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Been There, Dunked That by Brian Dunkleman: The Valley

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I’m the youngest of ten kids. No, that’s not a misprint, we’re just Catholic.

There’s a six-year gap between my youngest brother and myself. My mother would always say, “Brian’s the one we just didn’t expect to come along.” Translation: they thought they were out of bullets, but I was lurking in the chamber. And while we’re on the subject, what the heck were you thinking expecting nine?

Maybe a second bathroom in the house would have been a good idea.

In the 70s, my father wanted to put an in-ground pool in our back yard. My mother quickly put the kibosh on that plan. Her rationale was that if every one of her children had just one friend over, she would be life guarding for 20 people. Selfish woman.

Luckily for us, my parents found a mutually beneficial solution – Holiday Valley.

With the family pass, all twelve of us got to swim and golf for the entire summer. The cost? Two hundred bucks.

That’s less than it costs for a foursome to play 18 today. That’s just under $17 per person for the entire summer.

They charged the same amount for that pass regardless of how many people were in your immediate family. Clearly we were taking advantage of the system. Dunklemans for the win!

It worked out perfectly for everyone. Mom and Dad would drop us off in the morning and pick us up early in the evening, giving us a day filled with fun and them a much needed break to do whatever it was they enjoyed doing. In retrospect, it’s pretty clear what that was.

I remember that huge cement wall behind the pool’s diving board, and watching the older kids do can openers, bananas and cannonballs to see who could make the highest splash mark on it.

Rick Jackson remains undefeated.

I remember peering through the chain-link fence along with a huge gallery of kids as the golfers teed off on the old par 3, number seven. We cheered when they stuck one close, and laughed and mocked them when they hit a worm burner.

I remember the old golf pro Eddie Sams picking me up and putting me in the garbage can every time he saw me. Still not sure what that was all about, but we both really seemed to enjoy it at the time.

I remember my dad teeing off on the first hole, hitting that huge rock in the creek that was 20 yards in front of us, the ball ricocheting back up over his head, and landing in the pond behind us. Multiple times.

I remember getting yelled at by the lifeguard every day for hanging on the rope that separated the shallow end from the deep. It was fun, I was seven. What was I supposed to do, not hang on it?

And when that whistle was blown and the lifeguard yelled, “Adult swim! Everybody under eighteen out of the pool for fifteen minutes!” A collective groan was followed by an excruciating eternity till that next whistle came.

My memories of that time are so strong that several years into my adult life I still had a recurring dream that the entire bottom of the pool was covered with quarters or gumballs. Just hearing a song from one of those summers like “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears, or the opening saxophone of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” overwhelms me with such a strong sense memory, that if I close my eyes I can see it exactly as it was.

A lot has changed in nearly four decades. That huge wall is gone, but there are now three pools, a cool tube slide and several multi-tiered sundecks.

The golf course has grown from a simple nine-hole layout carved into the slopes into an extremely challenging, well manicured 18 which was nominated a few years back by Golf Magazine as one of the best redesigns in the country.

Five years ago the resort launched Sky High Adventure Park, offering a climbing forest with zip lines and a twisting mountain roller coaster that tops out at 26 miles an hour.

Of course, Holiday Valley is best known as a winter ski resort. It’s amazing how many times I’ve talked to people all over the country who have either skied there or heard of it. But between my wonderful childhood memories, along with all the improvements and cool new additions, I’ll take the summertime every time.

Editor’s note: Brian Dunkleman is a self-described “comedian, actor, TV host, bartender and local.” While he takes a break from his hectic Los Angeles lifestyle, he has kindly offered to write a regular column exclusively for the Ellicottville Times. © 2016 The Ellicottville Times

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