When Kish and I were in upstate New York in June, we decided to visit Alpine Village, the memorable Lake George resort where I worked during the summer of 1976. I’m glad we visited, because it brought back some memories — but it made me sad at the same time.
I’m happy to report that Alpine Village is still there, ready to provide a great vacation to anyone who visits Lake George. The resort is owned and operated by an energetic man who refurbished the main lobby pictured here, gave us a tour, and filled us in on fires, new buildings, and other developments in the 35 years since I’d last been there.
A lot has changed,and two changes in particular saddened me. First, the long tables where guests used to sit for communal meals are gone. Today’s guests simply will not sit with strangers; they insist on dining at their own tables — and, I think, living in their own, imperturbable worlds. To me, the elimination of communal meals on the “American plan” eliminates some of the adventure in an Alpine Village vacation, and also reaffirms how Americans continue to withdraw from socializing with their fellow citizens. This retreat is part of a fundamental change in a people who used to routinely join every imaginable social organization. (Read de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America if you don’t believe me.) I don’t think this is a good development.
Second, when I told the proprietor how much I loved working in the dishwashing room, he shook his head sadly and said that he couldn’t find any American kids who were willing to do that job anymore. The only applicants were immigrants who wanted to wash dishes as a second job. Have our kids really gotten to the point where they won’t take jobs that are hot and dirty, but yield a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work? If so, I am sorry for them, for they are missing out on an experience that could help them grow and learn — and have some fun, besides.