Soon after setting up the lodge for Loch Lomond, Lilburn and Ruth Prather Moody opened a campground, had the land subdivided, and began selling lots. At this time in America’s history, a working-class family could own a vacation home. And the Loch Lomond Resort was no exception: If someone wandered into the bar on a Saturday afternoon, they could have a chat with Ruth, and she’d write up a deed of sale on the placemat. For $500, a person could buy a lot and build a cabin.
Ralph and Rose Pezzolo, an Italian couple who spent their summers in Loch Lomond giving accordion lessons, were some of the first. Pupils would come up from the city for a week or a summer, learn the accordion, and fall in love with the place. Of course, many ended up buying a lot and telling their friends and family, who also bought lots. Soon Loch Lomond, the resort with the Scottish name, became filled with Italian families. Reading the cabins’ nameplates is like a tour of Italy: Biggi, Faenzi, Restani, Martinelli.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Loch Lomond filled with families from the city. Every day, people could more than fill their time with activities. Bingo games ran on a regular schedule, and there always was the Olympic-sized pool to enjoy. Then there were weekend hayrides, Scrabble tables, bocce games, outdoor movies, horseback riding, innumerable, over-the-top dinners, and accordion dances at the Pezzolo’s.
But for many families, their summers in the mountains weren’t just about playing. They spent their weekends building cabins, some more successfully than others. These cabins represent some of the best and worst styles of the 1940s and 50s, some looking like forest service lodges, others like two decades of haphazard weekend projects cobbled into a livable space.
Fortunately, more skilled craftsmen built our home. It sits just above three other cabins, all built by Italo “Dea” Faenzi, his brother Romi, brother-in-law John Tavoni, and the Mullins and Ansaldo clan for their families. “My dad and Uncle Romi spent weekends up here building this,” Deanna Faenzi-Glass says one night over dinner at our place. “And they built it for my dad’s brother and sister, Romeo and Juliet.” Deanna continues, her dark eyes sparkling as she talks. “They made it so they both could come up here with their families.”
That explains the house’s somewhat unique layout, a perfect mirror image: two bedrooms separated by a bathroom on either side of the house with a kitchen and living room stretching down the middle.
Deanna laughs. “It was Romeo on one side and Juliet on the other.”
It’s a warm evening in late July, and Deanna and Madelyn Martinelli sit around the table on our patio, chatting over dinner. They have birthdays within a week of mine, so Trudy and I had them up to celebrate. Both spent their summers up here as kids and have celebrated their birthdays together for decades.
“We decided every year we’d party for a week on our birthdays,” Madelyn says to me, sipping on a glass of wine.
“But we’re getting old, David,” Deanna adds. “I’m 70, and I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to go on partying like this.”
Madelyn smiles and turns to her food. Since we moved to Loch Lomond, Trudy and I have learned quite a bit about Italian cooking. But the truth of it is we don’t know much. So perhaps we shouldn’t have served pasta.
“Do you like the gravy?” Trudy asks as Madelyn takes a bite.
“At least that’s what I think it is,” I say. “I was told it was an authentic Italian gravy recipe.”
Madelyn swallows and wipes her mouth with her napkin. “It’s good,” she says, “but this isn’t what I thought was gravy. The gravy my mother used to make was a dark sauce with roast and mushrooms.”
“You know,” Deanna says, trying to be polite. “It’s probably from a different region of Italy. They all have different recipes.” Then she begins telling the story of a long trip she took to Italy. Deanna’s always got a story, and they’re all good ones. She was pregnant on tour with Grace Slick and Jefferson Starship and hung out with Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead. Talking with her is like taking a trip through two decades of great music. (“She blew my mind,” my son said one day after talking to her. “When I asked her if she had ever met Ringo Starr, she told me he was a nice guy!”)
“Could you pass me some bread?” Deanna asks, taking a break from her story.
I hand it to her.
“Grazie.” She takes the bowl, sets it down, and puts a piece on her plate.
“Prego,” I reply, using one of my three Italian words.
She looks at me and smiles, then says something in Italian.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I say. “That’s about all I know.”
Deanna winks. “We’ll make an Italian of you yet,” she replies. “Don’t you worry.”
As dinner winds down, Madelyn pulls out a binder filled with newspaper clippings and photographs. For twenty-nine years, she has run the Loch Lomond Mail Express. She’s the first person Trudy and I met when we moved up, and she’s always been a wealth of knowledge about the area.
“I know you were looking for information, so I brought this,” she says and begins to flip through her book. Trudy, Deanna, and I arch our necks to see each page.
“Ooh, look at this,” she says, pulling out a copy of “Cobb Connection,” a newspaper column she wrote for the Middletown Times-Star. “This one’s about Andy Goske. He was the chef for Adams Springs. Do you remember him?”
“I remember him,” Deanna says. “He made the best blackberry pies.”
Madelyn flips the page, and a photograph of Hoberg’s airport appears, the runway lined with planes. A DC-3 sits at the corner of the image, probably some band in to play for the weekend.
“Hoberg’s had the big bands come in,” Madelyn says. “Glenn Miller played there, if you know who he is.”
She flips the page again, revealing a photograph of Howard Springs Resort. “People would party all night at Hobergs, then go to Howard Springs to work off their hangovers,” Madelyn laughs. “It was more health-oriented. There were different springs with different minerals in them, like magnesium or sulfur.”
“You could go from resort to resort back then,” Deanna says. “And there was always something going on. “
It’s true; resorts dotted the entire Cobb Mountain area. Even the resort of Loch Lomond had smaller resorts in it: Pezzolo’s, now called Italian Village, is still known for its incredible family-style dinners. Overseen by Maria Angelli, people sit side-by-side at long tables, laughing, chatting, and drinking wine while teenagers serve platters heaped with bread, salad, pasta, and meat, just like their parents did before them.
It’s also the scene of my first truly Italian eating experience.
Trudy and I had been to Italian Village’s dinners and enjoyed them, so we decided to bring up another couple for a work dinner one night. We didn’t know them well but figured that the joy of a dinner in the mountains would compensate for any awkwardness.
We sat next to Julie Ciardella, who helps set up the dinners. While we talked with our business associates, she handed us plates of food.
“You need some more pasta,” she said to me, spooning a large pile on my recently emptied plate.
“Thank you,” I replied. The pasta was good, so I didn’t mind eating a bit more. We still had pork coming, but, figuring I could make it, cleaned my plate.
Seeing my need and realizing that I was distracted talking, Julie spooned on another pile of pasta. “Here you go,” she said.
“Thank you,” I replied again.
“You know,” Julie said, plopping some more on top of what I hadn’t finished yet. “When I was a kid, my priest told me it was a sin not to eat all your pasta.”
I looked at my plate and realized I was in trouble. But seriously, it’s a sin not to eat all the pasta? Well, I didn’t want to go to hell, so I ate it.
But the real trouble came about ten minutes later. Trudy and I kept chatting with our business associates, talking about this or that, when suddenly one became awkward. She stayed silent for a minute or two, perhaps thinking before she spoke.
“You’ve got a button undone on your shirt,” she finally blurted out.
I quickly looked down, and sure enough, all that pasta had caused me to burst, not one, but two buttons on what had been a loose shirt an hour ago. Yup, there was my stomach, sticking out and letting everyone know that I hadn’t sinned, at least according to Julie’s childhood priest. However, I pretty sure I bumped into gluttony. I quickly buttoned my shirt and tried not to act embarrassed, but the damage had been done, and Julie had done it; she popped me. But at least I’m not going to hell for not eating pasta.
Back at our dinner table, Madelyn’s moved on to a new page of her scrapbook. “Here’s one of the old Loch Lomond resort before it burned. Did you know we had our own post office?” Next to the photo is a postmark dated October 16, 1960, listing Mrs. Ruth Moody as the first Postmaster. The post office shut down in 1990, leaving room for Madelyn to start her business and keep a community mail service in Loch Lomond.
“And will you just look at this one,” she says, flipping the page again. Photographs sit on a faded yellow construction paper page. “Here’s the pool, and here’s one of a bocce tournament. We had lots of those. And this one’s of Biggi’s Resort.”
Evening twilight has turned to dark; the lights above the patio shine on the table now, creating glares on the plastic covering the photographs. We’ve chatted for several hours, and it’s time to say our goodbyes.
“Thank you for coming,” Trudy says, rising from her chair. Deanna stands up, kisses her on both cheeks and thanks her, then comes over to kiss mine. As Madelyn packs up her binder and turns to go, a thought pops into her head.
“I’ve got all kinds of other things I can show you,” She said. “I’ll let you take a look at them when you come for the mail.”
“Have a happy birthday week,” I say as the ladies walk down the steps.
“You, too,” Deanna says, heading down the stairs her father built, then down the mountainside to her cabin, also built by her father. “Ciao.”
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