Friday, August 31, 2007

Stanley Steamer transports us away from camp

Stan Treadway's old car was so beat we called it "The Stanley Steamer." But it successfully conveyed several of us on a wonderful holdover weekend off--to a farm (where I then lived during the year) in upstate New York (in a village called Lebanon, 7 miles from Hamilton in the Chenango Valley).

From left to right: June Kaiser, Bassem El-Hibri, Stanley Treadway, and Pete Paulsen. Bassem, VC of Totem that summer and Adventure Trip leader, was a brilliant handsome guy from Lebanon. He was very connected to the international YMCA and taught us at least a dozen songs, including "I Like to Eat" (apples and bananas) and "Father Abraham." Bassem fell for a Jewish counselor from Long Island and that was some trick negotiating (with their families) for them.

Bassem just loved the trip. He kept telling all the farmers we met, "I never thought I'd be able to go to Lebanon on my day's off!"

Pete Paulsen was a brilliant counselor - the very first, I recall, who suddenly realized a talent and passion for working with the dialysis campers. In boys' camp he was literally the first counselor to be assigned a dialysis kid in '75. His work with that boy was inspired. I'll never forget it.

Margetts Lodge (aka "NCC") opens

At the very end of the summer of 1976, the renovation of the old "Boys' Rec Hall" - the old Forstmann-era cow barn that had served Wawayanda as its first dining hall at Frost Valley, and later out-trip, Arts & Crafts, and the ski shop - was finally complete. It was Chuck White's first major renovation as Director of Development. The renovation used the stone foundation of the old barn, but everything else was new: a large activity room in the back, two large offices on either side in the front and a smaller one in the middle, and 8 rooms upstairs of the sort (motel-like) that we'd never seen at camp to that point. Dissenters and grumps called it "the Halbe Hilton" and we mocked the idea that anyone would sleep at camp in an actual bed other than a cot or bunk or one of those droopy 70-year-old frame beds in the Castle.

I was the Program Director in August '76 and remember my conversation with Halbe and Chuck about the extent to which we could use the new building. It was session 4 and we were certainly hungry for an alternative indoor space for rainy days. They resisted but finally relented: yes, summer camp could use the new building. It was not yet named "Margetts Lodge" (after Walter Margetts, a long-time Wawayanda friend and the Forstmanns' attorney). Halbe referred to it as "the conference center," which seemed not just ambiguous to me but definitely something summer camp should stay away from. But in we went. On Period 4 schedules and handouts I have from that summer, I see it referred to as "NCC" (e.g. "Forest will meet in the right-side room of the NCC"), "New Conference Center."

Oh, and yes, that summer everyone who entered the building had to take their shoes off--a little bit of brand-new-building decorousness that was gone within two weeks of the start of the next summer.

Yeah, we grumpily protested the renovation of the old barn but soon appreciated having the extra indoor space.

Can't tell for sure but I think the yellow-hatted guy on the right is Norm Gurfinkel and on the left is Doug Kerr. Just guesses.

I hope you had the time of your life

Green Day's song has become a closing campfire standard, with its sense of now being a turning point and its perfectly easy articulation of how good, really, it can be to say goodbye.

Another turning point,
a fork stuck in the road.

Time grabs you by the wrist,
directs you where to go.

So make the best of this test
and don't ask why.

It's not a question
but a lesson learned in time.

It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs
and still frames in your mind.

Hang it on a shelf
In good health and good time.

Tattoos of memories
and dead skin on trial.

For what it's worth,
it was worth all the while.

It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

Now listen to a group of campers singing this song. Musically not the best, of course, but how can you fail to be moved? In the end it's right.

they made things work

They were probably already laughing over Carl Hess' rare display of his pale legs (he rarely wore shorts on camp property) when I took this shot. Carl said something satirical about me, and brushed his brush-cut back with one hand (then that little rub of the short hairs down toward the neck) while lifting his cap with the other.

Carl's audience that late-summer late afternoon in the mid-70s ('74 or '75) was, from left to right sitting on the Olympic Circle: Carl's beloved, dependable, can-do wife and life/work-partner Marie Hess, the pseudo-grumpy and hilariously ascerbic long-time summer maintenance guy Carl Van Zandt, Ron House, walrus-mustached Lou Senor, and the immortally ingenious Chuck White.

All four of the men sitting worked for Carl in the maintenance department (although Ron House was a summer-only helper that year; he was a year-round environmental ed coordinator). Shortly after this, Chuck and Carl split the facilities responsibilities into two large parts: Carl leading maintenance and repairs, Chuck leading construction (we called it "development").

Fans of FV's storied vehicular history will recall the olive-green Chevy Suburban van in the background here. This one didn't last long. There was another green Suburban (no "wood" paneling on that one) that was fine for a while but then our camp driver Charlie Speck drove it into an old Forstmann-era concrete wading pool behind Biscuit Lodge. That's a story I'll tell another time, if and when I find a photo of Charlie Speck and/or of that ill-fated van.

We (the young camp staff drivers) were very hard on the vehicles, as Carl never ceased reminding me. Indeed, the wisecrack he'd just made at me when I took this shot might well have been about something I'd done (again) to one of the camp trucks.

they also found love

Pat Ricciardi and Joanne Murphy, sitting on the Olympic Circle one beautiful morning in July 1975. They were literally just then planning the adventure trip they would be leading together. And maybe the adventure of their whole lives. (As for the trip: it was either the Adirondack Canoe trip or the Canadian Canoe trip; I know that because Pat is listed on the staff list as having led those two trips in '75. Joanne is listed as "Adventure Camp C" with no other specifics.)

These two met at camp, fell in love (was it that summer--in '75? was it happening when this blissful pic was taken of them?**), married and now have a family. Another true, long-lasting Frost Valley love affair.

We all liked them both tremendously and did everything we could (although it wasn't much, nor was it necessary) to encourage them.

** Truth be told, I think they fell for each other in '74. But of course they can tell me when they read this.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

aw, gosh

I'm a little astonished--and some days very astonished--at the positive response to this project. "Great blog," one of you has written me just now, "--keep up the good work. I can't believe how many memories it's lifted out of the depths."

Yes, one of the purposes is indeed to lift memories from the depths. I like the metaphor: there's a depth, it's there but mostly hidden or too deep to feel, and we need to reach down or back to it. There we'll find our Frost Valley thoughts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

death on my mind

I always take the very end of summer, the coming of autumn, as if a death is occuring. The end of something (is Hemingway's phrase). Early dusk; colder nights; the first hints of orange leaves. (Ever notice the one tree that turns orange and yellow first at Frost Valley? It's the one along the road in front of the Lake House.) When I was 9 years old I used to think, at least momentarily, that my camp friends just went dormant for the year and would exist again next July. They ceased to exist for me, and that was pretty much right (in the days before IM and email and Facebook).

Then there are the real falls. George Marion suffered mightily as a young person with renal failure. There was at least one transplant, unsuccessful. He came back as a camper year after year. This photo of him is from a Lenape village portrait shot in 1980. We became attached to George, and he to us. He wasn't really cut out for being a staff member, but he was a passably good CIT and then a JC - in Totem, I believe, with the little kids. And he loved every minute of it. But he got tired, fast. One sensed it was the beginning of an end. I believe he left camp suddenly after one health crisis or another, having to do with his heart, I think. Later, in the fall, we heard that he has passed away.

The "dialysis program," as we call it (not quite accurately), was meant to give pleasure to people whose lives would be almost certainly shortened, if not dramatically shortened, by the effects of their complex disease. Especially in the early days, there was very little longitudinal information: how long could these kids last. "A few years earlier," the camp nephrologist would explain, "we didn't really have ways to keep them alive for very long. Now that we can keep them alive, we have no idea what the long-term side effects of the treatment will be." (Today, I should add, and happily, kids with renal failure have much improved survival, although they still face major and more or less constant threats.)

It's just the story that Eva Gottscho tells about her daughter Ruth Carole, who died of renal disease in 1960. Eva wanted to give Ruth the quality of real life: fun. "She never got to go to camp, although it was really what she wanted," Eva would say (I've heard her tell the story a dozen times).

It was also what George Marion wanted. And thanks to Eva--and to the efforts of George's counselors (among them Paul Webster) and the staff of the dialysis unit (Michele Palamidy and Stu Kaufer in particular)--he got what he wanted for a few blissful summers.

Here's to George!

Here's to autumn! All right, let it come and with it, the memories.

If you have a good George Marion story, please send it to me. Click on the envelope icon below.

Or, for that matter, a good Tommy Morales story. Tommy is shown above in a photo taken in 1982. Tommy had a kidney transplant for a few years, but it failed; he is also deceased.

nobody messes with Ta-(uh)-coma

In today's mail arrived** not just the full staff list for summer 1995, but also (a rarer document in every year) the list of the village staffs. (As many or most reading this blog know, our staff lists gave names, addresses, and generally described positions. But village and other assignments were printed separately and were never part of the official record.)

Here's the Tacoma staff that summer:

Katie Kelly (VC)
Jessie Bleichman C
Georgia Chown C
Jill Clark C
Meghan Conley C
Kristen LiVolsi C
Victoria Secora C
Care Coffina (Associate Counselor or "AC"--see below)
Diane Sacker AC
Marta Esquilin AC
Deb Shoenemann AC
Elly Weisenberg AC

Katie Kelly's involvement has been deep and a few years ago she was our full-time Alumni Coordinator. Diane Sacker stayed around quite a while after her AC summer in Tacoma, and has been very active on the alumni committee. Deb Schoeneman is someone I've known since she was a little kid, as she's the daughter of Morris and Sandy; Morris was for many years one of the pediatric nephrologists who spent at least two weeks at camp. Morris and Sandy became avid FV'ers, as did their daugthers, and good friends of the Whites. "Georgia was from England," D'Arcy Oaks says, "funny crazy Brit."

"Cara Coffina was awesome," remembers Karin Turer, "--I think she and Katie Kelley shared a birthday. But Cara's was 7/7/77, which made everyone envious. I'm sure she had a great party this year!"

"Jill was serious, dedicated," D'Arcy Oaks continues, "and probably the most devoted to wellness out of TacoLen (and Katie and I called the 2 villages that summer). Meghan was a counselor's counselor, who used her intellect at camp to persuade young women to do things they didn't want to (like get in the water). Vicky was one of my roommates in college, she also traveled to West Africa with me in the summer of '93."

As for Kristen LiVolsi: if she or someone who knows her well reads this, please let me know if she is related to wild red-headed Scott Livolsi who was a mainstay camper and staffer in the 80s.

Oldtimers eyeballing this village staff will count up the C's and gawk and the gaudiness: six counselors in one village, plus the VC. They lived in cabins 41-45, on "the hill": thus, That means 7 counseling-level staff for 5 cabins. Not to mention the JCs (called ACs in that era). Wow. I say: wow. Earlier, there was a VC and four counselors. Plus 2 JCs. The VC had a JC, as did one other counselor. The other three counselors managed their cabins without assistance. I'm not saying such understaffing was good; but it surely made for a different dynamic (and greater rates of burnout by the end of the summer).

Several of you have asked about the distinction between "AC" and "JC"--a point of which I'm only vaguely aware (since it was only a mid-90s phenomenon), but here's Karin Turer: "AC is not just a different name for JC - it was a legal difference: Associate (not Assistant) Counselors are over 18; JCs were 17. That is what we were told in 1993 (again, I am super-sensitive to this because the change ate up a lot of my cohort!) when FV decided to have more 18+ staff. Maybe it changed later on (and looking at this list, I had Diane in Taco 44 in 1993, so it's hard to believe she'd have been 18 already by 1995!) but as far as the kids my age were told, the AC was simply a way to have a bridge between JCs and Cs." I'm a little sad to think that an administrative decision (a reasonable one, in my view--to be sure) could be thought of, even at this distance, as having eaten up a cohort (FV generation).

Katie Kelly adds this: As far as the entry about Tacoma in 1995 - that definitely gave me a laugh. Georgia Chown is in fact from Australia; she's not "a crazy brit" as D'Arcy seems to remember her. Then there is the whole JC vs. AC thing. I think that the AC designation was brought about for a couple of reasons. One being a legal issue as was mentioned - if the staff member wasn't 18 yet but they had been a JC, then they were an AC. Cara Coffina fell into this category as she had a summer birhday. Her birthday is in fact a day after mine, but I became staff prior to this being an issue at the time. I don't remember though if one was about to be "promoted" to a full counselor if they had the birthday over the summer and turned 18 at which point they were now technically able to care for kids without "adult" supervision.

Diane Sacker adds: In the summer of '95 I was 16 (I have an October birthday) and I'm pretty sure I was Meghan Conley's JC and for some reason they gave us cabin 45 (the oldest cabin).

** from D'Arcy Oaks

thoughts on lax and death

A sunny day...morning after a Forest village overnight: and the staff pack up.

On the left, wearing the light blue staff shirt, is Tor - an ICCP counselor from Sweden (I think) that summer. Tor worked with George Lordi in Forest, cabin 8. In the yellow shirt is John Dolan, who was the JC in cabin 10. I can't yet identify the name of the guy behind Dolan, though it's possible he's Rudi Miremont. (Mike McNamee was the VC of Forest that summer and was the taker of this photo.)

The late Dave Nalven, not pictured (alas), was a Forester that summer too. Bill Abbott, Dave Nalven and John Dolan played lacrosse that summer every chance they got. Bill learned two trick shots from Dolan that Bill, when he picks up a stick (rarely these days), never fails to attribute to John What's-his-name.... What's his name but now, finally now, by aid of this blog and these pics, he remembers, we remember: John Dolan, John Dolan. Just (just!) another of the remarkable young people we met. Bill played lax for Lehigh, Dave Nalven for Lafeyette, and John for Farleigh Dickinson. Probably all three--but certainly Bill and Dave--learned the sport for the first time from Rick Cobb, he of the first generation of FV lax gurus.

Dave Nalven died later, yet still very very young. More on Dave another time, but this is a moment when we can all--whether you also knew Dave or not--can reflect on the specific cruelty of the loss of someone with so much unrealized potential, so young. Yet, yet, we understand that in fact a lot was accomplish by so young an age, because we saw a guy like Nalven do his talented thing with kids and give his whole self to the project. Did actual life-inexperience ever really keep us from being so good? I think not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Johnny Forest moves up

Lenape 1981. The staff in the back row here are, from left, Johnny Bostick (VC), Martin Graf, Jon Mittelman, Gordon Fair ("Flash Gordon"), Donald Wright (?), and Craig Berman. Among the campers I can see Adam Gold***, the second boy in from the left in the third row up from the bottom.

Bostick was "Johnny Forest" for several years when he was VC of that village, but he moved up to Lenape. Johnny was sweet-hearted, soft-spoken, almost meditative in his style (not, at least in those years, your typical VC personality type!) and--to my annoyance and sometimes my amusement--invariably late to flagraising. Johnny came to us through his friendship with John Giannotti in south Jersey, another fine person in the Giannotti orbit.

Martin Graf was from Switzerland - an athletic swimmer and a big-time cyclist (and bike repair guy). Martin worked a wild season at FV for EE/conference.

Mittelman was brilliant and deliberately rough at the edges. A Long Island guy who perhaps laid the accent on thicker just to disarm you. But he was one the most creative camper problem-solvers among counselors I ever supervised, and never missed a trick.

I believe the camper with the white straw hat was "B. J." - was it "B. J. Moody"?

*** For more on the Golds, see an earlier entry.

From left to right: Jon Mittelman, Martin Graf, Johnny Bostick.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lenape 1971

Another year I've neglected: 1971. Here's the Lenape village photo for one of the sessions that summer.

Among the campers shown here is Ira Sasowsky, who was later a staff member.

Wearing number 16 is village chief, Jim Beckner. Jim was from Virginia (Radford, I believe) and was then studying English literature; eventually he became an English professor. Although when Jim and I got to know each other (in '73) and we talked a lot about novels and poetry I didn't have a clue that I'd also end up an English professor, there was nonetheless a strong connection between us.

Just in front of Jim is camper Lee Fleischer (FV 1969-1980) who also later became a staff member and whose son attended camp this past summer.

Ira Sasowsky is now a professor at Ohio State, and Lee Fleischer is a medical doctor in the Philly area. Probably the rest of the people in this pic have terminal degrees too. Maybe there was something in the Lenape drinking water that summer....

two booming trustees

Every summer, during the middle weekend of session 2, the Frost Valley trustees come to camp for a midsummer meeting. I remember as a camp director being both excited and a little put out by all the hullabaloo surrounding these gatherings. Inevitably we would have to put on a little show. But I quickly realized what a benefit this was: the more the trustees came to know what we were doing, the more passionate and invested they would become.

For some trustees passion and investment were never issues. Two of those folks are in this picture, taken in July of 1979. That summer our meeting was all the way over at the Straus Estate on the East Branch of the Neversink. With his back to us at right, wearing glasses, is Woodruff (Woody) English, was for many years was the clear-as-a-bell-speaking chairman of the board. Woody was an attorney and always knew exactly what he meant and what he meant was exactly what he said. He spoke so loudly and clearly that I sometimes had the impression that he thought we were learning the vocabulary of his speech as he spoke it. He was teacher-like in that sense. He intuited whatever Halbe needed or wanted. I'm pretty certain the two of them had conversations about some such things, but I also feel sure that at least half the time such chats needn't even take place.

Facing us with arms akimbo in the red shirt is the unforgettable old-style oldster, Harry Lindeman. "The Judge," we called him. He had been a juvenile court judge in New Jersey (in Newark, I think) and had long long years of experience with what was then called delinquents - later "troubled kids." He had a slightly twangy, 19th-century-style story (with a moral or ethical punchline) for nearly every situation. He sometimes told such stories right in the middle of trustee meetings. Harry was frail and hardy at the same time. Halbe would invariably bring Harry into camp and ask me to arrange for a campfire or gathering of several villages or even the whole camp. And Harry would play his harmonica while slapping his knee and doing a frail jig, and then recite a long rhymed narrative poem from the 1880s or 1910s. What a character he was. A real throwback. Here he was, a distinguished jurist whose ideas about saving troubled kids was written up in books (e.g. Matthew Matlin's Crime Prevention through Treatment, 1953), and to us he was a throwback camp guy, an eastern cowboy with big fish tales, a one-man singin'-storytelling band.

Behind Harry, in the yellow top, is Peggy Rub--enormously talented, funny to the point of wackiness. Peg surely gets an entry of her own one day soon. She started at camp the very first summer that we had a girls camp and rose up through to camp director. In '79 she was the Girls' Camp Director (Hird) while I was the Boys' Camp Director (Wawayanda). A lot of energy there.

borderman Pat "Patman" Brasington

I believe there's a pistol in that holster.

Pat "Patman" Brasington worked summers and as a full-year program staff member in the years around 1986-88 - so Chris Dundorf, who circulated around then too, reminds me. Chris sent me a link to a Slate article about Pat, who is now a ranger for the Bureau of Land Management, and he patrols the Sonoran Desert National Monument, 496,000 acres of heartbreakingly beautiful and lonely desert an hour southwest of Phoenix and 70 miles, as the crow flies, from the border. Carrying a gun in this arid place is a long way from working environmental ed in the green round Catskills. And yet of course Pat's FV experience has served him well. The Slate article is about the U.S.-Mexico border wars. Here's part of the article:
Brasington and I are walking out of a wash in a remote section of the monument, and I'm there when his posture changes from relaxed, with his rifle slung on his back, to slightly bent at the chest, rifle forward, finger on the trigger guard. It's the classic infantryman's patrol position. We hit the top, and he relaxes. I point out his change in posture, and he just looks at me.

"You know," he says, "I didn't even know I did that. It's just instinct I guess, from working out here."

We walk in silence for a minute, and Brasington starts talking.

"When I came here, I used to complain about the cows. They left pies everywhere, they cut trails through what should have been a wilderness area. Now I've got foot traffic and smugglers and someone potentially laying under any tree on the monument, and I have to wonder how they'll react when they see me, because they're not supposed to be in this country."

Brasington's a pretty positive, cheerful guy. But his voice gets an edge to it on this topic.
Here's a link to the Slate piece.

why slight 1964?

At right: Art Harmon at the 2001 reunion.

The blogging software I use - provided by Blogger ( - enables me to see a kind of index of all entries. Since I have coded each entry with mentioned years (both individual years and also decades), I can see how evenly or unevenly I've made entries across the eras. I see that not one entry so far mentions 1964, but why slight '64? It was a very good Wawayanda.

Here is a partial list of staff from that summer:

Mike Braun of Westfield - counselor
Henry A. "Bud" Cox of Westfield - counselor
Sue Cox (Bud's sister) - Castle Girl
Paul Cypert - maintenance director
Mike DeVita of Baltimore - Boys' Camp program director
Sandy DeVita - Assistant Camp Banker
Carol DeVita - Girls' Camp Director
Albert Fey - chef / kitchen manager
Gail Foster - Girls' Camp Program Director
Lynn Garrison of Memphis - VC ++
Bev Gross - counselor
Art Harmon of Roselle - counselor ***
Ralph Holt of Montclair - craft shop director
John Ketcham - counselor
Ray Kremer - "Castle Houseman"
Gerry Lester - nurse
Jeff Mitchell - counselor **
Al Parsons - Boys Camp Director
Richard "Digger" Shortt - CIT director
Bill Starmer - Trail Blazer, counselor
Jack Starmer - counselor
Gordon Weidow of Jacksonville FL - cousenlor
Jim Whyte - Executive Director
Jim Wilkes - Trail Blazer Dir., Assoc Exec Sec'y ****

** Jeff was related to the family that eventually supported the creation of the Mitchell Family Complex (of which Lakeside Lodge and Geyer Hall are a part).

*** Art Harmon was - famously - our Waterfront Director for several summers in the mid to late 1960s. I remember that occasionally Dave King called Art "the water rat" (affectionately, of course).

**** Did you miss the photo of Jim Wilkes in drag?

++ By 1966 or '67, Lynn was our Program Director.

a little heaven in Vermont

Halbe and Jane Brown retired from Frost Valley in 2001--the time of the Wawayanda centennial and after 35 years of Halbe's directorship (1966-2001). My kids and I visited them a few years ago and found them happily at home on several acres of green pasture-turned-lawn, not far from Barre--and really not far from Montpelier. Montpelier is a stop on the Montreal-bound Amtrak train line that runs once a day from New York City; Ben, Hannah and I loved the trip from Philly directly to Vermont, through some beautiful northern New England country. Stepped off the train and there was Halbe! We re-learned the game of bridge, swam in their pool - and saw some local sights.

Recently, Peggy Rub visited them - and Carolyn Shelburne and Jody Ketcham will be visiting in September.

The photo above shows Halbe on his beloved tractor, wearing a Frost Valley shirt--and you get a sense of the scene.

new alumni coordinator

Our wonderful Alumni Coordinator Gwen Marshall is leaving the area--heading to the southwest with her husband John**--and we wish her well, and thank her for all her efforts with and on behalf of alumni in the past year.

It was just announced to the FV staff a few minutes ago that a new Alumni Coordinator has been hired. Many of us know her and already admire her: she's Melissa Pauls, who, despite her young years, has been pretty much everywhere around the U.S. and done many remarkable things (even worked for the N.Y. Mets for a season). We know her from two great summers as our waterfront director and, for the summer just ended, as Assistant Program Director. (She and Kam Kobeissi--shown in the above pic with Melissa--were both Assistant Program Directors, supporting Steve Parsley as Program Director.) Melissa's got huge stores of energy and is very, very, very smart (IMHO).

I personally am looking forward to working with Melissa in her new role. I hope you will welcome her to the alumni community: mpauls [at] frostvalley [dot] org.

** John Marshall is a Frost Valley guy, too, by the way. For some years in the early 70s John was one of the program staff at the Montclair Y and, as such, was in charge of the many large weekend groups (including the father-son program called "Indian Guides") that came to the valley in those years.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Doubletop plane crash

Recent photos of the plane that crashed on Doubletop Mountain in 1966.

Annie Old School

Annie Galligan is a rigorous Frost Valley traditionalist. But she's only 17. How is this possible? Well, she just finished her eleventh summer in the valley and loves it completely. She spent much of the summer in Sacky, although she did an unusual 2-week stint in Forest (yes, with the 10- and 11-year-old boys). One evening during session 3 I told a late-night story to Forest ("The Doubletop Plane Crash Mystery," featuring appearances by Ed Monda, Bud Cox, Dave King, Tom Ashbaugh, Bill Abbott, Jeff Daly, and Floyd Hird--quite a cast), and at one point looked around at the faces in the firelight and saw Annie standing there. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "I know Annie is Old School and seeks out every opportunity to hear about the old days, but this is really a stretch--that she'd come from her village to hear Forest's story." Then I learned that she was in fact a Forest counselor! My daughter (13 years old and a Sacky girl) thinks Annie Galligan is about the coolest thing going. "She knows exactly who she is," she says. How would I know her if I saw her? I asked. "Well, probably she'll be wearing clothes you wear at Hirdstock--except it won't be Hirdstock that day." Annie and her Sacky pals ran a village "Throwback Day" and it was once again the 1970s in camp. They sang an interminable version of the Announcements song, for one thing.

I recently caught up Annie while Sacky and Hemlock were having a lunchtime barbecue under the big tent. They were playing serious old Rock, grilling, and chilling. Old School backrubs were being dispensed. Someone was braiding someone else's hair. Several girls and boys were lazily throwing frisbees and chatting. It seemed the perfect moment to find out what makes Annie Old School so utterly grok the past. Here's the recording of our conversation.

Photo: from left to right, Dave O'Brien, Woody Kass, Harry McCormack, Lauri Bourette, and Annie Galligan.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

giving kids the second chance

Pictured here: Bob Eddings (left) and Steve Parsley.

I've mentioned the remarkable Bob Eddings in these entries before, but finally caught up with him and had a good conversation, part of which you can hear here.

"Old Wawayanda" dedicated to the '07 staff

The song "Old Wawayanda" is alive and well--its spirit never dies, indeed--and we've been singing it all along, but finally two nights ago had a chance to record it. Here is that recording. The preface is my dedication of the song to the 2007 staff. I asked three other FV generations to help me lead it: Jeff Daly, Chris Harper and my daughter Hannah--and attempted to convey to today's campers and staff that there's a lot of you folks out there who would have given eye teeth to sing along with us or at least to convey the same feelings. That spirit never does die.

An earlier entry includes the lyrics to this song.

notes on the leadership generations

Dan Goldman has a significant 12-month full-year job in Manhattan, but not so significant that he couldn't get the heck outa town for a week to come...back to the valley to volunteer in any capacity needed. Dan has become one of those jack-of-all-trades. In '06, however, he was between jobs (or some such thing) and worked as a counselor. But otherwise lately it's been hit or miss: Dan tries to be there when he can.

Since I began to listen closely to Frost Valley voices (long before starting this blog) I've been impressed at how relatively articulate these people are about the value of their experiences. I say "relatively" and without pointed judgment mean only to say that relative to the way most people talk about their most important experiences, these people can really describe what they feel and what's important. Maybe it's just that there's a FV dogma we learn and then can repeat when someone asks. But maybe it's that we learned the value--itself a value--of talking about values.

I spent an hour or so with Dan the other day at camp, and here is a good piece of that conversation.

it takes a village to raise a child

Notwithstanding its overuse, the African proverb is surely true, as perhaps--given the term "village"--we've known, especially us, for a long time.

At any rate, Andy Wiener agrees and has done something about it - done something to connect his adopted city of Rochester, NY, to his favorite community of villages. He formed a relationship with an urban elementary school, worked with Frost Valley's development and summer camp offices, and then raised money among family and friends. Enough money to send four kids from Rochester to camp this summer on full camperships.

When I talked with Andy on the last morning of session 4--just yesterday--he hadn't met two of the kids and hadn't heard anything about their experience. We hope to post something here as a follow-up, but in the meantime I think you'll enjoy hearing what Andy has to say--about his time at camp in the 80s, about being the parents of two campers, and about this new Frost Valley-Rochester Partnership.

So do please hear Andy Wiener. And here is Andy's description and how and why he created this project.

there for you

These three long-time camp friends, Chrissy Mohle, Chris Harper, and Lexi Cariello--all three were first-time VCs this summer, of Sacky, Windsong, and Mac Girls respectively--worked up assorted songs in 3-part harmony and sang them here and there throughout the summer. They saved Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There for You" for the last--for the final closing campfire. I guess this time you're really leaving. I heard your suitcase say goodbye.... Here's my recording of their song.

The song was written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and released in 1988 on Bon Jovi's album New Jersey and released as a single in '89.

saying goodbye (and thank you) to Mac

Matt and Lexi were among the leaders of Mac this summer. Readers of this blog, even those whose era precedes that of the Mac program, which began in the mid-80s, should by now be familiar. "MAC"=mainstreaming at camp. The campers in Mac village (really, three or four connected villages) have one or several disabilities and range very, very widely in abilities, but one thing they all can do is come to camp for at least two weeks and love every minute of it. Frost Valley has become justly famous for the almost total integration of able and variously disabled kids. They play together, they get to know each other well, they love each other, and, on the last night of camp, they all join together singing and crying at the closing campfire.

Back to Matt and Lexi, shown above. Matt wrote a song as a means of expressing his and Lexi's and the other Mac staff's thanks to the Mac kids for how much they teach and give to them. If you listen to the song, you will believe that this is truly the feeling most if not all Mac staff have by the end.

I've edited the audio recording of the song together with Lexi Cariello's short village chief speech ("VC blurb") which she and the other VCs gave at the very end of the campfire. What Matt and Lexi sang earlier and what Lexi says at the end go beautifully together.

Yes, the sniffling you hear in the background of this audio is just that: the stifled sobs of a group of Windsong girls who were sitting behind me as I held up my little recorder to catch this great moment. Surely the sobs add to the aura.

I hope you know I'm always on your side,
and I hope you know you shouldn't have to hide...
Everythhing I've done for you you've done for me
in so many ways...

stand by me

Here are the girls from Susky singing "Stand by Me" at the final Wawayanda closing campfire of 2006. This link will take you to a QuickTime video (as it has to download before playing, you'll have to be patient).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Geyer Hall

On a warm, sunny day in April ('07) we gathered at the valley to honor Helen Geyer and to dedicate the newly renovated building named in recognition of her stunning generosity. She made a large gift toward the current capital campaign, yes; but over the years she has been a dependable and heartfelt supporter of what we do. As I've perhaps mentioned earlier, Helen was the first woman to serve as a member of FV's trustees. She loved this particular weekend. This picture captures the moment of the ribbon-cutting. From left to right: Paul Guenther (chairman of our board), Hunter Corbin (long-time trustee and chair of our development committee and head of the Hyde-Watson Foundation), Jerry Huncosky (as everyone knows, FV's talented CEO), Helen, and Fenn Putman (President of the trustees).

Helen's granddaughter was camper and counselor in the mid-80s to early 90s and her great-grandson was a camper here this summer for six weeks.

If you haven't seen this thoughtful, lovely renovation of the old Girls' Dining Hall, you really should. One nice feature: while digging around the lower level, Tom Groschell, our director of construction, noticed that if we dug out under the main part of the building we would have a large space for storage or activities. Sure enough, they dug. So now we have a large activity space (for one thing, we can do indoor archery there, as well as floor hockey) and--get this--a work-out room/gym for staff, complete with new cross-trainers, stepmasters, exercise bikes, and even a wall-mounted large-screen TV that receives cable reception.

that was the month that was

Eric Blum has written a diary-like entry, breathlessly and emotionally describing his second, third and fourth weeks here this month. I've linked the entire entry and hope everyone will read it. It's best read in full. Here are three small sections: first, about the last day of third session at the waterfront; second, about the moment after closing campfire that evening; third, part of this closing thoughts, written last night, the last evening of the last session. For more on this last passage, you should really read the whole entry; my excerpting doesn't give the full gist of what Eric's final thoughts are. Okay, here are those selections:

I have also have had the pleasure of working with the waterfront staff on a number of occasions, these folks are down at the waterfront in all types of weather providing a fun and safe place for the campers and staff to cool off or just hang out on the dock. On the last full camp day while I was 'guarding for I believe susky/forest the last buddy check was called and as the campers were exiting the water, a group of susky girls realized that this was thier last time to jump into the green section for the entire season-as they were approaching the the dock to make that 1 final jump into lake Cole I had to stop them, since it was time to go, I did my best to stand my ground in enforcing the "rules"-however in the end not even I could deny these kids one last chance to take the plunge and I conveniently "turned my back" (keeping the campers in my peripheral vision of course) while they "broke the rules" and laughed about it the whole way back down the dock to get their buddy tags-does camp get any better than this.

Thursday night as always was closing campfire, for Wawa and the Hird. I unfortunately had to be out of camp for most of that time and missed the actual campfires; however I did make back into camp in time to see the villages making their way back to their cabins, as campers have been doing for over 100 years. It never ceases to amaze me the emotions that are displayed. I witnessed a camper who had been bound and determinded to go home at the beginning of the session who was now crying not because she missed her home and parents but because she knew how much she was going to miss camp and all the new friends that she had made. AS I watched the processionals I couldn't keep myself from humming "Four Strong Winds" while watching the moon rise over Wildcat.

And finally this passage from near the end, written on the final night of camp (last night):

As I realize that this is getting very long and I have just returned from the Hird closing campfire, which means the only thing left now to do is watch the buses and cars roll in for one last time as the campers and staff leave this summer behind physically to return home to their normal lives, I will leave you with these few final thoughts from an "old timer" here at the valley. Many changes have occured over my 22 summers here--some I like, others I'm still on the fence about, and still others I must say I don't care for. This past session I have had the opportunity to catch up with some alumni from my years as a counselor, Milton Pittman and Andy Wiener, to name a few. Both of these guys haven't been back to camp while it's been in session for many many years. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices that even though the camp has physically changed, the spirit of this place remains the same, from generation to generation.

A little later I'll add a photo or two to go with this. I'll also hope to add an entry about the abovementioned Andy Wiener, who has been visiting the past two days and whose two daughters are fourth-session campers. Andy has done a remarkable thing: he and his wife and friends in Rochester, creating the Frost Valley-Rochester Partnership, worked with an urban school and sent four kids to camp who couldn't otherwise afford to come. They have been here this session. Talk about giving back. I'm so impressed by what Andy has done--and by the steady conviction with which he's done it--that I'm thinking of attempting the same for several Philadelphians next summer. What about your city or town? Could we do the same there? Think about it.

Meantime, enjoy Eric's diary. And many thanks to Eric for being our diarist.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

they met at camp

Sylvie Flatow (on staff from 1998 to 2003) send me this beautiful news:

"I'm writing on behalf of my good, good camp friends Mary Chopard and Noah O'Connor who recently got married in Mt. Tremper at the Emerson Lodge (right next door to the world's largest kaleidescope!!) Frost Valley alumni Julian Bushman-Copp (Noah's cousin and best man), Laura Mogulescu, Moira Poe, Anne Linder, Anne Brewer, Dan Schorr, Jon Blum and Sarah Chapman were all in attendance and led the crowd in an all-wedding hula hop. Since Mary and Noah met at camp, each table was named after a Frost Valley village. Anyway, just wanted to let you and the rest of the Frost Valley community in on the good news! It was a super fun time."

The Frost Valley family flourishes.

Hirdstock 2007

As you see from my previous entry, I'm here at the valley once again. I asked many people about how Hirdstock went and heard universal enthusiasm and praise. And at the very moment I'm wearing my very own "Hirdstock '07" t-shirt, dark brown with cocoa-colored piping and bright yellow lettering and design. The "0" in "07" is a peace sign, naturally. Above is a panaroma shot taken by Dan Weir at around sundown. You see one of several stages and one of the four bands that played.

more continuity

Jody Davies Ketcham was visiting camp yesterday, and she and I took an hour's walk around--so she could have a look at things in action. It was a misty-rainy and quite cold second-to-last day of the summer's last session, but everywhere we went spirits were alive and activities were at full tilt. Under the big tent behind the Ad Office two villages were setting up a barbecue dinner. Outpost and Lakota were planning that evening's "graduation ceremony"--which would mark their "graduation" from Wawayanda and celebrate in advance next summer's emergence into the Hird. The staff at Arts & Crafts were cleaning up after a day of kids making projects. Jody noted with a smile that A&C looks and even feels and smells just the same as always. If you look really hard on the walls you can see the spray-painted leftovers from Olympics many summers earlier.

We wandered into the summer camp office, on the second floor of Smith Lodge (the Health Center), said hello to long-time registrar Rhonda McNamara. Turned around on the stairs and there was Lourdes Montoro. At the little reunion of Jody and Lourdes, I snapped this shot.

Lourdes came first as an ICCP counselor in the early 80s--maybe mid-80s. I assigned her to Tacoma that summer, but that was a mistake; she wasn't cut out for the older girls and wanted Pokey in the worst way. We made that move and she loved the little kids and thrived. Summers went by and still Lourdes managed to get away from her life in Spain to spent at least some time here. Now, years and years and years later, she has structured her life as a teacher in Barcelona to be able to spend four weeks every August here for sessions 3 and 4. For the past numbers of summers her job is the late shift in the Margetts Lodge program office. She keeps it utterly clean and organized, no small feat as anyone who remembers working there in the summer will realize. She's a fixture, an institution unto herself...another blessed with the Wawayanda spirit.

Pretty much everyone to whom I introduced Jody noted the name "Ketcham" and because of the Ketcham legacy in the air, helped by the name of the chapel at Reflection Pond, made a big friendly gesture of welcome. "Oh, the Ketcham family means a lot here," said one Susky girl. Well Jody of course is a Westfield Davies, but later married John Ketcham and of course is proud of her heartfilled connection to the Ketchams. She and I more or less grew up here together. For the 2001 Wawayanda centennial, she and I co-wrote (she made the photos and I the text) a book called Finding the Way Back. She was a camper, CIT, counselor, VC, Adventure Trip leader and later, for many years, the fulltime year-round Director of Development.

Too bad Jody had to go back to NJ so soon. She missed, late last night, a special treat at the staff lounge: real BBQ, including pulled-pork sandwiches. The place was hoppin'.

Later, Bill Abbott added this remembrance:

I think it was 1983, maybe 1981, when we had a soccer/gymnastics village located in old Hemlock [cabins 21-25]. We were two girls cabins and three boys cabins. Mike Ford was there as well as Tom "ya ya!" from Germany. Kathy Bell was with us as well as Molly Shea - I have a picture of the whole group I will find and forward to you. Lourdes was, as you mentioned, brand new to counseling. One night the two of us had CQ on a cool, rainy night. We decided to sit in her counselor's quarters in cabin 25. She barely spoke English and I could barely order a burrito, much less speak Spanish. We decided to play cards and I remember with great fondness how we kind of taught each other English and Spanish as we played. It was a night I thought would get me to sleep early, but we had such a nice time communicating as best we could in hushed tones, playing cards and laughing quietly as we enjoyed the effort of playing some game neither of us truly understood. It was a classic example of how two people from opposite ends of the earth, unable to speak fluently with each other, could spend an entire evening together and enjoy every memorable moment of it! My/our plans of retiring early went for naught as we didn't want this special evening to end! It created a bond between us that we couldn't articulate to others, but it must have been apparent to the other counselors as well as the kids when we subsequently shared "a look" and a "knowing" smile between us... It warms my heart that Lourdes not only continued to come back to FV as a staff member, but also that her attachment to our wonderful summer camp brings her back year after year. If there was ever any doubt that FV is a magical place that touches hearts and minds in profound ways - the story of how it has affected Lourdes removes all of it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hirdstock redux

I haven't gotten a firsthand report of Hirdstock, which took place a few days ago. By Sunday evening here in Philadelphia it was raining, so it seems to me there's a chance the end of the program was rained out or forced indoors. I'm sure I'll have some sort of report for this blog, perhaps directly from one of the program directors. Meantime, here's my last Hirdstocky remembrance for the moment: a photo Frank Gotz from Switzerland sent me, showing Lenape's performance in '83.

And here is another Hirdstock photo sent to me just a few minutes ago by Mike McNamee. From left to right: David Sunshine, me (check out those shorts!), Kenny Abbott, and McNamee himself. I can't remember what we're singing here. Perhaps it's Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" ("I seen my light...come shinin' in, from the west down to the east").

hunker hawser and "gumbo"

People often ask me to trace the origins of what has become a robust tradition and core principle: everybody's a winner at Frost Valley, the quasi-non-competitive cooperative spirit of game-playing. Of course there are years when there's more competitive and hard-core winning-and-losing sports and games, but there are also years when the non-competition thing is supreme. If you listen to the audio recording I made during Olympics 2005 (an earlier entry), you'll perhaps be amazed at how readily the campers talk about how everyone's a winner at Frost Valley.

Well, first of all, we took very seriously the book New Games (and another book, More New Games) which was part of a movement that became known as "the New Games movement." Yes, it was an early 1970s thing. New Games filtered into FV in 1973, three years before the book itself was published. By '76, when we got copies of it, we were already using official New Games and had made up a bunch ourselves. One from the book was called "Hunker Hawser." The photo above shows that game in action.

Ken Barton (great and hilarious Program Director in the early 70s--who came to us from Halbe and Jane Brown's beloved Camp Fitch) was a phys ed teacher and brought us "Gumbo Softball," a funny and high-spirited and somewhat less competitive version of regular softball, which can get rather grim and intense. I won't go through the rules of Gumbo Softball and how it differs from the regular game, but interested parties should feel free to ask me. Wonderful game--and it takes about half the time to play it. Once Ken gave us "Gumbo Softball" we began making up Gumbo versions of every game we could think of. By around 1977 and '78, "gumbo" was a word associated with me. Everything that was a little weird, a little funny, a little less serious--with a bit of pizzazz about it--was given the prefix "gumbo." The term became synonymous with winging it - with just doing it - with making do and having fun. Gumbo this and gumbo that. One summer I wore a t-shirt that simply had the word GUMBO printed on the front. (I gave that T-shirt away my last summer, I think to Dave Gold.)

After a while the prefix got unmoored and the word around camp for fun was just "gumbo." What will we do tonight now that it's raining and the indoor space we had reserved has been taken by another village? Answer? Gumbo!

27 years later...

In the summer of 1980, Lee Fleischer led an Adventure Trip in July and was a VC in August. Other trip leaders that summer were Dave Allen ("the amazing Dave!"), Nancy Brady, Bob and Bonnie Breithaupt, Nancy Burkholder, Jean Druffner, Tim Dry (he of the long long beard), Lisa Ernst, Carol Grove, Norm Gurfinkel, Jackie Hamberg, Sue McKernan. And other VCs were Kathryn O'Keefe (Pokey!), Bill Petrick of Baltimore (Lenape), Melanie Teslik (Susky, if I recall right), Dave Gansler (Lacota), Dawn Helfand (FCC Director the other half), Dave Allen (Totem 1/2 the summer), and Doug Green of Wisconsin (Outpost).

Lee went on to med school, became a doctor and now resides with his family and his practice in the Philadelphia area.

Lee brought his son Elliot to the September '06 reunion and after that it didn't take much to persuade Elliot to come back as a camper this summer. That he did. Above is a photo of the two of them on check-in day on July 1. And here, below, is Lee's eloquent account of his experience as now the parent of a camper:

Well, during Session One I found myself looking online 2,3, or 4 times a day (to paraphrase our local news radio) at the FV web site to find the latest pictures from Outpost village. I would also take time to look at pictures from the other villages, and see the sights and activities from all around camp, and be amazed how much things have not changed in a generation or so. My dream of having my son have the same amazing experience that shaped my life really did come true this summer! And yes, he already has planned out being at camp for four weeks next year, and becoming a CIT when he's old enough....

Since Elliot's return home, I'm looking at your blog about once a week, and still feel quite connected to the whole FV karma. The circle really does continue to go 'round and 'round, just as we used to sing at the closing campfires. One thing that amazes me is the number of alumni sons and daughters that are now campers and staff, and not just from the metro NY area, but all across the country. I think that says a lot about FV, and about both the potential strength and depth of commitment that the
alumni can bring to the table.

I look forward to keeping the circle going.

Monday, August 20, 2007

our epic goes back to Homer

Homer McLemore worked at Wawayanda from 1961 through 1963 and has visited only twice since that time. But he's been following this blog and it has conjured up clear memories. "Wawayanda with its staff and several of its campers are experiences that I cannot seem to forget - they are with me always with great fondness. I know that the camp physical facilities and programs have significantly changed; however, it is 'yesterday' that I remember."

He remembers a boy from Canada who was probably under minimum camp age. He was with Homer in Totem. Maybe he was permitted to be at camp at too young an age because his father was our contact in the Canadian wilderness (for our canoe trips there). One chilly rainy night at the top of Slide Mountain, this little boy managed to get a fire started when no one else, including Homer, could seem to do it.

He remembers an 11-year-old boy perhaps named Furman - from Alabama. He remembers him because he knew or learned that due to segretation no camp in the South would offer this boy the camp experience he got at Wawayanda.

He remembers the 1962 campers of cabin 11 who won a talent contest by performing a skit based on the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

lean on me when you're not strong

One of my favorite challenges at Challenge Night is this one: The two people on your team who look most alike (but are unrelated). It never fails to produce hilarious and remarkable results. Here you see a photo of one of the look-alike pairs from this summer's Forest/Susky Challenge Night, back in July (a beautiful night it was, so we held the event at the Olympic Circle).

A few nights earlier it was the always-intense Lenape/Tacoma Challenge Night. What never fails to put everyone in a beautiful mutually appreciative mood is this challenge: Two people from each time who will sing for us a nice song about friendship. I was quick enough with my little recorder to catch two Tacoma girls from one of the teams singing a verse of "Lean on Me." As they sung the whole place went suddenly quiet and everyone realized it was a special moment. At the end there was a huge ovation. Moments like these...they help you carry on, 'cause--yup--it won't be long before I realize I need someone to lean on. When that happens I'll likely come back to this entry--this one right here.

So here's that recording.

emergency: turns out to be just a gassy stomach

When I recently cornered Mark Gottdenker and Eric Blum and asked them to tell me a camp story, I could have predicted that it would have something to do with a medical emergency. After all, most of Blum's FV time has had something to do with being a medical first-responder. I won't tell more about the story than that. It's definitely an instance of the bizarre ongoing Gottdenker-Blum Show, thus not entirely comprehensible to the sane outside world, but I'll bet that 40% of those who listen to the audio will be able to follow it. To the rest of you, well, you can just enjoy the tone, the absolute sense of fraternalism and buddyism that these two camp characters always evince. Camp guys through and through. Gottdenker's first summer was as a camper in '79 and I remember him (for some reason--why?) very clearly that summer. Since I was the camp director then, I'm suspecting it was either because he was homesick or ill-behaved, or possibly both at once. Next time I see Mark I'll ask him.

Oh yes: I didn't get a photo of Mark and Eric together. Above you say Jeff Daly and Eric on the rainy check-out day, end of session 3 this summer. Good enough, I'd say; these two are lifelong pals in the same sort of way.

Sequoia's back

At left, Lee Griffin, Sequoia counselor--photo taken on the last day of Sequoia '07

In the middle of my recorded conversation with Brian Sense--who brought Sequoia back this summer as the Adventure Village--Brian does a Brian: he turns the tables on me. Why hadn't I visited Sequoia during any of my many visits to camp this summer? Well, literally the night after I spoke with Brian I was invited to give a talk/devotion to the CITs who were living in tents out there, and got a good look around. It's wonderfully well set up.

Sequoia ran for three sessions this summer and, although the first session had low enrollments (as one might expect for a "new" program), it thrived thereafter, and it seems pretty certain that it'll be back for 2008. Any old Sequoia partisan reading this who wants to lobby for that, feel free--and you can say that Al sent ya.

I also caught up recently with Lee Griffin, a very talented counselor who spent his summer out at Sequoia after having come up through the regular resident camp ranks. I think you'll enjoy what Lee has to say.

So here's my audio recording of Brian and Lee.

Note that Lee's Adventure t-shirt says: "get your trip together". There are 3 shirts this summer, each with a different motto and, as you can imagine, they've been in demand.

mountain boarding

It's a scene on the grassy hill where Outpost cabins used to be - below Quirk and Hyde & Watson Lodges now. Okay, but what's that blurry aerial streak in the upper right of the shot? Oh, that's just an Outpost boy a half-second after he and his mountain-board flew off the ramp. Huh?

Yes, we've got mountain boarding now, and I have to say--it's about the best new activity there is. I'm old school (duh, you say, no kidding) and so I'm skeptical about new activities, ready to pounce on them as unnecessary frills added to an already perfectly wonderful synthesis of nature and games. But I'm ready to say that those of us who were campers at FV prior to the introduction of mountain boarding just haven't a clue about what fun can be had. Brian Sense put together a video of Outpost's rather modest leaps off the ramp. You'll enjoy this 3-minute film. Disguise yourself as a 15-year-old and sign up for 2008 camp, and then you can try it yourself. Or...errr...maybe if you contact Brian he'll arrange a special alumni activity on the boards. In fact, I know he will. Just do it.

another Dan Weir wide-angle shot

Dan Weir has a way of taking a composite wide-angle photograph. Earlier I posted two photos he took during Olympics 2007. Now here's one of the four Ultimate Sicko Ball teams (red, blue, green, black) assembled in the Big Tree Field, just prior to a 4th session game. Dan tells me that USB is so hot now that the campers want to play it twice--once each week--this session. Anyway, here's a link to Dan's photo. It might not help those unfamiliar with the game to figure it out, but it does suggest the dramatic large-scale quality of the thing.

And, gee, I hope they're all being careful not to run over Little Big Tree. That little feller is starting to grow (as it were) on me.

videos: Pokey-Totem cheer & Susky too

Seen and heard your Pokey-Totem cheer for the day? No? Well your day's not complete without it, so click on this link and see a video of what will for many be a familiar cheer--recorded during the current (4th) session at camp. The cheer is called "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train."

Now let's leave the dining hall and watch Susky in the Big Tree Field perform their favorite cheer: here's your link.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

the folks with the thirsty boots

Here is the 1978 Adventure Staff - a photo taken toward the end of staff training that summer, just before the crew scattered to the four corners of the U.S. on their trips.

At bottom, from left: Jody Davies, Kris Fisher, Mary Ann Fisher, [name forgotten]. Second row, sitting, from left: Melanie Brown, Mike Schiffer, Gary Garter, Mike Larison, Alice Selig, Doug Marsh, Debbie Trosvik.

Top, from left: [name forgotten], Danny Shelburne, Doug [last name?], Val Kay, Ray Honeywell, Shirley Kay (Director of the Adventure Program), Alexa Carter, and (the late) Natch Wedel.

tidbits & sidelights: Ray Honeywell and Val Kay met at camp, and later married. Melanie is Halbe Brown's niece, originally from Connecticut and now in the Seattle area. Mike Schiffer is a member of the Schiffer clan that has sent at least four others to the FV staff; they own a house in Claryville. Alice Selig, now Alice Selig Giarusso, is a schoolteacher in northern New England; her brother, Mark, a legendary Hemlock counselor, was killed years ago in a helicopter crash, and the Seligs have set up a perennial campership fund in Mark's memory. I'm sure I have a Danny Shelburne blog entry in me somewhere, so I'll refrain from saying much about Danny here and now, but of course his sister Carolyn was a long-time staffer and became Program Director and Girls' Camp Director. Mike Larison, who also met his wife Diana at Frost Valley, is still there, managing our forestry program.

Friday, August 17, 2007

how does it feel to be so loved?

Chris Harper's summer was her first as a village chief. 2007 is her 12th year at camp; she's come up from Pokey. In the past few years she's done something that was unheard-of in my day but seems to be a pattern now among the staff. Chris was a Sacky counselor when her current Windsong campers were in Sacky, then in '06 she was a counselor in Tacoma with many of the same girls, and now, as I say, she's their VC in Windsong. She will probably apply to be a CIT Coordinator next summer and work with the same kids. Some counselors "move up" with their campers. Several of my daughter's Sacky counselors have been with her since Susky (Susky-->Lakota-->Sacky) and are contemplating Tacoma for '08. Remarkable. What continuity this creates. It makes for actual generations...cohorts. I caught up with Windsong recently out in front of Arts & Crafts on a sunny day. They were untying their recently dyed tie-dye shirts, and as you can see from the photo, they turned out well. I asked them about the shirts and then conversation inevitably turned to their VC who blushed upon hearing such kudos. Listen to the audio recording of that fun encounter.

(For old-timers reading this: in the early 70s we created Cherokee to be an oldest girls' village, beyond Tacoma. For a year or two later this was Sunburst, and then in the early 80s we created Windsong - same age, 15 year olds, the sister village of Quinnipiac, "Pac" for short. Pac's first summer was '85. Windsong's was either '83 or '84.)

"Old Wawayanda" sung for the first time

At Hirdstock '84 I sang "Old Wawayanda" for the first time - along with Adam Diamond (then a camper).
When I was a young boy at Old Wawayanda
Just 2 hours from the city, so peaceful, sublime.
In Mr. Carey’s old rec hall, The K Court in session,
Got a pie in the face, and had me a time.

Chorus (sing after each verse)
Well, daddy, won’t you take me back to Old Wawayanda
Down by Biscuit River where paradise lay
Well I’m sorry my son but you’re too late in asking
Mr. Carey’s old rec hall is all laid away.

Got a little bit older, and so did that rec hall
All them pies in the face, they made me a man.
The Chuck White came with the world’s largest shovel
And knocked it all down, for the “progress of camp.”

Sang songs and made friends, in a hall they called “Dining”
‘Till fire burned through her, though the sign said “Build Strong”
Then Chuck White came with the world’s biggest slide rule
And figured it all out, and sang me this song.

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
Saying “Wawayanda spirit, it never did die.”

[after the final chorus:]
Saying “Wawayanda spirit, it never does die”
Saying “Wawayanda spirit, it never does die”
Saying “Wawayanda spirit, it never does die”

"K Court" in the first stanza refers of course to the old gone (and perhaps lamented) all-camp evening program, Kangaroo Court.

The song was written as a semi-serious protest against the renovation of the old "Rec Hall" (recreation hall)--a rebuilding that was Chuck White's first major construction project...a project that produced Margetts Lodge, which we cynics dubbed "The Halbe Hilton." We couldn't imagine it--at camp? a lodge that had rooms like a Howard Johnson's motel? How could this be? Give us back our old dumpy cowbarn-turned-rec-hall. The old rec hall had been the main barn of the Forstmann-era farm, and when campers first came to Wawayanda at FV in 1958, before the dining hall was built, they used the Rec Hall as a dining hall. John Ketcham once told me that as you ate your meals that summer you could still faintly smell the scent of manure.

The phrase "Mr. Carey's old Rec Hall" refers to Dick Carey, an early director.

I'll have something to say someday about the fire that took our beloved dining hall, especially as I have some photos of the fire and immediate aftermath, pictures that Chuck White gave me a few years ago.

[Sometime after I wrote this entry, I recorded a performance of this song at closing campfire. Go here for more.]

Hemlock '69

From a 1969 photo of Hemlock village, here is a close-up showing some of the Hemlock staff that summer. At bottom right is Mark Kramer. Just above Mark is Stu Sherman (I'm guessing Stu was an LIT or JC that summer). Just to the left of Stu is Pat Ricciardi. You can't tell from this photo that Pat was literally the strongest person in camp. He could move anything, lift anything - built like an ox, as we used to say. To Pat's left is Sven Grotian, mentioned earlier in this blog--one of my favorite camp people ever. I cannot recognize the person standing above Sven. Is he Rick Schermer? The camper at the bottom left, with the long dark hair in a middle part, is Peter Pappas.

Mark Kramer is now a businessman in southeast Florida. His wife and kids visited FV at one reunion in the 90s or another. Other than that he hadn't been to camp in some 30 years when he spent two wonderful days visiting during the summer of 2006. He loved seeing at all again and spoke eloquently of the values he learned during his time. During his visit I told a late-night story (to a village) into which I somehow weaved Mark Kramer--and then revealed, at the end of the telling, that the very same Mark Kramer was sitting right here, whereupon Mark scarily stood up and introduced himself, nearing sending the kids out of their skins. Here was this guy, from way in the past, right there once again. Mark has since been very supportive of our campaign to raise funds for the new Wellness Center, and I'm personally grateful to him for his continued interest.

High Falls

I've been looking through summer camp yearbooks that were made and printed in the early to mid-70s. (For a few years we diligently took photos of every village and sometime in the winter put together and mailed to every camper and staff member an honest-to-goodness yearbook. They're rare now, although a few of us have them, and they are also on display in the Historical Room of the Ad Office at camp.) In the yearbook for 1973 the photos are all of the villages and candids of kids and staff doing activities. But one is a nice black-and-white shot of High Falls. The reproduction here doesn't do it justice.

Most of us have hiked to High Falls many times, and probably almost all of us have camped there, at one of the two overnight sites ("High Falls Lower" or "High Falls Upper"). But few of us have hiked along the brook above the falls. I recommend it with great enthusiasm. In fact, if you keep hiking along the brook you will find yourself turning to the northeast and climbing near the western ridge of Doubletop Mountain. Yes, High Falls Brook to the west and Pigeon Brook to the east are the two streams bounding the Frost Valley side of Doubletop. Many FV'ers know that by hiking up Pigeon you can get close to the Doubletop's peaks. Few know that the same is true of High Falls Brook. So try it. It's a difficult climb - goes up steep angles toward the end. And then, depending on the time of year, the brook ends sooner or later at its muddy and swampy and brambly beginning, and then you must (as always on Doubletop) use a compass to go the rest of the way. There are several beautiful little waterfalls above High Falls, and while in aesthetic terms HF Brook is a C+ to Piegon's A+, it is worth doing if only because so few do it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

November moonrise

Full moon over Lake Cole, as seen from the end of the lake looking eastward back to camp (photo by Phyllis Kaskel, taken November 2006).

total eclipse of the moon, August 16, 1989

Karin Turer, intrigued by my "this very day" approach, remembers a significant Frost Valley event on this very day in 1989. Here is her wonderful memory of it:
On this day way back in 1989 was a total eclipse of the moon, at camp! I guess it was 4th session, and I knew about the eclipse ahead of time and was wondering if I'd get the chance to see it. Lucky for me, it became an actual Evening Activity for that night. We all got our sleeping bags or blankets and the whole Hird (maybe it was the whole camp) went out to Big Tree Field and watched the moon. I think it was extra special because we were out "late" - in any case, it felt late, and it was great because it was essentially a big long "hang-out" time. They gave out snacks and I remember throwing them at each other. It was one of those years where those of us in Sacky had the brother cabin that was maybe 2 years younger. The Windsong girls were annoyed because some of Sacky was hanging out with Pac that session. Whenever I hear stories about seeing the 1969 moon landing while at camp (which is frankly more dramatic and exciting) I always think of this event. Not too dramatic and exciting, but one of the nicest things about camp was laying out in Big Tree after dark.

Lake Wawayanda in 1876

Lake Wawayanda in the northwest corner of New Jersey was the site of the original Camp Wawayanda beginning in 1901. Here is the same lake as it was depicted in a painting by Jasper Francis Cropsey done in 1876. Several people who know the lake suggest that the painting is highly romanticized - painted by Cropsey to befit the dramatic natural aesthetic of the mid-19th century Hudson River School. Notice for instance how high and looming the mountains are in the background here; well, the actual scene has no peaks quite so dramatic. Perhaps there's a convergence here: the Hudson River School painters focused many of their landscape paintings on the Catskill Mountains - dramatic scenes yet rounded "soft" mountains, that blue-green mountain-forest color we all know and love so well. What I like, then, is that the Catskills aesthetic trained its eye on Lake Wawayanda, conceptually tying together this New Jersey site to its future in the mountains to the north.

mini 90s reunion

A mini-reunion of some wonderful 1990s folks took place in September 2005, organized by Rick Mckay. Top row, Will Edwards, Colleen Wenke Apollo, Eric Goldman, Mike Swabb; middle row, Rick McKay, Janine Delgriorno, Michelle Louis, Havi Ashe, Dana Archer-Rosenthal, Lauren Ocasio; bottom row, Jessica Kaskel, Beth Schwartzapfel