Sunday, August 2, 2020

Talking with my friend Naomi Caryl, part 1

Several months ago I read a post on Ronni Bennett's blog about the disappearance of blogging friends - those who no longer visit blogs, or at least her blog.  She wondered if they had moved on or even may have died.  She said "One thing I've learned from producing this blog for so many years is how much of ourselves and our personalities we reveal over time in words, phrases and ideas we choose.  Years of reading the thoughts of people on a variety of topics cannot help but lead us to care about them, to feel a connection."  This is so true; we do get attached to our blogging friends.  One of the comments to her post jumped at me.  The author was wondering about a friend blogger who had stopped writing since 2015, who lived in California and loved special flower arrangements.  I immediately thought about my friend Naomi.  Remembering how much Naomi loves flowers, I called her florist in Hollywood and had a special arrangement delivered to her that same day, with a note that it was from me and all her previous blogging friends.  The arrangement is in the heading.  I decided to write this post for her followers.  They will remember the charming flower arrangements Naomi often showed in her blog, below are a couple of them (I talk often with Naomi.)

Many of my reading friends may not know Naomi.  I wrote several posts about her.  Please look at them so you can get a better idea about her career - see Old Lady from the Hills, part 1
and Part 2 here. She wrote her blog Here in the Hills from 2005 to 2015.  It can still be read on the Internet.  She must have written 1000 posts explaining her interesting life and career in show business.  She often included pictures of flowers from succulents in her garden, close-up of flowers and flower arrangements created by her favorite florist. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

A long time ago a friend from Oslo, Norway, listed his favorite blogs and told his readers to pick a couple.  I picked Naomi's blog "Here in the Hills" in California because my daughter lived there and Ginnie's blog "In Soul" because she was in Atlanta - but soon moved to The Netherlands. I met both of these bloggers in person.  My eldest daughter lived in Long Beach, California for several years and that is the way I visited Naomi in Hollywood.  She lives in a beautiful house on top of the Hollywood Hills and has a splendid view of downtown Los Angeles.  Below are photos I took on some of my visits to her.

Naomi was born in New York City on June 27, 1931.  Her full name is Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn, but she likes to be called Naomi Caryl.  Her father, Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981,) who she affectionately called Daddy Joe, had emigrated from Latvia with his mother and settled in Brooklyn, NY.  Joseph Hirshhorn went from rags to riches - his life the quintessence of the American Dream.  He became a mining magnate, financier and philanthropist.  He had a passion for art and throughout his life collected an enormous amount from international masters.  He donated the largest private art collection to the people of the USA: at first he donated 6000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and a large endowment to build The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, as a part of the Smithsonian Institution (https://hirshhorn.si.edu/visit/  .)  At his death in 1981 he willed another 6000 works of art and a $5 million endowment to the museum.  His art collection included many worldwide masters, such as Marc Chagall, Virginia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Edward Hopper, Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, Emily Carr and too many to list.  Below are some of the paintings in the collection.

Top left: Woman with Hat, Pablo Picasso, Spanish 1851-1973, below is Landscape, Man Ray, American 1890-1976, center is The Houses of Parliament, Winslow Homer, American 1836-1910, Below is Borghese Gardens, John Singer Sargent, American 1856-1925, the Soft Grey, Alcalde Hills by Georgia O'Keeffe, American 1887-1986 then a book on the Hirshhorn Museum.

Naomi grew in Great Neck on the Long Shore of Long Island, 17 miles from New York City.  Several years ago my late husband and I visited Long Island for a vacation and traveled to Great Neck.  We were invited into Naomi's former home.  I wrote a post about it - Read it here.  Below is a photo I took of the Long Island Sound at the time.

Naomi's parents built a farm in 1938 in Angels, Pennsylvania, a beautiful area of the Pocono Mountains.  They called it Huckleberry Hill Farm because the surrounding hills were covered with wild  huckleberries.  But Naomi's family was not welcome because they were Jewish.  All the inns and hotels in the area were "restricted" meaning no Jews (of course it also meant no Black people.)  Naomi even remembers one sign that said "No Dogs or Jews" with second billing to the Jews.  Some were more polite with "Gentiles only" signs.  You don't forget things like that.  However, all summer long Naomi and her siblings sold the huckleberries they collected on the hills to the restricted hotels there, including a large resort hotel called Skytop Lodge, then they gave the proceeds to Jewish charities... Below are vintage postcards of Skytop Lodge, established in 1928 (now a member of Historic Hotels of America) and the way it looks now.

They also sold their wild huckleberries to another "restricted" resort called The Buck Hill Inn and Conference Center.  I checked the history of the inn - because why not.  It was built in 1901 by a group of Quakers and became a 500 rooms and 1000 acre retreat in the Pocono Mountains.  It had an amphitheater, 27-hole golf course, indoor pool, swimming, tennis, fishing, horseback riding in a  300,000 square feet facility.  In winter it offered skiing, sledding, toboggans, sled dog derbies and lovely Christmas decorations.  From the 1920s to 1940s it was the grandest hotel in the Poconos and was named one of the best convention centers in the country.  It was popular with honeymooners but also the mob - 73 people died there.  By 1970 it had lost its appeal and it was closed.  It sat abandoned until 2017, looking quite decayed and scary.  Hunting ghost groups have photos claiming proof of paranormal activity.  In 2017 the Buck Hill Inn was demolished and 132 acre of land and some remaining fireplaces were signed over to the Buck Hill Conservation Foundation.  Below are vintage postcards and photos of the inn in the 1920-30s.  The bottom two postcards show the inn in the early 1960s.

 Below are photos of the Buck Hill Inn as it stood before its demolition and after.  Dommage (a pity.)  (Photos courtesy the Buck Hill Conservation Foundation.)



 After talking about the Huckleberry Farm with Naomi I checked and their farm is still there, now and upscale Bed and Breakfast ostentatiously named The French Manor, advertising "Experience Sublime Tranquility in a country inn like any other, secluded and private, separate from the populace."  Rooms starts at $245 per person. Their site gives wrong historical information, I guess for snob appeal, telling that Joseph Hirshhorn "brought some 165 German and Italian craftsmen and artisans to 500 acres on Huckleberry Mountain to construct his summer retreat."  Not true since the family had been proud to employ local workmen only because of the Depression, no foreign craftsmen.  This was no summer retreat either said Naomi but "an actual working farm with cows and horses and chickens, where we grew our own corn as well as other vegetables, too.  We had an actual "swimming hole" there which we all loved!"  But to top it off the French Manor site had written this: "One of Joseph Hirshhorn's daughters, Naomi Hirshhorn Campbell kindly posted some great "then and now" photos of what her family lovingly called the "Huckleberry Hill Farm," now known as The French Manor."  Naomi Campbell?  really?  Well, Naomi Campbell is also an actress, a British actress born in 1970.  She is a glamorous lady and a talented businesswoman but the only thing they have in common is their first name.  I asked our Naomi if this second Naomi was any relation?  She laughed and said "no, no relation!"


This is getting long so I'll finish in my next post.  In the meantime if you wish to write a comment for Naomi in my comment area, I'll make sure that she gets it.   More to come....




 

24 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for the introduction to a fascinating woman from a fascinating family.
I love that you sent her flowers too - I am sure they warmed her heart.

Mae Travels said...

What a fascinating story. I have also noticed blogs that go dark -- sadly, one of my favorite bloggers died, and her blog completely disappeared, I think because she paid for hosting, and of course the payments stopped.

I guess all Jews and Black people who are old enough remember the "Restricted" signs. I certainly do! The bigotry and being shut out was much worse for Black people.

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Vagabonde,
This is a nice gesture by you for a dear lady!
Did leave you a comment + working link to the video on part one.
Yes, I've mysteriously also lost some special blogger friends. One lived in Mexico and she vanished, guess she got killed...
The written word does has an impact on us, on our thinking and thoughts processing!
We are all in this life together and meet each other for a reason.
Hope Naomi Caryl is fine. She's just two years younger as my dear Pieter so this is something that is near to my heart. Feeling oh so proud to see the life's work of my husband, his entire intellect, in print soon. We're waiting for the proof prints, coming from Philadelphia. I've prayed hard for keeping him at my side to live through this moment. We watched yesterday all the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites listing our book. It will be available soon and then our graphic designer who's now in Germany (she lives in England) to visit her parents, will create the eBook file so all 3 versions of book will be on.
Naomi sure left a mark!
You graciously underlined that for her!
Her Father was a true artist as well and her Mother was a beautiful lady, so was she and her siblings as cute kids and still beautiful at older age. That same beauty turns over the years more inward but that awaits all of us...
Hugs and thanks for doing this!
Mariette

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you so much for this interesting and informative account of Naomi's life that I wasn't aware of. I followed her blog for years and was so sad when she quit blogging. I was delighted when you posted on Ronnie's blog about Naomi and to learn she was still with us.
Naomi, you have been greatly missed and I hope you are in a happy, comfortable place in life. The Oscars just aren't the same with out your input. Be well and stay safe.

DJan said...

I know what you mean about getting upset when blogging friends disappear. I am always happy to see something from you here, and although I didn't know Naomi, I was really touched by your story about her, and the flowers you sent. You are such a good person, I feel blessed to have found you through the internet. :-)

Hels said...

I loved my parents greatly, and have missed them badly over the last five years. But imagine having Joseph Hirshhorn as a parent!! Not only did he create amazing art collections during his life time; he bequeathed his treasures to the Smithsonian and therefore to the nation. His Museum was one of the first I visited in the USA, back in the day.

Jeanie said...

Thank you so much for this and I will look forward to the next post. As you may remember my telling you, I followed Naomi's blog closely and was so very sad when it stopped. I tried emailing with no reply and was concerned she may have passed. I am glad to hear that's not the case and so if she is reading these, Hello, Naomi! Naomi and I both share the same lung illness, bronchiectasis, and she is the only person I know almost personally who has it. That was a great comfort to me when I was first diagnosed.

I may have told you about my friend Margaret whose husband's relative was an artist from Germany whom I believe was saved by Naomi's father. I will find out the details and his name. And I have a copy of the CD of Naomi's Spoon River Anthology music/soundtrack, which is so very lovely. Thank you, thank you for sharing and I will eagerly look forward to the next post. Please send my best to Naomi.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Naomi has had an interesting life and lived in some beautiful places. I would like to think that we have moved beyond “restricted” clubs and such but what I have seen and heard in the past few years, is that they still exist. It is disgusting and disgraceful and we should be ashamed that they are allowed to be.

David said...

Vagabonde, Very interesting post about your very interesting friend... I can't imagine being one of Joseph Hirshhorn's children. Love the account of your visit to her old family home on Long Island. That was so nice of you! Your post inspired me to read a bit about the life and times of Hirshhorn himself. Love Naomi's art work! Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Jojo said...

Thank you for this post and the update. It is so good to know that Naomi is well. I loved reading her blog and learning about her interesting life. Please send a big hello from Jojos Joys.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Lovley and thoughtful post
Beautiful photos
Thank you for sharing. The abandoned rooms leave the heart heavy, but the flower arrangements, lift spirits even higher.

Joared said...

Enjoyed reading about Naomi as miss reading her interesting posts. Had been concerned health issues might have limited her blogging. I always liked photos of her plants, visiting creatures and her commentary.

Nadezda said...

Dear Vagabonde,
I read with interest your post about your friend Naomi. This is a true friendship over the years. I think Naomi's life should be recorded in a book. Does she want to publish a book? Beautiful bouquets, many flowers go well with each other.
Take care of yourself, hugs!

Divers and Sundry said...

This is a fascinating introduction. I miss bloggers who quit for whatever reason, and I appreciate that you were able to reach out to one you missed.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde - I didn't know Naomi ... but they are wonderful floral arrangements ... she must have loved her life in Hollywood. Her father has left a great legacy linked into the Smithsonian ... thanks for the post and for the visit - take care - Hilary

Vicki Lane said...

A fascinating story! I remember being introduced to Naomi's blog via your blog.

My readership has definitely diminished--so much stuff is online vying for our attention. And I no longer have the time to visit other blogs as much as I once did. I do try to visit those who comment on mine--as well as checking on old friends now and then.

Marg said...

This is such a lovely post. It is hard when someone just disappears and you don't know what happened to them.

R's Rue said...

Thank you for sharing.

Roderick Robinson said...

"It was popular with honeymooners but also the mob - 73 people died there."

Now there's a sentence that arouses more questions than it answers. Ah, second time round it becomes clearer if I spell mob with a capital letter,

Naomi Campbell. Best known - in the UK at least - as a model and for her uncertain temper. She once threw a phone, a real one not a portable, at someone. She was sentenced to several hours community service, turning up to sweep the roads in the sort of outfit she wore when appearing on the front of Vogue.

I must say you do get about. I wondered whether I'd outdistanced you by going to Japan; but no, your blog lists three mentions. I was luckier with Venezuela. Had you listed that country I was prepared to come back with: "Bet you never went there to inspect a steel plant." In fact you'd probably have enjoyed it - like a prelude to Dante's Inferno.

Cergie said...

Quel fabuleux destin de Naomi tu nous contes là, Vagabonde et quelle chance tu as eu de pouvoir la suivre sur ses publications et la rencontrer. Car il a fallu qu'elle ait envie d'exposer elle-même sa vie et ses passions, il a fallu que cela vaille le coup et non juste le quart d'heure de gloire que certains recherchent. Que tu sois là pour recueillir ces souvenirs et nous les transmettre. Les personnes les plus intéressantes sont en général les plus discrètes et les plus taiseuses. J'aurais beaucoup à ajouter mais je dirais juste que toi aussi, Vagabonde, tu fais partie des personnes dignes d'être connue et de rencontrer

Cergie said...

De tout coeur j'espère que tu vas bien, que ta vie ne sera pas trop longtemps impactée par cette fichue Covid 19 et que tu auras bientôt la possibilité de découvrir cette très belle Alsace dont ma famille est originaire. Tout a un début, et tout a une fin.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, thanks so much for sharing your friendship with Naomi with us. I never knew about her blog, but oh she must truly be a person who would add elan and sparkle and poignancy and joyful memories to any conversation. How wonderful that you are bringing together those who have missed her postings. I'll return to your blog and click on some of the places you highlighted so that I can learn more about Naomi.

Always in our human experience and existence there seems to be the need for a "them" and an "us." Is that how we make ourselves special? by being "us" and not "them"? I am so hopeful that right now we are in the midst of another American revolution. The third one: first the war from 1775 to 1783; then the founding of the country through the Constitutional convention from 1787 to 1789; and now Black Lives Matter.

And yet I know that despite the long history that led to the Holocaust and its aftermath, there are still those who deny that 6 million Jews were murdered. I just can't understand--and I'm 84 now, you'd think I'd begin to have some wisdom--I just can't understand why humans seem to need to feel "better" than others. Peace.

Glenda Beall said...

Thank you for this enlightening story of Naomi and her family. Your photos make this a photo essay which I always enjoy. So glad you found your friend and wrote about her here. I have made blogging friends through the years and some have passed away, but I have wonderful memories of their words, their lives and some I can still read their blogs.

Terra said...

This is a fascinating post about your friend and her family and that old resort. I want to save that pile of books on the floor in one of your photos. I am a retired librarian. Your floral arrangement gesture was brilliant and I am sure it made her day.

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