We are going to the LAKE!!!

1 Mar

I did not swim in a pool until I was 17.  Up until then I had only ever swam in a lake…one lake in particular: Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY.  My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony right across the street from the lake on West Shore Road. 

Kauneonga Lake is the northern side of White Lake.  White Lake and Kauneonga Lake once had just a small channel connecting them, but it was widened many years ago.  Amber Lake was off to the side, and could only be accessed on foot or by canoe because the channel was so shallow.

Each spring we would begin to prepare for the first visit to the lake.  Memorial Day weekend the bungalows would open. But the season would really not begin until the end of June, when school ended.  We would go up earlier so my Mom and Dad could help my grandparents prepare for the season.  My siblings and I would be put to work. . My brother and I would be scrapping paint off the bungalows to get ready for a new coat!  My sister was too young for those jobs, so was given a simpler job to do. 

Oh the excitement of knowing that summer was coming!  Once school was out, we would be there for two months of joy.  We would pack up the car, put on our pajamas, and head out for what was then a four-hour ride.  When we woke, we were there in our bungalow at Kauneonga Lake.

There, in the mornings we could watch the mist rise above the lake. In those days it was so cold in the mornings, we slept with our clothes under our pillows to keep them warm.  We would dress in layers under the covers and then get up.  Going to the bathroom in an unheated bungalow, first thing in the morning, was a COLD experience.  But even though the lakes were fed by spring water, in the mornings the water was warmer than the air, and mist would rise so ghostly above the water.

Watching the mist rise over the lake was a normal experience and also a beautiful one.  It was so peaceful.  There were very few motor boats on the lake then, just canoes and rowboats. 

My grandmother, who grew up in Poland, believed that washing your hair in the lake was the best.  So some mornings I would join her to walk over to the dock.  She wore her hair in braids on top of her head. But at the lake, she let it down and then would wash it with Ivory soap. She would wash my hair as well.  Then we would dunk in to the warmth of the lake and quickly wrap ourselves in towels when we came out.

Image

Swimming in Kauneonga Lake 1961.

Every afternoon, when it wasn’t raining or too cold, we would all go to the dock to swim.  Along side the dock were rocks were we could hunt for crayfish.  Some mornings we would fish.  I was an expert in filleting fish, which I did for my brother and I.  Later these skills were important when I worked in a deli and would filet white fish for the customers.  But then it was the joy of fishing and being at the lake.

When we swam, we tried to stay out of the gush. This was the seaweed and the bottom of the lake. The area we swam in was sandy because of all the activity. But on either side it was gushy. The older boys tried to make us have to step there. And in the gush were turtles and fish that would nibble at our feet.

We knew that a warm spot was a bad sign…and we would scream and yell when we walked or swam through one.  Who had peed in the lake?  No one would ever tell.

When I reached my teens, the lake atmosphere had changed. But I still loved it!  Now there were many motor boats and water skiing.  My friends and I would go out on the lake for hours, boating over to the cove where we could swim without our parents watching.

In the early fall, we would come back for weekends.  Even though the colony was closed, we came out to help do the closing of the buildings.  A friend of mine, who had a boat, came up sometimes as well, especially during Rosh Hashannah.  We would ride in his boat over to the beach at Camp Hi Li and sit on its floating dock working on our homework.

My parents had a pontoon boat in their later years.  It was perfect for my Dad to go gently around the lake. My cousins would keep watch over my parents when they went boating. Just as my parents kept an eye on my cousins when they were young.  Generation reversal!

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Kauneonga Lake summer 2013.

I still go up to the Lake.  There are so many more boats on it.  I don’t see as many people swimming. Most are boating.  My cousins have a large beach area where we hang out.  The ‘youngsters’ swim and boat and ski and go tubing and other water sports.  We, now the older generation, go out on the boat once in a while for a spin around the lake.  My cousins tell me about all the changes in the past year.

For all of us, there is joy just being by the lake.  Visiting with each other. Continuing the fun we had in the many years we spent growing up together across the street from Kauneonga Lake.

To this day, the words,  “We are going to the Lake,” still bring joy to my soul.

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2 Responses to “We are going to the LAKE!!!”

  1. Heidi Wasserman March 2, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    Great memories. I stayed in Kauneonga too at Top Hill Bungalows. What was the name of your grandparents colony? I am still up there, married a “camp friend” that I met when I was 6 and he was 8. We now have his family home which is on the White Lake side of the lake. I like the Kauneonga side better. Before our Colony had a pool, we had the 1st dock on the lake for all of us to enjoy. What was your family name?

    • zicharon March 2, 2014 at 8:28 am #

      I remember Top Hill. My grandparents owned Amsterdam’s Bungalows. There is now a street named after them there. I like the Kauneonga Lake side better as well.

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