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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