Saturday, July 31, 2010

1981 internationals

Some of the 1981 international staff, from left to right: Maggi from Japan, Ulla from Denmark, Eric (was his last name Cahill?) from the UK, Elizabeth from Senegal, Thomas Franzkowiak from Germany and Johan from Holland. Tom F. was in Forest, Ulla was in Susky, and I believe Johan was a counselor in Sequoia.

Attentive readers of this blog will recall that Ulla was back here two weeks ago, along with husband now of any years, Greg Aggs, an Australian whom she met her at camp.

another generation of Golds

Aidyn Gold is here this session again - son of Adam Gold, long-time camper (late 70s/80s), brother of Steven and Michael. Ah, the Golds of West Orange. I remember (as director) these three "lifers" (always here 8 weeks) and mom Linda, with whom I was on the phone weekly it seemed.

Sacker, Kremer, Ernst

From right to left: Lisa Ernst, Andy Kremer, Dave Sacker and Dave's wife Darcy. Andy Kremer--one of the many Kremers, they of the homestead at the head of the Frost Valley road in Claryville--lives and works in California, so we don't see him as much as we'd like. Come east, Andrew! Lisa's FV years go back to the late 60s and 70s and she of course is a member of the full-time FV staff (our director of "advancement"--which means she deals with major donor prospects and foundations). Dave Sacker's wife Darcy is an MD and we're hoping she'll get her NY State license and come next summer to spend a week or two as the camp doc--and perhaps their daughter, now 6, will come for a session too. It's all in the family. Darcy's never been to Woodstock, so they've gone there, now that our meetings are done, to try out a restaurant for dinner. After a hike, of course.

Dave Bieler, after 22 years

Dave Bieler was back after 22 years away. He and his wife and 6-year-old daughter Jossy joined us for our Board of Trustees meeting under the tent at Reflection Pond, and then Jossy got to a play a little Geronimo too. Our goal was to persuade her to come to camp next summer for two weeks. In this video Dave describes his FV years.

trustee judges

At the Susky / Lakota Challenge Night last night, we had to locate a new and different cadre of judges, since a VC program meeting was being held at the same time, so the usual suspects were unavailable. No matter. We had, from left to right, Laura Johnson (FV's director of conference), Phyllis Kaskel, Rick Kaskel (trustee up a night early for the big meeting, which was held today), Bob Messick (another trustee making his Challenge Night debut) and Brian Sense who was just back from a week co-leading a program at Straus.

Walter Margetts

Today Walter Margetts was posthumously elected to the Frost Valley Hall of Fame, joining Woody English, Halbe Brown, Eva Gottscho and several others. Walter's son Tom and daughter Cynthia - and other members of the Margetts family - were here today to help us celebrate. In this video clip, Fenn Putman presents a plaque to Tom and Cynthia. Earlier Fenn had given a biographical profile of Walter Margetts' accomplishments. He was Julius Forstmann's attorney and he was at the same time very active with the YMCA of New Jersey and it was he--Walter--who put the two together when the Forstmann family was looking possibly to sell the Catskills estate and when Camp Wawayanda was urgently looking for a more spacious home than their then-current temporary site (at Johnsonsburg, at a property owned by Stevens Institute). [By the way, several of our current staff started their camping careers at the camp that is now at the Stevens Institute site, including Stu Alexander and Jess Gonzalez.]

Below is a shot of members of the Margetts family who were in attendance on this special day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

cool campfire pic

I just have to reprise this photograph because I like it so much. This was at the 125th anniversary campfire and it had gotten quite dark. So as I got up there to tell a story and lead a song and a cheer, I asked the kids to shine flashlights on me (I can't remember ever doing this) and was stunned by how bright it all was. Someone--Dan Weir, I think, or maybe Sandy Bohn--snapped this picture. You can see me at the far left of the shot. The location is CIT Point.

the grass down below (audio)

Listen to former long-time camper and counselor Kenny Abbott sing a song--"The Grass Down Below." Kenny and I used to sing a Dylan song (one of several, actually) at closing campfires, "You Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." That song has a phrase in it: "the grass down below." So I like to think that years later, when Kenny was writing this song, he was thinking about those nights around the fire with everyone sad about leaving and we'd tune up and belt out the sentiment: you're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Hearing Kenny sing this song makes me nostalgic--truly--for the era when singing songs (and really working to get them right, and teaching them to everyone) was a major tradition.

Above: Kenny Abbott in 1984, a counselor, with two of his campers, at the Castle. Kenny's twin brother, as most know, is Bill Abbott, now a resident, with his brother and sister, of Bozeman, Montana, after a big move from NYC. And with the aforementioned sister, Ann Abbott Klaas, also a longtime camper and staffer, these Abbotts made a huge impact on FV. Here's to them!

explains the swim test with this Irish brogue

At a recent Challenge Night, the challenge was "best imitation of a Frost Valley person." And here is the perfect rendering of Finbar, our Irish lifeguard, as he "explains" the swim test procedures non-understandably and overcomplexly. Fantastic.

catching up with Rick Cobb (FV 1971-80, 82)

Click on the image for a closer view. Catch up with Rick Cobb, Frost Valley years, 1971-1980 (& '82 for a guest stint as a Lenape counselor). Click here for much more about Rick's life and work today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

old cabins on "the hill"

Cabins 41 through 45 seen at dusk recently. Many reading this will remember them as Girls 11-15 (Sacky for many decades). In the 21st century this village has been the home of Lakota, a girls' village in Wawayanda between Susky and Sacky by age. You can see four of the five in the row--possibly, if you look closely, you can see all five. I was one of those who used to complain about how jammed-together the cabins on "The Hill" are. I've even been known to call them tenements. But their location has grown on me over the years. The cabins themselves are pretty worn (having not really been renovated since they were built in 1965 or '66). But the campers and counselors who live in them swear by the scene: they love it. The walk from cabin 46 (formerly 16 in Tacoma, now Susky) is the longest walk to the dining hall from a place of campers' residence. So 45, which you see in the foreground, is the second-longest walk. If you have stories about these two "hill" villages, send them to me at afilreis [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

Tom Cometa writes: "Cabin 45 was our family camp cabin for 6 years. Dylan, 7 years old, has been practically raised there. True, the cabins in old Sacky are "worn" at best. From year one, Andria has asked Carmel for an upgrade. The walk to the dining hall is long. Nevertheless, the villages up there have a certain inexplicable charm. Two years ago we got our upgrade. We now have a very fancy, upscale cabin 15 in the old Lenape ring. The boys were heartbroken. Andria is digging the carpet, the space, double sinks and two bathrooms. I know she misses the old hood, though. It's peaceful up there among the trees above Lake Cole. When I showed the picture of cabin 45 to Dylan he said, 'Let's go back there, Daddy. I miss that cabin.'"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CITs minutes before they left

This morning, a gorgeous sunny day, the new group of CITs made last preparations before leaving on their 7-day hiking trip. I caught them in a happy moment, but I assure you there are some anxious ones as well.


Tom Cometa was a mainstay staffer here in the early and mid-80s (late 80s too?). Tom and his family have made a regular practice of coming to Family Camp at the end of each summer. Now Tom's son Andrew is here in Outpost cabin 35. Yesterday I stopped by my table to introduce himself. Mark Gottdenker was there and it turns out that Mark was a camper of Andrew's dad Tom--in Tom's cabin--some 25 years ago.

Outpost twins

Don't be fooled by their youthful looks. These two are both terrific counselors: Charlie Araton and Pat Keogh. They're in Outpost and at last night's Outpost Challenge Night they entered this challenge: two unrelated people from each team who look most alike. So here's the kicker: these two are co-counselors in one of the Outpost cabins. Yes, we've assigned to one cabin two staff members who look this much alike! I can't remember in my whole history here ever seeing such a phenomenon. What are the odds?

Brian Sense is back

Brian Sense is back this week - from Colorado (I think). He's teaching a course at the Straus Center but made a surprise visit to the dining hall last night. Immediately his charisma spread itself around and lots of his former campers and staff gathered around him. He was our Adventure Director in his most recent years here, but before that he was a counselor and summer staffer for many years going back to the early 90s.

Monday, July 26, 2010

minstrelsy just walking down the hill

The last afternoon of session 2, in preparation for closing campfires, I needed to rescue my guitar from my son who had taken it to his cabin. So I walked up the hill, fetched the guitar, slung it across my shoulder and as I walked down the hill I began to play. Then I realized that the kids whom I passed were enjoying it and then I found myself taking 2 hours to get back to the office from whence my little excursion originated. I must have walked through six or seven villages doing various activities, and stopped at the Wellness Center too, where folks with twisted ankles and those waiting for dispensed meds sang with me too. At Pokey-Totem some of the kids took the pick and strummed while I fingered the chords. What fun and so relaxing!

the VC key

Once VCs were given keys to program areas (a BCB key originally), the dispensing of keys became a tradition. Chuck White's stern lecture about the responsibility of carrying a key was legendary. At the first VC meeting of the summer Chuck would come, give this talk at great length, and then folks would line up, have a piece of synthetic cord cut off a spool by Chuck's pocketknife, the key would be slid along the cord and then the ends would be tied into a Chuck-special knot, then melted slightly at the end of a flame produced by a lighter. These cords and the knot lasted forever, I always thought--but never really had the proof. Until last night, when Eric Blum stopped by at 11 PM to chat, and I noticed he was wearing his key on an old Chuck White-style cord. It was the very same cord Chuck had given him 22 or 23 years ago. Unreal. Some things just last and last. And of course I don't mean just the cord or key.

whatever it takes

A veteran of Frost Valley years on staff will tell you many urgent things if you ask. (And if you ask, be ready for Ancient Mariner-like tale-telling. Spare more than a few minutes.) The first or second thing they will say is that everyone, absolutely everyone, stands ready to do pretty much anything that needs to be done. It's, at base, a camp--and so "anything" typically entails physical work: popping tables in the dining hall, picking up trash, hauling luggage in a truck, emptying garbage cans, raking and picking up stones, digging ditches in the event of a septic problem. We've all done it here; we've all done it all. I was reminded of this yesterday when I noticed our Director of Housekeeping Services, Jeff Williams, standing in the front of the dining hall, during two loud dinner shifts of camp, like a soldier on alert, small broom and dustbin at the ready. I asked him what he was doing. He said that one of his staff needed some time off and that rather than shifting everyone around he figured he'd be on call in the dining hall. Impressive. A little later I had a bit of paper--a wrapper--in my hand as Jeff and I were talking and he saw the paper and held up the dustbin and smiled. That smile said, Just here to help. Whatever it takes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jess Gonzalez tells her Frost Valley story

Here's Jess, telling her story:

In 2008 the new Program Director, Mike Obremski, called me over and over until I applied to work at Frost Valley. That June, I started training to be the Village Chief for Pokey Totem. I knew little about the valley at the time…just that my church use to use the site for youth retreats. I would soon find out that I had not one but two connections to Frost Valley history.

That first summer, I explained the breakdown of Frost Valley to my mother. When I mentioned the separation of the camp into Wawayanda and the Hird, she stopped me to tell me that my grandfather had gone to Camp Wawayanda as a child. I questioned my grandfather about it though at the time, he did not offer up much information. However, he did venture up from Sparta to visit me on my day off 4th session. He was so excited to get a tour around camp and hear that the villages that existed when he was a camper were still around. That Christmas, he shared with me a treasure that I one day hope to own. It was a wood burned and painted map of Camp Wawayanda that his brother had made during their time at camp.

My second connection to Frost Valley comes through the land that it once inhabited. I grew up going to and working at a small camp in northwest New Jersey called Camp Johnsonburg. This land was previously owned by Stevens Institute of Technology and served as the transition home for Wawayanda in the mid-50s. A few weeks into my first summer, I also found out that Stu Alexander had worked at Johnsonburg before coming to the valley. It seems that everywhere I look in my own history, I find a bit of Frost Valley that I did not know existed…and I couldn’t be happier to find it.

Olympic torch

Looking back a week at the middle of second session: found a good photo of the moment when the 2010 FV Olympic torch was lit, and here you go. Not bad, eh?

trio of alumni children

As I've mentioned, all three children of Robin Helfand (sister of Dawn and Russ) are here this summer again - all members of the staff: Drew, Jesse, Allye.

alumni visitors

Check-in day, as I've said, and we had a contingent of alumni visitors. Lee Griffin joined us and was very helpful--donning a staff shirt and escorting new campers and parents to their cabins up in the hills. Thanks, Lee. At lunch, Lee stood around with his former campers, now staffers themselves. That's Lee on the left (no staff shirt yet at this point).Brian Butler, James Raffo and Shawn Schaefer came too - spent the weekend here and then provided a hilarious trio of help along the trail to lost parents.
Noah Ferris arrived for two weeks in Outpost, along with his parents John Ferris and Jan Gikner Ferris.
At one point we got a radio call from the Ad Office telling us that a "gentleman" was there hoping to show us some memorabilia from 35 years ago. Allye Glicker and I promptly went down there, only to find Glenn Kreismer, who began as a camper in 1968 and kept coming through 1975, his CIT year. He had with him a carved stick, signed by staff and campers back then (I recognized most of the names)--he and others whittled such sticks under the guidance of Mark Showers, who became something of an expert in this art. Glenn also had with him an "Order of the Oar" paddle that he somehow persuaded his counselors to give him. It too is signed by many FV stars from the 70s. Chris Mills, Reed Auerbach, Mark Kramer, Ladd Connell, Doug Terrell, Pat McShane (VC Lenape), Mark Wazniak, Pete Dobbs (taught many of us how to flyfish), Jim Ewen ("your friend always"), Mark Staimer, Stu Sherman, David Householder, the late Mark Selig, D. Halbe Brown, Jon Mittelman, Russ Oeschle, Barry Dunkin, Pat Ricciardi, Mike Rubin, George Zimmerman, Bob Grant, Carl Hess, David D'Oyen, Jim Weigley, Peter Tilles, Bassem Al-Hibri, Norm Gurfinkel ("mini-bike '73"), Rick Hicks ("basketball, that's all"), John Mumford, Tim Stickel, and some guy named "Al Filreis."

Glenn donated to us both the paddle and the whittled stick, as well as some certificates (rifle range, archery range, Olympic awards) and a beautiful old blue jacket on which is sewn all of his patches. His "W1" dates back to '68. In the early 70s we switched to the not-so-nice blue-and-yellow "FV" patches, only to drop the patches altogether for many years until a few summer ago when the "W" and "H" patches (modeled on the old W's) were brought back. This jacket will be auctioned off to the highest FV alumni bidder during the upcoming Labor Day weekend reunion. Proceeds from the auction will go toward our camperships program ("Project 332").

We spent a few minutes with Glenn in the office and he remembered some details from his FV years, including his mastery of the unicycle.

Sandy Shapiro Bohn read this blog entry and wrote: "I was reading the Alumni Blog and I still have the carving Mark Showers made me and I also "had" an oar/paddle. I painted mine in arts and crafts they probably gave us the old ones. Not sure what my parents did with mine when they moved, though!"

Figgy's got the spirit

Start of session 3 - second half of the summer. Today we noticed that one of the parents of a 7th-summer camper wrote a long blog entry from the p.o.v. of a mom wrestling with her daughter's absence and bittersweetly admiring the girl's complete love of Frost Valley. Here is the full blog entry. It's worth reading. And here is an excerpt:
Figgy would get into a funk when she had to come home. She'd cry and sniffle in the back seat of the car, or sulk. She wouldn't talk to us.

It would take a while, and then all the stories would spill out. The tales about the castle, the opening campfire, the closing campfire, the waterfront, the pita pizzas, the ghost stories, the overnight [where they all sleep outside], the hash browns, how much water the counselors make them drink, how Figgy ate five apples one day, spaghetti night, the dance, and a game she loves called ultimate sicko ball, which she says is like capture the flag.

You don't understand, she'd say in a pitiful little voice from the back seat of our car. I will probably never see some of these people again in my life. [True. Her counselors have come from all over, including Holland, Ireland, Cape Cod and California. And I gather that the bonds that are forged, the secrets shared, the fears confronted during those two weeks can be life-changing.]

This is Figgy's seventh year in a row, and her last year as a camper. This is not a pretty picture. She will apply to be a Counselor in Training [CIT] next year, but we hear the competition is thick.

I'm warning you now, she said yesterday, That I might sulk for twenty-four hours, because I'm going to be so sad.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

AdVill glam

Here's Eric and Julia of the Adventure Village staff, showing off a little AdVill glam at lunch today.

late 1970s program instructor remembers

Doug Redosh is back in touch with us. He was here at FV in the late 70s. Here's what he writes:

I started working at FV in the spring of 1977. I had finished a BS at SUNY Albany (now the University at Albany) the June prior, with an emphasis on Environmental Biology. I had wanted to use my training to educate others about the wonders of the natural world, and wanted to live in a less urban setting than my native Queens. Initially I found work at Lake Minnewaska Hotel as a cross country ski instructor, but also had to wait tables to make ends meet. This was the mid 70s recession. The FV Environmental Ed Director, a great guy named Jim Marion, hired me and I was terribly excited. I spent a great spring teaching Environmental Ed programs. There was little developed then, so I believed I help set up programs in Ornithology, Pond and Stream Study, Astronomy and Forest Ecology. Favorites were hikes up Doubletop, Graham and Slide Mtns. I helped set up the climbing wall on the chimney of one of the buildings. I worked with a great bunch of fellow instructors: Vilis Ozolins, Louie Comeau, Lin Denham, Stan Treadway, Chuck White, Jim Marion and his wife Cheryl. Vilis and I shared the old farmhouse behind Chuck White's house [then called "Old John's House"].

That summer I traveled across the US and Canada, but returned to work Environmental Ed for the fall and winter. Hunting season brought hunters and fewer kids, but winter brought the best cross country skiing. I helped Joe Trela set up the ski shop and we taught tons of lessons. That was a great winter for snowfall and the skiing was absolutely tremendous. I shared the Ricciardi Cabin cabin with Louie and Joe. March saw me leaving the US for a 5 month gig as a program director at the YMCA camp at Fairthorne Manor, near Southampton, England. That was a great cultural experience and Frost Valley helped prepare me for that. Upon my return, after 2 months travel in Europe, I landed a job as Director of the Wilderness Program for the New Milford, CT Youth Agency. My FV experience helped me land that job as well. That lasted 2.5 years, after which I became a Physician Assistant, then ultimately attended medical school. I now practice Neurology in the Denver, CO area, but frequently ski, rock-climb, hike, backpack, bike etc. - all the outdoor sports.

Not only did the FV experience help me land those positions, it also taught me how to live with a small number of people in a relatively isolated location, not always an easy feat. It also renewed a sense of optimism about the human condition and the fate of the human race.

last-day-of-session blues

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

125th year campfire

Below are photos taken at the campfire we held for the entire camp (huge number of people at one campfire!) to celebrate 125 years of Y camping - a week ago today. Camps around the country celebrated this milestone and we chose July 14 to do it. Seemed like a good day - for one thing, our Wawayanda director, Dan Weir, had his birthday on that day. Twenty-nine, not 125. But whatever. We seriously contemplated an Order of the Oar ceremony, tossing Dan in the air 125 times, since he embodies Wawayanda currently. But we stuck with 29 and he was seasick enough from that. But back to the campfire. It was beautifully and meaningfully hosted by Jeff Daly, who was so good as introducer and leader that by the end--improvisationally--he laid down on his back on the ground, facing the lake - that is, lying down and facing in the same direction as all of the campers and staff and (using a mic) talked us through the wonder of the stars. "Each of us has his or her camp star, the star you wish on when you're a camper. Let's all find a star. I've found mine. Now look at this star. Make a camp wish..." etc. Marvelous. Complete silence. Hundreds of kids, in the utter darkness (or almost dark--the campfire had burned down quite a bit). Earlier highlights: Bud Cox, atop a ladder (with director-spotters), doing a grand, loud and crazy rendition of "Lion Hunt." (Bud began by telling the history of the founding of Wawayanda (and the split-off when Wawayanda and Dudley went separate ways) and had been introduced as someone who'd been a 10-year-old camper in 1954 and was present in the Andover NJ dining hall when Charles Scott suffered his fatal heart attack.) Bob Eddings reprised his "Singing in the Rain." I led an old-time camp song - "Green Grass Growing All Around" and led the old Wawayanda cheer (W - a - w - a [pause] y - a - EN-dee-ay) with everyone holding up double-victory fingers to form W's. In the end two thirds of the "Assorted Favorites" harmonizing trio (Chris Harper and Lexi Cariello) and I sang a three-part "Four Strong Winds." Lexi, feeling very emotional, lost harmony-consciousness and sang melody on the last chorus, but it was all the more gorgeous for that. Thanke you, Lexi, for feeling all this so deeply. And thanks, Jeff, more for the camp star even than for the Jeffburger.

2 former staff visit

Anna Armstrong and Rebecca Reilly visit for the day, happy to be back. Anna is seriously considering attending the Labor Day reunion, having not until realized that the reunion will include many recently former staff--people she'll know. Then when I told her we would have an inter-decade Challenge Night, she said, "Wow! I'm getting chills just thinking about it."

the tale of the midnight Jeffburger

Last night, for me, was a quadruple header. So long as I can get some sleep another night, I just love being out and around, and busy, and involved, on one of these nights--at night, especially. Last night it was warmer than usual, but still cool enough - in the upper 50s. But the stars were out, beginning with a Jupiter so bright that it seemed to cast a shadow on the path.

What a night for Sacky and Hemlock and Lakota and Outpost and Mini-Mac to hike out to their overnights. Chris Harper and I took a little walk to CIT Point where Mini-Mac was cooking hot-rock pizzas while the sun was setting behind them across the lake. The "crust" seems to be a flour tortilla and the toppings are tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. Lay the concoction on a flat rock set at the edge of the fire and (carefully now!--don't burn yourself) rotate the crust around every few minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce steams up a little. Then serve a happy camper.

Chris and I had set up Challenge Night in Geyer Hall (old Girls' Dining Hall) for Forest and Susky and Sunburst, and then gathered wood for a fire at a little used fire-ring way up above Hirdstock Field and below Turrell Lodge - where Pac would gather much later for a story.

Back to Challenge Night in Geyer, where the Sunburst girls joined the five Forest/Susky teams and were a big help. We had a great Challenge: the individual songs at the end were sweet and meaningful; the weirdest noises were, well, weird; and we added a new/revised challenge: a counselor spins around, looking up at the top of a broomstick, for 35 seconds and then must walk 30 feet to a ball and toss the ball into a hoop. The dizzy swaying and swaggering was hilarious and the dizziest one, Becca Schneider, managed to get the ball into the hoop. Winners had an ice cream sundae party. Among the judges was Bob Eddings, now FV's director of Environmental Education programs--coming out of Evening Program retirement to don an Al's Challenge Night tshirt and join in the fun. He's a talented improviser and it was great to see him in action again.

Then it was down to the lower floor of Geyer (formerly Conover English Hall) to tell a story - "Sawmill, 1958" - to Forest.

After that I met Pac at the great infrequently used campfire site and told a story to them too. It was a perfect storytelling situation: these 15-year-old boys were totally attentive, stars above us, good fire, and a view of the lake to our west.

On such a night it seemed impossible to turn in after all this. So before heading home I wandered around, finding a few CQ fires, walking through the empty villages of those out on overnights, and then went into Hyde-Watson Lodge to chat with the Forest staff who were getting ready to build a fire indoors there. I ended up in the dining hall - staff lounge - where Jeff Daly was cooking Jeffburgers. The rule is: you either eat a Jeffburger with all the standard toppings, or you don't get a burger. I'd eaten 3 meals this day and then partook of the winning Challenge Night teams' ice cream sundae snack and certainly did not need a Jeffburger, but how could I say no? Jeff prepared one for me with panache, but then I saw him grab the hot sauce bottle and the chocolate sauce. Oh boy. Could I decline now? Not a chance. Two slices of American cheese, hot sauce, chocolate sauce, a well-done patty, on a Wonderbread roll. First bite. Perfection. It is a taste that tastes good only at midnight on such a night as this was. Unforgettably not an evening lazing in front of a ballgame on TV or at a desk deleting the day's spam with the city's heat staved off by a loudly rattling AC unit. No, this was a different summertime. This was the real deal.


Challenge Night for Forest/Susky/Sunburst last night. Among the judges (left to right): Chris Harper, Bobby Eddings, and Maddy Geftic.

friends for life

These two met as campers here and are now junior counselors and friends for life: Shannon Crane and Chloe Kostman. Can you just tell, from this sequence, how unusually great such friendships are?

mail yourself to Bud Cox

Annabeth, a long-time camper now in Sunburst, is really fascinated by the legend of Bud Cox. (Bud recently led the entire camp in a rousing rendition of "Lion Hunt," thus reviving, once again, camp-wide interest in his long tenure here and his famous antics.) Annabeth dressed up for a Sunburst/Forest theme day, and planned to mail herself to Bud. You can see the stamp and Bud's address on her forehead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

at out-trip, they replenish poop kits

son of a former camper

Tyler Katz is here this session. He's the son of Fran Corey Katz who was a camper her back in the early 70s. (Hey, Fran! I hope you and Tyler and the rest of the family are planning to come to the Labor Day reunion!)

Sunburst is back

Years ago we created "Sunburst" as a village of girls older than Tacoma but different from Cherokee and prior to the invention of Windsong. Small group, no brother village, did things on the fly - and they were led, I believe, by Jan Gikner of Woodstock (now Jan Gikner Ferris).

Anyway, Sunburst is back in 2010. And here is a photo I took of this happy crew just a few minutes ago in front of Biscuit Creek. The inimitable Maddy Geftic is their VC. These girls will be joining Forest and Susky for Challenge Night tonight. We have no idea what their role will be--quite--but it'll be fun, for sure.

messages to Garcia

The story I'm telling this summer is based on the origin of the phrase "Messages to Garcia," which is, as most FV'ers know, the name of a game we play here. Like "Ultimate Sicko Ball," it's a phrase that is used but not really understood. Who was Garcia, anyway?

The photo here shows Andrew Summer Rowan, the man who was sent by President William McKinley to deliver a message to General Garcia in Cuba, along with General Garcia himself and a few of his mountaintop-hideout adjutants. This was 1899.

What was the message to Garcia? Come to camp and find out.

Forest staff, summer 1980

I said goodbye to Greg and Ulla this morning. They left to spend a few days with Jody Ketcham in NJ. As we breakfasted and looked back on their happy return to the valley, Mark Gottdenker sat down to grab his own breakfast (eggs, sausage, home fries) and I realized that Mark must have been a camper around the time Greg was the VC of Forest, so I (re)introduced them and it turns out that my hunch was right: Mark was a Forest camper in 1980 and of course remembered Greg Aggs well. We reconstructed the village staff for Forest '80:

cabin 6 - Dave Hall, from Virginia
cabin 7 - Tom Franzkowiak - ICCP from Germany
cabin 8 - Gigo Abdallah - ICCP from Egypt
cabin 9 - Greg Aggs VC, Jim Neilson JC
cabin 10 - Scott Robinov

VCs in 1980: Totem, Dave Allen; Outpost, Doug Green; Lenape, Bill Petrick; Lacota, Dave Gansler; Susky, Kathryn O'Keefe. Who were the others? Write me and add to the list.

This is all 30 years ago.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Greg and Ulla back again after 30 years

In 1980 and 1981, a young man from Australia came to Frost Valley to try his hand at the American experience. At the same time, a young woman came from Denmark for the same reason. He was Greg and she was Ulla. Greg was thrown into the role of village chief - in Forest. And Ulla was a counselor in Susky. They met. When their Frost Valley years were done, they wondered whether they could make a go of it in Australia. A few years later they moved to Denmark. Now they have two sons - Thomas and Simon - and they are back here for the first time in thirty - yes, thirty - years. They chose to arrive on Olympic day, and wow was that ever an accelerating Proustian wormhole into memories of this place, floods of them. I introduced Greg to the 2010 Australian team as the coach of Oz from 1980; they were amazed and embraced him. Here you see a picture of Greg with this year's Australian counselor. At another point we went to show the boys the cabins their parents lived and worked in. We found Greg Aggs' Forest cabin, now up the hill--but still, ol' #10. He walked into his counselors' room and proudly showed his sons where he spent two summers of 10 weeks each--that little living space. Amazing. Tonight I'll take them over to the East Neversink valley, to visit the Farm Camp (which of course didn't exist during their time here), where I'll tell a story and will hope for the stars (after an alternately rainy and sunny day).

Greg and Ulla had recently visited Greame Sephton and Helen-Ann Hickey - in Massachusetts - and they brought along some of Helen Ann's old photos from the early 80s. From here they will drive to NJ and spent a few days with Jody Ketcham. During our chats I got to hear about the happy post-FV life of Greg's brother Ron Aggs, who works as a journalist in Sydney and commutes to his family (including twins) in Canberra.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

host country: Chile

As winners of the 2009 spirit award, Chile has the honor of hosting the 2010 Olympics. The team--consisting of program staff ("activity counselors"), directors, VCs, all of Step village, and a few others--danced just now during the opening ceremonies. But it was too dark to catch them then. Thus I present this video made earlier on the Olympic Circle, during a practice run.

...and it begins

Olympics 2010. It begins as I type this. Teams marching right now toward the Olympic Circle, one team at a time, Olympic theme playing over the sound system. The photos above were taken this afternoon--day one: painting banners, learning cheers, getting into it. In the middle of all this, just now, the CITs came back from their long multi-day hike. Dirty, smelly, romping around, delighted with their good timing. They'll shower and come back to watch the second half of the Opening Ceremonies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Congress says happy 125th to us

On Wednesday we celebrated 125 years of camping. As most readers of this blog know, in 1886 the tiny camp that had been established in 1885 set up at Lake Wawayanda in New Jersey. Eventually that camp split into two - in 1901: one camp, subsequently named Camp
Dudley, moved to the Adirondacks, and Camp Wawayanda, led by Charles Scott, remained at Lake Wawayanda. So we can rightly claim that the first camp was ours - that Dudley and Wawayanda started together 125 years ago.

More about our celebration in subsequent blog posts. Meantime, click on the image here to see a closer-up view of a proclamation entered at the U.S. Congress noting this occasion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Todd Payton returns!

During Sunday's check-in, all sorts of former staffers showed up with their kids. Debbie Reich (Sacky counselor way back in the late 70s) brought her daughter. Jim Neilson (Forest counselor and bike repair guy in the early 80s) drove up from Virginia with his daughter, who left on an Adventure Trip this morning. Adam Weiss, a Lacota (tipi village) camper in the late 70s, showed up with his son and simply could not believe I was "still here." There were others, but the big shocker was Todd Payton. Todd Payton! He brought his daughter who also left today on an Adventure Trip (to Maine, I believe). I hadn't seen him in 25 years. Jim's daughter snapped the shot above: from left to right, Mark Gottdenker, Jim Neilson, Al Filreis, Todd Payton.

Now don't stop reading. You just have to experience the story Jim Neilson tells, which is partly about what his daughter Leah is about to experience and partly about his accidental meeting, after all these years, with Mark Gottdenker:

Funny connection happened to me during my short visit. It seems that Mark Gottdenker (out trip logistics coordinator) and I were both in Forest back in 1980 (or ‘81). He was a camper and I was Greg Aggs JC. I was telling my daughter a story about Gregg just before we left for FV. The story was prompted by a little swimming accident we had at Blue Hole (have you been there?) down here in C’ville. At the time, myself, Scott Robinov and Gregg were standing near the edge of the wall at Biscuit creek. It was a hot day and there were a few campers in the water cooling off. Scott said, in an off-handed way, “Hey, Gregg, why don’t you dive in.” I don’t think Scott thought that Gregg was going to actually dive in head first off the 8 foot wall – but he did. We were all in shock and stood there frozen on the wall. Greg surfaced (there was only 3 or 4 feet of water) with a big knot on his head. Thank goodness we were right next to the infirmary and so Val or Joy could get him down to the nearest hospital. As it were, the FV magic was in full swing that day and he was fine – or could it be that all the VC’s are thick headed. Anyway, as I was relating the story again in the dining room Mark’s eyes got big and said that he was at Biscuit when Greg took the dive. He remembered it as clearly as I did. I could see Leah grinning out of the corner of my eye, she’ll have her stories to share someday.

By the way, the very same Greg Aggs (with Ulla, his wife, whom he met HERE) will be visiting us later this session, along with Jody Ketcham who is escorting them.

designer beard

Mike the CIT Coordinator arrived in June cleanshaven, and, as things go, grew a beard during the 8-day CIT hike, came back, didn't quite know what to do with it, and decided to hold a contest (something about the most accurate mapping) and the winner shaved a design on him. Before he shaved the rest of it, I caught a photo at lunch today.

the sky bespeaks a good check-in day

Huge, huge check-in day yesterday. Session 2 is always our largest session. I walked into the dining hall for Hird's dinner and--pow!--was happily jolted by the sheer size of the group. Every table in the main room filled with eager folks young and old(er). Sun shone most of the afternoon, but then--yet only after 99% of the luggage had been moved and everyone was in cabins or dining hall--we got a soaking rain. This drove opening campfires indoors. As I moved from leading "Father Abraham" hilariously for Wawayanda to doing the same for Hird on the other side of camp, I saw that the sky was beginning to clear and snapped this shot at the lake. A nice pause in a long busy day. Nice? Nice. To say the least.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

another happy Giannotti

Del Giannotti is the latest in the Giannotti clan to attend Frost Valley. Here's a photo of John and Toni and Del after Del's two happy weeks in Lenape.

no one can eat 3

Evan the CIT had never been to Sweet Sue's in Phoenicia. In fact he'd never driven out of Frost Valley the Slide Mountain way, toward the east and the Hudson River Valley. Thus he certainly did not know that you must not order 3 Sweet Sue's pancakes. Few people can finish 2. Here he proudly displays his 50% achievement.