Friday, September 28, 2007

see Mike Gold as a Funkey Monkey

Whether you are before or after Mike Gold's Frost Valley era - or indeed one of his camp pals - you should make plans to see Mike in action. If you can't read the event detail, just click on the image and you'll get a larger, more readable version.

Oh, by the way, in the poster Mike is the second from the left.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

cabin 18, we'll miss ya

I never thought it would succeed--the somewhat crazy notion of having alumni bid on the old cabins. But it has. There has been a great deal of talk and excitement. Jim Tisch at FV has been collecting bids, and the bidding will end on October 1.

Here's one of many responses I've gotten - from a long-time camper-staff of the late 90s and early 00s:

"Since the moment that you sent the original email about owning a frost valley cabin, my close group of best friends has been endlessly talking about the possibility! In fact, we are all getting together tonight to talk about what our options might be: if we all go in together (there are about 9 or 10 of us) – what could our bid be? If we win, where could we place the cabin?"

"We are truly hoping that this is a possibility,"
she continues. "All of us have been friends since we were young campers and just the thought of always being able to be in one of the original cabins, where it all began, is truly awesome."

So go for it. Send your bids and questions to Jim Tisch at jtisch [at]

Cabin 18 in Lenape was the highest-up cabin in the old days. Cabin 15 in Outpost (now gone--replaced on the site by the road running in front of Hyde & Watson and Quick Lodges) was probably a few feet higher up. But we of Lenape cabin 18 claimed we were highest. Whatever. I was a camper in that cabin for 6 weeks in '68. My AIM screename is "lenape68."

Bud Cox was a VC/counselor in that cabin for many years.

John Butler writes: "Just to add to the history of Cabin 18, I lived there with Andy Pilc for a while when I first worked in Hemlock. We had some of the best kids ever who are now off to become CITs. I remember, to tie it more closely to your history at the Valley, that we acquired 10 copies of the book you wrote about FV [Finding the Way Back] and gave them, along with a FV Visor to each of our 8 campers at a little ceremony on Big Tree Field where we talked precisely about the legacy of being in Hemlock and the legacy of Cabin 15 [18], which we made-up at the time. Later as a VC I chose to emphasize the history and legacy of the buildings as a means of cultivating stewardship of our little patch of land, which I still treasure as one of my favorite places on camp. My history is more closely tied with cabin 17, however, both as a CIT there and then as VC. If I had the money and location, I would buy 17 [old 19] in a second."

Dave King writes: "Cabin 18 was the cabin I lived in as Chief of Lenape in 1958. I also stayed there in '59. The original Wawayanda villages were numeric until we could figure what the village names were to be. Lenape was Village #4. Thankfully, "old timers" such as Hal Ressmeyer (Waterfront Director) and Bill McNally (Riflery Director) prevailed and it was decided retain the Wawayanda names. The whole cabin sale response again underlines the power and magic of Frost Valley."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

after a good dinner with friends

After dinner one wonderful night (in 1977?) at Chuck and Joy White's house. Bottom from left: Rafik Melek, Al Filreis, Gustavo Giraldo Restrepo (international from Colombia); kneeling near Joy: Ouffoue Nguysen (from Ivory Coast); standing from left: [?], Carol Sarabun, Laurie Cobb, [?], Linda Kelley, Carolyn Shelburne, Brian Rambo[?], "Gram" White (Joy's mother), and Joy White.

Monday, September 24, 2007

sunrise at Giant Ledge

On the last morning of one of this summer's camping sessions, the Tacoma staff woke up the girls very very early (4 am?) and took them on a sunrise hike up Giant Ledge. Anna Armstrong, one of Tacoma's counselors, took this shot at the sunrise moment.

I think they cooked and ate pancakes up there. Could it get any better than that?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

expert corner-cutters asked to run a dangerous activity

Danny Shelburne (left) and Doug Tompkins "working" at the toboggan run during a December winter weekend in the mid-1970s.

The toboggan run shot down a clearing running downhill and in the southern direction from cabins 21-25. It had been cleared of trees to make way for power lines (the lines, now buried, are no longer there). It had been graded and grooved, and we sent weekend guests down 3 and 4 and 5 at a time on one of the maybe 15 toboggans we had. At the bottom of hill was a lean-to - which had been used for summer activities such as "Nature" and "Indian lore" in the 60s but was most commonly referred to, even in the summer, as "the Toboggan Shed." There was a working pot-bellied wood stove in it, and indeed the toboggans and some sleds were stored there.

When the snow was scarce (for about 3 winters in the early to mid-seventies we had very little snow--cold but little snow) we shoved ice and snow on the run and even occasionally watered it, just to have some kind of surface on it. (Later FV acquired snow-making machines.) The run got super-fast and was exciting but also incredibly dangerous. We stacked bails of hay along each side, to keep people from squirting off the course into the woods (and smashing into trees, which happened fairly regularly). Of course with all that watering (and the warming and cooling temps) the bails of hay eventually became hard as rocks, making the journey down still more perilous, the rider a pinball bumping its way through a bonkers pinball machine.

Add to that the hilarious Laurel-and-Hardy-like nonchalance (and occasionally--why not say it?--the downright laziness) of these two characters, Danny Shelburne and Doug Tompkins, and you got a FV activity area that seemed, to the weekend visitors, truly akin to Evel Knievel's leap across the Grand Canyon. They loved it and feared it - and we of course (e.g. during dining hall announcements) trumped up the fear and fervor with hysterical narratives of insane heroism, folly, recklessness, life-long phobias only realized mid-course, bizarre close calls, and stupendous feats.

Friday, September 21, 2007

morning reflection

The photo was taken mid-morning on the middle Sunday of session 1 this past summer: Wawayanda has its Sunday Morning Reflection at - where else? - Reflection Pond. The Susquehanna staff leads a song.

The middle Sunday during summer camp has always been a blissfully slow day. Late wake-up, no flag raising, a late breakfast (these days an actual brunch), a chapel service or "morning reflection" organized by the CITs, and an afternoon of cabin activity or possibly an all-camp program. No regular activity periods. Remember all this?

Old-timers reading this will already be asking themselves, "Hey, why not in the beautiful outdoor chapel?" No worries. One of the camps uses the outdoor chapel - it used to be called "the Wawayanda Chapel." The other will typically use Reflection Pond. For many years there was a Girls' Camp Chapel. It was a clearing in the woods below and to the east of cabins 6-10 (now 36-40). It's long gone, having first fallen apart (the benches were not well made) and then bisected by the large trail that runs from above and behind Hird Lodge straight over to the dining hall. So now we have two chapels - the already-mentioned original outdoor chapel which seats about 250 people (named in 1961 [?] for the Kilbourne family - there's a stone marker indicating this in the back) and more recently the indoor Ketcham Chapel, which seats perhaps 90 people.

What did these counselors sing that morning? Well, it's not Kumbaya, that's for sure (no typed-out lyrics needed for that one). I overheard my daughter this past Sunday humming a tune that I know, and I asked how she knows it. "Oh, we sang it at Morning Reflection," she answered instantly, "and I can't get it out of my head." It's called "The Christians and the Pagans" and it was written by Dar Williams--very, very ecumenical. Here's the chorus:

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

I asked her what core value this expressed and she looked at me as if I was an idiot: "Inclusiveness, of course!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

a story like an owl hoot in the solitary woods

Alyssa Zuliani was a camper and counselor in the late 70's and 80's (she calls herself "a silent lifer"). When she was in Pokey (her VC was "Patty Pokey" - and also Alyssa's counselor), she writes, "I remember you joining us for a bit on our overnight by the creek and telling us a ghost story - great memory! This is only one of the many great times I remember about FV."

Now a little more about the story, as she remembers it. This is very cool. How articulate and nuanced a memory is this?!

"All I can remember about the story at the moment is that it was scary, but in a lonely way, not a terrifying way. More like the hoot of an owl in the solitary woods, Eros and Psyche-like, than an axe-murderer type! Will try to remember more."

FV alumna raises $128 million for her school

A long-time FV'er - Nancy Starmer - has been the headmaster of the prestigious George School for many years. In today's Philadelphia Inquirer we learn that Nancy secured a donation of $128 million dollars for her school. You can read the whole story here. The photo above shows Nancy Starmer, at right, and the donor.

Nancy and Jack Starmer met at Frost Valley - yet another FV romance that led to a wonderful life-partnership - and I believe I'm right that Nancy was Nancy Oeschle, sister to Russ and Lee and Jane, all of whom were FV campers and staff. Jack Starmer, with John Giannotti, was the creator of Hirdstock. Jack's dad and brother Bill were very involved with Wawayanda in the early FV years. Bill went on to work for the Y and retired not long ago as a YMCA professional. As Jim Wilkes put it to me, "You can't overlook Bill Starmer. Why the west coast would sink into the ocean!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

has Forest got the spirit? (yeah, man!)

The camper here in the pink tie-dye shirt is Gary Gold, the older brother of Fran Grayson. The year, we think, is '69. The blonde in the white T-shirt is counselor Doug Cresson.

Gary earned 5 Wawayanda W patches. "I was in Forest, Outpost, Lenape, Hemlock, Catskill Explorers (2 years with Bud Cox), Trail Blazers with Pat Ricciardi.... and spent winters at the castle. My Dad (I think) donated and built the horse barn after the old one was on its last legs."

Gary also was there in late July '69 when we all sat on the Castle hill and watched a tiny black-and-white TV as Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the surface of the moon.

Gary was in cabin 19 in '69 and left his intitials in the top left bunk. Perhaps they are still there.

The more we talk about J. C. Pony, the more Gary remembers. "JC Pony yessiree," he writes. "He put the Forest cheer to 'Land of a Thousand Dances.' He sang, 'Oh the boys from Forest... they really got the groove!' And we responded, 'Na na na na na!'"

"When I was in Lenape," Gary continues, "I remember having the Live Cream album (and knowing about Woodstock). I remember the songs and the feeling I had listening to them on a portable phonograph with an extension chord we ran into the middle of the village. Look what happened: Were you there the summer that we put the big toilet paper 'X marks the spot' on the flagpole field? One of the campers parent (a hobbyist pilot) dropped a care package out of the plane... and then unsucessfully tried to land in the field across from the castle."

And more: "On a sad note... and I am sure all know. I sad Kim Connell in Elllenville hospital about 10-15 years ago. We talked for a long while. Ladd Connell (his younger brother) and I were on Trail Blazers together my first year (Frank Meigs and Pat Ricciardi led the expedition to Lake Treb... La Verendrye Park in Clova, East Abitibi Canada... 250 mile Northwest of Montreal). Ladd used to stay up all night reading Newsweek magazines from cover to cover. I heard he wound up in DC doing something political. I heard Kim (who was my fly-fishing hero) passed away."

Gary's younger sister is the super-talented Fran Grayson, who had her own stellar FV career.

before Hayden Lodge

Anyone who came after 1970 will be disoriented by this photo, which was taken in 1965 or '66. You are looking at (on the left) what is now Hayden Lodge--what was then "the Crafts Shop," or "Forstmann's garage." Even as the home for Arts & Crafts, it looked and felt absolutely like a garage. Two large garage doors and two bays inside. I have a vague recollection that for at least one summer in the mid-60s, it was actually used as part of check-in. I believe the nurses (wearing whites - and caps!) were stationed in their to give us a check-in-day check-up--among the big bins of loose tiles and wooden parts for birdhouses and spools of colorful lanyard.

Off to the right you see one small building and part of another. The little one is the Flyfishing Shack - in Forstmann's time, the paymaster's hut. And then the back edge of Smith Lodge, the "Infirmary," later "the Heath Center." Recent FV'ers will even have a little visual trouble with this, because since 1975 the dialysis center has been a wing of Smith Lodge coming well off the back. Today this view of the little shack would be obscured by that back wing of Smith.

Between the Crafts Shop and Infirmary (look behind the white car) you can barely see the deer fence that fenced off the apple orchard that in those days served as our Archery Range. It is now still an orchard but is also the location of our greenhouse and gardens.

The vantage-point of the photographer (me) is the front of the Rec Hall (now Margetts Lodge).

Monday, September 17, 2007

new cabins

The newest new cabins are nearly finished. Dale Price is putting some finishing touches on.

These cabins will replace the old ones in what is now Hemlock (cabins 13-17)--what older generations will remember as Lenape (cabins 16-20).

You can see one of the old cabins alongside the new. For the moment, there are nine cabins in this village. As soon as the new ones are complete, the old cabins will be hauled away and a fifth new one will be built. The new cabins will have two bathrooms instead of one, a nicer front porch, and some overhead storage space for trunks and duffels. Otherwise they're the same: eight bunks and a counselor's room that sleeps two.

What will we do with the old cabins? It's not clear at the moment. But...does anyone out there want an old Wawayanda cabin? If you are interested, please get in touch with me: afilreis [at] writing [dot] upenn [dot] edu. I'm serious.

everyone knows Dot Conklin

Those who've been around the past decade or so have seen Dot Conklin around the dining hall, before meals and between meals, cleaning the bathrooms, walking in and out of the kitchen, eating her meals in the staff dining room. Before that you'd remember Dot at the laundry and driving around to various lodges in one camp vehicle or another, delivering linens, hauling out laundry.

Dot started at Frost Valley in 1967--forty years ago--although in my recent chat with her (which you can hear by playing this mp3 recording) it became clear to me that Jim Whyte hired her, and Jim was gone by '67. So I'd guess that she was first hired in early 1966.

Dot is an original Catskills denizen. She has family scattered all across the region, she knows all the old stories about one-room schoolhouses, what this Claryville house was used for in the old days, and so on.

Dot was the first recipient of a recent annual staff award, and when she received this honor everyone stood and applauded, tears in their eyes. Finally a chance to recognize a true community elder - hard working, honest, a kind & beautiful soul.

cold mid-September morning

This past Saturday morning, 6:45 am. I could barely hold the camera still, it was so surprisingly cold. Twenty minutes later, at the dining hall, I went to the weather station and saw that by then it had risen to 43 degrees. I suspect it had dipped into the 30s. Mid-September? Yikes.

It warmed into the upper 50s, and felt like 60 in the sun, on Sunday.

Notwithstanding the cold - or perhaps because of it - Lake Cole was just beautiful at sunrise. Of course the sun is rising behind me as I face west at the boathouse side of the lake. You could see the mist move upward and westward.

As I walked into breakfast I saw two summer '07 VCs - the mighty & supertalented Jay, VC of Mac Boys, and Adele, VC of Lakota. They were bundled and looked ready for the autumn to come in earnest, hardly seeming the T-shirted and be-shorted running-like-crazy leaders from the summer. They were headed out for a day off, having worked all week with several school groups visiting for Environmental Education programs.

Seneca Village

In the previous post, we came upon something called "Seneca Village." Perhaps some reading this will want a clarification. Most will not need it, but what is a blog for if not to give a few people what they need while the others can skip any entry that seems irrelevant?

Yes, Philla Barkhorn really was a camper in Seneca Village.

In the early 70s, when Tacoma seemed to us not enough for the teenage girl campers - when, more than ever, 14 and 15-year-old girls wanted to come to camp - we created Cherokee Village to handle the overflow. What was different about Cherokee, as I've no doubt commented before, is that (a) they lived in lodges (Biscuit and Pigeon) and (b) they ate in the Boys' Dining Hall, in the "back room" called Hemlock Lounge. Both (a) and (b) were huge attractions to the girls: ample electrical outlets in the lodges for plugging in a myriad hair dryers and eating meals with the boys.

Cherokee was not a success in any programmatic or counseling sense (perhaps that story is itself another entry), but from a fill-beds/get-registrations sense it was a huge success. Still more 15-year-old girls wanted to come to camp. So one summer - and one summer only - we extended even Cherokee and created another village, this one called "Seneca." (For readers familiar with our summer program now, this will ring a bell: after creating Pac and Windsong, we needed still more and along came Sycamore.)

The name "Seneca Village" was re-used a year or two later, when it became the forerunner of MAC - FV's first program for kids with disabilities. Seneca operated 2 or 3 summers during 4th session only in the late 70s. Dave King was the VC of Seneca its first summer.

Now here's the archival rarity. Philla remembers the Seneca Village song, so here it is:

Seneca, village we have learned to love,
Living each day in our friendships,
Blue skies above.
Tennis, hiking, waterfront,
That is only half the fun.
The other half is living together,
How we hate to go.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Philla Barkhorn in Star Ledger

Here's Philla Barkhorn's profile:

1974: 2 weeks in Tacoma Village (VC was Valerie Pluto, JC Nancy Brady)
1975: 2 weeks in Seneca Village [an one-time extension of Cherokee
Village, which was already an extension of Tacoma]
1976: CIT (directors were Leslie Helms and Norm Gurfinkel)
1977: FCC
1978: JC in Susky
1979: counselor in Pocahontas Village (Kathryn O'Keefe VC)
1980: counselor

(At some point later she and Nate [last name?] led a Lake Champlain trip.)

She and her husband and three kids have been going to Family Camp for 5 years. She first came to Frost Valley originally with Linda Kaiser (sister of the aforementioned June). "I of course," she writes, "have many memories of you, 'Goin' on a Lion Hunt', 'Dead Skunk', Closing Campfires in the old Boys Dining Hall, et cetra."

Philla was featured in a Newark Star Ledger article last Thursday. Here's the whole article:

Women triumph in race no matter her age or speed
Thursday, September 13, 2007

People are sometimes surprised when they meet Philla Barkhorn. The Chatham mother of three is founder of The Tri Women, an informal group of mostly Morris County ladies who -- in their spare time -- train for triathlons. In two years, she's recruited 275 women to her group, which provides free training for the swimming-biking-running/walking events.

So when people first make contact they figure they're going to meet some elite athlete, some hard-bodied fitness nut. And that, Barkhorn says frankly, is something she is not.

"I'm in shape enough, but I'm not buff," she says. "I'm not at my perfect weight. I'm very healthy -- that's the secret. You don't have to look like Serena Williams to do this."

It's about how it makes you feel, she said. Confident. Energetic. Triumphant. She remembers having that feeling for the first time in 2005, when a friend recruited her to the Danskin Triathlon. The event -- being held this weekend at Sandy Hook -- consists of a half-mile swim, an 11-mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run or walk and benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. After that first year, Barkhorn wanted to get more women involved. So she called a meeting at the local Y and some 60 women showed up. "We had this tiny little conference room," she remembered. "They were out in the hallway!"

Through connections like Bob Koppenol, the owner of Starting Line Sports in Madison, she found people willing to give them free training.

Ironically enough, as Barkhorn was putting all this together, she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. She had a mastectomy with reconstruction, she said. "We very quickly knew that I was going to be fine."

This year, when Barkhorn participates in the Danskin Triathlon, she is going to be running with other "survivors" of breast cancer. There are a handful of them in The Tri Women, she said, though they've never focused on that so she doesn't know how many exactly.

Irene Fisher of Harding is one of them, though she says she's not so much a "survivor" as "surviving."

Fisher is a psychologist who had a bilateral mastectomy about four years ago. "I'm surviving, I'm fine, I'm robust, I'm healthy, I'm happy," she said. She joined The Tri Women after seeing a sign on a bulletin board at the Madison Y. She entered the Danskin event, and started training.

She's 62, she said, "well past the average age of who is doing this." But, she added, "There was something appealing about it. I want to be with a group of women." She's slow, she says, and she's OK with that. "I'm not competitive, I'm not fast, I will never be fast, I don't care to be fast," she said.

And no one has given her a hard time about that. Quite the opposite. "People have been kind and generous," she said. "It's been the best summer of my life."

Anyone interested in joining Tri Women can e-mail Barkhorn at pbarkhorn [at] patmedia [dot] net.

Friday, September 14, 2007

you make me happy, when skies are grey

Good, good, good buddies: Helen Cornman and David Sunshine. I've mentioned the Sunshine family before, but will have to come back to them at greater length. Helen Cornman loves loves loves loves Frost Valley and is among those missing it every day, but she gets a little extra boost from knowing that her nephew, Dan Weir, is currently the full-time year-round Wawayanda Director. Last summer, as I prepared to tell my 2007 scary story - this one was called "The Cornman Supremacy" - I emailed Helen to get a few details about her years at camp, looking for a paragraph or so. She was at work and yet must have taken 2 hours to reply: I got this many-screen response. Wonderful. She had so much to say! What she should have done with that two hours is added three more to it, gotten in the car, and come up to Frost Valley right then and there. No sense writing about it when you can be there.

No sense writing about it when you can be there. Hmmm, uh oh, what does that say about me?

Well, I will stop now because...I'm getting in my car and driving to Frost Valley right this moment. (We have a Board meeting this weekend. I'll take my camera and will be sure to snap a few shots. Stay tuned.)

hoopla redux

One way of thinking of the 90s is as the Hoopla Era. At the 2001 reunion some of the 90s' staff had been gone just a few years, while others of course were returning after nearly a decade. (The recent FV decades are especially long in this sense.)

Hoopla is a kind of program unto itself. (This past summer I overheard one camper say to another as they walked into lunch: "Oh, today's the last day of hoopla of the session. I hope it's really good.")

Hoopla is gumbo updated.

Hoopla is a cross between cheerleading, slam dancing, doing the dozens, and a seance.

Hoopla is shouting Olympics-style, only every damned-fool day.

What earlier generations called "cheers" - which is to say the post-lunch village chants and cheer-songs and shouts - more recently is called "hoopla." Actually the word was first used to describe all the post-lunch craziness in the mid-80s. In those days it was a synonym for everything--announcements, songs led from the front of the room, skits (usually one skit per day), spontaneous singing, as well as the cheers (only the latter being the villages taking turns to be loudly proud).

And the village-to-village challenges, one-ups-man-ship of the cheers chanted in turn...all that dates back to the mid-60s. When Hemlock chanted

Chip chop!
chip chop!
chip chop!
Forest falls again!

it was a big blow to Forest's collective ego. The next day, Hemlock got up and Outpost joined them. Uh, felt Forest. Worse. The next day they did it again but this time, immediately after the cheer was done, Forest rose and shouted "On you!" The next day Totem added a rejoinder after "On you!" and so on, until the Chip Chop cheer took about 20 minutes to get through all the sequences of rejoinders.

I'm not sure how seriously anyone should be taking any of this, but it surely is the second or third thing people remember from their summer days in the valley.

At the 2001 reunion there was a bit of culture shock for the older folks, as after one lunch the 90s' guys took over, gathering together in the middle of the dining hall tables, and did one cheer after another, many of them combined village cheers (e.g. "The Hill" for both villages in cabins 41-50 or "Silence," which began--I think--as a Hemlock-Sacky cheer). It was impressive. At the 2006 reunion I made a video of this same group--now a bit greyer and some with their own children in tow--did a wonderful reprise of "Silence." I'll try to find that video and put it up and link to this blog. Meantime, here's a photo from the '01 reunion.

"I was reading your blog," writes Ashley O'Hara (1988-1998), "the Silence cheer was a Sacky-Hemlock cheer. I was a camper the year it was introduced. Jeff Daly, Malik Jenkins, Tameka Brown...were all counselors that year. They made it up during staff training and we had our first campfire and they taught it to us. I will never forget that day when we first did the cheer during Hoopla. We did really silence everyone. It was an amazing thing to be part of during that summer. Great FV memories. Don't remember the year to be exact... I'm 27 now. Love reading all about FV."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

lemme go

For years I thought of camp as a place where I met my deep-soul friends, my athletic friends, my "pals 'til the end" friends, my we-could-talk-all-night friends, my emotionally bonded friends, but--and this was a huge blindspot--not my intellectual friends. Maybe because camp always was such a conducive setting for being one's back-to-basic self. There were ideas discussed (and enacted) all the time, and principles aplenty, but sheer intellectuality--discussions of literature, world political problems, etc. Not so seemed. But as I came of age I began to find people here and there who wanted to live the intellectual life and wanted somehow to make camp a place that integrated academic knowledge rather than set it aside for sheer-fun summertime.

I've mentioned John Mumford here once before. When he and I worked in Forest together, CQ fires were a veritable university of ideas and theses. A year later (I was out of the village) John had a brilliant quirky offbeat eggheady writerly JC by the name of John Ferris. Mumford came to me and said, "This Ferris is the real thing. Smart and a helluva counselor--both." We loved the combo and came to love John Ferris.

Mumford taught Ferris to say "lemme go" (as it let me go) somewhat under his breath, somewhat mumbly, as an expression and astonishment at how badly someone can muck up a task. Ferris could say it as connotatively as Mumford, maybe even surpassed him by the time Mumford "retired" from Frost Valley after his own 12 or 13 years there.

A few years later, though young and (I don't mind saying) still somewhat lacking in administrative skills (or desire) and perhaps not quite tolerant enough of the few lazy people among his village staff (he had a few, to be sure), the brilliant, hyper-articulate John Ferris became the VC of Lenape. He stayed a few more summers, met Jan Gikner at camp...and (another FV life-romance!) they married.

John was a journalist for some years and then eventually settled in Vermont. He and Jan have three sons, one of whom (Will) was a camper for a number of years. Jan is part of a medical practice up there. And John has become an English and journalism teacher at the local high school.

We don't see each other much, but we are life-long friends.

In this photo - Lenape 1979 - John is at the left (bearded and bear-like) and his JC Ian Glasgow is at the right. A heady cabin that was....Glasgow, another FV intellectual, went on to medical school and I believe is an MD somewhere in the midwest. Among the campers I note Lenny Aberman (second row in the camper pyramid, wearing striped shirt) and, to the right of Lenny, the halo-haired wildman, Tommy Martinez. Tommy came to camp on financial aid (campership) and not only loved camp totally--but, it was obviously, really needed camp. A number of us dug into our own pockets and paid for a second session for him. And then, we did the same for a third session, but this was a FV first: a campership on an Adventure Trip. Yes, Tommy was a camper on the bike trip I led with June Maiers around Lake Champlain. It was the same trip that Kyoko Honma, then the 13-year-old daughter of the Honmas who founded the Tokyo-Frost Valley YMCA partnership that year.

I assure you that Tommy and Kyoko were quite a pair on that trip! Two very different cultures meeting...yet by the end of the 400 miles of biking, they and we all were buddies 'til the end.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

look for the nice folks in the yellow shirts

June 24, 2005, opening day, and volunteer alumni, in their distinctive yellow shirts, are there to help greet parents and new campers, escort families to the cabins, unload luggage from buses, etc. (Have you helped on one of these check-in days? If not, consider doing so next summer.)

From left to right: Leslie Tilles, Peter Tilles, Olivia Tilles (future camper*), Gregg Heinzmann, Wendy Warren, Rick McKay, Jenn Rotella, Becky Rhodes (in sunglasses), Randi Kramer, and Dave Lockwood.

* This was '05 and by '07 Olivia was ready - came to camp as a camper and had a wonderful time.

caption contest

Okay, time for you to tell me what the appropriate caption is for this photo. Write to afilreis [at] writing [dot] upenn [dot] edu and send me your notion of what this man - Jeff Daly - is saying or thinking. I won't post lewd or off-color suggestions but you can send them if you want.

don't play bombardment against these guys

Dave Mager and Brian Butler.

My son, then a Pac camper, learned to play Shoe Golf from Brian Butler and talks about it to this day as if it were some kind of spiritual experience. (Perhaps it was.)

What? You don't know how to play Shoe Golf? Well, ask Butler and he'll explain.

One day a few summers ago, I was standing with these two guys after lunch, just outside the dining hall. I felt like a Frost Valley grandfather. (I think I'm remembering this rightly.) Brian, when a young camper, had Dave as a counselor. Dave, when a young camper, had me as his Camp Director. What does that make me to Brian?

Well, a brother, really--because we're all in this together.

the moment cabin 10 was moved

There has been a surprising amount of email coming in from you folks about the old pattern of cabins just to the east of the dining hall - what used to be Forest, cabins 6-10.

So I dug around in a pile of photos Chuck White sent me years ago and found a picture of the very moment when cabin 10 was hauled away.

In fact I believe this cabin was moved temporarily. Let me explain.

After fire took the old dining hall, and after the old Girls' Dining Hall was quickly enlarged and converted into our one full-year full-service eating facility (no small trick that was--in the middle of winter!), the next step was to clear the fire site, bulldoze around the space, and make ready for the construction of a new dining hall. It became clear that the spot where cabin 10 had long sat was in the way. And so it had to be moved. Eventually this cabin - or perhaps one of the others nearby - was put back maybe 50 feet further east from the dining hall, and there it sits today (curently used for staff housing). (Again, of the 5 old cabins in that circle, 2 remain.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

former camper makes horror cult film from FV campfire stories

Martin Kunert (a recent photo is at left) was a camper in Totem (in '73), Forest ('74), Outpost ('75), Lenape ('76), Hemlock ('77), Sequoia ('78) - and then was a CIT ('79) and then FCC ('80), and loved hearing scary stories around the campfire. His specialty emerged during Challenge Night. He would always do his dog-bark impersonation...and it won every time. And here Martin--who found this blog late last night, surfing the web--picks up the story:

I remember your telling of the toboggan run story, which I heard several times.

Speaking of hearing stories in FV, you may get a kick out of this.... I heard so many scary stories around the camp fire while at Forest Valley, that ten years ago I made a film called... surprise, surprise... CAMPFIRE TALES. It's become a sort of horror cult film. Take a gander here:

Every single one of the stories in that film I heard in Forest Valley.

Later, I created a reality show for MTV called FEAR, where six contestants take cameras into haunted places and scare the hell out of themselves. I'm sure the seed of that was planted in my head during my time in FV too. Funny how life works.

I've never seen Campfire Tales and have just ordered my copy through Netflix. My kids and I will build a virtual campfire here in Philadelphia a few nights from now and have a watch. A Netflix reviewer (a viewer) wrote: "These stories are the the stories of childhood camping trips and sleep overs when you were able to make yourself scared over stories simply for te fun of being scared. This movie brought back that being frightened for fun feeling. You will know how the stories end long befor the climax, but it's still worth watching if you can approach it with that nostalgic feeling of childhood fright and fun."

More recently Martin has made a film called Voices of Iraq. Here is an interview with Martin and his co-producer about that film.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Dawn Helfand and her brother Russ and sister Robin were all campers. I believe Russ became an FCC (the year after CIT--"Future Camp Counselor") and Robin, I think, worked in Arts & Crafts one summer and also led an Adventure Trip.

Dawn stayed around the longest of the clan: started as a 10-year-old camper and spent her last summer at Frost Valley as the director of Camp Hird. Along the way, as a Tacoma camper, her cabin's JC was Lisa Ernst.

Later Robin - then Robin Glicker - began to send her three kids to camp and these wonderful guys, Dawn's nieces and nephew, have become mainstays. Allye, Jessie and Drew.

During the summer of 2006, Dawn and her husband Jim Huebner passed through and stopped by to see Dawn's sister kids - and I was delighted to see them myself, and snapped this shot of Dawn, Jim, Drew and Jessie.

Dawn's time:

1977 - JC
1978 - hired as counselor but became co-CIT Director
1979 - FCC Co-Coordinator (July), counselor (August)
1980 - FCC Director (July), VC (August)
1981 - not at camp?
1982 - CIT Director (July), Adventure Trip leader (August)
1983 - Hird Director

(From the 1983 staff list I see that Robin Helfand worked in the kitchen for the first half, and then led an Adventure Trip the second half.)

Now how ever did Dawn move from JC one summer to CIT Director the next? I remember what a phenomenon she was--how early on we saw her excellence--but I hadn't remembered such a jump. Surely that's never happened otherwise. (Well, as always, there's more to the story than the staff list tells. Here's Dawn's memory of it: "The JC --> CIT story, as far as I can remember, is that I was hired as a counselor, but recruited to assist Leslie Black as CIT Co-Director upon arrival at FV. I was SCARED (given that I was a scant 3 years older than the average CIT) but did it and, as they say, the rest is history.") (The photo here shows Dawn--upper left--in the 1977 staff picture.)

Dawn now has a psychology practice and has written a series of What-to-do guides for kids (and their parents). What do Do When You Worry Too Much is a kid's guide to overcoming anxiety, and What do Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck is a guide to overcoming OCD. And there are more. She's currently writing What to Do When You Dread Your Bed: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Sleep. Pay a visit to Dawn's web site.

In the staff photo, who is the other person, below Dawn? I believe she's the sister of Joe McLaughlin--Joe who married Margaret Kremer. Am I right?

carving a walking stick = getting to know you

Mark Showers (perennially an Outpost counselor in the 70s) was so wonderful and patient and talented that inevitably we kept asking him if he would please become a village chief--move up in the camp hierarchy, assume more responsibility, etc. But he always refused, preferring the role of the cabin counselor. "Just me and my boys," he'd say. Thus he might possibly have the record for the most consecutive summers in the counselor position. Not sure of that but he'd certainly contend for such an honor.

Showers was universally liked. I don't ever remember anyone saying anything critical or even doubtful of him. (Of how many people can we stay that?)

Mark's signature activity in the mid-70s was the making of an elaboratively carved walking stick. He would make one every two-week session or so. During free time he could be found carving these things. I wondered why. "Why," I thought, "wasn't he spending his free time doing something exciting...or, if not that, then more time with the kids?" And then I realized what he was doing. He'd set up somewhere in the main field, or in front of Hayden Lodge, during his period off and carve away. A fixture there. Before too long five or six kids were gathered around, talking, swapping stories, perhaps carving their own sticks. Showers made these sticks as a means of doing his job even better--in a disarming sort of way. Brilliant. He could talk to any kid, even the most recalcitrant.

The photo shows Mark at the 2001 reunion.

the state of being VC

"It's just a camp." Well, yes. But for those who for one reason or another found themselves the leader-supervisor of a dozen or so young people and head coordinator and inspirer of between 40 and 45 was generally a life-changing and frequently a life-making experience. I can't tell you how many people, years after being VC, have told me it was that experience--that flat-out demand, that achievement of balance, that hands-on administration, that combination of nuanced skills--that made them the great [fill in blank: teacher, businessperson, medical doctor, community organizer, parent, innovator...] that they are today.

On the final day of camp this summer, I joined the end of a session in which a VC (Chrissy) was evaluating a counselor (Laurie) and asked Chrissy about the role of the VC, how it felt. We also, as you'll hear, talked about what it's like to come home, to leave the valley, after such an intense experience. Here are several minutes of that recording.

During the summer of 1999, the VCs designed a Tshirt for themselves. Jody Ketcham was there taking photos for the book she and I did together, Finding the Way Back, and caught this shot of a VC wearing one of these. The shirt reads:

Village Chief \vil aj cheef\ n: An overworked, underpaid, camp official expected to be everything to everyone, including, but not limited to, Counselor, Mediator, Motivator, Programmer, Administrator, Police Officer, Caretaker, and Supervisor, all while maintaining good working relationships with parents, campers, counselors and support staff, and without whom any summer camp would struggle to function adequately.

To the above came this response a little later:

"It finally sunk in during my weekly trip to your blog why I love it so completely eliminates the boundaries of time. One story about modern-day my son's Frost Valley...and the next entry I'm back in the late 70's...oh, to be 20 again! And through the blog with personal stories and doesn't seem long ago or far away any more. And even more importantly, it reminds me of how much it still is alive in me, so big a part of me. This was especially true in the audio and story of the VC's. It's no coincidence that I took to the role of Chief Medical Resident fairly easily ... at Presbyterian Hospital 1988-89. Basically the same skill set as being a Frost Valley VC...scheduling the Residents, including on call (much less fun than CQ), mediating the conflicts between staff, setting up the educational experiences for the staff all the while trying to provide the best care possible of those entrusted to us. Or maybe it was just the water in Lenape in '71 as your other piece suggested."--Lee Fleischer

Saturday, September 8, 2007

the road taken

After writing the last entry, I started to put away my recording equipment and was about to eject the VHS tape of the centennial reunion Vespers, but then I accidentally hit the play button again. Fortuitous. On came the speech Peter Swain gave that night...about the Frost Valley road. I loved this speech when I heard it that night, and sat down now to watch and listen again and was mesmerized.

Pete used that road--we all experience it, coming to the valley and then sadly leaving it, that pattern of coming and going that almost always has an emotional resonance--as a metaphor for the Frost Valley spirit and for the whole problem of coming home again.

It was far and away the most poetic and coherently arranged speech of the evening and--I worked with Pete a long time--the most beautiful thing I ever heard him say.

Coming back up the road, just to attend the centennial reunion, was hard enough for Pete, who had left Frost Valley a few years earlier (he and Claudia and the boys moved to Camp Fuller in Rhode Island). It was a complex homecoming. It's never easy to come back. You can't go home again is how the mind protests such a return. Yet the theme of the weekend was Finding the Way Back and so indeed did Pete find his way back.

And that, folks, was the very idea and metaphor of his prose-poem. To talk about the very problem we'd all had getting there, to this place. We were older and what we'd done and had and loved there was surely gone. So what remained? Pete, not a religious man, nonetheless offered an answer to the question: the Frost Valley spirit. We've all come down the road, a knot in our stomachs, and then after a time we can't imagine ever leaving. It's the road less traveled, even though it is so often traveled. But on the model of Halbe Brown's coming in 1966, literally walking into trouble, we all were willing to make the hard journey in. Then out. And now back in.

I had asked Pete to give his talk just before the final song ("Gambler"--see the previous entry) and it would be the last speech before Halbe's. Pete knew what he was being asked to do. To speak very, very personally and at the same time to speak for all of us. He did it. He did precisely that. It's remarkable.

And I think the speech was memorized. He had no notes and he had his eyes closed the entire time saying it - reciting it from his head/heart, I think. I took a photo of this and so here, fortunately, I don't have to use a photograph from the videotape.

For some of you it would have been as a young camper, maybe 9 years old, in the back of your parents' car, the trunk as big as you next to you, and a knot in your stomach as big as that trunk. And as you turned down the road, and as the trees arched over and it got very dark, you probably wondered if your parents still loved you, and why they were sending you to this godforsaken place. And then before you knew it the road opened up into a beautiful valley, and there were horses on your righthand side and a ballfield on your lefthand side. And in two or three days that knot had almost disappeared--still there, a little bit. But in two weeks when you left, you cried. And the spirit of Frost Valley was in you.

For others of you, you were probably 19, 20, fresh out of the first year of college. And as you turned down the road, you remembered that you'd read all the literature that the camp director had sent you, and you'd spent maybe 45 minutes on the phone with him, but he had never told you about this road. And you are getting farther and farther away from your boyfriend, and closer and closer to 8 13-year-old girls. And you had no idea whether they would respect you or listen to you or like you. But at the end of every session, you cried, because you realized that you had changed their lives, and when the staff left at the end of the summer you cried even more. And the Frost Valley spirit was in you.

Or maybe you were a 25-year-old itinerant cross-country ski instructor and ranger. And your interview had sounded something like this...: "Can you cross-country ski?" "Passably well." "Can you ride a snowmobile?" "Yeah, passably well." "Oh, then you'd be a great cross-country ski director." And you down the road, with a huge knot in your stomach, and you thought, "I can't do this job. This is crazy." In a month you realized, yeah, that you probably could. But two weeks later, at 5 o'oclock in the morning, you're standing on a hill looking at a beautiful dining hall, burning to the ground, mozzeralla sizzling and Number 10 cans popping, and the knot in your stomach returned in a big way, and you're thinking, "I'm out of work." Three weeks later, after people had worked harder than you'd ever seen anyone work in your life, the spirit was in you.

Possibly--well, one of you anyway--was a young rube out of Youngstown, Ohio, still wet behind the ears, taking a job in New York which you knew nothing about. And I'm sure that as you turned down the road, Halbe, the knot in your stomach must have been huge. You had your family in tow, and you got to the camp and it was in debt, half the staff had to be fired, and I'm sure that knot returned many, many times, as the dining hall burned down, as Eugena died in a car accident, and every October when you would panic about the budget. But we never saw that knot, Halbe, because the spirit was in you always. And the trip down the road may have lots of meanings for people. Sometimes a little bit like Jack Kerouac, I'm sure we were all a little bit loose, traveling on. And certainly like Robert Frost, it was definitely the road less travelled, and for all of us it has made a huge difference....

So here it is, the recording of Peter Swain's "The Road".

you are the light of the world

Near the end of the beautiful and--for me at least--terribly and fundamentally moving Vespers we held at Reflection Pond at the culmination of the huge four-day reunion, on the evening of September 1, 2001, we all sang Dan Fogelberg's "Gambler (Let It Shine)." One of the themes of the Vespers was light - let it shine; we have made it shine for others; we can be, at our best, the light of the world - and this seemed the perfect way to conclude--or nearly conclude, for Halbe Brown's final speech before his retirement was to come next.

As we introduced the song, everyone gathered held lit candles. There were more than 400 people seated in rows of chairs facing the pond on the gently sloping lawn on the north or Biscuit Lodge side of the I say, facing the pond. It just happened that the moon was full that weekend, at its fullest on this evening. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was very cool (in the low 50s when we began at 8:30 PM)--and, as it happened (could we have planned this? no!), the moon rose over Wildcat, just in front of us, about halfway through the ceremony.

Peter Jones and several others made a videotape of this program - as well as of several other events held that weekend, including the beautiful In Memoriam service held on Sunday morning at the Old Wawayanda Chapel (now called "the outdoor chapel") up the hill from the dining hall. I should at some point transfer parts of the VHS-format videotape to a digital file (in part to preserve it) but for now I've copied the audio only of certain parts.

Here then is the audio (downloadable mp3 file - right-click and its yours for your IPod) of this song, sung by, among others, "Van" & Kate van Baren, Michele Palamidy (on guitar--the chords), Janet Miller (and her husband Byron Stier - who also picked a nice bridging solo on his guitar), myself, and several others.

The filming of the event was a stop-and-start thing, and so the audio of the song is cut off several times; sorry about that.

At the end, as we all sang Let it shine, the camera pans the 400 Frost Valleyites singing the darkness, holding their candles, bathed by moonlight, tears streaming down faces, arms around each other, close together, singing as one. What a sight. If you listen closely to the audio recording, you can perhaps hear the great emotional all-as-one chorus of everyone singing at that point.

Of all the things I've ever seen, done, sang, witnessed, enacted, etc., in all my years at Frost Valley, this scene--not just this song but the Vespers as a whole, that night, that end-of-an-era night--is surely one of the two or three most profoundly affecting moments.

So here's that mp3 file. Enjoy.

There's a light in the depths of your darkness
There's a calm in the eye of every storm
There's a light in the depths of your darkness
Let it shine
O let it shine
Let it shine
O Let it shine
Let it shine....

handsome shirtless Cometa

Tom Cometa just now sent me this shot from 1984. From left to right/clockwise: Oran Giannotti, Tom Cometa himself, Katherine Distler, Stuart Duff, and Mike Gold. I don't think this was Hirdstock Day; I think, rather, that that summer we dressed for Hirdstock every day. Cometa and Giannotti in particular.

Above: Tom Cometa a few years earlier, part of a village photo (Hemlock?).


Dan Goldman (middle) and Rick Mckay (at right) and Chris Giampapa (left) at the 2001 centennial reunion.

Here's a selection from the 1997 staff list:

Catherine Baker - VC, Sacky
Amy Barkley - barn staff
Matt Buczek - counselor
Brian Butler - counselor
Sarah Chapman - JC
Heather Constant - babysitter
Jeff Daly - counselor
Rich Eddings - Pac counselor
Carly Einstein - JC
Catharine Giegengack - counselor
Dan Goldman - counselor
Heather Graf - CIT Coordinator
Dave Haight - Wawayanda Director
Nicholas Ippolito - horsebarn instructor
Khalid Jenkins - counselor
Katie Kelly - Assistant Director
Steve Ketcham - counselor
Mike Lee - assistant program director
Rick McKay - counselor
Todd Miller - "unit leader of Sequoia"
Nicole Parisi-Smith - counselor
Carol Paterson - waterfront director
Carrie Petrick - AC
Moira Poe - AC
Steve Purkis - Hird Director
Shawn Schaefer - counselor
Beth Schwartzapfel - AC
Maria Shapiro - VC Iscusfa
Vyaacheslav Tokar - counselor (from Ukraine)
Tara Wigand - VC Windsong

Is it possible that Carrie Petrick is related to Bill Petrick who had been a VC back in the early 80s?

Mike Lee stayed on at the valley for years - working all four seasons for some time before moving on.

Am I right that Carol Paterson later became a director - perhaps Program Director?

Moira ("Mo") Poe, of Brooklyn (once and now again), rose to Assistant Camp Director in '05. In '06 she was supposed to take a summer "off" (doing some research projects at camp) but then got pulled back into the fray and spent the second half of that busy summer again as a director, plugging holes, using her vast talents.

Nicholas must be the older brother of Zach, who came of age later - doing a summer in '06 as CIT Coordinator. Zach engineered his Olympic staff dream team (for China, I believe) and then promptly lost his voice within 10 minutes of the start of the program. (Here's an exhausted CIT Coordinator Zach along with Chris Cariello.)

I had met Beth Schwartzapfel maybe 5 years earlier when she was a camper. I could see immediately how bright she was (and also how committed she was to FV). I believe she came up to me and said, "I hear that you can teach me some of the old songs." And so we sang and talked for a while. Later she earned a degree in writing and spent several years as a journalist (and perhaps a journalist-activist). Beth and I are of entirely different real-world and FV generations, but I have a feeling that if we'd worked together, she in my era or I in hers, we would have seen eye to eye and been very close.

it's a boy!

The other day I reported on Stu Alexander's and others' efforts at stewardship of Frost Valley's butterflies. Well there's more butterfly news this morning.

Stu writes: "This photo is or our first born in the terrarium this year. It's a Boy! Good luck to Monarch # JBH 282 in safely reaching Mexico."

I asked Stu if we can find a better name for the little guy than "JBH 282" and I suppose he'll get back to me with that. Perhaps he'll be named Jose (for Reyes) or Carlos (for Beltran or Delgado) or even Gil (for Hodges).**

** Stu is a longtime Mets fan (taking crap from his Phillies-fan family), enjoying himself (as I am) at the moment. One Labor Day weekend years ago my kids and I were wandering the aisles of Veterans' Stadium during another awful late-season Mets-Phils game, looking for a decent hot dog, when I hear, "Al! Al! Frost Valley!" shouted from a few rows up. And there was Stu with his family, making the annual pilgrimmage back to Philly for some big-league baseball. How "big-league" it was is debatable. (Leave it to me. I just had to get baseball--humanity's most artificial activity of all--into this otherwise lyric entry on a baby butterfly...)

someone loves us all

A soaking wet winter rain...the worst weather at Frost Valley. When you're on the staff, you're outside a lot, inevitably, and you get chilled to the bone. No sitting around the fire in the dining hall for you.

And on such Friday or Saturday nights we felt compelled to deliver firewood to all the lodges. On a night like this folks should at least be able to warm themselves in their own places. A little camp in spite of the weather...or in fact because of it.

And someone has to bring the wood. Someone has to get utterly soaked bringing it. Someone--it's Carl Hess, of course, standing in the second-floor foyer of the Castle--someone brings the kindling and some newspaper too. Someone flashes a broad smile despite the discomfort.

Someone loves us all.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Jack recovers from leukemia

Jack McCue (now Jack McMurphy) and Marcia Murphy (now Marcia McMurphy--you're getting the name thing by now): another couple, now happily married for years, who met at camp. They both started in summer camp and then worked together for several years as members of the Environmental Education staff.

A few years back we were all worried about Jack's health, after his diagnosis of leukemia.

Now Marcia reports that life is good for them! Jack has fully recovered from leukemia with a bone marrow transplant 3 years ago. They are back to their adventures . . .300 miles of biking in Michigan, 4 days of kayaking and a 25 miles of in-line skating in 12 days. Last summer Jack climbed another 14,000 foot peak in Colorado, hiked and did some awesome mountain biking. He is celebrating his 23 year of teaching carpentry to juniors at a vocational school and enjoys it a lot. Their son Travis, 22 returned from the University of Hawaii at Hilo after 21/2 years and is now attending Edinboro University in PA. Their second son Brandon is 16 and plays football, basketball, baseball and keeps them very busy with activities.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

the magic of mutual respect

I've been corresponding tonight with Geoff Hazel, an Outpost and Forest JC in 1967--his last summer at camp. (He had started in 1961 as a camper.) I was myself a camper in Outpost in '67 and remember him! I hope I wasn't in the cabin of unruly kids he describes. Okay, here's Geoff, remembering:

I was a Jr. counsellor in '67. I started out in Outpost, and shortly after the summer started, was moved to Forest. It was an amazing time for me, spiritually. The first time I was left alone with a cabin full of kids, they ran roughshod over me, I had no control over them at all. I went up into the fern fields above the rifle range, just bawling and praying for help. I didn't know what to do. Somehow I got through that first weekend. Then I had to take another cabin, and a kid threw a rock over the cabin and broke a window. No problem. Let's go talk with big DAVE [Dave King, the camp director]. And we did. And he took care of it. And then something happened, God answered my prayer. I had to take what appeared to be the worst cabin the village. The counsellor was always yelling at them during the lineup at the dinining hall "Get in line" "Stop fidgiting" "Be quiet!" and so forth. Oh boy, did I dread taking that cabin! But when I got there, they were angels. Never had to shout, they obeyed right off the bat, and it was great! What the heck?? And then one of them said to me "We like you. You never yell at us the way Doug does." Well I didn't HAVE to. And along the way, I learned about the magic of mutual respect. I expect the respect due to me, and I give you the respect due to you, and most of the time, it works. It worked the whole rest of the summer in Forest, I didn't have lick of trouble after that first week. Once I got into college, I fell away from my faith, but found it again not too long after in 1972, and have been faithful ever since. That summer will live in my memory forever.

Kids would sometimes arrive with a bundle of comics: Superman, Archie, etc. They quickly became the property of the cabin and were fodder for reading during quiet time after lunch.

The rain in summer is often a warm rain. One time when I was JC in charge, it was cabin night (Wednesday) and we walked down to visit another cabin that was on an overnight at some waterfall just down the road a litlle ways (what was the name of that place? It had a small swimming hole and a waterfall? [High Falls]). Anyway, it was light when we left, but we returned in twilight, and as the rain fell, we were walking down the road getting totally utterly soaked and not minding one bit. Then we got back to the cabin, took hot showers, hung our wet clothes on the rafters and then fired up the stove until it glowed red.

Remember "Cabin Night dinner," Wednesday cookout? The pickup [truck] would drive around and drop off the hamburgers or hot dogs, along with a big milk can full of "bug juice". Had to be at least a 10 gallon can. Then you'd make a camp fire and cook your food. I don't know as I can recall a single "rain out" on Wednesday night, either. Must have been one but I can't recall it. One year I was JC in Forest, and those little kids wouldn't always eat all the food that arrived on Cabin Night. One Wednesday, I sat by the [CQ] fire which was on the main trail between Outpost and Lenape and the staff lounge, and offered hamburgers to everyone who strolled by. I got quite a few takers, too.

The photo shows Geoff today. He'll send me a photo from his days at camp and I'll post it when I can.

Later, Gary Gold - who was a camper then - saw this blog entry and, sure enough, he was in the cabin Geoff staffed in Forest! What a convergence, all these years later! Gary writes: "Then I read the [entry] about Geoff Hazel. Holy Canoli! I remember when they moved him down to Forest from Outpost. We were a rough cabin when he took over thats for sure. I remember JC (that was his name) [Pony] leading us in the forest village chant. And Steve Gladden running faster than any human alive! And... And..." JC Pony's chant was "Has Forest got the spirit? Yeah, man!"

survey says

Frost Valley is hosting a new survey. I just completed it and it took me 20 minutes, and I did it slowly. It can be done in 10 minutes, probably. Here's a chance for us as former staff and former campers to say what we think and feel. Please click here and take the survey.

Lake Wawayanda today

This is Lake Wawayanda, Sussex Country, NJ, as seen today. Many thanks to Donna Marines for taking and sending me this photo.

Now compare this view with the romantic painting that was done in 1876.

Stu Alexander loves Monarchs

Our beloved long-time maintenance guy - his favorite fix is roofs (not!) and cabin plumbing (double not!) - Stu Alexander has lived with his family in what we used to call "Old John's" house for many years - since, I believe, maybe around '84 or '85. Many reading this will know Stu. What you might not know is that Stu has gone ga-ga about butterflies. He is a huge promoter of Frost Valley's Monarchs and as you see below, in today's update sent to the FV staff, there are some sophisticated projects being set up to support our butterflies. Have a read and contact Stu at camp if you want to help in some way - or if you just want to come up and talk with him about it. I know from first-hand experience that he will be happy to tell you lots about these frail little beauties. Here's Stu:

For the Butterflies, Moths, & the Monarch Migration program on 8/28 there was much cooperation by the Family Campers, staff, & Monarch butterflies. Many thanks to the Houskeepers and Program staff who stopped by to help tag. Volunteers, Wayne & Liz, were terrific helping kids catch Monarchs to tag while I explained the life cycle and what we were trying to do. We had many comments commending FV for preserving meadows and allowing wildlife habitat to return to some previously mowed areas.

As of 8/29 we have tagged 54 Monarchs at FV. I have many caterpillars and chrysalis to hatch and tag in then next few weeks.

Each tag has an identifying number, phone number, and website to report recovered Monarchs. In the 18 years of the program over 12,000 tagged Monarchs have been recovered. All data is available at about when, where, and how far each recovered Monarch had flown.

The last brood of Monarchs, rather than reproduce, puts all it's energy into flying over 3000 miles to a tiny area in the mountains west of Mexico City. Normally Monarchs only live a few weeks but migrating Monarchs, that make it to wintering sites, will live until mating next spring and start the return North of their offspring. Some of them, after several generations, may reach the Arctic Circle. All tagged Monarchs that are recovered contribute to the database on

The hatch of Monarchs 8/28 - 8/29 was prodigious. The evening of 8/28 Wayne & Liz observed Monarchs roosting in the trees above Lakeview. Several hundred Monarchs flew in one at a time to land and hang side by side for the night. In Mexico, those who make it, will join tens of millions where they will stay until March to start the return trip.

(See a later follow-up to this story.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Snow Lodge

At right, cabin 21 before renovation.

Snow Lodge... It ain't no cabin (ah, bliss!) but it's also not, at least, a "super-lodge." It's Snow Lodge, the first non-cabin cabin we built. I'm looking at the simple "program" printed for the dedication of Snow Lodge on July 31, 1991. I'm guessing that this event was timed for the annual summer board meeting. I'm also guessing--but should know for a fact--that the lodge is named for John Ben Snow, a long-time friend of FV who also contributed helpfully to the campaign to rebuild the dining hall in the mid-80s; I'm not sure what role the Malcolm family played here, but see their involvement in the program.

Here was the program:

Introduction - Woodruff J. English
The Gift You Are - Camp Henry Hird Drama Class, Christy Tompkins, Director
A Perspective - John Paul Thomas
Some Thoughts from Pac - the campers of Snow Lodge
Presentation of the Plaque - James C. Kellogg & Allen R. Malcolm
Ribbon Cutting - Flo Malcolm

And: "Please join us for a brief tour of the facility / Dinner at 6 PM in Thomas Dining Hall."

Jim Kellogg succeed Woody English as chairman of our board. I believe he was chair until Fenn Putnam succeeded him (although as "President").

Monday, September 3, 2007

pull a spoke shave, learn a work ethic

It's Labor Day today and I woke up wondering whether what the day symbolizes has anything to say particularly to us. But of course it does. We all worked hard at the valley--very hard indeed (think about how much time off per day we got--very little)--but I'm thinking about "labor" in the traditional sense: physical supportive work that makes things function well, the infrastructure labor of the sort that mostly we take for granted. Were leaders, citizens, good family people being made of this kind of work just as they were in the counseling and helping-kids roles we normally associated with camp? You bet, and so for Labor Day '07 here's a story about the work ethic.

When John Kremer read the entry called "They Made Things Work", a flood of memories and emotional debts overwhelmed him. Here's what he wrote:
I just wanted to thank you for the effort, and memories of your blog. The photos and the musings sure bring back the memories. I especially like the recently posted photo of Carl and Marie Hess, Bill Van Zandt, Chuck and Ron, and Lou. This one pictured managed to capture some of the most influential people in my life.

I vividly remember as a teenager (14 or so, which would make it about 1975) getting up the courage to ask Carl for a position on the summer maintenance staff. It was in the FV office, and after some pointed questions to make sure I was serious, and worthy, he said yes. I was thrilled. That summer I became Bill Van Zandt's "helper". Ron was on the staff, as was Chuck, so it must of be about the time this picture was taken. I worked will Bill rebuilding many of the porches in the upper girls camp cabins, some of which are still in use. I spent long hours cursing camp in the yellow truck with Bill. He was a quite a character, as I'm sure you know. I'd known him for years, as my Mother [Marie Kremer] and Sisters worked with him when he was camp cook, but despite the familiarity, he still scared the hell out of me! Rough, grump and hard on the outside; with a heart as big as the Catskills. I learned much from him, not the least of which is a work ethic that still drives me today. I learned to use a power saw, swing a hammer and, pull a spoke shave. I came home with all my fingers, so the lessons took! I learned the importance of loving what you do, as he spent 20+ years as an administrator in the NJ Prison system, in a job he hated. I learned the horrors of war, as he often recounted his time in the Pacific during WW II. He, Carl, and later Chuck White, entered my life during those impressionable teenage years when my parents know nothing and as looked for guidance as I struggled with the transition from boy to man. They were all there, mentoring, supporting, and accepting me. I owe so much to them and by association to Frost Valley. The life lessons taught to me by that place and the people I encountered there will be with me forever. For that I am truly blessed.
John met Jacqueline Dundorf at camp (we called her "Jackie Sacky") and later they married. The photo above shows them, with their son, on the last day of session 4 this summer, coming to pick up their daughter after her own camp experience. I'm sure at some point John will tell them about the guy who made daddy so straightforward and disciplined--the late, great & sorely missed Bill Van Zandt.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

1966 scene

Check-in day, session 2, summer 1966.

Here's some perspective on this view. Behind you is the dining hall--maybe 200 yards behind where the taker of this picture (my father?) was standing. The dirt road that goes off to the right no longer exists; it's now a grassy field, sloping down in front of Hussey Lodge. The cabin to the front right is Forest, cabin 6 (next to the telephone pole). The power lines are buried now and cabin 6 itself has been moved. To the left is cabin 7; that's where Hussey Lodge is now. To the left off screen were cabins 8 and 9, and directly to the left of this view was cabin 10. Cabins 9 and 10 (I believe now called A and B) are still there--serving as year-round staff housing. So 6 through 10 was Forest, right there on the lower flat to the east of the dining hall.

In the photo, a tick to the left of dead center, you see three cabins in the distance. They are cabins 5, 4 and 3 - Totem Village. Cabin 2 is obscured by cabin 6, and cabin 1 was out of the frame off to the right. The road to the right went all the way down to cabin 1, then past and down the hill (with "Hogan's woodpile" to the right) toward Pigeon Brook and the Trailblazer's Barn (now Sequoia).

All but two of Totem's cabins are gone. And now there are three lodges still further east from Totem: Snow, Scott, and Wolff (Wolff was Neversink for years, now named in memory of Dr. Jerome Wolff). In '66 behind Totem were groves of trees and then the wooded slope down to Pigeon.

Notice that during this particular summer families were permitted to drive their cars to these lower cabins (but never further up the hill--the roads were too rocky).

The road forking off to the left is now a paved road, much wider. Here it was not much more than tire tracks. (Most vehicular traffic went down the lower road.)

See the two figures walking in front of cabin 6? The one in the white me.

In the background is Banks Hill. At least that hasn't changed.

4 kids from Rochester

Several times I've reported on the new Frost Valley-Rochester Partnership, which is perhaps too-elaborate a phrase for the project through which Andy Wiener and his friends raised funds and arranged to send four kids to camp each for two weeks this summer. Here's a photo of the kids and here is Andy's prose about them:

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod, of course!), Age 12. Almost as tall as me. Kind and soft-spoken. When I picked up the kids, the assistant camp director pulled me aside just to tell me how great a kid he is.

Taylor C., age 11. When she saw my own two girls and I approaching to greet her, Lea and the other RC kids, she ran up to Sophie and gave her a huge hug. It was immediately evident what a warm girl she is and what a great time she had.

Jahtejia L., age 11. When she saw us coming, she came to give me a big hug. She really appreciated the experience.

Leonard G., age 11. This smiley guy must have spent the whole 2 weeks bouncing off the walls! He had so much energy!

For more on Andy and this project, go here.