A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: December 26, 2012

At Christmas 1958, eight ski areas in the Central Catskills were primed to open for their biggest season yet. “Enthusiastic Local Promotion is Vital If These Mountains Are To Be Developed Into East’s Foremost Winter Playground,” trumpeted headlines in the Christmas Edition of the Catskill Mountain News.

A Catskill Catalog: December 19, 2012

Lanapehoking: the original name of the place where we live. Lanapehoking: a word of the native Eastern Algonquin dialect that Europeans called Delaware. Lanapehoking: from lanape, people, and hoking, land. The land of the people, that’s the first name of our place.

A Catskill Catalog: December 5, 2012

Met a woman from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “Oh,” I say, “A wonderful Presbyterian minister is in Chambersburg. Used to be a pastor in our little town. Bill Harter.”

“Reverend Harter performed the service for my husband’s memorial,” she told me. “He’s a fine man.”

A Catskill Catalog: November 28, 2012

A friend accuses me of being Catskill-centric, able to trace the origins of just about anything to the Catskills. American painting? All began in Thomas Cole’s studio-on-the-Hudson in Catskill. American literature? Rip Van Winkle. The American vacation resort? The 1820 Catskill Mountain House and the Mountaintop at North-South Lake. (Not to mention the Concord and Grossinger’s) First forest? The Gilboa fossils are what are left of the oldest vegetation yet discovered. You get the idea.

A Catskill Catalog: November 7, 2012

My good friend Frank Russell was a Democratic Committeeman for sever­al decades, representing the scant number of registered Democrats residing in Middletown Election District #7, the New King­ston Valley.

A Catskill Catalog: October 31, 2012

Before and after. This is one of those times. I write this Monday morning. Rain has not yet started. You read it, at the earliest, Wednesday morning. Rain is a fact.

In fact, Hurricane Sandy is a fact, a tangible presence, as you read. As I write, the storm is merely graphics on a moving Weather Channel map.

Before and after. We don’t have many such moments in our lives. Before labor sets in. After the baby is born. Before hospice care starts. After the passing. Before a storm hits, said to be bigger than Irene. After that storm’s arrived, as you read this.

A Catskill Catalog: October 24, 2012

Jay Gould was a Catskill Mountain guy who used his native resourcefulness to climb his way out of the sticks, and, in his case, come pretty darn close to ruling the world, at least that part of the world concerned with stuff like gold and railroads and the stock market.

I say in his case because I’ve known a bunch of guys like that - not guys who came close to ruling the world, surely, but smart, resourceful guys who found a way to use the resources we have right here to make a pretty good dollar and make a pretty big success of themselves.

A Catskill Catalog: October 17, 2012

The big house on the hill in Arkville is The Erpf House. The Catskill Center for Conservation & Development has transformed their headquarters building into a community-nexus of local and regional non-profit organizations: The Erpf Center. Since 1974, local and regional artists have exhibited in that Center’s art-space: The Erpf Gallery.

Up Dry Brook, the Erpf Maze graces the grounds of the 500-acre Erpf Estate. The 1,680 foot landscaped brick maze was designed by English sculptor Michael Ayrton, whose 1967 novel, The Maze Maker, was much talked about in New York’s art world.

A Catskill Catalog: October 10, 2012

George. For me, local history began with George Hendricks, who died, too young, last week. George was kind of like the Godfather of A Catskill Catalog.

You see, George was a senior in high school when I first made my appearance as the new kid on the high school faculty. This was the early 1970s, a time when a volatile combination of youth culture and a dull, repetitive, test-centered curriculum made “Relevance” the battle cry of school reform. Students had been bored silly and weren’t going to take it anymore!

A Catskill Catalog: September 26, 2012

Fifty years ago, you could have a seatbelt installed in your car at Bear Alignment in Margaretville for $5.95. Seat belts were not mandatory in New York State until 1984, but “buckle-up for safety” was a choice many folks were making, and seatbelt installation was a growing business.

Fifty years ago, the Halcott-Fleischmanns Fish & Game Club sponsored an October Sunday morning turkey shoot on Crosby’s Flat in Halcott Center. Target-shooting winners in rifle, shotgun, and bow-and-arrow categories took home “large frozen birds.”

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