Tag Archives: Kauneong Lake

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.  

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

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!

The Grandmas’ Forever Canasta Game

25 Jan

Every day, unless it was raining, the grandmas at our bungalow colony at Kauneonga Lake played canasta. They had a special blue, wooden table that was designated for them.  No one else ever sat there.  We knew that at some point during the day, the grandmas would wander over and a game would begin.

It was such a peaceful setting.  Cool breezes, shade from trees, people enjoying the nice weather…and the grandmas and their canasta game.

Grandma Esther, my father’s mother, always played with her sister, my Great- Aunt Minnie, as her partner.  My mother’s mother, Grandma Thelma, partnered with her best friend:  Nana was my friend Vicki’s grandma.  Grandma Rose, my cousins’ grandma, she sat nearby to be part of the conversation.  I do not remember Grandma Rose playing canasta, but she was always there.

The games were intense.  Often my grandmothers would yell at each other or at their partners.  God forbid if the wrong card was thrown, or if a canasta was not made, then the yelling commenced.

“How could you throw that card?  Weren’t you paying attention?” One of them would comment.  Often there would be a sigh of disgust.  I sometimes wondered if my grandmothers would ever speak to each other again!  But after a cooling off period, they always did.  However, I think sometimes Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie would stay angry a little longer.

There would be silence as the tension in the game increased. But when the game ended, the yelling would start up again.  “How could you do that?” Someone would say.  None of these grandmas liked to lose.  I learned to stay away near the end of a game.

For me there was an extra tension.  When I would walk over to ask a question, I had to be careful to make sure I treated each grandma equally.  If I said good morning first to Grandma Esther, I made sure the next day, I said hello first to Grandma Thelma.  A hug and a kiss were always expected.  They always sat catty corner to each other, so it was a simple matter to hug one and then the other.

“Good morning Grandma. Love you!”  I would say, then turn to the other one. “Good morning Grandma. Love you, too!” Then Aunt Minnie, Nana and Grandma Rose each got their hug and good morning. It was an expected routine.

I learned canasta by sitting between my grandmas and watching them play.  I learned very early in my life not to say anything.  When you are watching two people playing against each other, it is not a good idea to reveal anything about the cards in their hands.  You do it one time and never again! I learned how to keep a ‘poker’ face.  If I had a question about a card thrown, or why something happened, I would tap the grandma and whisper in her ear.  There was definite pressure not to give anything away!

Occasionally one of them would let me hold the cards and play.   My grandma would sit behind me to help with the hand.  That was great fun and made me feel very grown up.  I was playing canasta!  My friend, Vicki, would come and watch sometimes as well.

When it was windy, all the children would start running to find pebbles to place on the cards so they would not blow away during an important game.  There was a gravel road that led to the parking area.  We would run as fast as we could to the road to get the right size pebbles.  Not too big that they covered the numbers, but not too small that they did not hold down the cards!

My grandfather would complain that he had to get more gravel each year to make up for the canasta playing stones.

If it got too windy, we would run over to the game to help gather the cards and bring them inside.  We tried as hard as we could to keep the cards in the right order so the game could continue.

I cannot imagine how many hours they played cards each summer.  And I also cannot imagine a summer without the grandmas playing canasta.  The games seemed to last forever, as do the memories.  In my mind I see them sitting in the sunshine playing canasta forever.