Monday, July 29, 2013

blog semi-hiatus

Rainy first night, but two wonderful indoors Opening Campfires. I sang rousing versions of "Father Abraham" for both camps, and they seemed to like the old standby. I tell a story to introduce it: Gavin MacLaren, the international counselor from the early 80s, lived half the year in Lebanon and half the year in Scotland, and we nicknamed him Abe, and so sang the song in a Lebanese-Scottish accent, which I proceed to do, oddly. Anyway, that was fun, and threw off my voice. But no need to preserve the voice this session, as I'm heading away for most of session 3 on a real vacation. Pardon the semi-hiatus here in the blog. Day 1 of session 3 dawned perfectly, and it is stunningly blue-skied and sunny today, with temperatures in the 70s. Perfect. I'll
lead Geronimo for Sacky-Hemlock and then drive off down the road, staring ever more attentively at the glorious beauty of this valley. The session 3 kids are remarkably familiar with camp and our ways. I saw forms where, even in the younger villages, so many kids are here for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th year. Excellence is paying off: kids come back every summer, grow up here, and so there's a great deal of continuity, more than ever. Session 3, way back, used to feel a little different - a bit like the customs needed to be re-explained each time. But not here. It's a remarkable feeling. Onward, session!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

opening day session 3 sees scads of alumni here with their children

Amy Furman Melican was here today, dropping off daughter Abby. Lillian Rountree Lippincott drove in from Pittsburgh (staying at Eileen Bradley's house nearby) to bring daughter Jane to be a second-half JC, and son Cooper to spend another session in PAC. David Mager and Eileen Bradley came along for the ride. Bill Baker was here to volunteer at check-in and got to hung out with his former colleagues. Phyllis Gherardi Caputo brought her son Vincent for another summer of FV. The Schnauffers, who have been Family Campers since 1970, brought their daughter (who also grew up here) who brought her son for two weeks at camp. Lauren Eufemia Italiano also brought her daugther. There are more such alums wandering around camp today, but I didn't catch up with all of them.

From left to right: Nick Harley (PAC VC), Bill Baker, David Mager, Eileen Bradley, Lillian Lippincott - standing in the main room of Hird Lodge, the home of PAC village since its inception in 1985.

The Schnauffers - three generations!

From left to right: Eileen Bradley, Lillian Lippincott, Phyllis Gherardi Caputo, David Mager, Lauren Eufemia Italiano.

Jeff Daly is here

Start of session 3. Jeff Daly is here to lead a group of first-half CITs on a trip to Prague to attend an international YMCA conference. Kirsten Williams and FV's Senior Program Dirctor Vicky Williams will join him. At the moment Jeff awaits the arrival of his eight charges. Meantime, he and Dan Weir and I had a chance to catch up. Fun!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eric Blum on Memorial Island

Eric Blum's ashes have been placed in the ground on Memorial Island in the middle of Reflection Pond. The other day I was over there doing an activity with Lakota and noticed Heather Bowman and her crew weeding, cutting, clearing, and I walked over there to say hello. Jerry Huncosky and Dan Weir and perhaps others had placed Eric's ashes there a week or so earlier, but I had not gotten the nerve to look for myself. I went to say hi to Heather and then saw the spot. Beautiful. And there's a bench there now, in Eric's memory. It's exactly like the log bench Eric liked to sit on in front of Margetts Lodge, in order to get the best view of everyone in the field and hardcourts while still getting a little shade. So now we can sit with him. Nice. Rest in peace, Blum. You earned it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

end of session 2, 2013

This was the big big session. All beds full. Session 3 is nearly the same size, but 2 is a peak. East Valley Ranch - full. Farm Camp - full. Adventure Trips - many & thriving. Adventure Village/Sequoia: 7 tents. Lakota is 5 cabins plus an overfull Turrell Lodge - almost 60 kids just there. The dining hall is packed, and loud. Olympics is crazy. Overnights coming and going. The fields are pounded by soccer-playing, frisbee-throwing, hangout-hangin' kids. After lunch each day the roof is raised by raised voices. And so on. Now that's done and there's a lull between sessions 2 and 3. The staff really need the break (to catch up on sleep, and family commitments and unfinished applications for majors and study abroad, etc.) and at the moment they are quickly cleaning up cabins and village area, in anticipation of loading up the cars and heading south to cities and suburbs and country houses. I posted the photo above and left on Facebook just now, whereupon John Ferris (distinguished old-time VC of Forest and Lenape, and now a great teacher of literature and writing in Vermont) commented as follows: "Tranquility Base."  Indeed. A calm inside a storm. Emotions rode high at closing campfires last night and this morning as multiple goodbyes were said, promises to keep in touch made. A thousand hugs. Genuine ones. And good tears. The VC of Hemlock, Dom, surprised himself by having such a strong reaction to the departure of many of his campers, and several of his staff. At both campfires last night we sang "Old Wawayanda," Jacob Nathanson (on accordian) and I backed up by all counselors who were leaving today after a month. For each of the two camps there were perhaps six or seven people leaving - college orientation, family commitments, a new job starting (Sam M.), a trip to Botswana to plan for (Alex J.), etc. These departing folks took it hard, and good. They sang with feeling. Everyone caught the essence of it. The night was cold and clear - a beautiful scene for a campfire. Hird did its fire at the edge of Big Tree Field, and there was the old tree, shadowy in the background. A reminder that some things can be counted upon, to be right there when you return. I have the honor of greeting parents picking up their children, and it's always a sight to behold: a tender reunion in every case. The child cries because it's hard to leave such new dear friends, and cries because it's overwhelmingly good to see mom and dad after two or four weeks away. It's a combination that leads to the most crucial life skill: independence from one's parents, someday. We start that path here.

After singing my song at both campfires, and I checked on the CITs, also spending their last night after a month. And then I went up to Lakeview Lodge to say hello to some camper parents we'd invited to spend a night at camp before picking up their kids. I walked into the common room of Lakeview and found two of the parents I'd sought, but they were there with the STEP village group. These are MAC campers who have "graduated" to a special village of young adults who learn to work jobs around camp. All of them I've known for years. This is the pinnacle of their years at camp. And they were having their final devo (devotions), going around to offer "rose, bud, thorn" - one thing good, one thing coming up next, and one thing not so good. The discussion was unforgettably beautiful, as each STEP person had something to say, and were affirmed by the positive responses of their peers. One guy, who's had anger problems for years, showed how far he'd come, and was as kind and generous as could be in his responses to others. The VC of STEP, Olivia, honored me by giving me a chance to offer my rose, bud, and thorn. Rose: I was feeling very proud of what they've accomplished and how hard they've worked. Bud: Looking forward to hearing about their jobs (and paychecks) out in the real world of work. Thorn: When they left Frost Valley to try their hands at work in the world, I would miss them. The thorn hurts but it's just a little prick. Let them go.

Ron and Aaron Vos

Ron Vos was also a camper here in the 1970s. Today he came to pick up Aaron, his son, who was a camper here during the session just now ending - Aaron's second summer here.

Vescio brothers - once campers, now parents

This ongoing blog started out specifically for the purpose of featuring visits back to Frost Valley of former campers and former staff - and of focusing on the children of former staffers who are now themselves attending camp. Each session there are many, many of these kids. It's by now impossible to keep track. We're doing an intergenerational thing. I have talk after talk with these parents who, fondly remember their own summers here, have the strongest and keenest feelings about their children falling in love with the place. When the magic does its thing, the parents are almost happier than the kids.

That founding purpose for the blog remains, although readers here will note that I write on and report about lots of other things too. But today we're back to celebrating the generations. John Vescio and Chris Vescio, brothers who were campers here when I was a director, each have had children in camp this past session. Here's a photo of the whole gang, plus yours truly. Chris has stepped up and is the 2013 Chairperson of Project 332 (thanks, Chris); he's in the yellow shirt.

CITs on the last day

A happily sad group. Their month as CITs has come to an end and they don't want to stop working at the waste stations.

a long-timer steps away

Sam Martinelli got a full-time job and knew that his Frost Valley summers would have to come to an end. In 2011 and 2012 he was a village chief. He negotiated a late-July start to the job, and decided to spend half the summer here as a counselor in Lenape, in part so that he could spend another summer with the campers who'd come up through the villages with him: Outpost, then Hemlock, now Lenape. And in part so that he could do his farewell summer in style, as a counselor. Now it's done. He leaves today and starts the job Monday. Farewell, Sam, and thanks for the years of service.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

on a cold cold night, hosting the first "Ichabod Crane Revue" in many years

Last night, enjoying very cool temperatures and a bright moon overhead, Lakota, Outpost and Forest villages gathered for an evening program we haven't tried in many years: "The Ichabod Crane Revue." The Revue features debut stories and first-time story-tellers, plus skits as commerical-like in-betweens. Last night the story-tellers were Alex Toy, VC of Outpost, and Hannah Raskin-Gross, a much loved counselor in Lakota. Both stories were terrific. Alex's was a humorous tale of camp pranks from the old days. Hannah's was a "scary" story of noises coming from underneath cabin 46. The skits were two from the early years of camp: "The Important Papers," and the ol' "Ugliest Man in the World" (except that it wasn't "ugly" but "funny and weird facial expressions"). "His expressions are so weird....they'll make your eyes stick out like Kookamunga Nuts!" Sandy Shapiro Bohn was there and snapped several pix of your MC.

The cool temps prevailed. We held the event outside at the stage in Hirdstock Field. The kids spread out on the grass, Hirdstock style, wrapped in sweatshirts and blankets.

Later I told a story at Lenape ("Doubletop Plane Crash Mystery") until 11:30 PM and then brought with me to the Lakota CQ fire 8 jumbo juicy gourmet burgers, which were properly grilled over a welcome hot fire, and we all ate happily beyond midnight. As I walked back from this grill session, I counted my lucky stars to be that gastronomically satisfied, that late at night, under a million lucky stars indeed. And the cold? It was 44 degrees! Perfect. I slept like a rock.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

informal historical tour of Hayden Lodge

Hird VCs have a night out

The Hird VCs prepare for a night out with their directors. Their in good moods, as you can see. What camp people. About to leave camp for a dinner out somewhere but they are easily drawn into the ultimate camp game: tug o' war. Hilarious. Such energy.

at the pottery shop

In our nascent "Program Village," we have now built a pottery shop and a woodworking shop. These are being used as "specialty" activities for campers this summer, and during the school year for school groups and weekend visitors. Pottery had taken place in "old Arts & Crafts" even after the new Arts & Crafts room was built on ground floor of the Guenther Family Wellness Center; the old site served nicely for wet and dirty projects, including pottery. But now that Leadership Lodge, built to replace Pigeon Lodge after its demise at the hands of Hurricane Irene, has replaced old Arts & Crafts, we had no place for the messy arts. Thanks to David Landsberger, who gave us a grant to get start on this big project, we've built two of what will eventually be, we hope, six small cabin-sized shops. Two are done, as I say. And here was a visit, with Lakota, during a specialty period, to pottery. Watch and enjoy.

informal historical tour of Smith Lodge (aka "the infirmary," aka "the Dialysis Unit")

informal historical tour of the Welcome Center/"Ad Office"

Monday, July 22, 2013

waving their flags

CITs are "in cabin"

Half of the July CITs are "in cabin" this week. It's for most of them the exciting part of the training experience. Here's Fiona Crane - who has been a camper here for many years - sitting with her Pokey girls. Finally she's made it into the role of the counselor, and she's loving it. And can't you tell from their expressions that the campers are loving her too?

easy chair ("The Hird Song")

Got the Hird Band together for an after-lunch dining hall version of "Easy Chair" ("Ooo-wee right behind" or "The Hird Song"). The video doesn't have very good sound (not to mention that acoustics in the dining hall are weird) but you get the sense that we rocked the crowd. It was fun. David S. on lead guitar and Colin Reilly on harmonica each had solos. We've been singing this song with "the Hird" since 1983, but it was adapted from a Bob Dylan song back in 1974 by me and John Mumford.

faces of the Frost Valley Olympics, 2013

Readers of this blog likely participated in the Frost Valley Olympics. Each year I've chronicled this major all-camp program. If you search here and also here for "Olympics" across the many blog posts over the years you'll find similar faces and familiar sights - painted bodies, sprayed-on T-shirt designs, national banners, happy screaming people, get as into it as it is possible to get into something so utterly contrived. But contrived? Well, not entirely. Our values here are international cooperation and sharing, and the glory of full crazy release (running, jumping, playing, cheering). Here are the faces of the '13 Olympic games.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

the smelliest shoe

Challenge Night the other night: for PAC, Sunburst, and Mac Boys. What a fabulous combination of villages. We had fun. When it came time for the exciting (and for some - dreaded) "smelliest shoe" challenge, I encouraged Tara the CIT, who was serving as judge, to smell this really really smelly shoe. From the photo, taken by Sandra Shapiro Bohn, you can perhaps tell that Tara was tickled by the prospect.

cooling off in Biscuit Creek

It's been hot - very hot! The weather is breaking today and cooler temps will follow. But recently our campers have sought every opportunity to be cool - or, I should say, downright cold. The water of Biscuit Creek is always really frigid. What a good feeling. This Lakota camper - Lily - took advantage of our "Feeling Good" period to get cool before going off to play a hot game in the field for the next activity period.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

my Forest summer - 1966

I was in cabin 6, Forest village, in 1966. My counselor was Lynn Desmond, a local guy from Grahamsville, NY.  Forest consisted of cabins 6-10 and these cabins were located on the same flat or level as the dining hall. Two of those cabins are still there - I believe called A and B. Where cabins 7 and 8 were located is now Hussey Lodge. Cabin 6 sat in the middle of the field, off by itself. Gone now. The last photo here, although blurry, shows those great white-and-orange Wawayanda Y shirts we all used to wear.

like an older sister: what can be better for a girl at camp than chatting with her former counselor?

Adventure Village (Sequoia) gets lessons in handling a canoe

The campers of Adventure Village (Sequoia) learn to handle a canoe in anticipation of their canoeing trip in the Adirondacks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ketchams at Wawayanda, 1948 and 2013

Isaac and Cole Ketcham are in camp this session. Isaac is in Forest village, while Cole is at Farm Camp (I'll see Cole tomorrow when I go over there to lead a Challenge Night). Here's Isaac, all thumbs up, with Emiliano, his counselor. I shared this with Amy and Bill Ketcham, the boys' parents, and also with Bill's uncle Mike - the boy's beloved great-uncle, who, of course, is a Frost Valley lifer.

Receiving this photo of his nephew's son at the camp of his life stirred memories in Mike, and so he looked around for some definitive evidence of his own long-ago start. He found a photo of his and his siblings' father Frank at the old Wawayanda camp - in 1948. Family camp in August 1948. Mike and John's (and their sisters'?) first time ever at Wawayanda. Here's what Mike has to say, first of the great photo of Isaac and then about his Wawayanda origins:

"And the tradition continues....  Thought everyone might be interested in the attached.  Looks like the Ketchams began their Camp Wawayanda/Frost Valley tradition in 1948, not 1950 as I had previously thought.  This is a photo of John, my dad (aka Boppy), and me on the dock at the Andover site at family camp.  John would be about 9 months old, making me 2 years and 10 months.  That dates the picture to August of 1948."

And here is the photo Mike sent:

another window

One of the many great things about our having built a Wellness Center near the dining hall: campers can come to pick up their mealtime medications easily, without being late to the meal. (Previously it had been so difficult to do this efficiently that we had the nurses giving out medications in the dining hall - not the best arrangement to say the least.) So the Wellness Center makes all this easy. Well, no as easy as it should be. We built one window to create a kiosk at the Guenther Wellness Center, so that campers could come to the porch of the building and pick up medications from the kiosk, a nurse inside the window while the kids wait outside. But the one window wasn't enough, and lines formed, long lines, so that, after all, the campers were missing the first part of the meal. Solution? Knock another hole in the wall and build another window. That's what was going on when I snapped this photo yesterday. By now the two windows are open and the lines are short. After all these years we keep trying, one thing after another, to get this just right.


A classic scene. Photo by Dan Weir, who joined us for this huge game of Geronimo with Lakota village.

making friends in the dining hall

Time-honored tradition: making friends in the dining hall. I can't say it's quiet but it certainly is a place for real conversation. Today I walked around what seems a huge room with a loud crazy mess of interaction going on, but then I focused on particular instances of young people really getting to know each other - talking mostly in particulars. There's nothing abstract about it: what we did; what we hope to do tonight or tomorrow; who did what for the first time; etc. I apologetically break up some of these conversations to snap a photo, but it's okay: the smiles on their faces show how good this scene is. The dining hall is vital to the Frost Valley magic.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MAC leadership 2013 (minus Kat, alas)

Joe Medler of YAI is here visiting, as he often is during the summer when MAC campers are in session. Gail Morris, who now works with YAI and is of course a long-time Frost Valley camper and staffer, is here three days each week. Kat the VC of Mini-Mac (which operates in Wawayanda) was not at lunch with us, but everyone else in MAC leadership was around, so we gathered for this nice photo of the team. Back row, left to right: Gail, Joe, Amani (MAC co-director), Nikki (VC Mac Girls); front row, left to right: Olivia (VC of STEP), Rae (MAC co-director) and Colin (VC MAC Boys).

video tour of camp while everyone is at dinner

Monday, July 15, 2013

Outpost cools off on a sunny day

sunny first day of second session

First full day of second session: sunny! How much easier is the first day of a session when it's not raining? A great deal easier. Just now at lunch I talked with a good many happy kids. What did you do this morning? Waterfront. How was it? GREAT! I mentioned a hole in the bottom of Lake Cole last night at Wawayanda's opening campfire, and whispered into the ear of counselor Sam Nathanson what it was that used to (but no longer) crawl out of that hole, whereupon Sam went a little goofy and ran around as if the knowledge was too much to bear. Naturally, today, most of the kids in the camp are asking Sam to tell them what emerged from that hole in the bottom of the lake, but Sam won't say. Nor will I. It's such fun to hear them asking. They
know it's a fiction, but they also know that it would be fun to know and fun to find out that one just can't know. Kids love camp fictions. Anyway, happy faces all over the dining hall. Over at the director's table, while they dine, their radios rest and convene. Tools of the trade. If it were lunch on a construction site, the leavings on the table would be toolbelts and hardhats. Here, radios.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

David Sacker's daughter is a camper!

David Sacker has waited a long time for daughter Catherine to come of age - and now she has! She's is Susky this session....a little nervous on this first day of camp but she's got lots of support and will, I'm sure, have the time of her life. Check-in today went smoothly but it's VERY humid, and so everyone was sweating like crazy, walking up and down the hills, finding villages, making beds with fresh linens inside the cabins.... David started here as a camper in '86 and stayed for many years, finishing up with a several-year stint as a Lenape counselor. Below is a photo of David and me and Catherine in the dining hall at check-in. Then David saw Kyoko - a Tokyo Camp counselor from 23+ years ago. The remembered each other from the Olympics, when Sacker was the Head Coach of Japan. Quite a reunion.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Paul McGrath, former Frost Valley trustee, has died

J. Paul McGrath, who served as an assistant attorney general of the U.S. and was for some years a member of Frost Valley's Board of Trustees, died recently at the age of 72. During his time as a trustee, he prepared a report that led to a reorganization of our committees. He was active as a volunteer for many worthy organizations, including the YMCA in Florida, where he spent part of his year. We will miss Paul. Here is a link to an obituary.
assistant attorney general of the United States,


Some of the CITs on check-out day (yesterday). Happy people together.