Kauneonga Lake Was A Peaceful Winter Wonderland

13 Dec

Unlike many bungalow colony owners, my grandparents eventually moved up to the Catskills to live full time in the 1960s. For a while they kept a small apartment in the building they owned in West New York, NJ, which was above their original bakery. But eventually they sold that building and no longer traveled back to the “city” in the winters.

Their home in Kauneonga Lake was a ‘winter’ home, and not a small bungalow. It was warm and cozy. They would close off the parts of the house they did not use in the winter. It was a bit scary at first when the furnace turned on as we could actually see the flames through an open grill in the floor. After a few years they replaced this antique system and the house was warmer. There was also a beautiful stone fireplace that helped to keep the house warm.

With my mother’s parents in the Catskills, for my family that meant we would have to travel up to the Catskills in the winter time and visit my grandparents. Usually we went when there was a long weekend, or a holiday. We knew that there would be snow and cold. The snow was sometimes several feet deep. We would be spending most of our time indoors playing cards, board games, watching television and talking.

When we did go outside we would bundle up with every scarf and hat we could find. I would double glove my hands for warmth! BRRRR! We often would sled down the hill in the front lawn and sometimes we would walk into town.

The walks to town were special in the winter. We would walk to the lake and then ACROSS the lake into town. The lake was so frozen that people would actually drive their cars across it in the winter months.

I loved walking on the lake.   It was exciting to step out on to what was usually water and sort of skim my feet across the top. Others would ice skate. Some people fished in the lake and cut holes into the ice to reach the moving water where the fish survived the harsh winters.

In later years, my parents kept cross-country skis up at the house for those days when traveling by car was impossible. They would just stay home and ski in the yard and around the area just for the fun and exercise. My memories do not include skiing, although I think my younger sister did some cross country skiing when she visited. ( My sister reminded me that they also had snow shoes, and our mother enjoyed using them in the winter.)

During my freshman year of college, my parents drove up during winter break for an overnight with my grandparents, and left me up there with them. My grandmother was lonely and needed company. That was my job. Keep Grandma entertained for a week or so.

It snowed and snowed and snowed. And even though my grandfather had someone who usually plowed the long driveway, we still had to dig out. I remember that we could not get plowed for several days. So Grandpa decided we would make a one-car lane through the snow.  Did I tell you it was a very long driveway!

We would go out and shovel for 30 or 40 minutes and then go in for something warm to drink or a cup of soup. My grandma was not a great cook, but she made excellent soup. And on a cold day it was beyond delicious.

That year, for the first time in my life, my face broke out in acne. I think it was the stress of being a college student and living away from home for the first time. My grandmother had a solution. In Poland, where she spent her childhood, there were no fancy medicines, there was just natural solutions to acne. And she wanted to try them all on me.

Every time I went outside she would yell out, “Put some snow on your face. It will help.” And every time I walked back in, she would ask if I had put some snow on my face, which I did. But she was making me a bit upset.

My grandfather finally told her to leave me alone. When that did not work, he took action. When we came in after shoveling for a while, he walked in after me. And when Grandma said, “Did you put snow on your face?” He walked right up to her, and rubbed snow all over her face. She laughed hysterically. And he said, “How do you like to have snow on your face! Enough with the snow!“ That was it. She did not bug about snow again.  (I will be honest, the snow did dry out the acne, and helped to clear it up.  But it was so COLD.)

When the weather was nice, we would visit with the few others who braved the winters. My grandparents had several good friends up there, although most went to Florida for the winters. The people who stayed up throughout the year watched out for each other. There was always someone calling to make sure they were okay or if they needed food.

Winters in Kauneonga Lake were so peaceful. I loved the quiet time to read. I loved visiting with my grandparents and hearing their stories. I even loved when my parents and siblings were there as well and we had major snow ball fights outside. Those were not so peaceful. But to see the giant pine trees covered in snow; to see the lake frozen; and to see people helping each other gave me wonderful memories.

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5 Responses to “Kauneonga Lake Was A Peaceful Winter Wonderland”

  1. Robin December 13, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    It is always nice to read your blog. I have had a chance in recent years to visit the Kauneonga Lake area throughout the seasons when I have gone up to Bethel Woods for special events. Last year, it was icy and cold for their Holiday Market, but this December, it has been unseasonably warm. We ate at The Local Table and Tap last weekend and while we were not eating outside, the view of the lake was still beautiful. And, we were up in October for the Harvest Festival and were able to eat outside at the pizza restaurant next door. I still feel very connected to my summers up there, despite the changes to the landscape. Dunkin’ Donuts has made its arrival, but there is still Candy Cone and the remnants of the old hotels and bungalow colonies in my mind. Thank you for continuing, with your eloquence, to bringing it all back.

    • zicharon December 13, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

      Thank you for your lovely comment. My siblings and I and my family still love to go up and enjoy the lake. I have so many happy memories I love to share.

  2. Amy December 14, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    I couldn’t help but think of both Robert Frost and Laura Ingalls Wilder when I read this. I know that your memories are from much more recent times, but the images of a cold, snowy, peaceful lake just triggered Frost’s Stopping by Woods and Wilder’s The Long Winter. Beautifully written post.

    • zicharon December 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      Thank you Amy. Yes, my memories are much more recent. But I do enjoy both Laura Ingalls Wilder (been to her house in Missouri) and Robert Frost. Thank you for the comparison.

    • Sherry rothberg March 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Hi. Children’s librarian–me. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Frost!! Thank you.

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