Iowa, where he dabbled in writing and majored in art.
It was during this period that several significant changes occurred in his life. The first was the overnight transformation of his mop of straight hair into a tangle of curls, which won him mention in a, 1942 Ripley's Believe lt Or Not" cartoon.
It was also at this time that McLaughlin learned he was suffering from tuberculosis, prompting an immediate return to Saranac Lake where he spent several months taking the cure at Trudeau and in bed on the upper floor of the old St. Regis Hotel on Bloomingdale Avenue, which was run by his grandfather.
After recovering, he met Margaret Gage, a nurse, whom he married in 1947. The couple had two children, William Jr. and Shannon, both of whom live in Saranac Lake.
McLaughlin spent some of his happiest moments with friends and family at his tent platform camp on Long Pond, and never forgave the state for ordering the platforms vacated and removed in 1975. Some of his most vitriolic writings were directed at downstate politicians who urged the phasing-out of the tent platforms.
From the beginning, he was an outspoken critic of the state's restrictive Forest Preserve policies, and made the Adirondack Park Agency his favorite whipping post when writing about life inside the Blue Line in more recent years.
"Apathy is one of the chief enemies of the Adirondack citizen who makes his home within the park on a year round basis. The heavy downstate vote factor leaves him with little to fight with and he relies heavily on God and common sense to save him from the tentacles of the state octopus now encircling his home and his future," McLaughlin wrote shortly after the Park Agency's inception in the early 1970's.
He never gave in. In 1983, he added this observation about the natives' plight under Agency law: "We may be playing a losing game but we are playing it with a relish and a will to survive. We bear well the crushing mandates that have been heaped upon us in the same manner as the Forever Wild anvil was clamped to our unsuspecting shoulders back in the cobweb era."
In typical journalist's fashion, McLaughlin was always an observer and shunned the limelight himself. The one exception came in 1976 when he was honored as Saranac Lake's Citizen of the Year for his accomplishments and contributions to the community.
One of his greatest passions was flying, and he always jumped at the chance to grab a ride in a small plane or helicopter to see the mountains from above. He was particularly fond of helicopter rides. "I would recommend them to anyone," he wrote after his first trip in a chopper. "I like the helicopter ... I like the whole rosy world from above."
Articles written by Bill McLaughlin can be found on the following pages: