...and I am very happy there.

...and I am very happy there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friends from West Shokan past....

A childhood friend, Debbie Burgher, posted an old picture from the 70's (that's 1970) of her brother on Facebook. What memories were stirred as I perused the photos that were attached.

I grew up with the Burghers, my siblings even babysat some of them. As I went through the photos, I discovered some of my own family, other friends and places I had been to in my youth. It was very weird to see my memories through someone's eyes other than my own.

This picture of Mathew is a typical one. Burgher's always had dogs. One great dog they had while we were young, was a German Shepherd named 'Shep'. Shep was very protective of all of the kids, but he was especially protective of the Burgher kids. Shep's only 'flaw' was that he chased cars. That too was probably a way of protecting us.
The Burghers were an active family of five kids and Bob, the Surveyor (dad), and Rosie, the Reader (mom). Everyone loved Rosie, she was always smiling and chuckling. To say she loved to read is an understatement. Books were everywhere in their house, on their tables, the back of the couch, under her arm or in a bag. Rosie wore a path to the local library.

Debbie was their eldest daughter, Eddie their eldest son. Debbie and Eddie were older by enough years that I looked up to them and respected them when they were around, but they weren't around much because they were mostly away at college. They were instrumental in organizing our summer outings as they were our 'chauffers'. They also took on the role of protectors for all of us. I remember one particular outing to my first play. It was Fiddler on the Roof at the Woodstock Playhouse. I will always be grateful to Debbie for including me.

The siblings next in line were Patty, Mathew and Andy. Patty was a couple years older than me and had great hair and a beautiful smile. She was always fair and inclusive. She took on the role of "mom" in a good way for the group. She'd yell at her brothers when they picked on others or would run to the aid of the underdog. The Mullers always knew she would grow up to be a great mom.

Mathew, was the tease. He probably was also the closest to being the bully of the town. He just liked to control what he could -- like all the boys who were younger than him. I remember him commanding my brother, his brother, and the Molloy boys to line up and "march" in military fashion to the bus stop. Then he would line them up in the order he thought appropriate to get on the bus. Of course he always stepped in front of the line before the bus stopped so he would get on first.

I do remember in later years, one new kid that was kinda "Woodstocky" (he had long hair) who refused to follow Mathew's commands. Shep (odd coincidence he had the same name as the dog), though being the shortest of all the boys, always stood up to Mathew. Mathew seemed in a quandary as to what to do with him. Once he may have tried to "command" his army of boys to beat him up, because I do remember some chasing going on, but Shep never let himself be bullied by Mathew, that I can remember. Many times Shep walked home alone, because the other boys were too frightened to befriend him and go against Mathew. Shep was also brilliant and articulate - kind of nerdie to us country folk. I don't think the other boys quite knew what to make of him. He could often be seen with a camera in his hand, which also made him different from us. In later years all the boys seemed to become good friends. He and my brother, Rick, still maintain a friendship. (BTW, Shep's photos are posted throughout this blog.)

Another title for Mathew Burgher, was that he was the local heartthrob. I don't know any girl that didn't "love" Mathew for a part of her life. He hooked up with Sue Henderson either late in high school or after and they had three beautiful boys together. The last I saw him he still was a tease but I don't think he commands anyone anymore.

Andy, the youngest of the Burgher brood, was just a cute little kid. Very shy and to himself, he was always quietly smiling and observing.

Growing up in a small town, the kids got to know each other well. Boys and girls usually played together in the early years. Then we divided into groups of boys and girls. Upon entering High School, we all made new friends, but would come together in the summer time for special outings. We would go to the county fair, camping, tubing on the Esopus or catch a play in Woodstock. Our age differences didn't seem to matter. The older naturally watched out for the younger. Many of the families were related, but that didn't cause a problem either. It was like we were all one HUGE family. Fathers and mothers from different families had no problem correcting those that were not theirs. Most of the time everyone respected each other. Though I do remember someone calling Mrs. Maug (Maugs were stern Germans with heavy accents) "Mrs. Maugie Daugie" because she sent her husband to yell at us for having a snowball fight in front of their home and leaving the snow in the road!

Molloys were our closest year-round neighbors. West Shokan was also home to many NYC "summer people". Chris Molloy and I became friends because we were in the same Kindergarten class and that started a great friendship that went on for years. I will never forget his offer to come in and warm up after our trek from the bus stop. He had an older sister, MaryPat; and younger brothers Kevin and Terry and later, sister, Meghan, came along.
Their yard became our early playground along with Burghers' because they had so much open land. Burghers had play equipment and sheds and cabins to entertain us.

Before we had organized recreation activities and a park, we played basketball in Molloy's driveway. We always managed to pull together enough kids to play baseball behind the Molloy's chicken coop (it never had chickens in it as far as I can remember, only lots of newspapers) or we went swimming at one of the local swimming holes.

Ingrid Opsis was our unofficial lifeguard and swimming teacher. She became our official lifeguard, swim coach, and trainer once the town pool opened.

Patty & Cathy
As the years passed, West Shokan had some new families move into town. The Finkens, lived next door to the Burghers and had at least three girls. Kay, Mary and Clare. Clare and I became friends, but they must have moved in the later years of high school because I don't remember seeing them much. I ran into Mary at church in Poughkeepsie last year, she said Kay and Clare were in the New England area.

The Shields brought a bunch of girls of who we got to know -- Holly, Cathy and Patty.  Ann Roser and I had some great times at their houses (three!) in the small plot at the bottom of High Point Mountain Road.


The Hydes moved in up on Moonhaw Road. Marjorie and Jimmy. Marjorie was wild and a smoker. Jimmy was quiet and young.

The Giuliano's lived in Boiceville first and then moved to West Shokan. They were related to the Hendersons. Dino, the dad, was known for his sales pitches. Mary, Janette, Michael and Gina were great looking kids. I can only remember once getting together with a whole gang to go Trick or Treating all over West Shokan...kids today have no idea how to walk miles like we did for candy. The goal was to make it to DeSannas where a bowl of goodies awaited us on the front porch. That same year a man gave us wax bottles filled with juice and Janette was afraid it was alcohol, so she wouldn't let us younger kids drink it.

Ann Roser and her brother Chris lived down past the library. Ann and I became close friends and remained so through just about all our school years and early 20's. We try to stay in touch to this day. She, Susan and I were a pack in the elementary years. Karen Dunn occasionally joined us at Susan's. Susan was the only daughter of Bob and Jean and lived with her brothers Robert, Ricky and Jimmy. Many nights I ate dinner at their home or watched Captain Kangaroo on their t.v. on Saturday mornings. Susan's bedroom was the coolest with a closet that went through to another room. For some reason they only lived in the upstairs of their house while the basement was above ground on the first floor. That was always strange to me.

The Steens lived down the road from us too. Vanessa, Carl, Robert and Adam moved in sometime in the elementary years. One swimming hole was across the road from their house and a popular sledding hill was just behind it. We swam, skied, skated and hung out at their home in between. They had a porch too. The older homes had porches and many times we sat and talked on those porches.

So many people, I can't recall them all. People who touched my life in so many ways throughout my impressionable years. I am happy that so many had a positive impact on my life.

As we reconnect through Facebook and emails, it is astounding to me to hear from those who were just in West Shokan for a small period of time say how much they loved being there. Of course if you asked me in my teen years what we thought we would have said we couldn't wait to get out. Thirty minutes to shopping, jobs; at least 15 minutes to the high school (not stopping). And for a girl trying to get dates from boys she met in high school it was torturous, especially when they would ask "could you meet me....???" (and that was when gas was .59 a gallon!)

Local store & Post Office

Only a local store combined with the Post Office for treats, the paper or some cold cuts and ice cream was local hangout for some of us. The Town Park came later and brought outsiders in. Not that we didn't want them, but they sure diluted our friendship pool (no pun intended.)

I think most of us look back on our years in West Shokan with a passion for calmer, quieter, slower times. Many lessons were learned without electronic gadgets and even t.v. for some. Everyone watched out for each other; included each other; and no one was fearful (too much) of anything. It was a time of unlocked front doors and keys left in cars. Sure there were disagreements and hurt feelings and we had our share of social problems, but all in all we were a family inter-related through the situations we experienced together. It was a great place to grow up...not perfect, but great.

Photo Credit to Shep Siegel fo all the photos on this page.