A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: August 24, 2011

A few years back, Onteora High School was embroiled in an athletic mascot controversy. Onteora teams have been the Indians since the school opened in the early ’50s. By the late ’90s, many in the district were calling for a change, citing State Education Department recommendations that schools abandon nicknames related to native peoples. Things got pretty hot.

The spark that ignited the fire occurred in 1997. Hoping to spur the fading fortunes of the football team, athletic boosters painted a big Indian on the gym wall. That well-intentioned act ignited a multi-year controversy.


A Catskill Catalog: August 3, 2011

The best way to visit the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown is with a little kid. I was up there last week with a two-year-old – let’s call her Evie – and it was a blast.
First off, two-year-olds get in free, right up to age seven. From 7 to 12, kids cost six bucks. Thirteen and over, you’re an adult and pay $12.


A Catskill Catalog: July 27, 2011

Don Bouton has a new book out. His second book, and he’s only 90.
If you don’t know Don, he’s a Halcott Center native who has spent his entire life in that beautiful valley, much of it with cows. Don was a dairy farmer for many years, working, first, with his father, Marshall, later, with his brother, Carson, and finally with his wife, Shirley, and children, Dennis and Mary.


A Catskill Catalog: July 20, 2011

A trip to the museum is easier than one might think. There are some pretty interesting ones close by.

If you haven’t been to the Fleischmanns Museum lately, drop by. It’s located in an old carriage house behind the Skene Library, on Fleischmanns’ Main Street.

This Museum of Memories has always had a great collection. Fleischmanns was a major resort town in the first five or six decades of the 20th century. Its many hotels and boarding houses swelled yearly with, literally, thousands of summer guests, creating a vibrant summer culture and economy.


A Catskill Catalog: July 13, 2011

An acre is, by definition, a rural measure. Derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning open field, an acre was “approximately the amount of land tillable by one man behind an ox in one day.”
That’s most easily done in long furrows, so an early acre was long – 660 feet, a furlong, or eighth of a mile – and narrow – 66 feet, the length of a traditional surveyor’s chain. The word furlong meant long furrow.


A Catskill Catalog: July 6, 2011

You think you know the Catskills pretty well. At least I did. Then, one Saturday, I ran into Andy Wos and Cheryl Terrace at the Round Barn.

Andy runs Broadlands Management Corporation, over in Bovina, while Cheryl’s Vital Design Ltd. provides environmentally sensitive interior design.
So, Andy invites me to come up to see the Broadlands property. Broadlands, I remember, is the current name of lands that once were part of the Gerry Estate, and I’m eager to see this historic place.


A Catskill Catalog: June 29, 2011

Here’s a Yogi Berra story.
The great Yankee catcher was already the best in the American League when, sometime in the late ’50s, he hurt his thumb. Yankee team physician, Dr. Sidney Gaynor, took Yogi from the stadium down to Lenox Hill Hospital, on Manhattan’s upper west side.
Walking down the hall toward the treatment room, Yogi and Dr. Gaynor passed a tall physician in a white coat. The Yankee looked up at the passing doc and said, “I hit a home run off you on a change-up.”


A Catskill Catalog: June 22, 2011

The Margaretville Messenger of October 15, 1896 was focused on politics. The presidential election was two-and-a-half weeks away, and editor John Grant seemed desperate to convince his readers to “vote for the straight Republican ticket. Don’t bother with split tickets,” he warned.

Every page of the four-page broadsheet contains at least one political article, admonishing readers that the very future of America was at stake at the November 1896 polls. “Don’t be swayed by a crowd,” the paper urged.


A Catskill Catalog: June 15, 2011

Let’s not mistake what I do with the work of an academic historian. I’m an old American Studies major, a generalist by training, inter-disciplinary by definition.

David Stradling is a trained, academic historian, a specialist in the emergent field of environmental history, a recent sub-specialty that could not be more current, or more necessary. Our future seems dependent on our growing understanding of, and interest in, the “human interaction with place, the physical and biological world.”


A Catskill Catalog: June 8, 2011

When Henry Hudson sailed into the harbor that would, one day, be New York, aboriginal people greeted him.

The indigenous people of New York were of two main groups: Algonquin and Iroquois. The canoe paddlers who made their way to the sides of the Half Moon were Algonquin. The longhouse culture many New Yorkers remember studying in elementary and middle school was Iroquois.
Curious, that by Education Department fiat, New York State is declared Iroquois country, despite the fact that the majority of New Yorkers live on lands once traversed by Algonquin, not Iroquois feet.


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