Tag Archives: Summer

An Odd Affinity To Jelllyfish Attacks

23 Mar
I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

When the tentacle wrapped around my son’s leg in Long Island Sound (Connecticut side), people started running. I was not sure what was going on at first. My son, then about three years old, was standing in about 6 inches of water. His hand firmly grasped by a 10-year-old with two 8-year-old children next to them. We were all together, and I was watching closely.

But I did not see what was just under the water. My son started screaming. I ran over and grabbed him, as a man came running towards me. It was scary. What did this man want? He was yelling something at me, but it took a minute to understand that a giant, dead jellyfish has drifted over to the beach and one of its tentacles had wrapped around my son’s thigh.

As the man ran over to me, he was yelling, “We need to get your son to first aid NOW!” I looked down, and there just under the edge of my son’s swimsuit was a giant welt that encircled his thigh. Bright red and raised, the welt was growing before my eys.

By this time my son was holding his breathe. I could see his lips turning blue. He was so scared and in pain. I had him enveloped in my arms, as the man rushed me towards the lifeguard station. But we did not move far, the lifeguard was on his way running to me, with a squirt bottle in hand. He had heard all the commotion and knew something had occurred.

He sprayed my son’s leg with vinegar. The smell was sickly sweet. But I could see my son relax a bit, as the cool liquid eased the pain and started working on the jellyfish venom.

Needless to say, it was the end of our relaxing day at the beach. Even 21 years later, I can close my eyes and relive this moment and the entire hour or so that my son sobbed till he fell asleep from exhaustion. And I do not mean whimpers. I mean full-throated screams of agony. My friend, my Mom, the three girls and I all wanted his pain to end.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My son developed a healthy fear of jellyfish. He loved the water and he loved swimming. But no longer ever wanted to go into ocean. When we went to Florida to see his grandparents, we would walk along the beach the night before, checking for jellyfish. When he saw a jellyfish lying on the beach he would run in the other direction or hop over them. Usually the beach would be closed if we saw jellyfish. Which was just fine. Most of the time, he just wanted to swim in the pool. And I agreed. I did not want to go through that fear again.

Our family love to go to aquariums when we travel. He loved going as well, but he would quickly run past the jellyfish tanks. He wanted nothing to do them. He did not even want to see them.

I would like to say that this was his last encounter with a jellyfish.

Move forward 12 years. We are again in Florida visiting grandparents. One evening we had dinner with my nephew, who was studying marine biology. He told us all about the different jellyfish and Portuguese Man o Wars, which were common in Florida. And how jellyfish and Man o Wars were not the same things. A Portuguese Man o War was not a jellyfish! Our nephew made that clear. My son was unhappy with the dinner conversation. I think the conversation was actually a foreshadow of what would come the next day.

We were visiting friends on the coast. My son, my college-aged daughter and her then boyfriend went down t the beach to enjoy the great day. The adults stayed upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed visiting. We were getting cleaned up and ready to leave when the younger adults arrived back upstairs. My daughter announced loudly as they entered the apartment that my son ‘was stung by a jellyfish!” He is in pain.”

“Very funny, “ I responded. Thinking that she was joking because of our dinner conversation last night.

“No,” her boyfriend added. “He really got stung. Just as we were getting out of the water”

I looked at my son. Oh no! They really were not joking. I could see that he was in PAIN.

Mother mode kicked in. He really was stung by a jellyfish AGAIN! Well actually not a jellyfish, it was a Portuguese Man o War, even worse!!!

Someone went on line to see what we should do. Did getting stung a second time add to the impact and chances of a systemic reaction? Should I take him to an emergency room? I called my husband, who had remained home during our trip to see grandparents. Probably did not need to take him to the hospital, but needed to watch him for a bit. (My husband is a pediatric allergist, so it did make sense to call him.)

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

Vinegar would help. But the only vinegar my friends had was wine vinegar. We used it. We doused my son’s foot in wine vinegar. And then the jokes began. He did smell like a salad. And their dog did want to lick his leg. We got him calmed down as the pain ebbed. And we overstayed our visit by an hour or so, as we waited to make sure there was no reaction.

All was well. My son recovered.

But his odd affinity to jellyfish attacks have created an environment for jellyfish jokes which have become a permanent part of my son’s family life. I must admit, I am among the worst.   My husband and I travel often. And I still love aquariums. I have been to the aquariums in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and more. And each time I go, I take photos of the jellyfish tanks then I email these photos my son.

Sometimes I even buy him jellyfish gifts.

He always smiles and says something like, “Really. This is what you got me.”

But finally I bought him a jellyfish gift that he loves.

His cat’s favorite cat toy had disappeared. He was bemoaning this to me one day, and told him I was going to the pet store to get food for my cat. So I would look for something.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

I found the best toy ever. Developed by National Geographic, part of the price of this perfect toy goes to support animals. It is a jellyfish filled with catnip on a stick. I had to buy it.

When my son came over to pick it up, he laughed. “Really a jellyfish toy?”

“Yes,” I said. You can finally get your revenge. Whenever your cat attacks the jellyfish toy, you can envision those jellyfish that attacked you getting attacked by your cat.”

And he smiled his best smile and agreed it was a wonderful idea.


Bungalow Life was Ruptured When the Water Heater Blew Up!

26 Feb

Bungalow colony life in the Catskills was peaceful. Each day we knew some of the basics of what would happen.

The mothers played cards and mah jonng on a set schedule. The grandmas played canasta. All the women knitted and crocheted during the day. We went swimming. We played. We picked blueberries. We rode our bicycles. We just had fun. On the weekends, the dads came up. It was simple and quiet, except for the sounds of childhood and the sometimes yells of the moms.

The moms had several important needs. One was hot water.

We needed to shower and the moms needed to do laundry. Without hot water, life at the bungalows would come to a standstill. Children got extremely dirty with all the outdoor activities in the summertime. We could wash off in the lake, but not our clothing. So the moms were always busy with laundry.

People did their laundry on certain days because there were only two washing machines in our colony. I think they might have had a schedule, but I cannot be sure. I do know that the laundry room often had loads of laundry waiting to be done. People would put their baskets in the laundry room, with their detergent on top of the clothes, and as one person finished her load, she would load up the next person’s laundry in the machine and start it.

The wet laundry had to be hung on lines. We did not have dryers at our colony. I am not even sure if clothes dryers were available when I was little. So the clotheslines were always in use. Clothespins were important. I still have some I saved from the Catskills!

This meant that rainy summers were a disaster for the moms. Children would sometimes have to wear the same dirty clothes for another day, if they could not be washed and dried. During rainy summers, we often had laundry hanging all over the bungalow during the week. And it really did not dry that well because it was all so damp. Sometimes my Mom would put the oven on to try to dry out the laundry.

We would visit our friends during rainy summers, and walk through layers of drying laundry! Clean clothes, clean linens, clean towels were important!

So imagine the aggravation it caused when the water heater went out. It did not happen very often. But once in a while the pilot light would go out and the heater would stop making hot water. Usually one of the men would go and light the heater. It usually was no problem. The heater lit easily.

Except for one time. The time my best friend, Vicki’s, Dad went to light the water heater. I cannot remember if someone tried to light it before him. I do not remember if he was the only dad up there, so he got to do it. I do know that usually my dad did all the chores since my grandparent’s own the colony. I do not know why it was Normie who had the job on this particular day. But he did.

Normie and his wife, Wini, in matching sweaters in the center. My grandfather stands behind my grandma.  Wini's parents are the women sitting on the left and the man standing on the right.  At the bungalows in the Catskills in the 1950s.

Normie and his wife, Wini, in matching sweaters in the center. My grandfather stands behind my grandma. Wini’s parents are the women sitting on the left and the man standing on the right. At the bungalows in the Catskills in the 1950s.

His in-laws and my grandparents were best friends. My Mom and his wife were best friends. (A friendship that continued till my Mom passed away.   And still continues with us.) And his daughter, Vicki, and I do not know life without each other. So it made some sense that Normie would take on this responsibility if my Dad or uncle was not there.

But we are not sure why it was Normie who went to light the water heater pilot.

I was just a little girl. But I remember what happened next.

Normie went to light the water heater, it was behind a bungalow.

A moment later there was a big “BOOM” explosion and a blast of fire shooting into the sky.

It was so scary!!! Everyone was momentarily stunned. Then there was chaotic movement.

I vaguely remember Normie walking out from behind the bungalow, dazed. Perhaps burning. Or maybe not! Maybe it was just people rushing towards him to get him away from the fire. There was a lot of screaming; a lot of running around. It is so confused in our memories. But there was good new, he was alive.

Then the Moms gathered the children and made us go inside. I am sure Vicki went with me. All I remember is that we were quickly moved out of the way.

Next thing came the fire engine and ambulance and the volunteer firemen and ambulance/EMT crew. It was amazing how quickly they got to the colony. The fire was soon extinguished. Normie was taken away. The children, me included, were terrified.

My friend Vicki remembers, “I remember going to see him in the hospital. He smelled like A & D ointment or some kind of burn cream he had on.

“I was so devastated that happened to him. I thought he would never come home!”

But Normie did come home. He had no eyebrows or eyelashes, but the fire did not reach his face. He had no chest hair; the fire singed that off. The main damage was to his legs. They were burned.

I remember before the explosion, he had large varicose veins on his legs, but after the fire, you would not really see them.

He often wore a bathing suit in the summer time. And we all got used to seeing his burned, scarred legs.

It was a summer event I cannot forget. To this day I hate when someone has to light a pilot light.   I know that it can explode because of my memories of the day the water heater blew up.


The Littlest Gambler: Learning about Horse Races in the Catskills

18 Feb

It started with a phone call. We were in the Catskills in our bungalow behind my grandparents’ home on West Shore Road. We no longer stayed in their bungalow colony, which was located down the road across from Kauneonga Lake. But my paternal grandparents and my aunt and uncle and cousins still stayed at the colony.

The phone call was either from my father’s sister, my Aunt Leona, or my Grandma Esther. But honestly, I think it was my Aunt, from the way my Dad was talking. His conversation went something like this.

“When did they show up? Did you know they were coming? Okay. Okay, as soon as I can.”

He hung up the phone and turned to my Mom. “My Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny are at the bungalow colony. We have to go down.”

My Mom was quiet. “They are here? Now?”

Well obviously yes. They were here. But who exactly were they? And why was it a big surprise? I had never heard of an Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny. But I would soon find out all about them.

Aunt Hady was my paternal grandfather’s sister.   It seems she is the reason that my parents met. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny lived across the street from my maternal grandparents in West New York, New Jersey. She often shopped in my grandparents’ bakery and she knew my Mom. She told my Dad that she had the perfect wife for him. And in this case, she was right. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny were responsible for my parent’s meeting.

But Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny were sort of the family black sheep. It seems Uncle Lenny was a gambler. Not a good thing in my paternal grandmother’s eyes. She really did not want them around her grandchildren. I found that out.

You see, I loved Uncle Lenny from moment I met him. Just a few minutes later we went to the bungalow colony, and my siblings and I met our great aunt and uncle for the first time. For me it was joy!

I remember Uncle Lenny’s laughter. I remember sitting on his lap and over the next few weeks learning everything you need to know to bet on the horses at the Monticello Racetrack.

He had these special booklets printed on newsprint that listed all the horses running in each race. In the book were numbers and information about each horse and how much you would get back if you bet on whether they win, place or show (first, second and third place.)

I would sit with him and go through the book each day. He always had pencil in his hand to make marks in the booklets. We would choose the best horses for the night. There were a lot of issues to consider. Had the horse won before? How old was the horse? Had he won against the other horses in this race? Who was the driver (This was a harness racing track.)? All these statistics! I loved it.

We would sit outside at a wooden table on nice days. When it was raining we would sit at the kitchen table and go through the book for each race. Sometimes we forgot about the odds and chose a horse based on its name. Special names were important as well when selecting a winning horse! Each day he let me chose one horse for him to bet on.   If I won, he would give me a dollar.

I think it was the dollar that finally got to Grandma!

I thought it was absolutely wonderful.

My grandmother thought it was absolutely horrible.

Little did I know what was going on! I was only 9 or 10 years old. And I was have a great time. But behind the scenes a war was brewing.

One day I was happily going through the races’ guide with Uncle Lenny. The next day he would barely speak to me.   Soon they disappeared. They stopped coming to the colony.   Their visits diminished. No one would speak about them. I had no idea what happened. Only that they were gone for the summer

I did not know what was happening till years later. Uncle Lenny had passed away and Aunt Hady was living in Monticello. Dad was going to visit her. When I found out, I asked about that summer.

It seems my Grandma Esther was furious that Uncle Lenny was teaching me about gambling, about racing and the horses. It seems the horses and gambling destroyed Uncle Lenny, and there was no way Grandma was going to let him influence me. Enough was enough. Uncle Lenny and Aunt Hady were bad influences. And they would have to go. And go they did. Grandma Esther put her foot down.   And when Grandma got angry, you did what she said!

I never looked at a race schedule again. I did go to the races in Monticello one time with a friend after I turned 21. He spent a few minutes attempting to explain how the races worked to me. But I knew it all. Even 11 years later I still remembered everything that Uncle Lenny had taught me. To be honest, I can still see those listings.

My summer as a gambler ended sadly for me. I missed Uncle Lenny and my gambling lessons. As an adult, when I heard what had happened, I felt terrible. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny never had children. I believe Uncle Lenny really liked teaching me about the races and enjoyed our time together. I only ever felt love and joy from him.

I regret that my Grandma was so protective. Even though she demanded that my lessons end, I enjoyed being the littlest gambler for a summer. But I have never had the urge to gamble in my life, so perhaps my Grandma was right!

Remembering a Time Before Vaccines! And Knowing that Vaccinations Save Lives.

12 Feb

Chicken pox, measles, German measles, mumps….I’ve had them all. And I did not like them. I did not like the constant itching of those horrible rashes. I did not like the swelling of my face. When my brother got mumps my parents were frantic…this is a disease that causes young men to become sterile.   Luckily not my brother, but others were impacted by this now obsolete childhood disease, or somewhat obsolete.

I remember the summer we all had chicken pox. It was miserable. We were in the Catskills and could not leave our bungalow. I was the last one to get them. Everyone else was outside playing. And I watched from the porch. My mom was so exhausted by that time that she was sitting outside as well. I know she was happy that there was finally only one sick child, and not three. I remember swinging on the screen door of the porch pushing the envelop of being outside because I wanted so much to be with everyone else.

We got the measles in Jersey during the school year. One week after the other we broke out in these horrible rashes. German measles was the same. I hated them.

Luckily for my children’s generation, there were vaccinations for most diseases, but not for chicken pox. My daughter’s case was horrifying. Her chicken pox were internal. Hardly any showing on the outside, but her mouth and throat was covered. She would cough up and vomit scabs. I freaked out. Luckily my husband is a pediatrician and could deal much better with this. By the time my son had chicken pox, I was much better prepared.

I was so happy that they were not going to get other childhood diseases like whooping cough and diphtheria, both stopped by vaccines. And we cannot forget the important T of the DPT, tetanus. Thank goodness no one ever has to get lock jaw or tetanus anymore. A vaccination will keep you safe.

I remember the small pox vaccine. There was a needle with many little needles that was stuck into me.   I am one of the few who do not carry the scar from this vaccine. But I am so glad I never got small pox.

As for polio, each summer we went to the Catskills for two reasons: first to be with family and friends and second to escape from the city where polio was rampant in the summers.  Those of us who were away for the summer, out of the hot crowded cities were much more likely to avoid this horrible disease.

I still remember standing on a very long line at the public school in North Bergen, New Jersey: so many children and their parents. The line seemed to go on forever. As we reached the front of the line, we were given a sugar cube. Delicious. At the time I did not realize it was soaked in polio vaccine. All I know now is that I walk and I breathe. Thank you for saving so many lives with this amazing discovery.

As we watch the measles reclaim our country, I am stunned. I hear unbelievable comments from politicians who say a parent has a right over his child’s body, I am so amazed. These same politicians tell us that a woman has no right to use birth control or chose to terminate a pregnancy and that the government needs to make laws against it. But at the same time they say that a parent can chose not to vaccinate their child! What type of hypocrisy is this? A major one!

My husband is a pediatric immunologist/allergist. He has devoted his life to helping children. He is amazed that people do not want to vaccinate their children! And do not get mad at the doctor who does not want to treat unvaccinated children and then get mad at a doctor in whose waiting room dozens of children are exposed to measles. It is not the doctor’s fault that people do not have their children vaccinated.

I wonder how far these anti-vaccination people actually go? Do they not have their children vaccinated against polio? Do they understand the ramifications?

And as for our politicians who are supposed to be leading our country and helping its citizens, they need to be voted out of office if you think vaccinations are not necessary. They are a disgrace.

Instead of believing a fraudulent medical study that was disproven years ago, parents have got to realize, Vaccinations Save Lives.

Do not go back to the days of misery that I remember from my childhood.

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

1 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loudspeakers Often Interrupted Life And the Quiet of the Catskills

30 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tonight at the casino is bingo night! “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Mail Delivery at the Bungalows

27 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I loved going to the post office with my Grandma.

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

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

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

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