Friday, December 25, 2009

early days of XC skiing

When cross-country skiing was new at Frost Valley, around 1973. Those skis are clip-ons (you wore your own shoes and clipped them onto the ski by means of a contraption that fell apart often for the novice). The scene of course is the Big Tree Field (ski trail through the Big Tree Field?!) and at right you can see a tobaggan that had just come a long ways down the tobaggan run that started up near cabins 21-25 and emptied out across the field. If conditions were icy and slick enough, you could get all the way to the county road. The building to the center-right is the Lake House (where in those days the Food Service Director, Everett Lake, lived) and to the left is the old horsebarn. Yes in the summers we actually ran our horseback riding program out of that barn. An old, old, old barn, barely standing. It was affectionately known as the Lazy Nag Corral.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Rick Cobb during staff training, late 70s.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mike Marder raises funds for campership

An article appearing on

South River man raises money for scholarship to YMCA summer camp

SOUTH RIVER — For Michael Marder, the summers spent at Frost Valley YMCA camp were priceless. Now, he is hoping that at least one middle school student in the borough will get that same opportunity.

Marder, a resident of the borough and a member of the camp's Alumni Association, is raising scholarship money to send at least one student to the camp for two weeks during the summer of 2010.

"I think it's a remarkable summer camp," said Marder, who spent several summers as a camper and counselor at the facility. "It's an outdoor environmental education center on over 6,000 acres in the Catskills. Children can go and live the life of a farmer or attend Adventure or equestrian camp. It's quite an organization. I think it's a great place for a child to spend a few weeks during the summer."

Frost Valley YMCA, established in 1901, is a nonprofit organization located in Claryville, N.Y. The camp, open to children ages 7 to 16, serves about 2,000 campers each summer and provides camp scholarships for children from low-income families throughout New Jersey and New York.

"One of the special features of the camp is that through a partnership with Montefiore Children's Center in New York and the Ruth Gottscho Kidney Foundation, it also provides a camping experience to children with chronic kidney disease, who otherwise may not have had this opportunity," Marder said.

As a member of the camp's Alumni Association, Marder has spent several years raising scholarship money to send children in Newark and other inner cities to the camp.

Last year, after attending an annual meeting, in which former scholarship recipients spoke about their experiences, Marder decided to focus his attention on sending a borough student to the camp.

Marder said the cost to send one child to the camp for two weeks is about $1,500.

"Depending how much we raise will determine how many children will get the opportunity to go," he said.

Marder said he has received support from borough officials and was invited by the mayor to address the Borough Council.

He also has been working with South River school officials.

The camper, he said, will be selected by members of the South River Middle School staff.

"We're looking for a good student, who would not otherwise have this opportunity," Marder said.

Tax deductable donations may be sent to to Frost Valley YMCA, 26 Park St., Suite 2023, Montclair NJ 07042. Checks, made payable to Frost Valley YMCA, should include the name and address of the donor and be marked "South River Campership."

Donations also may be made on line at

Additional information about the Frost Valley YMCA may be obtained by calling Frost Valley YMCA at 973-744-3488 or at

Friday, December 4, 2009

gymnastics circa 1980

Here is Fran Grayson**, doing some gymnastics on the Olympic Circle. I'm going to guess that the photo was taken in 1980. Yes, we had this trampoline-like jump-off thingie. We taught the kids to run up on it and fling themselves in the air. What to land on? Well, mostly the grass of the Olympic Circle and sometimes some old foam mattresses. Don't know how many sprained ankles were the result of this activity, but I do know that the Health Center (in Smith Lodge) was just 60 feet away.

** I'm about 95% certain it's Fran. (Later note: Now I'm 100% certain. Fran herself just confirmed it!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

one of the very first nurses; the first nurse for Hird

Sad news from Dave & Shirley King tells us of the passing of our beloved nurse from 1959 through the 1960s, Jerry Lester. Here is what they write:

Geraldine B. Lester, camp nurse for Camps Wawayanda and Floyd, died today at 3am in Little Rock Arkansas.

Gerry came to Camp Wawayanda at Frost Valley in 1959. She,along with her husband Don and sons Kevin,Danny,and Tommy, lived and worked in the small building next to the fly fishing shack which we labeled the "Dispensary". Don, an exexcutive with the Brown&Williamson Tobacco Company, worked in New York City during the week, and came to camp on Friday night for the weekend.Gerry and her family were part of the development of Frost Valley for the entire decade of the 1960's.

The job of camp nurse during that time period was crucial. Our nearest medical Doctor was Dr. Tompkins whose office was in Liberty, 26 miles away.Dr. Tompkins would visit camp twice weekly. Liberty-Loomis Hospital was located near Ellenville even farther away. In every sense of the term ,Gerry was a"nurse practitioner" who had to make tough/sometimes critical decisions on a daily basis.

Gerry was also the first camp nurse for Camp Hird which added to the load that she carried so very well.It is probably hard for present era staff members to conceptualize the camp evnvironment without a complete medical staff and facilities.This concept just illustrates how good and competent and effective Gerry was.

Beside the medical competency, Jerry and Don were "Camp People". Al calls us "Lifers". Don, on weekends, would load and unload baggage, drive the camp truck"the green rat" for all kinds of necessities, or the camp station wagon for town runs. He was also always available to talk to counselors or to tell stories, and he attended camp activities with his sons.

Shirley and I became very close friends with Gerry and Don, and we and our families had Thanksgiving Dinner together for 17 years. We gathered in New Brunswick,NJ, Baltimore,MD, and in Louisville,KY. We also travelled to Harpers Ferry VA, Annapolis MD,and Bound Brook, NJ where Don umpired a Little League World Series tournament game. Our kids did grow up together as a family, and, in those days,there were very few "camp families". The Camp Directors, the maintenance Director, the Program Director, and the cooks might have a family with them. There were few women in camp then and they did create lifelong bonds.

After Frost Valley, Gerry worked with geriatrics in a nursing home environment. She and Don visited Europe and stayed for seven years, before fully retiring in Little Rock Arkansas.

It is very poignant for Shirl and Me to lose her during Thanksgiving Week. In our estimation, she belongs in the Frost Valley Hall of fame!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the master schedule!

This document is rare. Click on the image above for a larger view. It's a mimeographed "Master Schedule" from sometime in August of 1976. I was the Program Director that summer (and in '75, '77, & '78 too - four summers in all in that role); starting in '76 5th period every day was time for a long list of all-camp activities. That is to say, every camper had the option of joining one of the activities listed on the Master Schedule. It had a carnivalesque atmosphere. Juggling here, unicycles there, arts & crafts, free swim, rocketry, street hockey, African story-telling, you name it. This was the chance to share the special and unique talents of individual staff members outside their villages, to share them with the whole camp. Yes, it was chaotic and, true, it didn't provide any of the sort of coverage (of campers) we demand of ourselves today, but it was tremendous fun. Hard work, too, for the Program Director to devise a new Master Schedule for each day. My thanks to Ira Sasowsky for saving this copy and sending it to me.

Note at the bottom - a mention of the upcoming Olympics. The Olympics were revised in '75, but in '76 they became the "gumbo", fun, non-competitive everyone-wins games known to those who have come later.

Each day I gave the new Master Schedule a special title. This one is named after Maurice Penn's favorite expression of camp optimism: "It's GREAT (clap clap) to be alive!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lakota VC weds

A happy update on Kate Bischoff. As of October 11, she goes by Kate Pristash. She and Dan Pristash were married that day. They live in Princeton, NJ, and will soon move to Roebling, NJ. At Frost Valley Kate was a camper, later a counselor and finally a VC of Lakota. Congrats to Kate!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Art Harmon

Anyone who visited the waterfront in the middle of the 1960s would have instantly come to know the amazing Art Harmon. Dave King (director on those years) took to calling him affectionary "the Water Rat." Art did his job with relentless care. He was also one of the most amusing characters around camp in general.

Art and his wife Lou attended the huge reunion in 2001 - marking the 100th year of Wawayanda. Art continued to be a lifeguard at the Jersey shore for many many years after his Wawayanda time.

Art was just 63 when he did suddenly last week. The only details we have come from a newspaper report (below).



Arthur William Harmon Jr., 63, of Wall, died Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune. Mr. Harmon was a Health and Physical Education teacher, Athletic Director as well as coach during his 36 years at Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson before his retirement. He was a graduate of Roselle Catholic High School, Roselle, a graduate of Dean Junior College, Franklin, Mass., a 1968 graduate of Springfield College, Springfield Mass., where he received his Bachelors Degree, and a graduate of Georgian Court University, Lakewood, where he received his Masters Degree.

Art was a lifeguard along the Jersey Shore for 44 years before finishing his career in Sea Girt as a lifeguard supervisor. He volunteered 30 years of his life as a ski patroller at Bromley Mountain in Vermont. He also was a Driver Education instructor for the past 41 years. He was a 20 plus year member of the Shore Soccer Officials Association and was a 40 year member of the IAABO Shore Board #194, where he served as a basketball official, administrative officer and past president. At Rumson Fair Haven Regional, he coached soccer, baseball, swimming and gymnastics. Born in Jersey City, he grew up in Roselle before moving to Wall in 1969.

Predeceased by his parents, Arthur William Harmon Sr., in 1979 and Adelaide Murphy Harmon, in 2006. Surviving are his loving wife of 27 years, Frances G. "Lou" Harmon; two sons, Timothy A. and his wife Kristin of Sea Girt, and Matthew Thomas and his wife Megan of Wall; his stepchildren, Harry Drew of Basking Ridge, and Jennifer Drew Coelho of Haddonfield; and a brother, Richard K Harmon of Forked River. He also leaves grandchildren, Daniel, Cooper, Jack, Paul and Eamon, as well as an expectant grandchild in December; and nieces and nephews, Justin Kevin and Amie Harmon.

Visiting will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 at the O'Brien Funeral Home, 2028 Highway 35, Wall. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, Oct. 30, time to be announced, at St. Mark's R.C. Church, Sea Girt. Interment will be held privately at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Sea Girt Surf Life Saving Association or to Bromley Ski Patrol - educational fund, both c/o P.O. Box 55, Sea Girt, NJ 08750. For further information or to send condolences, please visit
The photo of Art below was taken at the 2001 FV reunion:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Diana Finkel: CIT coordinator to ultra-marathoner

Marc Hanna (1987-95) writes:

I was recently reminded of Diana Finkel when I came across her name in Sports Illustrated. Diana was my co-leader for the CIT's in 1994. She had endless energy and was one of those rare people who enjoyed absolutely everything she did. She couldn't sit still and couldn't stop smiling. During the camping portion she declared her role was to be the pack mule. It certainly wasn't navigator as she ateempted to start more than a few of hikes off in the opposite direction. She was also always up for a challenge, and I took advantage of that many times by saying, "I bet you can't........."

It seems her determination and deep gas tank are serving her well now since I recently saw her mentioned in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" section here.

She has become quite the ultra marathoner and recently broke the female course record in the Hardrock 100 by a whopping 2.5 hours. Two quotes of hers from an article on the race jumped out at me. On whether or not running 100 miles is fun - "Like I always say, it doesn't have to be fun to be fun." On how she was able to improve on her previous winning time by 4 hours and best the course record by 2.5 hours - "I didn't get lost as much. Last year, I got lost a lot. This year, I only got lost a little."

Below are two photos of Diana during her Frost Valley days.

The photo just above shows Diana with then-CIT Yoland Philpotts. Yoland was a FV'er from 1988 through 2003. Yoland writes: "After that CIT year with Diana and Marc, I went on to climb the counselor ranks and was VC of Pac in '99, CIT coordinator in '00 and again in '02. These days I'm in medical school at Einstein in the Bronx."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fred's autumn

Former FV conference director Fred Wasiak was back and took this photo during the Columbus Day weekend.

director of development job open - apply now

Click on the image for a larger view. Alumni with relevant experience urged to apply now. Contact Linda Campbell at 845-985-2291.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

someone whose job description was her name

Our beloved Marie Kremer has died. John Kremer, one of Marie's children, has been asked about memorial gifts in honor of his mother. He says he is directing them to Frost Valley's Alumni Campership Fund. (For info about that, call 973 744-3488.)

John Kremer writes the following about Marie:

It is with much sadness that I find myself having to once again write to report another death within the Kremer family. My mother, Marie Kremer, died quietly in her sleep on October 15; she was 89.

As you well know, my mother's contributions to Frost Valley were many. The family history is long and now spans generations, as several of her grandchildren were staff and adventure campers this past summer. My mother began working at FV in the early 60's as a castle and camp cook. In 1972, after our family moved permanently to Claryville, she became the full time office manager where she worked until her retirement in the mid 80's. She contributed to the critical transition of Frost Valley from a summer camp to the premier environmental education center and camp it is today.

I'm sure if asked, my mother would have defined herself in terms of a homemaker, but she was so much more than that. She was a remarkable woman in many ways. Born to Irish immigrants, her strong will and determination was evident throughout her long life. When my father enlisted during WWII, she too felt the call to serve and joined the Marine Corps; rising to the rank of Corporal, where she out-ranked him! After the war, she turned her attentions to raising a family, which eventually grew to seven children. Despite this responsibility; she still found time for community service by being active in the Catholic Youth Organization, as PTA President for many years, and as a cook for a Catholic School. She was also a gifted seamstress, crafter, and quilter. She was active with the Claryville Quilters, President of the Calico Geese Quilting club, and was inducted into the Catskill Mountain Quilters' Hall of Fame in 1994. All in all, a life well lived!

Most of all, I hope my mother will be remembered for her kind heart. She willingly opened our home to those in need, and gladly gave to help others. Even though the heart and soul of our family, my mother and father, are now gone, the spirit forged by them will live on through us, and all they have touched.

- - -

Gail McNeill remembers: Everybody has their 'magic feather.' Remember Dumbo? If he didn't have his magic feather, he couldn't fly. For the surgeons I circulate for, it's a particular instrument. For Dr. Kerrigan, it's a pair of Beasley forceps. For Dr. Hecht, it's a Freer elevator. For Dr. Murphy, a pair of 5 1/2" curved delicate Lahey scissors, and on and on. If it's not on the tray, they just can't operate properly- even if they never pick it up. For Marie, when she was the cook, it was a bottle of Kitchen Bouquet. If she didn't have that little brown bottle with the yellow label on the shelf above the stove, she wasn't happy- and as they say, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Just what *is* Kitchen Bouquet, you may well ask? It makes things brown. Gravy. Meat. Whatever. You add a few drops, presto, your pallid sauce is instantly tastier looking, or at least, well, brown. One summer back then, among other random jobs, I ran the warehouse, and once, I ran out of Kitchen Bouquet. Did you ever make Marie mad? I mean really, really, mad? I seemed to have a particular talent for it, but this was a truly special occasion. I hate to use the "Irish temper" stereotype, but if you were ever toe-to-toe with Marie when she was armed with one of those great big mixing spoons, it was something you didn't forget quickly, if ever. Needless to say, I never ran short of Kitchen Bouquet again, nor was I ever short of a friend or a hug when Marie was around. Marie was one of the core Frost Valley people for all the time I was there, and the kind of person that any organization is extremely lucky to have one of. Frost Valley's great good fortune was that we had several, folks whose job description is their name, and when they retire have to be replaced by three full time people in at least two departments. Marie's strength, her laugh, and her open heart will be missed by all, especially her wonderful family; my thoughts and love are with them.

Nancy Caplan writes: One of my fondest memories of Frost Valley was the summer that Beth Krumholtz and I worked in the Girls Camp kitchen with Marie Kramer. I can still hear her say "seek and ye shall find" when she would send us into the store room to find some ingredient for whatever it was we were cooking/making! We worked hard, and laughed a lot! My thoughts are with the Kramer family.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sacky girl, mid 80s

Mary Beth Sullivan remembers her Frost Valley years. She sent me a photo of one of her visits as an "Indian Princess" in the late 70s or maybe 1980. She and her dad and friends are at the BB Range. The staff member, in the sweater, is Paul Nelson - who was a VC in the summertime (of Outpost in around 1978). Here's Mary Beth recalling her Frost Valley summers, along with my editorial insertions:
I was in Sacky for ’83 and ’84. I used to remember my counselor’s name immediately, but now I think having a kid has drained my memory a bit. I think her name might have been Mara. She was a village leader and she was from Texas. The last time I mentioned her name to you (when I completely remembered her first and last name), you recognized it and also mentioned that she married another FV lifer? [Mary Beth is writing about Mari Angers.]

I remember my first lunch and winning a TV theme contest you personally MC’d and sang (one-man show). I also remembered the touching story you told of your friend with the arrow you found in Lake Cole. You mentioned it during Hirdstock. [Here she is probably remembering a Challenge Night that I led, and also the story I used to tell about Charlie Shelton.]

I also remember Kangaroo Court with people teasing the guy named “Flash.” [She's remembering Gordon Fair, whom we called "Flash Gordon."]

You know, I’ve been dying to visit the camp for the longest time. I live in Florida, and my parents went there about a year ago to visit during a trip to my uncle’s. As a matter of fact, this weekend, I’m flying up north for my cousin’s wedding. They live in Middletown. I almost decided to take a side trip up there, but my mom assigned me limo duties for my grandparents.

You know I’m planning to send my kid up the coast for summer camp at FV once she’s old enough. It never leaves your blood!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Challenge Night smiles, July 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

wedding at Frost Valley

Jeff Daly and Kelly Zingone met at Frost Valley and in early September were married at Frost Valley. The ceremony took place at Reflection Pond and the reception was held in a beautifully transformed dining hall. Great food, lots of dancing, tons of Frost Valley (as well as other) friends, and family. A beautiful day in all. I've seen hundreds of photos of this wedding on Facebook and took a few dozen myself, but thought I'd present three here. The Japanese-style bridge that loops twice across the middle of the pond was decorated with flowers and became the path for the groom and his seconds. Then you see Kelly and Jeff at the key ceremonial moment, Kelly having come down, with the bride's maids, down the old Forstmann stone stairs. Vows were said, huzzahs shouted, a greeting line navigated, and then to the dining hall on a beautiful late afternoon, only to find there that our tables were assigned by villages. In my third photo you see the table set aside for the Susky women (and men). My family sat at Sequoia, which is fine by me, since the whole occasion was a pleasurable adventure.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google Earth view - when was the photo taken?

Here's what Frost Valley looks like from above and a bit from the south - as per Google Earth.

Brian Sense has taken a long close look at this photograph. And he writes:
The overhead view of the valley from your blog popped up in my rss feed today and I couldn’t help but start playing the game of when exactly the photo was taken based on all the amazing changes and what is in the picture…it may take all the readers of the blog, but I bet we could nail that satellite shot down to within a month of its taking.

Here are the timeframe indicators I see to give us clues (though I am sure there are more):

(1) Lakeview Lodge roof was on but no landscaping yet;
(2) Construction on the new Wellness Center has not broken ground;
(3) Big Tree seems to have leaves on it still;
(4) The docks are not in their summer formation;
(5) The Y-tower is not built, but the Halbe Brown Pavilion is;
(6) I don’t yet see evidence of the butterfly garden behind Admin.

It can be like Challenge Night…for your blog readers…with no Chinese food reward!

Using the six pieces of information above, can you say what year and what month (or at least season) this Google Earth photo was taken?

Later: Kenny Nathanson notes that Google Earth has now provided from-the-ground photography of the landscape along and on either side of the county road that passes through Frost Valley. For that amazing view, click here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

a beacon

The dining hall at night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Eva and KK '08

Earlier I wrote about KK, a dialysis camper who has gotten deep into our hearts with her bravery and her total love of camp. Eva Gottscho's daughter, Judy Eichinger Gottscho, who I discover is a regular reader of this blog, is also a big KK fan, and just today sent me the wonderful photo below--taken in 2008--of her mom, the late Eva Gottscho--and our dear pal KK.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

fall colors

Photographs taken earlier today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Adam Gold returns

Adam Gold (brothers Steven and Mike were both long-time FV guys) visited this summer with his wife and the hopes, I think, that the kids would begin to fall in love with the valley. I took this shot of Adam and my daughter Hannah in the Ad Office. We all hope Adam's family will make the connection and hope to see them at the reunion next Labor Day!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

big reunion coming

If you have questions--if you want to help plan--call (973) 744-3488.

alums go gaga

FV staff alumni and their children play Gaga (in the "Gaga Pit"!) at the mini-reunion last weekend. Standing straight ahead in the picture (in blue jacket) is Josh Tucker.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

up, up & away in Glenn Horton's balloon

This photo of Glenn Horton's balloon was taken this weekend at the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Glens Falls. Lots of Frost Valley folks, past and current, attend this event. Glenn shared the weekend with Kenis and Vicki Sweet, Elaine Winslow, Deb Cunningham, Sharon Zimmerman among others. That group has been meeting up there for years and always have some good fun.

Monday, September 28, 2009

mourning on the trail

Today I received an email message from a friend of Frost Valley's - a guy who with his wife owns a house nearby and has come to love hiking and fishing and mushrooming at (and near) FV. He's a big-time guy in NYC, runs a really terrific institute, but loves to get away to the Catskills. He's come to know our summer camp over the past few summers, but his first contact with us was the allure of the forests, streams and trails. His email to me just now really reads like a poem. I've very moved by it. Here goes:

We were at Frost Valley Saturday

no fish no mushrooms of note but gorgeous

In my normally alone spot there was a hiker who told me not to be alarmed if I heard screaming and crying

He said his wife died

I asked when

A year ago

Well I did hear copious weeping and more

So I moved on

Good old frost valley

video tour

Go here for a video tour of Frost Valley. It was made this past weekend by David Lockwood during a mini-reunion of former staff organized by Chris Mills.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Here, at right, is the first page of the 1992 summer staff list. Click on the image for a larger view. How many names do you recognize?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

could the sky be any bluer?

Photo taken in early August this past summer. I have the color of this sky in my mind pretty much all the time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

treated like a "regular kid"

Above is a portion of a recent Gottscho Kidney Founation brochure, featuring one of our favorites in the program: K.K. Alas, her health was not good this past summer, but she has had a number of really happy summers at Frost Valley before that, and we look forward to seeing her again in 2010.

Below is a photo of K.K. taken this past summer, which Dan Weir has just forwarded to me. You would be surprised too, no?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

scene for the decades

Surely this scene is timeless. The photo could have been taken any time, any year. Can you guess when? Write to me at afilreis [AT] gmail [DOT] com and take a guess.

- - -

Bill Madden has guessed 1968.
Mike Troha has guessed 2009.

The answer is 2009. But isn't this photo timeless?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

trivia question

Forgive me. This is an answer to a question I posted on Twitter. (Oh you're not following our Twitter feed? Go to and search for "fvalumni." Or click here.) the question I posed there was: Can you name 5 locations for Arts & Crafts over the years?


1. Bottom floor, new Wellness Center
2. Old maintenance shed near Biscuit Lodge
3. Hayden Lodge before it was "Hayden"
4. Bottom floor of old Girls dining hall, now Geyer - once Conover English Hall
5. old Rec Hall - what is now Margetts

The second floor of the laundry (the old bullpen) was for a number of years "the special arts & crafts shop." For a while that was where sewing was taught. All I remember about it was that it was unbelievably hot up there. Just a door on either end and barn-like summer heat. And people working sewing machines. Seemed like a sweatshop to me!

Isabel Banton Clowe has sent us the photo below - a view of the second floor of the laundry from below. It was August 1968.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pac men for the ages least for the age. By which I mean: for the 1990s. At the wedding of Jeff Daly and Kelly Zingone at Frost Valley last weekend, a gang of Pac Village guys - from the early to late '90s - gathered for this photograph. They are: Mark Gottenker, Jim Gibbons, Steve Purkis, Richie Eddings, Brian Butler, Malik Jenkins, Bob Eddings, Matt Buczek, Jeff Daly, Joe Elliott, Bill Baker, Ryan Annettes, and Eric Blum. By the way, I have some great photos from this wonderful event, but I've been crazily busy and am late-ish in getting them here. So I'm thankful to Jeff who today, before heading off on a Hawaii honeymoon, sent me this photo. So: more soon, I promise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

another wedding!

Speaking of weddings... Sarah Chapman (she was a camper and counselor and VC in the Hird) got married this summer, and Sheryl Comet was there. Sheryl (who missed FV this summer for the first time in many many years) went to the wedding, sent us this photo. From left to right: Moira Poe, Sheryl Comet, Sarah Chapman, and Anne Linder.

Forest VC & Susky VC wed!

Attentive readers of this blog may remember mentions of the photography of FV staff alumnus Max Flatow. Max loves shooting Frost Valley weddings! In fact, as he told me this past weekend when he shot the Jeff Daly/Kelly Zingone wedding, he's done three FV weddings in the past week or so! Three. (Contact Max if you want him to shoot your own FV wedding! Click here for more information - and go to

One recent Max job was the wedding of Dan Weir and Alison Ryczek, who met at camp some years ago (when Dan was VC of Forest and Ali VC of Susky - brother and sister villages, naturally).

The photo above was taken of the FV'ers at the wedding. From left to right: Kam, Heather, Brekke, Eamonn, Helen, Jeff, Kelly, Gail, Matt, Dan, Laura, Hannah, Brian, Andy, Matt (in the shadow), Lexi, Dylan, Alison, Dan, Dave, Lisa, Matt, Allye, Kevin, Mike, Anne, Moira, Max, Leigh, Iain, Kurt ("$2Goat" was the band).

Monday, September 7, 2009

brave spokesperson

Dr. Bill Primack and Connie Giunta talk at the 1975 meeting of the Frost Valley Board of Trustees. This was the first summer of the dialysis program. Bill was the first head nephrologist of FV's unit. (He came from a hospital in Massachusetts to do the job, although our HQ was Einstein in the Bronx.) Connie, though shy, was willing to be a spokesperson for that first summer's campers dealing with renal failure. Earlier this summer, I had a chance to tell Connie's story briefly in a eulogy for Eva Gottscho.

familiar hike

A short easy hike I've made 1,000 times--to Devil's Hole. Still lovely, especially on a sunny, cool early September morning. Here are a few photos.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

ursa major

Seriously large bear scat. Photo taken this very morning, on the trail to Devil's Hole. The bear's certainly been eating his or her berries.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eric's four weeks at camp, in his words

During Eric Blum's annual four-week visit to Frost Valley (readers here know already that he consumes his entire annual vacation - plus some days - to do this), I am always asking him to write up some of his adventures for this blog. This summer he seems to have saved it all up, and sent me the following wonderfully long report from back home in Charlottesville:

Wow I can't believe that it's over. On August 21, 2009, at 12:30 PM I drove down Frost Valley Road for the last time this summer. Okay, so I didn't make it very far - just to the fly fishing house - before I had to pull over because the rain was so heavy that I couldn't see the road, but I was still leaving the Valley.

As I usually do on the long drive back to Virginia, I began to reflect on the previous 4 weeks that seemed to go by oh so fast. I remembered an afternoon that I had nothing to do, so I spent it hanging around the outside of Margetts lodge just observing camp . If you have never had the chance to watch camp from a single spot over the course of a Frost Valley day, you'd be surprised at the ever changing dynamics of camp. I watched Al lead 3 consecutive periods of Geronimo: the subtle difference between each group became apparent. For example, Forest Village really got into using the "bopper," while some of the Pokey/Totem campers really seemed to like to be in the middle. For about an hour a group of Adventure village campers busied themselves playing frisbee in Filreis Field. This group was able to entertain themselves without a counselor for the entire time. The activity on the hard courts went from basketball to bombardment to some kind of ball game I couldn't identify. The new GaGa Pit was busy, then empty. Then as a period ended and the next period began the area around Margetts teamed with the hustle and bustle of campers and counselors as they moved on to the next activity. Groups moved across the field singing songs and doing cheers. People stopped off at Margetts to get a drink of water. Counselors were counting campers, staff were catching up with each other, mail was being picked up, staff were starting or ending periods off, and then the activities began again - another game of Geronimo was started. The entire scene was repeated again at the end/start of each of the next periods. It was an amazing feeling to realize that this same thing has repeated itself countless times over the 50+ years and yet there was still the sense of newness each time. As the bells from the dinning hall signaled the start of Wawayanda dinner and Camp Hird congregated around the Hard Courts for “hang out,” it was time for me to abandon my post and wander up to the dining hall for dinner, ending a very enjoyable day.

Regular readers of this blog are well aware that earlier in the summer Frost Valley lost a true gem with the passing of Mrs. Eva Gottscho. On August 11th, I got the chance to attend the memorial service held at the Ketcham Chapel and to meet Mrs. Gottscho's daughter Judy. After the service I couldn't help but remember Mrs. Gottscho and all that she has done for camp, the kidney community, and me. I remembered the time I was asked to speak at the spring Board meeting many years ago about the "dialysis program". As I was preparing what to say, Mrs. Gottscho told me just to speak from my heart, so I told the following story. It was third session my first summer as a VC (Forest village), and anyone who was around in the late 80's will remember that the big event back then was the annual summer Board meeting at Frost Valley - this was a huge event, three days when the Board would meet at camp. Evening programs were planned all around camp and meetings were held during the day. It was on the second day just prior to Wawayanda lunch when one of the board members approached me and asked if he could eat lunch with my village/cabin. I of course said that we would be honored and promptly went to prepare my cabin for our visitor. I told my campers that a board member would be joining us and that I expected them to be on their best behavior. All the campers agreed that this was a special treat and assured me that they would behave. About half way through lunch, as only 10 year olds can do, a small food skirmish (not quite big enough to be a full blown food fight) broke out between my cabin and the next table. Sure enough, our visitor sustained a glancing blow by some of the fall-out and I of course was quite embarrassed. As the board member was cleaning his wounds and I was apologizing profusely, he turned to me and said "Eric, it's good to see boys being boys." As I concluded my remarks at that spring board meeting and returned to the table, Mrs. Gottscho leaned over and said to me "That's exactly why I started this program." On the day (back to this past summer) of the memorial service, I was finally able to realize the true meaning of why Frost Valley meant so much to Mrs. Gottscho: it was in those 8 words "Eric, it's good to see boys being boys". What Mrs. Gottscho began over 30 years ago, with nothing more than a handshake and a promise, has given thousands of kids with kidney disease the chance to be kids again in our magical Valley. This, in my opinion, has been one of Mrs. Gottscho's greatest accomplishments. So, Mrs. Gottscho, you may rest in peace knowing that your work will continue and no greater honor can be given to you or your daughter Ruth. God bless; you meant more to me than I can ever say.

The middle Sunday of a camp session is generally a lazy day with a late wake up, morning reflection, brunch, then villages plan a day of doing activities that are toned down a little. My job this Sunday was to prepare a special meal for the directors. Jeff Daly sent me into town to get the fixings for a 3-course meal that was to be served later in the evening to all the directors. The menu was to be: salad, grilled steak, and orange brownies. Around 6 o'clock with all the food prepped, I was hanging around outside the new wellness center just talking with Jeff about the evening's meal, when the radio crackled with the news that an ambulance was on it's way into camp. Jeff and I immediately went into the health center to see what was going on. This is when this quiet Sunday all of a sudden became hotbed of activity. The health center staff, being headed by Mike Miskelly (our paramedic) and Matt Espisito (our EMT) were busy with a counselor. Mike asked me to help out. I got a quick report from Mike. The counselor had come into the health center complaining of a headache, sore neck, and no recall of the day. Mike and Matt already had the counselor on a backboard with a C-collar on and were preparing him for transport. There wasn't much for me to do except give support and help out. The ambulance arrived, the counselor was loaded up for transport, and then a new and different twist. The rescue squad's paramedic arrived on the scene and determined that the counselor would best be treated by flying him to the nearest trauma center in Poughkeepsie. Now, a whole new ballgame was on. The director team immediately switched gears to prepare for a helicopter to land. Mike had already determined that the Admin soccer field would be used as the Landing Zone. The Claryville VFD was notified and given command of the LZ. The directors all fanned out to make sure that camp was secured and the campers were all kept out of the lower portion of camp; so a couple of them got all the campers up to the dining hall - fortunately it was dinner time - and ran the meal as if it was just another day’s end in camp. All the other directors began making sure that the lower part of camp was kept clear and that all traffic was stopped from coming into camp in preparation for the landing of the helicopter. As a funny side-note: about 10 minutes before the helicopter landed a call came over the radio from Megan Lawerence (assistant program director) asking if it was alright to let Jerry Huncosky into the LZ; we of course said it was all right and Jerry arrived to lend his moral support. The sight of the Admin soccer field empty except for the 2 Claryville VFD fire engines, the ambulance, and the various directors/staff who all showed up to lend a hand was a sight to behold. Then the helicopter landed, the counselor was loaded onto it and then it took off, heading for Poughkepsie; and the Frost Valley chase vehicle, driven by Chris Harper (CIT Director), was on its way to the hospital to help support our counselor and to bring him back later As the Claryville VFD personnel cleaned up their equipment, those of us gathered at the Admin soccer field breathed a sigh of relief and went back to what we had been doing, as if this was just a normal day in camp. What was amazing to me - and I have about 30 years working with emergency services - was how everything just came together. All of the directors knew exactly what needed to be done and did it without giving it a thought. Everyone worked together and got the job done. Mike Obremski (Program director) had even driven one of the volunteer firemen to pick up one of the fire engines. I went back to fixing the directors’ dinner, which went off without a hitch. But the story doesn't end there. At about 11:00 PM that night we got word from the hospital that the counselor was all right and headed back to camp. So my evening was just starting. It was decided that the counselor would spend the night in the health center and, given the nature of the injury, he would need close monitoring for a little while. So, it was off to get a quick nap before the hospital crew returned. At 1:00 AM the crew had returned, so I spent the next 2 hours doing every-hour neurological checks, before I felt comfortable leaving the health center and finally ending the day at about 3:30 AM Monday morning. Just another lazy Sunday in camp!

The final full day of any session is always packed with activities and emotion, and fourth session is always a little more emotional. It's the last day not only for the campers but also most of the staff. This year was no different. I spent the day preparing a cook-out for MAC village. MAC's staff had asked if I would grill for them, so with the help of Matt, a small feast was cooked. It was just burgers and chicken, but for me it was a lot of fun to just hang out with the campers and staff. After the cook-out it, was off to Camp Hird's closing campfire on CIT point. No better place to have a final campfire. Hird's closing campfire was more like the ones I remembered from years past. It was mostly a quite affair with songs being sung and poems being read. Hemlock staff did a skit that of course ended up in Lake Cole; apparently this was par for the course this year. Lenape also made an appearance with a raft they had built out of saved milk cartons. At the end, VC blurbs were done and “Four Strong Winds” was sung, very much like the closing campfires from my days on staff. After Hird's closing campfire all of the directors began gathering at Margetts so they could begin the last night of camp ritual of staying up late making sure that the staff didn't do anything stupid and to deliver pizzas to all of the villages. I was sitting in Jeff's office around 11:00, when I said to Jeff "I think I'll be heading to bed now," Jeff's reply was "Where do you think you're going old man.... can't handle staying up late anymore?" So I sat back down and accepted his challenge. About 10 minutes later Bud Cox advised us that he had just seen a vehicle cross over the bridge by his house and was heading up Wildcat Mountain. This was surprise, since nobody knew that Bud even had a radio. Jeff decided that he and I should go check this out, so along with Matt (camp EMT) we piled into the emergency vehicle and made the run down to Bud's house-out past maintenance. As I was driving Jeff had decided that it couldn't be a staff member down there, that it had to be vampires. We met up with Bud and he was certain that the vehicle had gone up Wildcat. Jeff was convinced that the car had just gone to the pole barn to get firewood - silly Jeff, to question Bud like this. We checked out the pole barn and no vehicle was found. So Jeff decided a trip up Wildcat was in order. As we headed up, Jeff kept saying how it couldn't be staff, it was either someone lost or vampires. About half way up we saw a tail light - Jeff was now convinced that it had to be some locals, because no staff member would be stupid enough to go up Wildcat on the last night of camp, except for us. As we rounded the last bend, sure enough there was a vehicle perpendicular to the trail with its front wheels in a ditch blocking the entire trail. We stopped our vehicle and approached the vehicle in question and walking towards us was none other than 2 MAC counselors. Their first words were "This is the dumbest thing I have ever done". Then when asked what they were doing up there they told us that "they just wanted to see where the trail went". Matt, Jeff, and I began trying to get the vehicle out of the ditch. We tried everything we could think of without much success - in the meantime Jeff was giving out very little details to main camp. It was decided that we couldn't complete the job without a little more help so Jeff made the call to have Dan Weir bring up a tow chain - since all we had with us was a water rescue rope - which we had already tried. So Dan was dispatched from main camp on the emergency ATV with a tow chain - we sat and waited. When Dan arrived the first words out of his mouth were "Looks like you Duke boys got yourselves into some trouble!” Which certainly brought a little humor to the situation. Jeff, by the way, informed me later that he had been unable to speak for at least the first 10 minutes because he was afraid of what have come out of his mouth. So we eventually got the vehicle back on the road and had a little parade up then back down Wildcat led by Dan on the ATV, then the counselors, and finally the emergency vehicle. When we got to the bottom Bud was waiting for us and we made it clear that the counselors really owed Bud all the thanks since he was the one who saw them - it would have been a really long and dark walk back down Wildcat, since neither of the counselors had thought to bring along a flashlight. So it was back to camp, with a great last-night-of-camp story to be told by us. Dan also had the forethought to bring along his cell phone, so the whole thing was captured on video. All I really had wanted to do was go to bed early that night. Such is life in camp.

The four weeks I spent at camp this year went by so quickly. It was four weeks of catching up with old friends and making new ones. I got the chance to hear a couple of Al's stories: “J.C. Pony,” “Pygmies,” and of course the ’09 story, “The Six Legends of Bud Cox” - the last one has made a rock star out of Bud. On the last Tuesday of camp I spent the day out at Hirdstock field enjoying my first Hirdstock in many years. Dave Zimmerman - an alumnus from the 80's came back and performed for camp - how great it was to hear "Mr UFO Man" again -he's still zooming around. I also got the chance to reconnect with Lourdes Montoro, who has been doing the same thing that I have - just coming back to camp to help out. She kept the Margetts office running during the evening shift and also offered haircuts starting at 11:00 PM. Just more fun and crazy camp stuff. I have seen a lot of changes in camp over the many years - I still don't like staying in Lakeview Lodge, it's just to nice and quiet for a old camp guy like me - but the one thing that has remained a constant is that camp is still camp, the staff is still one of the greatest, and the magic still happens day in and day out. I got the chance to work with one of the best team of directors I've seen. While the people I work with at my "real job" still don't understand why I "give up" 4 weeks of vacation each year to return to Frost Valley, each April they start asking "isn't it time for you to go do your camp thing.” I am not sure if they are just trying to get rid of me or if they are jealous that I get to go to such a great place each year. Either way the first thing they ask when I get back is "How was camp? And tell us all about it." I am only to happy to tell them, even though unless you have experienced this place, you can't truly understand it; it keeps the magic alive for me. So here's one last round of hoopla dedicated to the Staff and campers of Frost Valley YMCA summer 2009: CONGRATULATIONS on another successful summer. You truly made a difference in someone's life. So as I close this, I can't wait until next summer (it's just 43 weeks until summer camp 2010), so

"When I die let my ashes flow down Biscuit River,
let them roll on in water the color of sky,
I'll be half way to heaven at a New Wawayanda
saying that Wawayanda spirit it never will die".

Trust me that spirit is still alive and well.. BUILD STRONG Frost Valley, keep that magic and smile that Wawayanda smile!

web site

Frost Valley's web site has undergone some significant changes, although you might not see this from the front page. Check out the links and underlying pages for lots of new organization and features.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

our Sue in India

Our Sue Geller is traveling to India and will be blogging from there. Go here often and learn about Sue's doings and observations.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

'88 Wawayanda staff

Above: the 1988 Wawayanda staff village assignment list. Notice that Pokey/Totem was combined that summer. Later the two were separated again and in recent years re-combined. Note also that Sacky and Hemlock were part of Wawayanda (now part of Hird). Also Outpost was a girls village that year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

our family, we are family

Three Filreises at Hird closing campfire last Thursday evening at CIT Point. We sang "Old Wawayanda": Well daddy, won't you take me back to Old Wawayanda, down by Biscuit River where paradise lay...