Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943

"The Gang
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, First Row Center)
(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2013 Cynthia Shenette)

Enjoy a New Thrill - Go Western in New York
Vacation on Horseback at
"Tumbleweed" Guest Ranch
Westkill, N.Y.
Pack trips every week - Free Horseback instructions
Swimming - Archery - Ping Pong - Badminton
Social Activities, etc.
Moderate Rates - Write for Reservations Now
Directions - West Shore R.R.to Shandakin Station
Call Ranch for Pick-up

(1941 Newspaper Advertisement)

It's amazing how much information you can discover about a photo or a group of photos once you start digging.

Last week, as I was sorting through the last couple of the boxes of stuff from my mom's house, I found an amazing vacation photo album from the 1940s.  The funny thing is I vaguely remembered seeing the album at my grandmother's house when I was a kid.  I have hazy memories of sitting on my grandmother's living room couch, flipping through the scrapbook, looking at photos of my mom dressed in cowgirl clothes. Mom seemed so young.  It was hard for the ten-year-old me to contemplate my mom was ever so young. Years went by, and Gram downsized to an apartment at a nearby senior living complex, and shortly after that my parents and I moved into her old house.  Stuff got moved into the basement, and I never saw the scrapbook again.  Until last week.

The album was in the last box I opened.  Subconsciously, I must have saved the best for last!  The album, with it's nondescript brown cover, didn't look like much when I picked it up.  But when I flipped it open there they were! The photos I remembered from so long ago!

"Kris + Brownie"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette)
Mom use to talk about spending summer vacations at a dude ranch. Somewhere.  I thought she said New York, but I wasn't sure.  I remember the idea of a dude ranch kind of cracked me up.  It seemed so hokey, and old fashioned, almost like something you'd see in a Mickey Rooney / Judy Garland movie.  Mom loved the place!  I discovered Mom and her sister, Helene, vacationed there three years in a row.

"Helene + Cherokee"
(Helene (Szerejko) Dingle)
Thankfully someone, probably Mom, took the time to write captions to go with the photos in the album. From the captions I learned that she and Helene went to Tumbleweed during the war years--1943, 1944, and 1945. The section of the album for 1943 has almost 60 photos alone!

"Watering the horses at the creek"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Facing Camera)
Luckily, Mom took a few scenery shots, and a couple of the captions identify the Catskill Mountains.  I did a quick Google search looking for info on Tumbleweed in the Catskills.  I discovered that Tumbleweed was located in Westkill which is a hamlet of Lexington, New York.  Tumbleweed eventually became a ranch-style camp for teens in the 1960s and 1970s. There is a facebook page devoted to memories of Tumbleweed!  I also did a little newspaper research and discovered a bit of info, including the ad above.  I found ads in newspapers from New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.  My guess is my mom and her sister probably found out about Tumbleweed from an ad in one of the local papers.

"Daniel Boone Halstead"
(Mason Halstead)
What's also nice about the captions is that some of the other people at the ranch that year are identified.  The young man above is Mason "Mace" Halstead.  He appears in quite a few of the photos in my album. I have contacted possible descendants on Ancestry via their message board, so hopefully I'll learn a little more about him.  If you are related to Mace and read this I'd love to hear from you!

(Lucy and Jack Franks)
Little Lucy appears in a number of my photographs.  The man in the photo with Lucy is identified as Jack.  I discovered that a Jack Franks owned or ran Tumbleweed for a while.  I don't know if the Jack above is Jack Franks, but am in the process of contacting the Lexington Historical Society so hopefully I will find out more from them.  I do know they have some info on Tumbleweed, so hopefully I'll have more information to share in a couple of weeks.  

Saddling Cherokee"
I don't have a last name for Warren.  I think he worked at the ranch.  If you recognize him I would love to hear from you!

"The Ding Bats
fight it out"
This couple also appears in a number of my photos.  Unfortunately, they are always identified as "The Ding Bats!"  Were they guests at Tumbleweed or did they work there?

"The dunk hole"
Also included in the album were nice scenery shots, some of which were identified by captions which in turn helped to potentially identify some of the locations.

"Egg Shampoo"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette and Helene (Szerejko) Dingle)
A number of the photos were taken at "the falls."  After a little research, I suspect there are two sets of falls in these photos.  If you look at this video for West Kill Falls here you will see rocks that are very similar to the photo below.
"Picnicing  (sic) + Resting
At the Falls"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Reclining Top Left)
I suspect that the falls below are Diamond Notch Falls.  I found a video of Diamond Notch Falls here. What's interesting about the video is that sound is included.  While I love the black and white photos, the sound and color of the video really do give added perspective to the scene.

"The Falls"
I also checked for maps of the area.  There is a map, with hiking information and a layout of the area here.

"Diamond Notch
Several photos were taken at or near the summit of Hunter Mountain. Using the same Catskill Hiker website I was able to find a map with hiking information and a layout of the area for Hunter Mountain as well.  You can find that here.  The fire tower is shown on the map, plus there is additional information on the fire tower on Wikipedia here.  The Wikipedia article also notes a couple of books--Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, by Martin Podsckosch and The Catskill Forest: A History, by Michael Kudish--that might be interesting and add insight.

"Forest Ranger's
Tower - Hunter Mt."
There is also a Wikipedia article on Hunter Mountain here. What's interesting is that the Hunter Mountain summit is given at 4025 feet in the photo below, but all of the current information that I found has the height of the summit at 4040 feet.  I also love the caption on the photo below. Clearly, Warren must have been the troublemaker in the group!

"Betty, Warren, Helene
Kris + Harry
(Stop Kicking, Warren)"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Bottom Left; Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, Top Right) 
I feel incredibly fortunate that Mom took the time to write captions for all of the photos.  They are helpful for identifying people, places, and even figuring out some of the personalities involved.  I have transcribed the captions exactly as they appear in the album.

"Kris - Helene
Brownie - Cherokee"
(Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Left; Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, Right)
While this concludes my August 1943 visit to Tumbleweed Guest Ranch I do intend to post images from 1944 and 1945 as well over the next couple of weeks.  

It was a great vacation!  See you next year!

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Happy Acres - Those Places Thursday

Happy Acres Family Resort, Middlefield, CT

(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2013 Cynthia Shenette) My mom, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette always use to talk about Happy Acres Family Resort.  She and her sister, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle use to spend their summer vacations there in the late 1940s.  After Helene got married in 1948 mom still vacationed there. Mom would meet her friend, Rosalie (Wagner) Massey, at the resort. Rosalie lived in New York City so it was a nice place for the girls to meet between Worcester, Massachusetts and NYC.

Left, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette; Middle, Mary Foersta ; Left, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle
23 August 1947
Until I did a little research I had no idea where Happy Acres was located.  I knew it couldn't be too far from where my mom lived at the time in Worcester, Massachusetts.  I eventually discovered that Happy Acres was a well known resort located on Lake Beseck in Middlefield, Connecticut.  I found photos of the resort online and matched the places shown in the online photos to my photos below.

Christine (Szerejko) Shenette
Happy Acres was started by Captain Jack Sibley, a former World War I pilot, during the 1940s.  The resort started out as a fresh air camp for city kids in the 1930s.  It eventually became a family resort, finally closing in the 1970s.  I was happy to discover that there is a facebook page devoted to Happy Acres, and the facebook page is great! There is a map of the layout of the resort, as well as some great old photographs and postcard images. There is even a photo of Captain Sibley himself!  Apparently, people use to come back year after year, reuniting with other resort friends who often vacationed the same week each year.

Mom use to talk about the fun she had at Happy Acres--tennis, games, swimming.  One of her most vivid memories was of meeting Rosalie at the resort.  Apparently, Happy Acres employed an accordionist to play music as guests arrived at the resort.  My mom said on this particular day the accordionist played the song Rosalie over and over again as people arrived. When mom's friend Rosalie finally arrived at the resort the accordionist played Rosalie one more time.  Rosalie was thrilled because she thought he was playing it especially for her!

Travel back in time with me.  

Happy Acres offers...



Christine (Szerejko) Shenette

Left, Unidentified Friend; Right, Helen (Szerejko) Dingle

Left, Helen (Szerejko) Dingle; Right, Unidentified Little Friend
Fun for kids of all ages!

Left, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette; Left, Unidentified Friend
Horseback riding!

Helene (Szerejko) Dingle

Left, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle; Right, Unidentified Friend
Opportunities to make new friends!

The "Sharayko" Girls
Left, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette; Right, Helen (Szerejko) Dingle

Happy memories.

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The Week That Was, August 2, 2013 - Follow Friday

(Image from AnySnapshot.com. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0; Text Copyright (c) 2013 Cynthia Shenette) I don't usually do Follow Friday posts with a lot of links though I admire the folks who do.  While I'd love to post a faves list every week, too, the fact is I know I'd be setting myself up for failure.  It's kind of like that purple afghan I started crocheting about five years.  It's still sitting in a drawer. Unfinished.  That said, I have read some great blog posts and articles this week and had a little extra time to write a Follow Friday post, so I'd like to share. 

Copyright and foreign letters by Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist

I posted a comment on one of Judy's blog posts this week, and she kindly asked if minded if she wrote a blog post based on my question.  Judy is awesome, and her response to my question solved a copyright question that I've had on my mind for a long time.  Thank you, Judy!  

My grandparents' haplogroups: N1c1 & R1a1 Y-DNA; T2b & H27 mtDNA and 75% Eastern European DNA? Sounds about right to me, by Barbara Proko, Basia's Polish Family: From Wilno to Worcester

Barbara has published a couple of amazing blog posts this past week that discuss her DNA research.  Her research and analysis are impeccable and make for a fascinating read.

Kid's don't hate history, they hate the way we teach it, by Glenn Wiebe, History Tech

The title pretty much says it all.  History is more than names and dates.  Why does teaching and standardized testing have to take the joy out of learning?  And while I'm on my soapbox...

The Problem With Summer Reading, by Carolyn Ross at The Millions

Not exactly genealogy, but on an education-related note Carolyn Ross' article pretty much sums up my thinking as well.  I'd really kind of like to say, "What she said."

Romantic Deceit Via Telegraph: How 'Catfishing' Worked in the 1880s, by Jessica Gentile in The Atlantic

A fun and interesting story about technology and romance in the 1880s.  Did I mention I met my husband on the Internet?  No, I'm not kidding.

Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History, by Alexis C. Madrigal at The Atlantic

I'm married to a techno-geek who has done a couple of contract stints in Silicon Valley.  Sometimes history is more recent than you think.

Things You Find at Grandma's House, a slide show from Boston's ABC affiliate, WCVB

Thankfully, there aren't any plastic covered couches in my family, but you should see the Hummel collection I inherited!

How the FBI Turned Me On to Rare Books, by Natalie Zemon Davis at the New York Review of Books

A confiscated passport leads a National Humanities Medal awardee to discover a love for rare books.

In The Digital Age, The Family Photo Album Fades Away, by Heidi Glenn at NPR's All Tech Considered

I was doing great until I gave up my 35 mm camera.  Vacation photos were developed and organized in a timely manner.  You don't want to see the state of the photo folder on my hard drive these days.  What a mess...

Unsealed birth records give adoptees peek at past, AP political writer John O'Connor

Obtaining one's birth certificate is something most of us take for granted. I've done a couple of adoption/foster research projects for friends and family, and sometimes discovering the origin of a person's birth is easier said than done.

Thousands Buried Beneath Philly Playground, by Peter Crimmins

The original Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church cemetery was used for interments from 1810 to 1864 and after that a dump and a playground.  How many other places are lost (and almost) forgotten like this one?

My Fictional Grandparents, by Laila Lalami in the New York Times Magazine

Laila's mom was placed in an orphanage in Fez in 1941.  Her parents died.  Or they didn't.  A DNA test leads to more questions.  What happens when stories conflict?

Pentagon agency under fire for refusing to ID unknown soldiers from World War II, by Bill Dedman and Mike Taibbi of NBC News

Shameful.  And it's about time.  What else can I say?

100 Years Later, the Roll of the Dead in a Factory Fire is Complete, by Joseph Berger of the New York Times

I missed this one the first time around.  Not new, but an interesting read that I just discovered this week about a genealogist who identified the previously unidentified victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

That is the week that was--ending August 2, 2013.  Now, where's my crochet hook?  Cold weather is coming!

Have a nice weekend everybody!

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