11 January 2009

Connecticut memories and more

Doris Loeb Nabel responded almost immediately to my post on Connecticut resorts, and I think her comment deserves its own dedicated post.

Doris is publicity chair of the JGS of Connecticut and the founder of a group of Jewish genealogists who use Macs. Following a post Doris sent to the conference digest, Mac afficionados found each other at the 2007 IAJGS conference in Salt Lake City. Meeting informally, they took over a corner of a lobby (floors, chairs, sofas), and formed the Gen_Mac-Users_Schmoozers group. The group decided to be a BOF, Birds of a Feather group, and met officially for the first time in Chicago in 2008. They will again be on the program schedule in Philly 2009 conference. But we'll get to that closer to the conference. Back to summertime memories.

Sometimes the smallest of details can jog our memories and serve as inspiration. Doris was right, it was a USY kinnus (why I called it a shabbaton, no idea) at Grand Lake Lodge.

I asked Doris if she'd agree - she did - to sharing her comments with Tracing the Tribe's readers.

As I was reading the Tracing the Tribe e-mail digest yesterday evening, I smiled. I have lived in Connecticut since birth, and have memories of the Connecticut resort areas you describe. I quickly clicked on the link.

Like you, I have a high school memory. Mine is of a USY kinus at Grand Lake Lodge.

Following my freshman year of college, my high school boyfriend and I spent the summer as waiter and waitress at Banner Lodge. We worked together at a wonderful station of three tables, and made excellent money in tips from our 30 weekly guests. We married two years later, and continue to share our memories of our experiences at a type of resort which has faded from the vacation scene.

I never had the opportunity to spend time in this area on the other side of the dining room table, but my parents did. I recently discovered a Klar Crest promotional flyer, probably from the late 60s, among my parents’ papers. It shows them relaxing in Adirondack chairs in front of their cabin.

After reading the article to which you included a link, I searched for a more informative and accurate one. Anyone interested in additional sources about a lost type of vacation destination will find wonderful descriptions and archived photos revealing the true life of Moodus’ best known resort by viewing

While proofreading my comments, I realize that your post has inspired me to document reflections for my children and grandchildren about my time working in the former resort countryside of Connecticut! Thanks for the inspiration.

Doris also added in a later email:
I find it amazing how quickly social scenarios changed during my lifetime. Perhaps the fact that my parents arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1939, after my dad had been released from Buchenwald, and that I was an only child and had no other family, exposed me to less of the American way of life. And maybe I've looked at my world through different lenses than my peers...

I am continually amazed at how reliant on the computer I've become, and know that my children, and grandchildren see their world in an amazingly different way. While e-mail, facebook, blogs, websites, cell phones, text messaging, and the rest of the modern technology available, keep us connected 24/7, the importance of handwritten letters, and social customs of the past are a part of history, or unfamiliar, for most.

I'm not sure why I'm digressing, but you inspired it!

Doris, your sentiments certainly strike the same chords in many readers. Thank you for sharing them.

Here's more on the story by Ken Simon that Doris discovered at the link above:

A Typical Day at Banner Lodge: For More Than 40 Years, Jack & Ceil Banner's Resort Attracted Thousands of Vacationers to the Beautiful Moodus Countryside

From the 1930's to the 1970's, Banner Lodge was arguably the best known of the Moodus resorts and certainly the largest of the Moodus-area resorts that attracted mostly Jewish vacationers. Through years of hard work and thoughtful planning, Jack Banner and his family had turned the farm started by his father Samuel "Pop" Banner in 1922 into a popular summer destination.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Banner Guests were kept happy by numerous activities and attractions. Many guests returned year after year, first as singles, then with their families, staying for a week or two or longer. The pastoral setting combined with a full schedule of food, sports and entertainment provided years of pleasure for visiting city folk and others. Another key to the Banner success, especially in the 1940's through the 60's, was a thriving singles scene.

For many years after Jack Banner's death, the 430-acre property deteriorated until it resembled a war zone. Half-built, vandalized and crumbling structures dominated the forlorn landscape. Most of the original buildings that had marked the resort all but disappeared -- demolished as part of a misbegotten revitalization scheme in the mid-1980's. The main building, which combined the upstairs residence of Jack and Ceil Banner with the downstairs resort offices, was thoroughly trashed. The Olympic swimming pool, once a mainstay of Banner advertising and the focus of daytime activity, stood empty and beyond repair, marred by huge cracks. Everywhere there was an ugly overgrowth as nature threatened to obliterate what remained of the once renowned vacation playground. ...
Read the complete article at the link above. It offers photos, links to a 1950s-era lodge brochure, renovation projects, and a newer possible lease on life. Have a nice virtual trip to another era!

And, of course, if your connection is to the Catskills, don't forget the Catskills Institute, created by Brown University Professor Phil Brown, who has done a magnificent job collecting everything about the Catskills (properties, people, resources, photographs and more).

Last - but certainly not least - for a mouthwatering essay on Catskill "shtetl" food by Jane Forman, click here.

My first experience with gastronomic pairing was matzo ball soup and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda in the sprawling prep kitchen of my grandparents’ Catskills Mountains hotel. While this cacophonous staging area for a 140-seat dining room may not seem conducive to a contemplative tasting experience, every flavor and aroma I experienced during those years is etched into my memory. As in many cultures, food was the emotional lynchpin of the ‘Jewish Alps,’ and a hunk of sweet noodle pudding or raisin-crammed rugelach was the currency with which to express love.

... In her paprika smeared chef’s apron, straps gathered in an enormous safety pin to accommodate her 4’9” 80 lb frame, Ida ran her kitchen with the panache of a Barnum and Bailey ringmaster. But even while folding dough for blintzes and barking at some hapless waiter to pick up another few plates of lox, she could always find a moment to dispatch an extra pile of ‘lukshen’ – Yiddish for noodles - for my soup or send over a chewy Toll House cookie studded with hunks of chocolate. ...

There's lots more at the link above - do read the complete article. I just had to mix up a batch of chocolate-chip cookies after reading it!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:09 PM

    My grandparents vacationed in Old Saybrook, Connecticut at a placed called Lazars (?sp). My brother and I were lucky enough to go with them one summer and it was wonderful. Does anyone have more information about this spot?