Many people ask themselves, how does a family come to be? Some have a complex theory on how, and surely there are a variety of variables, but I believe it can all be broken down to a select few life altering decisions. This is the story of how the Handel family, which now spans over four generations, came to be.
When Manfred Robert Handel came to America, on an apprenticeship, he had only five dollars in his pocket and a driving ambition to make something of himself. For years he toiled, dedicating himself to the work at hand in order to generate enough money to survive in this new country. However, as is usual, he began dreaming of a place to escape to, even if only temporarily. Eventually, through the help of the friends he came to make, he was able to find that oasis within the Catskills, specifically a little town called East Durham. After the hustle and bustle of the New York City streets Bob, as he now referred to himself as, found peace and comfort in the pleasant faces and hospitable places that East Durham offered. These next summer nights were endless and the dancing seemed to never cease. And in this haze of good natured fun and bliss, in a popular bar of its time, Bob met the woman who would one day be his wife, Ginger.
Bob knew immediately that he wanted Ginger to be his wife, however, she would only agree to a marriage under one condition, that he buy her a horse farm in their beloved Catskills. So, as the story goes, he did; and thus Tanglewood Ranch was born. To this ranch they dedicated their lives, faithfully caring for up to seventy-five horses at a time whilst guiding horseback rides and conducting horse drawn hayrides for popular hotels all throughout the area. Roy and Dale, the children of Bob and Ginger, grew up on this farm and within East Durham. They dreamed of one day owning a resort in this flourishing community, knowing the opportunities it would allow for them. In consequence, when Mullins Irish Spring came to be for sale the family discussed the choice and decided that it would be a sound investment for their future.
For over two decades the family worked together in harmony, balancing the newfound responsibilities of resort ownership with the already plentiful ones of the Horseback ranch. Ginger, having always had a knack for cooking, given that she personally cared for a multitude of youths who worked their summers at Tanglewood, stepped into the role of head chef. Homemade soups, and comfort dishes were ceaseless in her kitchen and for this reason, the Blackthorne Resort reputation has always been intertwined with whisperings of its quality food. At the same time, the other members of the family were starting to find their niches. Dale was content with guiding horse rides during the day while bartending through the night, while Roy, on the other hand, had other aspirations. Having always been attracted to machine work, the idea of an amusement park was just up his alley. Wanting all of their children to be passionate about their work, Bob and Ginger purchased a small kiddie park, on route 145, and gave it to their eldest son. Roy, along with his wife Patricia, worked for years to create something out of the park, giving it the name of Supersonic Speedway and incorporating it into their resort as an amenity to coincide with horseback riding.
Now you might think that this branching off into different sects would mean the family was beginning to drift apart, however, it was actually quite the opposite. Roy and Patty began to have children that would very soon become a part of the business dynamic, and not long after so did Dale, along with his wife Jen. All of these new children, what would be seven in total, offered a new bonding experience for the family and an exciting new chapter of all their lives, Dale and Roy experiencing fatherhood for the first time, and Bob and Ginger becoming new grandparents. Like their fathers before them, all of the children were accepted into the Irish community of East Durham and grew up there, always knowing they had an assortment of people who they could rely on. With such an extensive support system and close knit family it was not long before they each began to blossom in unique ways. For the next decade or so the family worked hard to keep their resort full of excitement and fun, constantly broadening their horizons in order to incorporate new groups of people into their business. Despite the constant obstacles they faced, the family always triumphed in everything they attempted as a consequence of their collaboration.
Nevertheless, life has a way of throwing us all curveballs, and on September 18th, 2010 it did just that. During the Catskill Mountain Thunder motorcycle rally, one of the largest events the Blackthorne puts on all year, a fire started in the main building which included the dining room, office, kitchen and bar of the resort. Luckily, no one was injured but the building was decimated and left a tremendous amount of destruction behind for the Handel family. But as I have mentioned, we never let obstacles bring us down. Even if that obstacle is our entire life’s work burning before our eyes. With help from a multitude of community members we were able to establish a makeshift dining hall in our pavilion and prepare and serve food right from there, so that our events could still go on. We felt triumphant, we had endured a massive blow and were able to stand up again despite it. Then, just once we were getting back onto our feet another tragedy struck as the Handel family lost their matriarch, Ginger.
The following six months were anything but easy. A building was designed and the process of rebuilding began without missing a heartbeat, and just in time for our first group of the season, in April, a new main house had been built. Many years have now passed since this experience, but that doesn’t make its ramifications any less substantial. My family did not have much financial support when we lost the building, but the support from our community members and friends never ceases to amaze us. While we were able to rebuild we are still in the process of restoring our resort to its former glory and we hope that you can bear with, and support us by making this journey one of your own as well.
-My name is Morgan Handel. I am 15 years old, and this is the story of how my family, and all of the events we have been through, made me the person I am today. Now I invite you to come be a part of my family.