Misty Lakes and Cold Mornings Were Wonderful In The Summertime

1 Oct

Those who think climate change is not a reality did not spend their summers in the Catskills during the late 1950s and 1960s! Those brisk summer mornings made waking up and getting out of bed a little difficult at times. The summer mornings do not seem as cold now!

We slept under feather beds and quilts, and always put our clothing under our pillows to warm them up during the night. Sometimes your nose would be so cold that you would put the covers over your head as well. And everyone wore ‘footsie’ pajamas!

In the mornings we would all get dressed while still lying under our blankets. First came layer one, underwear; then layer two, shorts and t-shirt; then layer three, jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Socks went on as well. And with no heat, those bungalows were cold! . You could sometimes see your breath in the mornings, so dressing while still in bed made sense!

My sister and I would wait to see who could hold their bladder the longest. No one wanted to be the first to sit on the cold toilet seat. My brother was lucky; he could stand up!!! But finally one would have to jump out of bed and start the day.

Mom would be making breakfast for us. And soon she would shoo us out of the bungalow. But first we had to put on sweaters or lightweight jackets.

When we looked across the street form our bungalow, we could see Kauneonga Lake. In the early morning the mist would rise from the warm water into the cool air of the July or August day. It was the most beautiful view.

The lake water was much warmer than the outside air. Some early mornings, my grandmother would take me to the lake. I would have my bathing suit on and a large towel wrapped around me. We would slip into the lake from our dock and settle into the warm water. She would wash my hair and her hair with ivory soap. She had very long hair that she usually kept braided on the top of her head. But these mornings, she would have it hanging down.

Grandma grew up in Poland. She told that lake water was the best to wash your hair. She would tell me stories about washing her hair in the water near her house when she was a little girl.

Sometimes through the mist we could see rowboats and fishermen. That was before everyone had motorboats and the lake water had gasoline and oil in it.

The water felt so warm and wonderful, until it was time to get out. Grandma would make me sit on the steps while she got out and dried off. Then, as I – shivering – exited the water, she would wrap me in the towels. We would return to the bungalows as quickly as possible to get into warm, dry clothes. This was a special treat.

Usually, after breakfast my sibling and I would go outside to play with all the other children.   There was a fence around the colony that was to keep us inside. We knew better than to go beyond the perimeter without a mother’s permission.

My family and friends in Kauneonga Lake.

My family and friends in Kauneonga Lake.

As the day went on and it warmed up, we would slowly shed clothes. First off the sweater, then the long –sleeved shirt, and finally the jeans.   At lunch time we would start begging, “Can we swim today? Can we? Is this a good day?” I think the Moms decided as a group. We had to wait at least an hour till the food digested. (What I now know was a bubbameister, we really did not need to wait.) Then around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, if the weather was nice, we changed into our bathing suits and went swimming in the lake: all the moms, grandmas and children. On the weekends the dads were there as well!

We would all go to the dock with our towels, carefully crossing the street under our Moms’ observant eyes. The older children holding the hands of the younger, we would run to the dock.

The lake water was wonderful in the afternoon. I liked to stay where the bottom was sandy, where most people usually went. To either side was mush, or as we called it the gush, …seaweeds. And hidden in the mush were fish that nibbled your feet and snapping turtles. Sometimes, like always, the older boys tried to push the younger children into the mush. The screaming would begin. But nothing really bad ever happened because all the Moms and Grandmas were watching. We would spend a wonderful hour or two swimming and playing, until the Moms said, “Done. Get out of the water, Now.”   We hated that. But eventually we would all return to the dock and dry off.

We would clean up after swimming and before dinner. It was too cold after dinner to shower and clean up. And to be honest, if we went swimming we were considered clean enough. There was no need to take a bath!!!

As the day ended, the reverse would occur. Soon the jeans went back on, then the long-sleeved shirt and finally a sweater. Sometimes after dinner we would just put our pajamas on and stay in the bungalow. Other times we would all sit outside and just visit. It was quiet time, and it was the Moms time. Several nights each week, a different mom would host the gin rummy or mah jong game in her bungalow.

There were three ‘grandpas’ at the colony (two were mine), as well as at least one dad. Each week a different dad would take his vacation and spend time with all the families. And while the Moms played their games at night, the grandpas were always on bungalow control. They would walk from bungalow to bungalow to make sure all the children were asleep and everyone was safe.

One year one my sister started sleepwalking. The first time it happened my grandpa was so upset when he saw her running around the front lawn. After that they put a clothespin in the door to make it more difficult to get out. But we still could get out in an emergency.

Those cool summer nights and morning were so delightful. It was a time before air conditioning, and the City was hot and dirty. Misty lakes and cold mornings were wonderful summertime gifts from our parents.

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