It would be hard to find somebody in Massena and the rest of St. Lawrence County who doesn’t recognize the name Sandy Cook.
The larger than life Cook has been the WMSA morning show host for 42 years. His chatty show, The Extravaganza, is one of the longest-running radio shows in New York State. His folksy radio style, tailor-made for small-town America, made him a household name not only in Massena but throughout St. Lawrence County.
Most times he knew callers by first name, sometimes asking how Bert or Jessie was doing. It was rare when he didn’t know a name offered for his Birthday Club announcements.
When it came to popularity, Cook was to Massena and area residents what Max Keeping was to Ottawa and the valley: A legend.
When Cook celebrated his 40th year at WMSA, the Malone Telegram told readers, “It is reassuring to hear Sanford T.’s voice in the morning” and that Cook told his audience “everything we need to know to begin our day. Sandy lets us know about school activities, tells students and seniors what is for lunch each and the schedule for upcoming sporting events.”
But after village police raided his home Friday afternoon and took the veteran radioman and his house mate away in handcuffs, Cook’s sterling reputation took a beating. His career may be over. Win, lose or draw, it is almost impossible to recover a soiled reputation in a small town.
Cook, 60, and Edward Slade, 24, were charged with cocaine and heroin possession.
The town police blotter has never had a bigger name; a name that jumped off the page.
In 2001, Cook was elected to a four-year term as town supervisor, a position similar to chief administrative officer (CAO) in Ontario. He failed to be re-elected.
The town rallied behind Cook in 2014 when he faced serious health issues. Fundraisers were organized by numerous organizations to help with his expenses.
The arrest and charge against Cook put talk of the presidential nomination battles on the backburner. The arrest, as one resident put it, is the talk of the town. To say most villagers were shocked by the news and his mug shot in a police media release would be an understatement.
The story in the Massena Courier-Observer had more than 58 comments by Sunday. Some, as anonymous comments can be, were less than kind. A few pleaded that Cook was innocent until found guilty.
Police Chief Adam J. Love told the Courier-Observer that the arrests were part of his department’s effort to put an end to illegal drug activity that has plagued the community and that the arrests were part of an ongoing investigation. The police said more arrests are pending. The key word in the statement is “ongoing investigation.”
One would assume, considering Cook’s saintly status in the community, the raid and arrest were the result of a thorough investigation.
It was no surprise that on Monday, the station said Cook had been placed on a leave of absence. Program director Todd Truax told the Courier-Observer the main concern was the station’s image.
Ah yes. The image.
THIS AND THAT In the week after presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shamelessly vilified police officers and called for legislation to protect citizens from “trigger-happy” cops, five U.S. police officers were shot and killed while on duty. None had his gun out. And in New York City, two police officers were shot and seriously wounded while on routine patrol in a housing development. So far in February, 10 police officers in the U.S. have been shot and killed in the line of duty. And who needs the protection? Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports that in the Windy City 369 people were shot in the first 50 days of 2016 and that 70 people died in the shootings. Not a single one at the hands of a Chicago police officer. At the current pace the city will have at least 2,560 shootings, mostly gang-related, and 490 shooting deaths.
TRIVIA ANSWER In 1873 Cornwall resident Thomas Murphy launched the town’s first taxi service using a horse and carriage.
TRIVIA In 1974 high school teacher George Samis became the first New Democratic Party candidate to represent Cornwall at either the provincial or federal level. Who was the Conservative candidate in the byelection called to fill the seat left vacant by Conservative Fern Guindon: 1) James Kirkey, 2) Rev. Rudy Villeneuve, 3) Guy Leger, 4) Luc Guindon?
A SLICE OF HISTORY Cornwall’s first “modern” street lights were installed in July 1882 when town council passed a bylaw allowing a gas company to lay pipes through the streets. By fall, gas lights had replaced coal oil lamps which had been in general use for street illumination up to that time. The first electric street lights appeared in 1887. It was the job of the town constable to light and extinguish the coal oil lamp lights.
FROM THE ARCHIVES On Jan. 25, 1978 a Pine Street boy was reported missing after going outside to play. For weeks the search failed to turn up a single clue. City police posted a $1,000 reward for information leading the boy’s whereabouts. The case of the missing boy wasn’t solved until early May when a group of youngsters playing on the snow dump on the south side of the canal discovered the body. Police pieced together the puzzle. On Jan. 25 the boy was playing with friends who had dug a cave, as kids often did, in the snow bank in the Cumberland/Second streets area. When the friends went home the boy continued playing in the cave. Tragically, he was scooped up by a front-end loader during snow-clearing operations and dumped in the back of a truck which emptied the load, and boy, at the snow dump.
IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR The frigid cold snap this week brought out a cold weather alert, which raises the question how society survived the pre-cold weather warning days? Back in the 1950s when Baby Boomers were urchins it was pretty simple. Your parents, particularly your mother, knew that when it was minus 20F and the wind was blowing, it was time to bundle up before going outside. Didn’t need the guardians of public health to hit them over the head with a cold weather warning. It was called common sense. You wore knitted woollen mittens, probably put on a pair of knitted woollen socks, wore a toque pulled down over your ears and for extra measure had a woollen scarf wrapped around your neck and pulled up over your mouth.