Tag Archives: bungalows

Come to the Firemen’s Festival! At Kauneonga Lake!

1 Jan

Anyone who stayed in White Lake and Kauneonga Lake in the 1950s, 1960s and early 70s remember the excitement that led up to the Fireman’s Festival. Even as I write these words I can hear the cry of the volunteer firemen as they drove up and down Route 55 and West Shore Road calling out: “Come to the Firemen’s Festival. This weekend! Come support the Firemen’s Festival.”

I still hear how they drew out the words “Fi- re- men’s – Fes-ti-val!” It was a lovely chant! And gave us so much joy when we heard it. The Firemen’s Festival was a highlight of the summer months.

Each year the volunteer firemen hosted a fundraiser on the empty lot in front of the elementary school that bordered the towns of Kauneonga Lake and White Lake. I was always so excited to go!

First were the signs around town telling us when the Firemen’s Festival would be held. Then the week before, the firemen on the truck would go through town letting us know exactly when. We all knew where.

It was an important fundraiser for these very important men (mainly men then) who helped so many!

At the Firemen’s Festival were all sorts of festival games like ring toss and hitting a weight to make it go to the top of the tower. There was a man who guessed your age.   There was food. There were prizes. There were so many people. It was a great time for all. I remember walking around with my parents and meeting up with friends, at which point we deserted our parents.   With a few dollars in your pocket you had enough money for activities to last the day.

The volunteer firemen had a significant role in the community. Now only did they fight fires, but they also came to the rescue of anyone who was in peril of drowning. At least once each summer the sirens would go off and the many trucks and cars of the volunteers headed toward the lake and the fire station. The volunteer firemen stopped whatever they were doing to help. They could not always save the person, but they tried.

They also had the firemen’s beach, which was located next to the ramp where people could put their boats in the lake on the Kauneonga Lake side. It was close to the fire station, just at the edge of the lake. It was where the firemen and their families could come to enjoy the lake.

The Firemen’s Festival was a way for them to raise the money to keep the station going and upgrade equipments as needed. They took no pay. It was just community members coming together to help. The way it is in many small towns.

Their coming together saved my father’s life in the early 1990s. There was no longer a Firemen’s Festival. The fairgrounds are now covered in knee-high weeds. But there is still a volunteer fire department.

In 1991 my Dad decided to cut some branches off the trees lining our driveway. At first my Mom and sister and her husband, Jerry, helped. But after a while, my Mom and sister decided to walk down the road to visit family. By that time the bungalow colony was closed, but people, including some family members had purchased all the bungalows. Jerry, who had poison ivy, took a nap.

Even though my Mom told my Dad to stop cutting while they were all busy, he did not listen. They are high trees. My Dad fell off the ladder and was knocked unconscious with a fractured skull.   When he did not show up to pick up my Mom and sister as planned, they called the house. They woke Jerry, who went outside and found Dad unconscious under a tree. He called 911.

The volunteered firemen responded. My sister said they saw cars flying past the bungalows and knew something was very wrong even before Jerry called them back. My Mom knew it was my Dad. My aunt or perhaps my cousins quickly drove them up to the house, where by this time many firemen and EMTs had gathered to stablize my Dad and get him to a hospital. Their cars lined our driveway.

Although he was first taken to the regional hospital in Harris, near Liberty, where he was further stabilized, his condition was so dire, he had to be taken to another hospital by ambulance. He was unconscious for a week. But he survived for another 18 years. Thanks to the firemen.

So whenever I think of the Firemen’s Festival, I always think of the firemen who years later were still helping those in need. I feel badly that the event to raise money for the firemen is no longer held. The Firemen’s Festival was a wonderful way to raise money and provide a wonderful summer activity. But with the changing nature of the bungalow colonies it was no longer feasible.

The work and the importance of the Volunteer Fire Department should never be undervalued. They deserve our thanks and high praise.

Loudspeakers Often Interrupted Life And the Quiet of the Catskills

30 Dec

Our bungalow colony was very small.   So we did not have loudspeakers to make event announcements and communicate phone calls. We could easily run over to the bungalow and get the needed person. And since we did not have a day camp or a casino or clubhouse, everyone would make plans while visiting during the day.

But we were so close to Fink’s Kauneonga Park, Top Hill, Sheppy’s and Friedmans that we heard all their announcements. To be honest, sometimes they made me crazy.

Phone calls, camp events, activities, emergencies, all were announced; sometimes over and over again. “Mrs. Shirley Katz, bungalow 7, you have a phone call.” The first time it was announced, it was very polite. But after a few minutes, the “Mrs. Katz, bungalow 7, you have a phone call,” had a much more emphatic tone.

Remember though that poor Mrs. Shirley Katz was up in the Catskills by herself. Her children were around. Her husband was not. She had to get everything settled before she ran to get the phone. Usually the couples arranged in advance when they would have the weekly phone call. But sometimes things just did not work out.

One summer, my friend Vicki was in charge of answering the three phones at Fink’s.  I was a mother’s helper that summer, also at Finks.   I took care of a little boy named David about seven hours a day, while his older siblings were in camp and his mom relaxed and played mah jonng. I think I earned $12 a week.

While I got to be outside, Vicki had to sit in the phone room waiting for phone calls. So often I would take the baby and sit with Vicki while she waited for calls. A most boring job except when the phone rang. We would sit on the back steps, play with the baby and visit while she waiting.

When a phone call did come in, Vicki would jump up to answer it. Then she was the voice on the loudspeaker, announcing who had the call and which phone to go to. Fink’s had three phones and people would get calls on the phone closest to their bungalows. Vicki also announced what movies were playing in the clubhouse. I find that amazing now, that a young teen had so much responsibility.

The main three-phone bank was at the main house where the Finks lived. So sometimes Mrs. Fink, who was also a friend of my grandmother, would give us snacks and something to drink. At times, she sat and visited with us or even let us watch television. That was a treat because most people did not have television reception in the Catskills.

If it started to rain, and I could not get back to the bungalow where David’s family lived, I would just stay at the ‘big house,’ until David’s Mom came an got us. She knew that we were safe with Mrs. Fink. So I do not think she ever worried.

I also took the baby to the front lawn and read a book while he sat in my lap. Sometimes I read out loud to him. I often wonder what happened to David. I read him many mysteries. Perhaps he is a lawyer or judge? He has to be about 45 or 46 now. I watched him for two summers, before I got a ‘real’ job. So I was 12 and 13.

The second summer, Vicki no longer answered the phones. She became a mother’s helper as well. I digress, but being a mother’s helper was a popular job for young teen girls and the moms at the colony.

Back to the announcements: Loudspeakers and announcements became part of everyday life. When I was watching David, sometimes I did not even notice that someone was being called. I was intent on what I was doing. Taking care of a baby is hard work! And little David just sat and played. He could ignore the announcements as well. He would just sleep through them when he was napping!

But for the people in the colony the announcements were very important.

“Tomorrow at Camp is color war day! Remember to dress your camper in the correct color T-shirt!”

“Tonight at the casino is bingo night! “

“This weekend the entertainment will be (insert your favorite low cost entertainer)!”

“Tonight’s movie is (insert a favorite from the 60s and70s). It will be shown at 7 pm.”

“Mrs. Levy, bungalow five, your son is at the concession stand. Please come and get him!”

“Alert, our-year old Bruce Gordon is missing. If you find him please take him to his Mother, Mrs. Gordon at bungalow 23! Let me know when he is found!”

“Ladies, the (type of peddler) is here at the main entrance.”

“The Good Humor truck is in front of the pool. Any one who wants a treat should come now!”

There were all sorts of announcements. And with four bungalow colonies nearby making announcements, we heard them all day long. I remember the one that started the day with the National Anthem. I think it was Fink’s for the day camp.   “Good morning campers! Let’s sing the Star Spangled Banner!” I hated that the announcement was so early in the morning, especially on days when I could sleep in!

Oh I cannot forget the overnight camps. Camp HiLi was just across Kauneonga Lake from our colony and our dock. We heard all their announcements as well. Some were food announcements, telling them it was time to go to the dining hall. Sometimes it was activity announcements and other times telling them to get ready for Shabbat. We could see the campers down at the lake and watch them scurry up the hill when certain announcements were made.

The loudest and most interesting of all the announcements, however, came during the weekend of August 15-18, 1969: Woodstock!!! Usually on the weekends there were not as many announcements because the dads were up, the camp was closed and there were not as many phone calls.

But during Woodstock, we heard all of the concert announcements.

“Let’s welcome Joe Cocker (or any other entertainer) to the stage.” Thunderous applause and the ground shook. YES it did shake with the vibration of the music and the bass and the people.

Each act was announced.   Bad drugs were announced. Food distribution was announced. I even remember the rain being announced. But really we all knew it was raining.

I loved hearing the Woodstock announcements. I remember lying in my bungalow listening to the rain, the music (we could hear it from our house) and the announcements. But those were out of the ordinary. Not the boring usual weekday announcements that could make me crazy.

Actually, the peaceful sounds of the Catskills cannot be remembered without also remembering the sounds of the loudspeakers over the quiet summer days.

Thanks to Vicki for remembering with me.   Also all the names of people in the announcements are fictional!

An Actual Announcement:  https://www.youtube.com/embed/lZ4bzu5Qi2U?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

Personal Mail Delivery at the Bungalows

27 Dec

Each summer before my brother could have a ‘real’ job, he had a job devised by my grandfather. Since my grandparents owned the small bungalow colony where we stayed each summer, they were responsible for certain amenities. One of these was mail delivery.

It was before the time of email and cell phones. Communications with people who had stayed behind in the City for the summer relied on mail.   And since most people did not have cars at the bungalow colony, someone had to walk into Kauneonga Lake and pick up the mail. It became my brother’s job when he was 10 years old.

Before him, he believes one of our cousins got the mail for a year. My Grandpa gave the job to the boys until they could get a real job. Then it was passed down to the next younger boy.

My brother got the job for several reasons. First, of course, someone did have to get the mail. Second, my brother was a grandchild. Third, my brother was an extremely active child. I think my grandfather was trying to give my Mom a break and also to wear my brother out. But honestly, nothing wore my brother out!

My brother’s morning went something like this.   Get up early. Eat a bowl or two of cereal. Then walk to the bungalows. We lived about 1/3 mile up the road from the colony in a bungalow behind our maternal grandparent’s home.

When he arrived at the bungalow colony he first went to the bungalow where our paternal grandparents and great aunt Minnie stayed to have the second breakfast waiting for him. Usually they had eggs, toast and cookies for him. My Grandma Esther was a great baker.   They had to give him enough energy to finish the walk to get the mail. I think she also gave him a nickel or so because he picked up her newspaper.

He would take the mail that people had given him or my Mom the day before, but first checking to see if anyone left him anything on their front steps, and set off for his journey into town.   Sometimes he was given additional jobs, like buy a newspaper at Vassmer’s.   Or buy stamps. So he always had a little bit of money that he needed to take with him and to keep track of it.

It was about mile or so walk into town. Sometimes he would have company. Another boy would walk with him. But other times he had to go on his own. If it was raining, he did not have to walk into town. The mail could wait. No one wanted him to get sick!

The post office to the left and the fire station to the right, across from the lake side on the other side of the grassy triangle.

The post office to the left and the fire station to the right, across from the lake side on the other side of the grassy triangle.

The town of Kauneonga Lake has a grassy triangle in the middle. Around it are the streets that lead to 17 B, West Shore Road and Swan Lake Road.   On the other side of the street were the stores on one side, the fire station on the other side, along with the buildings for the post office and the bakery.

Once he returned from his two-mile journey he would go to each bungalow and deliver the mail and whatever else they had ordered. It was a lot of work for a young boy, but he had a routine.

After he delivered the mail he would wander over to the bungalow where our Aunt Leona stayed. And, as he says, “If the timing was right I would deliver their mail and have my third breakfast.” That is right, breakfast number three. Goodness knows my aunt did not want him to go hungry! And since she was feeding her three boys, what was one more?

He ended his deliveries with my maternal grandparents. He would walk back up the hill to their home and deliver their mail. And have his fourth breakfast with our Grandfather.   My brother said that was usually burnt rye bread toast and coffee. It was burnt on purpose; Grandpa loved burnt rye bread toast! (Honestly I love it as well.)

Yes, my brother ate three or four breakfasts every single weekday morning.

But after he ate the fourth breakfast, Grandpa Nat would give him a chore to do before he could play: cut the grass, pick up leaves, or even straighten nails.   To be honest he and one of my cousins had the nail straightening job whenever they misbehaved.

He would come back to our bungalow and check in with Mom delivering the last mail of the day to her. I think she always asked him if he was hungry because my parents did not know at first that he was eating so many meals. Once they found out, they were amazed. Where was the food going? Did he have a hollow leg? He was so skinny!!! But he was able to pack it away.   I do not know how he did it.

The most amazing aspect is that he still had room for lunch a couple of hours later.

My brother enjoyed his four summers as the mail delivery service.   After he ‘retired’ and got a real job, I became the part-time mail person. Yes, I was a girl, but by then Grandpa had run out of boys.  So a change was made.

The next summer I worked at the bakery in town three or four days a week, and the bakery was in the building attached to the wooden building that housed the post office. So it made sense that I got the mail when I finished working. I only worked in the mornings. So the mail was delivered by lunch. And no, I did not get four meals!

The first summer I worked at the bakery, Grandma Thelma worked with me. But many days, when the store was not busy, she would just go and visit with Mrs. Driscoll.   In reality the post office was the center of town. You not only got your mail there, you also got all the gossip from Mrs. Driscoll.

I loved going to the post office with my Grandma.

While I walked to the left hallway where all the mailboxes were located, they would continue their discussions about Kauneonga Lake happenings. Sometimes when I got too close to them, they became quiet. So I knew to stay by the mailboxes or make believe I was looking at all the “Wanted” posters, so I could listen to all the gossip of the town.

I continued to get the mail one more summer, when I worked at the bakery by myself. But after that summer people started having cars at the bungalows and opening their own post office boxes. So they went to get their own mail.

We had the same mailbox for over 50 years, Box 792. We no longer have a mailbox in Kauneonga Lake. And of course Mrs. Driscoll and my Grandma are no longer with us. But my brother and I have wonderful memories of the post office and our years as the mail delivery service.

Thank you to my brother for sharing his memories and helping to make this an accurate description of a summer activity.

The Catskills’ Peddlers Brought Wares and Excitement

14 Dec

In the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, weekdays in the bungalow colony were fun, but somewhat routine. Yes we played, we swam, we fished. We enjoyed being outside. But we were basically confined to an area whose boundaries were determined by how far we could walk.

In those days, most families only had one car, and that car was with the Dad, who had driven back to the City for the week. So during the week, we stayed put.

We were unable to go far to shop, and definitely could not carry too much back with us. A walk into town, Kauneonga Lake, to Vassmers, Newman’s or Sylvia’s S & G were the most we could muster. We could not go out for meals, except for the Chinese restaurant that was across the street or sometimes walk into town for ice cream at Newman’s. Those were our choices, until the late 60s early 70s when my grandparents were up and we had my grandfather’s car to use during the week.

The big excitement during the week, before we had a car, was when the peddler arrived with a station wagon filled with items for sale drove up the driveway. Some peddlers specialized in one item, like purses or linens; others carried a variety of many items.

I loved the arrival of a peddler car. Everyone would stop what they were doing and walk over to the car, where the peddler had already opened up the truck and started spreading things out: clothing, and linens, toys and dolls. It was a wonderful barrage of color and merchandise.

The moms would quickly pick through the items they needed. Sometimes we got clothing, because it seemed in the summer we were always growing, especially my brother. His jeans always seemed to shrink during the summer. But in reality he was just getting taller and taller. My Mom used to tell him that he would bankrupt the family because she had to buy so many jeans. But it was okay, I actually wore his hand me down pants then.

I remember the ‘muumuu’ dresses that the Moms wore during the week. The peddler often had a wonderful selection of these brightly colored, easy to wear dresses. My Mom got one that she loved. It had a multi-colored stripe like pattern. And along the edge was a white fringe. Once she got a ‘muumuu’ that she stopped wearing very soon after purchasing. It made her look pregnant. And with three small children, she definitely did not want that mistake to be made.

I still remember the day when we were shopping and someone she knew asked if she was expecting. I thought my Mom would collapse in the store. When we got home, she immediately changed. I never saw her wear that dress again.

My favorite memory concerns a doll. My Mom and Grandma promised me a new doll. I do not remember why. I must have either been very well behaved that week, or my brother destroyed my doll. In any case, I saw this lovely nurse doll. She had a beautiful white uniform, with warm brown skin. I loved her.

My Mom, my Grandmas and the peddler tried to talk me out of wanting that particular doll. But I would not back down. I loved the warm color of the doll. I wanted only that doll. And a promise is a promise. So they purchased the nurse doll for me. It was not until years later that I was told the doll was African American. At that age, to me, a doll was a doll.

Getting fresh food was also an important issue. I vaguely remember that we had milk and cheese delivered directly to the colony. But fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs were another story. Everyone helped each other. There was always at least one dad up during the week. And when he and his wife went shopping, they often had small orders from many families.

We also had trips to farms where we would go out into the fields and pick the fresh tomatoes, corn, string beans, peas and other vegetables. You paid by the weight. I loved to go. There was one up on Hurd Road and even further up on West Shore Road. There was also food sold at farm stands. One in White Lake on 17B was great for fresh corn and other vegetables. It was my Dad’s favorite stand.

When I think of my Dad, I always think of eggs! My grandfather was a retired baker, who continued to bake. So he needed lots of eggs. The Goldstein’s had a chicken/egg farm on West Shore Road near Happy Avenue. They were good friends of my grandparents, and they sold my Grandpa eggs wholesale. My Dad was in charge of getting the dozens of eggs that Grandpa needed. Over the years, others at the bungalow colony started asking for eggs. My Dad started taking orders and buying crates of eggs filled with large trays holding two and half dozen eggs per tray. He always took one of us to go with him. It was a treat!

Shopping in the Catskills was much more fun than shopping in Jersey. A grocery store had nothing on going directly to the farm. A clothing store was fun, but not the same a rummaging through the trunk of a station wagon. I still get a thrill when I see an old fashion station wagon! The Catskills’ peddlers brought wares and excitement to the bungalow colonies!

Waiting For the Dads to Arrive!

13 Nov

A weekend group dinner.

A weekend group dinner.

During the week our bungalow colony was ruled by women. Yes there was always at least one Dad up, taking his vacation and being a presence. And we did have a few grandfathers. But mostly it was the Moms running things. Taking care of us, the bungalows and any problems that arose, be it emergency medical runs due to childhood injuries, dealing with the rain and cold weather, or just disciplining children who were running a bit wild for the summer.

From Monday mornings to Thursday, life was just fun. The Moms were pretty relaxed. They played mah jong and different card games. They knitted and chatted. They took us swimming and went for walks.

They did the laundry, cleaned and went grocery shopping. It was peaceful and fun.

But on Friday mornings, life began to change. It was time to get ready for the Dads arrival. And now the Moms were really busy.

Plans were made!

Would they go to a show or a movie? Which Dad was staying up for the next week? What would they wear? Were they going to have a group dinner this weekend? We usually did. With two sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles, at least once during the weekend we all ate a meal together. (This was before we moved out of the bungalow colony and up to the ‘big’ house. After that we did not always join them for meals. )

The plans were intense. Everything had to be perfect for when the Dads arrived late on Friday.

They would work all day in the City and then drive up for the weekend. It was a weekly exodus from the city to rejoin their families in the Catskills. The traffic was intense especially in the 1950s and 60s before the new highways were built. It took at least four hours to make the journey — a trip that now takes about two hours.

The children were on high alert. You did not want to misbehave on Friday. If you did during the week, it was not too bad, you got punished by your Mom. She might say that she was going to tell Dad when he came up. But any event that happened on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday was usually forgotten. However, misbehaving on a Friday was not a good idea. Moms usually remembered that!

We all got busy cleaning the bungalow and getting back into a semblance of order. Those little cabins were hard to keep clean and neat, especially with three little children. And even more difficult on rainy weeks when we were inside most of the time.

But on Friday, it was an all out effort to make the place look beautiful and cozy.

Often we were asleep when the Dads started arriving. But sometimes a Dad got off earlier and came up in time for dinner. Most of the time we were asleep when our Dad came up. And the excitement was on Saturday morning when we got to see him in the morning.

I think, looking back, that the Moms did love their time of freedom. It was much more relaxed during the week. The weekends were more hectic with shows, shopping and family activities.

We loved seeing our Dad and playing with him. Because our grandparents owned the bungalow colony, my Dad often had extra jobs to do on the weekends. But we all helped. It was just part of life!

The excitement of waiting for the Dads was sometimes too much. We would be so excited that we sometimes cried. And often we would bet which dad would be up first!

The fun and excitement lasted for just two days. On Sunday nights and early Monday mornings the Dads would leave once again. The quiet would return to the bungalows. And the slow, summer days would return until the next Friday.

Old Movie Memories Invade My Mind

2 Nov
Our grandparents purchased this house in 1962,  a few years after the last movie was filmed.

Our grandparents purchased this house in 1962, a few years after the last movie was filmed.


In the attic of our home in the Catskills, my brother found a box of old 9 mm movies. These 29 movies recount the early days of our parent’s marriage. There is my Mom’s shower, and even a movie of the wedding itself. We were shocked when we found it!

The majority of the movies were filmed between 1951 and 1958, with a few a little bit later. So we have film of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my brother and I…and a few of my sister who was born in 1958. We figure after the third child was born, there was not a lot of time to film us!

My brother took the films to be put on to DVDs. So we now each have two DVDs filled with 3 ¼ hours of family memories, in color. There is no sound, but it does not matter. We can often figure out what they are saying.

They are so young in these films. My parent’s wedding is especially poignant: seeing so many family members who have passed away. To see them once again in this movie means so much to all of us. You can see the joy and excitement in the synagogue in West New York, NJ.

I knew that movies existed. We had seen them as children. But did not know where they were. So the find of the box filled with movies was extraordinary! It provided much joy for my siblings and me.

I always thought the movies were in black and white. I remember seeing a few of them when we were children. My Dad would set up his projector in the living room and show the movies against a wall. Some of the movies we found, I remember so well. I thought I remembered the incidents themselves. But when I saw the movies, I realize what I remember is the movie of what happened.

The bulk of the movies were taken in the Catskills at my grandparent’s bungalow colony. I see my aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends. People I knew my entire life. There are also people I do not recognize. Did they only come up for just a year or so? Or perhaps they are people who passed from my parents’ lives and were not important? Maybe they were just visitors or friends of friends.

Some I might not recognize because they changed so much from the time I was young to when I remember them as I grew up. But it does not matter who they are, they were part of our parent’s life, so we are glad to see them.

It is fun to see the clothes and cars from the 50’s, to see them laughing and goofing off at the bungalows, to see them so alive is so joyful! I wish I could watch these movies everyday.

I cannot. Because along with the joy of the movies, is the realization that not only they are gone, but also the joy of bungalow colony life.   This is the zenith of Jewish bungalow colony life in the Catskills. The 1950s, 60s and early 70s is when so many people journeyed up to the ‘mountains’ for vacation.

It was also important to get children out of the city in the late 40s and early 50s, before the polio vaccine was developed. By being in the Catskills, they were somewhat spared this dread disease.

My parents and grandparents in front of the home in 1962.  My siblings and I now own it.

My parents and grandparents in front of the home in 1962. My siblings and I now own it.

I miss my summers in the Catskills. I am lucky as my siblings and I own our grandparent/parent’s home which our grandparents purchased in 1962. The house has so many happy memories.   We still have a place to stay and enjoy the peace. We are also lucky because our cousins have summer homes in Kauneonga Lake as well. When we go up, we create new memories, but we also have the history of experiences shared.

Next summer I plan to bring the DVDs up to the Catskills. I think my siblings, cousins and all the children would have a great time sharing these memories as we see our parents alive once again.

Early Morning Fishing Expeditions Were Another Summer Joy

18 Oct

When the mist was still rising above the lake and the sun had not totally come out; when the cool air forced you to wear a lightweight jacket over your clothes, then was the best time to go fishing!

But fishing did not just happen. You had to prepare. First you had to gather the worms. We never went shopping for worms. NO! You got your metal coffee can prepared ahead of time: filled with dirt and holes punched into the plastic lid. Then you waited for a rainy day, when the worms crawled out of the dirt. Collection began then.   You had to collect the living worms, the ones that were still squiggly and crawling and pick them up and put them in your coffee can.

Success was at least 20 worms.

Next step was getting permission and finding an adult who would go to the lake with you. On the weekends, usually a dad would come along. And sometimes the dad who was up for the week would come. But we also had grandfathers who would sometimes go fishing with us. We just had to get up early, collect our gear and go across the street to our dock on Kauneonga Lake.   We would fish off the dock or stand in the shallow water next to it to fish.   This is the time before we were allowed to go on a boat.

Once the permission was granted and a supervising adult was found, then the day was selected. TOMORROW! We will go fishing tomorrow morning. You have to be up at 6 am…Ha. Perhaps 7:00 am. Usually a group of us went fishing together, carrying our fishing poles and our cans of worms. Wrapped up in a warm jacket, we made our way across the street.

I loved to fish when I was little. I did not even mind touching the worms. But I was a bit afraid of the hook. I did not want to put the worm on the hook. I had seen accidents over the years. The hook in a finger or stuck in a leg. Sometimes it got caught up in my hair. I had to wear my hair back when we went fishing. A hat was best! I did not like when the boys flung their poles to get the hook and worm further out in the water. That is usually when someone got hurt.   I liked to stand by myself a bit away from everyone else.

But I still liked it.   Oh, we also had a bucket filled with water to put the fish in that we caught. And we did catch fish. Some were too small and had to be thrown back in. But some were just perfect. And they went into the bucket. They would be dinner eventually!

Fishing usually lasted an hour or two, and then we would take our catch back across the street. Near the area when the cars parked was a big rock and wooden low wall. That is where we cleaned the fish.   When we were really little the dads and grandpas did the cutting and cleaning. But I have to admit, I was really good at it. When I was about 10, it became my job. I could cut off the head and filet the fish the best of all! I do not care what my siblings, cousins or friends say, I know I was the best.

In later years this skill became important. During high school and college I worked in a deli, both in North Bergen, New Jersey, and at Daitch Shopwell in Monticello. I was the best at filleting the white fish. People would choose their white fish and then ask that I filet it.   I very rarely left any bones in. So fishing gave me a lifetime skill.

But when we filleted the fish from the lake, we sometimes found lots of eggs inside and other interesting features. It was somewhat gross, but also somewhat intriguing. I liked to be neat and organized about it.

After the fish were filleted, we would clean them and then wrap them in white paper. This is when the moms would get involved. They had to be wrapped perfectly to go in to the refrigerator. Sometimes we had them that evening on the grill. Other times we waited for the dads on the weekend to eat our catch.

When we got older we could go out on a rowboat to go fishing. I used to go with a friend of my parents. I remember Bernie getting me early in the morning to go out on his rowboat and fish. I loved it. Bernie E and his family had a bungalow on the property that was next to my grandparents’ colony. They lived near my grandparents in West New York, New Jersey. And they bought their property because of my grandparents.

One of my cousins now owns this property along with a piece of my grandparents’ colony. He has a great view of the lake. When I see it now, I am amazed. He has one home when four bungalows used to stand. It makes me realize how small the bungalows really were!

Besides fishing, we also could collect crayfish. These are like little lobsters. They lived among the rocks that held up the docks. We never ate them. We just liked to catch them. The boys liked to play with them. During the summer you would get to recognize different crayfish because of a missing claw or a scar. Those were usually put back into the water.

I would have loved to share my joy in fishing with my children. But living in Kansas, with no lakes nearby made that nearly impossible. However, we had a chance. It just did not go well at all.

Lara fishing lake of ozarks

My husband’s Aunt Matt and Uncle Stan spent every summer at the Lake of the Ozarks, a large man-made lake, which supplied the water power that ran the hydroelectric industry in Missouri. They also owned two weeks in March of time-shares in what were known as ‘tree-houses’ at a resort called Tan-Tar-A. All the nieces and nephews in easy driving distance, those of us in St. Louis and Kansas City, had open invitations to spend time with them. My husband’s Mom died when she was only 59, and her sister, Aunt Matt, took her role as substitute grandma very seriously. So for us an invitation to visit was really a veiled command. One that we loved to obey.

When my daughter was about three, we went to spend a long weekend with them in March. Uncle Stan was so excited, “Precious (he called all the little ones Precious), Do you want to go fishing?” He said. She nodded. And his joy was immense.

The search for bait began. My husband and his uncle drove to several different bait places looking for minnows. Almost all were closed. The season had not yet started. But finally, after hours of searching, they found an open store and brought home minnows. They had forgotten that they had no containers, so they used a big plastic container. Our daughter played with the fish all afternoon. Later that evening, we noticed our daughter walking around with plastic container.   “Where are the minnows?” My husband asked.

“In the sink!” was the reply. She was done with minnows.

My husband and his uncle ran to the bathroom. Some fish were still alive. They filled the sink with water, hoping against hope it would work. No way. That chlorine wiped the fish out. There were no minnows. There was no fishing expedition in the morning. And to be honest, we never tried fishing again with my daughter.   Of course Uncle Stan and Aunt Matt were fine about it. Aunt Matt’s response was typical for her, “Wasn’t that cute?” Uncle Stan chewed on the stub of his cigar. He never actually lit it when children were around, but he did chew a lot that evening!

Years later our nephews tried to get our son interested in fishing. They lived close to Uncle Stan in the St. Louis area, and had gone fishing with him at a nearby pond. But they could not get my son interested. Sitting still and waiting for a fish to take the bait was not his idea of fun. They even gave him a used fishing pool in an effort to convince him to like it. Did not work.

It is the only summer joy that I never was able to instill in my own children. And although I wish they would have learned to enjoy fishing, my memories make up for their lack of enjoyment.


Oh How I Dream About Ice Cream in the Catskills… In the Summer

7 Oct

Sometimes I dream about ice cream. I know that sounds crazy, but since I became aware that I am lactose intolerant, I stopped eating ice cream about 20 years ago. It has been difficult.

When I dream of ice cream, I am always in the Catskills. It is summertime. I am standing on the side of the road by our dock and the Good Humor man comes by, and I get my favorite treat, a chocolate sundae. I am in ice cream heaven.

For years the same ice cream man came by my grandparents’ bungalow colony. Since it was situated right on West Shore Road, we would run up to the gate when we heard that ding-a-ling bell. There would be the big white Good Humor truck. Sometimes we were at our dock across the street. One of the Moms always had money to treat us. It seemed he came every day at the same time.

One year, when I was about 6, a new ice cream man was on the truck, as our ice cream man retired. But I was not forgotten. He had sent an chocolate sundae just for me. I do have to say, I was adorable with the cutest lisp when I was little. And chocolate sundae sounded like “ouclate undae. “

Ice cream treats were always the best. But it was not just the Good Humor man who made us happy.

When we moved up the hill to the new property my grandparents purchase, it had both a winter home and a bungalow, we were very close to Fink’s Kauneonga Park Bungalow Colony.   There was a small grocery store on the property, and sometimes my Mom would send us there to pick up milk or some other essential. She almost always gave us money for ice cream as well. I loved looking down into the freezer to chose a treat. I liked the cone with vanilla ice cream covered in hard chocolate and nuts.  Oh Yum!

We often got an ice cream treat at the Casino/Clubhouse at the White Lake Home Estates when we went to play bingo. And another favorite ice cream stop was Newman’s. There was an ice cream fountain there, and you could order a sundae, or perhaps a milk shake with two straws, or maybe a banana split, or a malted. Newman’s was extremely yum. The year we came up to the Catskills, and it was closed, we were devastated!

When we got older we often went to Poppy’s in Parksville. That was excitement. Usually a group of us drove there after a movie. The weirdest is that we once ran into our parents there having ice cream. We never saw them there again. I think they started going somewhere else. It was embarrassing to be out with a group in our late teens/early 20s and have our parents there. But I think they were embarrassed as well. They could not let go with their young adult children watching.

Lonely me sitting in the car watching everyone else in line to get Candy Cone!

Lonely me sitting in the car watching everyone else in line to get Candy Cone!

But the best of the best in Kauneonga Lake and White Lake is and was and always will be Candy Cone. Sitting close to the intersection of 17 B and Route 55, near to what was the Ritz Theater and across the street from El Monaco’s, Candy Cone is a Catskills dream come true. To this day, a trip to the Catskills is not complete without a stop at Candy Cone.

On the weekends my Dad would drive us up for a treat. There were so many cars waiting for people to buy soft serve ice cream. Sometimes we would get big containers to take back to the bungalow. But really the best was buying the cone you liked. I always wanted vanilla soft serve with chocolate topping. I loved how it froze and became solid on the ice cream. My Mom’s favorite was chocolate ice cream with sprinkles.   Everyone had a special.

During the week, and before we could drive, we often walked the two or so miles to Candy Cone. I will say my friend and I got in the biggest trouble on the way back from Candy Cone once.

Actually we, “D” and I, had walked around the lake, a seven-mile trek up to Happy Avenue then to 17 B then to 55 and Candy Cone and then back home!  I often made this journey with one or two of my friends. We were tired on our way back, even with the ice cream stop! I think we were about 15/16 years old. So we decided to try to hitch a ride. We stood on the side of the road and put our thumbs out to hitch. A car stopped. It was my Dad. (He was up a day early, having been on a business trip.) As we quietly crawled into the car, my Dad said, “If I ever see the two of your hitching again, I will break your thumbs.”

I honestly do not think he would ever do that, because my Dad yelled, but that usually calmed him down. My friend appreciated that he never said anything to our Moms. “Your Dad was cool,” she recently told me. “We could have been in really big trouble.” Which is true. If our Moms knew that we tried to hitch a ride, we would have been grounded, as we knew that hitching was forbidden.

Candy Cone is such a big part of our lives, that even though I cannot eat it, I still go. There is something special about sitting in the car watching everyone eating an ice cream. It brings back so many memories with our parents. In the back of Candy Cone there is a large deck to sit on. When you walk that is the best place to sit. I have been there many times with friends and cousins.

This past summer my brother, sister, nieces and I were up there. We went one time with my brother. And I thought we were done. But as we left on Sunday afternoon, and we were supposed to be on a rush to get home because my niece had to see someone, we stopped at Candy Cone.

“I hope you don’t mind,” my sister said. “ But I promised.”

And how could I let my sister break a promise to her daughter. So we had to stop. They enjoyed every bit of their cones!

There was something special about eating ice cream in the Catskills. It is no surprise that I still dream about it: that cool enjoyment of a swirl of ice cream in my mouth. Oh, how I dream about ice cream in the summertime!



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.

“We Have a Bingo!” The Happiest Words at Bingo Night!

26 Sep

Although my grandparent’s bungalow colony was quite small, we were able to take advantage of many of the amenities provided by other Kauneonga Lake institutions.   One of my favorites was Bingo Night at the White Lake Estate homes.

Deep in the middle of the homes, between Hilltop Road and West Shore Drive, was the large round clubhouse, sitting next to a pool. The only time I usually walked by it was when we had to walk past it to get to Amber Lake.   We loved walking around Amber Lake. Before Donnefeld Drive was built up, it was a great place to find salamanders. But after houses were built there, Amber Lake was the place to go to discover all sorts of amphibians.

However, once a week was Bingo Night!!!   Anyone could go to the clubhouse to play. Or I assume so. But it might also have been the fact that my grandparents had many friends who lived in White Lake Estates homes. And now that I think of it, we usually sat near them when we went to play.

We walked along West Shore Road to Donnefeld Drive to West Shore Drive on our way to pay bingo. It was daylight when we walked there, but on the way home it was a very dark journey. At the time there were barely any homes on Donnefeld Drive, so we walked carrying flashlights to help on the way home. That was part of the adventure!

My brother often told us scary stories, as we walked, ones he had heard at Boy Scout camp. The scariest was about Cropsey. Oh my! He set my sister and I up for fear. He told us one day that Cropsey always came to get you after you saw a can swinging in a tree branch. Then, one day before we left for the bingo game, he hung a can on a tree on our path to bingo! As we passed the swinging can on our way, he pointed it out to us, to tell us it was a sign that Cropsey would come! That night when we got home and went to bed, he jumped up at our window with a mask and ax, screaming. I still cannot look outside into a dark night. I do not think I slept for a week!

But that was just an added and usual Catskills sibling event. The main attraction was Bingo Night.   My Grandma and Mom usually went with us for Bingo Night. Sometimes, just my Grandma. I think it was a time for my Mom to have a bit of peace and quiet. We were three very active children. And Grandma liked to go because she sat with her friend Nan. Sometimes one or more of our friends went with us as well. The more the merrier for bingo!

We carried our money carefully in our pockets. It was so exciting to enter the filled hall and stand on line to buy our cards. I cannot remember the price. But it was not expensive. We would buy a drink and a snack before we found seats. Now came the best part: the bingo games.

I remember the angst and excitement when we would be one away from bingo. Would we win? Or would someone else get the last number first? And what if two people won? We all knew not to move the see-through red buttons off our card until the caller yelled, “We have a Bingo!” That was the best call, especially if one of us was the winner. I will be honest that did not happen very often. But when it did! Wow!

The worst thing to happen was to accidentally move your card and have the red markers move. That was a disaster because it was really hard to recreate exactly what numbers had been called. Everyone would help, but it made for a sad game.

I always loved the last game of the evening, the all over board. You had to fill every single number on your card to win this one. And it usually had a bigger prize, perhaps $5.00 instead of the usual $1.00 or $2.00 prize. As I would get closer and closer to filling my card, my heart would begin to pound. I so wanted to win that prize! When a friend or a sibling won, I would be happy. But not the same type of happy I would feel if I actually won.

The joy of bingo stayed with me even as an adult. My mother-in-law, Lee, loved bingo. I remember going to St. Louis and going to her bingo game with her. It was always held in the same church, and was a fundraiser. Lee had a special bingo bag with colored markers and other paraphernalia.   By this time you would buy throw-away, thin paper cards that you marked with a colored marker. You no longer had to worry about the little round buttons moving. When Lee died, way too early at 59, I remember finding that bag and wondering what we should do with it. She loved bingo so much. I kept that bag for a while. But eventually the markers dried out, and I threw it all away.

In Kansas I never found a bingo game. But I have found that on cruises, there are often big bingo events. I actually won bingo on a cruise ship. The pay off is much bigger. I received $150 for winning! That was exciting!!

My daughter and I with our Minnesota bingo winnings.  My friend and her son also won that night!

My daughter and I with our Minnesota bingo winnings. My friend and her son also won that night!

But it was not as exciting as taking my children to play bingo at a resort in Minnesota. We spent a week at the resort with friends and their children. There was a Bingo Night. It brought back so many happy memories. Between the two families we won four hands of bingo. I could not believe it. We even took a photo of the event holding up our winning bingo cards. This was the closest I have come as an adult to the excitement and joy of the Bingo Nights in the Catskills.

We always had something to do in the Catskills. It did not matter that there was not television and no transportation most of the week. Walking to Bingo Night, being with friends and family was enough to bring enjoyment in the Catskills.