I was last week, swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico,
eating healthy meals with my wife and son, and actually relaxing on
vacation. At night, when the evening rains came, we watched TV, talked
and went to bed early.
is the way an adult goes on vacation, I thought. Go away to a resort
and forget about what you do 51 weeks out of the year. Rediscover that
you have a family. Create new memories.
as the nights progressed, I had exceeded the limits of introspection,
and my thoughts drifted back to the Jewish resort my family would
travel to every summer. While it lacked virtually any real sense of
luxury or comfort, it had the one quality that was missing from my
vacation: real interaction with people.
often wondered why my parents would make the 120-mile trip to Moodus,
Connecticut every summer. Year later I would learn that it was simply
a matter of economics. Where else could a whole family spend a week on
vacation for $250?
was a poor man's Catskills, and its name conjured up images of
everything it could never live up to: Orchard Mansion. Yet, despite
its modest appearance, it attracted thousands of New York and Boston
Jews every summer. At its entrance was a lopsided tennis court, and an
enormous dining hall and recreation center. After checking in,
families would make their way to one of the few dozen green and white
bungalows that dotted the grounds. The rooms were simple; the beds
were hardly firm; and hot showers were at a premium.
people were not there for the amenities. They were working class Jews
who needed a break and stumbled upon a good deal. For my parents -- small business owners
-- it was heaven: fresh country air, a big
swimming pool, camp for the kids, and some quiet time that they
couldn't get in the city.
was spent outdoors mostly at the pool and often, in a matter of
hours, complete strangers who had randomly chosen lounge chairs were
chatting away like lifelong friends.
Other Orchard Mansion Memories
by Dennis Freed
To this day my family and I talk about going every summer to
Orchard Mansion. It was the best. Here are the highlights
of what I remember from the summers I spent there as a kid:
-The graveyard at night.
-Malted milkshakes in the evening.
-Bats flying around the movies.
-The high-dive platform.
-Father/son softball game.
-Camp and counselors.
-Nighttime hide-and-go seek.
-Carnival in town.
-Seeing the first people to smoke pot (counselors and the 60's).
-No parents around all day or night.
-Dinner was next day's lunch.
-Rubber band as a toothbrush holder in the rooms.
to the dam.
of course, there was the food. Three times a day, hundreds would pack
the dining hall and eat. I mostly subsisted on bread and butter and
bug juice, but all around me I saw people partake in indescribable
portions, morning, noon, and night. From my vantage point at the long,
narrow kids table next to the kitchen, I was able to view the
carefully managed chaos that each meal would offer. While the adults
sat back, eagerly consuming plate after plate, the waiters and busboys
would fly in and out of the kitchen doors, narrowing missing each
other as they carried their large trays.
the center of this most unlikely of retreats were Orchard Mansion's
owners, Herb and Rose Kabatchnick. They were adored by the guests, who
sensed that the Kabatchnick's were hardly getting rich on their
investment. Herb seemed to know everybody's name, and Rose ran the
kitchen like a true professional.
dinner the grounds seemed to sparkle. Kids would rush off to the barn
for an evening movie; teenagers headed over to the shuffleboard court
and adults sat on the bungalow porches talking with new friends. Later
in the evening the family room (part of the dining room complex) would
serve as a central meeting spot, while offering a little something for
everyone. Adults played cards, kids ate ice cream, and the teens
there seemed to be some kind of grand order to it all, it was simply
people opening up to one another. Getting away was really getting
involved with others and socializing.
that was what I was thinking about during the quiet of the night last
week. As a society, some of us overthink the meaning of a vacation and
get too far into our own thoughts. When I reached that point I
ventured out with my family in search of conversation.
matter of minutes, we became fast friends with an Israeli family from