Tuesday, July 31, 2007

lifer in the making

Monica's a special kid--quiet at home but a true star at Frost Valley. From ages 9 through around 12 I was the same way: my personality flourished at camp in way that was somewhat a bafflement to family and friends. I knew camp was home and I knew that if I stayed on I'd have a shot at becoming leaderly and generous. In her fifth summer at FV, Monica is 14 now--a Tacoma camper in '07--but she still deals with that home/camp - shy/star duality. I hiked after dinner with one of the camp directors recently and visited all the Tacoma/Lenape overnights. At a site called Moonshadow I caught up with Monica, the day after her 14th birthday, and here is a 4-minute audio recording of that nice chat. Blink your eye and look again--and this kid will be a CIT. Blink again: a VC. Blink, blink: she'll be like us, having had a great multi-year run of it, and will be off on what I hope and expect will be a very good and very effective life, looking back at the experience that changed everything. On the continuum of things, Monica's exactly us--just born later.

So let us connect somehow with these kids. They have much to tell us--to remind us--of what we once were and hoped for, of a time when a future in which acceptance and joy would was still ahead and would stretch before us seemingly forever, summer after summer.

9 Wawayanda directors in one place at one time

At the 2001 reunion we celebrated the 100th year of Wawayanda camping, which began of course in 1901. There was a moment when we realized we had seven former Camp Wawayanda directors in the dining hall at the same time. There were a total of nine Wawayanda directors at the reunion, but neither Jim Ewen nor Mike Ketcham had yet arrived at that moment...and maybe ten if Steve Purkis was there, as I think he was, and if Steve had been a Wawayanda--as distinct from Hird--Director. Well we present seven gathered up front and led the 400 former staff attending the reunion in a surprisingly emotional rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung to Wawayanda itself. Emotional...because...perhaps because Wawayanda had always taken time to sing happy birthday to us and now we were returning the favor. Then of course there was the Hula Hop and then the "Order of the Oar." The gathering was given a choice of which director to toss into the air 100 times: Dave King, Rick Wormeli, or Al Filreis. King won the vote, I'm sure, but would have refused to be thrown up 100 times, lest he throw up his lunch on us, so the fiction was that I received the greatest applause and hence I became surely the person tossed into the air the greatest number of times at any single "Order of the Oar" affair. A hundred times is a lot, I can tell you now from firsthand experience, and, to be sure, the people tossing me were not holding back. I rose eight feet into the air...

The directors were, from left to right: Dave King (director in the 1960s and here & there in the early 70s), Digger Shortt (also in 1960s), Rick Wormeli (directed in late 1980s), Al Filreis (director in the 1970s and 80s), Dave Allen ("the amazing Dave!"--1980s), Bobby Hettler (early to mid-1970s), and Eileen Barnes (1990s).

Lenape 1995

Lenape staff photo 1995. Back row, left to right: Owen Flanagan (from Scotland), Derek Furr*, D'Arcy Oaks, James Raffo, O'Neil Guthrie, Khalid Jenkins. Front row, left to right: Ed Zimmerman, Zach First, Jim Barilla, Eric Schneider. Not pictured: Rick McKay, Kevin Pricket, Alex Shalom, David Sacher, Damion Frye. (Jim Barilla came back years later--in 2003, I think--to do a half-summer stint as a camp director.) The village chief recalls a few things:
Katie Kelly was Tacoma VC. Pete Swain called the NY State Police on some of our campers for graffiti on the Dining Hall chimney. This was the first summer that anyone could remember that there were no fistfights in Lenape (but there was one in Tacoma). I remember that at Hirdstock two of our campers did the first-ever Hirdstock rap, a clever play on the words "peace"
and "piece" (as in, a handgun). One camper tried to walk back to Jersey, and it took me, three directors, and the staff nurse to convince him not to.
* Derek had a "famous camper brother" named Joey. Thanks to J.D. Louis for this info.

Castle hostesses on final day of summer '67

On the final day of the summer of '67, the Castle "hostess" staff were literally leaving the old stone mansion through the basement door when this snapshot was taken. From left to right, they are Kathy Ketcham* (sister of Billie Jean and Mike and John--of Westfield, NJ), Shirley King, head of the Castle staff (long-time camp partner and of course wife of Dave King**), and Linda Gridley (of Grahamsville, NY). The Kodacolor Print was given to Shirley who gave it to me. On the reverse, in Shirley's handwriting: "Castle Goodbye, Aug 1967 - notice the tears?" She also notes: "(missing Carol ________ from Westfield.)"*** FV folks who came along later might not know that in the late 50s and 60s the Castle was run like an inn, with rooms for rent (for visiting parents and others), 3 meals a day served in the dining room and (I think I'm remembering rightly) men's jackets required at dinner. I believe tea was served on the veranda in the afternoon. My own memory: summers '67 and possibly '68, during "holdover" weekends, my parents took a room in the second floor (probably #24) and we had a heavenly two days away from the cabin mattresses and mildew and lived in luxury on what truly seemed the other side of the Wawayanda tracks. This otherness was surely emphasized by the rule against any camper crossing the Biscuit Creek bridge near the Ad Office. No campers lived in Pigeon or Biscuit Lodges in those days and only for special programs and events did we visit Reflection Pond. There were certainly no "Castle tours." The Castle, by the way, functioned as a quiet/alternative staff lounge (with snacks served) every evening well into the 80s. I'll leave it to others--perhaps Shirley herself--to write me with more details about this extraordinary and mostly forgotten history of our use of the Castle as an inn, after which I'll add it to this entry.

* Kathy is listed on the staff list as "Hostess--Housekeeper."
** Shirley is listed as "Castle Director." By the way, in '66 Shirley's position was "Staff Lounge Hostess."
*** According to the '67 staff list, she was Carole Plenty, indeed of Westfield.

Outpost candle-making & more Sicko Ball legend

I've mentioned Mike Mensik, '07 Outpost VC and son of former 70s VC Deb Trosvik, several times--and I've also told the legend of "Ultimate Sicko Ball" via D'Arcy Oaks. Last week I wandered into Arts & Crafts during a day of candle-making and found Outpost there, began to talk with the Outpost boys about their candles, and the conversation turned to Sicko Ball and finally to Mike Mensik who told his vague (and wonderfully incorrect) version of its origins. He concludes by talking about his alumna mom, who urged him to come east to FV to experience the magic she'd felt a mere thirty years before. Listen here to that recording. Here are the related earlier posts:
(1) origins of Ultimate Sicko Ball
(2) Trosvik-->Mensik: 1977 to 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

can those internationals play soccer!

After a staff soccer match, August 1982. Standing left to right: Todd Payton, Gorm Fosdal (Sweden), Dimitris Emmanoyil (Greece), George Lordi, Tom Franzkowiak (Germany), Kazuhiko Toshita (Japan), Jon Coates (York, England), Rudi Miremont (France?), Dave Gold, Mark Greenhall, Tom Woodard, Scott Livolsi, Dave Lovice, Graeme Sephton (Australia), Per Hansen (Norway); kneeling, left to right: Walid Sakr (Lebanon), Paul King, Rick Cobb, Paul Webster, Mike McNamee, Scott Nichol.

Rick Cobb had been an FV mainstay for years earlier and had been gone a few years by '82. But I faced a need for some extra counselors for the second half of the summer and got on the phone. "Cobbman, what are you doing now? You're between jobs? Oh, good, well, come on up here and be a counselor." So Rick was a super-counselor in Lenape that August, rooming with Walid Sakr in cabin 18. Cobb was "over the hill" and no one thought he could actually be a regular counselor for a whole month, but he really carried that village. Not that it lacked leadership, since, I believe, the great Paul Webster (Obi Wan Web-bo) was the VC--one of the finest in my long experience with VCs.

Cobb singlehandedly brought back a hilarious after-lunch dining hall skit, "The Ugliest Man in the World." The gist of the action is that a series of people look under the hood of the "ugliest man" and run away screaming, out of their minds. Well, Cobb taught his cabin-mate and fellow counselor Walid from Lebanon how to scream insanely for this skit. Walid's bizarre piercing scream still echoes in the mind down the years. I'd never heard anything like it. For days after the skit was performed, campers would come up to Walid and imitate his scream to his face, and then he'd do the maniacal scream back at them and they'd in turn run away screaming.

Well, I remember this soccer game as rather intense. Not sure if the expressions of the players reveal this. (The "old man" Rick Cobb is at right just above.)

3 Pokey staff reunite in.... California

When we gathered together all the L.A.-area Frost Valley people--who knew there were so many?!--there was a mini-reunion of three lifers who worked together in Pokey one summer. I snapped a shot of the three of them with my handheld Treo and am happy with the result--three happy women, from left to right: Janet Miller*, who was the Pokey VC that summer; Dana Russell, who was a counselor; and K.C. Carnegie, who was apparently a J.C. (I'm sure K.C. will correct me about this.) What was gratifying and amazing to me was that the three of them had not gotten together before this, yet they were all in that far-off city. Of course it would to be good to hold regional/area gatherings. Let me know if you're interested in organizing one. Some concentrations of FV people are in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, DC, probably Virginia.

* Now Janet Miller Stier. (With our FV connection we also discovered that we were both at Penn--I as member of the faculty and Janet as an undergrad psych major. Before long I'd introduced Janet to Byron Stier, a brilliant undergrad who had taken four or five of my courses. Next thing you know...they're married, and they asked me to speak at the wedding!)

small piece of the 1977 staff photo

From the 1977 staff photo, here's a small crop: at the top, left to right, is Ray Honeywell, Stan "the Man" Treadway, and Carol Wolff; next row from the left is Mike Ketcham, then the VC of Lenape whose name I can't remember, then John Ferris; next row down from left is Halbe Brown and Jerry Piltzer; next row down, again from left, is Jody Davies (later Jody Davis Ketcham), Laurie Cobb, and Debbie Marsh; next row from left is Janet Reis (dark hair), Lynn Rowling and a woman whose name I can't remember; next row down, from left, is Janet Leston (or maybe not), then Mary Fleischauer of Stevens Point, Wis. (our nurse--mom of Kirk, who was also in camp), and our girls' program director Carol Sarabun (partly obscured by the curly-haired woman in front of her).

Stan Treadway probably holds a number of Frost Valley firsts. But let it be said here: Stan was literally the first person ever to come over the top of the Project Adventure wall. I'm going to guess that this was June 20-something, 1977.

origins of "Silence" & "Ultimate Sicko Ball"

D'Arcy John Oaks (kneeling with backpack in photo), a Frost Valley lifer and one of the staff stars of the 1990s, paid an eventful four-hour visit to the valley in early July, during the current summer's session 1. An old buddy of Jeff Daly and Bob Eddings, who together now run summer camp, D'Arcy was hooked up with Hemlock & Sacky '07 and introduced to them as one of the creators of their favorite combined cheer, now called "Silence." Here is D'Arcy's description of his visit, starting with his guest appearance at "Silence":
The kids from Hemlock and Sacky asked me to do the "Silence" cheer (which we used to call "Knights and Maidens") with them. That was pretty awesome. Back in like '91 there was a massive "cheer war" in the Hird, especially between Lenape and Hemlock. "Knights and Maidens" was written to combine the shouting strength of Sacky and Hemlock (80 kids) to over-power Lenape (40 kids). Jeff helped write that cheer with me and a bunch of Hemlock/Sacky counselors (Ellie Gordon, Malik Jenkins, Cybil Ryan, Ed Zimmerman, Sam McTieran, and others) right before Session 1 started in that summer (either '91 or '92). I was proud to see that the Hird kids still play "Ultimate Sicko Ball," which is this crazy 4-team capture the flag game they play on Big Tree Field. In something like 1990 or 1991 Josh Tucker, John Turer, and I decided the Hird needed a game that every Hird camper could play at the same time, thus the beginning of "Ultimate Sicko Ball." It involves four teams, a lot of balls that are the flags, tagging, jails, no-mans-land, hoola-hoops, throwing, kicking, catching. Its really great. [Editor's note: here's a photo taken of the four teams all set up in the Big Tree Field just prior to one such USB game.] I can't believe they still play that game. I was wearing my classic early '70's FV half-sleeve jersey and, like you've been writing in your blog, old FV shirts are noticed and desired by both staff and campers. Jeff introduced me to the Hird campers over the PA right before hoopla and all the kids cheered my return to FV...I felt like a rock-star.
And then, still D'Arcy talking about his visit, there's this, almost inevitable strong feelings of gratitude:
Of course right before Jeff and I said good bye we had that teary-eyed conversation of how important Frost Valley was to our becoming the fine adults that we are now (ha!)... that FV helped us develop courage to challenge ourselves, champion the underdog, take responsibility for ourselves and others, be proactive, have the courage to hold an individual opinion different from others, be able to take charge and lead a group of people, resolve conflicts, be thankful for the little things, act local and think global...many of our personal characteristics which we are most proud can be traced to some extent to being young people at Frost Valley. We acknowledged to each other that we owed Frost Valley, big time.
Now here's D'Arcy John Oaks' FV profile:

1990 - Hemlock JC
1991 - Hemlock counselor
1992 - Hemlock counselor
1993 - PAC counselor
1995 - Lenape VC
1996 - Hemlock VC
1997 - CIT Coordinator
1998 - Recovery Camp/Discovery Camp Director

The photo above was taken in 1995 and shows director Peter Swain and Lenape VC D'Arcy Oaks explaining some camp rule or another to a Lenape camper.

Floyd Hird's annual speech at staff training

The photo here was taken just moments before the start of the beginning-of-summer staff banquet, held on the last evening of staff training week. I have to guess at the year: I'd say '79 or '80. The shot was taken just below Pocohontas (cabins 1-5 or 31-35) a few feet away from the entrance to the girls' dining hall. From left to right: Floyd Hird, Halbe Brown, Carolyn Shelburne (who was either girls' camp director or program director that summer), Marie Hess, and Jane Brown. Floyd Hird always drove up from his home in Ho-ho-kus, NJ, to join us for some part of training, usually on the last night--and made the same speech every time. I can still hear his unusual slow, folksy, drawled, gravelly voice in my head. The key line in his annual 5-minute speech to the summer staff was this: "You have a responsibility so immense you can hardly imagine it. For a parent there is nothing more precious, more important, more life-affirming that one's own child, and you, my friends, are being given charge of this child. What you do can change a child's life. What you have is the most valued thing adults have. There can be no greater thing. For these parents who have trusted us, you can either ruin or save the world." In later years, while Floyd made this speech, I would silently mouth the words, word by word (and get it right). The people sitting near me would quietly laugh at my perfect imitation of Floyd. And I suppose I was satirizing his predictability. And yet now, as a parent myself, I know that that is the message I want today's counselors to hear, and if given the chance I would make the same speech every time myself.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Diana Siderides, horsebarn in '74

Diana Siderides (whose home base was Cherry Hill, NJ, near Philadelphia) was our "Riding Director" at the horsebarn in 1974. The previous year she had ridden with two friends 3,000 miles from Morrisville, New York, to Ventura, California on horses named Okie and Collar Bars "and a pinto mare." This remarkable feat can be confirmed here. I believe '74 was Diana's only summer at Frost Valley. Later she was the founder of Flight to Freedom, Rehabilitation Resource for Raptors and has written several books about her work with owls and hawks. She created this project in 1985, while she was recovering from an accident that severely injured her right hand and arm. Since then, she has worked hard to develop a sanctuary for injured and orphaned birds of prey, and provide assistance so that they may be reintroduced to the wild. For a biographical profile, go here.

Melanie Mackin, 1958-2005

The other day I was thinking about Melanie Mackin, who was a CIT in '73, an LIT in '74 and a terrific JC in '75. Melanie from Short Hills, NJ - an energetic joyful young person I recall from those summers. I looked in our listserv and realized that we'd lost touch with her. Then I googled her and found, sadly, that she passed away in 2005. In 2002 she and two other partners had founded a law firm in Ohio that concentrated on workers' compensation and labor relations. Here is an obituary:
Melanie Mackin Stump, age 47, of Oakwood, Ohio, formerly of Montclair and Short Hills NJ, passed away Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005 at the Hospice Care Center, Dayton, Ohio. Melanie was born on April 25, 1958 in Newark, New Jersey. She was preceded in death by her mother Alma (Partyka) Mackin. She is survived by her husband of 18 years, Randall; her son Ronald Patrick Stump; her father Thomas Mackin of Bedminster NJ; her sister, Tara Hiby and her husband Eric of Houston TX; her niece Allison Hiby; her father-in-law and mother-in-law Maury and Patricia Himmelberg of Kettering OH; two sister-in-laws Leigh Ann Turner of Bellbrook OH and Susan Holt and her husband Tim and their children Justin & Kristin of Tampa FL. , She was a 1980 graduate of Smith College in Northampton MA, and a 1984 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in the fall of 1984. She started her career as a law clerk for Judge James A. Brogan, then worked at Smith and Schnacke for several years, later with Chernesky, Heyman & Kress, and then with Thompson Hine. In 2002 she was a founding partner in the firm of Scheuer, Mackin & Breslin, with offices in Dayton, Cincinnati & Cleveland. She was board certified in the specialty area of Workers Compensation Law. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Dayton, 324 Wilmington Ave., Dayton OH 45420.
If Melanie's FV friends want to set up a campership in Melanie's memory (financial aid grant for a camper to attend for 2 weeks whose family cannot otherwise afford it), contact me and I can help set it up.

Baltimoreans galore

Earlier I mentioned the plethora of Marylanders on the camp staff roster during Wawayanda's first years at Frost Valley. I'm looking now at the 1962 staff list and here are the Baltimore-area people: Dave and Shirley King, Carole Quensen, Dick Somers, Mike DeVita, Digger Shortt, Noel Acton (lived in Kingsville MD but attended college at UVa), Lou Gaston, John Matukaitis, Bob Middaugh (lived in Towson), Linda Shortt (Digger's sister), Frank Neumann (kitchen staff), Sandy DeVita (junior counselor). The second greatest concentration was probably the Mississippi folks and the third was Westfield, NJ. 1962 was the last time the staff lists included college affiliations. in '62 the Baltimore contingent added counselors Richard Holmes and Frank Neumann and Carl Sandberg (spelled differently from the poet).

Above: Digger Shortt, at right, with John Ketcham - at the 2001 Wawayanda centennial reunion.

Susky lanyards

I spent about an hour with these Susquehanna (Susky) girls and their counselors on a warm sunny afternoon about a week ago. For their "feelin' good" cabin activity they chose to make lanyards, that time-honored pastime at camp. They were marvelous - concentrating on their lanyard-making yet chatty and relaxed. I recorded part of my conversation with them and here it is. At the end of the recording they perform for me "The Hill," a cheer that is chanted by Susky and Lakota together, they being the two villages that currently reside in cabins 41-45 and 46-50, the two groups of five cabins assembled in rows up the hill above the lake. I've always thought of these two villages (for many years they were Sacky and Tacoma) as not a very nice place to live--cabins too close together, not enough of a woodsy setting. And yet there is remarkable unity among the campers who live here, just as there's always been. In recent years the two village staffs even share one CQ fire, just in front of cabin 48.

playing songs rather than washing dishes

Here is Alan Gaylor, playing and singing (beautifully, no doubt) while sitting on a gleaming, new stainless steel counter by the dishwasher (named "Hobart") in the kitchen of the (pre-1983) boys' dining hall. Alan was from Upper Montclair, an early 1960s Wawayanda guy, and now lives in Hawaii*, where he still makes and performs music. You can hear him on a CD called Two Waters by Coconut Joe. He has a seriously good harmonica solo on a song called "Humpback Whale." The song is trite ("far from human eyes..." there's this wonderful world of whales and dolphins) but Gaylor's solo is hot. I've made a clip of it here--so have a listen. And click here for more about the song. He also plays harmonica on a "Go Jimmy Go" CD called Soul Arrival (look here). On the 1964 staff list Gaylor is listed as "Boys Camp Clerk." In '65 he was a counselor in the "CE" or "Construction Engineer" program but by '66 he's gone (his brother, Edward, worked '66 as a rifle range assistant). In '63 he had been a junior counselor. We are not in touch with Alan; anyone who knows how to reach him should contact me.

* according to Jim Wilkes

building Lake Cole

Lake Cole is a man-made lake, as almost everyone knows or recalls. Wawayanda's first summer at Frost Valley--1958--was a lakeless summer. Harry Cole led the team that created our current stream-fed 23-acre lake between the summers of '58 and '59. This photo was taken in '59 or '60. The dock and swimming area you're seeing here is situated on the eastern edge of the lake, near the boathouse--not along the northern edge which is where the swimming area is today. (In this picture the boathouse would be off to the left at about 10 o'clock.) In the background you can see the grassless, treeless rim of the newly dug area. Later pine trees were planted all along the southern edge of the lake between the high rim holding the water in and the road. These trees are now tall and full. The blonde counselor on the diving board here is one of a number of staff who came from Towson State College--brought to Wawayanda, I believe, by Digger Shortt and/or other Baltimore-area folks. I can remember, as a camper, that my camp director (Dave King) and program director (Dick "Yo-Yo" Sommers) were both Baltimoreans. It's even the case that at dinner Baltimore Orioles scores were announced (they were of course a great team in the mid-60s*). Even later, in the early 70s, prominent staff members like Barry Dunkin came out of Towson State. By now the Towson connection has long faded, but my memories of the odd-seeming Marylandcentricity of Wawayanda in those days hasn't. (Someday, in another entry, I'll say something about another eccentric geographic pipeline: the Mississippi connection.)

* I suppose there would have been protests about this had the Yankees or Mets been any good then. The Yanks had just gone bad, starting in'65, and the Mets of course were perennial 10th-place finishers in the National League. My dad, Sam, mailed me short short notes when I was at camp--always enclosed with a Newark Evening News clipping about the Mets game the previous day and the National League standings. I'm not sure why I enjoyed this. My team typically lost 90 to 100 games and typically sent no one to the all-star game. But I can remember as one of the great pleasures of being at camp, this: rest hour, a cool breeze blowing through my own little crank-up window in my cabin, my green navy wool blanket (always tucked neatly into my bunk), resting my head on my pillow and gleaming white pillow case (I changed the case at least 3 times during each 2-week session), and the day's mail just brought in by my junior counselor, and I always started with the letter and news of the Mets from my dad. His letters read like this:
Dear Al, nothing much going on here. I don't see any of the neighborhood kids. You are lucky to be at camp. It's hot here. Must be cool there at night. The Mets lost again. What else is new? Ron Hunt was hit by a pitch twice. Love, dad.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

campy boys camp circa 1960

Here is a photo of Jim Wilkes of Mississippi (at left) and Ralph Holt (at right, of Newark NJ) gussied up in drag for some camp program or other in 1960 (or 1959). I just love that camp car! It's good to know that a white southerner and black northerner in that era could meet at Wawayanda and find at least gender-bending in common! By the time I came to Wawayanda as a very young camper a few years later, Ralph was quite a bit stouter (taking a larger dress size, I imagine) and was by then the director of Arts & Crafts, which we called "the Crafts shop." Crafts was then located in the old garage that was renovated in 1970 and since then has been called Hayden Lodge. Hayden was the first major renovation of one of the old Forstmann buildings, the first of many in the Halbe Brown era (1966-2001). In 1963 and 1964 Jim Wilkes held two positions at camp: Trail Blazer Director and "Associate Executive Secretary" and his address on the staff list is given as 45 Bleecker Street, Newark, NJ - which was where the Wawayanda/Frost Valley Association year-round office was located. The Trail Blazer program was a combination of the following: a step beyond Hemlock, the oldest regular in-camp boys village; a pre-CIT program; what we later called "Sequoia," adventure village; and what we later called "Catskill Explorers" and "Adventure Camp" (adventure trips). The Trail Blazer staff included a "director" (not "village chief") and counselors and junior counselors. For instance, in 1964 Paul Augustine of Westfield NJ was a Trail Blazer JC, and so was Geoff Steck, while the same year Bill Starmer was a TB counselor. I believe that the Trail Blazers were headquartered in the area just to the east of the main cabin areas, what we later called Sequoia. The original Sequoia barn (a wooden structure with bathrooms that was built up on stilts to keep it above a swampy area near where Biscuit & Pigeon converged) was, when I first came to camp, called "the Trail Blazers' barn."

1987 staff photo

Chris Mills (see the previous post) also sent me a photo of the 1987 summer staff. (Chris thought it was the '86 photo but I am persuaded by subsequent correspondence from Eric Blum that is' from '87.) It strikes me that this can't be the entire staff, although it does have the look of an official shot. Standing at far left is Barb Bartis, who succeeded me as Hird director. Next to her is Eileen Barnes and next to Eileen is Liz Horne. In the middle of those standing--with the dark-framed horn-rimmed glasses--is Eric Blum. Eric still comes to camp for an entire month in a role he calls "camp schlep." He uses up his entire vacation to do this, and the pay he receives he donates to FV. Seated ninth from the right is Abby Kantrowitz, and to Abby's right is Lillian Rountree and to Lillian's right is Liz Cruickshank. The seventh person standing from the right is Rick Wormeli (Wawayanda Director), an award-winning teacher from Virginia. Standing fourth from right is Johnny Bostick, second from right is David Sunshine and standing at far right is Terry Murray (Director of Camping). Eric Blum adds:
I also recognized some folks like Paul "Strawberry" Gieger (?spelling) who was my JC in cabin 11 forest village, also Chino Wilson who had been a CIT in forest village in 1986 and a counselor in Pokey/Totem in 1987. I also reconized Skip Defoe who worked that summer with the adventure staff and did alot of driving. Standing next to me is Frank Degraw who was VC of forest first half of the summer and woodwise the second half. The Baris-Barnes-Horne grouping if I remember correctly Elleen was the VC of Windsong and Liz was the VC of Tacoma. In 1986 Barb was HIrd director, Liz was a Tacoma counselor, and Elleen was a couselor in Cabin 16 susky village.

1990 Ranch Leaders ("barn rats" made official)

Prior to the late 80s, campers who loved to hang out at the horsebarn were permitted to do so informally, and they were known around camp as "barn rats." Perhaps the most famous of the early-80s barn rats was Spencer Levy. A program called "Ranch Leaders" was formed to enable kids to learn advanced horsemanship as an official part of the camp program (this was distinct from Ranch Camp, which was a "specialty camp" and included beginners). Chris Mills worked at the barn on and off from the mid-80s through the early 90s (1985-91, to be exact) and sends me this photo of a number of barn staff and "Ranch Leaders" from 1990. Among those in the picture are: Brad Gaver, Brian Butler, Jen Rotella, Jess Soller (Jess is the girl on the lower right, leaning up against Olivia; Jess is wearing a black top and light-colored shorts), Chris DePuy, JD Louis, Debbie Floyd, and Olivia Ostrow. Olivia's sister Jenna was of course a lifer too. Leon Greene is second from the right on the top row (in the light blue shirt). In the bottom row, sitting to the right, is Becky [last name?]. If anyone can identify others, drop me a line. I believe that the girl standing at far left is Tammy Lynn, who in recent years was Frost Valley's full-time camp nurse. I'm guessing that's a young Brian Butler standing at the far right. That would mean Brad Gaver is third standing from the left.

When Karin Turer (FV 1988-97) saw this photo, she sent some thoughts, triggered by seeing Jess Soller in the picture. Here's Karin:
A girl in the Ranch Leaders photo is named is Jess Soller from TX. She was close with Becky Merino...and we were all in Tacoma and Windsong together. Jess was the coolest girl and we all shaved the backs of our heads and listened to the Violent Femmes and Fishbone. My age group lost a lot of people as counselors because the year we were all supposed to become JCs, they camp decided to de-emphasize under-18 staff and create the "A.C." position. So in 1993, there were only 8-10 previous CITs who had the opportunity to "graduate" into being JCs. It was too bad because we lost a lot of the friends I'd grown up with. Jess had an older brother named Mike who was a counselor. We all thought he was hot. He played the guitar too, so he was double-hot.... I was never a barn rat, but as staff I was always a woods rat, spending most of my time in Sequoia and Woodwise.

'94 Pokey VC hits Hollywood big-time

Karen Carnegie, known to many at FV as "KC," has stayed in close touch with me and us although she's in faraway Los Angeles. I didn't work with KC directly (she came of age after my time, although I do believe she was a camper in my last summers as director--yes, in '85, my last summer on staff, KC was a Sacky girl so indeed she was in the Hird when I was Hird director) but I have come to know and admire her in recent years. When a few of us went to L.A. in September '06 to host an "Frost Valley West" gathering at Rafik Melek Ghobrial's home, K.C. was there of course. She attended the Labor Day '06 reunion and brought with her several great cartoon drawings she'd done--to sell them at our campership auction (they went for a lot of money). The photo here was taken in 1994 when KC was the Pokey VC. The counselor behind her is Bernadette. Elizabeth is the camper to the left of KC and Nicole is below. Yesterday, KC wrote:
I'm out here in Burbank, California, where we've just started to enter into the hot part of summer, with temperatures getting towards the 100s in the non-frosty San Fernando Valley. [Temps in the] 50s with a jacket sounds really nice! Perfect for a campfire. A little plug for the Simpsons Movie, which hits theaters this weekend! Originally I was slated to stay on the series (they split the crew in half then hired new folks to fill out both crews) but as the year went along, more and more artists were pulled onto the feature, and I got drafted into the madness as well. So if anyone decides to go see it, and then stays for the credits, you'll see me on there! (Karen Carnegie Johnson) Names are sorted by studio, and I'm listed under "Stacked Animation Laboratory". This name is a big spoof -- I was part of a small group of artists lent out by Film Roman to work in a double-wide trailer on the Fox movie lot near the writers and producers. The trailer's previous occupant was the production staff for the short-lived book-store-set Pamela Anderson show "Stacked". The "Stacked" sign and poster were up the whole time we were in there, so it became a running joke. Anyhoo, it's my first feature credit, so I'm pretty excited about it.
So that's the Frost Valley news from Hollywood.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Janet Winner's daughter is a counselor now too

Janet Winner was a counselor, I believe, in the early 1970s. I didn't know her very well then, but somehow I got to know her during a northern New Jersey-centered part of her non-summer life when she was, I believe, commuting to NYC for school or job and needed a place to live. It was agreed that she should live in the Montclair house that served as the FV office. (The house was on Valley Road and has since been sold. FV's NJ office--mostly for development [fund-raising and outreach] staff--is currently in rented spaces in a big old church just a few blocks away on South Fullerton Avenue...which I believe was the street on which the office was located after the move from Newark and before the purchase of the house on Valley.) Janet lived in the Montclair office and this was a time when I spent afternoons working there on various projects for Halbe Brown. Then it was years and years before I saw Janet again. It was here at camp, perhaps six summers ago, when one day she and her husband Dick were dropping off their two daughters. Now one of those daugthers, Phoebe, is a counselor in Pokey. And here is a shot of Phoebe with two of her campers and a co-counselor. Phoebe is at right. Yesterday, out of the blue, the normally quasi-shy Phoebe came from nowhere to ask me for one of the "I was a star at Al's Challenge Night" t-shirts I was giving only to a few special winners at Challenge Night this session. I did have a few extras and was charmed by her assertive question, so I gave her one. In a way that seems only to make sense here, this shirt has become a much-coveted item among the staff and older campers, and Phoebe was already happily wearing it last I saw her. Hilarious.

alum's son is now VC of Outpost

A little while back I mentioned that the son of Deb Trosvik, who once (1977, I think) was a village chief of Susky, is here again this summer as the VC of Outpost. He is Mike Mensik. Last night--the final night of the session (when as always the village staffs are asked to remain in the village: what we used to call "sleep-in" and what I think they now dub "all in")--I wandered around, visiting the CQ fires in Tacoma, Forest, Hemlock, Sacky, and Outpost. By the time I got to Outpost it was 12:45 am. Mike Mensik was there, filling out evaluation forms and waiting for the rest of his staff to come out of the cabins and back from various conversations (one counselor was discussing a black bear sighting with a camp director up the hill). Mike told me that it was the night for Outpost grilling and he proudly displayed items picked up on someone's day off: burger patties, jumbo shrimp, etc. I was exhausted and yet the thought of shrimp
grilled over a fire, under the stars, on the last night of the session, appealed to me. In the end I didn't stay and it was a good thing: Mike told me this morning that the shrimp wasn't ready to eat until at least an hour later. He also said that "We had a visit from a friend at 2:30 am." He was speaking in front of his campers and by "friend" I knew he meant that village-friendly shrimp-attracted black bear. Above is a photo taken just a few minutes ago of Mike and his cabin. One of the kids is the great-grandson of our long-time friend, Helen Geyer. Helen was the first woman on FV's Board of Trustees and recently made a very generous gift to support the renovation of the old Girls' Dining Hall or Conover-English Hall, now re-named Geyer Hall. Another nice convergence of the FV generations. Above is Deb Trosvik in the 1977 staff photo.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

June Kaiser, Sven Grotrian, Rich Weinberg, Brad Gaver

Today I spent the day on the phone calling various friends and supporters of Frost Valley. Among them were these old camp friends: Sven Grotrian, June Kaiser Campbell, Rich Weinberg, Brad Gaver. Brad picked up his phone while he was feeding hay to his horses. He co-runs a horse ranch just west of West Palm Beach in Florida, and does a lot of traveling to teach about horsemanship. (We talked about the possibility that he would come here to Frost Valley to lead a session.) Sven's silvery slightly yodel-like voice reminded me instantly of some wonderful weeks and months we spent together here. Sven started at FV in 1963 and his last summer was '77. Today he reminded me that (a) we roomed together one summer and (b) that for the last two weeks of his last summer he was a Camp Director. Sven's two daughters were both campers here a few years ago. I caught Rich in Maine where he was putting siding on his cabin up there. I hope to talk with him again soon. Rich spent some of his many years here as a counselor in Lacota, the tipi village. Rich is somewhat in touch with Heather Sachs. We knew June as June Kaiser--hailing from Summit NJ (her brother David and sister Linda both also worked at camp). She is now an attorney in Seattle and lives with her family on Bainbridge Island. Her kids are 16 and 14. I hope to chat with June again in a day or two. The photo above is a picture of June taken at the old horsebarn (aka "the Lazy Nag Corral").

an Outpost cheer

If you click here you will see a video recording of a cheer chanted by Outpost village just a few days ago. Note that Outpost's sister village (Lakota - between Susky and Sacky in age) cheers along with Outpost during "hoopla" after lunch. The brother and sister villages typically memorize each other's cheers; indeed, often when a village begins one of its cheers, the entire dining hall shouts in comradeship. It's quite something to behold.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

in Biscuit Creek falls....

The other day I was looking at old photos of Wawayanda campers in the archive here in the "historical room" of the administration office and found several good ones of campers swimming and playing in the cold-water pool just below the Biscuit Creek Falls. Rather than post to this blog an old photo, I decided to walk out to the creek and see if kids were swimming there. Lo and behold: there they were, doing the same thing we've done for five decades: cooling off fast on a hot day, cavorting, dunking heads under the rushing water coming off those mossy, smoothed wooden planks. I took a photo and here it is. Makes you want to come here and jump in, doesn't it?

When I die let my ashes
flow down Biscuit River.
Let 'em roll on in water
the color of sky.
I'll be halfway to heaven
at a New Wawayanda,
sayin' Wawayanda spirit
it never did die.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Olympics 2007

Click on the photo here and see a marvelous picture of all ten Frost Valley Olympic teams gathered in the Olympic Circle for the Opening Ceremonies. It has been ever the same. It didn't take much for me to sense that precisely this event has happened nearly 50 times on this very site: the teams organized in slices of the circle, sitting in front of their banner, the paint on bedsheets still wet from that afternoon's painting; the cheering in turn; the cheering all at once; the grandiose let-the-games-begin rhetoric; and the moving torch-lighting. The next day--Monday, Olympic Day--ended up as a wash-out because of a cold, driving rain. But spirits were not dampened, and the teams gathered in the dining hall for a rousing Closing Ceremonies. The image below shows the whole camp gathering before joining their Olympics teams, prior to Opening Ceremonies. Click here and you can see and hear the team from Morocco chanting. The video was shot from the roof of Margetts Lodge, quite a feat in itself.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nurse Rick

Rick Kaskel, an internationally prominent pediatric nephrologist, has for many many years -- almost from the beginning -- been associated with our dialysis program. At all times during the summer the dialysis staff includes an MD nephrologist. Rick loves it here (both his daughters were campers and became counselors) and loves to visit. He's a member of the Board of Trustees and annually volunteers as a doc for at least a week. Well, this time he came for the first week of session 2 and found that the second nurse was unavailable, and so Doctor Rick became Nurse Rick, helping Maureen Eisele, our fabulous coordinator of the program. Rick's wife Phyllis joined us at the end of the week, just when Bill Abbott had come up for a long weekend. This photo shows, from right to left, Bill, Rick, Phyllis and Maureen. Today Eva Gottscho, now 94, came for a visit along with members of the Gottscho Foundation Board. More about Eva and her visit in another post, but I note here Eva's passionate praise for Maureen, who has committed herself to this project all summer for something like 8 summers. Everyone adores her, including and especially the kids. She stands in a long line of extraordinarily committed coordinators of this unusual program for kids with renal failure, among them Michele Palamidy, Stuart Kaufer, and Tamara Stephenson. If you don't know much about the program, be sure to read about it on the Frost Valley web site. I have to add that Rick and Phyllis have a third generation in camp this session: their granddaughter, Lauren--I think she is just 6, or maybe just 7--is in Pokey cabin 21. She won the cutest walk at Challenge Night, hands down.

ol' Wawayanda in good hands

Bob ("Bobby") Eddings is one of the most passionate, energetic and inspiring people ever to grace the roster of Frost Valley's staff. By now he's been here many, many years, having begun in summer camp. Later he founded our community center programs, including school-year day- and after-school care and our summertime day camp which is used primarily by local families (Grahamsville, Liberty, Phoenicia, Woodstock, etc.). The day camp has been one of our most successful programs. This session some 180 kids come to our day camp each day! This past year Bob was promoted to the co-directorship (with his old FV friend Jeff Daly) of all camping services, with Bob's area including Camp Wawayanda, day camp and other programs (in other words, "youth" as distinct from "teen"). The photo here shows Bob on a rainy check-in day, greeting parents and new campers under the Halbe & Jane Brown pavilion, along with Camp Wawayanda director Dan Weir and Assistant Wawayanda Director, Heather Bowman. I'll tell you about Dan and Heather in another post. Meantime, many alumni will know Dan because his aunt Helen Cornman was a camper, counselor, VC, camp director over a period of 16 summers and has been active at recent alumni reunions as organizer and host of our beautiful in memoriam services. In the photo, Bob and Heather are seated while Dan is standing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

new zipline (watch video)

If you click here you can watch a video of campers and counselors going down Frost Valley's new zipline - starting atop a huge Y (as in YMCA)-shaped climbing tower. Watch all the way to the end and you will see alumna Sandy Shapiro Bohn--who is here at camp for four weeks working as camp driver--try her steady hand at the zipline. Turn the volume down at that point so you won't be deafened by her screams. The new climbing tower was constructed this past spring.

Boyd family redux

Elizabeth Boyd is a very, very talented counselor in Pokey this summer. She is the daughter of Peter Boyd, a former camper, CIT, LIT in 1972, and JC in '73, who has long since settled in Texas with his family. I had lunch with Elizabeth's cabin the other day and it was moving to see how attached to her the kids are. Peter's brothers David and Tim were also campers and staff members in the 70s. Peter and his family have traveled from Texas to Frost Valley many times in the past few summers - most recently between sessions 1 and 2 when he helped, along with other staff alumni, with check-in, greeting parents, escorting new campers up the hill to the villages, etc.

tomorrow's the day my Hird's a-gonna come...

Kelly Zingone is the Director of Camp Henry Hird this summer ("the Hird" - as in "the [mighty] herd") and John Butler is the Assistant Hird Director. They make a wonderful team. After many years associated with girl scout camping, Kelly is in her second year at FV. She has great camp instincts, is unflappable, and is fantastic with the staff, who all admire her. John Butler, a recent graduate from Brown University, is an FV lifer, having started his time here as a young camper. He was my son's cabin counselor in Outpost in '03, was here only briefly in '05 and served ably as Hemlock VC in '06 before his promotion. Jeff Daly, himself a lifer (I believe his first summer here was in the late 80s), is the co-Director of Camping Services focusing on teen programs (in other words--the older campers plus CITs) and supervises Kelly and John. More on the Wawayanda team in another post.

old staff shirts are in great demand here

The other night I hosted and led a Challenge Night for Tacoma and Lenape. Campers responded to the usual challenges: cutest walk, best impersonation of a Frost Valley personage, funniest non-dirty joke, highest standing jump, weirdest noise, and so on. And of course there was the Frost Valley history and trivia contest. To the winner of that - Lenape camper Drew Glicker, who happens to be the son of staff alumna Robin Helfand Glicker and nephew of former counselor, VC and Camp Director Dawn Helfand Huebner - I gave an old, rare staff shirt. The staff, who crave these old staff shirts, drooled after this one. Drew has worn it several days here at camp since Challenge Night. His sister Allye, who is the Village Chief of Pokey/Totem, is jealous and has struck some sort of sharing deal. Before I gave this treasure away, I took a photo of it. I can't quite remember which year this is from. If you know, please write to me or use the post/mail icon below. It's a funny circuitous intergenerational Frost Valley route: aunt Dawn and mom Robin probably once owned such a shirt, but the kids get it from me by way of Challenge Night 2007. Note: this staff shirt and a number of others were given to me a few years ago by Leslie Black, who saved every one of her staff shirts, going quite a ways back....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

here's Al and the way he does the....

Lots of video being made at camp these days. Not surprisingly. There's even a staff member devoting all his time to working with campers to make podcasts and putting clips up on YouTube. Frost Valley's second 2007 camping session is just a few days old and already there are three videos of me (1) doing my hands/noise thing at Wawayanda opening campfire, session 2, (2) leading "Father Abraham" (3) leading "Hula Hop" in the dining hall. (The above links all direct you toward YouTube.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

2 kids of former staff are CITs now

Here, to the left, is Katey Ghobrial, daughter of Rafik Melek (now known as Mark Rafik Ghobrial); and Mariah Bohn, daughter of Sandra Shapiro Bohn. Sandy and Rafik were both counselors (and Rafik a VC) many years ago; and Dan Shapiro, Sandy's brother, was a camper, CIT and LIT back in the late 60s and early 70s. Now Katey and Sandy are CITs together. (My son Ben will be a CIT during the second half of the summer--and he and they have come to know each other well over the years.) Peter Boyd's daughter Elizabeth is a Pokey counselor this summer. Sandy's older daughter Shaina as a counselor in Pokey too. Debra Trosvik (once a VC of Susky) has a son here: Mike Mensik, VC of Outpost. As for the children of alumni who are campers this summer, the list is too long for this entry, but perhaps I will add a few notes as the days pass here at camp.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bill Sonsin goes way back

Bill Sonsin, who was a camper at the old Johnsonburg, NJ Wawayanda in '56 and '57 and then spent the summers of '58 and '59 at FV as a camper and '61 and '62 as a staff member, recently reconnected to FV through our web site. Bill lived in Minneapolis for many years where he worked as a personal financial advisor. Now retired, he lives in Prescott, Arizona where he does volunteer work, writes a weekly newspaper column on small business, and hikes with a local group, though he admits that his idea of roughing it these days is staying at the Motel 6 instead of the Holiday Inn. Bill still remembers fellow Westfield (NJ) 'ers Bud Cox and Mike Ketcham as well as Dave King, Mike DeVita, Digger Shortt, and Jim Wilkes. (I have been in touch with Jim Wilkes recently. Dave and Shirley King will be visiting Frost Valley this coming weekend. Mike Ketcham directs a beautiful camp on the Sound near Tacoma. And Bud Cox, of course, is still here after all these years.

The image above is the 1962 Boys' Camp staff photo: standing: Dave Tomb, Bill Watts, Alan Cosner, Jim Vlk, Lew Gaston, Noel Acton, John Matukitis, Rick Sanborn, Bill Ford, Tom Squires; 2nd row: Homer McLemore, Joe Adcock, Phil Cornelius, Bob Eilenberger, SAm Townsend, Jesse Booth, Steve Irwin, Rich Real, Bill Starmer; seated: Bill Stout, Bob Kimball, Digger Shortt, Jim Farned, Dave King, Al Parsons, Bruce Bohrer, Mike DeVita, Ralph Holt, Len Cummings; 4th row: Bill Horne, Steve Calbert, Bud Cox, Jack Leitch, Bill Sonsin, Andy Angevine. For more (including a photo of the 1962 Girls' Camp staff, click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

any pile of sticks can become legend

Hastily constructed to serve as an administrative office for the Girls' Camp director and program director and housing for the girls CITs in the early 60s, Hird Lodge is by now a skittery, dilapidated, house-of-cards with unbearable summertime heat braising those who live on the second floor, bowed stairs with lots of "give," and walls so thin you can hear people breathing from one end to the other. And yet every time I walk into the place in the summer--it's been in recent years the home of Quinnipiac or "Pac" village--the kids and staff insist on its sacredness and sheer beauty. The old lodge is a legend by now. Back in the day, the girl LIT's (Leaders-in-Training, a second summer of training after CIT) lived there and had an unending good time. But just imagine that loud hilariousness (and mischief, I'll add from personal knowledge) being had above the offices of the camp director. When Wawayanda was for boys (on the whole east side of camp) and Camp Henry Hird was for girls (the four groups of 5 cabins each above the lake, that dining hall, Hird and Turrell Lodges), the main "living room" of Hird was used as a social spot for women staff coming back from staff lounge late at night (the lounge was in Pigeon Lodge in those days and served hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, root beer floats, etc.--cooked by Marie Hess--and you paid cash). Funny how such camp buildings go through phases: first, new and luxurious; second, horrible & no one wants to live there; third, a treasure that every camper anticipates for years as the culmination of tradition. Dari Litchman saw this entry and got "teary-eyed and nostalgic," and offered this addition:
Pile of sticks indeed! One of my favorite lodges ever. I remember the first summer of PAC [1985?] - how great was Dave Gold in all his glory? MEET THE PAC? Probably the best cheer that ever was. I remember when Hird Lodge was the mailroom! Can you imagine how many packages were stolen and eaten that summer? (It was the mailroom AND Pac lived there at the same time, whose bright idea was that?) The best memory though, was one flag raising held there. I recall an amazing performance - Tom Cometa himself channeling Jimi Hendrix. We are all bleary eyed and still sleeping when the counselor door at the top of the stairs is KICKED open and he commences with the Star Spangled Banner. What a way to wake up! (Maybe we were kicking off Hirdstock?)
I'll note that "Meet the Pac" was sung to the tune of the N.Y. Mets theme song. Dave Gold, Pac's founder, and I were huge Met fans.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

there's gold in them thar hills!

The all-camp program that for many years took place during the first two-week camping session was called "Goldrush Day." A few directors would walk around the hills and along the trails leading down from the villages, with cans of gold spray paint. They painted little and medium-sized rocks - and once in a while, as a tease, a large rock--a boulder even. Some years the horsebarn staff rode around the villages on horseback before dawn, dressed as '49'ers, shouting the discovery of the Wawayanda mother lode: "There's gold in them thar hills! There's gold in them thar hills! Campers, get up. Get the gold before it's gone!" The campers arose, grabbed a laundry bag or pillow case, and once the signal was given would walk around camp gathering "gold." (This was, for one thing, a way for the camp to get rid of hundreds of pounds of those awful ankle-twisting Catskills round rocks along the paths we all used every day. At the end of the morning campers brought their bags of rocks do the Assayer's Office (the laundry) where the gold was weighed and Frost Valley paper money was given out accordingly. After lunch we gathered in the Flagpole Field (now "Margetts Field") and spent our money at a carnival. There was the kissing booth, various races and contest, face-painting, a water-slide, a haunted house, and the "Dunk Bozo" machine (a staff member sat in a cage while campers threw bean bags at an arm; if the arm was hit it would swing around and known over a bucket of cold water, which fell onto the staff member). In 1975 Valerie Pluto (VC of Tacoma) was a terrific reader of futures (I mean, aside from Goldrush Day, she predicted my future) and so she became the gypsy Palm Reader at the carnival. We all lined up to hear what she had to say about us. First in line was Paul Trela, shown here.

Here's more on Goldrush Day.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tokyo partnership nears 30th year

Frost Valley's partnership with the Tokyo YMCA was an idea hatched in 1979. I'm guessing that the first summer in which Japanese campers joined us at camp in this program was '80. But in '79 the daughter of Emiko and Tatsuo Honma--Kyoko, who was perhaps 14 at the time and spoke almost no English--went on a 2-week Lake Champlain bike trip led by me and June Maiers. Kyoko was a great kid--and loved the experience. From there her parents got to know FV and Halbe Brown and the partnership grew. The Tokyo-FV program has its traditions and continuities--and of course its fervent alumni. A number of these folks came to the September '06 reunion. Misa Abe-Whang was a camper, a Leader, and then an Assistant Program Director, from 1987 through 1994. She writes the following:

Just a quick Hola from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I left my job in Dec. 2006 to live in Argentina to be closer to my husband's family. I have a 3-year-old son who is speaking better Spanish than I am after 6 months here. But I do miss home and plan to go to FV the weekend of July 27. My sister, Miki Abe-Jensen, is a grade school teacher and married too with a 4 year old boy. She also lived in FV for a year doing environmental education. My other sister Mio Abe is currently working at Fox 5 News and is enjoying the single life in NY. We all enjoyed the Big Reunion last fall and are currently helping to organize the 30th anniversary reunion for the Tokyo-FV Partnership (2009). It's so nice to be able to share our love of FV with our kids and can't wait until they're old enough to attend summer camp!

In the photo above the alumni are: Ghen Saito and Miki & Misa Abe.

meanwhile, the year that really counts is 2007

you try wearing one of those mesh synthetic staff shirts

Ah, those white mesh synthetic staff shirts...summer of '74, heyday of mesh and non-cotton. Man, did we sweat in those! But we looked good, or thought we did. I think all the guys wore leather chokers that summer. It's late June, 1974, the Sunday of check-in, first camping session of the summer, and why are these people just sitting and standing around? I can assure you that I was working on one of the luggage trucks--probably snapping this shot from "the White Rat" passing by. From left to right they are: Maurice Penn (Outpost counselor and talented leader of dining hall cheers and songs including a great rendition of "Drift Away"--"gimme that beat boys and free my soul"), Nancy Brady (then a CIT, I think), Keith Brankner (Sequoia counselor--in window), Valerie Bellefatto, Tammy Thompson, Mark Staimer (Forest counselor) - sitting in front of a recently renovated Hayden Lodge (formerly the crafts shop).

Mike McNamee, yesterday and today

Almost invariably after I've sent news out to the FV alumni listserv, I'll get a heartfelt though hurried note from our old Welsh pal, Mike McNamee, early-to-mid-80s camp heart-throb, soccer player extraordinaire, consummate egotist and superb counselor (about as hard-working a staff person as I'd ever known). Mike is now an academic, studying and teaching in the ethics & sociology of sports medicine. He co-authored a book called Pain and Injury in Sport: Social and Ethical Analysis. He is married (to Cheryl--herself a Frost Valley staff alumna, 1989) and has two beautiful daughters. Have I listed Mike's virtues sufficiently? Oh, and he had the high pure voice of an angel. Once at Hirdstock he stopped the show with a sneak-up-on-ya beautiful rendition of "Jerusalem."** Even the Totemites had tears in their eyes. Whether singing or not, Mac was always in fine voice. During his time as VC of Lenape, his village was often late to flag-raising. But Mike was there on time, sometimes standing in front of four or five sleepy-eyed Lenapeans whom he had persuaded to come down the hill with him while the others were still getting out of bed. I would make some remark about Lenape's habitual lateness but Mike had some instant, smoothly sonorous comeback, and that was that. Mike recently sent a photo of him today. Mike, I hope you and your family visit FV soon!

** The last verse goes:
Bring me my golden bow,
bring me my chariots of fire,
I shall not cease from mental strife
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

the old Boys Dining Hall

To the left here, the old "Boys Dining Hall" (properly Thomas Dining Hall or Thomas Lodge, named for Emerson Thomas or "Em") as it stood in 1961. Mike DeVita, who with his brother (and I believe sister too) was there in the early years of Wawayanda at Frost Valley, sent me this snapshot and three others. You can see these here. The dining hall, especially from this angle (coming up the hill from what the old Rec Hall, now Margetts Lodge), doesn't look like much, but everyone who ate and sang and cheered there recalls its elegance and capaciousness. Its acoustics were somehow 5 times better than those of the current dining hall, which is fabulous in almost every other way. There was a silver-colored metal fireplace hood suspended from the ceiling in the very center of the main dining room; below it a round stone fireplace. Rows of five tables for each village were spread out across two wings, one east-facing and the other north-facing. Especially at night--for instance, on story night or during a rainy-night closing campfire--the place had a look and feel of a modernist cathedral. This building burned to the ground on the last night of 1982. Photos of the fire and its story....for another post, another time. Meantime, there's this true tale: Mike Marder, when he learned that the real name of the building was "Thomas Dining Hall," asked: "What's the matter? Didn't Mr. Boys make a big enough donation?"

hey cuz

I'm not sure why Bill Abbott and I call each other "cuz." Bill, whose mind is a like a trap for such details, can tell us. I suspect it comes from Kangaroo Court. At a certain point, once Dave King retired (he was always "da Judge"--as in "Here comes da judge!") I was promoted to ye presider over the court, having been a perfectly maladroit defense attorney for some years, and whipped-cream-pie set-up man earlier. So when I was Judge Bill Abbott was at least once the Prosecuting Attorney. In the custom of that all-camp evening program, it had to become clear that the judge and prosecutor were in cahoots--that, in short, the defendent, some hapless staff member or camper, didn't have a chance of justice. Probably Bill and I made this point clear by referring to each other as cousins. "Hey there, cuz!" said the Judge to the Prosecutor. "Well, howdy cuz!" was the Prosecutor's smirking rejoinder, adding a slap on the back. When I was the VC of Thunderbird village in 1974 (the village existed for one week, ever) Bill was my camper, at 10 years old. Later he became one of my counselors and a VC. Now he's a colleague on the Trustees. Time flies...and also doesn't. For one of the periodic alumni updates, sent to our listserv in the summer of 2006, Bill wrote:
I was a camper from '70 - '79 and a counselor from '80 - '84. I took many Adventure trips through FV, including the Adirondacks excursion with Sue Moriarity as our leader and the Rainer cross country trip with Mike Larison (now FV's forester!) as our leader! My brother and sister, Ken and Ann, were also campers and staff members. We found FV through the Summit YMCA. I'm now a banker working and living in Manhattan and serve on the Alumni Association as well as the Board of Trustees. Ken and Ann both live in Bozeman, MT. Ken is a subcontractor for a painting contractor there and ANN works for a child welfare agency. Ken has a little girl named Karen Leigh, eight years old, and Ann has two girls; Price now 20 and Morgan now 15!
The picture at the top of this entry was taken in April of 2007. I took my Penn students camping overnight at Banks Hill (that's a long story--never mind why) and Bill happened to be in camp. So he came up to the camp site (as did John Giannotti) and told my students a few stories. Afterward, they looked at me and said, "Who was that guy?" And by the way: how the generations and the networks converge--the young woman to the far right in the pic, wearing the green sweatshirt, is Ellie Kane, my student and advisee at Penn and also now in her second summer as FV counselor. She loves it. To the left here is a photo of Bill on the last day of the summer of '84. Click the image to see some more '84 pics.

Well, Bill's seen this entry and adds the following Abbottesque narrative curlicue:
I can confirm that the origin of the use of the term Cuz indeed came out of our wonderful Kangaroo Court evening activities! As a camper, I always loved Kangaroo Court nights. The whole affair was hysterical! I'll never forget when poor Maurice Penn, my counselor in cabin 15 in old Outpost, was accused and convicted of yelling "It's great to be alive" in spontaneous outbursts! Maurice would yell this at the top of his lungs from our cabin's porch on beautiful mornings and by the end of our first session in Outpost the whole cabin would join him! And once we got the hang of it we'd do it all day long when we were having fun, which was pretty much all the time! (The cabin had some great kids in it - my brother was there as well as David Lovice and John Bear to mention just a few. It was also the summer that Rick and Mike Cobb taught me lacrosse, a sport I continued to play right on through college!).

As a counselor, it was a career highlight (up there with reprising the Hettler Brothers' [Bill and Bobby] "Russian Midget" routine with my brother Ken!) to act as the prosecuting attorney with Hanging Judge Filgrits as the presiding Magistrate! Having done the bumbling defense attorney once or twice, it was great to be on the other end of a cream pie in the face! I remember that we'd hold off calling each other "cousin" until we'd convict a kid or counselor or two. Then we'd start calling each other "Cuz" and asking about "how your uncle's doing" and such. Once the audience understood that "these guys are related" it knew there was no hope for any "suspects" to get a fair trial! Even now, whenever I hear the term "kangaroo court", I always think of those hilarious evenings at Frost Valley!
And this guy's a banker, so I think he needs to stop thinking about pies in the face and get back to work.

makes you want to get up in the morning

When I visit Frost Valley I like to stay in room 26 of the Castle--the room at the top of the main stairs on the second floor. It's the one with a working balcony (rebuilt by Mike Larison about ten or so years ago*). In the summer I bring along one of those comfy fold-up chairs. Even if I've been out and about late the night before, I invariably wake up at 5:30 or so. Before I go for a run (up the hill, through the villages, and back down again--a loop of about 1.5 miles in all) I'll read a chapter or two of a book, or write a little on my laptop, while sitting on the balcony watching the first sun hit Wildcat Mountain. What you see here is that morning view. I'm home. It's heaven.

[* You should become a Friend of the Castle if you feel even a little bit the way I do about the ol' stone mansion.]

Michele Palamidy: dialysis with guitar

The photo at right shows Michele Palamidy singing at the memorial service on the Sunday of our Labor Day 2001 centennial reunion. Michele had been the second nurse director of the dialysis unit at camp. The first, Cheryl Melber, was there the first summer but did not return. Michele, an experienced dialysis nurse but not someone who'd had much experience as an administrator, quickly began to thrive in the job--and stayed for years, until Stuart Kaufer succeeded her (and then he stayed for many years). (In the more than 30 years of this program, we have been blessed by five talented people serving in this tiring, challenging role who have been as passionate and fabulously devoted as Michele. There's remarkable continuity and dedication here.) We also quickly realized that Michele, despite her kid-from-Jersey-so-what-do-I-know-about-camp-ness, came to Opening Campfire and did a hilariously accurate imitation of Janis Joplin singing "Oh Lord, who't you buy me a Mercedes Benz" and sang, with guitar, like an angel. In my years as director she accompanied me many, many times, singing a beautiful rendition of Dan Fogelberg's "There's a Place in the World for the Gambler" ("there's a song in the heart of a woman... there's a light in the depths of your darkness"). Here is a song she wrote called "Bright Angel." And here is another original, "Just Pretend." When Michele visited me at the Kelly Writers House a few years ago, I persuaded her to sing a few of our old favorites, and so here is a recording of Michele singing "The Boxer".

We sang the "Gambler" song at the 2001 reunion. Go here for more, including a recording.

staff list for "The Hird" 1985

Here (click on the image for a larger version) is the beginning-of-summer staff list for "The Hird" in July of 1985. The roster changed a bit as the summer went on, but only a bit. It was a superb staff--the best group of VCs I ever directed. I believe this was the first summer of PAC, possibly the second--only called "Quinnipiac" at the start of the summer. Notice that there were just two staff there--Dave Gold and "Flash" Gordon--for all those boys in Hird Lodge. What's odd-seeming is that Hemlock's sister village, Sacajewea ("Sacky"), is not here. It's not that Sacky was in Wawayanda that summer; Sacky was in The Hird, run by Wendy Brady, but not until session 2. (Session 1 that summer had low enrollments. Sacky's staff was spread throughout other villages.) Lenape matched with Tacoma and Pac with Windsong (also new--it has been "Sunburst" before that and "Cherokee" before that). Note too that in 1983 Lenape lived in what had been for many years the home of that village--cabins 16-20 (currently numbered 13-17 and currently the home of Hemlock), but in this year, '85, we moved Lenape over to where Tacoma had always been, cabins 46-50, atop "the Hill," so that all of the Hird could be together on that side of camp. Tacoma now moved into 31-35 where Pokey had been and Sacky was where Susky had always been (36-40), while Hemlock was with Lenape on the Hill, in 41-45. All this moving around was made necessary, or made possible at least, by the destruction of the main "boys" dining hall by fire on New Year's Eve 1982. I'll save that story for another post, but gosh, my memory of all this detail scares me; looking at this mimeographed staff list of a group of good young people 23 years ago, it all seems ridiculously clear. I note finally this was also the first summer of "The Hird" as such, after "Camp Henry Hird" or "Camp Hird." We were a herd...for sure.

directors 2006

Frost Valley's 2006 summer camp directors (plus Ben), a photo taken in June just before staff training began: from right to left, Joanna Levin, Assistant Program Director; Kristen Judd, Program Director; Dale Whittaker, Wawayanda Director; Jeff Daly, Hird Director; Kelly Zingone, Assistant Hird Director; Steve Parsley, Assistant Program Director; Ben Filreis, 8-week PAC camper. Click on the picture at upper left for a larger view.