Snapshots–detour to the 1930’s…part 2 Point Lookout

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Hand-drawn cover detail of Pat Pompilio’s album

In my previous post, Leaving my rest area–only to take a detour to the 1930’s…part 1, you were introduced to my father, Pat Pompilio (1911-1989) and his friends, as they began their summer vacation road trips of 1932-1937. Documented in his photo album “Snapshots”, their travels ranged from New Jersey to Massachusetts to Maine, but centered in an area about 130 miles from the Bronx, the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains, in Greene County, New York.

 

Well-traveled points are shown as red dots--green dot above to follow in a future blog

Well-traveled points are shown as red dots–green dot above to follow in a future blog

The towns visited and documented–East Windham, Round Top, Purling and Haines Falls, are all situated in a relatively small area, mainly accessible by NY RT 23 and NY RT 23A. The area is well-known for its small lakes, waterfalls, wooded mountaintops and valleys, resorts and guest houses–and at one spot, on a clear day, an incredible view of land in five different states!

Point Lookout, on RT 23, in East Windham, is a long popular stopping point, 1900 feet above sea level, where 180 mile views of the Hudson Valley of New York, Connecticut Valley of the Nutmeg State, Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, Green Mountains in Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire await the lucky visitor on that clear day!

Point Lookout Inn - July 1936

Point Lookout Inn – September 1936

 

Point Lookout Inn postcard – c. 1960

Originally opened in 1920 as a Gates Tea Room, its popularity with visitors caused the name to be quickly changed, resulting in the Point Lookout Inn. It included rooms for lodging, a restaurant, decking facing the 5-state view, and a 75-foot tall observation tower.

On the deck railing - Pat Pompilio (center, rear) and friends - July 1936

On the deck railing – Pat Pompilio (center, rear) and friends – September 1936

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Eddie Busacchio (r.), lady friend and Pat Pompilio (r.) – July 1937

 

 

Later on, those afraid of the tower’s height could take advantage of telescopes mounted on the northerly facing deck to bring the panorama into better focus. The Point Lookout Inn was a very popular tourist destination for more than 40 years, and brought my father and friends back at least once, in July, 1937.

 

 

Casual visitors to Point Lookout Inn - July 1937

Casual tourists at Point Lookout Inn parking lot – July 1937

The inn’s history included more than its tourism fame–it also had its dark side. At least,  according to legend, it became haunted following an alleged murder one night in Room 12. In her book Haunted Catskills, author Lisa La Monica explains. “Many years ago, there was probably a murder at Point Lookout Inn. A couple checked into Room 12, and a man is believed to have murdered a woman there. She was discovered later…but it wasn’t recorded by police.” Many years later, a paranormal team from Pennsylvania was brought in to test foe spiritual inhabitance, an although some magnetic abnormalities were noted, no sign of the woman’s ghost was found. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1965, and it was rebuilt into a larger facility, with more lodging and a larger restaurant. It went through a number of owners, and its the recession of some 5+ years ago sounded its death knell. The last incarnation, the Point Lookout Mountain Inn closed down in February, 2014, after 94 years of existence. A website about Point Lookout Inn with more information and photographs of its changes in appearance, can be found at: http://www.whatwasthere.com/browse.aspx#!/ll/42.338835,-74.150947/id/36887/info/details/zoom/14/

Comfort station - Point Lookout - July 1937 (final album photo)

Comfort station – Point Lookout – July 1937
(final album photo)

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Leaving my rest area–only to take a detour to the 1930’s…part 1

While driving on my road trip I often utilize rest areas, usually spending just enough time to use the rest room, and sometimes, if available, get a coffee to go. My most recent stay, however, was much longer–18 months, almost to the day! Perhaps I couldn’t find my way back to the road? No, I just got sidetracked and found myself in a different part of the rest area. As I get back on the road again I have a new left hip, which has an ability to remind me to slow things down and stay away from the metaphorical speeding ticket. With that in mind, I leave the rest area to renew my journey.

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What’s the first thing I find? Without warning, there’s time construction ahead, and just around this curve, awaits a detour–somehow winding its way back some 80 years to the 1930’s, where it merges into yet another road trip–this time belonging to my father, Pat Pompilio, begun in the summer of 1932, ending in 1937. The photographs are taken from an album he did, entitled “Snapshots” which I am lucky enough to have, seeing parts of his life long before my time.

His road trip begins as a 20-year old in 1932, here at Lake Stockholm, NJ. Little did he know, he was only about an hour away from where our nuclear family would live in Paramus, some 18 years later.

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My father, Pat Pompilio – age 20 in 1932 – Lake Stockholm, NJ

As the saying might go–posing on the road, with no idea of what would follow–just like all of us, every day. As we continue on his trip, I’ll be able to identify some of the places, buildings and objects, but unfortunately, other than my father, none of the names. I can only surmise those with him were good friends from New York, most likely from the Bronx, where he grew up and lived. The great majority of these summer road trip snapshots were taken in 1936 and 1937, and although most of the trip was spent in the Catskill Mountains, parts of it ventured north to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks, Boston, Massachusetts, and even further north to points unknown in Maine.

Getting back to the beginning, the above site in New Jersey, Lake Stockholm, is now, in 2014, an owner-only lake resort, which includes one property that hosts a nudist camp! I don’t think my father saw that one coming, either.

 

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Boston-Maine Railroad Flying Yankee train – July 1936

No part of my father’s road trip after the 1932 beginning has photographic evidence until July, 1936, when he traveled to Maine, and then from there, to a beach on the edge of Boston, Massachusetts. Although I am not certain, it appears that he and his friends got off the road, and traveled on a great streamliner train of the day, the Flying Yankee, running for the Boston-Maine Railroad. Placed into service on April 1, 1935, the train made an amazing 750-mile round trip, six days a week from Portland, ME to Boston, MA back to Portland, then on to Bangor, ME, Portland again, then to Boston for the second time in the day. Finally the train returned to Portland late in the afternoon!

The 3-car stainless steel train was a marvel of its day–powered by an electric diesel engine, fully air conditioned, with the last car featuring lounge seating and overhead glass built into its roof. The second photo shows the Flying Yankee approaching the small station, where tennis rackets await their holiday journey.

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Flying Yankee train approaching station – July 1936

The Flying Yankee faithfully served the Boston-Maine customers until May 7, 1957, when it was taken out of service. It was placed in retirement at The Edaville Railroad Museum, in Carver, MA until the early 1990’s, when it was purchased by the late Bob Morrell, who moved it to Glen, NH with the intent to restore it to its original condition. In 1997 the train was moved again–this time to the Claremont Concord Railroad shops in Claremont, NH and purchased by the State of New Hampshire. Restoration of the train is still in progress, currently slowed by funding issues. More detailed information about the Flying Yankee can be found at the website of the Flying Yankee Restoration Group–www.flyingyankee.com.

Once my father got to Maine, he and his friends took in the myriad summer activities–tennis, canoeing, swimming, lounging about, and posing for the photographer.

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Doubles tennis match – somewhere in Maine – July 1936

 

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Well dressed canoeing – Maine – July 1936 

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Pat Pompilio (l.) and friends-Eddie Busacchio (r.) – Maine – July 1936

The rest of this part of Pat’s road trip continued to Boston, where enjoyment of the water proceeded on a much grander scale. The beach changed from a small lake, to the Atlantic Ocean–like many before and after, a summer day was spent with blankets spread out, umbrellas raised and everyone basking in the sun, with dips in the water to cool off.

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On the beach near Boston – July 1936

As this part of my father’s road trip concluded, he finished the long day with another departure from driving the roads–a small speedboat trip on the sea to bid Massachusetts and July, 1936 adieu…

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Power boat stern – at sea near Boston – July 1936

 

 

Christmas Eve and the Roma Cousins–the 1950’s part 4

The Roma cousins c. 1952 on Christmas Eve

The Roma cousins c. 1952 on Christmas Eve

Although we live in a tidy, concise family of four, we are part of a really large family. Also living in northern New Jersey are my mother’s two sisters, Helen Colella and Julie Ghnouly, and three brothers, Frank, John and Nick Roma. Between them they have 9 children—now to be known as the Roma family cousins. And what a group of kids we are! In addition to Jane and me, there’s June, Eddie and Tommy Colella, John and Joan Ghnouly, Robert and Eugene Roma, and Linda and Denise Roma.

We spend time with each other on an individual family basis, but the action is ratcheted up a bit in the summer, and most especially on Christmas Eve. The family Christmas Eve party begins at Grandpa Roma’s house in Ridgefield Park, NJ. Not especially large, it is filled to the brim with family—aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and all those cousins. We are everywhere—in a modest sized living room,   larger dining room, kitchen, hallway—anywhere we can find a space to enjoy the party.

Raymond meets Santa with help from Aunt Juli

Raymond meets Santa with help from Aunt Julie

Santa’s visit, complete with a large sack of gifts is the highlight for all of the cousins. We absorb all the sounds and smells of a large Italian-American family—loud talking, laughing, ice cubes clinking in glasses, the shrieking of young children, and aromas of great smelling food, mixed with the sweet smell of Grandpa’s pipe smoke, and the sharper edge of cigarette smoke—after all, it is the 1950’s. Suddenly a loud HO-HO-HO! is heard near the front door, and Santa appears with his sack of presents. A hush overcomes the party noise, and we nervously wait to be called for our gifts. All the adults stand by smiling, and sometimes have to gently prod us towards Santa when it’s our turn. I’m not sure, but I think Santa, even though he’s wearing some kind of mask, is Uncle Nick—a great choice for his name alone, but he never reveals his identity—after all, he’s Santa Claus, isn’t he?

As the 1950’s continue, we have the big Christmas Eve bash at different homes, and before I know it, the party has settled in at our house, in our newly refinished basement. I get to witness all the preparations by my parents—my mother cooking up a storm for a couple days, and my father setting up the basement with tables and chairs, and stocking the bar with all sorts of beer, wine and bottled spirits, many of which he received as Christmas gifts from his business colleagues.

Now it’s dark outside, and the guests begin to arrive. Hugs and kisses from my aunts and uncles, and cheerful greetings from my cousins, with an occasional good natured jab to my shoulder from my cousin John gets the party off to a rousing start. Other than the actual space being used, the party is very much like previous events, with the exception that we are all beginning to grow up a bit. I don’t think any of the cousins really think about the transition, but my guess is our parents may be noticing the subtle changes.

Roma Cousins on Christmas Eve c.1954

Roma Cousins on Christmas Eve c.1954

We all fill ourselves with great food and drink and have a very merry time. Of course, Santa still makes his much anticipated guest appearance, and the cousins get ready for our highlight of the night. My father seems to be everywhere, roaming the room, filming us with his 8mm movie camera, complete with portable floodlights. Although it seems to go on forever, suddenly the party winds down and then it’s over—my cousins and my aunts and uncles are homeward bound to places such as Maplewood, Teaneck, Bergenfield and Ridgefield Park—the broad boundaries of our family playground—where we will continue to grow up and enjoy the special experiences to be shared by the Roma family cousins…

Fun in a Nuclear Family–the 1950’s part 3

The Park in Ridgefield Park, NJ

Veteran’s Park in Ridgefield Park, NJ

Doesn’t every family have a father, mother, son and daughter?  After all, that’s what the Pompilio’s of Paramus, NJ are, and that’s what I know. Once I meet new friends and their families, I realize that there is no norm. Some families mirror ours, and others are totally different—without a brother, or sister, or even a father or mother.  The 1950’s are known for the “Nuclear Family” but there are many families that don’t fit that description. Of course, since that’s who we are, it’s what I’m most comfortable with.

My father’s name is Patrick, but everyone calls him Pat. He was born in New York City to parents who came from Italy. He inherited an olive-like complexion that tans easily when he isn’t commuting each day from Paramus to New York City, where he works. His play consists of some golf, by himself, and mostly of spending time with us—at our home in the back yard, and taking us on trips, usually short ones, to visit nearby relatives.

My mother is Anne, who was born in Pennsylvania, also to parents who emigrated from Italy. Her complexion is much more fair, and when she spends time outside, she often wears one of a collection of hats to protect her from the sun. She is a wife of the 1950’s—she shops for food and cooks our meals, keeps the house clean, and does her best to raise me, and my sister, to be well-behaved children. All right, I’m not the most behaved boy ever—I do want my mother’s approval, but I am a boy. That doesn’t always fit the mold of good behavior, especially when I find a way to hassle my sister Jane.

At the patio table

At the patio table

Jane is about 4 ½ years younger than me, and was only 5 months old when we arrived in Paramus. She is cute and nice and all things that aren’t like her big brother—so any time I can boss her around or maybe even make her a bit unhappy, I’m up for the challenge. Needless to say, our mother doesn’t stand for such nonsense, and I often find myself the recipient of her stern look, along with the drawn out pronunciation of Raaaymond! Sibling crime does not pay, but it takes me a long time to finally figure that out…

In the backyard swimming pool

In the backyard swimming pool

Our small ranch house sits on a ¼ acre plot, which is being transformed into a nicely planted back yard, including a border of flowering bushes, small ornamental trees, a slate patio with an umbrella-topped table, and best of all, a built-in cement swimming pool! It is not large by any means, about 12 feet by 20 feet, and about 3 feet in depth, but it makes up for its size by providing us with a great way to spend hot summer days close to home, playing like there’s no tomorrow. Our father even built a filter system utilizing a 55 gallon steel drum and pump—one of my chores is to skim the surface for leaves and stuff and try to keep it clean. I suppose I don’t spend enough time cleaning, but hey, there’s fun to be had, and I know how to have fun. My swimming skills aren’t exactly Olympian, but I can sure kick up a storm of choppy waves in the pool. The pool isn’t just for Jane and Ray, of course—our mom enjoys cooling off, and our dad really enjoys a dip after his bus ride commuting from New York City. Friends and relatives are always around in the yard, and in the pool—it’s a great little back yard!

As much fun as the back yard pool is, the highlight of the summer is when we pile into the 1940 Pontiac, and make a family road trip to the Jersey Shore, Point Pleasant Beach, in particular. Sometimes we go by ourselves, and many other times we join the extended family of my mother—with her sisters, brothers and lots of cousins. Stick around for part four—our cousins, will be coming to play!

When we arrive at the beach, we unload the car and carry our belongings to the water’s edge. There’s a big blanket, beach umbrella, folding beach chairs, a cooler, radio, plastic pails and shovels, books for our parents, and inflated beach ball and car inner tube for riding in on the surf. My father brings his camera to record our exploits, and Jane and I are happy to ham it up on the beach. Walking across the soft beach sand is always a treat—cool if it’s in the morning, and almost too hot during the long afternoon, making it a must to race into the waves and cool ourselves down.

Point Pleasant Beach

Point Pleasant Beach

The Shore’s sensory experience starts with the omnipresent crashing of waves on the beach, and includes music and ball games on the radio, shrieking, laughing children, lots of people, young and not-so-young, wearing bright colored swimsuits, sunning themselves behind big sunglasses—and then there are the aromas of summer at the beach. There is the unmistakable scent of the ocean as it kicks up foam, sand and even some seaweed with each wave pounding the shore. The brine of the sea is softened by the sweet smell of suntan lotion, and complemented with the smoke of nearby cookouts.  Drifting from just behind us by the boardwalk, there are sounds of the local mini-train for children, bumper cars and other kiddie rides, and shop after shop featuring Skee-ball, ice cream, hot dogs, photo booths, fried clams, doughnuts and much more—the Jersey Shore is the greatest, and we’re here!

Rusty the Wonder Beagle–the 1950’s part 2

It is still 1951, and as we acclimate to our new life in the suburbs of Paramus, NJ, we add another member to the family. No, not another brother or sister, but one of man’s best friends–a dog–and in particular, a beagle. We name him Rusty, I guess mostly because of his coloring which includes a lot of rust-like fur. It certainly isn’t because of his energy, which is far from rusty. In fact, he will become a super-energy pet–and walking him, which becomes one of my responsible chores, is a workout for my agile, but not large frame. Rusty is a wonder to behold–while walking he pulls me so hard down the side of the road, I’m almost running to keep up with him–and then he finds some interesting smell, and plants himself firmly, refusing to budge an inch until he’s ready to move on to the next stop–usually on his terms, of course. His leash either leads me wildly, or is like dragging a bag of cement.

I guess Rusty grows to be some 30 to 40 pounds–he has no trouble liking any food he meets. In fact, because he is always finding ways to run out of the house and disappear for a while, he finds more food. I’m not sure, but I think he probably visits nearby homes, and either cons them into a snack, or finds something to eat that may not be of use to the family anymore–garbage, but something tasty to him, and perhaps only him. One memorable winter night, Rusty happily returns from one of his unsupervised jaunts of several hours, with a meal to-go firmly entrenched between his jaws. It includes some meat scraps, baked macaroni, and firmly frozen to the protein is an empty beer can!

My mother and Rusty

My mother and Rusty

Now this type of behavior is firmly condemned by mother Anne. She loves animals of all kinds–dogs, cats, birds and others–while Rusty is king, there is Bootsie the cat, and numerous birds like canaries and parakeets. My mother also loves to help wild animals in distress, like a bird with with an injured wing, which is probably as wild as it gets in northern New Jersey. She just doesn’t like how Rusty can behave, but loves him the same. He is a faithful, friendly dog, but just doesn’t care for rules and regulations. As soon as he gets antsy to roam, I’m sent for the leash to help him burn up some of his endless energy. I enjoy walking him, if that’s what it should be called, but I never know what to expect–a good way to learn about what’s down the road.

Rusty becomes somewhat of a canine legend in the neighborhood–his escapes are regular, yet always unexpected. When it’s time to roam, roam is what he does best. It doesn’t take him too long to learn the way to Emil’s Market, a small grocery store a bit less than a half-mile away–serving us with groceries, fresh meats and fish, and all the necessary items for our everyday life in the suburbs. He befriends the butcher, or maybe it’s the butcher who makes Rusty his visiting friend. Either way, Rusty will make regular returns from his escapades with a nice, juicy meat bone. I wonder where he gets them?

Ray and Jane with Rusty the Super Beagle--c. 1954

Ray and Jane with Rusty the Super Beagle–c. 1954

Rusty is a great pet for me and my sister Jane. Many of our friends also have pets, but as far as we’re concerned, Rusty is the best. The stories I recount to my friends get laughter and wonderment, which is only appropriate. Many of them know him well–from either visiting to play at our house, or seeing him on one of my many walks, but probably most famously on one of his almost as many unsupervised journeys, which are a combination of speed walking, stopping on a dime, and then breaking into a full-blown run, eventually returning with some beagle prize to show his proud family. He’s Rusty the Wonder Beagle–one of a kind, I suspect. Then one day, he doesn’t come back–he’s on a road trip that isn’t like anything before–we are shocked and sad, but he just doesn’t come back. It’s my first big loss–my first understanding of not being in control. My mother is sad but she has seen much more of the road than I have. We go on, and I know there will be more dogs–but there is only one Rusty…

the 1950’s

part 1

One of the most certain things about traveling the winding road is the uncertainty of what will appear around the bend. I can’t remember the last time I thought about the 1950’s, and all of a sudden I find myself there. It’s a lazy summer afternoon in 1950, and I’m lying on the grass of a small back yard in the Bronx, watching dirigibles, or blimps as they were called, float far above me through the blue New York City skies, dotted with puffy white clouds.

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I’m listening to a radio broadcast of the New York Yankees, not long after deciding to follow their efforts–and as they say, life is good.  I don’t remember who won the game, or anything else I did that day, but I can’t forget that scene of almost 63 years ago. Today I am still a Yankees fan, and follow them on a high definition Sony television—it is the old-style cathode tube television—not some skinny, LCD, LED or plasma television—I suppose it’s my way of holding onto an older, better time. It may be colorful, sharp and sometimes loud, but it really doesn’t compare to the wonderment I felt as a four year old that long-ago summer day, when images broadcast or published were still in black and white…

 

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The view from the cavernous back seat of my father’s 1940 Pontiac is different than any other I have seen. The road winds for only about 12 or 13 miles, before it brings us to an almost rural area, where we stop and park in the driveway of a new, small ranch–style house, sided with brown cedar shingles. It’s on E. Midland Avenue, in Paramus, NJ, and it’s our new home—I’m now a Jersey boy!

Midland Avenue driveway

Midland Avenue driveway

It’s October 1950, and we move in on Friday the 13th, but there is no fear of superstition—this is a great day, with smiles all around. Our house sits on a ¼ acre lot, with only a tree or two around,   and is in a small grouping of other new homes. It’s a new beginning—away from the congestion of New York City, and beyond the struggles and sacrifices brought on by World War II. The ‘50’s offered America a time to be hopeful, and my parents, me and my 5-month old sister Jane are all part of it. Welcome to the suburbs, and almost like we were always there, we settle in for the ride…

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Before I know it we’ve lived here for a year, and I’m moving on to first grade of elementary school. There’s a lot of learning for us to observe, written on the large green chalkboard that dominates the front of the classroom. This is the beginning of my eventual 16 year-long road of “formal” education, resulting in lots of stuff to learn and then place away somewhere, to hopefully connect the dots together later on. One thing there always seems to be is lots of photographs–class pictures, individual portraits, and of course, the constant documenting by our families. My father’s work for a magazine called Restaurant Management entails taking photographs, so he’s always around with a camera. Perhaps that helps me be comfortable with the photographic process. I can smile easily enough, regardless of what I’m doing or what I look like. At least that’s what I like to believe…and here’s the smiling future blogger. Oh my, quite the sartorial splendor?!

Intro

As a former photographer, writer and editor, communicating with the tools at my disposal seemed everyday and normal. Leaving those everyday experiences behind for some 18 years, I never forgot how to communicate, I only found different things I needed to do in my working life.

In 2009 I retired from my everyday life in the wine business, and frankly, got intellectually lazy. For more than 4 years I have worked part-time at the Ithaca, NY Wegmans–a 24 hour, 7 days a week supermarket that specializes in fine foods and customer service that is the envy of many businesses. Although I work very hard in the cheese shop and Mediterranean Bar of olives and specialty salads, I have not been cultivating connections to the communicative talents that I posses.

A good friend and co-worker for almost 3 years has gone cross country to the San Francisco area–she is following her necessary path, and has begun a blog to document her new experiences. Reading her first postings has inspired me to do similar things–not necessarily expounding on new experiences, but looking inside to see where I am now, on the road of life. The title of this blog is heavily influenced by two classic pieces of music from some 40 years ago–“Trucking”, by the Grateful Dead, and the “Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles. Our lives’ paths are never on a straight line–rather they twist and turn, sometimes in complex patterns that we don’t see until much later, if ever.

I’ve been on this road for more than 67 years and have many memories that sometimes translate into cool stories–yet living in that past doesn’t make the present or the future any clearer. What I would like to do on this blog, is to recognize what’s happening now, that makes connections to the past, and hopefully the future. I don’t pretend that my ruminations matter much out in the world–but to those of you who take some time to follow these words, I hope they help you to relate to your past, present and future.

Although time travel is something  I read about in old sci-fi fiction, it’s ironically what we are all experiencing as our lives unfold. Hopefully this road trip will be without too many bumps–but who’s to say that’s real. If you’re curious enough, stop by every once and a while–hopefully I’ll have something to say that might strike a chord–for you, or me, or someone we don’t even know–that might be a cool place to pause on the trip….