I spent many formative years in Sullivan County. Its impact has been indelible. All those high school friends I've lost touch with, the sound of the wind in the trees, the lakes and ponds and swimming holes, winding country roads with sunlight flashing on the car windshield, Pink Floyd blasting on the stereo; the rolling hills, firemen's field days, the dive bars and fancy resorts, they are so alive to me, I can transport myself back there in seconds. Though Sullivan County is geographically close to New York City (120 miles), it's a faraway land. I can't return without inhabiting the person I was back then, exploitable, lost, angry, sad. I left as soon as I could. I never go back, except in my dreams.
The famous Woodstock Concert happened in 1969, in Bethel, not Woodstock, which is in Ulster County. This is a common mistake people make. Even though there's now a concert venue in Bethel near the site of the legendary Woodstock concert, even though there have been several reunion concerts over the years in Bethel, people still believe the Woodstock Concert happened in Woodstock. My high school friends, my sisters and I all fantasized about that legendary concert, wishing we had been born years earlier. Two of my friends' older sisters lost their virginity at the concert, or so rumor had it. Back then, I considered this highly romantic.
We moved to Sullivan County with my mother after my parents separated. We lived up a dirt road between Youngsville and Jeffersonville. It was a healing place for her. She returns to the house every summer, and loves it for the quiet, the solitude, the beauty. There are so many bird species in Sullivan County. Goldfinches, mourning doves, woodpeckers, robins, sparrows, geese, ducks, swallows, starlings, grackles, vultures, warblers, wrens, to name a few. Over the years, in the summers, my mother gradually stopped hearing the sounds of the birds. She assumed they had vanished because of pesticides or some environmental cause. Then she acquired her first set of hearing aids and, for the first time in a decade, heard the birds raucously singing. She cried and cried.
I've met people in NYC whose families came here in the summer when they were kids. They have great memories. They love this place. But I hated it. I was a waitress for a month before I got fired. I was utterly incompetent. I still have nightmares about spilling gravy in a man's lap (he was wearing a tuxedo), about filling the blue cheese dressing containers with ranch dressing, and about the cooks screaming at me to move my ass. Three meals, all-inclusive, very demanding, I hid in the hutch smoking cigarettes while guests harangued the hostess about their missing waitress and not getting toast with their eggs. The Villa hired me back as a lifeguard a week after they fired me from the kitchen. I made a lot less money guarding the pool, but I was okay with that, more than okay!
There used to be a yearly canoe regatta on the Delaware River that hundreds of people participated in. After the race, everyone partied at a fireman's field day with a beer tent and music. The race was discontinued for "insurance reasons." Maybe someone got injured. There was a lot of drinking before, during and after the race, at least among my cohort.
In 1892 George Markert was murdered on this bridge by Adam & Joseph Heidt because Adam believed George had placed a hex upon him. The Heidts beat George, shot him numerous times, and threw his body into the water. It's said that George Markert's ghost still haunts this location. Apart from the hex legend, the Stone Arch Bridge has always been a beautiful place. It was also a party place when I was in high school. I remember one summer night during a "brain fry" party, a drunken wasted guy fell into a firepit. Nobody really knew who he was. He was a summer dude from "the city." Some guys pulled him out of the fire. He mumbled and muttered that he was fine, but my sister insisted we drive him to the hospital 25 miles away, even though we didn't really know him and I wanted to stay at the party. He was hospitalized for several days with second degree burns. He also turned out to be a nice guy. I'm glad my sister had the presence of mind and enough sobriety and compassion to help him, also grateful that she made me come with her, away from the brain fry. He and his family were grateful to my sister, too.
The reviews on this place are dated from several years ago. The most recent is from August 2018. "People looked straight out of the 70's and 80's and acted like it." The next most recent is from 2014. "This is the sort of place that would make me move to the area." Is Yelp relevant? Sand Beach has announced the return of their annual pig roast in August 2021, so they're still in business. Pets are not allowed. Personal alcohol is prohibited. You have to be a customer to swim in their little section of the lake.
This place is an original log cabin. Now it's owned by FSH, a hospitality consortium that runs a few places in Sullivan County. Here's what they say on their website, "A true hand-hewn log cabin, it sits in the woods at the edge of a horse pasture, at the intersection of three country roads. It has been a local hangout for beers, drinks, wings and burgers for decades." This is true. I remember back in high school, going to The Cabin with my fake ID, drinking white russians and dancing to a live band playing Lynyrd Skynyrd covers.
Once a tourist attraction and a place to steal apples from at night because they stored the apples in crates outside, it is now long closed and abandoned. They had to stop selling the cider because it wasn't pasteurized. But it sure was a nice place, somewhere we could take any visiting city people. I was sad when it closed.
Here's a review from Trip Advisor, June 2020 with lots of all-cap emphasis, "This Is THE GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH. Every Year I laugh more in five days than I get to do in the ENTIRE year when I am at HECTOR'S Woodstock gathering. The entertainment is ALWAYS OVER THE TOP especially when I get to jam at the drum circle with the INFINITELY TALENTED Doctor Reality who has led the drum circles for well over 25 years." Superlatives aside, Hectors has been around a long time. It's the real deal.
Back in the 1970s, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) hid with Patty Hearst in this house for several weeks. Patty Hearst remembers Jeffersonville as being "in the middle of nowhere." One hot night in 1974, Hearst was shooting pool at the One Step Inn in Youngsville, NY with her captor-turned-cohort, Wendy Yoshimura. The late James Owens who ran the bar recognized her and called the FBI. By the time the agents arrived she was gone. Jim Hammet of Jim's Barber Shop in Jeffersonville remembers seeing Hearst and Yoshimura walking around town. "We knew they weren't from here, but we didn't know who they were," he recalled. "All we knew is they weren't from the Villa Roma."
This place is fancy. It's owned by FSH (which owns The Cabin). It was named one of the 20 best new restaurants by Esquire Magazine in 2018. But the most recent Yelp review from July 2021, says, "Staff very good. Except head guy is a jerk. Should be much better than it is. Way too expensive. Food excellent but too precious." There are also lots of good reviews that start with, "wow."
I've never been here. It looks cute and country quaint. It seems to rise and fall on the Yelp ratings by the day. The most recent Yelp review from July 2021 says, "Friendly and well what more can I say, great overall." But not everyone feels so good about the place. Here's a review from two months earlier: "It needs to be cleaned and the owner is as nasty as they come it's very comical though." Here's what they say on their FB page: "We cater to everyone's interests with 14 flat screen televisions for the sports enthusiasts with NFL package, happy hour specials…" I couldn't go on with their plug because they lost me with "14 flat screen televisions."
What do people say about Bum & Kel's? The latest reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor are from 2020 and 2019. One rave: "Beautiful view of the lake, delicious burgers and chicken sandwiches. Friendly and helpful staff, really local vibe which we loved." One disparagement: "It's a decent establishment. Kinda hot. Flies in the summer in the main parlor. They allow dog's food." I remember going to Bum & Kel's on Saturday nights with my fake ID when I was a teenager. I was surprised to see they're still around. Good for them!
As for me, I recognize that I drank too much as a teenager. Way too much. I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.
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