Sullivan County Democrat
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Carl Meltzer
Entertainer, 96

Carl K. Meltzer of New York City and Lauderhill, FL died on September 30, 2004 at 96 in Cambridge, MA after a long and colorful life spent entertaining, inspiring, and amusing virtually everyone he ever met. Mr. Meltzer was born on New York's Lower East Side, the child of Romanian-Jewish immigrant parents. He showed an early enthusiasm for singing and dancing, and as a young child he would perform on street corners for pennies. Before long, accompanied by his father, Louis, he was making the rounds to local cafes and restaurants where he would sing and dance for the patrons. At 9, he played hooky from school to perform songs and acrobatics at a citywide talent show sponsored by the New York Evening World. Despite arriving unaccompanied and a couple of hours late, he was chosen one of the "three most talented children in New York City," and was awarded a scholarship to the Carter-Wardell School for Performing Arts on the Upper East Side.
A few years later, at 15, he left home for good to join "The Flying Nelsons," a family trapeze troupe with which he performed for small and large companies including the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. A marvelous storyteller, he recalled the vocal signals the acrobats would use to alert each other before making a flying pass. "One boy would shout in Italian, 'You have an ugly face!' and I would shout back in German, 'You are a nut!' and when we heard each other, we knew it was right." His circus career came to a dramatic and abrupt end in Eau Claire, Wisconsin after he accepted a dare to jump from an 80-foot tower into a small tank of water. "It was stupid. I hit the metal side of the tank and was in the hospital for eight months."
Taking up a less dangerous form of show business in the late '20's and '30's, he traveled the national vaudeville circuit with the stage name of Carl Meldorf as a member of a song and dance troupe called the "Versatile Steppers." He also appeared in a number of Broadway shows and reviews, traveling with many as they toured the country. But as movies replaced vaudeville in popularity, he decided to retire and enter a more conventional line of work. Following the example of a friend who had made a success in business, he opened a hairdressing salon in Middletown, and soon a second one in Liberty. Also, to recapture some of the youth he lost having gone to work at such a young age, he became a regional, and then national leader for the Boy Scouts of America. An Eagle Scout since 1935, and recipient of The Silver Beaver, scouting's highest honor, he led his Sullivan and Orange county troopers on memorable cross-country trips to the southwest, the Caribbean, and even to Europe for scouting Jamborees. He was so entertaining - with his zany humor and bubbly personality - that he became known as the "Alka Seltzer Meltzer!" So enduring was his impact on his troopers that 50 years later, many would come from across the country to celebrate him and to reminisce with stories of both his antics and his devotion at a 1988 testimonial dinner.
He spent much of the early 1950's traveling the globe, meeting and befriending a fascinating coterie of people from the worlds of literature and entertainment. He spent a number of winters on the Island of Majorca, spending time with, among others, writers Robert Graves, Noel Coward, and actor Errol Flynn. He spent his summers in the Catskills, operating Camp Chic-a-lac, a children's summer camp in Youngsville that he established with his brother-in-law, Morris Rattner. The camp pioneered integrating children with serious disabilities into its programs and activities.
In the late 1950's, he married Ruth Sand, a New York City social worker, and settled in Greenwich Village. Mindful of the growing public interest in international travel, he used his own experience as a world traveler and bon vivant to create All Nations Tours, a successful travel agency he located in New York's famed Flatiron Building. The business enabled him and his wife to pursue their passion for travel, sharing many of his favorite destinations with his clients. After he retired, they also lived in Lauderhill, FL and divided their time between their two homes. Mrs. Meltzer died in 1996.
He leaves a number of devoted nieces and nephews, Veronica Ryback of Cambridge, MA and her children Lucas Ryback of Burlington, VT and Dylan and Nancy Jo Ryback of Glendale, AZ; Roger and Lois Rattner of New Hyde Park and their children Stacy Rattner of Castleton-on-Hudson, Judd Rattner, and Rachel Rattner; Stuart Posner of Phoenix, AZ; Jerrold and Ann Mitchell of Wayland, MA; James and Doyen Mitchell of Longmont, CO; and Lucille Green of New York City. A memorial service will be announced later in the year.
Contributions to his memory should be sent to The Boy Scouts of America, Hudson Valley Council, Carl Meltzer Memorial Tribute Fund, PO Box 374, Salisbury Mills, NY 12577.

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