Our Special Guests

My loyal readers may remember that I spent happy childhood summers at my grandmother’s small hotel in the Catskills.  (MY HEART REMEMBERS MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOTEL,  Dec. 21, 2013,  and HOTEL KITTENS,  Oct 6, 2016)

Here’s another hotel memory,  though this one is bittersweet.

Every summer for many years a busload of guests would come up from the city for a two-week stay.  The arrival of these “special guests” was a much anticipated event,  and I remember waiting on the lawn with my grandmother as the big bus pulled into the hotel driveway.  And I remember the sense of excitement as several dozen men and women,  many still dressed in their city clothes,  and some with small children in tow,  stepped off the bus carrying packages and suitcases.

What was special about our special guests?  Like everyone who came to our hotel,  they enjoyed my grandmother’s wonderful cooking,  took hikes through the woods,  went swimming,  and rowed on our small lake.  And on rainy days many could be found on the big porch playing cards, or chess, or Mah Jongg,  while the sounds of someone playing the piano drifted out from the lobby.

But I realized that all our special guests spoke with unfamiliar accents,  and young as I was,  I sensed a formality about them,  and I sensed that the other guests treated them with a special deference and respect.

And every summer when their two-week stay came to an end,  we gathered on the lawn once again to see them off,  and I watched as each departing guest embraced my grandmother before boarding the bus for the trip back to the city.

“We had a wonderful time! ”   ‘It’s a paradise here!”   ” Thank you so much!”,  they told her.

“Thank you for coming!”   “Have a safe trip!”   “We’ll see you next summer!”, we all called back.  And we waved good-bye until the bus disappeared down the Neversink Road.

When I was older my parents told me about the Holocaust and the six million who perished.  And they told me about those who endured unspeakable horrors and survived,  like our very special guests.

Dana Susan Lehrman


  • Dana, I never knew about the Holocaust until one day I spent with a friend (and the only Jewish friend I had.) Her mother had “spells”. This spells were she would bite the inside of her hand between the thumb and next finger until it bled. All the time crying “Vere is mine mudder, vere is my fadder? This was frightening but my friend , (Sylvia was her name) told me it would be okay. Mom would calm down. And she did. On; the way home I took a short cut through the church yard and threw up (probably from the long bus ride and partly because when at Slyvia’s house we watched a movie with Ingrid Bergman where she drank champagne with slices of peaches in the glass. So we filled our glasses with ginger ale and peach slices. That’s what I threw up in the church yard. I was so upset because I did that and didn’t know what to do. A priest came out, told me not to worry, I was crying, told him I just heard about the Holocaust I asked him how could a Christian do that. His answer was too long and complicated for me to answer here. He told me the first eight people who died at the hands of the Nazi’s were clergymen. The Nazi plan was to get to the German children and to separate them from the teachings of their parents. (which explains the Brown Shirts. I will tell you about his comments when I see you. there isn’t enough space here to do that.

    • Angela, what a story! As always your recall and your writing skill call out, Angela you should be blogging!

    • Thanx Karlan, I don’t know how that connection was made!

      My grandmother’s hotel was small – 50 rooms, no elevator, no private bathrooms, no telephones in the rooms, no locks on the doors – in a far different class than the large, well known Catskill hotels of the era, but it must have been paradise for these special guests.

    • Thanx P, my summers there were wonderful.
      My grandmother sold the hotel and the land when I was 11, but will always treasure those early memories.

  • Very moving Dana and Angela’s story too. I am curious about the group. Did they all live together in the city? Did they belong to a sect or group within Judaism? Obviously, they had a great time and were very grateful. You mentioned the piano – did they sing and dance at night? Fifty rooms was not that small. Great memories of your grandmother.

    • Thanx Gerry, I was also moved by Angela’s comments, she brings it full circle, doesn’t she.

      I was too young to know much about the circumstances of our special guests and how they connected with our hotel, and alas never asked my grandmother or parents in later yesrs – so much we don’t ask, and then it’s too late.
      They may have been a group of Holocaust survivors who bonded in New York after the war – or maybe members of the same synagogue or another more formal association, I don’t know.

      And I don’t remember them singing or dancing as a group, but as in any group of friends, some were musical and gravitated to the piano. In fact my dad was a self-taught pianist and I remember him playing that piano the nite the end of the Korean War was declared.

      And Gerry, perhaps a 50 room hotel may not be so small, it certainly wasn’t in my childhood world!
      ❤️ Dana

  • Dana – Thanks for writing this memory. Someday we’ll have to compare our childhood summers. One thing we had in common was that we both spent time with our grandparents, but our experiences were 180º apart. Let’s talk about it over an ice-cold drink on a summer day.

  • My parents were refugees from Hungary and Poland, and though they did not experience the total horror, they left rather late and lots of bad stuff happened. My teachers at the Yiddish “folk shul” had numbers on their arms, as did others in our neighborhood. Amazing that there are so many folks who are not knowledgeable about the systematic murder of six million men, women, children. Your story touched on this – in the post war period people did not want to really talk about the Holocaust (I remember the school history book we studied gave it one line!), but your granny did a good thing!
    Marilyn Reinhardt

    • Thanx for your story Lynn, when I was a child there were two storekeepers in my neighborhood – brothers as I remember – with numbers on their arms, and of course our “special guests” at the hotel had numbers too.

      Heaven knows what we children of the 50s understood then … and heaven help us try to understand even now.

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