Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s by the Forward

Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s

Tania Grossinger’s childhood was the stuff of modern fairytales. Like a version of Kay Thomson’s Plaza Hotel-dwelling Eloise by way of “Dirty Dancing,” Grossinger grew up largely unsupervised at the famed Catskills hotel that shares her family’s name. She catalogs her exploits, many of which involve some combination of mischief and Borscht Belt celebrities, in “Growing Up at Grossinger’s” (Skyhorse Publishing), a memoir first published in 1975 and reissued this year.

Grossinger was born in Chicago in 1937, and at age 8 was whisked away to the Catskills by her mother, a member of the hotelier clan first by marriage and then, after her husband died, by economic necessity. In Tania’s telling, the “owner Grossingers” treated her and her mother, who took a job at the hotel, as second-class citizens — but that rarely interfered with her penchant for hijacking rowboats, intercepting guests’ budding romances and palling around with such celebrity visitors as Eddy Fisher, Rocky Marciano and Jackie Robinson.

“Danny Kaye never tipped,” she writes in a typical anecdote about baby-sitting for the stars’ children. “In fact, he still owes me 75 cents.”

Robinson, on the other hand, presented her with a custom-made cake when she was accepted to Brandeis University.

According to Grossinger, her family’s hotel was, in its heyday, home to some 1,000 guests each week. But it dwindled in size and prestige by the late 1960s because of the rise of jet travel, increased opportunities for young, single Jews to meet without the support of an enormous hotel staff behind them, and the advent of television variety shows that paid entertainers more for a five-minute appearance than the hotel did for a whole weekend.

But Catskills hotel culture remains a source of fascination even for those who never experienced it, Grossinger told the Forward.

“It’s Americana,” she said, adding that the executive director of The Catskills Institute, who is also a professor at Brown University, taught a class on the subject several years ago. “And this was not in Jewish studies, it was in sociology. They used my book as part of the course — be still my heart.”

Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Americana: The Story of Grossinger’s

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close