Thursday, May 28, 2020

While out in Portland, Oregon, to meet his grandniece—my precious granddaughter—my brother Al seized the opportunity to ride with me on a short day trip to Multnomah Falls, along the Columbia River. Of my three older brothers, it is Al, 10 years my senior, who still speaks the most with me of our love of the mountains, which has continued since our childhood summers in the Catskills.

Sixty years separate the two photographs, the older of which shows me being supervised by Al at the swimming pool on the grounds of the bungalow colony owned by our mother’s cousins in Livingston Manor, New York. In the Catskills, our cousins stayed in the main house on DeBruce Road, seen in the background. My parents and their four children, including me, the youngest of the clan, nested for the summer in the barn-turned-bungalow across the street. It was the best of times.

On our West Coast trip, Al and I had the fortunate opportunity to reminisce about those days long gone but forever in our hearts and minds. When we returned to New Jersey, I posted on the People Who Went to Catskills Bungalow Colonies Facebook page, launched by Trudy Gewirtzman Malmut in 2014. A fellow mountaineer, Leah from our cousin’s Mountain View Bungalow Colony, suggested I join the group in 2018. Getting reacquainted with Leah Gevirtz Amler on Facebook flooded my mind with memories, especially of my sixth birthday celebration that July 8 “up the mountains.” In my mind’s eye, I picture Leah’s mother on a ladder in the casino of the bungalows hanging crepe paper to decorate for my party.

Amazingly, this all brings to mind the presents that I received for that birthday. Our cousin Louie brought me two dresses from one of the stalls in a line-up of vendors where he sold dry goods in the city. Leah, a teenager at the time, and her parents, bought me a board game while we were out shopping together. Somehow, I remember it to be at the A & P in Livingston Manor. As it came down the belt at the register, I can recall innocently questioning if it was for me. My mood quickly changed from gleeful anticipation to remorse as my inquiry was met with my mother’s embarrassment and my immediate admonishment. On a more happy note, how could I ever forget the posh French Poodle designed of strips of blue fabric with plastic eyes glued on, its legs fashioned out of white pipe cleaners, gifted to me by Al and our cousin Irvin, which was my “pet” for years?

More Catskills memories came to mind as Al and I traversed the winding roads to Multnomah Falls, causing me to be eager to post on the People Who Went to Catskills Bungalow Colonies. I included these same “then and now” pictures along with my post, which reads, “Driving along the Columbia River in Oregon with my brother on Tuesday, we were reminded of the falling-rock zones we drove by all the years we traveled with our family from Roselle, New Jersey, to the Catskills. Remember the rocks falling?! We do, and when they later put up covering to keep them from falling [onto the road]. No matter where we are, we always have fond memories of our summers in the Catskills.”

Another “friend” of the Catskills Facebook group, Dave Silvers, commented that he voluntarily cleaned up my old damaged photograph a little for me. We can definitely be seen more clearly now. This just goes to show that being part of the Facebook group is rewarding in many ways. Everyone writes interesting blurbs about their times “up the mountains,” which spark fond memories for others to comment on.

So far, I haven’t seen a posting about the time we recall seeing the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, z”l, as he was about to walk across DeBruce Road. Al added in vivid detail, “A young man was holding an umbrella over his head to shield him from the bright midday sun.” After relaying this story at our father’s shiva in 1997, we were informed by Rabbi Sholom Gordon, z”l, that it had to be in 1957, the one day the Rebbe left New York City and traveled to the Catskills. I think it was my brother Al’s excited reaction to the presence of an important religious leader that etched the memory in my young mind.

For Al and me, the various shades of brown and green of the mountains and trees create a haven of happiness. In a posting of photos and captions to our family and friends, I labeled some of the picturesque shots from our spontaneous trip along the Columbia River as America the Beautiful. Lucky for us that after 60 years Al and I once again had the opportunity to share lots of memories of our summers spent in the Catskills, while enjoying the great outdoors and scenic mountain vistas in Oregon.

With summer right around the corner, there was no time like the present to drive to the Oregon mountains to enjoy the breathtaking scenes of nature, before circling back to tell our precious new bundle of joy and her parents about the splendor of the mountains. We look forward to hearing about the adventures the baby has with her parents and learning which she likes best, the tranquility of the ocean or the lure of the mountains.

By Sharon Mark Cohen

Sharon Mark Cohen, MPA, is a seasoned genealogist, journalist and contributing writer at The Jewish Link. Visit sharonmarkcohen.com.