Movie Night in the Catskills Was A Wonderful, Magical Night

24 Jul

It was our Saturday night tradition at the Ritz Theatre in White Lake, NY. In the late afternoon, early evening, we children would go to the early movie with our grandmas: Grandma Esther, Grandma Rose, Grandma Thelma, Mrs. Anoff. They chaperoned about nine or ten children and kept us safe.

Our dads would drop us off at the front of the theater with money for the movie and snacks. We were supposed to be very careful there as it was at the intersection of 17B and 55. So there actually was a bit of traffic.

I think our grandmas would collect all the money and pay. However, when we got a little older, we were allowed to buy our own tickets. If you were under 12 it was one price, over 12 you paid the adult fare. It was always sad when someone had a summer birthday and turned 12. They now had to pay much more!

Our parents, in the early 1960s.  Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Some of the parents, in the early 1960s. Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Our fathers, in the meantime, would then go home to get ready for Date Night with our moms. It was their special time together.

We would watch whatever movie was showing that week. The movie I remember the most was “To Cast A Giant Shadow” about the Israeli War of Independence and Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus, the American officer who helped with ending the siege of Jerusalem. It actually had a major impact on my life choices.

For this movie, I sat next to my Grandma Rose.   Grandma Rose, was really my cousins’ grandma, but that did not matter. We shared grandmas in the Catskills. In any case, Grandma Rose lived through the siege of Jerusalem with her husband, Grandpa Asher, and my Uncle Jack.

While we watched the movie, Grandma Rose spoke to me throughout, telling me what happened to her in 1948. She told me what really happened during the siege. What in the movie was true, what was just fiction. She told me about the lack of water and food. She told me about the day they finally left Jerusalem and how difficult that day was for her and Grandpa Asher. How she looked back knowing she might never live in Jerusalem, her Jerusalem again. She never did. They moved to the USA.

I was eleven years old when “To Cast A Giant Shadow” came out in 1966. But this movie and the story of Jerusalem stayed with me my entire life. It was because of this movie and Grandma Rose’ commentary, that I went to Israel eight years later to spend my sophomore year of college at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I lived in both the Givat Ram and the HaHasofim campuses.

I was able to go freely between both the old city of Jerusalem and the new city. I saw the places Grandma Rose had told me about, as well as, the places I saw in the movie.

While I was gone, Grandma Rose passed away. My parents did not tell me. They did not want it to be in a letter. In those days we had no cell phones, no computer, no Skype. I found out when I got home. I was heartbroken.  I wanted to tell her all about the Jerusalem, where I lived and how it had returned to one city.   But I never got the chance.

But I always remembered that one movie and Grandma Rose.

Movie night was always an exciting night. Without television, cable, VCRs, DVDs, Netflex, we looked forward to going to the movies one day a week. Even when we got older and did not need our grandmas to go with us, we would still go in a group to the movies. Then we would go to Poppy’s for ice cream after the movie ended. It was always a good time. Even on dates we went as couples with someone else. It seemed odd to go out with just one other person. Sometimes we even ran into our parents at the ice cream parlor. So strange, so different from when we were children.

Because when we were young, our dads would come to pick us up after the movies. When we were settled in back at our bungalows, the parents would go out. They were dressed up, looking fine. Many times they were just going to the movies as well. Sometimes, they went to a show at one of the many hotels or bungalow colonies to see a comedian or musical. It was a wild time in the Catskills.

We always knew when they went to a show because they came home with one of those keychain photo viewers. We loved them. I found some when we cleaned out my parent’s apartment and I brought one back to Kansas with me.

My parents always went out extra special on Fathers’ Day weekend because their wedding anniversary was June 17. They had spent part of their honeymoon at Grossinger’s before heading up to the Finger Lakes and exploring on their own. So a special evening out at Grossinger’s was often their anniversary celebration destination.

Movie nights changed after the Ritz in White Lake closed. We then traveled to Liberty or Monticello to go to the movies. But the magic still remained. Movie night in the Catskills was a wonderful, magical night.

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2 Responses to “Movie Night in the Catskills Was A Wonderful, Magical Night”

  1. Amy May 25, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    Lovely memories. Your summers sound so idyllic. I have one of those keychain viewers from the time my parents came to visit me at Camp Welmet somewhere in the Catskill region in 1963. They must have stayed at one of the nearby hotels. The viewer had their photo in it, and I was so homesick at camp that I slept with it under my pillow so I could see my parents whenever I wanted (though in the dark I couldn’t see anything!). I never went back to Welmet, but I kept that keychain and still have it in my top drawer. Thanks for stirring that memory.

    • zicharon May 25, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

      I have a key chain as well. My parents got one every time they went for a show of some event. I kept one with my favorite photo!

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