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: