• Home


Port Crane Schoolhouse: A Lifetime Of Memories

Posted: Updated:
PORT CRANE, N.Y. -

Sitting in a shady gazebo, Dean Ottaway is clearly eager to tell his stories to a new visitor. Wearing his World War II Bomb Squadron baseball cap and an Adirondacks T-shirt, Ottaway is soft spoken, but has a quick sense of humor. 

Dean Ottaway is a 92-year-old World War II veteran with deep roots in Port Crane.

Ottaway is 92 years old and, as he puts it, "old enough to know better." Apart from flying over Europe on 44 missions during World War II, Ottaway has lived his entire life in the area, never straying far from Port Crane. In fact, it's his house on the corner of Pine and Albany Streets that brought me out to catch up with Dean and his daughter Debbie Wheeler.

Dean Ottaway's house at the corner of Pine and Albany Streets in Port Crane was once an old schoolhouse.

“Anything that was done to this building, I did," says Ottaway with obvious pride.

It's where he spent his happiest days, raising his four kids with his wife Dorothy. She was the love of his life.

“I picked up a glass of beer and there was her mother," says Ottaway, remembering the night they first met, "Sittin’ over there. Beautiful, beautiful girl."

Dean and Dorothy Ottaway.

The two married in 1947 and moved into the house in Port Crane in 1954. Even at that point, the house had a pretty extensive history.

 “It was a two room schoolhouse," explains Ottaway.

Ottaway's house is a former schoolhouse. One of around seven that were once in the Fenton area.

Built in1856, the Port Crane Schoolhouse, or Schoolhouse #2, was one of at least seven in the area. Ottaway's daughter Debbie still has the original deed which she found when cleaning out her parents' house.

 “The use of purpose of a site for a public schoolhouse and school in the said district and none others," reads Wheeler.

The schoolhouse held classes of around 30 kids. One of those was Jack Ottaway, Dean's big brother.

According to the Fenton Town Historian's website, Jack Ottaway is seated in the second row, second desk from the right.

“At the time, we lived up on Ballyhack," says Ottaway, "and I can remember, I don’t know what time in the afternoon, I would walk down the road to the end of our property and meet him walking home from school.”

Jack Ottaway also enlisted in the airforce, but unlike Dean, he wouldn't return home from the war. A tragic airplane crash claimed his life at age 22. The little white schoolhouse where Jack Ottaway used to sit in the second row was replaced when a new school was built just up the hill. That "new" school is now Fenton Town Hall.

A new use was quickly found for the old schoolhouse. Ottaway's parents bought it and turned it into a community center.

“No one else had a building big enough," says Ottaway,  “We used to hold boy scouts there, Mother and Dad used to hold parties there.
Friends of theirs… See You Saturday Club.”  

The See You Saturday Club, obviously held on Saturdays, consisted of picnics and potlucks in the summer and television and bridge games in the winter.

“So the building just evolved one step at a time," says Ottaway.

A building, then a home, that holds a lifetime of memories. You can understand why Dean took it so hard when his kids had to break the news last January that he could no longer live there. He had been living alone after he lost Dorothy in 2006.

“It was really a wonderful life," says Ottaway.

Dean now lives at the Oxford Veterans Home, but his heart will always remain at the corner of Pine and Albany.

When I asked him what that house means to him, he put it simply, but better than I ever could: "It's home."