Both humorous and poignant, Bungalow Kid recalls what it was like to spend a summer in the Catskills at the height of the region’s “glory days.”
The year is 1958. Philip, a twelve-year-old kid from the Bronx, is getting ready for his family’s annual trip upstate, where he’ll spend the summer in a bungalow colony in the tiny village of Loch Sheldrake, a faraway fairyland of mountains, lakes, starry nights, and dewy mornings. With his colony friends, he’ll explore the woods and fields, have an array of adventures, and even experience the special charm of a childhood summer romance. It was a time and place of wonderful memories wistfully looked back upon fifty years later, and lovingly recalled in this humorous and poignant memoir. What young Philip didn’t know was that there would never be another summer like this one.
He was not alone. In the 1950s, about two thousand bungalow colonies dotted the countryside of Sullivan and Ulster counties, catering to an estimated one million people a year who spent all or part of their summer in “The Mountains.” Among them were countless kids like Philip, who today carry with them the fondest of memories and a nostalgic longing for a precious moment in time that can never be equaled. Today, they find themselves returning to the country, seeking out the places where they stayed so long ago, only to find that the world has changed a lot in fifty years, and time has a way of erasing all evidence of a world that used to be. Bungalow Kid vividly recreates what it was like to be a city kid in the Catskills in the 1950s, and reaches out to all those kids, now grown, who would very much like to go back.
“…Ratzer lovingly describes life in ‘the mountains’ as experienced by a Bronx kid in the 1950s: playing pinball in the local casino, exercising the horses at a nearby dude ranch, eating his mom’s fresh blueberry jam on Wonder Bread after holding hands with his first summer crush … many readers will no doubt identify with this author’s whimsical recollection of a lost era.” — Hudson Valley Magazine
“For a 1950s kid from the Bronx, ‘The Mountains’ (Sullivan County, New York) was a familiar, essential, alternate universe. Philip Ratzer’s nexus was Pesekow’s Bungalow Colony on the shores of redundantly named Loch Sheldrake Lake. His affectionate, vivid recollections center on this small summer resort and the adjacent village of Loch Sheldrake. Ruby the Knish Man, who stopped at Pesekow’s, was the traveling culinary troubadour of all of our Catskill memories. Phil’s adventures remain alive to all of us—the superannuated Bungalow Kids—no matter where we summer today.” — Irwin Richman, author of Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memories of Catskill Summers
“Philip Ratzer’s story is a tender reminiscence, written in the style of the preteen bungalow dweller whose life is his subject. Unable to catch ourselves from sliding into our own youth, we are propelled back to that simplicity of summer pleasure, rooting for whatever we want to have happened there. Fifty years of memory, prompted by a return visit, brings us to the utter magic of the Catskills which shaped so many lives. Bungalow Kid is a joy and a treasure.” — Phil Brown, author of Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area and editor of In the Catskills: A Century of the Jewish Experience in “The Mountains”
Philip Ratzer is a retired high school English teacher. He lives in upstate New York.