Loudspeakers Often Interrupted Life And the Quiet of the Catskills

30 Dec

Our bungalow colony was very small.   So we did not have loudspeakers to make event announcements and communicate phone calls. We could easily run over to the bungalow and get the needed person. And since we did not have a day camp or a casino or clubhouse, everyone would make plans while visiting during the day.

But we were so close to Fink’s Kauneonga Park, Top Hill, Sheppy’s and Friedmans that we heard all their announcements. To be honest, sometimes they made me crazy.

Phone calls, camp events, activities, emergencies, all were announced; sometimes over and over again. “Mrs. Shirley Katz, bungalow 7, you have a phone call.” The first time it was announced, it was very polite. But after a few minutes, the “Mrs. Katz, bungalow 7, you have a phone call,” had a much more emphatic tone.

Remember though that poor Mrs. Shirley Katz was up in the Catskills by herself. Her children were around. Her husband was not. She had to get everything settled before she ran to get the phone. Usually the couples arranged in advance when they would have the weekly phone call. But sometimes things just did not work out.

One summer, my friend Vicki was in charge of answering the three phones at Fink’s.  I was a mother’s helper that summer, also at Finks.   I took care of a little boy named David about seven hours a day, while his older siblings were in camp and his mom relaxed and played mah jonng. I think I earned $12 a week.

While I got to be outside, Vicki had to sit in the phone room waiting for phone calls. So often I would take the baby and sit with Vicki while she waited for calls. A most boring job except when the phone rang. We would sit on the back steps, play with the baby and visit while she waiting.

When a phone call did come in, Vicki would jump up to answer it. Then she was the voice on the loudspeaker, announcing who had the call and which phone to go to. Fink’s had three phones and people would get calls on the phone closest to their bungalows. Vicki also announced what movies were playing in the clubhouse. I find that amazing now, that a young teen had so much responsibility.

The main three-phone bank was at the main house where the Finks lived. So sometimes Mrs. Fink, who was also a friend of my grandmother, would give us snacks and something to drink. At times, she sat and visited with us or even let us watch television. That was a treat because most people did not have television reception in the Catskills.

If it started to rain, and I could not get back to the bungalow where David’s family lived, I would just stay at the ‘big house,’ until David’s Mom came an got us. She knew that we were safe with Mrs. Fink. So I do not think she ever worried.

I also took the baby to the front lawn and read a book while he sat in my lap. Sometimes I read out loud to him. I often wonder what happened to David. I read him many mysteries. Perhaps he is a lawyer or judge? He has to be about 45 or 46 now. I watched him for two summers, before I got a ‘real’ job. So I was 12 and 13.

The second summer, Vicki no longer answered the phones. She became a mother’s helper as well. I digress, but being a mother’s helper was a popular job for young teen girls and the moms at the colony.

Back to the announcements: Loudspeakers and announcements became part of everyday life. When I was watching David, sometimes I did not even notice that someone was being called. I was intent on what I was doing. Taking care of a baby is hard work! And little David just sat and played. He could ignore the announcements as well. He would just sleep through them when he was napping!

But for the people in the colony the announcements were very important.

“Tomorrow at Camp is color war day! Remember to dress your camper in the correct color T-shirt!”

“Tonight at the casino is bingo night! “

“This weekend the entertainment will be (insert your favorite low cost entertainer)!”

“Tonight’s movie is (insert a favorite from the 60s and70s). It will be shown at 7 pm.”

“Mrs. Levy, bungalow five, your son is at the concession stand. Please come and get him!”

“Alert, our-year old Bruce Gordon is missing. If you find him please take him to his Mother, Mrs. Gordon at bungalow 23! Let me know when he is found!”

“Ladies, the (type of peddler) is here at the main entrance.”

“The Good Humor truck is in front of the pool. Any one who wants a treat should come now!”

There were all sorts of announcements. And with four bungalow colonies nearby making announcements, we heard them all day long. I remember the one that started the day with the National Anthem. I think it was Fink’s for the day camp.   “Good morning campers! Let’s sing the Star Spangled Banner!” I hated that the announcement was so early in the morning, especially on days when I could sleep in!

Oh I cannot forget the overnight camps. Camp HiLi was just across Kauneonga Lake from our colony and our dock. We heard all their announcements as well. Some were food announcements, telling them it was time to go to the dining hall. Sometimes it was activity announcements and other times telling them to get ready for Shabbat. We could see the campers down at the lake and watch them scurry up the hill when certain announcements were made.

The loudest and most interesting of all the announcements, however, came during the weekend of August 15-18, 1969: Woodstock!!! Usually on the weekends there were not as many announcements because the dads were up, the camp was closed and there were not as many phone calls.

But during Woodstock, we heard all of the concert announcements.

“Let’s welcome Joe Cocker (or any other entertainer) to the stage.” Thunderous applause and the ground shook. YES it did shake with the vibration of the music and the bass and the people.

Each act was announced.   Bad drugs were announced. Food distribution was announced. I even remember the rain being announced. But really we all knew it was raining.

I loved hearing the Woodstock announcements. I remember lying in my bungalow listening to the rain, the music (we could hear it from our house) and the announcements. But those were out of the ordinary. Not the boring usual weekday announcements that could make me crazy.

Actually, the peaceful sounds of the Catskills cannot be remembered without also remembering the sounds of the loudspeakers over the quiet summer days.

Thanks to Vicki for remembering with me.   Also all the names of people in the announcements are fictional!

An Actual Announcement:  https://www.youtube.com/embed/lZ4bzu5Qi2U?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

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4 Responses to “Loudspeakers Often Interrupted Life And the Quiet of the Catskills”

  1. Brian Irving May 1, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Actual film from Top Hill! Paste the link and enjoy!

    • zicharon May 1, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      Thank you, I have added the link at the end of the blog. 🙂

    • Jonathan Friedman November 16, 2016 at 7:08 am #

      this colony was owned by my grandparents. Bea and Joe Wasserman. What memories going to Top Hill during the summers.

      • zicharon November 16, 2016 at 7:34 am #

        They might have known my grandparents, Nathan and Thelma Amsterdam, as well as The Finks, who owned Kauneonga Park. We also had great memories.

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