Mountaindale, a hamlet in the township of Fallsburgh, Sullivan County, NY,
changed drastically in character from being the rural farming hamlet it had been,
beginning with the arrival of the New York Ontario & Western Railroad, and the
name change of the local post office, in December 1880, from Sandburg(h) to Mountain
Dale. Around that time a number of farmhouses that were more hotels than
farms opened, and beginning in 1899 the ethnic character of the area began to
change from predominately gentile to predominately Jewish.
By the time of the crash of 1929, several Jewish welfare organizations were
engaged in resettling Jewish families whose breadwinners were unable, due to health
reasons, to make a living in the New York City sweatshops, onto subsistence farms
in the Mountaindale area. While good-hearted this effort may have been, in
some cases it simply replaced urban poverty with an even more extreme form of rural
Helen Brown, who became Principal of Mountaindale High School in 1931, told
stories of children being sewn into their long underwear in October to be cut out
in April, and one particularly poignant story of a young man who played on
Mountaindale High School's basketball team who broke a leg going up for a rebound when her
husband had taken them to New York City to scrimmage the Columbia Freshmen.
The broken leg simply did not heal. Ultimately, it was discovered that the
young man's diet at home did not contain any of the necessary nutrients -- in fact,
it consisted of little more than flour and water. Discovering that the poverty in the
homes of most of the basketball players was equally dire, they undertook the
practice of feeding the basketball team each Friday evening at their home in
The Great Depression was monumental in Mountaindale, both in terms of length and
depth. The High School Principal's employment contracts -- particularly the
constancy of the level of compensation -- throughout this period, evince that.
We appreciate the efforts of Marilyn Forbes in identifying some
of the people in the photographs below.