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My Sunny Valentine

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August, 1942. My mother, sister and I were spending the summer in Roscoe, New York, at Gitlin’s Beaver Cottage. I never knew why it was called that. It was not a cottage and I never saw a beaver or Gitlin.

In 1942, it was typical of financially almost-middle-class Jewish families to send the mother and kids to The Mountains (Catskills), where they would spend July and August and the father would drive up from The City (New York) or Jersey (New) to be with them on weekends.

For me, those weekends were wonderful. We were a full family again with a car and could drive into Livingston Manor, the big town nearby where there was a five-and-dime (Woolworth’s) with a toy department, an ice cream store and a movie theater.

Then one Saturday, for the first time in my life, Pop took us all to the movies. At night! I had never started to go anywhere at night, and that night, 3,000 linear miles and one million cultural miles from Ketchum, Idaho, I saw the movie, Sun Valley Serenade. Skiing. Skating. Horse-drawn sleighs. Music. Funny people. Sonja Henie. And for me, It Happened in The Catskills. I made up my 10-year-old mind that I had to see Sun Valley and, 12 years later, in 1954, the summer after I graduated from Columbia College, I did.

 

My first view of Sun Valley was through the window of a snub-nosed yellow bus which I first saw in Shoshone through the window of a yellow and red Union Pacific railroad car which I had boarded 26 hours earlier in Omaha, Nebraska. While Easterners easily imagine being one day in Los Angeles or San Francisco, and may dream of seeing Sun Valley, Idaho, they never think they will ever be in Omaha, Nebraska. More accurately, they always think they will never be in Omaha, Nebraska.

The image of Omaha to a New Jerseyite who never got farther west than Philadelphia is that of the Wild West, while the image of Los Angeles, which is over a thousand miles closer to the Pacific Ocean, is neither wild nor west.

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