Wednesday, June 29, 2011

the White Rat truck on luggage day

It's the last day of the session sometime in the early 1970s. Time for the CITs and others to put the luggage on the "White Rat." This was a 1951 Chevy truck that was the mainstay luggage and all-camp-program vehicle for many, many years. Eventually it was supplemented by a nice big blue stake truck, and other late model vehicles. But the White Rat was the one. It's shock absorbers (such as they were) created a hilarious (and perhaps dangerous) bounce up the rocky hills going up to the cabins. It's wooden stakes would literally fly up into the air and fall to the ground on some of these trips up.

swimming at Farm Camp

Did you know that at Farm Camp the campers swim in the East Branch of the Neversink River? There's a pool (not deep - but certainly swimmable) just across the road from the vegetable plots. Andy Szymczak, I'm delighted to say, is the new director of the Farm Camp. Above you see him chatting with Jerry Huncosky. The air was warm and the water, well, the water was frigid. But the boys we spoke to just loved swimming in such clear water. Even with all the mucking around kids do when they swim and play in water, the river retained its crystal clarity. Amazing.

new sign at White Pond

Yesterday a new sign was installed at White Pond. Click on the top image above, and if you have good eyesight you can see that under "fast facts" we indicate that White Pond was built and is dedicated to Chuck White.

at the East Valley Ranch

Readers of this blog might not be aware of the changes taking place at the Straus estate. Since the 1970s, when Frost Valley acquired the land and buildings on this property along the East Branch of the Neversink River, what we've called "Straus" or "Straus House" has served as a conference retreat for families and small groups, all year including summer. But with the dramatic increase in excitement about our various horseback riding programs here in the west valley, and with the decrease in interest in the use of Straus by family and other groups in the summer months, we decided to create an Equestrian Camp there. It will run only during the summer months, while the September-mid-June schedule will remain mostly the same as before. As you see from the photos I took there yesterday, the EVR (East Valley Ranch) is up and running. For this early 1-week session ("session A") the horsebarn is finished and filled with horses; the yurts in which the campers sleep are all set up; the bathhouse is gorgeous and ready to be used; and the main house will now begin to serve, summertimes, as housing for some staff and of course the dining hall for the campers and staff in the program. EVR is just for girls; various ranch programs in main camp typically fill with all girls anyway, so we decided to make that official when opening EVR. Ranch campers, horseback riding lessons, and the special "Mustang Village" in the main camp in our traditional west valley location, will continue, and boys can sign up for those. But this turns out to be a girls' thing. There's already a ton of community building going on. Jerry Huncosky and I visited there yesterday and were stunned by how paradisal the whole situation is. We will go back there again today to have lunch with the campers, after which I'll lead them in some songs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

invasion of Ketchams

Three of the newest generation Ketchams arrived yesterday. Cole and Isaac, and Kalayla. Amy (at right), who was once herself a camp director here, is very very eager (to say the least) to know how the boys are doing, so this blog post serves that purpose in part. Amy: They're doing fine! We did a challenge contest this morning and, as you see, there was a Ketcham represented in the Junior Architect challenge and in the weirdest boy contortion challenge.

the Beirut connection

Looking over the camper list just prior to their arrival yesterday, I noticed two with the last name of "Hibri." This put me in mind of Bassem El-Hibri, whom I knew as a young man from Beirut, Lebanon. Bassem attended a Y camp in the mountains of Lebanon and somehow through that experience met Paul Brown, Halbe Brown's brother. Paul was doing an international Y stint in the middle east. (I think David Allen met Paul, and perhaps Paul and Bassem, over there too. David was in Egypt, I think.) Anyway, Bassem found out about Frost Valley from Paul and arrived in 1973 (in the midst of war and civil war back home). He was here in '73, '74, and '75, possibly '76 too. One summer he was the Totem village chief. Another summer he climbed all 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks with Bud Cox and a group of boys on an Adventure trip. He and I became pretty close friends and spent some wonderful days off together in '75.

I lost touch with Bassem a few years later. Last I heard, he had moved to the U.S. and was running an import/export business in South Carolina.

"Hibri" on the camper list. Okay. Then I promptly forgot about all this and went on with my check-in afternoon. Coming back from taking a family up the hill to a cabin, I ran into staffer Jessica Dymond who said that someone named Hibri was looking for me. His first name was Nadi. He was in fact Bassem's brother!

Nadi and his family live in Texas, where he is an MD (radiologist). "My brother has told me for many years that Frost Valley changed his life - that I must bring my own children here." So from Texas they came - with son Omar and daughter Nadia. As they drove a car along the New York highways, Bassem called his brother from Lebanon and asked where he was. "We are driving to Frost Valley!" "Oh! When you get there, look for Al." So they did.

Yes, Bassem is back in Beirut (running a business). So now I'm aiming to get back in touch with him. Meantime, Omar, as you see above, tried his hand at limbo in the Challenge contest this morning. He was eliminated fairly early (big guy) but seemed to have fun.

- - -

David Allen notes: "I met Paul Brown in Beirut but Rich Hanna new him there better. Rich came to Frost Valley first, and called me about an opening. Definitely a Beirut connection though. Part of my childhood was in Egypt, some teen years in Lebanon."

Jere Schwait's daughter Maya is here too

Jere Schwait Sirkis has brought her daughter Maya to several alumni reunions. When Maya was quite young, I remember how much she loved playing Geronimo. This must have been in 2006. Now she's 7 years ago and of course it's time for camp. The morning of the first full camp day, after presumably a lively night of late chatting in the cabin, Maya seems none the worse for wear. That's Maya in the middle. And as you see Helen Cornman's daughter is at left. Two alumni kids in the same cabin, by chance.

camper 1979-85 now brings his two sons here

Also arriving for the one-week camp - which we sometimes think of as a "starter" session for new campers who've not been away from home - are the two sons of Charles Colajiuri and his wife Liz.

Charles was a camper here from 1979 through 1985 and remembered me as his camp director all through those years, first in Wawayanda ('79 was my first summer as director) and then in Hird (when we split anew into older and younger camps).

Charles saw me in the dining hall and couldn't believe his eyes. Was I still here? We took the boys to their cabin and settled them in, talking all the way about Charles' great feats as a camper, including his achievement as Honor Camper at least one summer.

Then he and Liz set off on a long nostalgic walk around the camp. Charles had last been here in 1986.

two new Cornmans

Summer 2011. Session "A" began yesterday, a one-week session occuring while staff training is going on. (Some veteran staff are serving as VCs and counselors in the two session A villages - Thunderbird for boys and Moonshadow for girls.

Above you see Helen Cornman arriving with her two children who are attending camp here for the first time! (With Helen is her nephew, Dan Weir, our fabulous Director of Camping Services.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mike Ketcham per Dave King

Dave King writes:

"I first met Mike as a camper in the first Lenape Village at Camp Wawayanda in Frost Valley in 1958. He and Bill Haney were together in Cabin # 18, and Jessie Arey was their counselor. It was obvious that Mike had been to camp before, and was great in the village. When we had the first "Olympics", I found out how great an athlete (swimmer) that Mike was. However, I came to realize over many years, that Mike was a true living definition of a "gestalt". Mike was a whole far greater than the sum of his parts.The variety of positions that he held at Frost Valley, his life as a family man, his work in the "Y", are all a part of the pieces which comprise the "picture" of Mike. That one of "my kids" is retiring is a shock to my central nervous system! I am proud of the man that he has become, of his accomplishments, and of his contributions toward making our world a better place!"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Frost Valley of the Pacific Northwest

David Scherer Water tells the following wonderful story about what happened when he looked for a camp for his son in the Seattle area. Dave knew that sending Random to Frost Valley entailed too much travel, but he hoped he'd find a little Frost Valley out there. Well, he found Camp Seymour and got a lot more of Frost Valley than he ever imagined. Here's how he tells the story:

'Living in Olympia it just wasn't practical to send Random to Frost Valley and I've always felt kind of sad about that. I looked into the closest Y camps and discovered Camp Seymour was only 40 minutes away. When Random was 4 the two of us did a family camp program and had a blast. The camp reminded me so much of Frost Valley, but I figured this was because all camps reminded me of Frost Valley. Then I met Mike. At first I didn't know that he was from Frost Valley. I even made a joke about his last name being a classic camp name and told him how there was all kinds of things named "Ketcham" at my old camp and wondered if he was part of a secret society. It was one of those small world kind of moments, the kind of uncanny coincidence that made me wonder if some mystical camp force was at work. I would have preferred to have had Random continue the tradition of going to Frost Valley (he'd be the 3rd generation of Frost Valley campers in our family), but Camp Seymour has also become very much a home for us too. I am grateful for the ways Mike transplanted a lot of the Frost Valley culture to Camp Seymour. Random continued as a camper at Seymour and has a group of camp friends that he stays in touch with. I've been to several workshops at Seymour. I think of it as the Frost Valley of the Pacific Northwest.'

-David Scherer Water
Olympia, WA

the Ketchams in 1958

Chester McLemore recalls: "In 1958, the first year at Frost Valley, Mike Ketcham was probably 14 or so. He was a Jr. Counselor and was assigned to my cabin. He was quite and involved with the staff in our village. We were in Cabin 10. Mike DeVita was the village chief and Mike's Brother, John, was a camper in my cabin. It was a great summer. Of all the campers that I had in the 3 years that I was at Wawayanda, I mostly remember the Ketchams, Mon, Dad, Mike and John. It's been so long since this happened that I do not remember specifics, but I do have good feelings when I think of Mike, John and the family. Their sense of family has always been with me."