A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: August 24, 2011

A few years back, Onteora High School was embroiled in an athletic mascot controversy. Onteora teams have been the Indians since the school opened in the early ’50s. By the late ’90s, many in the district were calling for a change, citing State Education Department recommendations that schools abandon nicknames related to native peoples. Things got pretty hot.

The spark that ignited the fire occurred in 1997. Hoping to spur the fading fortunes of the football team, athletic boosters painted a big Indian on the gym wall. That well-intentioned act ignited a multi-year controversy.


A Catskill Catalog: August 3, 2011

The best way to visit the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown is with a little kid. I was up there last week with a two-year-old – let’s call her Evie – and it was a blast.
First off, two-year-olds get in free, right up to age seven. From 7 to 12, kids cost six bucks. Thirteen and over, you’re an adult and pay $12.


A Catskill Catalog: July 27, 2011

Don Bouton has a new book out. His second book, and he’s only 90.
If you don’t know Don, he’s a Halcott Center native who has spent his entire life in that beautiful valley, much of it with cows. Don was a dairy farmer for many years, working, first, with his father, Marshall, later, with his brother, Carson, and finally with his wife, Shirley, and children, Dennis and Mary.


A Catskill Catalog: July 20, 2011

A trip to the museum is easier than one might think. There are some pretty interesting ones close by.

If you haven’t been to the Fleischmanns Museum lately, drop by. It’s located in an old carriage house behind the Skene Library, on Fleischmanns’ Main Street.

This Museum of Memories has always had a great collection. Fleischmanns was a major resort town in the first five or six decades of the 20th century. Its many hotels and boarding houses swelled yearly with, literally, thousands of summer guests, creating a vibrant summer culture and economy.


A Catskill Catalog: Sept. 1, 2010

On first glance, opera might seem, I don’t know, a bit unusual for the Catskills. Somehow, not down-home, a bit highbrow, too civilized, at home in the Berkshires, maybe, but the Catskills? Yet, Phoenicia’s “Festival of the Voice” was a rousing success, three days in August celebrating the art of singing, held in church sanctuaries, playhouse and park.


A Catskill Catalog: Aug. 18, 2010

“I don’t know much about Rondout,” I said to a friend. We’d been talking about the Strand, the riverside section of Kingston.


A Catskill Catalog: Aug. 11, 2010

The long narrative poem seems out of favor today, among both general readers and academic types. Nobody much reads Henry Wadsworth Longfellow anymore. His “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” seems quaint, and “Hiawatha” patronizing. Once, these stories-in-verse gave Americans a sense of place, a cultural legacy, our own national legends.


A Catskill Catalog: Aug. 4, 2010

The American economy boomed in the years after 1865, the end of the Civil War. A brief financial panic in 1873 was followed by 20 years of sustained growth of, like, six percent a year. Railroad building and railroad buying and selling was the driving force of the economy, the west was opening, and some folks made a whole lot of money.


A Catskill Catalog: July 28, 2010

So, I get a call from Joe Ludewig of Roxbury who tells me he has some history that might interest me. Seems his house is on a mountain that’s been home to his family for three generations. Mentions a bordello once operated up there. Hooked, I went to see him.


A Catskill Catalog: July 21, 2010

The bus from Fleischmanns took four full hours to get to New York City the other morning. Seemed awfully slow, winding its way through routes 28, 212, and 32 before hitting the Thruway, then crawling through Manhattan-style congestion that starts a good distance this side of Weehawken.


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