Bungalow Colony-A special use of the term "bungalow" developed in the greater New York City area, between the 1930s and 1970s to denote a cluster of small rental summer homes, usually in the Catskill Mountains in the area known as the Borscht Belt. First and second generation Jewish-American families were especially likely to rent such homes.

The old bungalow colonies continue to exist in the Catskills, mainly occupied today by Hassidic Jews. ( From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )



The Ideal Profile:  


 We came from Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, the Bronx and New     Jersey...


Wherever we called home in the winter made no difference when we all flocked to Ideal...

By the summer we were all craving to return to the haven that gave us the freedom

to "stop and smell the roses". A simpler way of life.  A time to explore, discover and grow.


While our parents played Backgammon, poker, mah jhong, barbequed or relaxed by the pool, we had a "license" to roam the colony.  This was nature at its' best.  We explored the woods, discovered blueberry bushes, caught tadpoles, told campfire stories (remember the 'watermelon baby?')-  and jumped or crawled under the pool fence "after hours".  It didn't matter if home was a private estate or a tenement apartment... at Ideal we all lived in a 3 room bungalow with ironing boards hidden away in the walls and clotheslines in the rear.  We all had  green & white wooden porches, flower boxes and wooden picnic tables with umbrellas outside for fine dining.

Before there were cell phones, cordless phones or even  bungalow phones, we had an even more effective way of communicating. We all knew when you got a telephone call or when you had  stayed out too late by the loudspeaker announcements.  These announcements, which  woke you out of your sleep were broadcast over the entire bungalow colony. Thanks to the little speakers that  were strategically placed around the colony, one could  hear their mother's voice calling either from the concession or directly from the Slomowitz bungalow and they went something  like this: " Jeffrey go home, your mother is looking for you" or "Florence, you have a telephone call -on the  horseshoe telephone- Pick up the phone!" Of course, everyone knew who Florence was.  And everyone who saw Jeffrey was telling him to go home. At this point, the horseshoe telephone -housed in a little wooden booth,  (which more resembled a broken down outhouse) would be ringing off the hook. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my friends giggling  in that phone booth.  We used to drive the operators crazy. When we would hear a page for anyone, we'd all run to answer the phone or make phony phone calls to the casino requesting ridiculous pages.




In the morning we'd hear the camp director, Roy, Eli or Marvin spewing over the speakers with a "Counselor's Call", accompanied by a bugle, followed by  a weather report and then a call for all of the campers to report to camp. This would persist until all of the campers & counselors made the journey past the totem poles to the top of the hill.  

During the day, the campers had their daily swim, pagoda activities, dodgeball on the handball court & crafts in the camphouse. Camp trips were to the Bowling Alley in Liberty and the "Forestburgh Theatre". There were walks to the "Silver Cone", "Gigis Pizza" & "Penny Candy".  The  "Orange County Fair" was my favorite trip.  Sometimes our camp would compete against other colonies in newcomb, volleyball or softball. Most of these competitions were held at Pine Tree, Beverly Hills, Slatkins or Pine Knoll etc. Other times, the colonies would come to us. No matter who went where, one thing was for sure, it would always end up in a war that lasted way past the end of the game.

On Saturday afternoons, our mothers spent the day at the poolside hair salon and putting on make-up for the first time all week- just for their "big night out" at the casino with our Dads. (Remember the exercise machines in the room next to the salon?- You would put in a quarter, wrap the white canvas belt around your waist and it would jiggle all of your fat for 15 minutes.)  

Our mothers entrusted  the care of their toddlers to mother's helpers, babysitters or nannies.(see pic of mother's helpers on homepage!)  


At night,  teenagers roamed the colony, met at the concession, the pagoda, the handball court or hung out (and often caused a ruckus)  in front of  the bungalow where one of their friends was babysitting. 

Do you remember the Cropsey stories? 

The name Cropsey is most commonly heard being whispered around the campfires of boy scouts, or in bunk beds of Jewish Sleepaway campers, up and down the Hudson Valley. It is the tale of the CROPSEY MANIAC, and it has been around for longer than anyone can remember, scaring children, parents, and anyone else in between, for more than a century. Folklorists have dedicated an extensive amount time reseaching this urban legend, from innocuous campfire tales to its reemergence as an overriding theme in the modern day Slasher film. It is a classic urban legend, a cautionary tale pervasive in both our oral traditions and mass media. And for some, it seems so rooted in our collective consciousness, that it must to hold some a grain of truth, if not more.

VOICES, a zine, put out by the New York Folklore society has a great article on the CROSPEY MANIAC story, highlighting the most common tale of the crazed Judge or Doctor, disfigured in a camp prank gone wrong, who stalks the woods with an axe looking to exact his revenge on young campers.


Our parents spent Saturday nights at "The Track"( Monticello Raceway), the Concord, Kutschers, the Nevele, the Raleigh, the Pines Hotel or at the Ideal Casino (but you had to bring your own liquor).  Saturday night was show night for the grown ups.  Comedians, strippers and singers entertained our parents. 

  For the kids, the casino offered pinball machines (when pinball was the real deal....) the first "Pac-Man" machine, a pool table, air hockey, a fooseball table and a jukebox. I can still hear, "One in a million you," in my head when  I think about the Jukebox . 

Remember the candy necklaces and bracelets they sold at the Casino concession? They would come on these flimsy elastic strings that we would wear around our neck or wrist and we'd have to bite one off every time we needed another sugar fix. If you bit down too hard you'd cut the string with your teeth and send all the sweet little candies flying all over the place. They had this strangely unique flavor to them.. very different than all the other candies we knew as kids. (I think it was like Banana or something).
But the question is: How many times did you jump into the pool and forget you were still wearing one? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.


 

Let's not forget "Movie Night".  That was the night you came down to the casino - with wet hair, dressed in pajamas just to watch a movie. There you sat with your friends, feet up on another chair,  eating an entire bag of onion and garlic or bbq potato chips. 

On Thursday mornings, our mothers sent us down to the casino "early" to await the delivery of "Freihofers" chocolate chip cookies, fresh rolls and bagels.  We had to buy as many boxes as we could get our hands on. (Before they were sold out!) 


         Vendors would announce their arrival at our colony selling anything from "Huk-a-Poo" shirts,"Jordache" and "Sasson"  jeans to handbags, sweaters, towels and belts from the trunks of their cars. Heated Iron on teeshirts with images of  Peter Frampton,  sayings such as "Foxy Lady", initial & name monogrammed tees, terry cloth short sets and beaded ID bracelets were the big craze. Others sold  jewelry right from their bungalows.


At  dinner time, the announcements went more like this," Ruby the Knish Man is here-Please buy my knishes. My wife wants to go to Florida!" - Several people have told me that one of Ruby's selling pitches was the following: "GET YOUR HOT KNISHES FOR TEN CENTS, that's T--I--N, TEN!"                                                                           -              

 ( A conversation overheard with Ruby:)
"Hey Ruby What kind of Knishes do you have?"
"I have Kasha or Potato."
"I'll take potato."
"Sorry, all I have is Kasha... 

Sometimes the music of  "Chow Chow Cup" would blast through the speakers 

beckoning us to come down and buy an egg roll.

( Check out the cool links below!)

                                                        


Dedication To Ruby The Knishman (1/3/17 - 10/9/87)

Ruby was always in the best of spirits (I do not recall EVER seeing such a serious face as in the picture).

- We often did not have the 12 cents for the knish. Ruby would still let us hang out by his wagon. He would give us free salt as a substitute. He let many run a tab with him. He never turned anyone away. I never forgot this attitude of his, and is the reason I spend time dedicating a web page to him.

- The tin cup of salt (in the picture) looked about 100 years old. It also looked like a bullet had dented it at some point.

- The knish wagon was also legendary. It looked older than the tin cup of salt.

- The knishes were unbelievable in taste. Never been another like it, and I've had everything from Shatzkins to Mrs. Stahl's, to Whitey's of Brighton Beach. There are reports that the superb taste was due to the ashes that fell on them when Ruby smoked his cigarettes,creating a unique seasoning.

- Years later, my dad and I ran into Ruby somewhere in Brooklyn. My dad flat-out asked him, "Ruby, did you EVER send your wife to Florida?"   Ruby laughed, and said, still in that booming voice:"Yeah, but she made me go with her"....

My first exposure to Ruby (and his delicious knishes) was in the mid-sixties when I went to a bungalow colony in Liberty every summer. "Ruby the Knish Man is here... Hot ones for now, cold ones for suppertime." You know the routine. Hurry up and buy my knishes. My wife wants to go to Florida."

Some interesting reading...

Some of the vendors were so colorful and unique that they remain indelibly on my memory circuits even with the confounded passing over more than three decades. There was the "Knishman from Mountaindale."   He would arrive on our colony each and every Thursday afternoon, his truck laden with freshly roasted chickens, brisket, soup, kishka, kugels, cholent, and, of course, those marvelous knishes-potato and kasha. A harried and hurried mom could purchase an entire Friday dinner with some mah-jongg winnings, and save Friday afternoon for sunning at the pool. And they did.

There was "Shimmy the Pickle King." He owned a huge blue truck, the side painted with giant pickles. His garlic sours were a thing of beauty, a joyous memory forever-crisp, flavorful and tart. They also moved jars of sweet red peppers, sour tomatoes, sauerkraut, as well as nuts and dried fruit.

There was "Chow-Chow Cup", of blessed memory. We savored chicken chow-mein that came in that wonderful bowl made of Chinese noodles, and the Chinese hot dogs, just corn-dogs on a stick, really, that came encased in a wrapper with Chinese lettering all over. The egg rolls were loaded with enough oil to slick the hair of the entire Lincoln High School football team. On the first bite the grease saturated the flimsy napkin and stained every article of clothing within 200 yards.

There was an unending and countless assortment of peddlers-honest men and women hustling hard in the heat to make a buck. They hawked everything from pocketbooks to kid's sweatshirts, from cheap watches to fresh fruit. But no matter what it was they were pushing, one thing was a constant-the rushing tide of the mothers from their mah-jongg and canasta games, and from their poolside sun perches, just to "look, I'm just looking, sweetheart." Of course, suffice to say that God has failed to yet create a Jewish woman who could "just look", and, inevitably, you'd return from camp at day's end to discover some new, hideous, and utterly unnecessary addition to your bungalow, or, worse, your summer wardrobe, an item your mom was certain was "just perfect" for you. Then you did your best to relegate the item to the back and bottom of your dresser drawer, hoping it would be forgotten until well after Labor Day, when, in the rush to pack the bungalow, you might succeed in misplacing it forever.

Of all the vendors that came and went through all those enchanted summers, my favorite, an authentic mountain's character, was Ruby the Knish Man. I close my eyes and I see his long, thin face, three days salt and pepper stubble riding his gaunt cheeks. His fingers are long and thin, and crooked, and he doesn't walk so much as lope, a little stooped, until, standing in the concession as he announces his presence on the microphone, you see him stretch and realize he is actually tall. He wears a soiled old sport shirt and a pair of beaten trousers, a baseball cap on his head, and he speaks to the microphone in a voice part gravel, part velvet, and I only wish I'd once thought to record his announcements, because they were rich in ad-libs and merriment.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he would intone, "I am back! Ruby the Knishman is now on the premises, with my delicious and nutritious, hot homogenized, pasteurized, and recently circumcised kosher knishes. We got today for you potato, onion, kasha, mushroom and pizza knishes. Come on, folks, I need the money. I gotta send my wife to Florida. She's killing me! Oy! Have some rachmunis on an old man and buy a dozen. By two dozen!"

The knishes, at a half a buck each, were the best buy in 100 miles. They were unlike any other kind of knish I've had before or since-a fried covering, like a pouch, inside filled with cloudy dollops of potato, or potatoes and mushroom, or, for the adventurous few who also desired to fulfill some dubious dietary necessity-broccoli. I haven't had a Ruby's knish-he called them "Mom's Knishes" because his wife, "Mom", was their sainted creator-in more than ten years now, but the taste is just beyond my tongue as if it were yesterday.

Ruby is gone now. After he passed on his wife and kids operated a store in Woodbourne, turning out the same remarkable product. That lasted a few summers. I've heard rumor of a place in Loch Sheldrake stocking a knish somewhat akin to what Ruby once fed us. But it wouldn't be the same. Not without the battered up truck he had, held together with spit and a prayer, and not without his glorious and memorable announcements on the colony loudspeaker, and certainly not without being touched by the hands of Ruby, himself, the true Pied Piper of knishes from my childhood, all those years ago.

WHO REMEMBERS BEING YOUNG? by Arthur Tanney

There was a certain stillness to the mountains. A quiet unlike what we'd ever known in the city. You felt it the first moment your parents opened the car door in the small town to pick up a few things, maybe milk, juice and rolls, on the way to the colony that first weekend. You and your brother, or sister, piled out of the back of the sedan, from under a mountain of pillows and blankets, and you waited a moment while your mom went into the store. All the while the excitement bubbled inside you, like a geyser, so eager to get to the colony to see friends not heard from in almost a year. Would there be new kids this summer? Would your name still be where you wrote it on the big rock under the tree near the handball court? Would the pool, by some miracle, have given birth to a diving board during the winter? Who'd be your counselor in camp? Hopefully not the dweeby guy with the glasses and the acne....

Then back in the car for the last five minutes to the colony. The anticipation unbearable. The car windows are open wide, because a/c just didn't exist, and you can smell the jasmine and the honeysuckle and the fresh cut grass, and the small hint of pollen, and then, around the bend, through a clearing in the stand of pine and birch, you get your first glimpse of a bungalow, peeking through the branches.

Has anything since been as much fun?