28 August 2006

At the Catskills conference: What killed the Catskills?

Phil Brown of the Catskills Institute says that he’s been able to identify some 800 bungalow colonies and more than 1,000 hotels that operated in the area.

Among the attendees this weekend were a group of guys who have been friends since 1955 when they began spending summers in White Lake and Kauneonga Lake and have kept in close touch. Other conference-goers remarked on the way they keep renewing connections they made so long ago.

What killed the Catskills, as we knew it?

Novelist Eileen Pollack, whose parents ran Pollack’s Hotel in Liberty (where she was born), says she has spent 50 years trying to get away, but she is continually drawn to the area and her writing is born of that experience.

Pollack refers to the three A's that did in the Catskills: air conditioning, air travel and assimilation.

You didn’t have to leave the steaming city for the countryside once it became bearable to stay home.

Upward mobility meant more families could afford air travel, even to their ancestral homes in Europe.

Assimilation meant that modern Jewish families didn’t feel the need to spend an entire summer with those of the same background. They could go anywhere for vacations, and they did.

But we were back there this weekend, reminiscing with old friends and new, hearing from pioneers, authors and scholars.

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