It was a place to escape the city life and breathe fresh mountain air. Often known as ‘the Borcht Belt,’ iconic resorts in the Catskills were located in southeast New York state between Albany and New York City. In the summer, families descended on the region, creating traditions in the 1950’s and 1960’s fondly remembered today.
Many celebrities found their way to these legendary resorts and mingled with the guests. Jackie Robinson, Rocky Marciano and Yogi Berra were a few. As a star-struck teenager, I met Paul Anka at Grosinger’s Resort! Comics included Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman. Musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Dean Martin were headliners back in the day.
One entertaining act featured a family of gymnasts called Taffy ‘n Terry and Trio, also known as the Flying Wendelkens. Walter and Taffy Wendelken and their three children, Roger, Sandra and Dennis performed as an acrobatic adagio troupe. The routine included lifts, flips and aerials. The elder Weldelkens balanced their children on upraised feet and outstretched hands with amazing feats of strength and balance. Roger, the oldest child, displayed breathtaking aerial stunts from his father’s shoulders. Taffy ‘n Terry and Trio also performed on television including The Ed Sullivan Show and Under The Big Top. Roger was proud to say the troupe got top billing over Sammy Davis, Jr.!
In later years, Roger joined the Unisys Corporation and moved his wife Ruth and two sons to South Florida. Retirement led the Wendelkens to the Harbor Hills community, residing here for more than twenty years. In addition to golf, Roger actively supported the Harbor Hills Ladies Charity. The community was saddened by Wendelken’s passing in April. His athleticism is part of his unusual legacy and we all miss him greatly.