Thursday, November 15, 2012

The other side of the Borscht Belt

While reading many of the familiar works about the history of the Catskills there was a missing part discussed
succinctly. We remember the grand hotels and bungalow colony communities of that era. We remember the great entertainment and food. Even in far away Guyana the movie Dirty Dancing provides a vantage point to those too young or culturally removed from the era.

There were caste systems in the hotels that were unspoken. At the very bottom rung were the bimmies. They were poorly paid ( sometimes interesting) men who were marking time and usually addicted to something. They did all the menial work and were kept out of view. They spent their days in dangerous housing in the Concord was described as the "snakepit".

The question of what happened to the workers in those Hotels never gets answered.

To be called a bimmy as a college student was kind of cool. It was akin to being called a screw up. Hence the chain with the name goes back to that era. To those who were at the bottom it was label applied to very broken men racing towards doom. As most of these people were hardcore addicts most of them should be long gone.

An older niece interpreted my life totally wrong. At an earlier time I made a decision to eat with the Bimmies and cross into areas that college students seldom ventured into. This was not social activism in the traditional sense. I did not believe in a caste system and thought students should grasp the world of those who worked across the counter.

In the next post I will discuss how traces of the Catskill era filters into my daily life.

1 comment:

Ducky's here said...

This was not social activism in the traditional sense.
Most of us call it "slumming".