A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 7, 2009

A banker in Cincinnati is on the phone with a banker from another part of the country. After finishing their business, the Cincinnati banker asks, “Is there anything else we can do for you?”

A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 30, 2008

A good friend of mine, long a stalwart member of the community, first came to the Catskills on summer vacations with his parents in the ’50s. He’d stay at John and Martha Hewitt’s Denver Valley farm, boarding in the big farmhouse for a week or two, living the country life of fresh air and outdoor exercise.

A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 17, 2008

Mention the Catskills to someone from somewhere else and, often, they think first of the Sullivan County Borscht Belt. In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, the big hotels down by Monticello and Liberty seemed to be the epicenter of the mountains. Yet, the Sullivan County Catskills seem downright “hilly” to residents of the high peaks. One of my sons came home, one time, from college complaining of a classmate from Monticello who claimed the Catskills as home. “That’s not the Catskills,” he sneered, defensive of his home turf.

A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 10, 2008

What’s on Oprah’s iPod? Future historians will undoubtedly seek to understand the world we live in today through the music that has become so much a part of each of our lives. Music opens the world to us. It can also open the past.
Here is a song that originated here in the mountains in response to the August 1845 shooting of Under-Sheriff Osman Steele on Dingle Hill in Andes.

A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 3, 2008

“Shop local!” we’re told, particularly this holiday season with a world recession squeezing local economies. We want to help, want to do the right thing, want our holiday dollars to circulate in our mountain towns. But we also want to buy Christmas and Hanukah gifts worth giving. Happily, many regional retail outlets now stock Catskill Mountain themed books, books that just might be the perfect holiday gifts this year.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 26, 2008

We have a little gem of a park right nearby. Maybe the word park is less than clearly specific here. I have a friend who often reminds us that, here, we live in a park – mountains and valleys, state land and privately owned – the whole area inside the Blue Line boundaries is the Catskill Park, basically, from Johnson Ford, Kingston to Bridge Street, Margaretville.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 19, 2008

I stopped a former student of mine the other day in the store where she works. I told her that I had recently held in my hand a little book of poems put together in 1932 in the Shaver Hollow School. There were poems in the booklet by children who shared her family name, children she identified as her father and her aunt.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 12, 2008

Usually, I do my research before I write. Usually. A couple of weeks ago, I took a shortcut. Writing about the founder of the hospital in Margaretville, Dr. Gordon Maurer, I mentioned that his epitaph appeared in a book of American epitaphs. Dr. Maurer was killed exactly 70 years ago in a November 1938 hunting accident. He is buried in the old Margaretville Cemetery.

A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 5, 2008

I’ve been spending a little time lately in the 1930s with the Catskill Mountain News. Weekly newspaper issues published between 1902 and 1937 are now posted on-line. A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it. I know a lot of people were thinking about that historical precedent, a couple of weeks ago. So, I visited the Catskills in the ’30s.

A Catskill Catalog: Oct. 29, 2008

When I first came to this part of the Catskills, Margaretville Memorial Hospital, on Route 28, was still referred to as “the new hospital.” Forward-looking men and women of the Upper East Branch Valley had conducted major community fund-raising a few years before, raising astounding thousands of dollars for the effort. The new hospital was a source of community pride: a bricks and mortar example of what a community can accomplish when focused on a tangible goal.

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