Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Remembering the Red Apple Rest - Tuxedo, New York

A picture of an old postcard of the Red Apple Rest that I found on Ebay. Not sure of the year, but it shows the restaurant during obviously much happier times, when it was still a popular place to visit, and even a local landmark, if you will. 

Some places just hold a certain power in our memories, far more than other places. I don't know why this is so, only that it is so.

In this blog entry, I am taking a bit of time to remember one of those places. It is not just me, or my brother, who seem to remember fondly a restaurant that used to serve more as a local landmark. The place I am referring to was known as the Red Apple Rest, and it achieved a certain level of fame while it was open for business.

Now, of course, it is merely an empty shell of what it once was - literally and figuratively. Now, it is as much a sign of the times as anything. Walking around it, seeing how there is a fence all around (and with barbed wire to boot!) was a bit depressing. Yet, it was not enough to repress the nostalgia that came with seeing the place again. With being this close to it again, for the first time since my childhood, when it was still open for business, and we actually went in and ate there.

Man, at this point, I have to say that I wish I had some pictures that I took when this place still looked halfway decent, and when it was still open. It was not a fancy place by any means. Just essentially a diner, bordering on being a simple fastfood joint. But it possessed a certain charm. Even when we did not stop there (and we usually didn't), it was always a notable landmark on the way to or from Liberty, back to New Jersey. It still is, although these days, there is always that little sinking feeling, seeing it in the sorry state that it has been allowed to deteriorate to.

I wrote the little piece published below some time ago, but resisted the urge to publish it until I had actual pictures to go along with it. But a week ago today, my brother and I went to a concert at Bethel Woods, New York. That is the site of the legendary Woodstock concert, of course. We saw Colin Hay (I wrote a review of that one, if you are interested: "Colin Hay Live From Bethel Woods, New York (Site of the Legendary Woodstock Concert)", which I published on October 10, 2013.

In any case, along the way, we made several stops. This is an area, after all, with a lot of memories for us both. The first stop was the Red Apple Rest, or what remains of it. It was, predictably, a bit depressing. But I wanted to make sure to take pictures, while it is still standing. Sooner or later, I guess, someone will probably buy it up and demolish it. Before that happens, here are some pictures that give some clue as to what it was like in happier times.

While we were there visiting and taking pictures, we ran into another person who had the same thought in mind. Her name was Francesca, and boy, did she ever love to talk! She was very friendly, and had her own memories of this famous restaurant that was almost an institution for a while. We talked to her for quite some time, and she talked about her own experiences there, as well as her family, and all manner of things. I added a couple of pictures with her and my brother. But it was getting late, and we needed to get a move on. We had a lot to visit!

After that, we visited SUNY Orange (formerly known as Orange County Community College), which our grandfather used to work at, and which specifically had a certain display of an old mastadon that we both wanted to visit. Then, we went to Liberty, and visited around town, as well as a neighboring town, with SUNY Sullivan (formerly known as Sullivan County Community College). Then, we headed towards the concert. But first, we drove through another old haunt, the village of Monticello, which may have been the most depressing thing we visited yet. It once must have been a thriving village, teeming with life in a more ideal age. It was already in a state of decline by the time of our childhood, but now, it has one boarded up old store front after another. It is almost a ghost town, and very depressing. Not surprisingly, that visit did not last very long.

Finally, we made it to the site of Woodstock, which my brother had never before seen, and which I had been to only once before, but had only seen when it was rapidly getting dark. This time, we got to relax and really take it in. 

I will publish blog entries about all of these experiences that center in an around our memories of Liberty, New York. I will also add something that I have been writing, on and off again, about my interest in collecting stamps and, it seems only fitting, will republish a piece that I wrote on "The Charbor Chronicles" a long time ago, honoring my grandfather and his influence on my life.

For now, here is the piece on the old Red Apple Rest:

The Red Apple Rest

This used to be a legendary restaurant that he remembered going to even as a child. It was probably not the best place, or had the best food. It certainly was not the best location, or anything like that.
Yet, it became a legendary stop on a stretch of highway. 
Yes, we would stop there occasionally (but really only occasionally), as a nice little stopping point, for refreshments between the drive from Liberty, New York, to Lodi, and then eventually West Milford, New Jersey. It was not actually all that long of a drive, but I guess for my parents, having two kids constantly fighting and physically and verbally reacting when the other would cross that imaginary line that seems so important when you are a kid can take it's toll.
Even when we did not stop, I would always look for the famous landmark, which tended to stand out during the drive. When I was older and did the drive myself, it was always a good marker of progress on the trip.
Now, even though the building still stands, it is in a state of severe disrepair, and serves more as a testament to the passage of time, and how thing do not remain the same. What once was thriving, now seems almost to be rotting. The apple never looked so unappealing before.
It is now one of a rather long list of places that serves as landmarks for me in my youth that have gone away. Places like Sullivan's department store in Liberty (there was also one in Middletown that we sometimes went to), Jamesway (there were a lot of these, because they were a chain, but there was one in Liberty, as well as one on Route 23, close to West Milford). Places like Playtog's in Middletown, where my grandmother would find basement bargain prices for clothes that nobody else wanted. Perhaps some others that are not coming to my mind so quickly.
The Red Apple Rest stood out, and perhaps more than any of those other places that I mentioned, because it was just...well, I'm not even sure what made it stand out. It looked unique, but it was in such a strange location, as well. Something about it just lent it quite a bit of character.
I even remember one time specifically going to Red Apple Rest. This will probably sound strange, but I think it was in 1982. But if not, it was in 1985. Again, that probably sounds bizarre, so let me elaborate.
It was playoff time for football, and the Giants had just won a wildcard game. I was excited about the prospects in San Francisco, but also worried, because at that time, I had never seen the Giants defeat the 49ers, nor had I seen them ever advance yet to the NFC Championship Game (they would eventually go on to do both of those things in the not so distant future, en route to winning two Super Bowls during the Parcells era).. This was their big chance, both in January of 1982, and January of 1985. But we had to drive home from Liberty, and my parents refused to listen to the game on the radio (I can't blame them nowadays, but at the time, in my childish, self-absorbed way, it seemed outrageously unfair).
In any case, we stopped at the Red Apple Rest, and that is where I found out that the Giants had lost. No real surprise, but it felt depressing, anyway.
A part of that day, and those times, and my early fascination with NFL football (and particularly, the New York Giants) lives on even when I simply think of the Red Apple Rest. On the flip side, whenever the Giants play the 49ers (particularly in San Francisco), a part of my memories involving the Red Apple Rest live on. Last season, a few days after the Giants played the 49ers (they won, 26-3), I decided to take a small trip to the old parking lot of the now long-closed restaurant, and tried to remember old times. It was not a long stay, and I had been more or less in the area, but it was surprising how vivid those old memories can be sometimes, right?
Funny what we remember as kids, isn't it?
We must have gone to the Red Apple Rest a few times, because again, I remember a handful of visits, here and there. True, I cannot specifically remember the first, or even the last time that I went (barring that last time that I ate there when it was open, or the even more recent time that I stopped in the parking lot when it was no longer open, but gated up and clearly closed). But I remember certain things, here and there. My grandfather picking out something (I think it was pie). My brother and I playing the old video games (Ms. PacMan, which remained up long after that game had stopped being a staple in most arcades). Old and vague memories, none too specific.
Mostly, what I remember is that it always seemed a really cool and desirable place (at least it did to me at that age, perhaps not recognizing what surely must have been signs that it was in a state of decline). I know that it makes me reminisce these days about those older days and times. It is a little bit like some music that reminds you of certain things, memories from your past. On some small level, it's a bit like listening to the Animals or the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, all of whom remind me of earlier times and memories.
Perhaps it even reminds me of other things, as well. My grandfather's stamp collection. His enthusiasm for stamps proved contagious, as I began my own stamp collection when younger, and have, on and off, remained a collector right to the present day. His stamp collection excited my young imagination, and seemed to me to be a window to the world, of sorts. Perusing through those pages, you could catch a glimpse of every corner of the world, and see what other nations and peoples were honoring and thinking and striving for at different times. They were actual pieces of history to me, and seemed a portal to a knowledge, an understanding and intelligence about our country and the rest of the world that was open only to those who's eyes were open to it, such as my grandfather's eyes were. He also had an extensive library (with a diverse range of books that I would not truly appreciate until much later in my life, long after he had passed). He also got me into chess, which I have played ever since (although it has been far too long since I last sat down and played a match, unfortunately).
In it's heyday, the Red Apple Rest was open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It was a favorite spot for many travelers, including famous comedians and athletes, as well as pretty much anyone just wanting to stop for a bite to eat to break up the long drive from the Catskills to the greater New York metropolitan area. 
Seeing it now, in it's completely deteriorated state, is a bit sad. I remember going there as a child, and somehow, it still retained the excitement of a landmark place. 
Truth be told, I only remember it being empty, almost devoid of other patrons towards the end, maybe the last couple of years or so.
Still, I would love to be able to go there, like in days of old, and grab a sandwich. Maybe play a game of Pac-Man at the old arcade style machine that they had in the back. But those days at the Red Apple Rest are already long ago, and they were a long time after the peak years. 
Still, somehow, it seemed a bit more exciting than all of that. When I was a kid, I did not know it was well past it's prime. Even when we did not stop by, when we would simply drive right by the place, somehow I kept on looking at it. We knew when it was coming, and I would watch it recede in the back, until it was out of view.
Now, it is more a depressing reminder of just how much time has passed, and how much things have changed.  I might not be able to say that I experienced the Red Apple Rest during it's peak, but I do remember it when it was still a distinct place that anyone familiar with the area knew. I ate there a few times myself. But it is an empty shell now, in a rather severe state of disrepair. It feels somehow more like a tomb of some pleasant memories, rather than a vivid reminder of something that still seems relevant. 
It was not a five-star restaurant, or anything like that. It did not have the most unbelievable food that you have ever tasted.
What it did have was character. A feel, a style, that was uniquely all it's own. Such places themselves are getting to be fewer and farther between.
The Red Apple Rest was a nice place to stop along the way, in between a long drive. My parents and my grandparents both took us there at different times, and I personally have some memories of the place. I was a little kid at the time, and the only memories that I have are pleasant ones.
When a young adult, I paid the place what turned out to be a final visit. I won't sugarcoat it- it was depressing. I was the only customer, and the place felt like...well, it felt like a place that was about to close. Lost in a world that had left it far behind. The food was okay (but only okay). It ws already beginning to feel like it was outdated and in a rapidly advancing state of disrepair. That last visit, I reminsiced about the place from what I thought were cheerier times, although perhaps, it was just that magic of being a young child completely oblivious to such things. I had a lot more liveliness in me, so perhaps that was how I saw it. I associated it, and still associate it, with more energy and color.
But I remember the place, and know I'm not alone. Others that I know remember the restaurant as well. I had heard somehwere that it had made some appearances in a movie.
In fact, it made appearances in several movies. 
According to the Wikepedia page, "The restaurant was featured in several movies, including Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, A Walk on the Moon, Tenderness (film), and Oliver's Story."
Not too shabby, for what ultimately became a dive. 
Now, it is an empty shell, clearly in an advanced stae of disrepair. I keep waiting for that moment when I will drive by it, and find that it has finally been torn down. 
It would not surprise me in the least.
But it would sadden me, because the one thing that Red Apple Rest had, far more than most eating establishments these days, was character. And that is not something that you should necessarily drive by without thinking. Or, even without stopping.
Here's to the Red Apple Rest!


  1. very nice is too bad that the owner never put a dime into saving the building.i talked to a person today who was interested(along with some other investors)in opening up a motorcycle inspired café(ace).but the price on the place was in orbit.thanks nick--

  2. Thank you, Nick! Yes, I wish that they could have done something to preserve such a landmark place, as well. I have some memories there personally, and it was such a natural icon, located where it was. Rather depressing to see it in such a state of decay now, though, isn't it?

  3. I used to visit the Rest with my young daughter, bringing her back from visitation with my ex-wife in the 1990s. On the way back to Monroe, NY from Ramsey NJ, she would always have a cup of Rice Pudding here. My wife has longer memories, being from the drive to the colonies up in the mountains, the Rest being a half-way point when she was given a hot dog to savor. I miss it very much.

  4. It was probably not quite a midway point for our weekend trips from New Jersey to Liberty, NY, and/or vice versa. Nor did we always stop there, although I always found my gaze lingering on it, for some reason. We did stop there a few times, and I think I may have gotten the rice pudding, as well (can't specifically remember anymore, though). It always felt special, though. I was saddened to see it in the state that it's in now. It feels like it deserves better.

  5. Oh, and thank you for sharing your memories, Reisen55!

  6. Does anyone have current pictures to show?

  7. Well, admittedly, these pictures were mostly from a year ago, but has it changed? I have not been there since, although I would like to take a small trip in the relatively near future again, just for old time's sake. Will make sure to take more pictures then, assuming that there is something to see, and they have not (yet) torn it down, or anything.

  8. Didn't the RAR also feature prominently in the movie Love Story?

  9. Joseph, I am actually not familiar with that movie, although it would not be surprising if it was a big part of that movie.

  10. Can't find a trace of the old building on Bing Maps or Google Earth. Has it finally been demolished completely?