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w. end ave.: an e-journal of culture and politics  

Barbara Spun's Catskill Vacations

As a young child, going to the Catskills Mountains with my family was a ritual shared with many other Nineteen-Fifties Jewish families.  My parents would rent a small bungalow, what was then called a “kuchalain”. That meant, in Yiddish, a cook-alone, to distinguish it from a community kitchen of the sort found in rooming houses, but the term was used derisively to mean “a hole in the wall”.  For two months a year this kuchalain would hold the hopes and the dreams of working class families.

As my father didn't drive, having failed the test many times, once by almost plunging himself and the tester into the East River, my Uncle Meyer would drive from the Bronx to Brooklyn and pack up his big Buick to take us on this ritual journey.  This was not an easy feat as the car would be loaded up with everything a family of four needed to keep Kosher during a two month stay on the country. A huge canvas duffel bag would house my mother’s pots and pans. I looked forward to those trips with trepidation as well as a sense of adventure. Riding in cars made me very sick in those days, but stopping at the Red Apple Rest for French Fries, which put us about half way there, was as exciting as the Fourth of July.

My father never went up with us but joined us on weekends and for his two week vacation. On those Sunday evenings when the car pulled away with him in it, I couldn't stop crying. Even then a feeling of abandonment had a strong hold on my heart. But life in the country was a freedom to my soul. For those two months you were part of an extended family, where everybody knew your name. Here my mother was surrounded by friends that she cared for and without the usual worries of everyday life in the city. Gone was that sense that she needed me and so I was free to be.

It did not take very much to please me as I loved to be with friends and to participate in the typical bungalow colony activities. The pool took up a lot of the day and watching falling stars took a lot of time during the evening.  I remember loving the summer nighttime skies where we could watch the world in all its glory.  Anything seemed possible on those evenings. On days that it rained we went hunting for salamanders, the bright orange ones were the species we would find up there, catching them but always letting them go. We would spend rainy afternoons in the casino, playing the jukebox and eating ice cream.

My favorite memories of my father are of the times when we would go blueberry picking.  I loved spending time with him; he was fun to be with and he liked to do things. Later, my mother would turn those blueberries into a pie, or serve them with sour cream, an essential Jewish food.  No wonder my sister and I were never really skinny.


I look back at those summers as some of the happiest moments of my life. My teenage years had not yet begun. I adored my parents and thought they were my best friends, and my mother’s illness had not yet manifested itself. It was not until a few years later that I learned life could turn on a dime and that the dreams of youth are not always fulfilled.

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Issue No. 77
December 22, 2013

"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel- Part I
"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel-Part II
Earlier Issues

List Articles by Topic

The Political Ticker
The Hillary Coalition
  - November 19, 2014
Obama's Win in the Ukraine
  - April 5, 2014
"House of Cards" Politics
  - February 14, 2014
Birenbaum: The Day the President Struck Out
  - January 29, 2014
The Debate Over Inequality
  - January 27, 2014
Temporary Issues: "Stop and Frisk", Climate Change, Inequality
  - January 21, 2014

Previous Political Tickers

The Administrative President
  -January 12, 2014
Three Chronic Problems
  -December 19, 2013
Obama the Transformational President
  -December 13, 2013
"Homeland", "Alpha House" and the Tea Party
  -November 27, 2013
Off Year Election Post-mortem
  -November 7, 2013
Kathleen Sibelius and the Iliad
  -October 31, 2013
Political Impasses: 2013 and 1936
  -October 7, 2013
Birenbaum on The Tea Party
  -October 6, 2013
Fifty Years Later: The Anniversary of the March on Washington
  -September 18, 2013
The Principled Obama
  -September 10, 2013
Obama Thinks About Syria Freshly
  -September 5, 2013
Syria and the Falklands
  -August 30, 2013
Public Opinion on Syria
  -August 24, 2013
Upward Mobility Through Educational Innovation
  -August 12, 2013
The Anthony Wiener Bubble
  -July 30, 2013
Racial Issues in 2013
  -June 29, 2013
The David Brinkley Era of Journalism
  -June 5, 2013
Republican Scandal Mongering
  -May 23, 2013
Benghazi and Two Other "Scandals"
  -May 14, 2013
Lackluster Politics
  -May 7, 2013

The Cultural Ticker
A Dour Cultural Week
  - February 4, 2014
Colonial Virginia
  - January 15, 2014
Birenbaum: The Joy of Middle European Posters
  - January 6, 2014
A Jewish Nipple
  - November 28, 2013
Birenbaum: My Oral Comprehensive Examination and the JFK Assassination
  - November 27, 2013
"12 Years a Slave"
  - November 12, 2013

Previous Cultural Tickers

Pinter and Shakespeare
  -November 8, 2013
Birenbaum on "I Am Divine"
  -November 3, 2013
The Hearing Impaired Student
  -August 17, 2013
Ideas and People
  -August 10, 2013
The Weekly Roundup of Morning Joe and Chris Matthews
  -August 8, 2013
The Zen of Dishwashers
  -August 5, 2013
The Profundity of the Second World War
  -August 2, 2013
The Trayvon Martin Bubble
  -July 20, 2013
Eliot Spitzer
  -July 9, 2013
The Study of Everyday Life
  -July 5, 2013
The Zimmerman Trial
  -July 3, 2013
Le Carre's "A Delicate Truth"
  -July 1, 2013
Zucker: A Madeleine (A Memoir)
  -June 23, 2013
Von Trotta's "Hannah Arendt"
  -June 7, 2013
The Armchair View of War and Disability
  -May 30, 2013
Birenbaum's Summers
  -May 24, 2013
Old Neighborhoods
  -May 21, 2013
Jackie Robinson
  -May 20, 2013
Barbara Spun's Catskill Vacations
  -May 16, 2013
An Old Friend in Her Eighties
  -May 11, 2013


A new issue of “w. end ave.: an e-journal of culture and politics” is published once every three weeks or so. It is edited, owned, and where not indicated as otherwise, written by Martin Wenglinsky. The rights to all materials published here are copyright © 2008 by Martin Wenglinsky