In 1973 when I was in the scouts most dad's would take the troop hiking or something woodsy for scout trips. My dad took us 'trespassing' at Shawanga after the hotel closed. Out of all the trips, it’s probably the only one the kids remember.
The main doors were locked and the handles chained, but you could go down the side entrance to the lower lobby (the side next to Holiday Inn) and climb in through the window to the guest laundry room, then run around to the side door to the lower lobby and open it for the rest. One particular time after walking around the lobby, dining room, kitchen, guest room floors (looking for the old fashion cash register in one of the closets) and office in the main building, dad said it was time to go home. I said I was going to go to the back office and grab a box of brochures, dad said not to, we will come back another day. I didn’t listen, ran to the back office, grabbed a box and then caught up with them. Three days later the hotel was burned. He was so happy I took the brochures.
I say ‘was burned’ because the water tower, which also ran the sprinkler system, was drained. What a shame, there was so much history in that building. So many interesting things dating back to the 1930’s. Dad never showed it, but I knew he was deeply hurt when the building burned, he used to say he knew every pipe, valve and wire in that hotel. Not an exaggeration.
Back then we never thought too much about taking pictures….
George Paradise told me a story about a guest who was a 'show-off and loud mouth' who was complaining in a loud voice in order to attract attention. He was waving a piece of paper that he had a complimentary ‘choice’ room for the weekend and that he didn’t like the view, it was not a choice room, he said. Dad said ‘it’s a choice room, my choice’ and walked away.
That reminds me of an incident at the Raleigh. I was a bellhop and it was a full house checking in and out on a Sunday. In other words, it was busy. I was taking a cart out the front and overheard a guest complaining loudly. I went over to investigate and hid behind a column and saw dad standing calmly with his hands folded listening. Apparently the guest’s car was scratched in the parking lot. He finally said, well, what are you going to do about it? Dad said, it could have been worse. The guest said, what do you mean it could have been worse? Dad said it could have been my car and walked away. The guest just stood there stunned.
I asked dad later about that and he said guests often claim stuff happened their car that already existed in order to get the hotel to pay for it.
Another incident at the Raleigh dad told me about, was a guest, who said all four tires on his car were stolen and his car was on crates. Dad said, are you sure you didn’t drive it here that way? The hotel bought him new tires, but the humor diffused the situation.
At the Raleigh there were a few rooms on the first floor main building, that faced the vents to the kitchen. When I brought guests there as a bellhop, I would go in ahead and close the curtains. Dad said those rooms were a problem, especially when the hotel was full and there was no place to move them. From time to time a guest going to one of those rooms would ask dad how the view was before they went up. Dad would say with a smile, the truth, really bad you won’t like it. They thought he was kidding, but when they got to the room, they said, he was right and often did not complain.
There is a post card (see front office/Misc) sent from Rodney Dangerfield to Shawanga saying he is avaialble. Abby met him on a cruise the 2000's and told him about the post card and asked if he was he still available. They had a good laugh.
The day after the fire, Dad drove up to the hotel to have a look. Then drove to Tony Pernice’s house, who was head of maintenance. Tony lived about two miles up the road, they were good friends. He quickly realized that Tony did not know there was a fire. Keep in mind, you could see the flames past Middletown and a there was a lot of noise from the sirens. So dad said to Tony, they are having a problem with one of the pipes leaking and can’t find the valve. Tony didn’t want to go over and fix it, he told Dad, you know the valves, but dad convinced him. Needless to say, he was shocked and saddened.
Aunt Naomi's Story
My Aunt Naomi, Dad's sister, told me a story from when she was about 5yrs old:
They had two rooms on the first floor, 127 and 128 (middle of the building on the north side, same side as Panorama if it was built) with an ajoining bathoom (Grandma Dan had room 122). She said that one morning she woke up to singing, she looked out the window and saw the waiters wearing their uniforms of white jackets arm and arm marching from the staff quarters to the kitchen in the back of the hotel. She later realized why they were so joyfull, news just arrived that we had won the war (WW2). Probably VJ day, since it was in August. She also said that there was a garden on that side of the buidling and that Abby and his twin brother Lewis would ride their tricycles in that area and she could watch them from the room window.
Aunt Naomi also said that the hotel had a victory garden located in the grassey area behnd the deep end of the pool. Not far from the steps that went down into the filter room.
Arthur Winarik, Concord Visit
Mom, Barbara, told me that Arthur Winarik, of the Concord Hotel, came to visit Shawanga and was standing in front with Sam Dan. He said, I can build almost anything, but I can't build this view. Mom said it happened before her time at the hotel, so it was some time before 1957.
Grandma Dan, my great grandmother, used to like to sit in the lobby. I recall, when very young, seeing her sitting in her chair in the lobby. My cousin Mark and I would say hello, but she always called me by my dad's or uncle's name. My mother told me that she had her name on the chair, reserved for grandma Dan, and no one else was allowed to sit there.
We had many first and second cousins who stayed at the hotel all summer or for long durations. Some of the parents of the cousins worked at the hotel. We were all very close because we played together and ate together. In fact we had our own table in the children's dining room which we kept as an exclusive table, the same was true for play. In our defense, we had enough cousins to fill an entire table.
On rainy days, one game we might play was hide and seek:
When you walked down the stairs by the elevator, you came out in the lower lobby. If you looked across, you would see the teen room and dance room. We used to play hide and seek in those rooms. When you closed the door, it was so dark that you could hide by standing in the middle of the room quietly in one place and not be found. You could also stand up on the shelf above the walled seating.
During the later years, a rock band would play in the large area of the lower lobby (where the shuffleboard and ping pong tables were). I recall one time that the lead singer of one of the bands wanted my cousin and I to go on the stage and sing. She was asking us during the day. Later in the day when they were playing, we showed up, she called us up onto the stage, we went up but clammed up and didn't sing. We just stood there... We were 9 years old at the time.
Water Gun Fight
Dad told me this story only when I was older. After the show, Dad and Alvin would have work to do that sometimes kept them up until 3am. One night after razzing their cousin Alan Dan, Sam's son, it somehow turned into a water gun fight from their car windows while driving. They tore up the baseball field. The next morning they got an earfull from Sam Dan and Ed Alass (Mae Dan's husband).
Winter during Construction
Mom told me that she and dad stayed at the hotel during the construction, winter of '57. The hotel was only open during the summer, the cottages had no heat and above ground piping. Only the public rooms in the main building had heat. They had a space heater in their cottage, no insulation in the walls and no running water, in fact they had a bucket of water to flush the toilet. She said they probably had to drive home on the weekends to bathe. There is a picture of mom with child, debie, in front of the main building in the contruction pictures.
On rainy days I would play in Dad's office. He had so many interesting things in his closet and desk. I found a water gun in his desk, when I asked why he had it, he said that the rooms in the main building could be locked from the inside and that sometimes a kid would lock themselves in at night and fall asleep. When the parents came back to the room, they could not get in. The rooms had a transom window, so dad would get a chair, open the transom window and squirt the kid top wake them up and unlock the door.
Dad liked to save things, in 2016 when we emptied the trunk of his car, we found some old overalls. We figured out what they were for. The pilot light for boiler in Holiday in would often go out and the front desk would get calls that there was no hot water. If this happened in the evening, Dad would have to fix it because the maintenance staff had aready gone home. He told me it would happen sometimes when he had his suit and tie on and he would a get call while in the main dining room. He would put the overalls over his suit, go under the buidling on his hands and knees on the dirt floor crawl space, light the pilot, then go back to dinner.
Playing with Valves
The pipes for the cottages were all above ground. My cousin Mark and I would sometimes go behind some cottages when the guests were showering for dinner and slowly turn the hot and cold water higher and lower. I told Dad many years later. Good thing we didn't do it too much.
On Rainy days a screen and projector was set up in the lobby in the corner by the teen dining room. Dad loved the movie Mackenna's Gold and we saw it many many many times.
In 1972 dad took home an industrial sized roll of aluminum foil from the kitchen home. Mom finally finished the roll around 2015.
Naming Holiday Inn
Dorothy Dan, Sam's wife, came up with the name for the building, Holiday Inn from the movie with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Renolds
Don't rely on a 9 year old for direction in the woods
When Mark and I were about 9, we offered to take the entire camp hiking in the woods. We took them on that mud road between the camp and the lake. We acutally got it mixed it up with the path that went to skytop. This road sort of petered out. We ended up just taking them on the backside of the mountain, Mark and I walked off to the side to try to figure out where we were and for some reason started walking and found our way back to the camp. We were surprized when we got there that all the kids and counselors were gone. So we walked back to the main bulding and went to lunch. The rest of the camp finally made it back (50-60 some odd kids and counselors). The next day one of the counselors said to us, why did you just leave us, we got lost? Still don't know to this day why we just went home and left them, but Mark commented years later, serves them right for trusting 9yr old. In the 90's I took my jeep down that mud road. It went just below skytop if you climbed some steep sheer rock ledges or if you kept going another mile, you ended up near the dump.
Sleeping in the Attic
I met with George Paradice (bartender from the 60's until the hotel closed, see his picture in 'Guests, Senior groups') at the Villa Roma and he told me that in the 60's the hotel was so packed and popular that people actually paid to sleep in the attic. Years of wondering why there were matresses in the attic and slugs (fake quarters) plus the sign over the door to the attic and coupola on the 3rd floor said Ritz on the top of the door casing was answered. We used to dig around in the attic looking for slugs so we could play the pinball machines. The attic was not a very nice place to sleep (the floor was solid though).
When we used to visit Shawanga in the early days after it closed but when most of the structures were intact, after walking around for a while, we would usually find dad relaxing on a lounge chair by the pool. We all thought it was funny, but being older and more sentimental, I now know he was reliving fond memories.
Cousin Stefanie's Memories
I spoke with my cousin Stefanie, Sam Dan's daughter. She told me that when she was little they had room 119, 121 & 122, on the first floor in the front left corner of the main building. Her parents, Sam and Dorothy Dan had room 119, Grandma Dan had room 122 and she shared 121 with Mrs Whalley, who was the housekeeper. They shared a bathroom between the rooms. When she was a teenager, they made a bedroom outside of 119 by adding a wall which protruded into the hallway. It did not have a number.
Stefanie started out doing odd jobs such as night patrol she would sit on one on the floors and the chair by the elevator (those chairs were saved) and every hour she would walk around listening door to door for any kids crying and if someone was crying she would pick up the house phone call the operator and tell them what room it was the operator would call down to the playhouse and they would flash the number next to the stage the parents would see it and then go back to the main building or whatever room they had and check on their child.
Stefanie said she saw many shows except during the mourning period after he mom passed. She had met Buddy Hackett and thinks that she met Rodney Dangerfield also. Stefanie recalled Grandma Dan would telling her to wear a sweater....
During the winter, the family would go up to the hotel for a few days and stay in their room in the main building. There was no heat and the walls were not insulated. They had a space heater and they had to bring water to their room since the pipes were emptied.
When she was older she and her husband had a bungalow next two ours. After her dad, Sam, died in 1966, they stopped going to the hotel.
When the staff house caught fire in 1971 a siren sounded from the cupola. I never knew there was a siren up there. During one of our conversations, Stefanie told me that it was originally there to signal lunch time.
Dad taught Julia the following which was something from the 40's (I never knew what it was about):
For girls who don't cry and boys with no fear
We all say
Hes ti dah pes ti dah
When dad started at the Raleigh, Sid Zalkin (nice guy) became the night manager and Dad was daytime manager plus he did the reservations for groups, mainly senior citizens. In the early 80's, he took himself out of the day to day operations and focused on the big picture plus his groups. The groups were especially important as the allure of the Catskills faded. The year that the hotel was sold, he had a full house most of the winter. There were weeks here and there that were always slow, plus the hotel would close for two weeks every year to clean and fix. His groups are one reason why the Raleigh lasted so long. Also in the early 80's, Ralph Balzano, very nice man, became the day manager, handled a lot of staff issues and David Herscher, Manny's son-in-law became the front office manager. After Manny died his daughter decided to sell the hotel. The hotel was not in financial trouble at the time and unlike many other hotels, they still had money to maintain the property. In fact, the hotel was beautiful at the time of the sale.
When I was a busboy, sometimes I would finish cleaning up early. I would go to the dishwashing room, Mason was the head dishwasher. Though many of these guys had sketchy pasts and some did not want the law to know where they were. Most were pretty nice guys, especially Mason. The dish washing machine was like a car wash, with a conveyor bringing in dirty dishes. On the other side were steaming hot clean dishes, so hot you needed to wear gloves or be quick pulling the clean dishes. We would stand side by side, kidding around with each other loading the dishes from dirty busboxes. You really looked forward to a shower after that. Mason used to call me cupcakes, hopefully because I was a college boy. I remember, when I came home from school on vacation, dad said Mason asked for you. And then asked why he calls you cupcakes. It was nice that he looked forward to me working.
After a little while working as a bellhop, one of the guys said to me that they were all worried when I first started, that the manager's son was going to work with them. They were afraid the fun was over. They soon learned that I kept my mouth shut and was part of the fun.
Raleigh story (1970's): Dad, Abby, told me that one week during the winter when it was slow, he took his skis to work and went to Holiday Mountain later in the day. While waiting for the chair lift there was another guy skiing alone, so they shared the lift and skied together the rest of the day. It was Neil Sedaka.