a Columbia College student in the late 1950’s I worked in a Catskill Mountain
hotel resort as a waiter during the summers to earn money for college tuition
college tuition was $450 per semester.
had a great job in a wonderful adult only hideaway hotel at the end of a
winding country road. The tips were great. I was able to earn enough to pay for
college tuition and some expenses each year.
in 1957 college kids did stupid things. The hotel was usually closed after
Labor Day until the first week in June each year. I always started the first
week in June.
Catskill Mountains are a winter wonderland at Christmas time. Only Grossinger’s
Hotel was open and had winter activities.
The owner of my hotel decided to open the hotel
Thanksgiving and the last two weeks in December. In 1957 New York City was
beginning to close down the last two weeks in December. The owner felt she
could fill the hotel even though winter activities were not yet in abundance in
the Catskill Mountains.
figured she could fill the hotel up by providing enough on activities at the
hotel for the guests.
fall semester at Columbia College was over. My finals were finished. Spring
Semester would start January 16th.
owner invited me to work those two weeks. I jumped at the opportunity despite
the protests of my parents. The only bad thing was I did not own a car. I did
not look forward to taking the Greyhound Bus to Woodbourne New York.
called around to a few of my friends who worked with me in the summer. Freddie
W. had just gotten a car. He volunteered to drive me and two other friends. We
were to pay for the gas.
thought Freddie was great. We left New York City on December 17th
1956. It was an uneventful trip on a beautiful sunny cold day.
hotel was gorgeous it the snow. The snow
emphasized its architectural beauty.
waiting tables were full. The entertainment and activities were spectacular.
Christmas Eve and New Years Eve were a knockout. Some guest had already made
reservations for next year.
guest left after lunch New Years Day. We all cleaned up the dinning room and
our serving stations and prepared to leave.
was a cloudy cold day with snow and ice on the ground. I wanted to stay over
until January 2nd. Freddie said he couldn’t. He had a date that
evening. I couldn’t figure that out because we didn’t leave until 3.30 p.m. He
had to have another reason.
half way to New York City we encountered a snowstorm. The roads at that time
were back roads, not highways.
father’s advice that was burned into my head about driving in snow was to “Drive
slowly in a snow storm. Try not to hit the brakes. Downshift and turn into a
roads were very slippery. Freddie was cautious. However, he was a little less
cautious than I would have been.
did not say anything because I knew Freddie would never listen.
came to a bend in the road. We could not see anything beyond the bend. The
visibility was poor because of the heavy snow.
felt like telling him to stop until we could see a little better. I knew he
wouldn’t listen. I kept my mouth shut.
we turned the bend, we started going down a steep slippery hill. It was too
late to stop and wait.
downshifted. The car did not hold. We were sliding downhill. The car was
picking up speed as it skidded.
that point it looked like everything was in slow motion.
was a steep drop off on each side of this two-lane road. I could see Freddie
was becoming nervous. The last thing I wanted to give him was advice.
I could see him starting to move his foot toward
the brake pedal. We were almost at the bottom of the hill.
yelled. Freddie, “no brake and turn into
the skid.” Somehow he listened to me
and gently turned into the skid.
seconds we were at the bottom of the hill and on a flat road. We were safe!
remaining drive was uneventful but slow. It snowed like crazy all the way into
New York City.
were shaken. Freddie dropped me off at my house.
soon as I walked through the front door of my house my father asked how much money
I made in tips during the two weeks of work.
mother noticed how shaken I was. I was white. She came over and hugged her
nineteen year old. She wished me a Happy New Year and told me she loved me.
Then she asked why I was so shaken.
told her and my father what happened. I immediately saw that my father wanted
to take back his first question. The money was meaningless.
told them tomorrow I was going to spend every penny I made on the best hi fi
set could find. I said I thank god I am alive!
both understood and approved.
is inches. It must be remembered. I promised myself that I would have to
remember that I must enjoy every moment I am alive. I believe I have.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.
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