Henry Munson's Recollections of Cragsmoor
My first recollection of anything was watching teams of horses pulling wagon loads of sand and cement as Dada was having a reservoir built. It didn't hold water unfortunately, so it was abandoned for 20 odd years until I decided to make it into a swimming pool.
My brothers, Alex and Binks, and I put aside a full week to get the job done. I had a good workman on the place and his name was Willis. We slaved 12 and more hours a day all week and the final day it was at least 14 hours. I had rented a cement mixer and borrowed some wire with faulty insulation unfortunately. We had rigged up a couple of rails from the Upper House road to the pool. Then we had pulleys set up and my father drove Trina when we gave him the signal and this pulled up the heavy loads of sand and cement. Then we'd mix away and pour into a wood mold we had prepared. By this time because of the rain and the faulty insulation in the wire, everything became charged with electricity, even to the shovels. It was really tough work and Willis, who was a character, said to my brother "Mr. Alex, you boys must love to swim!"
After we finished we sang our way back to Five Oaks-Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go, etc.-, had some drinks and pretended to play bridge-sheer bravado. So now we had the pool.
Trina finally bit the dust. It had to be pushed out of the way so I could get up the driveway. Orrin Christy and Nick pushed it and it kept on going, crashing into the rocks and trees below. Chris claimed that you Nick (age 6 maybe) 'pushed too hard!"
"I Doubt It"
Mother did not approve of the usual bridge cards so she'd get plain numbered cards and we'd play various games. One was "I Doubt It."
The point was to play a card and say one or eight or whatever. Sometimes we would try to get rid of several cards at once. If one were supposed to play a 7, for example, you might not have one but you would play another and say 7 just the same. If someone said "I Doubt It", then you had to turn the card over for all to see. If it wasn't a 7, then you had to take all the cards. One time Mother played and my turn was next and she said, "Take your time Henry." So all of us suspected her card and she had to take all the cards.
I forget how old I was but it was a 4th of July weekend and lots of guests. I overdid it with the watermelon and became very ill. Because both Alex and Marian had had to have their appendix removed, my parents recognized the symptoms and knew they had to get me to a hospital in NYC. There were four different cars there but something was wrong with each one.
I remember being in bed upstairs in Five Oaks and listen to all the men trying to take this part from one car and try it in another. Flashlights and lanterns made an eerie glow. Finally they got one car fixed and they took me to the Norwegian Hospital in Brooklyn. It was a rough trip as the first paved road wasn't until we reached Walden. Then we came to the Ferry and there was a long line of cars. But Dada waved a big white cloth and got us to the head of the line. He had a way of leading people - taking charge and having people like it. Anyway we got to the hospital early in the morning and the operation was a success but it was a dramatic and memorable experience.
Mother invited me to join her for a carriage ride to Mt. Mongola. Old Mrs. Brown was one of the three formidable and charming ladies who really ran Cragsmoor. She looked like Queen Victoria and the carriage ride to Mt. Mongola took all day but it was a thrill.
Get Behind a Tree
Several of us were walking along the old #52 road with Uncle Herman who had a wonderful sense of humor. We heard a car speeding up the road and Uncle Herman said, "Here comes Dada - quick get behind a tree."
Dada was famous for bad driving and for speeding. His car would turn over and he'd call the other drivers around and say, "Hey Fellows, give me a hand here," and they would get the car right side up and off he'd go just as fast.
One time Mormor, Mother, Wiggles and I were in an open Hudson touring car and we rolled off the road on a mountain near Tuxedo. We turned over 3 times and by a miracle no one was seriously hurt. Wiggles ended up between a car wheel and a rock and she said, "Did Dada want to die me?"
"Dunking the Nuns"
Dada let a group of Norwegian Nuns use the Lee Void one summer. The name Lee Void was my Mother's idea because it combined the family names of Dada and Mormor.
Anyway, we had a picnic at Lake Maratanza as we often did. The children would walk and the grown-ups would drive.
Well the Nuns were in a boat and said how much they'd like to swim. Whereupon my father and Uncle Herman proceeded to overturn their boat so they could swim.
In revenge, the Sisters managed to get hold of Dad's bathing suit and knitted white lace on his suit. We all knew about it and couldn't wait for Dad to come out of the bushes we used as a dressing room. We waited and waited. Finally Dad came out but he had found a piece of glass and was able to remove the added white lace before he made his appearance.
Sometimes we would picnic on Tuttle Mt. We'd carry food, etc. and Dad was asked to carry a bucket of water so we could have coffee. It's at least a mile's walk and he got there but tripped and fell and there went the water. He had to walk back to get some more.
One Sunday we were driving to church in the Model T Ford and it was raining heavily; not only that, but the clouds set in so that you couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead. Well Dad saw a man walking with an umbrella so he offered him a lift. It turned out that this was the man's one day off all year, and he was hiking to Sam's Point to get the view!
Dada would sometimes hire a RR car and bring up 30 or 40 friends with him. They'd get off at Spring Glen and come up by car or carriage. Mormor, Mother, our maid Martha and sometimes Aunt Helen would have been baking bread, pies and cakes for days. They cooked on the old stove in the Upper House that was still there when I sold it.
Years later I was having the Highway Supt blacktop our driveway and he came up to see me, bringing his 'girl friend.' Well his friend was the widow of the former RR Station-master at Spring Glen. She said, "All these years I've been wondering if your grandmother had any notice that so many guests were arriving in his RR car." I am told that the Supt kept the Spring Glen road open mainly because it saved him time when he went to visit his 'girl friend.'
The Head of the Music Dept at Columbia
My father liked to work around Five Oaks and he built a dry wall stone wall to support a garden. I later put a stone and concrete one there. He wore a slouchy hat to protect his bald spot and rather bedraggled work clothes. One of his phobias was unwanted visitors on the way to Bear Cliff, for example. There was an old path from the water trough on the old #52 up to our house.
Well one day a man walked up and Dad let him have it about private property and privacy, etc. The man left.
A few days later Dad got an invitation from Mrs. Sturdevant (Cragsmoor Inn, Bear Cliff House and one of the three grande dames who ran Cragsmoor) inviting Dad to a reception in honor of the Head of the Music Dept at Columbia. Dad got all dressed up and went and who should the guest of honor be but the man Dad had given hell to for invading our privacy. Dad was sure the man couldn't recognize him but years later they were both at Carnegie Hall backstage waiting to perform. Then the man said, "Dr. Munson, do you remember the first time we met?"
"Ve only Trow it Avay"
Dada gave the Lee Void to Mrs. Anna Larsen. Her father was Dada's brother and he had been helpful years ago to Dada. Mrs. Larsen, her husband and daughter Marie ran it as a Boarding House and the guests were mostly Norwegian. The food was excellent - homemade bread, cake and pies and desserts. Sometimes they would have more than they could use and they'd come over to give it to us. Then so we wouldn't feel guilty or obligated, they would say "Ved only trow it avay."
When Mrs. Larsen died they wanted to sell and then I bought it back from them. I had it torn down after an architect recommended that I do so. I got back l/3d of the purchase price for the lumber.
Mr. and Mrs. Mumm were great friends of my parents and perhaps they were the reason for their first visit to Cragsmoor. They were very devout church-goers - the Congregational church next to the Library. But as they grew older, they stayed at home. Mrs. Mumm could hear the music from the church and the rather seedy choir. Mr. Mumm, on the other hand, was a nature lover and adored the birds, crickets, etc. One Sunday morning Mrs. Mumm was in ecstacy listening to the church music, and he was listening to the crickets. She said, "Isn't that music beautiful?" And Mr. Mumm said, "Yes, it certainly is, and to think they do it all with their feet."
Tues at Home
Mrs. George Inness lived in great style. Three hundred acres, riding stables, greenhouse, swimming pool and gardens full of little fountains that flowed by gravity through a mass of luxuriant flowers.
Every Tuesday from 5-7 o'clock she was "At Home". All her friends were invited to visit for tea or coffee, cake and goodies, and then a visit to Mr. Inness' studio. I remember he was painting a series of murals for a church in Tarpen Springs, Fla. The series was called "The Holy Temple" and consisted of a series of beautiful scenes of nature, mostly trees, and suffused with a magic sunlight.
We'd often visit and use their pool and, in fact, I was swimming in his pool the day he died. Mrs. Innes once told mother she wanted to give her a memento of what I thought was a picture, but it turned out to be a Meissen pitcher.
Best Tennis Ball Finder in Ulster County
At one point Dad asked old Mr. Marl to build a tennis court for us children. The estimate was $100 and it became $200 because of all the shale. We had fun with it and Alex elected Binks to search out and return the tennis balls that went over the fence, etc. He used good psychology and he'd call Binks the 'best tennis ball finder in all of Ulster Co.' We all loved Binks and he was clearly Dad's favorite. He was a sweetheart.
Once when one of us made a face on being asked to empty his chamber pot (number one), Dad said, "That's so pure you could drink it."
I later made a croquet court where the tennis court had been.
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