Thursday, November 24, 2005

The President Hotel

This was the President Hotel in the Catskill Mountains in New York. During the 1930's my great uncle, who was known by one and all as "Uncle Pete," ran the place with a partner. My father and uncle spent their summers working there. Though not as well remembered today as other landmark hotels in the region, it was a major destination in those days, and featured performers including Danny Kaye (before he hit Hollywood) and the dancing duo, the Nicholas Brothers. The Nicholas brothers were a pair of young, African-American kids who were already beginning to make it big in the mid-late 30's. Racist attitudes, of course, still impacted their lives, despite their success. My father told me a story of witnessing a clerk at the hotel attempting to refuse the Nicholas Brothers a room at the hotel - which they were promised and which was expected. My father and his friend, offer their own workers' quarters to the Nicholas Brothers. One of the brothers explained to my father the importance of standing up to the clerk and obtaining the accomadations they were promised. Ultimately, Uncle Pete's partner came onto the scene and straightened things out. About ten years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Fayard Nicholas, who remembered the incident, an experience which was highly unusual at the usually more open-minded Catkill Mountains resorts. I had the chance to meet Uncle Pete once in 1971, in Florida, where he's relocated to run the Atlantis hotel:

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