Saturday, May 21, 2011
Lost Amusement Parks of the Hudson Valley
Today I chatted by phone with my cousin Betty Hampel. Her mom was the first of
the seven daughters my grandmother Milan bore. My mom was the last. So Betty and I talked about the late 1920's
and early 1930's while my mom was still a child. And about how poor everyone was. My grandparents who had sold their
home in Scarsdale and purchased a farm on Blueberry Hill in Poughquag, NY, had lost the farm in the Great Depression and
my mom's dad had to hire out. So he became the head groundskeeper for Woodcliff Pleasure Park where they lived for some years
even after it officially closed.
10:13 pm edt
As for that whole turn, it had initiated when Johnny, my grandparents only
son, died of Black Measles in 1899 and my grandmother decided she would birthe no more children in the disease infested confines
of a city. So Mother--as grandad and all of her daughters referred to her--and Dad--has my aunts referred to
him--took Marion and moved to the mountains of Dutchess County. There they raised to adolescence seven daughters, six
of whom my grandmother both birthed and, for the most part, delivered there herself.
But getting back to
Marion's daughter and my first cousin, Betty, after The Crash of the twenties, Marion also had to hire out as Rex Doolittle, Betty's
dad, had gone to Elmira to work and Grandma took in Betty while Marion worked at the then Hudson River State Hospital situated,
as it was, close by across the road from the park.
Betty reminisced about her life as a child at The
Park, as we always refer to it, and how much fun it was riding the merry-go-round and in some kind of a bullet-shaped seat
that zipped up and down and around on a ride that my uncle Charlie Benton ran. But fun aside, Betty missed her mom and many
a day she wandered to the iron gate beside the road to gaze longingly through it and across the road at the walls on
the hospital grounds that so passively hid her dear mother, holding her near prisoner most days and nights as employees
were only granted one weekend off per month and the position was--if one can imagine--live in.
No wonder when
the economy picked up and Rex came home Marion, Rex, Betty, and Elsa first chose to live in a large house on Mansion
Square in Po-Town, but as soon as the situation permitted, took off for the country, eventually to live in the more open
mountainous parts of Vermont. Only Betty gravitated to the cities, eventually settling in Middlebury, VT, where she and
her husband became professional artists and portrait painters--and Betty wrote five or six books only two of which she finally
got around to publishing in the last couple of years: Mirror Image and Gumshoe.
But back to
The Park. My maternal grandad, Robert C. Milan (Moylan) was head groundskeeper for it and my mom--who was twelve when
they moved there from Blueberry Hill and Poughquag Mountain--was already a sharpshooter with a 22 rifle. So while Betty road
the Merry-Go-Round, my mom entertained herself driving my grandad crazy trying to figure out who was shooting out the lightbulbs
that crowned its top.
Which all brings me around to some exciting news! Just yesterday I received an
announcement from Wes and Barbara Gottlock of the release of their new book Lost Amusement Parks of the Hudson Valley
which features a part on Woodcliff Pleasure Park! As I can't wait to read it, I've already ordered a copy for myself from
http://gottlockbooks.com and I'm sure most of my sisters will do the same.
Not long ago, I talked to Wes about the possibility the
Schenck brothers had been involved in Woodcliff in some way as my grandmother, whose maiden name was Marie Teresa Schieck said Joseph
M Schenck of movie producer and amusement park supporter fame was her brother. But Wes and I agreed that while
it had once been a light speculation on my part, that was all it was, and how my grandparents arrived at Woodcliff had
nothing to do with her brother, Joseph M Schenck, from whom she had been separated as a child when they
were orphaned in NYC.
Of her sisters Bessie, Ottelie, and Marga, we have almost no trace beyond the fact that
with their mother, my grandmother, and Joseph, they immigrated together to NYC from Amsterdam in 1885.
in Po-Town, Waitin' for my book
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Twenty-First Century Communication
3:18 pm edt
Despite the miles that have separated us, Joan Sheldon and
I have kept in touch. But even when our lives involved similar choices they evolved in different directions as when in
our younger years we left the United States' mainland--Joan for Hawaii--me?--for Europe. Our nurturing years raising
children started earlier for Joan, but overlapped and now we both have grandchildren.
Still there are
more obvious contrasts: I thought I could ride a horse. Joan can. And the fact I could not came screeching home when a ride
on horseback to the great pyramids of Egypt left me walking in pain for days. But Joan not only rides, she enjoys
it. She even has her own horse--follows her own trails.
For more about Joan's life, pick up a copy of her memoirs,
Someone to Remember available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=someone+to+remember&x=14&y=14
But how is it that Joan and I have been able to communicate
no matter what the distance? In answer, I offer a poem sent by Joan with the request I share it with you:
Twenty-First Century Communication
by Joan Sheldon
and letters ... no longer the way
E-Mail is here to stay
Open Your mind; e-mail's best
Don't walk to the mailbox; take a rest
No trips to the store to buy a card
Let your fingers fly; it's not so hard
No stamps to lick or paper to buy
mailing too late, giving reason to cry
With computer reminders, you're never late
and music arrive on the date
Send personal messages ... no canned trite
Send via e-mail: do it right
a hard card is old fashion thinking
a download or video, keep them blinking
With E-mail you send a personal touch
to be saved in a file and enjoyed so much
No trash cans to empty ... save a tree
Let's be twenty-first Century - You and Me!
and thanks to you, Joan.
Roberta in Po-Town, Coastin'
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Mother's Day 2011
Mother's Day. I'm a mother. Yesterday I sent out some e-greetings wishing a Happy
Mother's Day to some mothers with whom I email. It got me to thinking. Some mother's don't have access to email. Some women
are not mothers. Some mothers's children no longer live at home. And then this morning I got an email from a father asking
me to vote for him in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Blogs competition for single parents at http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/single-parent?trk=t25_single-parent So I clicked on the link. What happened was a hint to the way the
internet can catch us.
10:50 am edt
As I began to click and read onThe Circle of Moms, I realized I had never before read
blogs I had not written. And as I read, I was reminded that although I did not divorce before my son was eighteen
years of age, I, too, am a single parent and like the majority of single parents on the blogsite, a single mom. One single
mom I found particularly creative and fun was at http://pepperrific.com/.
But there were also single dads on the site. One such that I just
wanted to hug was at http://www.1andahalfmen.com/. He seemed so open and aware. I liked that.
But now, having
read through a number of really great, generally 'short' blogs, I suppose I should rethink my blogging. I know
I prefer 'longish' blogging, but should I be happy with the rather hum-drum format of my blogs? Do I need an index? Should
I include more pictures? Should I invest more money and hire someone to add more zip and zing to them? Should it be more competitive?
What's more competitive? Do I really want to compete? With what? Why?
Somehow I liked it better when I thought
my blog was the only one on the net. But that's okay. I never did like to compete. And besides that, I'm
my son's one and only mom and that's good enough.
Roberta in Po-Town, A Single Mother
Friday, May 6, 2011
In responding to my non-blogging
responsibilities, I have found the demands of publicizing Jolt: a rural noir and meeting my professional
responsibilities as a speech language pathologist at a residential school for emotionally troubled children last month pre-empted
any time for personal blogging. And although I was able to get in some fun family time, the last week
of April I hit a weekend only to find myself stunned by Brain Drain.
8:24 pm edt
I suspect not everyone has experienced Brain Drain, but I have heard the word rather frequently from other
writers. When it occurs, for me it seems my expressive skills suffer in conversation primarily due to difficulties with word
finding. Thankfully it has been only a rare occurrence in my life as it is only rarely that the writing I am required to do
results in such a depletion of energy in the areas of the brain associated with expression. For Brain Drain to occur
for me requires a week of relentless writing. For instance, when I was working on Jolt: a rural noir, any time
I wrote more than four five-hour days a week did it. Last week also did it.
To begin with it was the last week of the month--the week in which end of the month reports are required to be completed.
Then there are the daily logs--that's six to eight of them per day. Also there was a request from the principal that I talk
at the next faculty meeting about communication accommodations for deaf and hearing impaired students--including the subtleties
of preferred seating and how to increase the child's likelihood of being able to speechread what is said. That was three typed
pages in addition to the end of the month reports. The EOMs were written for some eighteen to twenty children. As such,
the amount of writing that was associated with the 36 to 40 sessions of individual therapy I provided, zapped my expressive
skills and brought about the proverbial Brain Drain.
And to add
to Drain, in the evenings, when I wasn't cooking and doing essential household chores, I spent my time at the computer preparing
for the presentation of Jolt: a rural noir at Book Expo of America (BEA), to be held May 23-27, 2011, at Javits Center
in New York.
The initial impetus to become involved in BEA
came when Jolt: a rural noir became a medalist for Inspirational Fiction in the Jenkins Living Now Awards
and I was invited to the Awards Ceremony that will be held on Monday, May 23, 2011, in conjunction with the BEA.
The Inspirational Fiction Award gave me hope that people might like the
book, and my tax refund came in so I ordered up the chance for Jolt: a rural noir to be displayed by both Jenkins and
Bookmasters at the Javits Center. Sounds easy. Send a check and a copy of the book and it's done. Wrong.
One has to remember we are
now in the e-age and there are these electronic forms which, incredibly, all worked as smoothly as silk, except to complete
them required research--ISBN number, cover image, best distributor contact--the list goes on--and each item required a tiny
personal search either of papers or in memory to complete. And then there were the emails and the trips to the post office
and then someone asked for a copy of the book, and I decided I really needed to get Alva Press, Inc., its own charge card-more
forms. And there were also the trips to the bank to shift money from my personal
account to the Alva Press, Inc., account, and to deposit the proceeds from having sold a few more books along the way.
But, whoops, I forgot. There was FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter
needed that also needed to be fed. Depending on my mood, I use them to comment personally, politically, and professionally
and to keep touch with some friends and colleagues. But to use any of them, one must also write.
And then toward the end of the week I heard the sad news of the death of the husband
of a very dear acquaintance and friend. He also had been a friend of mine and his death touches me deeply, for her as well
So by Saturday I had had it.
Thank goodness for my sister W. She loves me no matter what shape I am in and on Sunday
we took off for New Paltz to take in the sun and celebrate Earth Day with the New Paltzonians so by Monday I was once again
good to go--still a bit zapped but at least my old verbal self.
time I will talk about the Blind Stares. They are the antithesis of Brain Drain and occur after endless reading, outlining,
and preparation--such as is done before a semester begins in which one is to teach a new college level course. I and some
other dedicated professors I have known have suffered that temporary state of mind at sometime. I haven't had the Blind Stares since I left college teaching back a number of years. Unlike Brain Drain,
Blind Stares affects the receptive aspect of communication while expressive language and word recall remain in tact. I wonder if there is any research or discussion of these entities in the literature of
psychology and neurology of behavior. If there is not, then I think there should be. Any psycholinguists out there with a
comment on either Brain Drain or Blind Stares?
Roberta in Po-Town,