Tag Archives: Catskills memories

Welch’s Jar Glasses were a Catskills Classic

22 May

Our Catskills home was the depository for mismatched dishes.  Any set that had lost pieces to breakage over the years soon made its way to the summer kitchen.  Same with glasses and mugs.  If a set was no longer complete, then there was a home for it in the Catskills. I think we were all used to using whatever came out of the cabinet. No worries about everyone having matching plates!

Among the glasses that made their way upstate were all those Welch jelly jar glasses. They were our favorite juice glasses; the perfect size for orange juice or a quick drink of water. I especially loved the Looney Tunes and Flintstones ones when I was a child.  I know there were bigger glasses as well, from sour cream jars.

I was born in the height of jelly jar glasses.  Welch’s started making them in 1953, just a few years before I was born.  I remember going to the store and looking for Welch’s jars we did not already have at home. We wanted as many different ones as possible.

I know they stopped making them for a while because the new way of manufacturing glass made the glass thinner, and the glasses would break when the lids came off.  Thus, for years Welch stopped making these glasses.

I do not know what happened to the ones that were in the Catskills.  I believe they all broke.  Or perhaps my Mom in one of her cleaning sprees decided to give them away. They are no longer in the cabinets in our Catskills home.

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I found out that in 1989, Welch started making these glasses again.  Actually, I did not find out until about the year 2000.  My son is not a lover of Welch jelly, he is a JIF fan. But one day in the grocery store he saw a Pokemon jar of Welch jelly and had to have it.  So I purchased for him.  We still have that glass.  He did not eat the jelly, so I did not buy the other Pokemon glasses that were made.

However, buying that glass reminded me of the glasses we used when I was small.  About ten years ago, I was in an antique mall with a friend.  I was looking for Depression Glass in my pattern when I came upon five Welch’s juice glasses: two Flintstone, two Looney Tunes and one generic one.

I had to have them.  Memories from the Catskills and my childhood are so strong, that sometimes I need a physical touch.  Having the Welch glasses gave me that touch.  The five glasses were purchased; they are not that expensive, just a few dollars each.

I use them for juice and for a quick drink of water.  For a moment I am back in the Catskills during the summer; and all is good in the world.

My Favorite Catskills Photo of Me

16 Oct

Summer 1957

There are many reasons why I have always Loved this photo. First it was taken in the Catskills when I was 2 1/2. I am blissfully happy sitting in the grass. I love seeing the old wooden outdoor furniture.  I know that bench is Blue. I spent many hours on it over the years. 

I love seeing the women on the bench. The one to the far left is my maternal grandmother. She and my grandfather owned the bungalow colony. And with many family members there, I was surrounded by love. To be honest I am not sure who the other woman is, but I think it is my aunt.  I love that bench as my paternal grandmother taught me to knit and crochet as we sat on it when I was about seven or eight. 

I love that my aunt’s feet are resting on that single chair, as I know she is really relaxing. They mothers only put their feet up when they were settled in for a rest.  There is another chair to my side. It indicates to me that there is a square table to my side as well … the table where my grandmothers, great aunt and their friend spent endless hours playing canasta. 

Further on I see some of the white painted bungalows. This was the original colony. Eventually my grandparents purchased more land and moved some of the buildings. Only two of the original bungalows still exist. The land has been sold off and newer homes were erected. Two of my cousins purchased some of the land, so I am fortunate that I can still walk this property. 

I love how I look in this photo. I remember my Dad telling me that this was his favorite picture of me as a child because in this photo he could finally see how I would look as an adult. But I also love it for the curl in the middle of my forehead. I had and still have thick, curly hair. I cannot tell how often one of my parents would recite this poem to me: “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good But when she was bad she was horrid.” 

I know that hat and outfit. It was red and white. Because of my black hair my mom often dressed me in red. I rarely wear red now. Blue is my favorite color. But when I envision myself as a child I am often in red or pink. But that hat I specifically remember. I must have worn it for several years before my younger sister was born and she have the chance to wear it. 

I wish I knew what was in the box I am holding. I am sure it is crackers or cereal. But I wish the front of the box was facing out. It would add to the memory. I guess it does not matter.  Whenever I see this photo, I am filled with joy. I am in my happy place. Our home in Kauneonga Lake, in the Catskills where summers were always delightful.  

The Kauneonga Lake Temple BethEl Recipe Book

12 Aug

I found a treat today. I decided to clean out my cookbooks. My daughter is getting married in a few weeks, and I am in a nesting mode. Sort like when I was pregnant. Now I am cleaning out my house and getting ready for hordes of guests.

I decided to clean out my cookbooks. There are many I have not used in years. I offered some to my daughter, but she informed me that she gets her recipes off the Internet. Fine. She does not want my cookbooks! I will give them to someone who wants them. And will appreciate them. But there are a few I will keep!

I like cookbooks, especially because some have much meaning and memories. I have my mother’s Settlement Cookbook. Probably the best cookbook ever made.   I have kosher cookbooks, healthy cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks, light meal cookbooks, as well as a variety of cookbooks put together as fundraisers by various charitable organizations.

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It was in the midst of these spiral notebook style cookbooks that I discovered a tiny treasure, “Cooking Favorites of Bethel,” put together by the Sisterhood of Temple Bethel, Bethel, New York. This is the congregation I belonged to throughout my childhood when we spent our summers and High Holidays in the Catskills. My grandparents lived in Kauneonga Lake throughout the year and davened at this small shul. I rejoined many years later as an adult to help support it.

I know this book is at least 35 years old, because my grandmother died in 1981. But it has to be older, based on the names of some of the women who contributed recipes. They passed away before my Grandma Thelma, like Clara Wagner. I close my eyes and I see Clara. She was Grandma’s best friend.   They spent many hours sitting and visiting. My Grandma was heartbroken when she passed away.

Then there is Nan Dasher, besides cooking, she would embroider tablecloths. Which she did constantly. I have two tablecloths she made. One specifically for me when I married, and one I took from my mother’s stash after Mom passed away. Nan lived in the White Lake Estates, not far from my grandparents.

So many other names of women I knew when I was a child submitted recipes: Lenore Liff, Yetta Gruber, Mrs. Elfenbaum, Goldie Lerner, Rebecca Rosenberg and more.

But the most exciting and enjoyable for me was finding my grandmother’s name in the book. Thelma Amsterdam contributed four recipes. HA! These recipes are a sort of lie! Grandma did not cook. Okay she cooked but not very well.

I still remember the trauma over this cookbook. Grandma had to submit recipes. She was an important member of the Sisterhood and needed to show she cared. I remember her coming to my Mom to get recipes. There they were sitting in the kitchen and writing down recipes that Mom gave her. The recipes that have my Grandma’s name, every one of them is from my mother. There is my Mom’s simple baked macaroni recipe. I still make it!!!! Even though I cannot eat dairy I have made it for Yom Kippur break the fast, and for shivas. It was so easy! However, Grandma NEVER made this meal.

 

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So when I saw the four recipes she submitted I was filled with the laughter of remembering Mom giving her the recipes. I was filled with memories of my Grandma’s horrible cooking, although she could make the best mushroom barley soup and Pesach noodles. And I remember this book being put together and then published.

I should also tell you that this book is in perfect condition. I don’t think my Grandma ever opened it after she purchase in the effort to support the congregation and its sisterhood.

I honestly do not know when I got it. But I have a vague memory of Grandma giving it to me when I got married. Okay, I never used it either. It is so small it got hidden among my other cookbooks.

I am glad in a way, because now I have this tiny memory in such pristine condition. With it are many memories of Kauneonga Lake and going to shul!

Kauneonga Lake Was A Peaceful Winter Wonderland

13 Dec

Unlike many bungalow colony owners, my grandparents eventually moved up to the Catskills to live full time in the 1960s. For a while they kept a small apartment in the building they owned in West New York, NJ, which was above their original bakery. But eventually they sold that building and no longer traveled back to the “city” in the winters.

Their home in Kauneonga Lake was a ‘winter’ home, and not a small bungalow. It was warm and cozy. They would close off the parts of the house they did not use in the winter. It was a bit scary at first when the furnace turned on as we could actually see the flames through an open grill in the floor. After a few years they replaced this antique system and the house was warmer. There was also a beautiful stone fireplace that helped to keep the house warm.

With my mother’s parents in the Catskills, for my family that meant we would have to travel up to the Catskills in the winter time and visit my grandparents. Usually we went when there was a long weekend, or a holiday. We knew that there would be snow and cold. The snow was sometimes several feet deep. We would be spending most of our time indoors playing cards, board games, watching television and talking.

When we did go outside we would bundle up with every scarf and hat we could find. I would double glove my hands for warmth! BRRRR! We often would sled down the hill in the front lawn and sometimes we would walk into town.

The walks to town were special in the winter. We would walk to the lake and then ACROSS the lake into town. The lake was so frozen that people would actually drive their cars across it in the winter months.

I loved walking on the lake.   It was exciting to step out on to what was usually water and sort of skim my feet across the top. Others would ice skate. Some people fished in the lake and cut holes into the ice to reach the moving water where the fish survived the harsh winters.

In later years, my parents kept cross-country skis up at the house for those days when traveling by car was impossible. They would just stay home and ski in the yard and around the area just for the fun and exercise. My memories do not include skiing, although I think my younger sister did some cross country skiing when she visited. ( My sister reminded me that they also had snow shoes, and our mother enjoyed using them in the winter.)

During my freshman year of college, my parents drove up during winter break for an overnight with my grandparents, and left me up there with them. My grandmother was lonely and needed company. That was my job. Keep Grandma entertained for a week or so.

It snowed and snowed and snowed. And even though my grandfather had someone who usually plowed the long driveway, we still had to dig out. I remember that we could not get plowed for several days. So Grandpa decided we would make a one-car lane through the snow.  Did I tell you it was a very long driveway!

We would go out and shovel for 30 or 40 minutes and then go in for something warm to drink or a cup of soup. My grandma was not a great cook, but she made excellent soup. And on a cold day it was beyond delicious.

That year, for the first time in my life, my face broke out in acne. I think it was the stress of being a college student and living away from home for the first time. My grandmother had a solution. In Poland, where she spent her childhood, there were no fancy medicines, there was just natural solutions to acne. And she wanted to try them all on me.

Every time I went outside she would yell out, “Put some snow on your face. It will help.” And every time I walked back in, she would ask if I had put some snow on my face, which I did. But she was making me a bit upset.

My grandfather finally told her to leave me alone. When that did not work, he took action. When we came in after shoveling for a while, he walked in after me. And when Grandma said, “Did you put snow on your face?” He walked right up to her, and rubbed snow all over her face. She laughed hysterically. And he said, “How do you like to have snow on your face! Enough with the snow!“ That was it. She did not bug about snow again.  (I will be honest, the snow did dry out the acne, and helped to clear it up.  But it was so COLD.)

When the weather was nice, we would visit with the few others who braved the winters. My grandparents had several good friends up there, although most went to Florida for the winters. The people who stayed up throughout the year watched out for each other. There was always someone calling to make sure they were okay or if they needed food.

Winters in Kauneonga Lake were so peaceful. I loved the quiet time to read. I loved visiting with my grandparents and hearing their stories. I even loved when my parents and siblings were there as well and we had major snow ball fights outside. Those were not so peaceful. But to see the giant pine trees covered in snow; to see the lake frozen; and to see people helping each other gave me wonderful memories.

The Lighthouses That Made Me Feel Safe

22 Nov

When I was a little girl, my family drove every weekend from North Bergen, New Jersey, into New York City to have dinner with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. We had to drive over the George Washington Bridge and into the Bronx.

My favorite part of this drive was usually on the way home. Then sometimes my Dad would drive in a round about way so we came to a point where we could see the little red lighthouse under the bridge. We did not always see it, but when we did it made me happy!

We had often read the book by Hildegarde Swift, “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.” It was one of my favorites. I loved the story about the lighthouse being happy till the bridge was built, and then had to realize it was still important. I loved that little lighthouse that lives in Washington Park. So those little excursions to see it filled me with joy.

Rainbow and bridge

Near the bottom of the rainbow stands the little red lighthouse. View from my parents apartment.

Even now, whenever I am back east, I try to get a glimpse of the lighthouse. But it is much harder to see from the roads with all the barriers up, unlike the 60s when it was more open.

When my siblings and I were married, my parents moved into an apartment in Cliffside Park. Their view overlooked the Hudson River. From my parent’s apartment we could look north and see the George Washington Bridge and the New York City skyline. Whenever I was there I would try, perhaps through the trees, with binoculars, to see the little red lighthouse.

I really not see it. But I would imagine it sitting across the river just under the bridge, at the end of a rainbow.   In my mind it was always saving people, even though it had not be used in decades. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

I know it is more than just the book and the adorableness of this little red beacon that made me love lighthouses. Our family had its own attachment to the security a lighthouse provides. My maternal grandparents had a lighthouse nightlight that kept us safe at night in the Catskills.

Lighthouse in the Catskills

The lighthouse nightlight in the Catskills house.

Night in Kauneonga Lake is extremely dark. There are no street lights. And when the night comes and the lights go out…it can be scary for children. Well for adults too, if you do not like the dark. And I do not like the dark!

It was this little lighthouse nightlight that made me feel safe.   It was not the usual nightlight. This heavy brass sculpture has a tiny light bulb in the top that can be switched on and off. Throughout my life, well since about 1964, it sat on a table at the bottom of the stairs. And every night that I spent at my grandparents’ and then my parent’s Catskill home, this lighthouse’s small beacon illuminated the scary dark nights. It was a beacon that kept use all safe. I loved that little lighthouse, as did my siblings and all the grandchildren.

The watchtower nightlight

My watchtower nightlight.

So when my children were little, I also bought a ceramic lighthouse/tower/nightlight that I kept it at the bottom of my stairs, in deference and in honor of the lighthouse I so remembered and loved. My nightlight was not really a lighthouse. It is more of watch tower with a dragon guarding it. But it was the idea of it that made me want to own it and use it in my house. It reminded of my grandparent’s nightlight.

Lighthouse

The Catskills lighthouse in my house.

I now have both nightlights.   After my parents passed away, and we divided some of the belongings, I took the lighthouse back to Kansas with me. I have it sitting on a small half table, just as it sat on a small half table in the Catskills. I have it near the bottom of the stairs. But it is not plugged in anymore. The cord is frayed and I am concerned about the chances of sparks. But I see daily, and I remember the glow of its light.

Across from it is the newer nightlight watch tower. The watch tower is plugged in, but with no children at home, I no longer turn it on. Both lights are out now. But in this troubled time, I still l feel a sense of security when I see a lighthouse and my lighthouse night lights.  I imagine sometimes that they nod to each other and whisper, “we kept them safe.”

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Red_Lighthouse

Autumn Memories of the Great Fire

26 Sep

This is a memory of a Catskills event that could have been a disaster. It is about the day my brother and I almost set the entire forest on fire. I still get a cringe in my stomach when I think about it. But to be absolutely truthful, I also have to tell the not so happy stories as well.

My grandparents had purchased the ‘big house,’ about 1/3 of a mile up the road from their bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake. When the purchase was made, the house and the bungalow behind it were a bit neglected. They were still livable, but there was much maintenance that had to be done to bring the property back to life.

Among the issues was that the brush and trees had grown up around the bungalow. This had to be cleared out … eventually.

It was September, probably around 1963, the year after they had bought the property. We had spent our first summer there, living in the bungalow, instead of at the colony.

My brother believes it happened in the spring. All I remember was the grey. 

That summer one of the boys, who lived in the house next to the ‘big house,’ shown my brother and I how he made fire circles in the forest behind our homes and set fires. He was a few years older than us and seemed very sure of what he was doing.  We were intrigued. It was fascinating and scary at the same time. We never made the fires, we just watched him.
That fall, when we went back up to the Catskills for my Dad to help my Grandfather close up the bungalows, my brother and I went into the woods behind the bungalow at the big house and made a fire circle.

I hate to even say what happened next. But compulsion for the truth is making me.

We were young. I was 8 and my brother was 9. ( My brother thinks we were a bit older.) We did not make a very good fire circle. The rocks did not completely form a circle. The leaves were all around. It was now autumn and the leaves and brush were dry. Even though we had water with us, we did not have enough. And, yes, the fire escaped from the circle.

My brother said the problem was the wind. When Billy taught him to make the fires there was no wind. He had started two or three that were no problem. He had me come out to see the last one, which escaped. 

My brother and I were frantic. We tried to put it out. We threw water on it. We stomped on it. But it would not go out and it was getting bigger.  We got our sister out of the bungalow. 

We ran to the house and told Grandma and Mom that there was a FIRE. We had no phone and no car there. They told us to run to the bungalows and tell Dad and Grandpa. I don’t think we ever ran as fast in our lives. My brother was ahead of me.   We screamed when we got to the bungalows, “There’s a fire at the house! A fire!”

Grandpa and Dad came running!

I honestly do not remember how they called the fire department. Except there was a phone in the laundry house, perhaps it was still connected. Or perhaps one of them drove into town. It is a blur in my mind.

My brother said that Grandma ran to Finks and they called to report the fire. 

They drove back to the house. I think my brother and I walked back. As we walked, we could hear the loud noise as the volunteer fire department sirens went off. When we arrived at the house , Grandpa and Dad were already at the bungalow. It seemed as if dozens of cars were their with all the volunteer firemen. Then the fire engine arrived and drove up the long driveway to the bungalow.

We were lucky. The firemen put out the flames before they reached the bungalow or any other buildings. The fire never made it to the woods. The forest was safe as was the bungalow colony (Top Hill) that backed up to the side of our woods.

The brush and small trees to the sides and behind the bungalow were brunt and now filled with water.

The fire chief and my Dad and Grandpa talked for a while. My brother and I were scared. We knew we were in BIG trouble.

They came to talk to us. “We think it was spontaneous combustion,” they told us. “There were lots of bottles and rags hidden in the brush. We think that is what caused the fire.”

“What is spontaneous combustion?” I wanted to know but I kept quiet. They think that is what started the fire? I felt a sense of immense relief. We were not going to go to jail!!!

My brother and I nodded our heads. Of course they all knew the truth. But that is what the volunteer fire chief was going to put in his report. He knew us and our parents and our grandparents.

The firemen cleaned up, packed up their gear and left our property. They told my Dad to keep a hose near the scene of the fire, and keep checking it to make sure there were no flare ups. I think he watched it through out the night.  But there were no problems. The fire was OUT!

My brother and I walked back with our parents and grandparents to see what had happened. Grandpa and Dad sort of smiled at each other. “Well at least you cleared out the brush,” we were told. “But do not ever light a fire again. You could have set the entire woods on fire!!!’

We were told not to ever touch fire again. This was said to us multiple times for the rest of the weekend.  I think because we were so scared, they decided our fear was punishment enough.  Our only punishment: my brother and I had to help clean out the brunt brush, grass, small trees and junk that was left behind the bungalow under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

My brother says he had to dig out all the burnt blueberry bushes and clean out all the brush and plant the new grass. I did not have to do as much. 

We never, ever set another fire!

I have been scared of fire ever since. I always worry that it will get out of control. I don’t own a fire pit. I never light my fireplaces. I keep fire away from me. The memories of the Great Fire have stayed with me forever.

 

The Legacy of Woodstock

17 Aug

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

It is amazing to me that an event that divided a community; created havoc and orderly chaos; memories that lasted a life time, both bitter and joyful, is now the reason why the Town of BethEl, White Lake and Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY, might actually survive.

It was the Woodstock Festival that put these small towns in the eyes of the nation. I remember that weekend and the weeks that follow so well. My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake and we spent each summer there for my life. My grandparents had made Kauneonga Lake their year-round residence. They knew everyone. They were active in the community and the synagogue.

And I remember the hostilities and disruption that came after the festival was over and most of the people had left.   I say most because a small group stayed behind and never left the area.

I see my Dad trying to direct traffic in front our home. And letting a few vehicles park on our long driveway and front lawn.   I remember the people who came to ask if my grandfather would let helicopters land on our lawn. (That would be a NO.)

I remember the police on horseback trying to ride up the hill to the Woodstock site.

And I remember the mess afterwards. The days upon days to clean up the debris left behind.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

But now that same event that caused pain for many, especial the Yasgurs, is now the reason for renewal.  It so amazes me now that the sign of a bird on a guitar that was so hated by some of the townspeople, is now redone as a bird on a leaf and is  symbol used in the town. And even a horse stable uses a take off of the iconic sign as its symbol. Wow! How the attitudes have changed.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

At first the site of the Woodstock Festival became a legend and people would come up each summer on a pilgrimage to see it and talk about it. There was no monument. A group of people, the remains of the Hog Farmers who had helped at the concert, who hung out there to tell the story. Over time a monument was built, and the field was left empty.

Those who love the area owe thanks to one family’s vision, Alan Gerry and the Gerry Foundation. I believe it is thanks to him that the area is surviving the loss of income from the bungalow colonies. As the colonies closed or came under the ownership of orthodox Jewish communities, the area became desolate. But then in 1997 the Gerry family began it’s interest in the Woodstock site.

With the development of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel and White Lake and Kauneonga Lake have had a small rebirth. Each summer I come up and I see new restaurants, new stores, new houses even. On the weekends I hear the sounds of cars whizzing by our home before and after concerts.

People come to hear the music and to visit the Bethel Woods Museum. Every summer I take a journey the almost two miles to visit the Woodstock site and take a photo. I remember the blocked roads, the multitudes of people. I remember my grandfather’s reactions to all the young adults walking by our home. “Where are their mothers?” He kept asking as he shook his head.

But along with the memories of 46 years ago, I also see the new site. I have to tell you, it is wonderful!