Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bud sunset

One more great shot of Bud leading "Lion Hunt" at CIT Point in July.

Gottscho's new web site

We're pleased that the Ruth Carole Gottscho Kidney Foundation now has a new web site. Click here and have a long look. And here is contact info:

The Ruth Gottscho Kidney Foundation
515 Warwick Avenue
Teaneck, NJ 07666

Judy welcomes your reminiscences and your feedback on the site!

Monday, August 30, 2010

the other side of the mountain

Jane and I hiked 4 miles up and down a trail along Dry Creek near the township of Hardenburgh. We drove up from Margaretville NY along Mill Brook Road, back into the Catskills State Forest. We reached the trailhead for an area called Kelly's Hollow. The trail goes up to a little lake called Beaver Pond. Here are two overhead views. In the Google Earth view you can see the road and Beaver Pond. The Google Maps view is pulled back for larger perspective. From this you can see that it's not very far from Mill Brook Road to the Frost Valley Road, even though I think of these two roads as far away from each other. It's an hour-plus drive from Frost Valley to the place where we began this hike and yet look how close they are - maybe 15 miles?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

when I die I want to be buried here

At right: Christine Monahan along with the Tokyo Camp campers whom she taught English during session 4, just ended. Christine is a former FV camper from way back who recently came back to help out with the Tokyo program at the end of the summer--when they switch it up a bit and have some campers who want to learn some English (usually it's the opposite: campers' parents hope the kids will brush up on Japanese language and culture). Below is Christine's lovely statement about her experience, which she titles "A Perpetual Moment of Euphoria."

I never used to connect with such statements as "when I die, I want to be buried at..." or, "I'd like to die doing...," or "If I died right now, I'd be happy!" When you're dead, who cares where you are!? You won't know about it--you'll be dead!--and only a miserable curmudgeon would dwell on thoughts of death while enjoying a beautiful setting, or experience. I came to realize, though, that for some of us, those statements actually can have very little to do with dying, and everything to do with how alive we feel at that moment. There seems to be an innate feeling that if we could extinguish ourselves at a place or during a sensation that everything we value is felt without interference and perfectly synthesized, we can preserve that sensation infinitely--a perpetual moment of euphoria.

Is there a place you can go that blows the emotional cholesterol out of your system? Is there a place you can go to where you feel purged? Emotional clogants seem to clear out of the arteries of your soul, and you seem to hear the wind whistling though the sinuses of your spirit? For me, that wind smells like the nutty-sweet aroma of the ferns at Frost Valley. I have had moments there where even the very barrier of my body seems to dissolve. The need for self protection is replaced by an environment that is teeming with wellness--velvet-skinned raspberries grow wild, and taste the same as the way they did when, as a child, when I picked them walking barefoot on biscuit-shaped rocks from the lake to the "Girl's Dining Hall;" cool air that pushes against my skin, makes me buoyant like the waters of Lake Cole. Hummingbirds hang over wildflowers like chips of jade--they are green place markers on a page of blue sky. The mountains all around hold worlds of their own that I have been made to know I can hike to, and live in, like one of their native creatures.

Then there's the architecture--the rare, rich woods of "The Castle" rooms whisper to me about exotic forests far away. The lodges and "Ad Office" (as we use to call it--I still do) rise up off the earth on piles of river stone almost as though they formed there, part of the Catskill landscape itself.

Of course there is the work--that they are paying me to teach English as a Second Language here is a small miracle in itself-- a job I discovered four years ago, oddly, on Craigslist, a few weeks after returning from a year teaching in Mexico, jobless and hungry for work. As a teacher at my YMCA camp I can combine the "core values" of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility with my own creativity, and draw from years and years of Wawayanda tradition, too. When this culminates, for me, inhibitions dissolve, and I really do want it to go on forever!

best athlete in Totem cabin

In the 60s and into 1970 and maybe '71, Frost Valley's summer camp gave out lots of awards. There were riflery awards (issued by the NRA) and archery awards (this lasted into the mid-70s). There were physical fitness tests and score sheets - tallies kept of push-ups and pull-ups and broad jump, etc. Campers received a scored sheet to be brought or mailed home. Attached to the sheet was a mimeographed retyping of a speech by JFK who had made "physical fitness" a big deal for youth in the early 60s, the time of Cold War competitiveness. Here, below, is an example of one of these certificates. It was given to camper Glenn Kreismer, who was then among our youngest campers - in Cabin 1 of Totem Village. He "pass[ed] all requirements for recognition" as "BEST ATHLETE IN CABIN #1"! Who knows how that was determined. Nor does one know how the sight-impaired, geeky, uncoordinated or indeed formally disabled boy in the cabin felt about all this. But there you go. The sketch at left, mostly obscured by creasing and the age of the document, depicts a young boy, tent in background, efficiently preparing a meal over a campfire. Bottom right is the Y in YMCA and below that "Camp Wawyanda" - spelled wrong.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This summer's Hemlock and Lenape VCs: Mike Taylor and Jackson Patterson, respectively.

Friday, August 20, 2010

final night

Another summer comes to an end. In an hour the campers depart - every single one. Then the CITs. Then the staff will convene for a quick lunch, a final meeting, then to villages and cabins and lodges for a thorough cleaning (Family Camp starts tomorrow!). This evening, the staff banquet - good food (rumors are: very good), a few emotional speeches and farewells, and that's it. Some staff will leave for home or college or jobs from there; some will spend the night in camp. All will depart tomorrow morning (as will I). Too much happened last night for most folks to take notice: after rain, the sky cleared. It was still too damp to build final-night CQ fires. At 11:30/midnight, the directors delivered four boxes of pizza to each of the village staffs. By that time the pizza was cold, but no matter: this morning at breakfast they were still talking about how good it tasted, how good it was to see their directors show up with semi-illicit bounty at that unexpected time.

Earlier in the evening, as I walked around, bringing equipment back to where it belongs, stopping to say hello to a few folks I especially admire, I noticed that the sky had cleared in the area near Doubletop as one faces it from the area in front of the Administration Office. I took a grainy shot with my iPhone (not good with night shots). I like it. You can see the lights of Margetts Lodge, and, to the right, of Hayden Lodge. At the right edge a bright light attached to Smith Lodge. Atop, and somewhat to the right, is the front peak of Doubletop Mountain, the one you can see from here (the round hump under the row of clouds).

Tonight it's going to be 46 degrees. Three blankets. Hints of autumn.

Being able to see Doubletop at sunset has always been, to me, a good omen. Time to put this baby to bed. Sleep well, dear one.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zen deer

You can't much closer to a deer than this. (Ben and Hannah call me the deer whisperer.)

Whirty and Sunshine

The daughter of Bob Whirty and the daughter of Barbara Sunshine are here this session, together in Windsong.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carly's blog

In the photo at right, Carly Einstein (at left, with the backpack) talks to several of the inter- nationals.

Carly is a FV alumna. She was at camp from 1991 to 2003, remaining on the staff until she was 23. She worked in Tacoma throughout all but her last FV summer (Windsong counselor that year) and for two of those years (99 and 00) she was the Tacoma VC.

She is currently a Program Coordinator at New York University, where she's also getting her MPA degree in Non-Profit Management. For four years before that she was Education Supervisor in the NYC Department of Homeless Services.

Carly writes to her blog pretty much every weekday. Today's entry is about camp, and here it is:
Summer camp brings an indescribable sense of self, gratitude, acceptance, and joy understood only by other camp people. And we'll incessantly attempt to explain the unexplainable, to our loved ones / friends / anyone-willing-to-look-at-or-listen-to-hours-of: camp photo albums filled with sentimentality; lyrics of cheers sung in dining halls during, oh, just lunchtime because that's what camp people do; trips to the infirmary in which being sick is just as fun as the missed cabin-activity; and stories of the moments in between where unexpected friendships are forged, secrets are shared, first kisses are had, people fall in love, mohawks are shaved, shirts are tie-dyed, swim tests are avoided, camp fires are burned, scavengers are hunted, and penpalships are maintained out of obligation because, let's face it, who has time to write letters? There are few milestones in the lives of us camp people that mirror the anticipation felt on the drive towards camp at the start of the summer before our newest memories are forged, or the heartache shared during the inevitable tearful goodbyes, weeks or months later, in which lifelong promises of friendship and love are exchanged and, even if they don't work out, the sentiments are the most sincere and honest as any other promise to come. Enjoy!
Here's a link to Carly's blog.

Below: flag-raising led by Matt Buczek in 2000 - presumably this is during VC training. Carly is at the far left. Click on the image for a larger view. Others here: Dale Whittaker, Megan Hurley, Sindy Subance, Brian Dougan, Mikia Eatman, Jeanna Moyer, Carrie Jacobson, Joe Elliott, Mike Harrowfield, Matt Buczek, Katie Kelly, Rick McKay, Amanda Harrowfield.

Monday, August 16, 2010

boathouse fixed

Oh, did we forget to tell you? The boathouse has been totally refurbished. Fantastic. Now there's a real deck, from which one can either keep an eye on the boats out on the lake or just while away the hour watching the clouds pass slowly over the water.

local & foreign

Danielle Schiffer and Graeme Sephton in 1980. Danielle is a member of the large Schiffer clan (based in CT, they've always had a home in Claryville). Graeme came from Australia, met Helen Ann Hickey at FV, later married her and they live to this day in the Boston area.

Lion Hunt from another angle

Here's another shot--better than ones I've posted here before--of Bud Cox leading a legendary "Lion Hunt" at the huge campfire to celebrate 125 years of Y camping. That's Jeff Daly and Kam Kobeissi making sure the ladder doesn't topple and, with it, our legend.

Lion Hunt '92

I ended my full summers as director in '85 but began visiting - usually for one- or two-week stints at first - in 1987 or so. In '92 I spent all of session 2 at FV and here I am leading a Lion Hunt in the dining hall. It would seem that the Tacoma girls at the first table were less than enraptured. Photo by Meg Hanna, and thanks for Katie Kelly for pointing this out to me. If you are not a Facebook user, this link won't work for you, but if you are, it should take you to all of Meg's 1992 pics.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

discovery! cabins from Old Wawayanda

For two days recently I visited Camp Speers-Eljabar in Dingman's Ferry, PA. My older sister Nancy attended this camp and loved it. She came to Wawayanda once (her Tacoma summer) and was unhappy the entire time--missed her beloved Speers, with its gorgeous lake and cabins in groves of tall trees. During my first years at Wawayanda, at Frost Valley, I always knew that Speers was our sister camp, and visited a few times during my time as director. Anyway, it was good to be back there. We wandered around a lot and visited a group of little cabins in the woods - off from the rest of the buildings. To my surprise I learned that these were cabins from the Old Wawayanda - that they had been brought to nearby Speers at the time the Old Wawayanda property was sold off. I'll have to consult with Bud Cox to learn more specifically which cabins these are. My sense is that most the campers at the Andover NJ camp lived in platform tents. When were these little guys built? The Speers folks use them for storage. Below you have two photos and a short video.


Over at the Frost Valley summer camp blog, which our directors create all summer, you'll find a recent cute entry about the outdoor chair game called "Geronimo": here. In the photo here, I'm leading a Geronimo session with Pac and Windsong. And the guy in the middle is a Pac counselor - Ben Connell. Yes, that's the son of Ladd Connell, long-time old-time camper and staffer (and in fact a CIT with me back in the day).

the weekly VC meeting

I've written here before about the weekly program meeting of the village chiefs. In precisely the same format, this remarkable confabulation--operating very much like a bazaar in which program staff are the vendors and VCs are the chaotic buyers of services, spaces and equipment--has been taking place weekly in the summers since 1976, Yes, the format is exactly the same as it was 34 years ago. This video was shot just after the round of long announcements ended, just as the VCs jumped up and began rushing to sign up program areas and program people. You'll see the manager of the theater space show us his already filled-up calendar. You'll hear the assistant program director remind everyone to make suggestions for Olympic coaches. Etc. If you've ever attended one of these meetings in the past, I think you'll be so struck by the similarity here to your own experience that the nostalgia will flow. Things are getting done. Through the chaos is a great deal of charm.

If you're not aware of the history of the way we manage our program schedule, please read this full description.

Hettler back

Earlier this summer we had a wonderful visit from Joeli Hettler, now a medical doctor - daughter of Bill and Lolly (both themselves, of course, former FV staffers). We're hoping Joeli will decided to send her own kids to FV next summer and will herself sign up to do a two-week stint as our camp doctor. With Joeli here, from left to right, are: Jerry Huncosky, myself and Tom Holsapple.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

happy cabin

Cabin 42, Lakota Village, fourth session.

Monday, August 9, 2010

another Filreis joins the staff

My daughter Hannah is a junior counselor in Lakota village this month (sessions 3 and 4). This session her "co-" (as they say) is Shelle from Wales. For some reason at the first dinner of the session last night they decided to wear braids and party hats.


Bob Whirty and his daughter Hanna (in Windsong village this session). Photo taken by Ken Nathanson, whose son Sam worked as a counselor with the holdover campers this past weekend.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

former director comes back

We were all very happy to see Steve Purkis back at Frost Valley. He spent the weekend here and is staying through tomorrow afternoon. Of course he was given a staff shirt, and a van, and told to search for lost luggage. It's just what happens when old directors show up. Steve is very active at the school where he works, and in the school's community - especially in programs and activities related to his work as the school's soccer coach. He's incredibly busy. We're glad he'll be back, along with hundreds of others, for the Labor Day reunion. Above is a shot of Steve with Jeff Daly at dinner tonight.

Tom Cometa remembers

Stuart Duff remembers

place aswarm with long-timers

Fourth session, opening day. Perfect weather and nearly flawless check-in. A hundred alumni connections to tell. Don't know if I can keep them all in my head. Bob Whirty was here to drop off his daughter, now in Windsong. Jacqueline and John Kremer were here to drop of their son. Andy Weiner brought his daughter for Lakota. Stuart Duff showed up from across the Atlantic with his two kids, Lenape and Sacky. Mette Osterby, late 80s Denmark counselor, is back as a volunteer for two weeks. Liz Furman brought a child here; she was on the staff here in '87 and most oldtimers will remember that the local Furman Dairy supplied all our milk for many years (Grahamsville, I think). One couple came up to me and proudly told me that their neighbor is Dari Litchman and a teacher at their kids' school is Mikia Eatman. Then Zach Carey showed up, a former staffer from 1986, and introduced me to his daughter Quin who is coming here for her first-ever session at camp: Quin. The photo here is of Zach and Quin. Zach said it's a dream come true--that his daughter will fall in love with this place 24 years after he did. Below is a photo of Mette talking with Andy Wiener.

Dari Litchman wrote the following: "Just wanted to let you know that last night I met up with Mette Osterby from Denmark (who is arriving at camp today with her daughter Katrine). Last time we saw each other was late 80s. Mette and I worked together my first summer on staff in Susky Village circa 1985. Would love it if you could share this photo on the blog. We met in NYC's Chinatown and ate at Joe's Ginger on Pell St. Fun time! Mette is going to be volunteering at camp for 2 weeks while her daughter Katrine is a camper this session." Below is a photo taken during the Dari/Mette meet-up.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Check-out day, session 3 - some hours after the big exodus, first of most campers and their parents, and then, after clean-up, of most of the staff. There's a small crew here this weekend, plus all the CITs, to work with a small group of holdover campers. But the weather is August-perfect: a few clouds, otherwise sunny, temps in the low 70s, cool breeze. Of course this place isn't at its best when it's empty but I have to admit to a real affection for these rare summertime moments. It's so quiet out there in the fields and on the hills and by the streams. A few staff linger, waiting for a ride, hoping a late parent or friend really does arrive. News of some staff returning next session to help out (it's a full session, despite the tradition of smaller 4ths), lots of catching up on Facebook (as if these young folks don't see each other enough while they're here together mid-session), exciting weekend plans mixed in with lots of talk about "sleeping in." The morale seems good, but everyone knows 4th session will have its difficult moments. How can these people keep up the pace after 7 and 8 weeks? It's so difficult. Do you remember how tired you were at this point? I certainly do. So many alumni children were picked up today or went home by bus. This blog can't even keep track at this point. Time was when I could remark here on every passing-through alum.

60s staff shirt

The oldest FV shirt I own currently (having given away so many others over the years) is a 1967 (or 68?) staff shirt. Here it is.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

battle of the theme days theme day (huh?)

Third session's all-camp program day was a "Battle of the Theme Days Theme Day." In other words, teams were formed each to represent a theme day: pirates, fairy tales, cavemen (I remember "Caveman Day" from years ago here), etc. Here's a snapshot of some of the cavemen. They sang the Flinstones theme song ("Have a yabba-dabba-doo time, a yabba-do time....") at the evening ceremonies. The Pirates "won" and will be the host of "Battle of the Theme Days Theme Day" next year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

fun run

Almost every late afternoon in the early 80s we had a "fun run." Anyone - camper or staff - could run along the circular road around the main fields, and many did. At whatever pace. Here we see Mike Ketcham finished his run (Mike was quite a good distance runner) and Dawn Helfand, who was either a VC, CIT Director or Camp Director that summer. After a few years of this, by the way, we'd set up music in front of Margetts Lodge and play loud upbeat rhythmic music as people ran. I think we also served snacks, like fruit and maybe some sort of water-ice thingy.

By this point Mike Ketcham was our first full-year Director of Camping, a position that has remained pretty much the same since Mike first accepted the job in (I'm guessing here) 1979.

Mike's family - the Ketchams of Westfield, NJ - were Wawayanda and Frost Valley mainstays. Two brothers and I believe three sisters - all worked here at some point. When their father Frank passed away (also a key figure in the Westfield Y) the family got together and donated the chapel at Reflection Pond, named after Frank: The Ketcham Family Chapel. I think Mike's first Wawayanda summer was in 1949: family camp at the old Wawayanda.

CQ grilling

Gorgeous night last night. All the stars, very cool temperatures: into the 40s. I was "on call"--which means that I was one of two folks whose responsibility it was to check every village at curfew (1 AM) to make sure all campers are accounted for and safe and that all staff are back in the village. It's a long night. Fortunately Rafik Ghobrial (Egypt; VC Forest; late 70s) was willing to walk around with me much of the night, and Dave Sacker (80s/90s) was willing to stay until the end (along with Allye Glicker who was the other On Call director). We stopped at six or seven bustling CQ fires. At Lakota the staff were grilling - at a relatively new or (anyway) previously little-used campfire site a little down the steep hill from 41-45. Roasted veggies (peppers of various colors), burgers, and a few other late-night niceties. Listen closely to the sound track of this video clip and you'll hear (and maybe even see) a burger fall into the fire, whereupon the intrepid Lakota counselor rescued it from the coals and put it back on the grill. Then Sacker's comment, then mine. And listen to the random half-sentence chatter going on around. Though it's a very short clip, anyone who's ever sat CQ will instantly remember the classic quality of this scene.