Adventures with ducks, Masons and Scoop Baker

A visit with Scoop Baker

I stopped in to visit John "Scoop" Baker to chat. It amazes me that he built my house at the same age I am this year. I can hardly get out of my own way and never would have taken on a project of that magnitude.

Scoop was sorting out some old photos that he had uncovered. Most interestingly, he had pictures of himself with John Guled and Warren Surdam as teenagers. They were testing a diving helmet that they had crafted from a small water tank about the size of a 20 lb LP tank. He mentioned that it was very difficult to drill all the holes and then file them smooth to rest on his shoulders. There were no electric drills or power jigsaws that we might use today. They did have a stationary drill press in the basement of the former Skaneateles Press Building, which facilitated the project. (Scoop is the son of former Press editor Cannonball Baker and worked as a pressman there).

They got everything together and gave it a try behind the Press building where the water was not deep enough, so they moved on to the outlet. Scoop said he was standing about halfway up to his knees in ooze and the water came up to his chin in the helmet, but no higher, as this was about the level of the shoulder cutouts. The hand-powered auto tire pump was configured to pump air down to the top of the helmet and it was set up so that you could sit next to the pump and move the lever back and forth. This is how it was always shown in movies of the day.

Scoop was doing well; he could hear the whoosh, whoosh of the air on each stroke until suddenly the sound stopped because somebody sat on the hose.

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