of Basil Becker's violins
Basil Becker's house on Main Street, Prattsville
- Basil Becker
... the Becker
Family's Tourist Home, Basil's aeroplanes, his musical instruments ...
The fact that Prattsville was a popular summertime tourist town once, I
have already discussed in
an earlier story about Perry Chatfield, and the fact that many the
houses in the town offered bed and breakfast in the summer is now
familiar to you too. But the way that some people started doing that
is not as ordinary as it sounds.
The Becker family, the owners of two pretty
houses on the main street of Prattsville, would have never thought
about that way of earning money, if the young teenager of the house,
Basil Becker�s most favorite hobby wasn�t woodworking.
I know that sounds kind of strange but it has an explanation.
Basil Becker at 13
Basil always liked working with wood, and the
way of that was very original � he and his friend Perry
Chatfield worked with wood, using Perry�s old sewing machine to
drive the woodcarving tool by foot action! Like sewing, but
this was wood carving.
I bet it�s very hard, and how would an idea like that come to
Basil Backer's family
Basil Becker - 9 months old, on the left
Once Basil made a carved wood sign that said �Tourists�,
and hung it in on a tree in front of their house. Of course soon some
people knocked their door asking for a room. First, Basil�s mother
was horrified, but afterwards that became a good source of earning
money for them.
They even built special cottages for tourists, right
next to their houses.
I would certainly enjoy staying there,
especially for the price of those times � a buck for a night �
sounds great to me!
There must have been really many summer
residents - "tourists" - staying in Prattsville each
I heard the �tourist� sign story from Perry
Chatfield, while interviewing him, so I thought that it would a
nice topic for a new story, and headed to meet Basil. As a result I
met a wonderful person, who was patient enough to answer all my
was born in Prattsville, on the second floor the house that he is
living in right now.
Becker's cottages, next to the main
house, were full of summer tourists until the 1950's
His mother�s family was originally from Prattsville. And they are to
whom the houses belonged to � the Peckhams family. They had lots of
farms where all five of Basil�s uncles were working. Later on Basil,
too, worked on the farms. But farming was not the only thing that the
members of Peckham family did, one of his uncles � Charlie Peckham,
also known as Necktie Charlie, was a very famous and successful horse
racer in Prattsville. Even at the age of 91, he continued horseracing,
and he also was a horse trainer. Charlie Peckham was also known as a
lived all his life in Prattsville, went to school in the town
hall (below, photo lent to me by Perry
then to Gilboa High School.
| As all of his peers, Basil worked in
the farms, went to movies, of course they were still silent back then,
but that was something to do. One of his passions is country music. He
plays it on several instruments that he has. The most amazing one is
the more than hundred years old beautiful violin, that he got from his
Basil used to play in a
band. He had his fiddle and many other instruments, some
that he still uses in his house. He had one of the first electric
guitars in the 1940's (he says it was a novelty, but did not, in
retrospect, play as well as the newer models).
Basil Becker's plane
Prattsville flying club
Crashed New York News plane
Becker had another hobby - flying. He was a member of a busy
flying club, which operated an airfield on the Prattsville flats, near
today's Conine baseball field. He and his friends owned, traded,
and flew aeroplanes in and out of Prattsville. Basil told me the
story of the airfield being used, one winter, for an unusual
arrival. An accused murderer was on the run from from the New
York City police, tracked down in the neighborhood, and holed up under
police siege. New York Daily News reporters who had
covered the story so far, had to get here to continue their
coverage. They rented a plane and flew to Kingston. There
they asked for directions to the Prattsville airfield and continued
on, despite being told the wintry weather was bad for flying.
When they landed at Prattsville, they crash-landed their plane off the
end of the runway. They rushed off in a car in pursuit of
their story. A truck came a few days later to take the crashed
plane away, Basil remembers.
I was lucky enough to enjoy his play on the violin.
And it wasn�t just
the music that I was enjoying, but much more seeing
the 80-year-old man get younger and younger in front of my eyes�
Our teenage website correspondent, Sona Grigoryan,
a 1999-2000 exchange student from Yerevan, Armenia,
lives in New York City and Prattsville with the Cernikovsky
Here she is interviewing Basil Becker in his house on Main Street.