The Sirens of Summer

4 Jul

Although we would go up to the Catskills for Memorial Day Weekend to get our bungalow ready for the summer, we would not begin our true summer stay until Fourth of July weekend. On the east coast, school usually did not finish until the end of June, making the beginning of July the true start of summer.

What a great time it was to be finally up in the Catskills. The weather in the City was already getting too warm, especially without air conditioning. All we could think about were the cool mornings and evenings of the mountains; the endless days of outdoor fun, swimming, boating, and just having fun with friends and cousins.

But there was one sound of summer that we all dreaded. The sirens of summer were a portent of something bad happening.   Whenever we heard the sirens go off from Kauneonga Lake, and saw the cars and pick up trucks carrying the volunteer firemen rush to the station, we knew something horrible had happened.   It was not usually a fire. It was usually a boating accident or a drowning.

IMG_0253

My nephew waterskiing in a boat driven by cousins. Kauneonga Lake 2013.

I remember the look on my mother’s face whenever the sirens went off. It was a mask of anguish. When I became old enough to go out on a boat with friends, she always told me to wear my life jacket; to be careful; and not to fool around.

Every teen who drove a boat was supposed to take lessons and pass a driving test. The office was near the fire station.   I remember going with friends as they went for the test.   But I also know that many times, knowing the rules and following the rules were not the same.

For instance, several of us were canoeing one day, when friends came by in their motor boat. They thought it was great fun to swamp us and make our canoe overturn and fill with water. Luckily we were not too far from the edge of the lake where we could touch bottom. I still remember lifting the canoe over our heads and walking it out of the lake.

But honestly, the young adults I hung out with were usually very careful when out on the lake. We never had an accident or caused one. We might have done a few foolish things in our time, but we also knew that safety was important on the lake.  They never cut off a person who was water skiing or got too close to another boat, unless we were going very slowly and met to meet up.  Yes, we went fast sometimes, but in our day during the week, there were not that many boats on the lake.

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules.   And each summer, the sirens would go off.   We knew that someone was in trouble. Eventually we would hear about a drowning or near drowning.  We were thankful for the volunteers who took the time and effort to try a water rescue.  Many of them were friends of my grandfather and father.  So we often heard the entire story of what stupid fooling around caused the tragedy.

With the Fourth of July here, I wish everyone a safe summer. Enjoy your time on the water. Boating is much fun.  I still love the thrill of riding around the lake in a boat.  I love the thrill of hitting the waves produced by other boats.  But I always have a life jacket near by. I know that my cousins will take no unsafe risks.

I pray that this year, no one has to hear the sirens of summer.

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6 Responses to “The Sirens of Summer”

  1. Amy July 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    Where did you go in the Catskills? I will have to look up the lake you mentioned. We were at a wedding a week or so ago in Roxbury, NY. It was so beautiful there—I’d never been to that part of the Catskills before in summertime. So green and lush!

    • zicharon July 4, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

      We have a place in Sullivan County. Bethel Township. Near where the Woodstock Festival was held.

      • Amy July 5, 2017 at 7:21 am #

        I checked the map—looks like we were about an hour or so north of the lake. Such beautiful country!

      • zicharon July 5, 2017 at 7:25 am #

        We love it there. It is my favorite place for the beauty and for the memories.

  2. thegenealogygirl July 5, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    I grew up boating on rivers. I lived in Washington State and the Snake and Columbia Rivers are so wide they are often skiied on. The danger was when someone treated them like a lake and was swept away in the current without a life-jacket. We didn’t have sirens, but everyone knew when someone went missing on the river they would be found dead. It was awful. Life jackets are a must!

    • zicharon July 5, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Absolutely!! Even great swimmers can drown!!

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