A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: June 3, 2009

In 1847, William Stoddard established the Andes Collegiate Institute, an academy. In them-there days, an eighth-grade education was the norm for rural and urban New Yorkers. In the Catskills, literally hundreds of local Common School Districts provided that elementary education to thousands of local students.


A Catskill Catalog: May 27, 2009

I have been thinking a lot about culture lately. Not culture like opera and poetry and art museums – the high culture that we think of when we use the word to describe refined taste, as in “Jacqueline Onassis was a cultured woman.”
No, I’ve been thinking about culture in the way sociologists use the word: the way of life of a people.


A Catskill Catalog: May 20, 2009

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected President of the United States. Lincoln, a one-term Congressman and former Illinois state legislator, had made a name for himself two years previous, when, as a candidate for the United States Senate, he had argued persuasively against the extension of slavery into any new territories in westward-expanding America.


A Catskill Catalog: May 13, 2009

“Dad, we’re going to Wanda’s.” I was one of many 1980s era New Kingston parents who heard that call from the kids nearly every summer day. Soon, the late Lois Squires’ big station wagon would sway out of her driveway, filled with a gaggle of children, towels and a toy or two, heading up the New Kingston Valley to the village swimming hole.


A Catskill Catalog: May 6, 2009

The 48th Poet Laureate of the United States visited the Catskills last week. Charles Simic was the guest of Ulster County Community College where he appeared in the annual Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum, an event held in April to bring “well-known and award winning poets to SUNY Ulster for intimate question and answer sessions, as well as a special evening reading of their poetry.” 


A Catskill Catalog: April 29, 2009

Write down your memories today. Tomorrow they become the stuff of history.
In February and March of 1971, Basil Todd, then living in Arkville, wrote two long letters to the Catskill Mountain News detailing his memories growing up in and around Fleischmanns. My friend, Jackie Grocholl, always interested in the history of her hometown, cut those letters from the paper, carefully pressed them into photo-album pages, and preserved them in her scrapbook of local history for, now, 38 years.


A Catskill Catalog: April 22, 2009

“These were men!” That exclamation, almost Shakespearian in its emphatic simplicity, was the oft-repeated refrain of the late Doug Faulkner when talking about the generation that came before his. Doug was the longtime postmaster of New Kingston, a World War II Marine, self-made success as a businessman, logger, trader in real estate and rural artifacts, community leader, and keeper of a general store.


A Catskill Catalog: April 15, 2009

The Catskills have always been a haven for immigrants. Something about the Catskills reminds people of home: the rounded mountain slopes, wide green valleys, narrow hollows, rushing creeks, and small lived-in villages. People from all over the world have long seen the familiar here.


A Catskill Catalog: April 8, 2009

Imagine two young men walking down the sidewalk in Andes, having just dropped off their dates at one o’clock in the morning after a Friday night dance at the firehall. As they approach what is today the Ron Guichard Realty building, one, surprised at the appearance of activity in that building in the wee hours of the morning, says, “I think I see a light.”


A Catskill Catalog: April 1, 2009

Take a ride on Route 30 around the scenic Pepacton Reservoir to the lower East Branch of the Delaware River. Three miles south of Downsville, an impressive old green Roebling-style suspension bridge marks the entrance to Corbett.
Corbett’s calling cards these days are that bridge and a 75-foot tapered red-brick chimney that rises just beyond it, along with an impressive little white clapboard community center and pavilion a few yards up the road. Otherwise, the hamlet, in the Town of Colchester, is pretty similar to scores of other mountain villages: a couple streets, a bunch of houses, an out-of-business store or two.


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