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Saturday, May 22, 2010

THE POCONOS, End of an Era

We went to SKYTOP LODGE in the Poconos for mother's day weekend. It was also our oldest son's 35th birthday so our son and daughter-in-law came along with us. Our youngest is finishing his second year of grad school at RISD and is doing the typical end of semester cramming, so he had to visit us by phone.

My husband's family has been going to Skytop for over forty years and once a year, for the past thirty-plus years, we try to follow this family tradition. We have photos of our children on the front porch when they were just little guys right through the current day; a photo montage of our sons' growth. Built in 1928, Skytop hasn't changed too much; it's still a grand old elegant throwback set on 5,500 acres with all manner of summer and winter sports. They always have live music on Saturday nights. This year they had a 16 piece orchestra in the PINE ROOM for the GRAND MARCH, which can only be described as a snake dance throughout the entire first floor of the lodge, both inside and out.

But this blog entry is really about the other part of the Poconos, from Stroudsburg to Canandensis. During World War II, many GI's took their leave with their girlfriends and families to the Poconos. Easy to get to by car, many returned in the 1940's after the war to honeymoon there and the Poconos became a world-renowned romantic destination.

When more people began flying to their favorite honeymoon spots in the 1960's, fewer visited the Poconos. During the 60's and 70's, Las Vegas hotel chains began buying property in the hopes that casino gambling would become a reality. To outsiders the romantic Pocono region became a caricature of itself with the advent of heart shaped or champagne glass tubs and circular beds; more of a bordello style than the ideal place to start your married life. When we passed through this honeymoon area on Route 447 North throughout the last thirty or so years, things were fairly stagnant as if the entire region was holding its breath and waiting for a new draw for vacationers.

With the current economic downturn, our ride up to Skytop was especially poignant this year. Restaurants and stores we previously visited on Rt. 447 and in the center of Canandensis were closed up, bearing "For Sale", "For Lease" and, never saw this one before, "For Trade" signs. The last of the funky '60s honeymoon resorts, PENN HILLS, went bankrupt this past year and was closed for back taxes.

Just looking at PENN HILLS in this condition brought tears to my eyes, imagining the many people who actually believed the hype and came to the Poconos for their dream honeymoon. You could almost feel the spirits of those World War II veterans bringing their own children back years later to see where Mom and Dad had begun their married life. Some of their grown children may have even followed in their parents' footsteps and had their own romantic Pocono weekends here.

Some things still remain. SKYTOP LODGE is still a magical place and the area is still beautiful with mountains and streams and wonderful foliage in the fall. But the era of the Poconos as a honeymoon destination is long past and, sadly, nothing has begun to replace it, leaving empty, boarded up buildings and the echos of those long ago happy couples just beginning their lives.

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