Tag Archives: catskills

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.

 

recipe

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!

I Want My Sandy Back: Our Short Duration of Dog Ownership in 1961

6 Mar

When I was about six years old my father got us a dog. Sandy, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, was so wonderful   We were in the Catskills for the summer when Dad brought the dog to the bungalow. My brother and I were ecstatic.

My sister was just a toddler, so I am not sure how she felt, but she seemed to love the dog as well. Her favorite game was to ride Sandy like a horse. Since she was so little, and Sandy so active, they both had a good time.   My sister seems to remember that the horse riding was my idea. That could have been, I loved horses!

We got to name him, because the dog’s given name was Harry, which was my grandfather’s name. So the first thing we did was have a family conference to name the dog. His name matched his color, a beautiful golden brown.

We often let Sandy run free on the fenced in front lawn of the bungalow colony, right outside our front door. My other grandfather would stand and laugh at the dog running crazy circles. He would scratch his head and say in Yiddish, “Look at that meshuggahan hundt (crazy dog)!”

The summer was wonderful. It was easy to take Sandy on walks, and he had space to run around in the bungalow colony. But then Labor Day came and it was time to return to North Bergen.

We lived in the second floor apartment of a three-story home on Third Avenue.   Sandy was not as happy there as he had been in the Catskills, even though my brother, sister and I showered love on our dog. His adventures became mainly indoor adventuress; not great for an outdoor dog.

In fact, my brother remembers that my parents would put Sandy in the bathroom at night, so he would not roam the apartment. One Sunday morning, my brother got up early and went to the bathroom. He found my young sister wrapping the dog in all the toilet paper!

“What a mess to clean up as he ran around the apartment trailing toilet paper!” My brother remembered.

Actually, overall, having a dog in our apartment was not going very well.

My parents and my brother were usually the ones to walk him. It was a hassle to get him down the stairs and out to the street several times a day. My brother and I were in school. And my Mom was home with my sister, who was still sleeping in a crib. I think my Mom was getting very tired of dog ownership.

Then one day I offered to take Sandy for a walk. I bundled up and took him downstairs. As we were walking, he pulled me into the street. Someone helped me get Sandy back on the sidewalk. I was not going to tell my MOM. But one of the neighbors did. (In those days, every neighbor was like another parent!)

That was the final straw for my Mom. Sandy had to go. “It was not safe to have a dog in the city. It was not fair to Sandy to be locked up in an apartment,” was what my parents told us.

My brother tried to talk them out of giving Sandy away. He promised to walk him every day, if they let us keep our dog. But it did not help.

Soon after that, my Dad found someone who had plenty of land to take Sandy. I still remember the day he came to take our pet. I hid Sandy under my sister’s crib and put the sides down. I put pillows all around to hide him. But it did not work. Sandy followed me out and left our lives forever.

I remember crying for days, “I Want MY Sandy back! I want my Sandy BACK!” I am sure my crying and whining drove my parents crazy. But they were patient and explained over and over how this was better for the dog.

Nothing worked. I never saw Sandy again. However, my parents did report back at least once, that he was loving his life on a farm.

To this day, I cannot watch Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” without thinking of my Sandy. This was my daughter’s favorite movie when she was a child. I watched it almost every day. Each time I watched I would think of my cocker spaniel.

I have never owned a dog after Sandy. My husband and I always had cats. I think part of the reason for me, was that I never wanted a dog to pull someone in the street and be sent away. Cats stay indoors and care for themselves in many ways.

It was just about five months that Sandy was in our family. He arrived in the early summer while we were in the Catskills and was gone by Hanukkah in North Bergen.

Many times I wished I lived in the Catskills throughout the year so that we could have kept Sandy.

Why I Gave Away A Bit of My Mom’s Memory

27 Dec

It is five year’s since my Mom passed away on December 27, 2010. I hold on to her memory, and I have to be honest I have been holding on to items that belonged to her as bits of her, as memories I cannot share but mean so much to me.

Singer Featherweight

My Mom’s Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, now known as Frances.

Included in these memory items was her 1947 Signer Featherweight sewing machine. I think she got it as a high school graduation gift, as she graduated in 1947. So when I had items of my parent’s shipped from New Jersey to Kansas, I included the sewing machine in its carrying case with my shipment.

My siblings thought I was a little crazy. We had not used that sewing machine for years. Why did I want it? Sentimental attachment was my answer.

I learned to sew on that sewing machine. I have many hours of memories locked up in that case. When I was a freshman and sophomore at North Bergen High School, I took sewing classes. I actually loved learning to sew.

At school I used a modern machine, but at home my Mom took out her Singer sewing machine, and I quickly took using it. It was great. It did not take up much room in the closet, and I could easily set it up on the kitchen table when I wanted to sew. I loved using the foot action to make it go slow or fast.

To be honest, I went pretty quickly. It only could sew in straight lines. But it did really good straight lines! So why not zip through them! I can still here the quiet ‘varoom’ of the motor when I hit the foot pedal and gained speed.

I eventually bought a zipper attachment so that I could put zippers in dresses and pants. I should say my parents bought me a zipper attachment.

With that sewing machine I made dresses for my sister, my mom, my grandma and me. I zipped up curtains for our home in New Jersey, and eventually made curtains for my parent’s bungalow in the Catskills. I will never forget that yellow and white and brown pussy willow fabric. I made 18 panels of various sizes to fit all the windows in the kitchen.

When I was 16 my parents bought me a new, in a cabinet, sewing machine that could make buttonholes and had embroidery patterns. Wow! I loved that. I could do so much more with this new machine: zigzags, borders, shirring.

The old Singer Featherweight was not neglected. It moved up to the Catskills for when I needed to sew up there. I mended shirts and pants, I was the queen of hemming. That sewing machine got used weekly during the summer, especially on a rainy day.

I never had to worry about either sewing machine breaking down, as my Dad started his career as the owner of an embroidery shop. He knew everything about sewing machines and keeping them going. He cleaned and oiled and fixed that old Singer Sewing Machine and my new one. Even after I married, he would come yearly and do maintenance on my newer machine.

The Singer Featherweight stayed in New Jersey. Whenever I came to visit my Mom or Dad would ask if I could hem something or fix something. And sometimes I did. Other times, I would recommend that they go to a tailor. When I came, I came with two children, and I often did not have the time to sew.

Eventually the Singer machine got put into a closet and did not come out. After my parents passed away, I found it. And I needed it. So I brought it to Kansas to sit in my closet. But I felt good knowing it was there.

But something happened. Two years ago, I wrote a blog about my newest sewing machine. My children got me one for my birthday because the machine I got when I was 16 had stopped working. I complained bitterly, but I did not go out and get a new one. So my children took action. I put a picture of my Singer in the blog.

Around the same time, I had some Hanukkah placemats and other items made by the sister of a friend of mine. The sister is a big time quilter. She goes to quilting events and has an entire room set up in her home devoted to making quilted items.

And she needed, wanted and desired a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It seems that these machines are very popular with quilters because they make great straight lines, and they are easy to carry. Quilters take them on location to craft meetings. And my friend’s sister wanted one with all her heart. When my friend saw my blog and my Singer sewing machine, she told me how much her sister wanted one.

But I could not part with my Mom’s sewing machine. I thought about letting it go. But I just was not ready. However, last week, when I went on school vacation, I started cleaning closets. I saw the sewing machine case just sitting there, covered by other items. It was forlorn. It needed to be use.

I told my friend, “Why don’t you ask you sister if she wants my Singer Featherweight sewing machine. “

Her sister lives about 90 minutes from me, so I thought she would come sometime after the new year, when she had other reasons to come down here. I was wrong. She came that day, within four hours of the phone call. She wanted that machine.

When she came into the house she was so excited she had tears in her eyes. Wow! It made me feel so happy. I knew I was doing the right thing. To be honest it was good that she came that day, if I had time to think about it I might have changed my mind. I sold it to her for $100, much less than the going price that I saw on line. I am donating the money to charity in my Mom’s name for her yahrzeit.

I feel like I am doing two mitzvot, good deeds. My friend’s sister gets the sewing machine she so desires, and a charity gets a needed donation.

For me the best part is that my Mom’s Singer sewing machine is now with someone who really wanted it: someone who will use it; someone who cares about it almost as much as I do. As an added bonus, she names all of her ‘antique’ sewing machines. She is going to call this machine after my Mom. My Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine is now Frances.

I might have given away a memory of my Mom. But I have created another memory with it. Now the sewing machine will have another life, and Mom’s name and memory are attached to that life.

 

 

 

http://www.planetpatchwork.com/fweight.htm

Grandpa Nat Loved His Four Roses

24 Dec

My Grandpa Nat was a baker. This meant he was often going to bed soon after we were getting up, as he would work all night baking the breads and cakes for the next day.   Or if not all night, at least he would get up pretty early in the morning to start baking.

So often when we were having breakfast, Grandpa was having his lunch or even his dinner. But before he had dinner or anything else to eat, Grandpa always had a schnapps, a shot glass of Four Roses whiskey.

When I was little, I loved that bottle. It had four roses on it. So I thought it was pretty. He kept the bottle in a little cabinet beneath the counter in the kitchen in the Catskills. We were not allowed to touch. It was Grandpa’s special orange juice, or so we were told.

My Grandpa was from Galicia. His family owned a farm there, with grain silos and a tavern. One of his favorite stories to tell was when he and a cousin were sent to clean out the grain silo and got drunk on the fumes. They got really sick. I have learned that people can die from the fumes in a grain silo. Luckily that did not happen to Grandpa.

But I remember the first time I saw “Fiddle on The Roof” with him. His eyes filled with tears. I asked what was wrong. And he said it reminded him of his home. His family had a tavern like the one in the movie. And so like in the tavern scene when they sing “To Life”: “We’ll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps in honor of the great good luck that favors you,” my grandfather had a schnapps for many occasions.

(I should say he cried for a reason, his entire family was murdered in the Shoah.  He cried for the life that was gone forever.)

His Four Roses was his special treat. He said his one glass a day kept him healthy! Since he lived to almost 90, perhaps it did!

He kept a bottle in his New Jersey home as well. I believe it was in the kitchen. I remember him having a ‘shot’ of whiskey there as well. But I think because I was so young when they moved into the home in the Catskills, I have better memories of him having his Four Roses in the Catskills. Also we spent three months of the summer with them, so I had more opportunity to be with my grandparents in the mornings.

Grandpa sold his bakery in the 1960s because he had baker’s asthma and needed to retire. Perhaps he has some heart condition as well, but I am not sure about that. However, in the summertime he worked for Katz’s and helped to bake for the summer crowds.

In fact, my brother got one of his first adult summer jobs as a baker: going to the bakery with my grandfather and learning all there was to be a baker. I think that is why my brother became a chemist… You have to know formulas to bake as well. So my brother often came home early in the morning with Grandpa and had a schnapps along with him.

My brother went to college at Penn State and would sometimes drive to my grandparent’s home in the Catskill for the weekend in the fall or winter. He remembers being offered some schnapps as soon as he arrived to warm up.

My brother said, “I would show up for a weekend Grandpa would greet me with a shot of schnapps from the shot glasses that were never washed just dried and stored under the cabinet!” Alcohol sterilizes the glasses, according to Grandpa!

My grandfather would share his schnapps with my Dad and other adult men. I never saw any women drink the schnapps. It was orange juice for men.

When I got older, I had no desire to drink it! I understood that it was whiskey, and not exactly a good whiskey.  And I did taste it once when I was in the Catskill during the winter. After we shoveled snow and were outside for almost an hour, Grandpa had some schnapps and offered me a taste. I had to try. To be honest, it was disgusting! I never tried it again.

Grandpa and Schnapps

My Dad gave my Grandpa a bottle of “good’ stuff for Hanukkah.

My Dad was always trying to get my Grandpa to try something better. He called Four Roses rotgut cause it would rot your guts. He would say that Four Roses was not smooth when it went down, instead it burned your intestines. For Hanukkah he would buy my grandfather some of the Good stuff, which my Grandpa would promptly put away. Perhaps he used it for guests?

Grandpa would sometimes have another shot of schnapps when something special or unusual was happening.

For example, Woodstock: after watching the thousands upon thousands of young adults pass our property that first day, Grandpa turned to my Dad and to George, his tenant and my dad’s friend, and said, “Come we have a schnapps.” He definitely needed a schnapps or two that weekend! It was a very strange time, and a little fortitude was needed.

Good news was also the time to celebrate with schnapps. There were libations of schnapps as each grandchild became engaged and then married. More schnapps with the birth of the six great grandchildren he was alive to meet. I know that when the next two arrived, my Dad had schnapps to continue the tradition.

I can still close my eyes and see my Grandpa move one of the high stools in the kitchen and bend over to reach into the small cabinet to get out his bottle of Four Roses. The only thing in the cabinet was his schnapps and some shot glasses.

We never went into that cabinet without Grandpa. It was his special cabinet with his cherish Four Roses.

 

May 2018 update.  I recently found out that Grandpa’s heart specialist told him to have a drink every day because he had a slow heart rate.  His love of Four Roses was medicinal!

 

My Doll Survived Because of the Catskills Attic

19 Dec
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In the Catskills Betsy, my doll, with my cousin who has finally made friends with her.

 

I only have one toy left from my childhood. It is not that I purposely saved it because I loved it the best. I actually had other toys that I loved more. But this toy survived because of her journey to the Catskills.

When my sister was born, I was gifted a large standing doll. The doll is over two and half feet tall. I did love her. And I believe I named her Betty or Betsy or perhaps Becky, which was what my Dad called my Mom, even though that was not her name. I kept her in my bedroom and I loved her!

I remember when the doll arrived. She had a pink dress, light brown hair, pink shoes and socks. My Grandma Esther knitted her another beautiful pink dress. I enjoyed playing with her, but there was a problem. She was so big , I really could not cuddle with her. She was best for tea parties, playing school and perhaps discussing an issue. She seemed so real. And that was her biggest problem.

Betsy was so real looking. During the day she was not a problem, but if you woke up in the middle of the night, she would be standing there staring at you with her big eyes open! My sister and I were used to her, but one of my cousins lived in fear of her. She was afraid to sleep when the doll was in the room.

She really was too big for the apartment we lived in during the winters in New Jersey. So Betsy the doll moved up to our Catskill’s bungalow in Kauneonga Lake to be used only in the summer time. In the Catskills we had much more room to play. And she loved being up there.

Eventually I outgrew playing with the doll. But my sister grew to love her. She says, “I loved to play with her and thought of her as mine, since you had outgrown her.”

In time, Betsy moved from our bungalow to my maternal grandparent’s house, until one summer when she was gone. That is what happened with toys. They just disappeared when you outgrew them. I assumed she was given away.

To be honest I don’t think I even looked for her. There is so much to do in the summer time. And Betsy was no longer an important part of my life. She lived in my memories.

But my sister still had a relationship with Betsy. The doll was moved to the attic bedrooms of my grandparent’s Catskills winter home. My sister would play with her and see her when she went to visit in the winters. I was four years older, so while I was away at college, my sister was still spending time in the Catskills in the fall and winter. “Remember,” she told me, ”we did not go into the attic that much in the summer. ” Of course not…it was HOT up therein the summer, but wonderful in the winter.

After my sister went away to college, the doll was put into a closet and eventually forgotten. At some point my grandparents moved her from a closet to one of the hidden nooks.

But Betsy was not totally forgotten. We often talked about my big doll and how scary she was at night, or when you weren’t expecting to see her. We would remember the people who came in and were frightened the first time they saw her thinking she was a real toddler.

Years later, when I was in my early 30s, after both my grandparents had passed away,  my parents inherited the house in the Catskills. They started the process of cleaning it out. We all helped. I was assigned the two bedrooms in the attic, cleaning out the nooks that were hidden in the crawlspace walls of the bedrooms.

Usually the doors into these spaces were covered by the beds. But we moved the beds away and went in to clean them out.   I was surprised to find one perfectly clean except there, lying on the floor, was Betsy! She was a little ragged. Her clothes were gone. Her hair was a little messy. But she had survived, alone in that hidden space for years!

I was excited. I now had a toddler daughter, and I thought she would love Betsy.

I brought the doll downstairs. My mom, sister and I washed and cleaned her up.   She needed clothing!   My daughter wanted to give her some of her clothes, but we decided to buy her something just for her.

The women (Mom, my sister, my daughter and I) went to the Apollo Mall in Monticello and we purchased a 2 Toddler dress. I also found her a beautiful pink straw hat. She looked refreshed and wonderful.  Eventually the granddaughters gave her some lovely bracelets as well!

It took us a while to decide where she would stay. No one wanted her in a bedroom. TOO scary. My parents decided to put her in the stone room, where new generation of girls began to play with her…the granddaughters. But she would not disturb anyone’s sleep.

To this day, 25 years later, Betsy still stands in the stone room by the back door, which is the door that welcomes our guests. She has a purse; she has the same dress; she does not always wear her hat. She guards the door! Some people are startled when they first walk in. But she does not look so real anymore.

However, my cousin, who was afraid of her as a child, still had a little fright when she entered the stone room and saw her for the first time as an adult. She had to share her scary Betsy stories. I think after the sharing, she was able to become friends with Betsy.

My parents have both passed away. My siblings and I own the Catskills house. Betsy stands guard. She is a wonderful reminder of my childhood.
It seems Betsy is a Patty Play Pal doll. Thanks to Maxene for the information.

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.

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!

 

Treasures in the Bookcase

16 Aug
Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

Bound Copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922-1941. Several were personalized.

I honestly thought that we had discovered all the treasures in our Catskills house. Last summer my siblings and I had torn the house apart, filling a 20-cubic yard dumpster with unused and unusable items.   We had discovered a mother lode of photos and a photo album from the 1920s that I am still slowly scanning and finding more information about our maternal grandmother and her family.

But I had forgotten about the old bookcase in the corner of the living room. I actually did not think about it until the very last day we were in the Catskills this summer, when I got a ‘jubba’ as my grandfather would say — a feeling that I had to open the glass door.

My Grandma Esther's bookcase in the corner.

My Grandma Esther’s bookcase in the corner.

We now call it my brother’s bookcase. But in reality it was my paternal grandmother’s and before her it belonged to her parents. Since they lived in the same apartment, there was no real distinction. The bookcase came with the books in it after my Grandma Esther passed away. Over the years, new books were put in and the older books migrated to the bottom shelf.

We have placed it along side the fireplace behind the television. It acts as part of a wall, so that the area behind the fireplace can be used as a bedroom when needed. This semi-room holds an old upright piano, a trundle bed that opens up to two twins, and a computer desk. So we usually do not even think of this piece of furniture as a bookcase, but more of a wall divider.

In any case, my ‘jubba’ called me over to the bookcase about an hour before we were planning to drive home. And inside of it, I found treasures! Nine books containing bound copies of the Bialystoker Stimme from 1922 through 1941, as well as a 45th anniversary book.   My great grandparents, Louis and Rae (Rachel) Goldman, were very active in the Bialyskoker group in New York City that founded the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.   In fact, he was on several important committees and boards.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather top right.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

My great grandfather was elected to the board, or re-elected in 1936. Louis Goldman.

While just skimming through the bound copies, I found announcements of both my Dad’s and Uncle’s bar mitzvah. These were in English. The Bialystoker Stimmer was printed mainly in Yiddish. But there were also a few English pages or a few English paragraphs in almost every copy. I also found photos of my great grandfather on several pages that announced committee and board members.

His 70th birthday

His 70th birthday

But the best was a photo of him and a paragraph in Yiddish celebrating his 70th birthday. I can read enough Yiddish to recognize his name and a few other words. To be honest, I do not know what it says yet. But I will find out.

That was with just a quick skim. I needed these books.

I told my sister that I had to ship them home and search them. Since we found the books in what is my brother’s bookcase, my sister sent him a text asking if I could ship them to Kansas.

They both agreed that the books should come home with me, as I am acting as the family historian.   I was so excited. It was well worth the $40 I spent at Staples to ship them home.

Today the books arrived!

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

An article about my great grandfather. I also need to get this translated.

As I continued to go through the books, I found what appears an article about him. It, too, is all in Yiddish. I know I will need it translated. I am excited to know what it says about him. I know he was a tailor.

My Dad's first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

My Dad’s first cousin, David, 1938. I think he graduated high school at age 16, but I need a translation.

I cannot read all the Yiddish, except really for the names and a few words. But in skimming the books I sometimes see a photo that jumps out at me. Like the one of my Dad’s first cousins, David. Well, it looked like a very young David. I was right, it was him at age 16, when he graduated high school. This article is also in Yiddish. I need a translator!!!

I realize that I will never know if my great grandparents were mentioned in other places. But I am taking photos of every page that has a photo or a mention of my family that I can find.

But besides the book, I posted the photo of my great grandfather Louis Goldman and the small article on the “Tracing the Tribe” Facebook group. I was hoping someone would be able to translate it for me. Although that has not yet happened, I remain hopeful. But someone posted a link to the Bialystoker Center Yahrzeit Cards website. There I found the yahrzeits for my great grandparents, my grandparents and my great aunt. I will say that the Hebrew name for my grandfather is wrong on the site. But it is definitely him. That was also interesting to see.

I started with the books from the 1940s, I am now in the 1920s.  There is much more Yiddish and much less English in these earlier books.  I am hoping to still find more treasures in them.  But to see members of my family mentioned in these early archives makes me so happy.  I knew my great grandfather was an active volunteer.  These books confirm what I had heard.  My heart is happy.

I hope to find a good home for these books after I am done investigating them. There are many other families mentioned in the books.   I do not know how many people saved them.   In our case it was benign neglect. We did not know they were there, so they were just ignored.   And allowed to survive. A happy, lucky find for me and my family.

PS: Thanks to Sabena and her Yiddish teacher who translated the paragraph about my great grandfather:  “Mr. Luis Goldman, has just become a septigenerian (70), and if he himself hadn’t told us, we would certainly not believed it. Mr. Goldman is among the most active people in Sumkh Nuflim (I think that’s a place) in the Center and in the old age home where his work is greatly admired. We wish him a lot of further birthdays with joy in his family.”

PPS:  The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, would love to have the Bialystoker Stimme books!

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/bialygen/Yahrzeit.htm

Watermelon Helps Make Summers Wonderful

28 Jul

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I love watermelon.

In the summer, on a hot day, it is the MOST refreshing of all fruits.

I love eating it cut up in chunks. I love eating it in wedges.

I love it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I eat watermelon for snacks.

Buying me a watermelon is buying me joy.

This week, with the temperatures and heat index going above 100, I knew I had to get one.   So I went to Costco, walked to the giant bins of bright green watermelons and searched for the best. I picked a few up and thumped. And finally I heard the noise I liked the best. I had found my perfect watermelon. Total Joy!

When I was little my brother and sister taunted me by singing, “Ellen, Ellen Watermelon.” I actually remember all the cousins and other children at the bungalows singing it as well. It was my Catskills nickname as a child. In fact, there are a couple of adult friends of mine who still call me Ellen Ellen Watermelon. It might have bothered me a little bit when I was younger. But truth be told, I love watermelon. So now I do not care at all.

I always got a thrill when I saw my Dad bring a watermelon into the bungalow. He would be the one to cut it up, not my Mom. He would usually cut it into quarters and then make triangular strips. That meant it was really just for us.

If he cut it out of the rind and made chunks, that usually meant he was making it for lots of people and it might be part of a fruit salad. My Dad would make one side of the watermelon into a giant bowl and put the fruit salad back into it. I never do that. But I always helped him by making the cantaloupe and honeydew balls with a special scoop.

I learned to make fruit salad from my Dad. Now, I love to make fruit salad. I like chopping up fruit to make the best combination of fruit flavors. It brings me memories of Dad, and for some reason chopping fruit relaxes me. Whenever I go to a pot-luck dinner, I bring the fruit salad.

Personally, for me just watermelon would be fine.   I like it best cut up into inch to two-inch chunks. Then I fill up a bowl and just snack away. I usually like it on its own, not mixed into a salad. Why mess up the best fruit ever, well except for blueberries, by mixing it with other melons. Yes some like cantaloupe and honeydew. But for me, only the watermelon is enough to make me happy. Although I have been known to mix blueberries and watermelon together for a special treat.

Watermelon has other uses as well.   There have been many a watermelon seed spitting contests at our home in the Catskills. And it is not just for children. I have seen many a grown man and woman spit out their seeds to see whose goes the furthest.

What other fruit gives you the joy of eating and the ability to play with it without anyone yelling, “Stop playing with your food.” Even my Dad would spit watermelon seeds. I remember one contest in particular that included my husband, brother, brother-in-law, Dad and a first cousin.   We were all adults. And we cheer them on.

Best fruit ever, watermelon always helps to make summers wonderful.