To return to Rosenberg's Farm, click on picture below.
From the mid-1940's to the mid-1960's, holocaust survivors Albert and Kate Rosenberg and their son Gary, owned and operated a dairy farm in Orange County, New York. It was located two hours northwest of Manhattan on Route 302, in a tiny town called Bullville, about a quarter of a mile north of the Five Corners, where Route 302 intersects Route 17K. The traffic light at this intersection was, and still is, the only traffic light in town. This tiny village, held a few dozen small homes, several dairy farms with large farmhouses, two churches, Lunney's Service Station and Luncheonette, Tooties Service Station, Bullville Cattle Auction, Bullville Lake, Bell's Post Office and General Store, Agway Feed Store, Feebee's Bar and Grill, Bullville Creamery, Trempers ice cream factory and a small railroad station. Freight trains that passed through the town carried goods to and from Bullville, and transported milk and milk products from the local dairy farmers from the creamery and ice cream factory to neighboring towns.

Despite the language and cultural differences with their neighbors, and some experiences of prejudice and anti-Semitism, the Rosenbergs created a beautiful home and a successful dairy farm. To earn some extra income, they did what many farmers did in those days. They rented rooms in their turn-of-the-century farmhouse to travelers. My family of Brooklynites and Long Islanders spent many vacations, summers and holidays at our "country home," from which my father, like many dads of that era, commuted to work on Mondays and back upstate on Fridays. In the early days, my four brothers and I were given the wonderful opportunity to spend time on a working farm, helping with the chores and creating a relationship with the creatures and the land.

Mrs. Rosenberg was a smart, strong and proud woman. She was able to combine natural management skills with an uncanny ability to recall people, places and things. Sweet and hard working local women named Bee, Edna, Mary and Nicky became the cooks and the waitresses. Kate ruled her little kingdom with an iron hand tempered with a heart of gold. Until Parkinson's Disease slowed him down, Albert was able to do the hard and heavy labor of farming. He and Gary and other local men plowed, planted and harvested endless acres of corn and hay, raised and milked over a hundred head of Holstein cows and cared for and fed the usual assortment of farm animals, including chickens, dogs and cats.

During the heyday of the Catskill Mountains "borscht belt," the agricultural aspect of the farm was slowly phased out, and it was transformed into a small hotel. Originally, all the guests stayed in the main house. This was a large 3-story, wood and stone fifteen-room farmhouse. On the bottom floor, there was a large country kitchen next to an even larger dining room with three or four long tables and chairs for as many as fifty people. In later years, the room became a recreation room, which was used for playing cards and mah-jongg and watching television. All the bedrooms had flowered wallpaper, single and/or bunk beds, a small sink, a small closet and simple furnishings.

In the early 1950's, after the Rosenberg's sold the cows, the chickens, and the farm equipment, they converted the barn and the chicken coop to bedrooms and wood paneled all the rooms, bathrooms, hallways and sitting areas. They also built a dining room, a kitchen with a large walk-in refrigerator, four 4-6 room bungalows with finished basements where we would listen to old 45's and play ping pong and a recreation building used for parties and social gatherings. A 20X15X4 wading pool was built at the bottom of the cornfield on the edge of the swamp. Though it was small, it did provide endless hours of swimming and did a respectable job of cooling us off on hot summer days.

In order to create safer access from Route 302, a surprisingly busy one-lane country road, and more parking in front of the new bungalows, some of the land was blacktopped. A U-shaped driveway wrapped around the main house and the adjacent dining room and between those buildings and the barn. The corral was also blacktopped, but the fence and gate remained. This created a protected outdoor space that became the field of a whiffleball stadium for us kids or a space for adults to play cards or mah-jongg. The chicken coop, until it also became two small bedrooms, served as the headquarters during major water gun and snowball fights that involved as many as 50 children. We played non-stop, all day long, with only a lunch break to halt the action.

Offering semi-private accommodations, social activities and three humongous "country style" meals, for what began as $5 a day for adults and $3 a day for kids younger than twelve, Rosenberg's grew from twelve guestrooms to a hotel with a capacity of nearly 200 people. On some holidays, a small overflow was boarded at nearby houses. Over the years, my family occasionally stayed overnight in rooms in some of the locals' homes, such as the Roberson's farmhouse adjacent to the Rosenberg property or Feebe's Bar and Grill.

There were two popular spots within walking distance. The first was John Bell's General Store and Post Office. John and his wife always had a smile for every customer. I remember the hardwood plank floor, the hundred or so mailboxes and shelves of goods such as food, candy, comic books, toys, kites, fishing gear and plastic blowing bubbles. They lived across the street in a house which was the original home of the Bull family, after whom Bullville was named. The most popular spot was Lunney's Gas Station and Luncheonette. Art Lunney ran the service station and his wife Edith, ran the luncheonette. It was a favorite hangout for the hotel crowd. I became friends with the Lunney family over cheeseburgers and french fries. I am proud to say that I taught Mrs. Lunney to make a Brooklyn soft drink staple, the vanilla egg cream.

One of the Lunney boys, John, and the Roberson's son, Louie, were my Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. They dragged me along on adventures that I never would have experienced in the suburbs of Long Island. In the summers, we fished, dived and swam in local swimming holes or drove to nearby towns with recreation parks such as Horton's Beach, Tillson Lake, Pine Bush Recreation Center and a community swimming pool called Swim Spot. We often walked the half-mile or so, and fished off the dam or the sides of Bullville Lake. I didn't own a fishing rod. Drop lines or bamboo poles with some kite string, a float, a weight and a hook, along with bait like simple lures, white bread or worms, was all that I needed. Though I had heard a lot of rumors about bass, pike and catfish, I never saw anyone catch anything but sunfish, most of which were small and were usually thrown back into the lake or brought back and fed to the cats. In the winter, we ice skated on the frozen lake and fished through holes that we made in the ice. Sometimes we trudged through the ice and snow of the swamp to check on the traps that John and Louie had set to gather muskrats for their small pelt business.

My most cherished memories were the endless days that we spent playing in an excavation site that had been created by the removal of dirt during construction of the hotel. We created an imaginary world in that secret hideaway we called, Fort Cannon. On that beautiful land, our lives passed from the fearless innocence of the 50's, a time when being chosen to ring the cowbell that called the guests to lunch and dinner was the highlight of my day, through the tumultuous and violent 60's, when we were awakened to the horrors of war and the inequalities of society. In the late 60's, we appropriately renamed the hideaway, Fort Peace and Love. In that holy hole in the ground, I could always get away from the realities and complexities of the adult world.

Although I had a relationship with all the animals on the farm, the cows were my true and special friends. Squeezing warm milk from the teats of their swollen utters into tin pails was a sure way to get to know them. The most familiar ladies had names like Daisy and Betsy. Of course, there were always reasons and ways to change the work into fun. We often squirted each other with streams of warm milk and drank from the pails. We shoveled cow manure onto the conveyor belt, and once in a while whooped it onto someone's shirt. We often witnessed miracles. By observing the birth of calves and kittens and witnessing the beheading of the chickens we ate for dinner, we learned about life and death. My thirty-year experience with vegetarianism is the direct result of my experiences with the cows and other animals. My strong connection to nature, all its beings and the universe was begun and nourished on that land.

Although Rosenberg's Hotel never attained the size or status of some of the Sullivan County resorts that had also started as farms, such as Grossingers, it did garner quite the reputation as a friendly, reasonably priced, low-key alternative to the large hotels. In the mid-1960's, when Albert was no longer able to help and Gary went to school to become a teacher, Kate sold the hotel to the Feders. They, in turn, sold it in the early seventies to Bob and Sylvia Gross. In the late seventies, the Grosses sold it to the Korean Presbyterian Church, which has used it as a retreat ever since. Until Mr. Rosenberg passed away in the late sixties, the Rosenbergs lived in one of the two brick ranch homes on the property right next to the hotel. Gary and his family occupied the other. All through that transition of approximately ten years, my first wife, our children, and I periodically stayed at the hotel. In 1974, my family moved to Middletown, which is a small city about eight miles from Bullville. There, I practiced dentistry for 20 years, occasionally re-visiting Rosenberg's whenever I needed a shot of nostalgia and tranquility.

On January 6, 2002, I took my 8 year-old son, Justin, back to Bullville. I wanted to take photographs, do research for this chapbook, and most importantly, to introduce Justin to the places that I loved. The pastel colors on some of the buildings, a new pool, a large bell in a 20-foot tower, a cross on the recreation building and signs with Korean words were some of the obvious changes. But, the old farmhouse, the barn, the bungalows, the chicken coop, the stone outline of where the silo once stood proud and tall, and the cracked, weed-covered wading pool at the edge of the swamp, were visible signs of that bygone era. The undeveloped rolling fields were still being cut for hay in the summer and used for sledding in the winter. That holy hole in the ground we once called a fort was now overgrown with prickly bramble, bushes and trees. As we stood on the top of the hill facing the willow trees bordering the swamp of cattails, we could see the white pump house, the small stream where I was once captain of my ships, the old creamery and the remains of the railroad tracks upon which rumbling and clanking freight trains had once marked the passage of time.

We drove to other familiar places in the area. Although Bullville Lake was still pristine and relatively untouched, most of the local dairy farms were now horse farms or communities of large sprawling homes. The closest dairy farm was located three miles away in Thompson Ridge. I discovered that Horton's Beach had actually been a narrow stream, which when dammed, flooded into a beach-like area. I found out that due to a land dispute twenty years ago, Tillson Lake had been drained. The Pine Bush Recreation Center, also located on a stream, was now an antique auction house owned by Louie Roberson and his wife, and The Swim Spot had long ago been filled in with dirt and abandoned.

This chapbook is devoted to my recollections. It is divided into two sections. The first section is comprised of seven poems written between 1970 and 1998. The second section is a poem entitled Rosenberg's Farm. Composed of ten subtitles written between January 15, 2000 and February 29, 2000, it chronicles more than fifty years of the area's history and the many changes that I have seen. My purpose for creating this chapbook is to transport the reader back in time so that they can also experience how it looked, how it sounded, how it smelled and how it felt to be a part of that beautiful piece of heaven on earth.

I want to thank my father and mother, Benjamin and Alice Bressack, for loving each other, for having the foresight to recognize the simplicity and beauty of Rosenberg's Hotel as a family vacation paradise and for recording some of those wonderful times with hundreds of photographs, some of which have been included in this book. I want to thank my amazing wife Abby, for loving me unconditionally and for being my editor, my most vicious critic and my most ardent supporter. I want to thank my four brothers, whom I love, and with whom I have shared some of those special moments. I want to thank my sons, Noah and Justin, and my friends and my family who have loved me, encouraged me and stood by me. Thanks to all the local Woodstock poets, the Woodstock Poetry Society and The Voices of the Valley. A special thanks to Ed Sanders. It was during his 8-week seminar in the winter of 2000 that Rosenberg's Farm was written. Lastly, I want to thank my old buddies, John Lunney and Louie Roberson, for letting this little Jewish kid from Long Island tag along with them.