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Fires

fireThe Brookside was part of the summer resort industry in the Catskills, and part of that tradition was the risk of fires. These summer resort buildings were wooden structures, with no sprinkler systems, few if any fire protection systems or alarms and dependent upon the local Volunteer Fire Departments of the many small towns in which they were located. They were unoccupied for several months of the year, sometimes had older furnaces and heating systems, and all had kitchens with multiple stoves busy for hours on end. The resort industry in the Catskills had many fires during the year. In fact there was a term for a fire in the Catskills……Jewish Lightning. A comedian playing The Brookside once told the joke….

An older man, Sam, is walking the beach in Miami one September. He sees another person approaching him on the beach.

Sam cries out, “Max, what are you doing here before the holidays?” Max says; “Sam, what can I say, the hotel burnt down to the ground last month.

“What are you doing here?” Sam says; “That’s a shame Max. There was a flood and the whole main building was destroyed. “

They walked a little farther on the beach and Max asks; “Sam, how do you make a flood?”

All jokes aside, fires were a danger that hotel owners lived with constantly. Fire insurance was expensive because of the nature of the buildings and the high risk and in some cases owners went without it. They knew the risk and their hope was that no one would be hurt in a fire.

In the case of The Brookside there were three fires, all involving the Main House.
The first fire was when I was in 9th grade in the fall of 1960. In the Fall, the hotel had closed for the year and the buildings were empty.

Fire number two was more serious and certainly more destructive. In 1962 Passover overlapped Easter and no one in our family will forget that Easter Sunday. That Easter Sunday morning about 5:30 in the morning a fire started in the bake shop of the kitchen and the entire Main House building was badly damaged.

The third and final fire occurred in 1983. At that time my parents had been trying to sell the hotel as no one in the family was really interested in continuing to work in the industry. There would be no rebuilding after this fire. the whole family agreed that the fire was an offer from G-d that they couldn’t refuse.

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The first fire described by Richard.

The First Fire
The Second Fire

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