A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: May 6, 2009

The 48th Poet Laureate of the United States visited the Catskills last week. Charles Simic was the guest of Ulster County Community College where he appeared in the annual Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum, an event held in April to bring “well-known and award winning poets to SUNY Ulster for intimate question and answer sessions, as well as a special evening reading of their poetry.” 


A Catskill Catalog: April 29, 2009

Write down your memories today. Tomorrow they become the stuff of history.
In February and March of 1971, Basil Todd, then living in Arkville, wrote two long letters to the Catskill Mountain News detailing his memories growing up in and around Fleischmanns. My friend, Jackie Grocholl, always interested in the history of her hometown, cut those letters from the paper, carefully pressed them into photo-album pages, and preserved them in her scrapbook of local history for, now, 38 years.


A Catskill Catalog: April 22, 2009

“These were men!” That exclamation, almost Shakespearian in its emphatic simplicity, was the oft-repeated refrain of the late Doug Faulkner when talking about the generation that came before his. Doug was the longtime postmaster of New Kingston, a World War II Marine, self-made success as a businessman, logger, trader in real estate and rural artifacts, community leader, and keeper of a general store.


A Catskill Catalog: April 15, 2009

The Catskills have always been a haven for immigrants. Something about the Catskills reminds people of home: the rounded mountain slopes, wide green valleys, narrow hollows, rushing creeks, and small lived-in villages. People from all over the world have long seen the familiar here.


A Catskill Catalog: April 8, 2009

Imagine two young men walking down the sidewalk in Andes, having just dropped off their dates at one o’clock in the morning after a Friday night dance at the firehall. As they approach what is today the Ron Guichard Realty building, one, surprised at the appearance of activity in that building in the wee hours of the morning, says, “I think I see a light.”


A Catskill Catalog: April 1, 2009

Take a ride on Route 30 around the scenic Pepacton Reservoir to the lower East Branch of the Delaware River. Three miles south of Downsville, an impressive old green Roebling-style suspension bridge marks the entrance to Corbett.
Corbett’s calling cards these days are that bridge and a 75-foot tapered red-brick chimney that rises just beyond it, along with an impressive little white clapboard community center and pavilion a few yards up the road. Otherwise, the hamlet, in the Town of Colchester, is pretty similar to scores of other mountain villages: a couple streets, a bunch of houses, an out-of-business store or two.


A Catskill Catalog: March 25, 2009

Sonny Somelofski runs the Tremperskill Country Store, one of the few general stores left in the mountains – every little hamlet and valley used to have one – and a beacon for Catskill Mountain fishermen from April to October. The store was originally a one-room schoolhouse, it’s an old building, and a few years ago Sonny and a friend put on a new roof.


A Catskill Catalog: March 18, 2009

I got to thinking about Abe Savetman the other day when the President of the United States was talking about the importance of setting high educational standards for our young people. Abe did not live in the Catskills for very long, but, in one mountain public school, he went a long way toward establishing a standard of excellence that young people have pursued, now, for over 20 years.


A Catskill Catalog: March 11, 2009

I live in Melvin Mayes’ house. He built it himself in 1925, raised his family here, and sold it when he moved to Florida in the early 1980s. The house changed hands twice before I bought it in 1996. I like to point out that, I believe, it was the only house sold in Fleischmanns that year.


A Catskill Catalog: March 4, 2009

A friend and former colleague is the principal of the Reginald Bennett Elementary School. That’s the school in the Town of Olive, up on the knoll behind the Onteora High School-Middle School on Route 28.


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