I am sharing this brochure and photographs of Ina Island, located in the Summerland Group of Islands, near Alexandria Bay. I found the brochure while cleaning out my father’s home in Syracuse, NY. Of course, this brings back many childhood memories, and I hope this will help record some of Ina Island’s proud history.
The island was recorded in “Thousand Islands Life” before. Back in June 2010, photographs of the dilapidated Ina Island boathouse were shown when many were upset about its state of collapse.
Soon after finding the brochure, I contacted Lyn Pisarek, Ted Pisarek Jr. and Jack Smorol and even though some of the facts may be “fuzzy,” I am pleased to put some pieces together.
In 1963, my father, Leonard Jacob Smorol and two friends, Theodore Pisarek and Kenny Santy, bought the island. I was told by Ted Pisarek Jr. that they purchased the island, so they had somewhere to haul-out their boats in the fall and store them for the winter.
They ran the island as a hotel, open to the public, for two or perhaps a few more years. Then five or six years later Leonard and Teddy bought out the Santy share of the ownership.
After the hotel’s time ended the island was occupied by the Smorol and Pisarek families who also rented rooms, dockage space and winter storage space to friends and families who paid a nominal fee to cover the costs (rent, insurance, taxes, power, etc.) In the early days, there was a diesel generator located on the back of the island facing Summerland Island.
My siblings Jack, Sara, Jason and myself spent every Summer on Ina Island with my mother, Pauline, until I was 18 in 1980. We would drive up from our home in Syracuse, most weekends after the ice melted - a few times, I can remember arriving when there was some ice in the River; we would stay until late October before the ice came back!
We would also be there continuously from the day school got out in June until the Monday after Labor Day when we went back to school in Syracuse in the fall. On the weekends, the other families would join us. There would be Teddy & Gwenny Pisarek, Teddy Jr, Lyn Pisarek / Komuda and John Komuda and occasionally Reggie, and Louie Wisinski and their family. Bob Sposato and family, Billy Leonard and family, Bill Barns and family, John Butz and family were all regulars, for many years.
There were others who came up for a few years or sporadically including: Walt Kondziela, Billy Hillick, Tom Pasqua, John Young, Dick (on the dock) Spagnolla, Peter Santy and family. On any given weekend there would from 20 to over 40 people staying on the island.
All those who stayed there were like family to me, everyone contributed to the upkeep of the island in the Spring, Summer and Fall. The residents and guests took care of most of the repairs and new construction. It was taken for granted that “someone there had a background in whatever was needed.”
I can only remember calling in professionals for refrigeration work (apparently no one knew anyone in that business) and considering we had a large 3-door commercial refrigerator, a 2-door commercial freezer and a commercial ice maker – these professionals were important.
One of the many construction projects I remember well was the necessity of working on the famous Ina Island boathouse. It took a lot of maintenance to keep it in shape.
Other memories: there used to be a Bar Room where we gathered most nights, it was the focal point (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be tables on the front porch with an excellent view of the Seaway where we gathered for dinners (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be a pool table in the library which was very popular (the new owners changed it into a sitting room); there used to be a ping pong table on the side porch (the new owners changed it into a sitting room).
We repaired the tennis court and put up fencing in the early 70s (to keep the balls out of the water) and just about everyone took up tennis. Swimming off the front seawall was also very popular, I can remember on many mornings seeing my father out soaping himself up and diving off the seawall to rinse off.
There were always people there every weekend in the spring and fall and continually throughout the summer. Ina Island has brought fond lasting memories to the hundreds of residents and guests that were there during our ownership.
There was another 2-story boathouse in the lagoon, to the right of the main boathouse, which had two slips and some bedrooms upstairs. At the time, it was not financially feasible to repair it, and it was taken down in the mid-'60s and burned in a pit on the island (there were no laws about that kind of action, back then).
Then we all contributed to building what we called "the Polish Dock" in its place. Made out of rough-cut lumber (which meant a lot of splinters in our bare feet) supplied by the Ted Pisarek’s relative, Ed Storchurski, from Pulaski and it was there for several years after we left.
My father and Ted sold Ina in 1983.
|As Island properties are bought and sold, I am reminded of what I read in “TI Life,” written by the magazine’s creator the late Paul Malo:
“What role can we play? Individuals tend to bristle when told what they can and cannot do with their own homes.” It is my hope that by continuing to publish the history of people and places of the Thousand Islands, on both sides of the border, we will all remain passionate about our surroundings and have a strong appreciation of place.”
By Joseph Smorol
Joe Smorol hails from Syracuse NY and spent summers on Ina Island and working on Cherry Island for Amsterdam family from age 12-18 cutting lawns, cleaning boats and “doing whatever else was needed.” After two years in college he worked 14 years in the construction business followed by 13 years in the hospitality industry. Today he is involved in rental properties. Joe relates that many of the original visitors to Ina Island became permanent residents of the region and he is hoping this article will bring back fond memories for all.
Editor’s Note: Both Joe and I apologize for miss-spelling names and thank those who quickly corrected them!