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: June 10, 2009

“Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Bloom!” Those of a certain age will immediately recognize the catchphrase of the character Molly Goldberg, leaning out of her Bronx brownstone kitchen window calling to her neighbor across the air shaft. Molly was played by pioneering comedian Gertrude Berg.
I remember well the television show “The Goldbergs,” one of my favorite early childhood TV watching experiences. My neighbor Bud remembers the show from the radio. Either way, Gertrude Berg was a fixture in American popular culture from the 30s through the 50s. She learned her craft in the Catskills.


A Catskill Catalog: June 3, 2009

In 1847, William Stoddard established the Andes Collegiate Institute, an academy. In them-there days, an eighth-grade education was the norm for rural and urban New Yorkers. In the Catskills, literally hundreds of local Common School Districts provided that elementary education to thousands of local students.


A Catskill Catalog: May 27, 2009

I have been thinking a lot about culture lately. Not culture like opera and poetry and art museums – the high culture that we think of when we use the word to describe refined taste, as in “Jacqueline Onassis was a cultured woman.”
No, I’ve been thinking about culture in the way sociologists use the word: the way of life of a people.


A Catskill Catalog: May 20, 2009

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected President of the United States. Lincoln, a one-term Congressman and former Illinois state legislator, had made a name for himself two years previous, when, as a candidate for the United States Senate, he had argued persuasively against the extension of slavery into any new territories in westward-expanding America.


A Catskill Catalog: May 13, 2009

“Dad, we’re going to Wanda’s.” I was one of many 1980s era New Kingston parents who heard that call from the kids nearly every summer day. Soon, the late Lois Squires’ big station wagon would sway out of her driveway, filled with a gaggle of children, towels and a toy or two, heading up the New Kingston Valley to the village swimming hole.