NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - A recent scavenger hunt hosted by the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library was more than just a fundraiser for a local cultural institution; it was a fun and safe way for residents cooped up by the pandemic to get out and explore the town.

More importantly, said organizers, the Aug. 13-16 event gave participants the chance to thank first responders and others who have been selflessly watching over the community during this difficult time.

Fifteen intrepid teams persevered and had a blast showing off their knowledge, skills and sense of humor, raising $1,300 for the library. 

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They completed a list of missions and answered questions. Extra points could be racked up for posting silly photos during the event.

In addition to history, local businesses were featured prominently in the game. The community’s beloved Jingle Bell Jog also got a shout-out. And, not to be forgotten, were local flora and fauna, including trout, bees and flowers.

Flying in to first place: The Cat Ridge Cluckers. The Sullivan Bogtown Bandits were a close second.

It was definitely a winner winner chicken dinner situation for the Cluckers’ Patricia Kravit and teammates son Kyle and his girlfriend, Lea Trageser.

“We had an absolute ball,” Kravit said last week, explaining how good it was to be able to get out of the house and do something fun with her family.

Kravit posted a picture of the Cluckers posed in front of the old Stebbins B. Quick barn, where milk from local dairy farms were once stored in an underground stream. It was the “Moo” signs worn by one of her dogs, Phoenix; the milk bottle Lea held; and Gray Girl, one of their chickens, that Kravit that thinks scored them extra points.

One of the stumpers, she said, concerned the current location of the Thomas Decker house. Back in the day, Decker’s farm had stretched from Cat Ridge Road across the valley to Titicus Road.

His home was one of many that had to be moved due to the construction of the Titicus Reservoir. It now sits at the corner of Delancey and Titicus roads.

“We live on Cat Ridge; how did we not know that?!” Kravit exclaimed.

Second-place winners were a family team of Donna Ulrich, a teacher at the Pequenakonck Elementary School; sisters Jacilyn

Charles and Deborah Bussmann; brother Mike Mongiello; their parents, Judy and Michael; and a family friend, Robert Treadway.

The patriarch, Michael, is a huge history buff, the family said. 

“He just knows everything about North Salem,” Charles said.

She sheepishly admitted that she didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the subject when she was a kid, despite her old man’s enthusiasm. But, as a grown-up, she has come to appreciate the past.

“I had such a fun time rediscovering all the landmarks we’ve been driving by for years,” Charles said.

Charles said many of the clues inspired a deeper dive into the history, including the 19th century menageries that were kept during the winter in barns and basements around town.

One of the funnier stories that came out of that era involved circus monkeys being housed by the Close family. 

The Close family was dining one Sunday with the local Presbyterian minister when a commotion arose in the basement.

Apparently, their boarders had gotten into a tub of soft soap the family had been making.

While rescuing the primates, one of the mischievous monkeys grabbed the minister’s coattail and tore it off. The frock was mended and he went on to preach his afternoon sermon.

“We will definitely do it again next year; we had a ton of fun,” Charles said of the contest.

GRATITUDE EXPRESSED

Library trustee Jennifer Gileno said that participants were asked to make “thank you” signs and take pictures holding them in front of the police station, fire station and ambulance corps building.

“That was my favorite one, because they got the chance to reach out to the people who have been working so hard to take care of us for the last five months,” she said.

As far as Gileno’s concerned, every player was a winner because the game was a real learning experience.
She herself didn’t know that—from certain angles—you can detect a giant feline’s face in the town’s famed Balanced Rock. 

According to Gileno, one of the real stumpers was the question: Which historic landmark had an underground stream in its basement and what was it used for?

The answer sought was the Stebbins B. Quick Barn. The chilly waters were used for storing milk cans.

Lots of folks also guessed—not incorrectly—that it was the 1800’s Mill House, which is also perched above the rambling Titicus River.

Gileno thanked the hunt’s “generous sponsor,” Meccanic Shop North Inc., a family-owned automobile repair service located on Dingle Ridge Road in Peach Lake.

The library, which is “so grateful for everyone’s support,” is continuing to look for inventive ways to fundraise in light of limitations posed by the pandemic, she said.

The winning team received a prize from an anonymous donor: a three-night stay at Coyote Lodge nestled in the Adirondack mountains.