OGDENSBURG - Forty years ago no less than 10 floral floats from St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center were entered in the Seaway Festival float competition.
The floats were created as part of a joint effort by patients and staff. Staff members recall coming in and volunteering their time to help make the floats with the help of family, friends and other community members and, of course, the patients.
Float entries would be from the Southwood Children and Center Building, east side, center building, west side, Flower Building, Letchworth, Farm Cottage, the Activity Center, SLPC School of Nursing, the Education Department, Center Kitchen (food service), and the Community Store.
Dr. Lee D. Hanes, the director of SLPC in the 1970s, was a great supporter of the Seaway Festival. Employees said that they remember seeing her always at the fireworks and the “Button Blitz” with former Ogdensburg Journal and Advance News editor Charles W. Kelly.
A mini-parade was held around the roadway of the hospital campus before the Seaway Festival parade and the Battle of the Drums at Ogdensburg Free Academy. Hundreds of psych center clients would cheer on the floats. The porches on the building would be filled with folks in wheelchairs. There was camaraderie between staff and patients because the floats were all built together.
The music for the mini-parade was by the Drum and Bugle Corps from across New York and Canada. Corps members competed in the competition later that day in the Battle of the Drums at Ogdensburg Free Academy. The corps would stay at various places around the city, including Wadhams Hall, the Ogdensburg Boys and Girls Club, and Mater Dei College before the parades.
Bugle and Drum Corps would use the mini-parade to practice before the official parade at 1 p.m.
The theme of the 1974 Seaway Festival was “A Moment in Time.” Float designers could choose to design floats of history local, state or national significance. The Southwood Building for children and youth patients created a float called “The Boston Tea Party.” Patients came up with the theme themselves.
During the intermission of the Battle of the Drums, Southwood Building was awarded Third Place Grand Award Trophy. Larry Caufield accepted the award on behalf of Southwood Building from Joseph Cosentino.
Forty years later all of the old buildings at the psych center are boarded up and dilapidated. Joe Cosentino and Larry Caufield are both retired SLPC employees with over 70 years of combined service to those with mental health diagnoses. They are still advocates of those in need. They are now fighting for our local veterans to create a health care service center to be located in a vacant section of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center campus.
Larry Caufield assisted with the research of this week’s Glance At The Past. If you have a picture or submission for the Glance At The Past in the Advance News, contact reporter Amanda Purcell at 393-1003.