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Monday, December 26, 2011

Didja Know? Smoke Rise Christmas Celebrations

Here is Cornie Hubner's "Christmas Celebrations" from his Smoke Rise Didja Know? series.

Christmas Celebrations


The 1947 Christmas Season Celebration for the two resident Club families was magnanimously provided by bountiful Mother Nature with a three-foot mantle of unblemished crystals that covered the land and turned every tree into an original decorated masterpiece glistening in the sunshine. Relatives, friends and soon to be residents traveled poorly plowed State Highways and untouched Country Roads to reach an unexpected five miles of perfectly cleared roads that led oto the occupied homes and the several buildings under construction.

It was truly a winter wonderland, a dazzling Christmas Card vista that had delighted the Kinneys and their friends almost exclusively (except for the few brave poachers) for many years. The view from the Cottage on the Lake brought a miniature Switzerland to their doorsteps. Indoors a huge, beautiful Christmas Tree, surrounded by stacks of colorful packages provided the Lord of the Manor with a regal setting for the distribution of gifts for the family, friends and members of the staff.

The Franciscan Monastery in Butler provided the Celebrant for the Mass offered in St. Hubert's Chapel on the island when the ice was thick enough to offer safe passage for the worshipers. It was heated by a huge wood burning stove and a fireplace in whose flickering light the gem-like interior presented a  picture of medieval splendor matched only by the private chapels of European Nobility.
(At this point you should be reminded that concentrated effort by dedicated members, implementing the restoration plans long dormant, is needed to restore this one of a kind jewel or at least save it from its continuing deterioration. Tom Kline, a former Smoke Rise resident, has devoted time and money for many years in a losing battle to "hold the line." He, now living at No. 3 Sabeys Beach Road, Kinnelon, 492-2620, would be very happy to explain his plans and welcome your assistance. See "Didja Know" December 15, 1985.)
By Christmas 1949, some 35 hardy pioneer families were located in comfortable homes on over ten miles of gravel roads. One of the early members recalled his first, never to be forgotten, leadership of a group of carolers whose limited talents were offset by its enthusiasm.  His gradually freezing fingers produced the music that covered the off key voices and achieved a genuine welcome in home after home. The exhausted well wassailed songsters made a last scheduled visit, to enjoy a reviving repast, little realizing they had established a prototype for the Christmases to follow.

No, not from Smoke Rise. Rather, the
Rockefeller Center Tree in NYC
The Inn provided the limited area in what is now the Meeting Room for the first formal New Year's Eve Ball with dinner in the area now occupied by the Reception and Cloakroom at the all inclusive cost of fifteeen dollars per couple. By the end of 1950 it was realized that the facilities were inadequate and a roof was built over the patio to join the Inn to the Cow Barn. This previous home of the prize brown Swiss herd, with a low ceiling and many iron pipe supports for the haymow above, after almost fifty years of disuse, became the White Room, in time for the 1951 formal New Year's Party.

Used for Club Meetings it transformed into a place of Worship for the growing Community Church every Sunday, when the organ, vestments and hymnals miraculously made their appearance. It sometimes required the frenzied efforts of the parish to remove evidence of the previous night's party and ride the air of the aroma of the liquid refreshments served. This continued until 1956, when the Church built on three acres donated by the Company was consecrated.

From the beginning, J. Alden Talbot, then also president of the American Ballet Theatre, encouraged the formation of the Clubs now functioning. He sponsored the formal Christmas Tea, at which his invited hostesses "poured" using their own silver services that they were proud to display. Interest was created by his guests that at one time included the entire Sadler Wells Ballet, Russian Nobility, and opera stars. The many teas that followed culminated each year at the Women's Club, Garden Club Tea where the Greeting Fund distribution started in 1966. That year the Fire Department and Tri-boro first divided the approximately $1,800 raised. Twenty years later, $30,000 was shared by thirteen charities with about $7,000 each to the original recipients.

Cocktail dances and the New Year's Eve Formal, with well known orchestras (a Lester Lanin Society Unit at one time) were being oversubscribed. By 1960, the full course dinner was priced at $4.50 (including a shrimp cocktail) and the full treatment $10.00 included breakfast.  By 1973, the White Room and the two rooms in the Inn were needed for over 200 at the cost that had risen to $20.00.

The Season was always inaugurated by Mr. Talbot with the lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Inn. Events for the children that featured Santa Claus, Cotillions for High School students and formal dances for College kids began in '57.  The following year an Outdoor Decoration Contest added a new activity to the growing schedule. All Club functions transferred to the Community Church in '77 and formal dances were held at the Rockaway River Golf Club until '81 with gala opening of our present facilities.

Following the period from 1924 when social activities ceased, until the Smoke Rise Club started in 1957, the last forty years have been a period of phenomenal growth and increasingly rewarding activities as evidenced by the thirteen active Social, Religious, Educational and Athletic Clubs now available for the benefit of the more than 800 families of its members.

Merry Christmas & Happy, Healthy New Year 2012!


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