Friday, March 8, 2013

Wawayanda is really the oldest Y camp

Over the years there has been a good deal of discussion about the original Wawayanda/Dudley co-founding of the first YMCA summer camp in the U.S. Sumner Dudley founded a camp in 1885 along Lake Wawayanda in northwestern New Jersey, then moved the camp to Orange, NY. Later the camp split: Dudley took his group to the Adirondacks (to what is now Camp Dudley) and another group remained at Lake Wawayanda in New Jersey. 

For years we talked about Wawayanda as having been founded, under the direction of Charles R. Scott, in 1901. Bud Cox and others have been arguing that in fact our founding dates back to Dudley's first camp in 1885.

Above is a photograph and caption from a book by Ronald J. Dupont, Jr., called Vernon Township. The photo was taken at Camp Wawayanda in 1909. But the caption notes: "A tent group on a sand shore. Lake Wawayanda is regarded as the first permanent YMCA camp in the United States, and the program carried the name Wawayanda to its later camps (the present one being in the Catskills). The camp was established by Sumner F. Dudley in the 1880s and left Lake Wawayanda after the property was purchased by the New Jersey Zinc Company in 1919."

Monday, March 4, 2013

when the maintenance staff lived in the cabins

A few days ago I reported the passing of Al (some of us knew him as "Alfie") Welch. Frank Rutan wrote me his recollection of Alfie and agreed to share it with all of us:


Al Welch was a Frost Valley employee.   In 1969 I was the counseler in Totem Village Cabin 2  from about mid July thru the end of the summer.  For reasons long forgotten,  they decided to have      maintenance personnel sleep in the cabins.   Al  (usually known as Alfie) joined us in Cabin 2.   We didn’t see a lot of him since he left early in the morning and came back later in the evening.  But he was always cheerful and chatty with the campers when he was around.  However,  maintenance was clearly his interest in camp. He was a strong, stocky guy who played tight end for Tri-Valley High School,   as I remember.  Even then,  just finishing up high school,   he was clearly a capable member of the maintenance dept.   He was also a heavy equipment operator  and I remember one day when he drove Carl Hess crazy the way he was driving  a backhoe. 

He likely worked for the camp for more than just that one summer but I don’t remember for sure.  I believe he went into the Navy soon after high school and I remember him spending time on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.   Unfortunately he had some health problems later in life.   At the time of Halbe’s memorial in October,  Bill Devlin indicated that Al was not well at all.   So it is with great sadness to hear of his passing. While most staffers from that era probably didn’t know him,  he was a big part of the maintenance dept and thus the Frost Valley family.