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ON THE SCENE: Visiting Cousin Red during the holidays

December 29, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Like many other old Lake Placid families, I'm connected to an extended web of relatives; one branch, through my grandfather Rufus, husband of Climena, founder of the Mirror Lake Inn, lives over in the Potsdam-Canton area.

Rufus's sister Zoe married John Grandy, and they had five children. A daughter, Pauline married Grant Reed, and they lived in Lake Placid, he delivering mail when not pursuing his pastime as a photographer. Their daughter Jeanine was one of my best friends growing up, my surrogate older sister and I her surrogate younger brother.

Of Zoe and John's other four children, Francis "Red" Grandy remains. Red is 95, will be 96 in a month. He is my dad's first cousin, thus my second cousin.

Article Photos

Red Grandy holds one of his photos.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Red is a piece of work. His mind is sharp. He has the energy of a teenager. He is always doing something. He has a great sense of humor, is a gifted storyteller, and was one of the greatest photojournalists of the Cold War era, winning "Photo of the Day" nearly 300 times, and "Photo of the Year" multiple times during a 35-year career with Stars and Stripes.

I drove over through Saturday's freezing rain, snow and gloom of night to catch up with Red at his home on the Lazy River near Canton en route to a holiday party at Jeanine's. Usually Red would have joined me, but cracking his ankle earlier in the fall coupled with cranking on his biography kept him home.

One of Red's more iconic photographs was catching Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's expression the moment he heard that President Truman sacked Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951. MacArthur, had been the commanding U.S. Army general of the Southwest Pacific in World War II, oversaw the successful occupation of Japan following the war that included the creation of a new Democratic form of government and rebuilding of its economy and social structure, and had been leading the United Nations forces in North Korea. Truman fired him for insubordination and making public statements that contradicted the policies of his administration.

Red, knowing that there was no love lost between Eisenhower and MacArthur, made sure he reached Eisenhower, then chatting with two French generals and members of the media on a hilltop near Coblenz, Germany, when an Associated Press correspondent told him about MacArthur's firing. Red got the shot, which made the front page of the New York Times and a host of other major papers and such outlets as Life magazine which dubbed it as the best news photo in a quarter century.

Google photos by Red Grandy and you will see being in the right place at the right time is a knack he had time and time again. As a consequence, he captured iconic images of leading politicians, members of the military, actors and actresses, athletes and others. Names like Sophia Loren, Gary Cooper, and Liz Taylor, Richard Nixon, John F. and Robert Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklas, Mark Spitz, and some of the most reproduced photos of the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.

Red's family, as was my grandfather Rufus's, were farmers. Some moved from the Cooperstown area, the Wikoff family seat for many generations, to Russell, about 15 miles south of Canton. Raised on the family farm, after finishing high school Red enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942. Mustering out four years later, he used the G.I. Bill to study cinema and still photography at the University of Southern California. His dream was to be a Hollywood cinematographer, but a chance trip to Europe with a college friend shortly after graduation changed all that.

"My degree was in motion pictures cinema," said Red. "Jim Sloan, whose father left him three million dollars, wanted to go to Europe. His mother and the family lawyer started working on me to go with him. I agreed, and we went to all the countries in Europe. I climbed the Matterhorn, all those sorts of things. He went back, and I stayed on to finish a cinema assignment. I knew this air force couple that wanted me to have dinner with them at the Stars and Stripes Press Club. I saw a sign in the service club, "Ski at Garmisch for one dollar a day." At dinner, I met Ken Zumwalt, the then managing editor of Stars and Stripes. He said, "I understand you are a still photographer." I said I was. He said, "We have an opening." I said, "If I take the job, can I ski at Garmisch for a dollar day?" He said, "Yeah."

Red agreed to take the job for one month. He liked the work so much, and that it included free housing and such benefits as cheap tickets at Garmisch, that he agreed to stay on three more months. During his second month on the job, he took the photograph of Eisenhower along with one of Robert Vogeler being greeted by his wife after being held in captivity for 527 days in Hungary on espionage charges. They were selected by United Press International as the number one and number two Photos of the Year. Red agreed to stay on for a full year, which led to 35 years working for Stars and Stripes.

"I like excitement and adventure, and I don't like to lose," said Red. "I don't have a lot of ambition. What made me successful was deadline pressure. When they sent me out on an assignment, I had to get the shot, get back, and get it printed, captioned, and in the paper that night. If it hadn't been for having a deadline, I'd put off trying to get the shot for a month. Deadline pressure is what got me to where I am, and it was fun. Five of us guys covered a territory that ranged from Pakistan to Iceland and included occasional trips to the United States."

I asked Red what was the secret to a good journalistic photograph. He responded that it must tell a story. He hated taking headshots be it of an individual or several people together. His goal was to have his subjects engaged in some activity, and if they weren't, he'd find a way of creating a situation.

Up to recently, Red could be found during winters skiing at Whiteface or Titus, but breaking an ankle in his home this fall convinced him that he could do some real damage to himself zipping down Wilderness if he wasn't careful, so he's hung up his skis.

Summers he can at times be found motoring down the Grasse River in his bright red 1965 Amphicar, one of about 500 still operational, or zipping around his Lazy River Playground in Herman, where he hosts parties in his 1940s roller rink and miniature golf course, locally a popular venue for family reunions and social gatherings. Currently he's working on his autobiography and, of course, he still takes pictures and is always open for another assignment.

"Give me a deadline."

 
 

 

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