My trip back in the old Wayback Machine to reminisce about the time my father Frank brought we Bialczaks up to that Polish resort in the Catskills has struck again.
I posted The Polish in Me here in May 2014. It stirred up tales, all solid in my memory. Some of the details such as names and definite locations, though, were more hazy.
Subsequent posts brought out more certainties as comments were added from readers throughout the country, including a November email from the granddaughter of the owners.
People really dug the Valley View House in the day.
And still like hearing about it.
Recently I received an email and photographs from Allen B. Simons of Texas.
I worked at the Valley View House in Kenoza Lake, N.Y., summer 1967.
The postcard of the red and white two-story building with the large windows below which housed the indoor pool looks exactly as I remember it.
The owner was a hot-headed older Polish man named Bacarcek — perhaps spelled somewhat differently. It was pronounced — Ba-car-check. His reputation of flying off the handle with us was legendary among us as well as the guests.
This is my story: A girlfriend had worked as a well-tipped waitress in the famous Mackinac Island Grand Hotel the previous summer. I followed my wanderlust, and hired on for restaurant experience in Austin, Texas, during my junior year at U of Texas.
A paperback-type book listed summer resort positions for college students. I submitted my restaurant work history and was offered a summer position in five different New York/Catskill Mountain resorts.
I accepted the offer at the “Valley View” as we 25-plus college students called it. From a Texas viewpoint, all of the resorts in the Catskills had Jewish clientele. Wrong. Valley View House had Polish clientele.
I held a dishwasher room “management position” with two college students working for me — three times daily! In order to make extra cash, I worked as a cocktail lounge waiter 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Eventually, I learned five different Polish polkas, as I was often invited to dance with guests, between serving them drinks.
Times were good. My hourly pay of $1.25 per hour — minus room and board — didn’t faze me as my waiter tips paid about $15 per night — enough to take a drive to a nonstop bus from nearby Liberty to New York City and fly Eastern Airlines’ YouthFare rate of $15 each way to Boston or D.C., spend the day there or in NYC itself, and take the last bus back.
We college students worked six days, and had one or two nights off. The camaraderie among us was great — all from different places — Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and me from Texas. I still chat with a a friend from then, a former maid, now in Florida. The atmosphere of guests and college students was respectful and fun loving.
The film “Dirty Dancing” offered a glimpse of 1960’s resort life–however, without the fictional love-nest escapades.
Thanks for allowing me to reminisce about Catskill Mountain Polish Resort Life, ’67 Style.
— Allen B. Simons
Thank you, Allen, for sharing those memories and the photographs below.
Hover over any gallery photo for a description. Click on the bottom right photography of any gallery for an enlarged slide show.
Here’s Allen’s glossary for his photos:
I have found a collage of images. The upper postcard pic duplicates yours; the red-white building with the main lobby, upstairs guest rooms and downstairs enclosed pool.
The next postcard pic is the stage, dance floor and seating-in-the-round inside the circular bar-lounge building a short distance from that main building. There were nightly Polka bands, magicians, and other type entertainment.
The next two pics are of us college students — Charlene from Ohio and Cheryl from Florida, who worked as maids, and myself, Allen from Texas, the head dishwasher.
I also found a pic of my trusty old “gray battleship” 1954 Dodge that I drove to Valley View. Perhaps not as cool in 1967 as Charlene’s yellow 1967 Mustang, ours were the only cars driven to the Catskills.
Allen was really excited about his time in the Catskills. On he went to me in another email.
All of the students worked six days, so we had little time to drive around.
We did find a local bar, Danny’s, about a half mile down the hill from Valley View. It featured a pool table, juke box –remember “Light My Fire” by the Doors? — and small beers for 25 cents, sold to all of us legal-to-drink 18-year-olds.
Two or three of us worked the lounge for five days, so we looked forward to the walk down the hill.
Here was my daily schedule:
Up at 5 a.m. daily with the other two dishwashers. Our job was to hand peel 50 to 100 pounds of onions and potatoes and 50 pounds of carrots before breakfast at about 6:30 a.m. The other students, consisting of waiters, housekeepers, lawn boys, etc. were exempt from kitchen duty.
Breakfast, then start washing dishes at 7 a.m. Valley View spent the money on a fabulous 23-foot-long, conveyor-type Hobart machine. We loaded the dirty dishes vertically in the plastic spines of the conveyor, which carried them through rinsing, washing, rinsing at 180-degrees then the hot dishes were removed at the end. We rotated that position because of the heat on our hands — yes, callused developed in a short time. We tried Playtex gloves, but since they never dried, we experienced terrible rashes from the bacteria left inside them!
About 9 a.m., breakfast dishes completed for about 200 guests, break time for my workers. Me? I kept working — and continued on my $1.25 per hour room-and-board pay. I then had to back up the 4WD Ford pickup to the rear dock and scoot-semi-roll the 55-gallon waste barrels onto the pickup, then drive them to the dump in the woods. The wet garbage must have weighed 75 to 100 pounds each. I literally wrestled them down and poured the garbage from the pickup bed and returned back to Valley View at about 10 a.m. for about an hour rest. I increased my muscle-power on my 5-foot-10, 120-pound frame by dealing with the 55-gallon barrels.
Lunch about 11 a.m., then everyone to their posts for noon lunch and dishes.
About 2:30 to 3 p.m. rest time. While the kids took off to the pool or to relax, I often took a siesta.
Dinner about 5:30, then dishes from 6 p.m. to about 8:30 or 9, upon which I changed into a cocktail waiter’s uniform.
Waiter in the cocktail lounge for five nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Repeat. This routine was a typical 15 or 16 hour day for me. Remember, we were all 6-foot tall and bullet-proof!!
The summer season began on Memorial Day and lasted until Labor Day, only three months to make the year’s revenue.
I remember that as the summer closing neared, several students left for home. One of my helpers quit for home after about two months. To remedy the situation, Norman, the son-in-law, called a New York City temporary help agency for another worker.
From history classes, I had heard of the Bowery area of NYC. Well, I got to meet a real “Bowery Bum,” as he filled in for my worker. Nice man, competent, with — are you ready for this? — a terrible body odor and green-tinted skin — all from drinking cheap wine while living in the Bowery.
He said that he liked to work at resorts because he could not purchase wine during his employment with us. Had no transportation from Valley View, and to walk to the closest town of Jeffersonville was five miles. I would have denied him a ride to a liquor store. He said that he saved his earnings, then spent it on wine when he returned home.
The Valley View experience in the summer before my senior year proved that I was ready and willing to provide for myself.
Many of our group there weren’t ready for real world work –the rigorous, never-ending schedules, repeated three times daily, seven days a week, the “hurry up” required by the bosses, the high serving standards, the trivial room and board meal food exceptions set by the owners, all of which eventually wore us down, physically and mentally.
And as the summer wore on, the fact that many could and would return back to their home without fulfilling their commitment, proved to be an easy way out.
We core students banded together to finish out the summer, and thereby grew stronger for it.
My housekeeper friends, Cheryl and Charlene, especially, and the lawn boy, Rufus, loved the drama that was ours — that of working to the very end, Labor Day.
They, and other students and guests, observed the old owner yelling and screaming at me and others for seemingly no reason.
It was a common phrase among us: If we could work for him, we could work for anyone, anywhere!
Yet, he greeted us civilly again in a short time. I was committed, and would stick it to the end.
Mark, you saw my trusty old ’54 Dodge Battleship pic. Unfortunately it suffered a couple burned valves, incapacitating my return trip back to Houston immediately after Labor Day.
The mechanic quoted a 1967 repair of $200! Holy Moley! Remember, I worked for $1.25 an hour minus room and board!!
I am still grateful to the Bacarcek family, and to son-in-law Norman, for allowing me to stay and work off the bill. I can still see myself on the second-story roofs, hanging over the edges, no scaffolding, painting the fascia the red trim you see in the postcards. Fear! Hell! I owed the mechanic, so I worked it off.
Perhaps a week or so later, I loaded up my beautiful highboy console radio cabinet and headed back to Texas, with my head held high, a little older and much wiser.
See ya, Allen
Now you know what it was like at the Valley View House, from the inside out.
Thank you, Allen B. Simons, for sharing your story. You learned lots, sir.
What was your favorite summer job, and why? What was your toughest boss, and why? How far away from home did you work, and why?