A Catskill Catalog: July 1, 2009

Every organization I’m associated with is obsessed with having a Web site. Well, maybe obsessed is too strong, but every meeting I attend seems to include at least one discussion about developing, maintaining, and improving people’s ability to gain, through the Internet, information deemed important by that organization.
So, since the Catskills is the subject of this organization – this column, anyway – I thought it might be instructive to see what Catskill Mountain information is readily available to any information-seeking browser on the Internet.
I Googled “Catskills.”
First up on the responding page is the link to the Wikipedia article entitled “Catskill Mountains.” Depending on your point of view, Wikipedia is either the end of authoritative information as we have known it since the Enlightenment of the 18th century, or it’s the democratization of knowledge. I tend toward the latter view, although Wikipedia, open to any self-appointed editor, can sometimes be a tad sketchy.
The Catskill Mountain Wikipedia article begins with a disclaimer and a plea: “This article includes a list of references or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (April 2009).” Suddenly, I felt too busy.
The article includes brief summaries of the geography, history, and geology of the mountains. Then, there follows a discussion of the name, Catskills, with several theories about its origins. Finally, a few Catskill Mountain connections to American culture are mentioned, and appearances in the movies listed. Strange, but the most famous Catskills movie, “Dirty Dancing,” was actually made in Virginia and North Carolina.
Back to the Google page. The first specifically Catskills Web site listed reads “Visit New York’s Catskill Mountains’ Official Tourism Site…” The Web site provides information and links to varied and extensive lists of mountain businesses and organizations. It is copyrighted by the Catskill Association for Tourism Services. Extensive listings abound: hotels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, activities and attractions, community organizations, calendar listings, and promotional tourism packages in Greene, Ulster, Delaware, and Sullivan counties. One-stop webbing for the prospective tourist!
“Welcome to the Catskills Guide!” declares the next Web site title on our Google page. The Online Guide to the Catskill Mountains is copyrighted 1996-2009 by Timothy J. Mallery. Numerous ads surround the home page. This site contains an online Catskill Mountain bookstore, all books listed available from Amazon.
There is also a pretty good set of links to mountain history sites, including the fascinating Camp Ta-Ri-Go summer camp memories site.
Camp Ta-Ri-Go, located on Little Red Kill Road in Fleischmanns, was a “summer camp for several hundred boys and girls from before World War II to 1977.” Its memories’ Web site is worth a visit. Here, we find out that, at Ta-Ri-Go, the boys’ bunks were named after Indian tribes – Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee – and the girls’ bunks after prestigious woman’s colleges: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Skidmore, Vassar. An annually created totem pole listed the name of every camper.
Several general travel Web sites present Catskill Mountain tourism pages. Fodors.com, iloveny.com and bedandbreakfast.com all present Catskill information. Catskillpark.com, presented by LOOKSEEK.com, provides a series of activity-based and town-based links.
One of the most interesting mountain websites is that of the Catskills Institute, “promoting research and education on the significance of the Catskill Mountains in American Jewish life.” This site presents a cornucopia of Internet links focused on the Borscht Belt of Sullivan and southwestern Ulster counties. I particularly like the photo galleries.
Classiccatskills.com similarly focuses on the memories of the Borscht Belt in its 1940s and 50s heyday. The Web site presents stories that have been published in the Middletown Times-Herald-Record.
The Catskill Mountain News, of course, has its own Web site, with all the content of the paper available online to subscribers. I buy the paper every Wednesday morning at Sam’s, so I can only call up the first paragraph or so of each of the columns that have comprised, so far, “A Catskill Catalog.”
Every issue of the Catskill Mountain News from July 13, 1902 to December 31, 1937 is available online at history.catskills.net. It is a great resource and it’s actually fun just to read a very old newspaper. The ads are great!
Catskillarchive.com is produced by the same Timothy J. Mallery who produces the Online Guide. A number of 19th- and early 20th-century articles on the mountains are presented in this excellent Web site. I Googled Mallery’s name, but was unable to learn much about this accomplished Catskill Mountain webmaster.
And there are lots of other regional words one can search under. I wonder what will show up when I Google “Esopus” or “Pakatakan?”