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: Dec. 3, 2008

“Shop local!” we’re told, particularly this holiday season with a world recession squeezing local economies. We want to help, want to do the right thing, want our holiday dollars to circulate in our mountain towns. But we also want to buy Christmas and Hanukah gifts worth giving. Happily, many regional retail outlets now stock Catskill Mountain themed books, books that just might be the perfect holiday gifts this year.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 26, 2008

We have a little gem of a park right nearby. Maybe the word park is less than clearly specific here. I have a friend who often reminds us that, here, we live in a park – mountains and valleys, state land and privately owned – the whole area inside the Blue Line boundaries is the Catskill Park, basically, from Johnson Ford, Kingston to Bridge Street, Margaretville.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 19, 2008

I stopped a former student of mine the other day in the store where she works. I told her that I had recently held in my hand a little book of poems put together in 1932 in the Shaver Hollow School. There were poems in the booklet by children who shared her family name, children she identified as her father and her aunt.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 12, 2008

Usually, I do my research before I write. Usually. A couple of weeks ago, I took a shortcut. Writing about the founder of the hospital in Margaretville, Dr. Gordon Maurer, I mentioned that his epitaph appeared in a book of American epitaphs. Dr. Maurer was killed exactly 70 years ago in a November 1938 hunting accident. He is buried in the old Margaretville Cemetery.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 5, 2008

I’ve been spending a little time lately in the 1930s with the Catskill Mountain News. Weekly newspaper issues published between 1902 and 1937 are now posted on-line. A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it. I know a lot of people were thinking about that historical precedent, a couple of weeks ago. So, I visited the Catskills in the ’30s.