The First Fire

From Richards reminisces:

In the Fall of 1960 my parents took their first real vacation. After all the years of non-stop work on the hotel they decided to take a week’s vacation and with another couple they booked a cruise. One week away from the hotel and the family. Of course, Barry had just started college at Cornel, so he was away already. Richard, Suzanne and Whendi were in Kerhonkson, the first two going to school, and Whendi at home. My grandparents were going to be the adults to look after us for that week.

It was Saturday and I had gone to a football game at West Point to see Army play against Villenova. It was a beautiful game and I was dropped off by my teacher at the foot of our driveway by our house. As I walked up the driveway I could look over at the hotel and in front of the Main House there were cars and fire trucks. I knew something was wrong, obviously, since the hotel was closed for the season and normally there wouldn’t be any activity there until Thanksgiving.

The 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 sprinklers or real fire protection systems. They were unoccupied for most of the year, and there were a large number of fires in these buildings. In our case we had three fires, all involving the Main House. The first fire was when I was in 9th grade in the fall of 1960. That would make me 14 years old at the time. Barry was at Cornell in his first year, and my parents had made plans to take their first ‘vacation’ in years, or ever, as they put it. Actually, I think that is where my profits and earnings from working in the summer went, to fund the vacation. They were to leave on a cruise from NY City with their friends the Skolkys. They were to leave on a Saturday. I had gone to a football game at West Point to see Army play against Villanova. It was exciting to watch a college football game, and afterwards I was dropped off at the foot of our driveway by our house. As I was walking up the drive to the house, I saw a lot of cars and trucks over at the hotel. Our house was about 500 feet away from the hotel so we had separate driveways and the since this was in the Fall, the hotel had closed for the year until the holidays. Off I went to check this out. Once there, I found most of my parent’s friends, a fire truck, and my grandparents and sister talking about the fire that started in the building, burning into the roof and what to do. It was about 5 PM and my parents were in NY on the boat, but it hadn’t left yet. After talking with their friends, like Mel Lesser, the Pachts it was decided that they should take their cruise and that they would make sure the building was water tight and taken care of until they returned. What an example of friendship, small town relationships, and the relationships of that time. When my parents returned, they were dismayed by the fire, and nothing been called to come back to take care of it, but in reality, there was little more that they would do that week than what was done, and best of all they finally got away for a vacation which was richly deserved.


The Second Fire

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