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.