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...

when lax was king

Lacrosse was the rage at Frost Valley in the 70s, starting--I would say--around '72. Two contributing factors in particular: the influx of campers and staff from Long Island, where lacrosse has long been a dominant sport, and the emergence of Montclair High School as a lacrosse power. Maurice Penn and Rick Cobb, both from Montclair, pushed it hard and it began to appear on the activity schedules. Next thing you know, camp has bought dozens of sticks. Maintenance built some goals. Now there are regular staff games and everyone is watching, hoping to learn a few things about the sport. There's probably a generation of campers who came of age in the mid-70s who first picked up a stick at FV. This photo was taken in the late 70s in the main field--hardcourts would be to the left, laundry straight ahead (Marie Hess' jeep parked out front).

Dave King Jr. who has had a longtime passion for lacrosse, was first taught by Rick Cobb right here. Cobb was a Montclair High star and went on to play at Hobart College. Dave still plays in the "Vail [Colorado] Shootout" every year. This is the premier gathering of the best lax players in the country; they play by age groups and Dave plays for a team named "The Adidas Magic Wands."

Dave meets up with Rick Cobb (who lives in Boulder) when he is there. And so it goes on, the Frost Valley connection... in all kinds of ways. Lax being one.

Monday, August 24, 2009

directors, 1979

Here are the three directors in 1979, having one of our on-the-field meetings. Mike Ketcham, at left, was the Director of Camping; I (Al Filreis) in the middle, the Wawayanda Director; Peggy Rub, at right, the Hird Director. (Carolyn Shelburne, not pictured, was the Program Director.)

Mike had recently been hired as the full-time, full-year Director of Camping. This was the first time FV had such a position. Before that, we directors were all summer-only; Halbe Brown, Executive Director, consulted with us by letter and phone as he did the first rounds of winter/spring hiring, and then we got up there as soon as we could in May to do the rest and make do otherwise with what we'd been given. Once Mike started in the full-time position, staffing got a lot better and a lot easier. And of course Halbe, in the spring, could spend more time on long-range vision, acquisition of property, developing new programs, and fund-raising.

fall getaway

In Hudson Valley Magazine there's a feature on Frost Valley under the heading "fall getaways." Here's your link to the article.

when it rains...

...we don't fight it. We get into it.

This photo was taken by Pokey/Totem VC Jess Gonzalez. This one of the many summer '09 rainstorms took place during session 3. It's Kelly Hupp and she's standing just to the east side of Margetts Lodge.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

perfect spot

Wawayanda held its closing campfire Thursday evening at a perfect location - at the eastern edge of Big Tree Field. I took this photo just before the proceedings got underway.

Kremers redux

John Kremer and Jacqueline Dundorf Kremer (you've met them here in this blog previously; they met at FV) picked up their kids on Saturday and here they were with Jerry Huncosky in the dining hall on Friday morning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

on the nature of lifers

Three lifers. Each has been at FV something like 14 or 15 years, risen up the ranks, done numerous jobs, felt at times like the fields and rocks--always there when you look, come rain, shine, whatever. Jeremy Dietz, Chris Harper, Chrissy Mohle. They are close dear friends. Two of the three will be driving westward in a day or two, destination quasi-specific, to (as we used to say) seek their fortunes. And by "fortunes" they and we never meant money. Fortune = a good arrangement, a place to thrive, doing what will make one happy. Maybe a good fraction of the happiness they've felt here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


A mixed group of Hird staff (a core of them were Sacky and Hemlock staff from '08) sang "Hallelujah" at the final closing campfire tonight. Here is an mp3 recording. Download it. Drag into iTunes and sync your iPod and you can have a little bit of closing campfire with you any time.

final '09 hoopla

order of the oar

Someone will have to tell me where our version of "The Order of the Oar" came from and when it began. I just remember it here always. Maybe it came to us from the Navy (through some Navy/Wawayanda guy), maybe from a fraternity. Maybe it's just an Old Wawayanda thing. A birthday ritual: he or she celebrating a birthday gets summoned by staff marching around the dining hall with an oar, chanting over and over: We are, we are, we are, we are, the Order of the Oar, whereupon the celebrated one is brought to the front, tossed in the air, and paddled a number of times equal to the number of years on the planet. This just happened, as it has for--how many? 50? 80? years--just now, no more than 10 minutes ago. For Kirsten Williams, a Junior Counselor, 17 years young. Almost certainly the record for this is 101 tosses. And it was I who got tossed that many times. During our 2001 Wawayanda centennial reunion, several former Wawayanda directors were brought to the front, and I was chosen to receive the 101 paddlings, one each for a year of Wawayanda's history, plus one for good measure.

These days--thankfully--this particular celebration is only done for staff and it's optional even for them.

first-timer, but he's a natural

Noah Ferris is finishing his first two-week summer camp session at Frost Valley, although his family (as I've mentioned several times before) is closely associated with us. Yet no matter how many family members, parents and siblings, are Frost Valley people, it's never certain that you will love it as much. After all, the pressure is on. You want to thrive where everyone you love has already thrived. So I went into my conversation with Noah this morning at breakfast with a bit of trepidation. Listen to the audio recording and decide for yourself: is Noah Ferris happy here?

how it all seems so tied together

I mentioned a little while back that for a third year we have here for 4th session Christine Monahan, who was a camper years ago. She's doing some ESL work with the Tokyo partnership kids. Christine loves being back here and the scenes around her evoke her childhood. I received this lovely note from her this morning:
I saw you tonight in the dining hall, then afterwards watched the Tokyo Partnership "Talent Show." When I was walking back on the path past Big Tree on the way to Lakeview, that story title "Everything Which Rises Must Converge" popped into my mind. When I looked left and saw the night clouds settled over Wildcat, and smelled wood burning in the night air the phrase "Gumbo!" echoed in my head, and I could hear campfire songs from decades ago, and the hair on my arms stood up, and I had no idea what year it was, and if I was a Pokey camper or a graduate student, and it didn't matter, and I came back to Lakeview and read your blog and saw that you mentioned me in the blog, and just wanted to e-mail you about how it all just seems so tied together!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

(audio) our Newark partnership & Kelly Hupp

This afternoon I noticed Kelly Hupp and Mike Obremski (our Program Director) taking a brief break, sitting on the log in front of Margetts Lodge. I took the opportunity to speak with Kelly about her role this summer: a director-level position as coordinator of our Newark partnership. This project has come a long, long, long way since its first summers in '67 and '68. Kelly was a VC of Tacoma in '05 and a VC of Windsong in '06, then went off to finish not one but two degrees, and now is back in '09.

Here is a recording of our talk. (You'll notice at the end that Kelly is looking for a job after camp. If you are interested in helping her, please contact me at afilreis AT gmail DOT com, and I'll get word to her immediately.)

epic high fantasy comes to Forest

For Forest village today it's "Lord of the Rings" day and here are counselors Doug and Tom in apt regalia.

Hirdstock at 40, yesterday

his last summer was 1964

From Michael Pitcher, whose last summer at Frost Valley was 1964:

Hi Al, as always it’s a great pleasure to enjoy the latest from Frost Valley. It's been 45 years since I attended Camp Wawayanda. A lot of adventures around the world under our belt as it were. My wife and I live on Vancouver Island, and refer to North America as the “Big Island to the east..."

My parents were the Northern Quebec connection for the Trailblazers in the early sixties, Roy and Kathryn Pitcher. And my experience at “W” has definitely been a “life-shaping” one.

I have enjoyed rekindling the memories very much as I ramble through your blog. Though we cannot easily attend as alumni, our hearts and prayers are very much behind the spirit of the Frost Valley vision and its impact on the world. All the very best to you and the folks at Frost Valley.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I don't want to leave

On the last day of session 2, I spoke with a group of long-time campers. They reflected on what their FV experience means to them and talked about what's next. Here's an audio recording of our conversation.

exactly 40 years ago

This photo was taken during the 1969 Trail Blazers trip to Canada. The counselors on the trip were Paul Brown, Jim Black, Charlie Lawrence and Frank Meigs. (Frank sent us the photos.) Above are, from left to right: Pete Canevari, Jim Black, John Closs, B. Clancy and Marc Schaefer, proudly displaying fish caught on the Shingle River.

Above: B. Bunke, C. Berthoud, T. Grenda, T. Suarez, P. Canevari and John Closs: at mealtime on Lake Matilide.

During the second half of the summer of '69, while back in camp we were getting ready for our own Woodstock festival--"Hirdstock," we'd call it--the same group of Trailblazer counselors took a group of campers on a bus tour of the Western U.S. We called this adventure trip "Westward Bound." In the photo above is Jon Sparer, Gary Okladek, Mitch Bobyack, Bob Ulick and Howard Clark in Texas. (Bob Ulick made the Trail Blazers trip in 1970 after being CIT for the first half of that summer.)

And here is Frank Meigs, wearing his Wawayanda Staff shirt somewhere out West that great summer of '69.

Monday, August 17, 2009

weirdest noise

The weirdest noise contest at Challenge Night. Five groups of Tacoma/Lenape campers and staff cheer them on.

stories under the big W

This past Friday night was the starriest night I can ever remember at Frost Valley. Moon not up yet, crystal clear skies, low humidity. One of the planets (Jupiter, I think) was rising over Wildcat. On the opposite end of the starry dome, hovering over Doubletop as if offering it a drink, was the brightest Big Dipper one can imagine. So bright and clear it seemed to be right there with us - and had a 3D look about it. Just my luck: this was the night I was scheduled to tell a doubleheader of stories around campfires. Forest at 9:30 and Windsong at 10:30. Windsong has a beautiful lodge with a common room (and its own fireplace) so, alas, they haven't been known this summer for their outdoor fires, although they have a gorgeous fire-ring from which you can look up across the open field on which the observatory sits (where the old Rifle Range once was).

Bill Abbott has been around for a long weekend and on Thursday night, the night before, traveled to overnight camp sites and at at least one of them told his story, about the "Norwegian Sweater." About a dozen Susky girls the next day exclaimed about that story and wanted me to confirm details, which I gladly did.

Back to our starry Friday night, then: At Forest I told the story of J.C. Pony and the Haunted House, scary lite and full of "the Wawayanda Spirit." ("Has Forest got the spirit?" "Yeah, man!") At Windsong, 10:30 PM, they gathered around the outdoor ring-ring, the staff made a good roaring fire (after a bit of work to make it) and everyone turned eyes upward to the darkness, watching sparks floating up and being swallowed by it. Then I told yet another narrative variation of "Stories of the Pygmies"--a reprise of tales told roughly from '72 through the late '70s, and started by Bobby Hettler who brought the stories, and the little creatures, from Camp Fitch in Ohio. After that story I asked the girls how many and how much they believed in the Pygmies. Were they in the "Pro-Pgymy-ite" faction? All said yes. One said, "Yes, I believe all of it. Everything." And she is about as tough and skeptical a 15-year-old as you can find. Must have been the stars. Must have been the Milky Way, spreading down its magical stardust.

Starry night factoid: In the summer, in our hemisphere, the constellation Cassiopeia forms the shape of a W. W for Wawayanda, of course.

the day we remembered Eva (more)

A few days ago I posted the audio recording of the memorial service we held for Eva Gottscho. Now I'm back with a few photos from the gathering. After the service we went to the dining hall for lunch. Several of the dialysis campers came to meet Eva's daughter Judy and to talk about their experiences at camp.
Eric Blum, often cited in this blog, who has been coming to FV since '86 and has intimately known the program Eva founded, also stopped by to meet Judy (we think for the first time, although that seems surprising).

Stuart Kaufer, dialysis unit staff (and eventually coordinator) from 1977 through '84, came up from NYC for the day, gave a talk about Eva and joined us for lunch. Stu was happy once again to reunite with Marie Hess.

staff soccer

Another slow middle Sunday. After brunch and morning reflections, the inevitable, intense staff soccer match. Bill Abbott refereed. Wawayanda vs. Hird, and Wawayanda won 5-1. Some cabin groups found shade and watched from the sidelines. Here are several of the watchers, Justin, VC (and Cornell Univ. junior) and one of his campers.

still flowing over the dam

Biscuit Creek falls, yesterday. It's been several days since one of the great '09 rainstorms, but look how much water is still flowing over the dam.

Friday, August 14, 2009

...and the Neversink is really flowing

The Neversink River, looking southeast at it from along the road (highway 47) just three miles from FV toward Claryville.

it's been a very green summer

Friendship House, seen from below.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

50 years later, the same willingness

First pic, 1959 - staff dressing up for some kind of theme night. Second pic, 2009 - today, in fact: CIT Coordinator Rich Krudner dressing up for some kind of theme day. The style and approach are a bit different, but the willingness to be foolish, to do something you'd never do elsewhere, is utterly the same.

trust the brains

A July CIT (Chloe Slovinsky) snapped this shot of my apparently satisfyingly non-urgent conversation with two of our directors: Kam Kobeissi (director of Hird) and Andy Szymczak (assistant director of Wawayanda). You've seen them both in this blog before. Just terrific people, both of them hilariously funny and 200% dedicated to what we do here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

memorializing Eva Gottscho

Yesterday we gathered in the Ketcham Chapel at Reflection Pond and spent an hour both sadly and happily remembering Eva Gottscho.

Regular readers of this blog need no introduction to Eva and her great impact here, but I will refer you to several earlier entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

The following folks spoke at the service: Maya Doyle (of Montifiore Hospital), Maureen Eisele (nurse coordinator of our dialysis unit), Jerry Huncosky (FV CEO), Eva's daughter Judy Eichinger (now chairperson of the Gottscho Foundation board), Rick Kaskel (in absentia), and myself.

Click here for an audio recording of the service.

Forest's day - as reported by Forest

Tom from Liverpool (returning international) and Noah Ferris. They're in cabin Infinity (it's cabin 8 but they've turned the 8 sideways to gain a certain elevated status) and over breakfast just now I heard about their day yesterday. There was a convoluted story I didn't quite follow about a "water fight [aimed at one of the counselors] that backfired." There was some kind of mainstreaming combo-village activity with Mac: a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for one of the Mac girls, with a cake and, actually, some dancing. The Forest boys actually spoke of "dancing" at this party with some glee. Really! I swear. Then last evening there was "Ultimate Sicko Ball," which I've explained before (I refer you back here for more on that game). Noah is the younger son of Jan and John Ferris, first-time camper, another one of the alumni children connecting to the place of their parents' dreams. At flag raising not more than 10 minutes ago I was asked to add a "pearl of wisdom." Mine was this: "Whenever you are feeling homesick...come back to Frost Valley."

Last night I talked with the Forest campers of another cabin and made an audio recording. Have a listen. Leo gives yesterday a "10" on a scale of 1-10.

30-pound packs, and out they go

The CITs go out for an 8-day backpacking trip during one of the two sessions in which they're at camp. This blog has had much to say about that trip over the months and years, and so I won't add anything much this morning. The current group left for their experience on Monday, and here they are, about a half hour before departure. Former staff might want to note that there is one child of an alumna here. Can you identify who she is? Hint: you'd have to have been here in the early to mid 80s to know this girl's mom, or to have been here in the past six or seven years to know from the girl that her mom was once on the staff. If you know the answer, email me at afilreis AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

the village chief

This, I think, is a classic shot of the Village Chief - always equipped, always needing things on the fly. An administrator who carries her office on her back. The clerk, manager, and psychologist all in one. And remarkably young for such a convergence of high skills. Once they've done this, these people can do anything.

happiness... the energy one feels after a good breakfast with new friends.

Monday, August 10, 2009

the sounds of fun

Not long ago I wandered by a fun-seeming yet intense game of Tacoma/Lenape volleyball. Turned on my audio recorder and this is what I heard.

"we don't view this as work"

I talked with Rick Kaskel about the state of our dialysis/kidney program. If you haven't seen the inside of the new dialysis unit, take a good look. An amazingly spacious room, so so much better equippped than the old one (the addition to Smith Lodge).

Tomorrow the Ruth Carole Gottscho Kidney Foundation board of trustees makes their annual visit, except this time without their and our beloved chairwoman, Eva Gottscho, who, as readers of this blog know, died in June at the age of 96. We will hold a memorial service for Eva at the Ketcham Chapel at 11 am. Several folks long associated with the program will be on hand. I myself will say a few words - speaking about three campers from the early years of the program and Eva's impact on them and us.

now you see 'em, now you don't

Mac Boys and Mac Girls, playing with the parachute. Now you see them (photo above), now you don't (photo below).

Glicker trifecta

Now that youngest Drew is a junior counselor, we have three Glicker siblings on staff (all three in Wawayanda: Forest, Susky, Lakota). Drew, Jessie, Allye.

sucking up the little bit of wireless we have

Will Ferris on his period off, a photo taken 5 minutes ago. Will brought his laptop to the Ad Office and sits outside on the back deck of the office (off the "historical room") and picks up a wireless signal from the router in the office. FaceBooking and updating his iTunes, no doubt. Will--as has been said here before--is a counselor in Mac Boys and is the son of John Ferris & Jan Gikner Ferris (staff alums who met and married here).

look closely

Two hours after I took this photo this morning (7:20: photo taken; 9:20: now) it's bright and sunny. But then it was heavy-aired humid, cool, gloomy. There are mornings like this, even in paradise. I wanted a quickie shot of the field and hardcourts with the fog behind. Only after I opened the photo on my laptop did I realize that all the campers and staff in the Tokyo camp (full name: Tokyo/Frost Valley Partnership Program) were out there, on the courts, as usual, stretching and getting ready for a 1/2-mile run around the main part of camp. Take a good look and see them there.

This session, by the way, is what I might be called "Tokyo Plus." Among the usual Japanese-American campers, whose families lives in the U.S., are a group of a dozen or so who have come here directly from Tokyo for two weeks. Most of them know very little English. Christine Monahan (a former camper here years back) has been hired once again to do some ESL work with these kids. This is a twist on the usual Tokyo camp action: usually Americanized Japanese kids are immersing in lots of Japanese language and culture, to shore up what their families worry will be otherwise lost; but in this case the kids are being introduced to English language and a bit of the American scene (insofar as FV can be considered "the American scene"!).

family not just a metaphor

Anne Olmstead (now Anne Olmstead Lonam) was a member of the Adventure Trips staff for several summers in the late 70s/early 80s. She's since married John Lonam, whom she met in DC, and they co-run a large veterinary service in northern Virginia. Their son Matthew is a camper in Forest village this session (4th). Anne and John were to have left for Virginia yesterday, after checking Matthew in; went back to their room in Lakeview Lodge (comfy!) for a quick nap before the long ride. Next thing they knew it was 8 PM. So they drove to the Neversink Reservoir, where Verizon customers can begin to receive cell reception, made alternative arrangements by phone, came back and went back to sleep! Fortunate for me at least because I got to spend breakfast with them just now.

While I'm at it, I want to use this space to thank Anne and John for making a very generous donation to our recent campaign for building the new Wellness Center. We appreciate them and everyone else who contributed to that amazing project.

Also sighted yesterday: D'Arcy Oaks (arranging for several western PA/Ohio-based folks to check campers in); John Kremer and Jacqueline Dundorf Kremer; Fred Wasiak (longtime Conference Program director here, whose daughter attended Farm Camp 2nd session); John Ferris and Jan Gikner Ferris (son Noah is a first-time camper in Forest); John Wellington (back to see that counselor Kelsey was fine after her weekend days' off at the Wellington Claryville enclave); Steve Cornman again (dropping Lizzie off for another session); others. Every check-in day is a mini-reunion. Alumni kids are swarming the place. Or, to put it another way, connections to a place one loves fan out in all beloved directions. Next thing you know, family is not just a metaphor.