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August 20, 2014
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Sullivan County unplugged; Roscoe: memories of the country

Jimmy Schramm fishing, circa 1956.
Photos by Louis J. Schramm


ROSCOE, NY — If winter doldrums and contemporary life are getting you down, try spending a couple of hours reading “Roscoe: Memories of the Country,” a charming collective memoir of summer vacations spent on a relatives’ dairy farm outside Roscoe. Written by 10 members of the extended Schramm family, each contributing one chapter, this short book edited by Thom Schramm tells of daily routines and memorable events seen through the eyes of New York metro area children reveling in the natural world and tight-knit community of mid-20th-century Sullivan County.

Baby boomers and generations born before them who resided in or visited Sullivan County in the 1940s through the early 1960s will wax nostalgic over the Schramms’ stories. Later generations may even find them a blueprint for an alternative lifestyle. But almost everyone will have their spirits buoyed by the wonder and guileless happiness of the children at the heart of these reminiscences.

A simpler time, maybe. Told in straightforward style and in their own words, the Schramms describe the joys and hardships faced on the farm. During the early years, living conditions could be described as primitive at best, with neither electricity, nor indoor plumbing. Says Jack Schramm, “Before retiring, a trip to the outhouse was necessary. We were all required to go, even if we thought we didn’t have to.”

But the Schramm children clearly considered those conditions mere inconveniences that couldn’t overshadow the omnipresent beauty and bounty of nature that was theirs on the farm. Jane Schramm says, “We were little rich kids. We had thousands of trees and newts, thousands of frogs and lightning bugs, zillions of wild flowers, trout in the brook, a waterfall, a quarry, a butterfly field and a pool in the backyard.”

And it wasn’t just the sojourn on the farm that was the stuff of derring-do. New roads and advances in highway and automotive engineering have rendered the drive from the city to the country a comfortable two-hour commute that many county residents now make twice daily. In the Schramm children’s recollections, it was a long and sometimes precarious journey with all the danger and adventure of a safari. Jim Schramm describes a typical trip from Manhattan: “Over the bridges, eyes closed and scared to death to New Jersey, ever smelly, up Route 17. Another eye-closer for me was the road across from Bear Mountain that snaked on the edge of the mountain above the river. Totally scary.”

Jane Schramm sadly notes the inevitable changes that accompany the march of time: “With the renovation of Route 17 came ‘progress.’ The train is gone. The old post office has moved and so has the gas station.”

Not everything has changed, however. Some of the best local entertainment that Sullivan County had to offer back when is still around for visitors and residents alike to enjoy today. Jane Schramm remembers: “To the right was a small bandstand where, in summer on Wednesday nights, the Callicoon Center band would play. We would go and sit in the grass and listen to the band and the brook and watch the stars through the trees.”

“Roscoe: Memories of the Country” was published in December 2013 by University Bookstore Press, and is available for purchase from the publisher at a cost of $10 per copy. It can also be found on the local authors shelf in the Delaware Branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library at Callicoon.