07 May 2010

The Catskills: Are you a Kauneonga Park kid?

Yes, it's a mysterious headline, but immediately recognizable to any Kauneonga Park kid.

There's now a Facebook page for the place (see below) and although it has been up since January 2009, I just learned about it today!

The Kauneonga Park bungalow colony was created by my grandparents Sidney and Bertha (Talalay/Tollin) FINK, in the hamlet of Kauneonga Lake., Sullivan County, New York.

Entering the town, Mendelson's was on the right, the synagogue set back on a small hill on the left, in the "business center" was the blue-glass fronted Newman's drugstore on the left, the post office on the right and, further down around the lake, a Chinese restaurant that didn't sell food. Hmmmm. The Kenmore Hotel, the summer homes where Neil Sedaka's cousins stayed.

Among Kauneonga Park's claims to fame, besides those great hide-and-seek games at the central telephone pole and the day the cows escaped from the adjacent farm, was the "haunted house" across the road set far back beyond the fields and trees on what was called Amber Lake (although part of White Lake). We were told poisonous water moccasin snakes were in that body of water, so we never went in. Later on, the property was developed with tract homes called Country Club Estates.

To get to our shtetl, one drove up 17B from Monticello about 10 miles. When you reached White Lake (Lapidus bungalows on the left and the movie theatre ahead on the right, you turned right and kept driving around the lake shore. After the Kenmore hotel, you stayed left around the lake, or the right turn would take you into Liberty (where our famous colleague Thomas MacEntee grew up).

The entire area was right in the middle of Sullivan County's Borscht Belt.

The Woodstockers walked right past our property on their way to Max Yasgur's farm, back in the days when most of us were too young to tag along to that historical event. Our connection to Max back then were visits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

I mention the place frequently - after all, many cousins were there summer after summer (Aaron the lifeguard, Steve the day camp director) - as well as the families who returned year after year.

It seems there's a New York City reunion on May 20, and there's a Facebook Page (Finks Bungalow Colony) started by Lori Chalfin Turner. Some 75 people are already "friends."

Reading the messages offered many blasts from the past.

Seeing once again pictures with glimpses of the beautiful bungalows, green lawns, the Hollywood-esque swimming pool and the characters who inhabited our very own shtetl was truly nostalgic. I remembered quite a few of the families and I'm indebted to some of the Facebook commenters who reminded me of our shtetl's "neighborhoods" - Hyannis Port, Riviera and Skunks Hollow. I had forgotten those very descriptive names!

Seeing all those red-and-white T-shirts - with a sprinkling of the blue-and-white ones - made me wish I had saved one.

If you are a KP kid and want to know more, search on Facebook for Finks Bungalow Colony, and hie thee to the reunion. Wish I could be there, but I'm not getting in until June 1.

Maybe next year?

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