No sooner did my mother pack up the Pesach supplies than the preparations for our summers in the Borscht Belt hamlet of Parksville NY would begin. For my mother this was no idle packing for vacation. After the rigors of Pesach her work would actually begin. She was the CEO and COO of the Bauman House, a former hotel which had degenerated into a cuch alein (which meant each guest would cook alone).
Post-Pesach was the season for firming up the summer rentals. Most were returnees, but every summer would see an influx of newcomers as well and it was one of my mother’s jobs to recruit and tout the merits of our establishment which, in those days of the 1940s and 1950s, had lots and lots of competition.
Today, when Jews are more likely to spend their summers traveling to Europe, Israel, or more exotic places, it sounds very primitive to merely shlep a hundred or so miles from home and set up a temporary household in a primitive place like the Bauman House where private baths were unheard of and kitchens were usually shared with several other families. But, for us kids there are no fonder memories and I’d return to the Bauman House in a flash if only it still were standing.
Yes, I’ve been around the world and visited places I could only dream about, or even had never heard about, when I was young. But somehow those days in Parksville were the best of days. We were free from homework and could spend the endless summer hanging out with kids our own age, largely unsupervised by parents who trusted our judgment and were busy with all the household chores without even having the household. Strange but true!
My mother worked very hard at keeping things running. She was ably assisted by my grandfather who was the in-house repairman. And there was always something to repair. It was a miracle that the three buildings that constituted our property were still standing when we made our first visits each year after Pesach. But there was much to do. Water to turn on. Electricity. Windows to unboard. Grass to be mowed. Mice to be executed. Cleaning. Stocking. It all took time and energy but the place was always ready when the guests arrived in late June.
One summer disaster struck. My mother had one room and kitchen space left and a family wanted to rent it. One of their kids was coughing away and my mother asked if the child was contagious, only to be told that it was allergies. The allergies turned out to be whooping cough which half of us kids caught. The others all checked out with complete return of their money and a big loss for the Bauman House.
There are endless stories to share but suffice to say at this junction that all of us kids who grew up there, every single one, turned into responsible adults, competent professionals and devoted parents. Some even moved to Israel. And so we say l’shana habaa b’ Yerushalayim instead of next summer in Parksville. But many of us remember those halcyon days with longing.