A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 7, 2009

I always get a little catch in my throat when, driving up the thruway, I glimpse the first dramatic rise of the Catskills. Perhaps, it’s a distant yet distinct glimpse of home, but, I don’t think so. I remember the same little well of excitement seeing the mountains when I was a kid, long before the Catskills became home.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 30, 2009

A clever fund-raiser was held recently by the MARK Project, the regional planning and economic development agency. A few civic leaders were “arrested” at the August Margaretville Street Fair, with MARK supporters asked to “bail” them out with donations. One of the cuffed and booked was the Mayor of Fleischmanns.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 23, 2009

First-growth forest is forest that has never been cleared, cut, bark-peeled, burnt, or quarried by people. We still have some in the Catskills. This old-growth forest can give us a glimpse of what our mountains must have been like before human habitation made its impact on the Catskills.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 16, 2009

A quiz. Where in the Catskills will you find an astronomical observatory, equipped with a high-powered, computer-controlled telescope? Where in our mountains is a fully-equipped pediatric dialysis unit, able to provide kidney dialysis to eight children at a time? Where in the Catskills will you find demonstration forests, the wood harvested in a variety of methods to test which method leads to the most successful forest regeneration?


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 9, 2009

I am just about the last guy to try to explain the geology of the Catskills. I failed high school physics. Never took earth science.
Fortunately, our mountains have our own geologist, Bob Titus, professor of geology at Oneonta’s Hartwick College, who lectures regularly on Catskill Mountain geology. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard him lecture. And even a bit of scientific reading somehow makes my eyes glaze over.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 2, 2009

It must be that vacations became a part of the American scene in the prosperous years after the Civil War, or at least the idea of grand vacations seems to have been invented then. The American economy was growing in great leaps of railroad building, and the railroad corporations saw both market opportunity and investment security in the construction of grand hotels conveniently located at the end of their rail lines.


A Catskill Catalog: August 12, 2009

Everywhere I go in the Catskills, I pick up brochures, pamphlets, and those shiny rack-cards that seem to be everywhere promoting tourism in our mountains. I picked up a bunch just the other day, on a jeep-ride tour of nearby mountain attractions: new construction, old houses, some ruins, the Hunter bookstore, with lunch at Brio’s.


A Catskill Catalog: August 5, 2009

Here’s how a bit of the local mountain economy worked in 1937.
On July 26 of that year, a cauliflower auction block was opened in Margaretville on the Grange League Federation (G.L.F.) grounds. Cauliflower was once a major cash crop on the northern and eastern slopes of the Catskills where the two branches of the Delaware River originate.
The G.L.F. was created in 1920 through a combination of three farmers’ organizations: the New York State Grange, the Dairymen’s League, and the State Farm Bureau. The G.L.F. had a Margaretville operation just west of Bridge Street on land that is now paved over.


A Catskill Catalog: July 29, 2009

Somewhere in upstate New York, the word camp changes meaning. As a college freshman from the metropolitan area, I was confused by an upstate classmate who spoke of a family camp in the woods, a rustic retreat used to get away from it all. What he called a camp, I called a cottage. To me, camp meant something entirely different.


A Catskill Catalog: July 22, 2009

By Bill Birns
At the high point of Delhi’s Woodland Cemetery, a memorial obelisk to Osman Steele rises. Along the stone wall of the Halcott Cemetery, a blue sign indicates the burial place of Warren Scudder. Steele was the county lawman killed in the line of duty, on August 7, 1845, while conducting a forced sale to raise rent due on Moses Earle’s Dingle Hill farm. Scudder was the leader of the men who shot him.


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