This is a story sent to me. It was written by Connie Plaissay. I hope you like it and hope it encourages you to write your personal stories about Minnewaska.
A place I called home</center>
Call it Minne, The Lake, Wildmere, Cliff House, or the Mountain it was all the same for those of us who loved it so much. They were just nicknames we had for a place in time that was so very precious. It was a time of fewer problems, stress, and fewer cares that also helped cement this feeling of carefree happiness.
I was very young when I first arrived at Minnewaska. An infant taken from the big city for fresh air and so that my mother could relax. One can hardly imagine a mother relaxing with a small boy with all those cliffs and drops and lake, but that she did (I still wasn’t walking that well).
Minne was where we went for the summer. Part of June, July, and August was always spent on our mountain. Yes I take fierce pride in saying My Minnewaska just as I did when I was a kid. I cried when we went to my Uncles in Walden, I cried when we went to Atlantic City (BC before casinos), but I always cried when we had to leave Minne. I use to hide on our day of departure and I was very good at hiding out but we always had to leave.
It was a strange realization to find out GROWN UPS were the biggest Tattle Tales. Yes that is the truth! Especially the older women. “Mr. Smiley” I saw that little boy running down the halls again! That boy was talking in the Library and by the window. He is not allowed to play on the bagatelle table. He was running down the porch without a bathrobe on. It was an ongoing problem for my mom, she always said she will talk to me about it but remember, he is just a little boy. That is probably the reason for the little prank I played. As you know, when the older ladies would go into the dinning room they left their canes (walking sticks with handles, canes) by the door on the left by the coat rack. Well at the age of 6 I was tattled on once too much that day. So in return I took all the canes and put them in the Library behind the revolving book case and hid in the bellmens closet/elevator /poland water storage area. Well you could hear the yells as each Grand Dame came out to find her cane gone. Even though I was confined to my room for half a day it was worth it (even to this day). Of course the bellmen found the hideout for the canes but not right away.
So many memories such a great time in our lives. Growing up is all part of being young. It was such fun to anticipate the up coming return to my Minnewaska. School had to be out, the car ready for the long trip on all the back roads heading for the Lake (before the thruway was built) so that a little boy kept asking when are we leaving, what day, and how long will it take. I had my suit case packed a month before we were to leave. It was packed and unpacked, and added to so many times… In it were hiking boots (they had a little knife pocket on the side,) my black pocket knife ( I have to this day) a ball of heavy string, books on the woods, lots of belts, canteen, compass (never needed it cause I new my home) all kinds of stuff for riding horses and on and on. It was everything a boy needed to survive in the woods around a Lake of such beauty. One more thing there was always a stop on the way up on 17 at the Red Apple Rest for a snack and a pit stop. During the war (WWII) our trip took longer than usual we always had flats and always had to have two spares. The record was 7 on one trip and a hot as heck day when a father was sick of getting out and fixing flats. Thank goodness we stopped at my uncles in Walden only for an hour. Was so sure we would miss supper at the Lake, I stayed in the back of the car.
Remember the strong string I put in my suitcase? Every young boy needs string. I always would go to the Post Lady Hazel, at the little window (first on the lobby floor, then on the playroom floor) and ask for a yard of string. She would always ask how big is that. I would hold out my arms as wide as I could to get the longest piece I could. Now what would that be for, asked the Post Lady ??? Remember the little black knife, well I used it to cut a branch about 3 foot long and no too thick, just right. It was to make a bow and arrow. The post office string (brown and hairy) was OK but not strong enough so that is why I brought that ball of strong twine with me. Yes, Mr. Smiley was told that I was cutting down the forest tree by tree. Still I had my bow and arrows.
Which I could not use around the hotel. Adventure with a capital “A” was shooting that bow in the air. The arrows weren’t that good, the reeds were straight but flew off course all the time. Simple fun and it took days of playing to even get it right but I had all the time in the world (what a great feeling).
I always looked forward to seeing my friends arrive at the lake. They were known as…The Todt boys, Carol and Al from Rye, Gwynne from Little Neck, Sybil from Forest Hills, Alan (he could not hear but I learned a lot from him for my life yet to be) Joyce Kastner, and on and on. Then my friends who lived at the lake. I could always count on them being there when ever I arrived, Kenny, Suzie, Bud, Art, and Smiley. We were the young and wild bunch. Well as wild as kids can be at that time in a simpler world.
If a person is going to live by a lake he best know how to SWIM!! My experience was quite successful being I’m writing this now. At about 6/7 years of age, I had my first lesson in the cold (only to those persons who did not know how great the lake is) water next to the Wildmere dock. Held by a pole and belt around the waist, the lifeguard would have me swim back and forth. While all the swimmer kids played on without me. One day I borrowed a small red tube from a friend (I think it was Alfee Reeves) to use to jump off the dock.. I ran and jumped and the tube flew up and over my head and I was in 20 plus feet of water. Needless to say I swam like a flash to the stone steps and got out to the screams of a frightened mother. YES I DID it!!!! Of course after that there was no stopping me…. Lessons and lessons of proper swimming came after that. One more beautiful aspect of the Mountain was now mine.
What story of the Lake and my family would be complete without great mention of my sister Alexandra. I was the thorn of her existence, the brother from hell. Our mom would say, “please keep an eye on your brother don’t let him get in trouble”. So there we were, brother (wild boy) and Sister who wanted to hang with her friends but without me. Her love of riding brought me to the stable. I became a stable brat. She could ride like the wind and loved it. It also separated us so that she could hang with her friends. Try as she did I could not be lost. Hide and seek where no one ever came to find you, wasn’t a great game but it worked. Witches cave for scary stories was an afternoon fun walk and there were scary stories.
We talked about riding just before. It was the place in time that my love of horses first started. At about 7 I was on my first horse. The riding master a tall thin man called Brownie, placed me up and onto the biggest horse I had ever seen. It shook as if a fly had landed and everyone laughed except me. That was the start of many a hundreds of hours in the saddle I spent at My Lake. I now live in Montana and have my own horse and mule. Some dreams do come true.
I must say my father (who arrived on Friday night-till after supper on Sunday) was a generous man for being able to have us stay for such a long time at the lake. There was always an arrival time and departure time set and held fast to. Once an exception was made and it was so very special. The arrival of our friends had been miss scheduled and we were set to leave one week before they were. When my father arrived that Friday night there I was waiting by the rocks to the side of the gatehouse (I often walked to the gatehouse to meet him) with such a long face he could tell there was something wrong. He was ready to take us home that Sunday. I begged so hard to stay just one more week, please just one more week. He said after checking with my mom he would see. It would be all right if we had the room still. Off we go, me trailing him down the hall (I loved to run in) to the reservations office. They’re sat the man who held my destiny, my future week, and my happiness. MR. GORDON
The only word I uttered was OH PLEASE! With Mr. Gordon and my dad working hard we got the next week (some things are just that important in that small time frame) by shifting guests to other rooms.
When ever we arrived there was this GIANT of a man (to me at that time) who somehow knew we were arriving, his name was HARROLD the BELLMAN. No one could touch our belongings except him. He had this great big hand truck that everything could just about fit on. He would pack it and we would register and he went to the right (later I found out that there was a rope pull elevator he used to get the hand truck to the second floor). Harold was still there when I came with my family Years later.
One day when I was older, 12 or so, I was invited by Mr. Phillips (this was as good as it gets for a kid on the Mountain) to go on a trail blazing trip. There was box lunches and everything. I was to be at the house right after breakfast and don’t be late. There we were Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, Kenny, Suzie and MEEEEEE!!! Also there stood the most sought after vehicle ride in the whole world, THE WWII JEEP (olive drab). I had never known such excitement. Down the Mountain to the gatehouse then left to Laurel Inn; then it started the day of adventure (its still like yesterday) following the old Lake Awosting road. Mr.&Mrs. Phillips sat in the front we (the kids) sat on the jump seats (not cushioned) the trail took us up and down rocks through old, very old carriage roads and fording the stream. At this point we stopped and had lunch looking down to the Awosting stream. The other side of the stream was a giant hill filled with rocks and fallen trees. With the only tool we had an ax we were able to find the road just the other side and off we rode. It took a full day (got back for supper) but what a great day. That road we went on would soon be the Lower Awosting lake road. We made history that long day a long time ago.
Years later I got a wonderful chance to be the SPORTS DIRECTOR of Lake Minnewaska. I got paid for doing something I loved. 1958, 1959, part of 1960. It was my first job and I loved being with the people. The hikes , the breakfast rides, steak rides, box lunch hikes to Mohonk (20 miles it prepared me for my next adventure the Marines) and sailing lessons. I felt like the summer would last forever. I have to say this; Kenny was the best driver for those breakfast rides. That old green truck was a fast one. Many a morning I rode the right fender holding on to the hood ornament and front raised directional light (fun but some would say foolish, but not us). It was during the summer of 58 that I met this waitress a lovely young (we were all young then) girl from Kerhonkson. Her name is Diane and we are still enjoying life together all the years later. Our memories of the Lake are with us all the time. There are times while walking a certain smell of pine and sunlight combine and we will look at each other and say doesn’t it smell Like Lake Minnewaska… that lasts forever in our minds and hearts.
Generation after generation it goes on. My children both have children and they all head up to the Lake to see its beauty and relive some memories together.
I have so much in my memory to share, and to love, that I had to put some down on paper. Before we left for Montana we went to the Lake. Yes, it had changed, but the beauty and the cliffs the hideouts the crevices cannot and should not be changed. As I stood at the carriage steps by Lake side of Wildmere, the groups of people were passing by and talking and wondering about what was here or there. It took my wife Diane and all of me not to start a lecture on what a historic and wonderful majestic a place they were strolling in. Please always remember and never forget the history and memories that make up OUR LAKE MINNEWASKA.
With love for something that must forever be remembered.
Sports Director For Life
Basic category for information pertaining to Lake Minnewaska's history.
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