Monday, December 31, 2007

Rhode Island disaster

I heard from Jim Beckner by email last night. He corrected an egregrious error in an entry I made back in August about the 1971 Lenape village picture. It's fixed now so go back and have a look.

Jim was at camp with us from 1971 through 1975. He remembered for me an incident from '75 that I had forgotten until now, involving an adventure trip. "During my last summer with the Camp (and you'll probably remember this) two people in Rhode Island were killed when they turned their car directly into the FV van as we were taking staff up to Massachusetts to put bikes together for the New England bike trip. The van was a total loss and several of us were injured."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The University of Banks Hill

Last spring I taught my usual seminar at Penn - "Kelly Writers House Fellows" seminar. Twenty-two or so of the best and most creative Penn students take the course, which meets at the Writers House (a little 1851 cottage right in the middle of campus) and features several-day visits by three very eminent writers. For winter-spring 2007 these three were Jamaica Kincaid, Donald Hall and John McPhee.

McPhee has written a series of books and long essays about nature, about the landscape, about people living in extreme places, and lots about geology and streams and fish. The Pine Barrens is about that dense, piney, swampy region in south Jersey. Coming into the Country is his masterwork about living life in extremis in Alaska. And the thing about McPhee is that as a writer he really goes to these places and tries as best he can to live them.

My students and I caught this spirit. After an intense discussion about the Alaska book, one of them--a young woman whose style, dress and attitude none of us would have guessed would make her the person to suggest this--shouted out that we really must, as a class, as a group, go camping somewhere together.

For FV'ers such an idea doesn't seem odd. But this was an advanced seminar at a fancy university, and we're reading books and talking about literary art.

Well, three of us in the room knew Frost Valley, as it happens. I, of course; my assistant, Jamie-Lee, who has been to FV a number of times; and Ellie Kane, an advisee of mine whom I introduced to Frost Valley and is now a counselor there, heading, in '08, into her third summer.

So we decided to spend a weekend camping at FV in April. With some help and guidance from Brian Sense, adventure director (now recently departed for Colorado - good luck, Brian!), we got quick instruction in using the gas stoves, gathered our equipment, and hiked the easy hike to Banks Hill. It turned out to be a glorious sunny day and somewhat warm. By nightfall it was getting cold and indeed it went into the 30s overnight. It just happened that that very weekend there was an alumni committee volunteer work weekend, so I arranged visits to our campfire by Milton Pittman, Bill Abbott, and John Giannotti.

My two worlds merged and there really isn't anything that'a greater pleasure for me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

winter camp

It's never too late in the year, or too cold or snowy outside, to have a good "Opening Campfire." Yes, it's Winter Camp 2007. Campers and staff gathered in front of the fire in Geyer Hall and sang "The Moose Song." "There was a great big moose... [repeat after me] there was a great big moose!" The photo above, the handiwork of Dan Panorama Weir, depicts the moment when they sing, He went to sleep....

Amy Rosvally is leading the song in the pic.

And Dan Weir adds: "We had some great 8 core value skits from our CIT applicants. Bobby lead a fun version of Singing in The Rain that will eventually make it to our podcast. Jeff lead a skit of who can get into a hot tub the best when the crowd knows they are really competing to show how they sit on the toilet the best. We did this skit for a number of years (1997-2001), but telling the competitors that it is a motorcycle impersonation instead getting in a hot tub."

Today is the annual Winter Olympics. And tonight it's Challenge Night!

A better version of the photograph is here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dot Van Zandt

I'm very, very sorry to report that Dorothy Van Zandt passed away on December 13, four days ago. Everyone knew her as "Dot."

For many years - into the mid-1970s - Dot worked in the Ad Office, in later years alongside Jane Brown and Marie Kremer. Dot's husband was Bill Van Zandt, a crusty yet totally lovable man who worked as a prison guard for 9 months of the year and at Frost Valley, as a maintenance guy, for 3. Dot and Bill lived parts of the year in Florida. They became very close friends of Carl and Marie Hess. Bill died many years ago, though (as did Carl), and Dot remarried. She attended a recent reunion and had a wonderful time then with all her old FV friends.

Marie Hess and Dot remained close friends.

We hope all of Dot's Frost Valley friends will send condolences to the family, perhaps expressing a bit how much Dot meant to us. Please send notes to Dot and Bil's son, Bill VanZandt Jr. at: 114 Kensington Circle, Belvidere, NJ 07823.

The photo appeared in the 1974 Frost Valley yearbook (yes, we had yearbooks in those days) and shows Dot in the Ad Office, working with Joanne Walker. The photo was taken during the summer of '73.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

progress and snow

The new wellness center, under construction, in a photo taken three days ago.

FV Danish network yields fab husband

Mette Oesterby, Danish international counselor from the late 80s, writes:

So glad to be on the mailing list and recieving FV news. Never really thought about it that way, but Yes, I did actually meet my husband through FV eventhough he has never been to the US.... Back in 1986 I was briefly introduced to another Danish woman, Karen LaCour, who did adventure trips at FV. She was always out of camp and I was always in camp so we never really got to know each other. By chance we met in the Streets of Copenhagen a year later, started talking and became friends. For several years she kept telling me about this tall, dark, handsome man I had to meet. A friend of hers from college. It finally happened in august 1994 and I have been with my husband ever since that day. So if I had never met Karen at FV...Who knows where I would have been. Right now I live in the Copenhagen area With my husband and our two daughters Anna and Katrine. I teach Danish Litterature and English at a school for Health Care Workers and my husband works with - Karen La Cour! - at a college for physio-/oocupational therapy. Would love to get in touch with old FV friends: Todd Watson, Barnes, Abby, Mark Ohan , Dari, Dave Mager, Jen De Melle, Christina Berg - lost track of you all! Hoping to go back to the States before long if not before then for the NY Marathon in 2009, will make sure to visit FV.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Duff returns

"Thank you so much for the blog," Stuart Duff writes me. "Every time I log on memories come flooding back of the years 1984 to 1987 when I worked variously in Sequoia, leading Adventure Trips, and as a Counsellor and then V.C. of Forest."

Mike McNamee and Duff had been threatening to come back for years, and Duff finally managed to come to Family Camp with his wife Karen and children - Jamie (11) and Ceri (10). "Arriving for the first time after 20 years was both nostalgic and uplifting, and I was thrilled to find that the family loved it as well." There is now a realistic possibility they will come back next year. Kids Jamie and Ceri want to experience summer camp session 4, and for all the rest to attend Family Camp again. Duff might even persuade McNamee and his family to come with them.

The photos are Stuart's shot of Giant Ledge at dawn (stunning) and the Duff family on the day after Family Camp finished at Niagara Falls.

"Hoping to meet with you again someday," he tells me, "and I hope not another 20 years hence."

For a photo of Duff in his camp days, go here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

the day Jim's car floated in the lake

It's a VW Rabbit, on the docks. Yes. And yes, you read the title of this entry correctly. Jim Leaver's car, floating in the lake. The first telling of this true tale of FV antics--dated 1989--comes from Glenn Horton:

My end of the story comes from a conference director's position. Jim Leaver and Chris Dumas had put together a great rocketry program with Chris Dundorf standing in when they needed engineering assistance. The weekend of the occurance was one to remember. We had a substantial amount of rain all weekend, no power since Friday evening, 600+ guests and a tired group of staff that had assisted in a Friday night bus accident. But believe it or not, most of the weekend went off well.

It was Sunday morning and I made an early trip to the dining hall to help staff set up when I noticed a lot of the kitchenstaff was not there. A mud slide had closed the road into FV. I was trying to figure out how to tell 600 people they might have to add an extra hour plus to their drive home due to the closed road when Jim Leaver comes to me with a small problem.

"I don't have a lot of time Jim, what is it?" He said his car was in the middle of Lake Cole. Took me a minute, but I breathed a sigh of relief when he said it was floating on the dock in the middle of Lake Cole. But that wasn't Jim's concern. Jim was most concerned about the fact that all the rocketry equipment was in the trunk and he had a 9AM launch in Big Tree Field.

In walks Dundorf and his accomplices with huge smiles.....until they saw my appearance of discontent. I think my words, calmly spoken, were "Great practical joke, just bad timing," and I asked them to have the car off the pond and Jim's program ready to go by 9...which they did.

I could have yelled and screamed for hours over that, but I have always felt that humor got you through a lot and during those years, it got you through long hours of work and lots of time away from home and family. Oh, and there was the part where I wished it had been my idea. It was done so creatively well.

A few days after Glenn's account got mailed around--to me and the participants in this drama--Chris Dunforf himself, a perpetrator of above-narrated sin, chimed in as follows:

I scrounged up a photo of the Leaver's VW on the raft. It's taken from across the lake so you can't tell how far from shore it is but proof none the less. Wheels on raft, raft on water. The back of the photo reads "Weekend of 5th Annual Frisbee Golf Tournament, 1989."

Now as for Glen's version of what happened... couple holes there but fairly good account for someone of Glen's... ummm... numerous life experiences. I would be remiss not to bring into the story Kenis Sweet. Kenis has always been a form of a mentor for me. In the late 80's he was quick to guide my cabin mate, Patrick "Patman" Brasington and I to the best stores of building materials, unsanctioned beverages and to discuss numerous off-road FV vehicle driving techniques for when driving in non-off-road vehicles. I digress. At some point after dinner on said weekend Kenis and I decided it was appropriate to repark Jim Leaver's VW Rabbit. The waterfront didn't seem too busy that night so we settled on one of the floating rafts. There were however two unfortunate factors needing to be dealt with. First off, the raft was still moored in it's winter offshore position, and secondly it began to downpour challenging our marginal-at-best logistical planning. We headed out across the lake in a borrowed rowboat, untied the raft and brought it in to shore. Next, Kenis scored a pair of long 2x10s to act a ramp. (Technical Note: For those of you who've never done this before but might someday, remember to not bring the raft all the way up on shore before loading the vehicle. Otherwise, the weight of the vehicle will sink the raft floats to the ground and you'll have trouble getting the raft afloat and free of the shoreline.) We set the ramps up and I think it was Kenis who drove the Rabbit on to the raft. Taking an engineering approach to the task at hand we were naturally concerned about an elevated center of gravity since most swim rafts are not designed for this use. With the car fully onboard and the raft floating we performed a quick stability test by strongly rocking the raft from side to side. The raft and cargo remained upright so we deemed the the vessel seaworthy and began the long row to deeper depths.

I think I'll take a break here and see if Kenis or anyone else wants to chime in. In the meantime I'll dig around for some more photos of the era and will try to revisit memories of the next morning. I will say this, Glen was not pleased. Until next time...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

three girls (audio)

Three contemporary campers talk about their summer '07 experience. It's a 5 minute and 20 second mp3 audio file, and you can listen to it by clicking here. Topics that arise:

1) how good the staff is
2) rainy Olympics
3) winning Olympics
4) what you do when you know no one in the cabin
5) coming of age
6) how your friends at home react
7) anticipating a summer as an oldest camper
8) the air we can breathe

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

and we set sail....


Jim Ewen & Ellen Rutan (audio)

Photo taken last night here in Philadelphia: Ellen, my kids, and Jim.

Jim Ewen and Ellen Rutan stopped by yesterday to pay an annual pre-Thanksgiving visit. I feel so currently connected to them - or, rather, that I've been consistently connected to them over the years - that I was startled to remember that they stopped working at Frost Valley in around 1973! Jim's time at camp ran from 1959 through '73, and Ellen was there from around '63 to '73. Jim was part of the Westfield, NJ, gang that clustered around the great public high school there, the various sports teams, and the Westfield Y. Jim's dad, Ed, ran that Y, and established a close relationship to Wawayanda. In fact Ed was a member of Frost Valley's "camp committee" or "Wawayanda Committee" and was a member of the hiring committee, led by Woody English, that chose Halbe Brown to be the new associate executive director in 1966.

Jim and Ellen are among those couples that met at Frost Valley. It's a nice story, and in the conversation we had last night, which I recorded, they tell it. The met at camp, fell in love, and 30 years later are together and still very very fondly remember anc cherish their FV experience.

Some of the folks mentioned in this convo: Peggy Rub, John Ketcham, Bev Gross, Dave King, Peggy Hope....

So here is the link to the audio recording of these two wonderful people remembering their FV time. Below are two photos taken of Jim during the 2001 reunion. Jim led the chapel service that Sunday morning in the old Wawayanda Chapel.

Above: Jim and Lisa Ernst.

new wellness center

The extraordinary new Wellness Center is scheduled to be finished before the summer of '08 - if the weather cooperates and there aren't any surprises in the phases of construction. The top floor is on the same level as the dining hall. The building is being built at the edge of the flat one flat up from the main field along the bottom of the valley - so that it's bottom floor, built into the hill and looking out across the lower flat toward Wildcat, will almost meet the level of the lower flat. In other words, you'll be able to enter the building from the lower field; or, for the health and infirmary (and dialysis) facilities, you'll enter from nearby the dining hall.

The main reception room on the upper level is named "The Alumni Reception Room." It will be a comfy, inviting waiting room. Just off the Alumni room will be the main nurse's office, and this is being named in memory of Joy White, who always craved a nice and big-enough space in which to dispense TLC.

The lower level will include a gorgeous new theatre - with bench-like tiered seating, a real stage, a real backstage area.... Very exciting. (We've never had this. The closest we came was years ago, when the lower floor of the girls' dining hall - now Geyer Hall - was called Conover English Hall and at the far end of it was built a stage, with a curtain, etc. But we haven't had that set up since the early 70s.)

The whole building is being named in honor of Paul Guenther, long-time chairman of the FV Board and for years an advocate of the idea that we urgently needed a new health facility.

Below are photographs taken in the past few days:

Here (below) is a photo of the construction site as seen from the dining hall area (on September 15):

Monday, November 19, 2007

those good days are a hedge against today's sadness

Jodi Rossman (Jodi Rockower) at Giant Ledge. It's 1993 or '94 and she's with her co-CIT Director, Sam McTiernan. "Sam and I were a great team," she recalls, "and we had some great CIT's."

She's happy remembering Sam and that trip, but our dear friend Jodi is sad these past few days, having lost her father, Gerald Rockower of Oswego, New York, on November 15. If you knew Jodi at camp, or if you just want to be a member of Jodi's extended FV family, go to this site and leave a note for her and the family in the guestbook for Mr. Rockower. Jodi, take care of yourself and your family over this Thanksgiving.

Write to Jodi at Jodir(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com.

Bud Cox goes on a lion hunt (audio)

After Bud Cox finished leading us in a high-octane revival of "Lion Hunt" at the September 2006 reunion, the several generations of FV'ers gathered there gave him a seven-minute standing ovation. It was a great moment. Bud started at Wawayanda in 1954 and this was 52 years later. I made a video of the miraculous performance and will eventually find the patience to make it available here, but for now I've made an audio version. You can download it by clicking on the link; or right-click on the link and choose "save as". Be sure to have this on your IPod! Or you can stream the audio by clicking on the little encircled triangle (if you see it). So here now is your link to Bud.

this week, please think of James

Eileen Hahn (whom we at camp knew as Eileen Barnes) is the former Wawayanda Director at the far right in this reunion photo. We need to help Eileen and her family with our thoughts and, if you pray, your prayers. Here is Eileen's message to us:

I'd like to ask everyone in the Frost Valley community to pray for my little boy, James.

Jason and I had twins on August 14th. I had a boy and a girl, James and Kathleen. The babies are amazing and so very sweet. Kathleen is doing great and growing like crazy. James is also doing well but was born with a congenital heart defect called AV Canal Defect that requires open heart surgery. This is a relatively common condition in children born with Downs Syndrome, which he has. He spent his first 6 weeks in the NICU mostly due to feeding but has been home for 8 weeks now and is just as sweet as they come! Unfortunately he needs the surgery to repair the 2 holes and valves that are part of this defect. The surgery is scheduled for this Wednesday (two days from now). I would really appreciate it if you could send an email out to the FV folks asking them to pray for him this week.

Thanks so much. Sorry if this is not clear as I'm fairly sleep deprived these days:). Mary is doing great and is an amazing big sister. All she wants to do is kiss the babies!

Thanks so much for getting the word out asking for prayers. We will take all that we can get. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Eileen can be reached at eileenbhahn [at] gmail [dot] com.

Update: as of November 26, James is doing well. The surgery went well, James has been in the cardiac ICU and will soon be off the ventilator.

Update: as of November 29: "I thought I'd give one more update. James arrived home on Monday afternoon - just 5 days after his surgery!!! His recovery has been just amazing! We expected to be in the hospital for a couple of weeks so we are just thrilled. We just can't get over how quickly he has been healing. He is such a little super hero!! Thank you all for your prayers! They have clearly been heard. We understand that hundreds of people have been praying for him and many of them were children. So sweet! Not to be greedy :) but please keep James in your prayers for his continued healing and for his challenges with feeding. He is such a sweet little guy and has two wonderful big sisters. Mary and Kathleen(who is only older then him by about 40 seconds). We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and we wish you a beautiful holiday season filled with many blessings. Thanks again."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ok, how are we going to put this thing together?

Slow but skillful trio from the back (left to right): Frank Meigs, Pat Ricciardi, and Peter Barnett. It's 1970 and this is an Adventure Trip. Photo by Gary Gold, who was a camper on that trip.

Hambone, Hambone, how you been?

The previously mentioned Hambone - Ken Hamlin. What a spirited guy! Here are two photos of him from the early years.

All this talk of Hambone caused Dave King to comtemplate as follows:
Regarding Ken 'Hambone' Hamlin. "'Bone" was from "Slummit" (his term for Summit NJ) and was my camp clerk. He was truly "gifted" mentally, and was extremely loyal to the camp and to me personally. During Halbe's first summer [1966], when the Maintenance Director, Paul Cypert, quit and took his entire maintenance crew with him, Bone stepped up and helped me keep the camp going. He and I made the trash run every other day, he and I made the cookouts for boy's camp and delivered the food and milk cans of "Bug Juice", and he, in essence, picked up for me when I did the mowing 3 times per week. "Bone" also made town runs, and helped with driving out- trips. In addition,he kept the mail flowing and the office going. He also was involved in programs where I needed him. He was a true Frost Valley pro! I last saw him at the previous reunion, and haven't heard from him since. Shirl and I loved him then, and we still do today. He will always be one of 'My Boys.'

we won't forget ya, John

John Ketcham in the early 60s.

Friday, November 16, 2007

former camper & staffer saves horses

On the left is Mark Gottdenker, and on the right, Brad Gaver - at the Labor Day '06 reunion.

Brad was a barn rat, pretty much from the start (I think he was first a camper at the age of 8 - I was his camp director). Years passed and next thing you know he's on the staff at Frost Valley's horsebarn. And then, flash forward, and he has a dream of creating "Pure Thoughts Horsemanship" and of specializing in rehab and in the animal-human connection and equine therapy.

Now he is involved in the largest rescue effort yet. It's such a big deal that apparently he and Jen will be on Inside Edition on TV in the coming few weeks. Watch out for them.

The project is described at length here. The final paragraph of the long press release describes Brad, and here it is:

Pure Thoughts Inc. has the advantage of having a fantastic rehab trainer Brad Gaver M.Ed, Co-Founder of Pure Thoughts Inc. Horse & Foal Rescue, has a history of success working with youths. His conceptual dream, “Pure Thoughts Horsemanship” which has turned into a reality, was started so that he may lead and guide our children on a path of success through equine therapy. Mr. Gaver has spent years studying the animal / human connection and has developed a program that unitizes horses as his means for not only reaching these children but also as a catalyst for each youth to grow within their selves, understand their true self and know that their future is for them to discover…. and decide the path they wish to take. The horses deserve a second chance to be loved and so do our children. Bradley Gaver is also an accomplished horseman, farrier and trainer specializing in the "Art of Equine Communication for the Competitive Edge." Brad trains both human and horse to communicate on the same level so that their experience together is a rewarding one. In his words..."There isn't a horse out of reach.... time, patience and repetition are the key. Before anything a bond and mutual trust must be formed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

he carried her tent for her

A few summers ago Sandy Bohn (formerly Sandy Shapiro) and John Wellington were both judges at Challenge Night. One of the challenges involved the telling of stories about two very dear camp friends. The kids took their turns but then these two judges revealed that many years earlier they had been CITs together, and they proceeded to tell a short version of the story of their CIT (actually "LIT") backpacking trip.

The trip had been a difficult one, and John ended up carrying Sandy's tent for her. Here is a video recording of these two old friends, reunited at camp recently, telling of tough moments and enduring friendship.

the day Harry Potter arrived

There was a buzz around camp the day the new Harry Potter came out, late July '07. A good many parents had pre-ordered the book from Amazon; Potter-styled Amazon boxes, nearly a truck full, were delivered to the Ad Office in the morning. Several enterprising staff members got into the pile and pulled out their own copies and hustled off to periods off and rest hour to get started on the reading. Mail is delivered to campers at dinnertime and so for most of the Potterites there was a whole long glorious day of anticipation. At dinner VCs came with bags and armloads of books.

Two Sacky counselors - Emily and Nikki, above - were dressed for the occasion.

Then the reading began. Somehow, campers who had, shall we say, a lot of activities to do, including an evening program, somehow got the time to read. Laiya A. was one of them. Laiya was already famous for, two summers earlier, having finished the then-new Potter book within 24 hours of its arrival. She did the same, somehow, in 2007. On this night I was walking around, CQ fire to CQ fire, "on call" (a sort of director-level night watch, a CQ of CQ's). Laiya was in cabin 36. At nearly 1 am, my "on call" evening nearly done, I walked slowly through Sacky (cabins 36-40, old 6-10--it used to be Susky). There was one little light shining out of a bunk window in 36. Surely this was Laiya, pulling an all-nighter for her cherished Harry. I walked quietly into the cabin...all asleep except indeed Laiya, who saw me and got a big smile on her face as she peered at me from under the flashlight which she held up with one hand while the other held the huge tome. And she said: "Al. It's really really good." I said goodnight and walked down the hill past the mists gathering across the surface of Lake Cole. Our own old magic, but for just that night not the only magic in the area.

Back in '05, Laiya finished volume 6 at sunrise. She was sobbing, sad at the death that concludes that book, but also, as she explained to me later, feeling lonely that she as a reader had experienced this all alone. The others in the cabin, her dear friends, awoke to the sound of Laiya's sobs and knew exactly what was going on. They all climbed into her bunk and all of them starting crying in sympathy. Through Laiya's tears: a smile. These were her friends and whatever it was that happened in this novel, they would feel what she feels.

Even the reading experience, typically a solitary thing, is an instigation to communal sympathy and emotional sharing. We're all in this together.

the Wawayanda spirit, it never does die

Max Geiser in the dining hall with his MAC kids, last day of session 1, summer 2007.

Friday, November 9, 2007

dying from in-door-ness

This is the 1915 Camp Wawayanda brochure. It's in the Kautz Family YMCA Archive which is housed at the University of Minnesota. Melissa Pauls found, on the web, an article by historian Michael Smith that describes the history of "the ego ideal of the good camper." Smith reproduces our old brochure in his article, and here is his caption:

This brochure for Camp Wawayanda, one of the oldest boys' summer camps in the United States, evokes the countermodern ethos of the organized camping movement. Many early camp leaders focused on the power of "roughing it" in nature to build character and uplift spirits, to save the race from "dying from in-door-ness."

Here is a link to Smith's article. The notion (uplift spirits, get kids away from cities, etc.) is described generally in a book by Jackson Lears about "anti-modernism" in the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th. This was of course the era in which Wawayanda was born (1901).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

more firsts up Doubletop

Gail McNeill writes: "...first trip up Doubletop. . . My first was a solo climb in February, in which I was climbing in belly-deep snow and got avalanched off a ledge. . . more on that if you want! Ron House went up the first time in, I think, April, late winter in FV, with a group of inner-city kids. . . the leaf buds on the valley floor had just cracked, and Ron went up to play in the snow with the kids. While he was gone, the temp went up into the 70's and the leaves all opened up. Late that afternoon, I saw Ron, walking behind the line of kids, wide-eyed and uneasy at the spring scene around him. . . he came up to me, grabbed me by the collar, and asked, 'How long have I been gone?!'"

more Trailblazers

Pictured are from left to right: Fletcher Cockran, Wayne from Green Village, Paul Augustine, Bill Starmer, Geoff Steck, and Ken Hamlin. The photos was taken on one of the Trailblazers trips in the summer of 1961.

Jim Wilkes has made available this photograph and four more from these amazing early 1960s Trailblazers trips. You can see all five - plus captions - here.

Ken Hamlin hasn't been mentioned in this blog at all, I don't think. He stayed on for many years, into the early 1970s I think. He was quite a character. Somewhere along the line he got the nickname "Hambone." He was known for wild escapades and terrific practical jokes. At least one summer he lived in the Ad Office, and there were some rumors of fun times had there.

In recent years Hambone was or perhaps still is in the green grocer business in the New York area. For a while in the mid-1990s he was involved enough with the alumni association to be an active volunteer. I remember that for a while he drove fresh vegetables and such in his truck up to the camp to donate it or sell it at very low prices.

Anyway, many thanks to Jim Wilkes for unearthing these classy pictures and scanning them for us.

One of the first "jobs" Jim was given when he arrived at camp was to take care of a fawn that had apparently been abandoned by its parents. The photo below of Jim and the fawn appeared in the Newark Star Ledger.

Jim Wilkes on Hambone: "The first time I drove to Summit to pick up Ken, I saw Ken flying (airborne) out the front door of his house, never touching the steps with his Dad in hot persuit. He was a tough kid on all the trips to Canada and the name "Hambone" was well earned. Ken and I worked together for many years. He built a house next to Camp Speers where he lives today ..... when he is not in Florida."

More on Hambone...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

tomorrow's the day Moldova's gonna come

Yes, Moldova. Wasn't the Olympic team from Moldova, vintage 2006, creative when they sang this song as one of their country's chants? They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. Have a look and listen.

conference weekends, early 1960s

Even before Frost Valley was available to schools and families and conference groups year-round (today some 30,000 people visit each year) - when the place operated mostly as a summer camp - there were a number of weekends when, for instance, groups of "Indian Guides" were there. Jim Wilkes took this photograph on one such weekend in the early 1960s. Here are three staff who worked that weekend: Baldwin, Levy and Augustine.

Later, when I was in high school, I "worked weekends" just like this. It was the early 1970s. I would get out of h.s. on a Friday afternoon, jump into my red VW bug, drive northward through the NJ suburbs picking up various weekend workers, and arrive at camp at 7 or 8 PM. We ran programs (archery in the fall and spring; led hikes all year; ran the tobaggan run and tube run and ski shop winters), rushed to the dining hall to set the tables before meals, did dishes in the kitchen (exactly as these guys in the picture are doing), and ran back out to programs. Evenings we led campfire singalongs. For all this I was paid $20 for the weekend and got a tank of gasoline for my car.

friend to friend

One Frost Valley friend tells another how much she means to her. The friend speaking was new to camp; her cabinmate, a long-time camper with a big group of already established friends, made a special effort to new include the new girl. Now watch and listen as the latter expresses her thanks for this...a small but powerful gesture. VIDEO

Monday, November 5, 2007

talk about your lifer!

Paul Augustine (Lt Col, USAF, retired) went on nine of the 10 Trailblazer trips that went canoeing in Canada. Nine of 10!

Paul wrote me today: "These trips with Jim Wilkes and Bill Starmer were instrumental in shaping and guiding young men in the right direction; especially in my case. I had had several brushes with the law before I joined the Trailblazers and my success as an Air Force pilot I directly attribute to lessons learned on these trips. I've never been able to thank them enough!"

For more on Jim Wilkes, go here. According to Jim, Paul Augustine's father was a member of Frost Valley's Board of Trustees. For more about Augustine and 1960, go here.

Frost Valley video podcasts now on ITunes

Thanks to Dan Weir, Brian Sense and Kam Kobeissi, Frost Valley's video podcasts are now available through ITunes. If you click this link


- your ITunes will be launched (if of course you've already loaded ITunes on your computer) and you'll go directly to the ITunes Music Store, and specifically to the Frost Valley channel. Then either "subscribe" to the whole series of podcasts or download any individual videos. (Free of charge, of course.) If you subscribe--which I recommend--then whenever Dan and Kam put up new podcasts, they will be downloaded automatically to your ITunes.

song to Halbe (video)

During the Labor Day weekend reunion of 2006 - that Saturday late afternoon, to be precise - we gathered under the newly completed Halbe & Jane Brown Pavilion to dedicate the building and thank Halbe and Jane for their many years of service (1966-2001). It was a blustery, rainy weekend, and indeed the power was out all across the valley; we had noisy smelly generators running not far away, just to get the power we needed to amplify the speakers. And we were shivering in our seats with the cold. Despite these natural impediments, however, it was a very moving ceremony, with Halbe and Jane sitting in the front row--two people who find it difficult to listen to lavish praise of them--and seemingly enjoying all the sentiments of respect and love and remembrance. One encomium was offered by John Giannotti, who rewrote Bob Dylan's "Song to Woody" so that it became a "Song to Halbe." Although I my hand was shaking in the frigid wind, I made a video of this with my little Nikon, and I'm glad I did. So here is that video and I hope everyone enjoys John's tender, loving, sweet, funny, and poetic homage.

And here are some photos:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

from the top of Giant Ledge (video)

This short video clip is a panaroma from the top of Giant Ledge in autumn**, just after the leaves were gone. To the extreme right of the camera's swing, you can see Slide Mountain.

At the very end of the clip, there's Bill Abbott's happy face.

Below are three photos I took from the ledge. In the first one you can actually see Winnesook Lake and the buildings around that lake. (Winnesook is the club that is located about 5 miles from camp, just before the road turns sharply downhill.)

** 11/5/2006.


The past bunch of summers, four cousins - my kids, Ben and Hannah, and my sister Liane's kids, Stephanie and Danielle - have been at camp all at the same time. Somehow in 2006 - Stephanie was a counselor, Hannah in Lakota, and Ben and Danielle in Windsong and Pac - three of the four of them ended up on the same Olympic team, Ireland. And Ireland won! (Luck of the Jewish Irish, I guess.)

first time up Doubletop (video)

Hike up Doubletop: late June 2006, with Bud Cox, myself, and Bill Abbott. I have some great pictures of this trip, but I'll add them later. We left camp at 8 am on this particular Saturday in the drizzling rain, and maybe it was 60 degrees, but no warmer. And we decided to climb up a little-used way - up High Falls Brook, which of course comes down the mountain far far above where most folks see the brook (at High Falls itself). Following the brook to its source (which is really a bunch of swampy streams) we walked through mud and brambles, and it was still raining.

So there were nicer days of hiking, but this was fun. When we got to the two tops of Doubletop, the rain and fog lifted and so we were able to see down to camp (you can see the Ad Office from up there!). we were hit by swarms of black flies.

Oh, and as a bonus, here's a video of Bud being Bud - hilarious - as we rested during the final ascent (very steep) up the High Falls Brook-side (or western) ridge.

Send me your first-time-up-Doubletop stories.

The first (in several respects, as you'll see) is Bill Sonsin, who goes way back, wrote me about recent posts to this blog: "The 'first time up Doubletop' and 'Hemlock cabin 24' together brought back memories. I was in Hemlock #24 in the summer of 1959. Art Fritz was the counselor. I think we were the absolute first group [from the camp] to climb Doubletop, ever." Fritz was from Westfield and a student at Syracuse University (class of 1962). Other campers besides Bill from cabin 24 that summer were Ron Lochly, Ed Kieling, Chipper Hoeck, Robert Floyd, Joe Allen, and Dave Edsall.

Here are two more Doubletop firsts.