I hope to share research, information, tips, and a little of my family history with others following the path to greater genealogical awareness. Let the search for enlightenment continue...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944

"Elmer"
(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Owned by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2014 Cynthia ShenetteI'm constantly surprised by which of my blog posts resonate with readers.  Last year I posted Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943, because I loved the photos and hoped to possibly make contact with someone who either remembered the ranch or was related to someone shown in my photos. Much to my surprise that post was my most popular post of 2013 and one of my most popular posts of all time!  A number of readers have graciously taken the time to contact me over the last year to share information about Tumbleweed.

"After the Hayride"
"Before"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, left; Unidentified, center; Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, right

"After"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, left; Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, center; Unidentified, right 
My mom, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, and her sister, Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, vacationed at Tumbleweed during the war years of 1943, 1944, and 1945.  I probably have a 100 photos in a scrapbook that were taken over the three year period! The captions under the photos in this post are the captions my mother used in her scrapbook.

"Kris + Helene riding a pair of Army horses"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, left; Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, right

"Jack on Patches"
Jack Franks
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch was located in Westkill, NY, a hamlet of the town of Lexington, NY.  I learned John R. "Jack" Franks owned Tumbleweed from the 1940s through about 1958. According to a newspaper article Jack was a former rodeo rider and bronco buster from Santa Fe, NM.  He started Tumbleweed around 1941 and owned other dude ranches in New York state, including the Rawhide Guest Ranch and the Navajo Guest Ranch.  A reader contacted me and told me he grew up at Tumbleweed--his father purchased the property from the original owner, probably Jack Franks, in 1958.

"Helene feeding Ambitious a daisy"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle

"Jack + Patches"
Jack Franks
 
Dude ranches were a popular vacation destination in the 1930s and through the war years of the 1940s. If you look at vacation advertisements from the time, you will see dozens of ads for dude ranches in the East--in the Berkshires, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the Poconos, and elsewhere.  An article from 1936 in the New York Times said that dude ranches catered to some 15,000 dudes annually.

"Helene, Kris + Irv."
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, left; Helene (Szereko) Dingle, center; Irv, right

"Time out for Dawsons "
I found a couple dozen newspaper ads for Tumbleweed from the 1940s and 1950s in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey newspapers, including in the Boston Herald and the New York Times. Tumbleweed was advertised as a "real Western style ranch run by experienced ranch folks." They offered free horseback riding instructions for beginning and experienced riders, 25 to 35 hours of saddle time a week, rides over "magnificent mountain country," as well as rodeos, pack trips, chuck wagon suppers, and square dances.  Their slogan was, "Vacation on Horseback"  and motto was, "There's no time clock on our horses' tails!"

Helene (Szerejko) Dingle

"Helene - leg art"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle

Tumbleweed advertised moderate rates for modern, private log cabins with showers, as well as excellent food.  The main ranch house was constructed of logs and contained an "Indian fireplace" decorated in "western fashion."

"Crisco Kid"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette

"Kris Soaping Saddles"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette
Guests were assigned a horse at the beginning of the week and responsible for the grooming, feeding, and bathing of their horse for the duration of their stay.  I kind of forgot, until I saw the photo above, my mom learned how to ride on an English saddle rather than on a western saddle.  I remember my mom said that one of the guys at the ranch use to kid her and ask her how she was able to ride on "that postage stamp!" 

"Follies Cowgirls"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette

"Follies Cowgirls"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle

Another reader who vacationed at Tumbleweed between 1951 and 1952 contacted me and said the people who ran Tumbleweed did not discriminate against Jews when other resorts did.  I found a 1941 advertisement for Tumbleweed in the Jewish Chronicle which substantiates this.  My reader said the folks at Tumbleweed were fun and "open-minded" during a time of discrimination and prejudice.  She told me she met a group of girls there, and they became friends for life.  Some guests, like my mom and her sister and this lady, returned to Tumbleweed year after year.

"Shoeing Powderpuff"
 Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, left; Jack Franks, center; Elmer, shoeing Powderpuff

"Kris, Rex, Helene"
Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, left; Rex, center; Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, right

I'm not sure why my mom and her sister stopped going to Tumbleweed after 1945.  Maybe the end of the war changed things and opportunities for other types of vacations opened up.  I do know that my mom loved Tumbleweed and talked about her time there fondly.  Mom worked at the Ration Board during the war, so maybe after the war she had different friends once she moved on to a new job and she and her sister decided to explore new destinations for their annual summer vacation.

"The sister act"
Irv, back row center; Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, second on the right;
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, far right

Jack Franks sold Tumbleweed around 1958 but remained in the guest ranch business.  According to a newspaper article he operated the largest ranch for children on the East Coast, at least into the 1960s. Tumbleweed eventually became a riding camp for teens in the 1960s and 1970s.  If you are interested, there is an active Facebook group devoted to sharing memories of Tumbleweed.

This concludes this year's visit to Tumbleweed.  See y'all next year!



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