A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

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: Sept. 1, 2010

On first glance, opera might seem, I don’t know, a bit unusual for the Catskills. Somehow, not down-home, a bit highbrow, too civilized, at home in the Berkshires, maybe, but the Catskills? Yet, Phoenicia’s “Festival of the Voice” was a rousing success, three days in August celebrating the art of singing, held in church sanctuaries, playhouse and park.