Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867
Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Over 60 ... And Getting Younger: August 2, 2012

The Catskills

It was the summer of 1950.

I had just been dropped off in Monticello, NY from my father’s pride and joy, his forest green 1947 Buick. I was venturing forth to find an elusive summer job. A pair of black waiter’s pants was draped over my arm. I was heading for an employment agency in Monticello, the queen city of the Borscht Belt.

A car pulled up alongside the road and the gentleman who was not driving asked me in a deep voice, with a thick Yiddish accent, “Are you a busboy?”

I fibbed instantly and said, “Yes, I am.”

“Jump in the back seat!” he ordered.

We flew off to the Sunnyland Hotel, a small hotel in Parksville, NY. I soon learned the intricacies of “bus-boying.” Set the tables, take the side orders (ketchup, pickles, hot tea, sour cream, etc.) and eventually clear the dishes after the meal. Kosher dairy meals were more difficult than meat meals because no one filled up on the food. Another tuna salad, another pickled herring and another order of cold borscht with potato and sour cream kept us going back and forth to the kitchen.

I had a bad luck streak going for me; I somehow kept dropping and breaking drinking glasses. This would happen only when the owners were around. I received some glares from the proprietors, but I managed to last the season.

This all came back to me when I viewed a documentary called Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort at the Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn. It brought back the carefree days of being a waiter and a busboy. Kutsher’s was the classy hotel of the Catskills. There were over 200 hotels, big and small.

Kutsher’s was Kosher. Kutsher’s had the finest entertainment at their nightclub. They had golf, tennis courts, horseback riding and luxurious pools. Wilt Chamberlain of Kutsher’s, a future Hall-of-Famer, was the tallest bellhop in the mountains. He also played basketball against other hotels on Wednesday evenings; a lot of betting went on.

They were one of the last places to close after their New York City patrons started taking cheap trips on planes and cruise ships instead. The trips to Europe and the Bahamas took the place of a week in the Catskills. It’s a bygone era, stuck only in the memory of the elderly. Bye bye, Kutsher’s!