Every year, when May rolls around, it brings back memories of Memorial Day weekend at Grossinger’s, a big singles event that was followed by July 4th, Shabbat Nachamu, and Labor Day weekend. Ahh … to be single, young and carefree at Grossinger’s.
Last weekend Jerry was reminiscing about Grossinger’s and his days working at Camp Morasha. Since his parents were at Grossinger’s often, his mom would say that they were treated like royalty. That, and the fact that Jerry’s dad was extremely generous with any hotel worker he came in contact with. When Jerry had a day off, his dad would make the hour-and-a-half trip to Camp Morasha so that Jerry, and any of Jerry’s friends who also had off, could spend the day at Grossinger’s, where Jerry’s dad treated them to an afternoon barbecue at the pool, dinner, and then the show.
Among Jerry’s friends treated to Grossinger’s one day was a close friend, Efy Nulman and another, whom I shall call Alan for this article. He started as a waiter but was quickly got demoted to “gym bimmy.” In Camp Morasha, the gym bimmy’s only responsibility was to take the chairs off the gym floor when it rained, so the gym could be used for indoor activities. He never had an official day off, as they were had to standby to be called into service whenever it rained. On sunny days they got to do whatever they wanted — so long as they stayed on the campus. Jerry was envious that his close friend was “demoted” to gym bimmy; Jerry considered it the dream job as it basically required zero responsibility.
Earlier in the day, when his friend found out that Jerry and other close friends were heading to Grossinger’s for their day off, he asked if he could be included. Jerry immediately agreed but asked if his friend was allowed to leave camp for the day as this was against camp rules. His friend pointed to the perfectly cloudless bright sunny day and insisted he was safe and sound.
It was the perfect summer day, not a cloud in the sky, hot but not humid. After winning the competitive and highly entertaining Grossinger’s volleyball tournament, Jerry’s dad, who passionately cheered Jerry and his friends on to victory, invited Jerry to meet some of the new “close friends” he had met at the “Big G.” He told Jerry he hung out with them at the beautiful outdoor pool and asked if he would like to cool off in the pool and hang out with his buddies. Jerry imagined a group of Jewish European men like his dad, wearing cabana jackets and “cab” hats, as his father did, likely speaking Yiddish and reminiscing over which DP camp they lived in prior to coming to America.
Jerry loved his dad and agreed to spend some time with him and his friends from the old country. But to his amazement, a handful of young, powerfully-built men, joyfully greeted Jerry’s dad at the pool. They were New York Islander’s star players — Dennis Potvin, Clark Gilles and others — who were Jerry’s hated enemies, as he was and is an avid Ranger’s fan. The Islanders had highjacked his father! This tormented Jerry, as the Islanders regularly did while winning four Stanley cups and trouncing the Rangers throughout the 1970s. “Et Tu” dad?” thought Jerry.
The hated islanders had defeated Jerry’s beloved Rangers in the playoffs that year. Jerry proverbially thought, “Of all the pools, in all the hotels, in all the world, the Islanders landed in Jerry’s beloved Grossingers outdoor pool.” And by the way, for those of you who know Jerry, you know he have been more excited to speak about the Holocaust with his dad’s friends that conversing with Islanders. Seriously!
But alas, while the weather was idyllic in Grossinger’s, angry rain clouds descended on Camp Morasha, and it poured all afternoon. The camp was reduced to a muddy mess. As his friend won the volleyball tournament, and enjoyed the perfect day off with Jerry and his other friends, the camp loudspeaker pleaded and blared throughout the day for his friend to immediately show up to the gym and take all the chairs down so that indoor activities could commence.
Jerry and his friends were all wearing victorious Grossinger’s shirts as spoils of their victories as Jerry’s dad’s car rolled into Camp Morasha well after midnight. When the camp director met Jerry and his friends there was no joy in Mudville as his friend Alan, the gym bimmy, was struck out.
Talking about the Big G, this is an original recipe for challah, by Jennie Grossinger. I like to top it with Durkee French fried onions and everything topping. Although it doesn’t specify what type of oil, I use canola oil.
2-1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1⁄4 cup lukewarm water (110 F)
4-1⁄2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg yolk
1. Combine yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes or until double in size.
2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center and drop the eggs, oil, remaining water and yeast mixture into the hole.
3. Work into flour a little at a time (you may not need the whole amount or you may need more). Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, covered, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.
4. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll into 3 ropes. Braid ropes and place into oiled pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled.
5. Brush with egg yolks (sprinkle poppy seeds). Bake in 375 F oven ( preheated) for 40 minutes or until nicely browned.