About The Book
He Lost it in the Catskills
In this story based on his true experience, author Jerry Greenfield takes us back to the final years of the so-called “Borscht Belt” -- the area in the mountains just north of New York City that was, for generations, a haven for Jewish summer vacationers at many resort hotels and bungalow colonies. It was also the region that launched the careers of many famous comedians and singers. As a child, Jerry spent all his summers at the bungalow adjoining Rubel’s Mansion… the hotel once owned by his mother’s family. He came of age as a busboy and waiter in several Borscht Belt hotels over the course of ten years. This story is based on his experiences, the friends he found, and the innocence he lost coming of age in this legendary (and now bygone) region.
Life as a Busboy
You always started off as a busboy and, after a few summers’ experience, worked your way up to a waiter’s job. The summer season started on the July 4th weekend and ended on Labor Day. You worked three meals a day, seven days a week for nine weeks, and the only rest you got was the few hours between lunch and dinner. The hotel paid you nothing…maybe $5-$10 a week because they had to. The real money came from tips. Guests sat the same table for their entire stay, and tipped when they checked out. The amount of the tip depended on the quality of the hotel. Rubel’s Mansion, for example, was a “ten and six” house, which meant the waiter expected ten dollars per person per week, and the busboy six. For a busboy, that’s less than 30 cents per meal, per person…but with 30 people at your station, you could wind up with $180 a week, all in cash. The $1600 you’d earn for the summer bought a lot of textbooks and meals at college.
New Found Friends
It was the mid-1960s and every summer was a summer of love. In the fresh cool evenings, romance bloomed, relationships flourished and often became deliciously physical…at least for the summer. Some romances lasted longer than that, and many couples of my parents’ generation met their spouses during that special week or weekend when the singles came up from the city looking for love.