Saturday, August 30, 2008

we never want to leave

Tom Cometa (1980s guy) has been coming to Family Camp with his family the past few years. Tom took the photos below - one of Pigeon Brook at a particular nice spot along the trail; the other of his son Dylan in a kayak in Lake Cole.

Tom wants to urge other alumni to try the week of Family Camp.

Tom wrote: "I saw Filreis Field the other day while hunting for my son, Andrew's rocket. The flag/dragging mechanisim failed to deploy and we found it, cone deep in the middle of Olympic Circle. Once again, Frost Valley is the place we never want to leave. I spoke with Mike Gold last week. I pitched Family Camp to him. It would be so great to get more Summer Camp Alumni to come for this week. It is special."

Friday, August 22, 2008

look for me again

This will be my last blog entry from here--from Frost Valley--this summer. I've just been up into the villages: the staff is there, in every cabin and lodge, cleaning, packing, going through the summer's materials treating them already like treasured mementos, beginning to think about what they will wear to the staff banquet. Yet it's eerily quiet. The campers and their parents - the buses and the bus staff and bus campers - are all gone several hours. After lunch the staff could not resist: they cheered and chanted and did hoopla and together, all as one, went through every village cheer they could think of, and when they depleted that stock went into Olympic team cheers.

Last night at the Hird closing campfire I had a pleasure few former FV staffers get. My two children, Ben and Hannah, joined me and led everyone in "Old Wawayanda," arms around shoulders. I loved every minute of that. Before we started the song, I said: "Thank you, Frost Valley, for making a home for our family." I meant every word.

Time for me too to pack up things I've set up in the office. I have my fold-up bike here, my two computers, my digital camera, some sound equipment, camper lists, staff lists, files from the FV archive, some Netflix DVD's (I've been watching Weeds, The Wire and 24), the long green ethernet cable Todd (our IT guy) gave me 9 weeks ago, my guitar.

To get here from Tacoma by way of the dining hall, I crossed the Flagpole Field, no Margetts Field, no...err....Filreis Field. Yes. How about that? For my contribution to the recent capital campaign and for (Jerry Huncosky generously says) my overall contributions to the organization, I was asked which of the "naming options" I wanted to name. I didn't want a room. A field seemed apt and right and good, and so it was. Where in the 60s I stood as a camper each morning at flag raising, where as a counselor I organized softball games and taught gumbo soccer, where as a Director I stood with microphone on a little stage and directed Olympics teams to the opening ceremony and MC'd all-camp Challenge Nights and explained the rules of Goldrush Day and did play-by-play for Fun Runs, and where as a volunteer/Trustee in recent years I have led innumerable games of "Geronimo" and stood again at flag raisings...there would be the right place. And so it was. On the middle Saturday of session two this summer, all the campers of Hird, most of the administrative staff and a number of trustees (there for the trustee meeting) and Dave King (who was visiting then) gathered and unveiled the field's new name and read from the plaque on a stone on the Ad Office side of the field. It was sunny and the field was green, and after a few speeches (including a beautiful talk by Jerry Huncosky) my daughter and the Tacoma VC (Jess) and Melissa Pauls (volunteer coodinator and pal) and John Butler (Hird Director) and Bill Abbott all led the singing of "Old Wawayanda." This was a highlight of the summer. Maybe the one end of a bookend of great moments, the other being last night's arms-around-shoulders all-Filreis valediction at the campfire.

Goodbye stunningly good place, goodbye generous people. Well, we'll be back in a few weeks (for the decidation of the Wellness Center) but it'll by then be a different season and mode and this thing--what we've done these last months--will wait until next June. Some way or other, we'll be back. The breeze blows the beech leaves so that they shimmer. A few orange-shirted directors confer in front of Margetts. The laundry folks put out a bag of lost-and-found. The water flowing over Biscuit Falls makes its noise regardless. A trash truck picks up dust coming over the bridge. The Olympic stage is still there. The Family Camp welcome packets are ready to go and alphabetized. The business card of the dad of a very very happy 10-year-old boy is taped to a piece of paper with my note to myself to email him and ask him if there's anything we could have done better, anything at all. A single orange leaf floats down to the grass. The radio crackles with someone talking about checking to see if the Sacky cabins are clean. A framed photo of Charles R. Scott looks over my shoulder.

Filreis Field. It'll take some getting used to. But as Walt Whitman said, "If you want to find me again, look for me under your bootsoles."

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


All summer, at the end of each session, every camper received a patch - modeled very closely on the old "W" patches we got in the 60s and early 70s. As I reported with some excitement before the summer, the directors here (led by Dan Weir, I think) worked hard to revive this tradition, creating a "W" patch for the campers of Wawayanda and an "H" patch for the Hird kids. As before, a number of each indicates the numbers of years the camper or staff member has been here. A star indicates 10 or more summers. They're smaller than the old ones, but otherwise look the same: same nice felt, some design.

Well this didn't really hit me until this morning, when departing staff also received their patches. And I myself was given one. It's only been about 33 years since I got my last one. That's a lot of time passing between the same simple but powerful symbolic gesture. As I got mine I was standing next to Lee Griffin, a counselor (and son of a friend). This was Lee's 9th year so he got his H-9. Separated (in FV years) by a mere 36 years, we chatted and realized we felt the same way about all this.

friends for life

Ellen Rutan and Jim Ewen visited on Wednesday (8/20/08) and what a gorgeous day it was. Without really thinking about it, I found myself scheduled to give not one, not two, but three Castle tours. Fortunately Jim and Ellen love camp, fit in instantly, and are incredibly knowledgable about the Castle for our Forstmann history. So we did these three together. I'll admit that we got a little goofy by the very end of these sessions and we began telling some ridiculous and apparently believable semi-spooky stories about the Castle. (I generally do not tell such and am always a little sorry when I do. But we had fun and the kids absolutely loved it all.) At the bottom of this entry, you'll see a video clip of Jim telling one such tale.

We had some time to see the 2008 campers and staff do their amazingly loud and together thing in the dining hall after lunch, took a tour of the Wellness Center and saw the dialysis unit in action, and walked through Lakeview Lodge (J. and E. were amazed by this gorgeous building).

They stayed overnight at the Roxbury Inn in Roxbury, which is a few miles beyond Margaretville off Route 28. The manager at the Roxbury is our beloved Leslie Black. I drove over there yesterday morning (snapping the pics of early-turning leaves on trees in the previous entry on the steep hill after Slide Mountain) and met Jim, Ellen, and Leslie for breakfast at a cute little cafe on Roxbury's main street. Jim was first here at Frost Valley in 1959; I and Ellen in the early 60s and Leslie in the we have had many years together, a huge cast of camp characters to talk about, and enough affection for each other to exceed the size of the cute little Catskills town where we spent our sunny morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

hints of autumn

Lately at night it's gotten down to 38 degrees. Word came from the farm (in the East Neversink valley) that they had a bit of frost. Yesterday I snapped three photos showing the first hints of fall colors. Autumn now? End of summer? No way. No way. No way. No way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hirdstock '08

Since Hirdstock Field is hardly ever used for anything else but this annual late-August all-camp program, it's ...well ...called "Hirdstock Field". And there we gathered for the 2008 verison of this all-afternoon/all-evening event. It was a good one. Gorgeous weather (ample sunshine, oool temps, a breeze) and great in-camp talent as well as, in the evening, a local band. Here we are near the start of the proceedings.

Several of the male staff shaved and trimmed beards into Fu Manchus, Giles the program director borrowed a pair of women's bellbottoms and wore a hilarious colorful paisley matching top and hat. (If you click on the first image above and look at the guy standing of the stage, you'll get a sense of Giles' get up.) Flowered skirts flowed, and political slogans were scrawled on t-shirts. But most of all (and remember it's the end of a long summer for the staff and some of the campers) the mellow spirit abounds. The kids get it and everyone is relaxed. You might say, at peace.

There were 15 staff per- formances (I myself sang an old camp song), and a series of campers performed in the air-guitar contest - which, for the uninitiated, is like a lip synch contest only instead of singing it's all about movement.

One heard, here and there, strains of "Na an na na, na na na na, hey hey goodbye" and "All we are saying, is keep peace a chance."

Just to make sure this was a serious bein' outdoors experience, we barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers. We formed a circle of 6 or 8 grills and did the sweaty hot business of producing such grilled meat for 700. We did it, primarily because of the organizational skills and outdoor chefery of Kam Kobeissi and Eric Blum. Kam and Eric are shown here amid the smokiness that we all endured for several hours.

Here are a dozen more photos from Hirdstock '08.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

it's never too late to express thanks

A few days ago Kim O'Connell and a friend climbed up part of Slide Mountain, and this experience put Kim in mind of her days at Frost Valley, from 1970 through 1974. She was known then as Kim Aronowitz. (The image is reproduced from a photograph in the 1972 yearbook of Kim and the other CITs that summer. Kim is at the back right, behind Starr Hedrick who was the CIT Director.) After coming down from Slide, Kim went home and starting looking for traces of Frost Valley on the web...and found this blog. Kim now tells a moving story about reuniting with her counselors through the last weeks and days of their father. Here is that story:

As a social worker for Compassionate Care Hospice I have covered many territories in New Jersey. Currently I see patients in Bergen County but two years ago I was covering the Morris, Warren and Sussex areas. I was in our Parsipanny office one day and happened to glance up at our patient board. The board lists patients and their respective nurses. I saw a name that I knew from many years ago. It was Edward Ambry a longtime member of the Frost Valley Board of Trustees. But more importantly he was the father of my two camp counselors the first year I was at Wawayanda. Meg and Susan Ambry along with Anne Marie Kremer were the counselors for the Tent Village (or dirt village as we were lovingly called). Although I was not assigned to the nurse for Ed, I asked if I could be the Social Worker for he and his wife Marge. I spoke by phone to Karen Ambry, the eldest of the Ambry girls, and asked her to tell Susan that I would be following Ed on hospice and to remind her that I had be a camper of hers. I didn't think she'd remember me but to my surprise she did. I went to the Ambry home in Denville and met Marge and Ed. Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimers and Parkinson's disease and was quite ill. Marge stated that he had begun to decline after the death of his daughter Meg in 2000. I remembered Meg as a beautiful and almost ethereal presence. She was a gentle, brilliant soul. I remained the social worker and developed a relationship with Ed and Marge. As a matter of fact we were so taken with each other that Ed asked me to marry him several times. I advised him that he was already married but it not seem to phase him. Ed became more ill and during his illness I was able to meet with Susan again after 36 years. During that time I had the opportunity to tell Sue what it meant to have her as a counselor and a mentor. I was 12 years old and badly in need of nurturing and she provided that and more. Susan had no idea how she affected me and I was able to tell her. I could not have conceived of a time when I would ever have seen her again. Ed finally succumbed and his family was grieved and uplifted by his many accomplishments. I in turn was able to repay a kindness. Unfortunately I couldn't tell Meg Ambry how I was affected by her. Maybe someday I can tell Anne Marie Kremer as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tamara remembers Chuck

Tamara Stephenson (now Tamara Crocker) directed our dialysis unit for a number of years from the mid-80s through the early 90s. She worked closely with Chuck White in those years and - we are recently back in touch with her - she took a moment to remember him. If you haven't already read others' remembrances of Chuck, written after his passing this spring, I hope you'll look at those in addition to this from Tamara:

Chuck was such a central, though low-key, figure of Frost Valley life, and an unfailing supporter of the dialysis unit and the children treated there. During ‘my years’ he ushered out the temperamental old generator; and located, arranged purchase, supervised delivery and assumed operation of the new monster generator that replaced it. This was no small task and not without numerous problems (mechanical, logistical, political) as you might imagine, or perhaps, remember. Still, I never doubted Chuck’s abilities to successfully orchestrate the whole operation; and of course, he did!

Best of all, I remember an incident when camp/dialysis staff sent to pick up arriving out-of-state dialysis campers at La Guardia airport called shortly before the plane’s arrival time to say that they had taken a wrong turn at the highway - and were calling from Buffalo! I have no idea how Chuck first heard of this most recent dilemma; but he was the one who came to our rescue and truly saved the day. It turns out that he was able to contact an “old buddy” on the New York City police force who agreed to meet our kids at the plane and drive them and all their luggage out of the city toward Frost Valley. Chuck (of course) was the one to secure another camp vehicle (the first one was still in Buffalo), drive down to meet the children at some pre-designated roadside rest stop and bring them to camp. Amazingly the group arrived at camp on schedule with no real idea that a uniformed police escort was not part of the customary Frost Valley welcome! True to his nature, Chuck made light of the thanks and praise. He just shook his head and enjoyed a good chuckle at the ineptitude of our original efforts.

What a kind, caring and resourceful person and friend Chuck was; and how fortunate Frost Valley, and all of us, were to share a part of life’s journey with him! Thanks, Al, for the update and for the chance to share these old memories. Chuck still makes me smile.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summit and Westfield, 1968

Here are some of the names of campers coming up to Wawayanda through the Summit YMCA and/or on the Summit NJ bus during the summer of 1968:

David Koury, Bruce Kessler, Joseph LaDuca, Elliott Lewis, Russell Lyles, Mike Marder (attended 3 sessions), David Nufrio, Jon Olesky, Richard Penwell, DAvid Quick, Karl Sackmann, Scott Sellers, Richard Spender, Jim Suurballe, Peter Wallburg, Thomas E. Ward, Gary Weskerna, Diane Pedersen, Cindy Rancke, Ellen Rickard, Holly Riegler, Joanne Schwartz, Virginia ("Ginny") Scott, Nancy Suurballe, Paula Thomas, Laurie Tobias, Laura Walcott, Betsy Wright, Beth Zisman.

And here are some names of campers coming through the Westfield Y and/or on the Westfield bus:

Jim Annese, Henry Blum, Mark Bodycombe, DAvid Brower, Mark Chodosh, Eric Edelson, Al Filreis (3 sessions), Dick and Donn Fishbein, Larry and Randy Fridkis, Norm Gurfinkel (lived in Fanwood), Donald Glass, Barry Glickman, Michael Green, Thomas Harms (3 sessions), Michael Hart, Kenneth Hoffman, Gary and Larry Kaplan, Ellen Alina, Nancy and Ruth Barnett, LIsa Blumental, Carol Bresky, Nancy Chodosh, Jody Davies (later Jody Davies Ketcham), Sue Ettelman, Liane Filreis, Pam Fish, Carol Glick, Jill and Lori Glickman, Jane Goldman, Elise Gottlieb, Cathy and Barbara Hale, Ellen Hart, Carol Hayes, Peggy Hope, and Martha Earl (all 4 sessions).

two camp generations on a Friday

Allye and Jesse Glicker had visitors yesterday and took part of the morning off to spend time with Aunt Dawn and Uncle Russ. Yes, these are the Helfands, who, with sister Robin (the Glickers' mom), were mainstays here in the 70s and early 80s. From left to right: Jim Huebner (Dawn's husband); Russ Helfand; Jesse Glicker, Susky counselor; Heidi Benoit, Russ' wife; Dawn Helfand Huebner; Allye Glicker, VC of Lakota.

barn on Olympic Circle

Behind this barn you can see a bit of Wildcat Mountain and the western edge of the old calf barn, later our Administration Office. Yes, you are looking from the vantage of Smith Lodge across the Olympic Circle but there's a big barn there! Right you are: until it was destroyed by a fire our "Olympic Circle" was the footprint of a barn.

It stands to reason. When I first came here the circle of grass was neatly outlined in stone; the thing was raised up above the unpaved farm road by about 6 inches. It has obviously been carefully designed and landscaped. No farmer, nor a Catskills landowner like Forstmann, would have put such effort into creating a mere rounded field of lawn, which is what our O Circle is now. When the barn burned perhaps there were plans to replace it but then the property was sold and the camp had good use for this little circular field. And so it is.

On check-in days in the 60s the Circle was decorated around with the flags of 30 or so countries. It was quite striking.

Forstmann family tree

There's so much well-intentioned but nonetheless loose talk about the Forstmann family and their summer home (our "Castle") that it seemed apt here in this blog to set at least the lineage straight.

Julius Forstmann, born 1871, died 1939, married Adolfine Lynen (1979-1953). The two had five children:

Reinhold 1908-1940
Carl 1904-1922
Curt 1907-1950
Julius G. 1911-1962
Louise 1915-1983

Louise married Kenneth Wilson and they had at least two children, Stephen (b. 1939) and Cecily.

Curt married Elizabeth Allen in 1931 and later was remarried to Seabury Marsh. Curt and Elizabeth had three children: Peter, Annie and Richard.

Julius the younger lived in Greenwich CT and married Dorothy and was later re-married to Mrs. Sammis. Julius had three children, Anthony, Theodore and Nicholas. Theodore is known as Ted or sometimes Teddy.

A few more words about Ted. Theodore J. Forstmann (born 1940) is one of the founding partners of Forstmann Little & Company, a private equity firm. He is unmarried and has no children. Forstmann is a graduate of Greenwich Country Day School, Phillips Academy, Yale University and Columbia Law School. At Yale he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He is usually known as "Ted" (occasionally "Teddy" to friends and family). Ted Forstmann, an attorney, founded Forstmann Little in 1978 with his brother Nicholas C. Forstmann, who later died of lung cancer, and William Brian Little. Ted Forstmann's second brother, J. Anthony Forstmann, founded ForstmannLeff. He was featured prominently in the book Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, as he and his company attempted to acquire RJR Nabisco. In the subsequent film adaptation, he was portrayed by actor David Rasche. The book portrayed Forstmann as a critic of KKR's Henry Kravis and his investment methods. Forstmann's criticism of Kravis (and much of the rest of the financial industry during the 1980s) centered around the use of junk bond (high-yield) investments to raise large amounts of capital. When the junk bond market later fell into disfavor as a result of scandal, Forstmann's criticism was seen as prescient, as his more conventional investment strategy had been able to maintain nearly the same level of profitability as companies such as KKR and Revlon that built their strategy around high-yield debt.

The photo above was probably taken in the 1910s, perhaps the mid-10s. Here is Adolfine and two of the Forstmann sons.

archiving with Windsong

One of the counselors in Windsong - Anna Armstrong, who herself has been here for years beginning as a young camper - organized a double-period session with me yesterday here in the Historical Room of the Ad Office. We gathered her and I described what was in the Frost Valley/Wawayanda archive, a deep closet now very very well organized with file drawers, archive boxes, deeds and meeting minutes and annual reports, photos, old issues of The Wawayanda Whirlwind and the Wawayanda Wasp and Frost Valley Life, staff lists and even camper lists for early years.

Carefully recording the files removed, we handed our archive folders to each of the girls who wanted to read them. Others sorted through old staff shirts dating back to the 1960s, others read through the 1979-1980 Staff Wellness Manual with the idea of comparing our ideas about health and wellness now with these revolutionary ideas of the late 70s, and still another group sat my computer and tried to Google the names of campers from the 1968 camper lists, seeing if we could locate any. (We did!)

Melanie Vargas took notes on wellness then and now. She wrote this, in part: "No TCS. No Too Cool Syndrome. No camper should be 'too cool' for any activity. This creates a stress-free environment. This makes FV the true melting pot America is supposed to be. The country itself may only be the ingredients but Frost Valley is the real melting pot where the flavors blend to become the tempting stew. From Building Wellness Lifestyle page 4, paragraph 1, line 2, I read: 'Learn more from what we do than from what we say.' Recently a counselor said to me, "Youdon't realize what an effect you have on us." Just yesterday I learned about Sunshine Village [a one-week village of kids undergoing drug rehab]. It's meant to show those just out of rehab what else there is, what opportunities they have. Having attended FV myself since 10 years old I've been exposed to those opportunities. I'd never have been so liberal, open-minded, or cultured without this place. Here we're away from the judgments and harsh cruelty of society. In a few short weeks here we lose our own judgments and gossip doesn't change our opinions. First impressions don't matter. All campers gain courage and confidence."

During our session our CEO Jerry Huncosky stopped in to talk with the girls. One of the girls was reading through a long-range planning document that called for the replacement of all cabins with lodges, one super-lodge for each existing village of five cabins. She asked Jerry his view of the cabins vs. the lodges. Before he describe his preference (strongly for the cabins) the girls discussed it with them. All but one preferred the cabins. Later Georgia Gleason wrote about this: "Campers at Frost Valley who have lived in lodges and cabins usually have an opinion about which they prefer.... It's cool in the cabins to look at all the names and dates carved in the walls. Thinking about all the different girls and boys who slept in the bunks long ago is interesting to dream about. Cabins provide 8 individuals the same age an opportunity to bond and grow very close to each other. Lodges on the other hand hold more people and allow everyone to be part of a bigger family. Lodges such as Kresge [where Windsong lives] are really great because they have a main room in the center where the girls meet to hang out and say goodnight. Wherever you stay at Frost Valley there will be fun things to do, great times to experience, and the most fun, cool and exciting people on earth."

Tammy Oruwariye became fascinated with a document dated 1966. The "Construction Engineers" (CE) program had not gone well the previous summer apparently. "Bad leadership" was the complaint and the situation was presented to the trustee-led "Wawayanda Committee," which recommended at one of its fall meetings that the CE Program be discontinued. Tammy asked me what the CE program was and why it was shut down and she wanted to imagine what overnight camping and hiking would be like today if the trails and lean-tos and overnight sites had been kept up by camper volunteers in CE all those summers. She first wrote about her own overnight experiences. Then: "Imagine if we had the CEs now. It would make hiking so much better and easier." The end of the CEs, she wrote, "remains a mystery in my mind." What did she mean by this, I asked her later. "It seems like such a good idea. Maybe we can do something like this again."

Sherley Wetherheld was another who read the Wellness Lifestyles manual and it got her to thinking about her own time here. "As a Windsong camper (the equivalent of Cherokee Village, for those of you who remember playing 45s of the Beatles and the Doors), my last days as a camper loom darkly and inevitable. I have done quite a big of thinking lately. What will I say at Vespers? How have I made my mark on Frost Valley? Will I make CIT? How will my life be changed? I can try to answer one question: What is the allure and magic of Frost Valley? It's the feel-goodness that surrounds us every time we set foot on Frost Valley property. While flipping through "Building Wellness Lifestyles" I realized that all of the ideals Frost Valley stood for in the 70s still hold true in the 21st century. Here's the conclusion of the old booklet: We hope all of us will agree that after spending the summer together that wellness was never intended to be boring coursework, putting people down, getting everyone to behave the same way, a program for super-jocks, or a drag. It is intended to be health enhancing, enlivening, inspiring, and to make us feel good inside. Which is exactly what Frost Valley does for me. It makes me feel good. The way we all share our secrets and keep them too, the way we become a family, but closer, and know that we will always be friends, and in our hearts, we'll always be campers, and know where to find some of that Frost Valley magic."

I had a centennial year staff T-shirt to give away to one of the Windsong kids at the end of the program but they were all so into this exploration into their camp's history it didn't seem appropriate to single out one kid, but everyone instantly agreed that Anna Armstrong, the counselor who came up with this idea, should have it. She was delighted and wore it the rest of the day. It turns out that today, the next day, she was leaving camp for the summer (needing to go back to college a bit early). So this was a fine farewell gathering, some reflection, some connecting to the larger community here, and a new shirt to prove it. The girls applauded her when she showed them her new FV possession.

1960 dining hall dedication ceremony

Above is the program for the dedication of the newly built main dining hall in the year 1960. (It was unnamed at the time; only later was it given the name Thomas Hall after Emerson Thomas.)

Ed Tomb spoke a few words here. Ed was instrumental in the move from NJ to Frost Valley in the late 50s and was a key figure in maintaining good relations between the new "Frost Valley Association Y" and the feeder Y branches in NJ who'd had a proprietary view of Wawayanda, deeming it "their" camp to which to send children in the summers. As Frost Valley became its own strong and vibrant organization, Ed was one of those who kept the peace among the Y parts. We named the Administration Building after Ed and there's a nice picture of Ed and his wife Elsie in the main room of the office.

Note too that Henry Hird himself - Floyd's father - spoke here too.

"Jimmy Ewen" is Jim Ewen - whose father Ed was a key Y guy (ran the Westfield Y for some years, I think). Jim must have been quite young when asked to speak at this program. When I got here as a camper Jim was a mainstay camper and then staff member, VC of Forest, trip leader, horsebarn director (hilarious) and eventually - in '73 - a camp director. He's a dear friend and I've written about him before. Have a look. Jim met the love of his life - Ellen Rutan - here (at the horsebarn in fact!) and I'm happy to report that Jim and Ellen will be visiting for a day next week.

Then Floyd Hird, Henry's son, spoke.

And then Walter Margetts - a strong but kindly and elegant man. Not a great speaker but a great effective person. He was the Forstmann's attorney and at the same time a long-time Wawayanda man and it was Walter who brought the two together. We really owe Walter's backing-and-forthing between the two, a truly unlikely match, to the move here and the extraordinary development of the camp into one of the nations' few great camping and conference facilities. Walter's son Tom was a member of our Board for many years until just a few years ago. The Margettses are still in contact, here and there, with members of the Forstmann Family.


We woke to a stunningly good morning. Not a cloud. Deep blue August mountain morning sky. Dew glistening off the beech trees. Great visibility: you can make out individual trees on top of Banks Hill by standing on the west side of the dining hall (it's a view of Banks I'd never stopped to look at before - and I caught it with my camera).

While I was standing there outside the dining hall (while Camp Hird was eating breakfast and while Wawayanda was back in the villages cleaning cabins) I looked over at the Carl Hess Pavilion, which we've used for our outdoor barbecues until the construction of the new Wellness Center began. For the second time in its career, Carl's pavilion was used as a warm supply hut/break-station for construction crews...first in the 1983-85 period during the building of the new dining hall and now again in 2007-08 for the Guenther Family Wellness Center. Soon we'll either start cooking in Carl's pavilion again or we'll move it down the hill and put on the chicken and burgers there. It's possible we'll be moving laundry out of the main part of camp (it's still in the old Forstmann-era bullpen) and put the Hess structure in its place, so that it'll be near the Halbe & Jane Brown pavilion, which is an excellent large covered space for rainy days. The two would work well together, just as Halbe and Jane and Carl and Marie always did.

Now I pivoted northward and looked at the scene before me and asked myself, What am I seeing here that I've always seen? Certainly not the dining hall parking lot. the very road we use to drive up to the dining hall was not there until '86. Prior to that one used a rocky trail to walk up from the Big Tree Field to the dining hall area or to cabins 21-25 (Hemlock village in those days). But there it was: the old Rifle Range Road, making its way steeply up the hill from the dining hall to what was then the furthest distance up the hill (really a foothill of Doubletop) on which the villages are laid out. Up past old Lenape on the west side of Hemlock Brook/Trickle Brook (cabins 16-20 and now 13-17 were built on the east side of that sometimes flowing creek). Kresge Lodge is now almost exactly where the Rifle Range used to be. But the Rifle Range Trail (now without a name) is still there, the first part of it more or less exactly as it ever was. Quite a beautiful walk through the woods there. It beckons.

At the bottom of this entry I've included a portion of the camp map made in 1970. I've marked the Rifle Range Trail in blue.

Finally I turned due west and walked about 100 feet in the direction of cabins 21-25, old Hemlock, now the village where Pocohontas and Totem are combined into one youngest group. These cabins have been replaced by nice new cabins (laid out in the same way as the old ones but much sturdier) put in exactly the same spots as the old ones. In this picture you see only cabin 24, but imagine to the left of the shot cabin 25 sitting near the brook across from the dining hall. To my extreme right stands 21, and just off to the right and beyond are 22 and - in its corner against what used to be the Deus property - the nestled cabin 23. Arguably 23 is in the nicest spot for a cabin in camp. I'd also vote for cabin 40 (what used to be 10) and also cabin 17 (what used to be 20). Fans of the cabins will approve, I think, of what's been done to restore this semi-circular village arrangement. This is now where Wawayanda holds its morning flag raisings - making it super convenient for the youngest kids to roll out of bed and hear the morning announcements, praise the core value of the day, hear pearls of wisdom and sing a silly song to start the day.

Start the day.... Although it's the beginning of the final week of camp and the staff have led the programs they will lead today a dozen times already this summer, one senses it will be a great morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bud Cox, sweet as maple sugar

Bud Cox has been (as I kid him) AWOL a lot this summer. Not really AWOL...just (predictably) out of camp. He's driven trips to the Adirondacks several times. During session 3 he was up there pretty much the whole time, supplying two trips, moving by van back and forth between them. He's picked up trips coming back from New Orleans twice. He's done luggage runs to airports and bus-stops. He's led hikes for adult groups at Straus. He's kept the brochures stocked and neatly stacked in various racks ("literature" is Bud's word, pronounced "LIT-ti-chure" with a little Bob Dylan snarl) and once in a while he and I have sat in the Ad Office watching the Mets game on my computer. But until this week Bud has not offered programs to the villages. Today he's spending the whole day at the Sap House (9/10ths of a mile east of the main entrance to camp) showing campers and counselors how we gather sap and distill it into maple syrup.

Toward the end of the morning the Mac Boys (teenaged boys with various chronic disabilities - quite an amazing and fun-loving group but often a bit unruly or digressive) made the trip to the Sap House in a couple of buses. When I arrived Bud was describing the sap in the trees in late winter and the Mac Boys were totally attentive. It was a great scene. I caught it in a few pictures and also recorded a portion of it. Have a listen here.

Eva's back

Today is the annual visit of Eva Gottscho and members of the Board of Directors of the Gottscho Kidney Foundation. As nearly everyone reading this will already know, it was Eva who in the early 70s went from camp to camp looking for a camp that would take a chance on her idea: sending children with kidney disease to a "regular camp" where the kids would integrate into the existing program and would feel more than ever like any other kid. Finally in '74 should found Halbe Brown and Frost Valley's board - crashed a FV trustee meeting in Summit NJ and persuaded them more or less on the spot to give this crazy idea a try. We opened in '75 and (as again you know from recent postings) just this summer moved to a new beautiful spacious facility in a wing of the new Wellness Center. Every year since '75 Eva has visited at least once. She is 95 now but gets around well and is as sharp as ever. She visited the new unit twice - chatted movingly with the dialysis campers - and within the hour of this writing drove out of camp on the way back home to NJ. Below are some of the photos I took of Eva during her second visit to the dialysis center.

on change and not-change

After hearing the recording of the conversation Dave King and I had on Olympic Day last month, Rick Cobb sent us his thoughts:

I just listened to your recording at the Big Tree Field; what a masterpiece! While I'm sitting here on the porch looking at our mountains early Sunday morning and listening to your podcast on my version of the Crackberry (which is my Dell laptop), I'm really right there with you. Or, I'm going back in time as you mention folks: Mike Ketcham, Dick Haney (who was my first counselor on the Adirondack Explorers [along with Bud Cox, Hoby Spitz, and Mark Fisher]), Peter Boyd, etc.

I then flashed back to a story about Jane that I told at Halbe and Jane's retirement event (2001?), where Peter Boyd walked into the Ad Office one summer with his wife and young daughter (who may be Ellen Boyd that you mentioned in your recording). Peter and his wife, who had worked at a different summer camp growing up, had argued about which camp to send their daughter. Apparently Peter had "won"; as they entered the Ad Office, Jane, who had not seen Peter for ~20 years, said: "Peter Boyd, from Summit, NJ". Peter turns to his wife and says: "See! I TOLD you this was the right camp!" And the tradition continues with Elizabeth....

As far as changing and not-changing goes, to me Frost Valley represents core values and principles that hopefully will never change; it's their internalized existence that allows us to deal with the ever-increasing rate of change of everything else around us. I agree that FV is a very special oasis that, while its physical appearance changes, the real core value and principles have remained constant through the years. While the manifestations of those values and principles change as programs and initiatives change, the values and principles underlying them do not.

Thanks for reminding me of that today. Keep the podcasts coming!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Margaret Kremer remembers...

Margaret Kremer McLaughlin's daughter Emily has been a Tacoma counselor here all summer, and this vicarious re-emergence into Frost Valley has set Margaret to fond remembering. Here is what she recently wrote to me:

Ray my oldest brother was actually the first employee of Camp Wawayanda from the Kremer clan under Jim White in the early 60s. (Mom and Dad were late entrants into the Frost Valley employment pool). I think Ray met his wife Meg at Camp. All the Kremer siblings worked there as you know -- my son Nathan was also a counselor for a couple years in 1998, 1999.

I was hired the first year they had a girls camp kitchen with the Van Zandts as cooks. I was either 15 or 16 (1965-1966)... but the main criteria for employment was being at least 5 '10' as the men were not certain that girls could handle the heavy workload - particularly the pot duty. If there were pictures... we were quite a hefty crew.

Elsie Kimble was girls camp director when I began.. I became very attached to her. I tried to find her after I dropped Emily off this summer. I know she was a Professor at Mississippi State University. I was allowed to visit her during my junior year of high school while she was in graduate school at the University of Alabama for Romance languages. It was my very first plane ride and I was only allowed to go if I made it into the National Honor Society..

I continued to work every summer afterwards in a variety of roles. The next big "boy-girl" issue arose over "out tripping". The boys went on extended out-trips and canoe trips... and the girls staff had to push for equal opportunity for the girl campers. I recall hiking with girls wearing desert boots because there was no such thing as a girl's hiking boot available at the time. Desert boots had very flimsy soles. At some other time, when I have more time, I could muse a bit about the boy-girl development at the camp!

Carol English, Janet Winner, myself and I think John Paul Thomas (although I don't recall all the male counterparts) took the first co-ed cross-country trip in early 70s. [This was called "Western Adventures."] We flew stand-by with a passel of campers out of New York into Denver, rented a bus and traveled all over the place, and I think the thing cost about $400 per camper. I remember at the end of the trip the bus driver was in tears because he had never had a group behaved so well for four weeks. The bus got impounded the day we visited Disneyland as we had been on the road for too long... so we had to stay at the park for 14 hours. This was not a problem!

Duff no duffer

Jamie Duff is now a camper in Outpost, and Ceri Duff is a Susky girl. They've been family campers (the final week of the summer) with dad and mom but this is their first time in resident camp. Dad is here too, for two weeks. As dad put it at the VC meeting the other night: "I'm surely up there in the Frost Valley record books: twenty years between the now and the last time I was on the staff."

Yes, dad is Stuart Duff, whose re-connection to Frost Valley I've mentioned here at least once before. Stuart was here in '84 and '85 and again in '88. I hope to get some time with him and my recorder--have him tell his own Frost Valley story.

His wife will join him and the kids after session 4 is done, for another week of Family Camp. Meantime, now Stuart is the perfect end-of-summer uplift. He offers an all-village one- or two-period mini-Olympics called "Gumbo Games." It's gone really well so far. He's also teaching some soccer, it seems, and is helping out variously. I hope to recruit him to be a judge at a few Challenge Nights coming up.

The photos shows Stuart flanked by Fenn Putman, President of our Board, and Tom Holsapple, Operations Director.

Last night I told my story called "Sawmill, 1958" to Susky - late, under the stars, at their village campfire. Most of the girls were mesmerized, a few were (temporarily) scared, but not Ceri. She made some wonderfully skeptical semi-wisecrack at the end. I didn't see the face but heard the accent (English with a family-induced taint of Irish in there somewhere). I thought to myself: "Ah, it's a Duff!"

cool rockpaint

Two Pokey girls sit in what is always the coolest (in several respects) place in camp: 12 feet below ground level, at the bottom of the Biscuit Creek Falls pool. When it's 90 degrees in the middle of a sunny field not 200 yards away, it feels like 65 down here. A whole activity period, nothing to do but sit, talk, let the spray coat your face and arms with chilly Biscuit water, and...rockpaint. Look at the close-up and see that these two have gathered - and neatly set in a row - a series of differently colored variously textured stones. They are exploring the colors the stones make when you wet them and scratch them across the larger creek rocks. They've just begun to dab their faces. Yes, remember this? Natural facepainting! They've "discovered" it on their own.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

went to the doctor, went to the mountain

At 4th session Hird opening campfire, we witnessed a reunion of the three fab singers who in '07 formed the group called "The Assorted Favorites": Chrissy Mohle, Chris Harper & Lexi Cariello.

Last summer I put up an mp3 recording of this trio singing "There For You": check it out.

from Tokyo to Claryville

Frank DeGraw grew up in Grahams- ville, or nearby. He went to high school with the White kids and the Brown kids and fell in with the "Brown boys" and eventually, when he came just of age, worked here at FV weekends through the fall, winter and spring. Soon he joined the summer camp staff and was a counselor in Totem and, I believe later, was a VC (just after my time in the late 80s). He moved to Japan many years ago, met and married his wife there, and has two daugters.

Last session his daughter, Anna Kikuchi-DeGraw was here in Lakota cabin 44, and loved it. It's not an easy matter for Frank to arrange to send his daughter to camp in upstate New York while the family resides in Tokyo! In fact I'd guess that among former staff who send their kids here he's probably managed the longest distance.

Eric Blum remembered Frank for his own first years here (starting '86) and we had an impromptu reunion in the dining hall last Friday. There's a littler Kikuchi-DeGraw who was jealous of her older sister and will wind up here one day soon.

In Japan, Frank is a teacher.

'80s pals

Benjamin Wechter is in Forest village this session. Ben is the son of Eric Wechter, our old friend from the 80s, and so naturally we got a chance to see Eric this past weekend. Milton Pittman also came to volunteer and so here's a reliable 80s trio: Eric (left), Milton (middle) and Bill Abbott (right), wearing three shades of volunteer/staff shirts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the luggage will arrive, we swear

In this video, Bill Abbott tells a typical tale of check-in.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

outdoorsy guy

Blast from the past this afternoon. Bill Clarke (at left in the photo) showed up here. Bill Clarke! Bill's first summer was as a Lenape camper in cabin 18 - Bud Cox's cabin. (Bill remembers Bud as a fanatic about winning the camp-wide cabin clean-up competition. The winners, some readers of this blog may recall, won a watermelon.) That must have been '65 or '66, when Bud was Lenape VC. Later Bill moved up the counseling ranks and eventually was our "Nature" director. Although born and raised in Manhattan Bill was one of our real outdoorsy guys. He was here through the early to mid 70s and then moved on. He now works in Albany for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (the DEC). He was here today to bring his nephew to camp for the fourth session.

Bill wandered around looking for Bud Cox to say hello--and eventually found Bud. But in the dining hall the little reunion featured in the above photo consists of Bill, Paul Brown, and Marie Hess. Paul, Halbe Brown's brother and the twin of Paula, has lived in Grahamsville for many years, where he works also for the government - on water quality. Paul came over from Camp Fitch when brother Halbe did. In '71 he was the CIT Director (for the boys) along with his twin sister Paula who was CIT Director for the girls. I should note that Paul was my CIT Director.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Andy in both

Last night Andy Szymczak came up to me to say that he'd looked at the blog (busy camp director but time enough for the blog!) and saw the great Woodwise "Mudwise" photo - and noted with pleasure that he as a camper was in that picture. And then he went on to say that he was always a Sequoia camper and a Woodwise guy and eventually came to run Woodwise - earthy, communalist, woodsy all the way.

Then this morning Karin Turer emailed me to say the same thing - that Andy is in that picture. She herself had seen the photo of Andy as the painted director, and put two and two together.

Long live the internet for helping us re-tie the ties that connect us.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

good morning, paint a director

The littlest Mac kids sometimes like to have a "Paint the Director" activity. Here is what Assistant Wawayanda Director Andy Szymczak looked like this morning after a session with these energetic little painters.

who said kids in 2008 aren't venturesome

Each of these kids is doing what they're doing for the very first time.

Pac togetherness

The Pac magic is back. Still in Hird Lodge. There since '85. Quinnipiac, more properly, but the 4-syllable sound of that name hasn't been heard in a long while. Just Pac. Somewhat separate (too cool for school) yet totally part of the scene. This morning (last full day of session) a late sleep, no flag raising, then brunch cooked in Geyer Hall. Then they don new Pac t-shirts and gather on the Hird Lodge porch. I happen by, take this good shot of them--the crew, what a crew--and chatted with them a bit. Listen to the recording of our talk. Pac chatter, vintage. The "Harry" referred to is their beloved village chief, Harry McCormack.