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Free to be You and Me

Every summer of my young life we’d pack up the car for our annual 2 ½ hour schlepp, whisking us away from the hot streets of Brooklyn to the cool mountain air. With my brother and me kicking each other in the back seat, unrestrained by seat belts or cars seats, we’d head over the bridges and up to the woods where summer officially began.

After driving what seemed like forever on the not so Quickway, we’d get off and ride for more forever those last five nauseating miles of rolling hills; passing a lot of old barns and nothing, ticking off landmarks and we sang 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  First came Egg U then Lucky Dip and Davos which was also known as The Big Vanilla, until finally there it was, the big white sign reading Goodman’s – our bungalow colony, our safe haven, our freedom.

We’d pull onto that gravelly road, like crunching glass under our wheels, roll down our windows and hang our faces out the window to bear full witness to our arrival.

The back line of bungalows soon came into view, tiny little white planks of wood that would house families of four or five. Homes that were more like shacks that had nothing but everything we needed. I knew every family in every bungalow up the line till I reached my own.

My brother and I fell from the car like puppies and tumbled into the dewy grass. Woods surrounded us, closing us off from the world. During the summer, groups of kids would sneak away in those woods to a hideaway called the Bear Cave, climbing over the rock with the graffiti scrawled ‘Son of ’44’ that always gave me the shivers.

David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam had been caught by then but I was young and the idea of him and that rock created a feeling of danger that lingered. In fact, the Bear Cave itself, where the cooler, older kids hung out was foreboding enough without even the question mark of bears or serial killers.

There were other reasons to be wary of those woods. I had it on good authority that Old man Zuckerman had lost his arm chopping wood on account of being distracted by kids and was now running around crazy with an axe looking for children to kill. That was the story anyway.

The only time I ventured into the woods was with the camp after a rain to search for little orange salamanders that I would doom to a sad end on my bungalow porch in a plastic tub with air holes slit in the top. I loved those gentle soft bellied creatures.

On that first day up, I’d run from the car, sucking in deep breaths of mountain air and leave my parents to the job of unloading our packed up life and setting up our bungalow. I’d walk out into the large expanse of green lawn, hard back wooden chairs and picnic tables scattered about and watch other families hauling suitcases and boxes into their summer homes, knowing they were full of friends and that I’d be in and out of many of them over the next two months. I had been in and out of them since I was a baby.

That was more than 30 years ago, but I still see all of us there on the big hill above the concession, in the TL where our names are still scrawled, behind the casino on Morris’ side, on the S-line lawn and screaming at each other in Color War.

There was the boy in his parachute pants who my best friend loved and I did a little too; and my friend’s brother with a coil of purple rubber arm bands lazily reading a Richie Rich comic book in his bungalow. There was the girl with the wild kinked out hair and her strong older brother with his half shirts, wide smile and a voice as gravely as the road that led us into the colony. There were the sisters who intimidated me, the girl strutting around in the rainbow bikini and the boy who everyone thought was hot; the shy tall guy, his best buddy and the one I played Zim Zam with.  My cousins were also there with me to giggle under the blankets and have our run of the land.

We will forever be those children rolling down the big hill, playing Catch the Flag and May I, trading stationery and running free, full of life and possibility in a place that will remain forever idealized in childhood dreams; a safe place with bomb pops and bungalow bars and a sweet $1.25 lunch special, where the world couldn’t touch you.

The 70’s and 80’s were long ago. The emaciated, slightly hunched man with the tired old cowboy face who walked the colony picking up litter with a long pointed stick and rolling over the grass with his tractor sold our colony and sent us off.

We all grew up and the world did touch us.

But in Goodman’s we live forever.

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About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

36 responses »

  1. Oh my. I’m reading this at 6:10 in the morning, before the sun has risen, and what rose first were goosebumps on my arms and a lump in my throat. Thank you for taking me back to your special place. I wish I could have seen it myself, but you gave me the next best thing: your vivid memories.

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  2. Beautiful story! Thank you 🙂

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  3. That was amazing!!! It brought all of those memories back!!! It’s sad that our kids won’t experience it the way we did.

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  4. How wonderful to read this…….reminds me of my carefree days as a kid vacationing each summer in Canada where our relatives lived. Can’t wait to share this with my brother! Especially today…..something to make us smile in the midst of so much sad/bad news. Great piece

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  5. Nice…it was nice to escape for a few minutes this morning! Thanks for this!

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  6. Wow power full ,thank you!The best days of all of our lives!Yes,my kids grew up there,so did i !Thank you again,you have a great talent for writing!Try a book about our summers,ill be the first to get it!!!

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  7. Was the Boy with the Purple armbands and Reading Richie Rich comics Joey Cesaro?

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  8. Life used to be so simple!

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  9. I never Facebook….today, that story now has me wondering why 🙂
    Thanks for that pastblast!

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  10. oh i love this so hard. i needed this really.

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  11. My college boyfriend’s family had a few bungalows on the Kutcher’s property in the Catskills so we used to go up a lot during the summer. I know that by the time I went most of the Catskills was past its prime, but god I loved it up there. It was like this little slice of the world that was frozen in time and just personified exactly what summer is supposed to be. When I was there, I never wanted to leave, and I never wanted summer to be over.

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  12. Your story about the bear cave memories made me laugh to myself about how children recycle old horror stories to scare the younger kids.. Your summer vacation sounds absolutely fantastic, thank you for sharing.. As a child who grew up in the 70’s I can relate.

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  13. I went to a bungalow colony called “Cutler’s Cottages” for 30 years.. Started when I was 7 years old until into my 30’s. It was by far the best experience of my life. When school ended I hated leaving my winter friends and when the summer was over (we all stayed up the entire night together to prolong summer) we hated leaving our “summer friends). I just turned 70 ( that in itself is unbelievable) and I’m still in touch with quite a few of my “summer friends”. If Cutler’s wasn’t sold many years ago many of us would still be going there. We used to go up Rte 17 (from The Bronx before the Tappsn Zee was built) and always stop at Crowleys for malteds and ice cream sodas. My twin sister and I also sat in the back playing and sometimes were lucky enough to fall asleep for a little while b/c the ride seemed endless. Thanks for the article.

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  14. It’s been a while, but I had to pop in to say this was such a beautiful story. You’re fortunate to have had these family vacations. And your memory is superb! Mine is a bit murky after baby number three. Hope you and your family enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

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    • Anka! So happy to see you. Hope you and your family are well and happy in drool crazy land. Enjoy every annoying exhausting minute. haha. And actually, my memory is the worst!! But I remember overall feelings well, but i’m terrible with specifics. That’s why i love fiction – i make it all up!! Be well!

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  15. This was such a well written poignant little piece. It sums up what we all think but don’t or can’t put into writing as succinctly. It’s nice to know how many other people have the same fond memories of a special time and place. What I wouldn’t do to go back there with all those same people.

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  16. Helaine ( gross) Gershkowitz

    My family spent every summer at Goodmans Bungalow Colony but it was in the 60s-early 70s…. You brought back so many memories. The owner was an old but sweet sweet man known to all of us as Mr Goodman and his son who was called Moish. He was wonderful. Held all of our things over the winter like dishes towels and sheets so when we arrived everything was already in boxes in our bungalow. My dad would come every weekend and my mom, sister and I would be there for the entire summer. I was explaining this to friends recently and I was unable to remember the town it was in!! We went to Monticello. The RED APPLE on the way and the Kaplan Deli Creeped ourselves out walking on that gravely road in the pitch black with only one flashlight. Would sneak out at night to peek into the casino to see the adult shows. The Dugan Donut truck would come once a week! It was a very different time. Lots of great memories If you can remind me of the name of the town that would be awesome! Thanks for the memories. I really loved reading every word!

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    • It really was a special time. I was there early 70’s (as a baby) and left when Goodman’s was sold – I think it was 1984. It’s a time capsule of history that I feel so blessed to have been a part of. I’m still very close with many of the families from back then. I don’t remember the Red Apple. We always passed Egg U and Davos Dude ranch and Lucky Dip along that 5 mile winding road of hills. Once we were there, we were in for the summer. Although the moms definitely skittered out to the Concord some nights while waiting for the men to make their way up. Good times.

      Reply

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