SoThatWasBillHahns’s Weblog

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The Trip That Started It All

My memories of Bill Hahn’s are a patchwork of sand, food, and family togetherness.

My parents first learned about Bill Hahn’s from my uncle–my maternal grandmother’s brother. He had stayed there several times, and was impressed with the service. Similar to the Catskills resorts, Bill Hahn’s served three sit down meals daily, all included in the lodging price. For the father of two young kids, I’m sure there was a lure of not worrying about where our next meal would be, how much it might cost, and if the quality and variety would be good. If you stayed in the main building, your next meal was as easy as descending the stairs at mealtime. And the food was good: lobster, steak, shrimp, chicken, pasta, fresh vegetables, pastries, ice creams…..  

Leaving for vacation is always fun, especially when you’re a kid. Packing is done for you. Arrangements are checked and rechecked without your notice. All you know is you’re going away–to someplace fun, new, and different. Both parents would be around to entertain *you*. Life is good.

Going to Bill Hahn’s was no different. My dad didn’t enjoy long car trips, and treated every drive that past the 45-minute mark as a looooong road trip, one to be entered into carefully and with great thought, care, and preparation. In my mind, Bill Hahn’s was hours upon hours away. We even planned stops along the way to break up the ride. In fact, in my mind, it was lucky that we could make it there in one day’s time. In reality, a recent Mapquest search revealed our long journey was just under two hours.

The resort itself was magical. Like a page from the history books and stories filled with country and beach adventures. The main building was more like an old large house or even mansion, and it had many nooks and crannies that filled my imagination with stories. One favorite area was a large sitting room with a pink/peach circular sofa in the middle. I can still recall the way the sunlight filled the room, slightly illuminating the particles in the air. It was always quiet and peaceful, as if it were waiting for something. Another favorite area showcased many different tea cups. I would imagine the kinds of people and parties where they might have been used, and my sister and I would take turns picking our favorites and telling stories.

The guest rooms were nothing like the modern decadent chain hotels of today. In fact, many didn’t have televisions, and most didn’t have telephones. But they were very big and comfortable and, if you were lucky, you would have an amazing view of the ocean.

There were several “themed” guest buildings around the resort, and a few bungalows tucked closer to the beach. My favorite building was the library. The small downstairs lobby had an amazing collection of very old, crusty- but important-looking books. Another featured local artists’ artwork. There was a small building where movies were shown on rainy afternoons. Lush gardens filled with flowers and vegetables surrounded the resort, and a walk around was like being in the “country.”

Most resort visitors were older couples, and it was rare that we’d bump into people my parent’s age, let alone my or my sister’s age. Once we found this very cool woman and her daughter who were also staying at Bill Hahn’s. They had the most amazing long, dark, straight hair. In fact, it reminded me of Morticia’s hair from The Addam’s Family. I think she partly reminded me of Morticia because of her odd talent – she would “clap” bees to their death. It frightened me, but I always felt safe from bees when she was around. She’d lift her hands and with a loud >CLAP<, those buzzers would drop to the ground. D-E-D. Freaky. She even taught my mom how to do so. And my mom became the talk of my friends when we got home!

Despite the older clientele, there was plenty to do as a kid. The beach, of course, was the highlight. I’m not a huge fan of sand, but sitting on a towel under a well-placed umbrella with a few Barbie dolls was a great afternoon. We also walked the shoreline and collected shells. There was a small (read: tiny) island off the shore. In low tide, you could walk there, as long as you were mindful of the jellyfish. In high tide, a row boat could take you there in about 5 to 10 minutes. There wasn’t much to do on the isle, except look back toward the beach and be proud of your accomplishment in making it there. Oh, and you could look for more shells. I remember we took off to the island a bit late in the day, and our trip back was in low tide. My dad wasn’t thrilled pushing the oars/dragging the boat in the sand to move our little family back to the beach!

There were also arts and crafts. My favorite was collecting Queen Anne’s Lace flowers and placing them in a bottle with some water and food dye. Part science, part art, we’d watch as the flower slowly changed from white to red or blue or green as they “slurped” up the colored water. Neat-o!

Tennis was also a fun activity. My parents tried to play tennis, and my sister and I would run gleefully around trying to collect the balls.  We also played a lot of card games and Rummy-O, took trips into town, and so forth.

Even back then, the food was the highlight of my trip! As I mentioned, Bill Hahn’s served three meals a day. My favorite was a dinner consisting of grilled baby lamb chops and a broiled tomato with parmesan on top. (I’d eat off the cheese and ask for more!) I also remember trying lobster for the first time. (The bibs were a hoot!) Much of the produce was grown on property, and so the tomatoes were so fresh and sweet and juicy, we’d eat them for snack.

Desserts were heavenly! One older couple seated nearby in the dining room taught us the “drawer principle.”  My sister and I innately understand the theory; my parents needed re-education. “No matter how full your stomach is from lunch or dinner, there is always an extra drawer for dessert.” So true. So true!

And, if you made it back from the beach at just the right time in the afternoon, they’d open up the kitchen and give out huge scoops of ice cream. Fresh-made, yummalicious ice cream.

The dining room was a multi-purpose room of sorts. On many nights they had entertainers, and they’d convert the dining room into a swanky nightclub. Well, I remember it as being swanky, because they put candles dripping with multi-colored wax into old, Italian-looking wine bottles. Hey, I was a kid. I was easily impressed. Evidently, some big names performed there – including Babs, although that was before my time.

My parents befriended Bill Hahn’s over the years we visited. Since we were one of the few young families staying there, we tended to receive a bit more attention. (Who can resist a cute kid?!) Mr. Hahn was like a literary character in my mind: very kind, but sort of eccentric. To dip into Addam’s Family pop culture again, he sort of reminded me of Uncle Fester, but mostly because I remember him being bald and funny. He babysat my sister and I one evening so my parents could attend a special show in town; the resort had arranged for transportation and tickets for those guests who were interested, and he knew my parents would enjoy it. He sat up with us, playing with dolls, and read us Amelia Bedilia books like the best straight man in town. We were in stitches! He was sweet, kind, and warm.

At the end of every visit, when we would reluctantly bring the suitcases toward the front door, he would have a picnic basket lunch waiting for us for our loooooooong ride (of 2 hours) home.  His staff made one mean turkey sandwich!  I remember the bread being perfection–crunchy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside, and the smell of fresh yeast would fill the air. It was heaven. As much as we hated to leave, part of me looked forward to it, only to have that sandwich!

We’d pile into the car, laughing about the fun times we had shared, interesting people we had met, foods we had eaten, and my dad would say aloud,

“So that was Bill Hahn’s.”

 

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May 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. It’s Christmas night, and for much of the day I have been thinking of the wonderful years during which I spent Xmas week at Bill’s, with Bill, Ruth & Tony; Nate, Shirley & Scotty; the Bergers and the Batts from Philadelphia; and a vast collection of the most interesting characters I have met in my now 60 years. The Glass House. The glass paperweight cases by coat room in the Main House. Walks out to Salt Island on snow swept tidal flats. Trips with Nate and Shirley to Mystic Seaport, or to New Haven for bowling and pizza. Lobster lunches on Wednesday and Saturday, and overcooked crepes each morning for breakfast. Barbara Batt, my first romantic crush.
    I really enjoyed the piece you wrote. Wishing you well being, happiness and joy in the New Year.

    Comment by David Gilner | December 25, 2008 | Reply

    • David, was your father a doctor? My parents used to take us up there as well and I remember Nate and Shirley Oser as well as their son, Scott. Please write back to me at ghochberg67@msn.com. I am in touch with Alan Rubin – his parents are well and living in Queens. Alan lives in Jericho. My parents and I live in Merrick, LI. We should try organizing a reunion. I used to be a Sunday guest at the Batt’s house when I was living down in PA, attending Harcum Jr. College in the late 60’s.

      Comment by Gail Hochberg | June 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. My parents and my brother (John) and I were considered part of “Uncle” Bill’s family. In fact, my mom (Hetty) and I used to spend time down in the office helping to make the matchbooks which would have a family name (we still have one!) and would be left on the various dinner tables as a memento. Do you remember the only waitress there – Doris? She was tough but she had a great heart for us kids. Or the Oliver boys who waited at different times in their college lives. Arnie took me “Submarine Race-Watching” (yeah.. I believed that one) at night on a date and I had my first real and romantic kiss at the age of 17 from him.

    Comment by Gail Hochberg | June 3, 2010 | Reply


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