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Comments and Correspondence 2005
Peter Kinder 12/05/2005 - I have just glanced at the rest of this marvelous site. I, too, will have much to explore. Gilman is - vicariously, of course - an essential part of my and my brothers’ lives. Those people whom we didn’t meet - especially those who died during the war - have almost as much vitality in memory as those we knew. My father loves Gilman and its extension, Hyde Bay. And he loves talking about them, as he has all my life.
In a bookstore in Toronto on Saturday, ‘Ghosts of Vesuvius’ by Charles Pellegrino caught my eye. I bought it because of its dedication: “In honor of two literary fathers, who went exploring on the same day, in May of 2002: Walter Lord and Stephen Jay Gould.”
I spent a magical hour in 1958 talking with Walter Lord beside the Hyde Bay camp fire. We talked about the Civil War and perspective. He didn’t seem to think it odd an 11-year-old would have opinions on the subject. A week later, ‘Fremantle’s Diary’ arrived in the mail. Much about me was shaped as a result of that hour. And not the least is an eagerness to talk with 11-year-olds.
David Dube 04/20/2005 - After many decades I finally understand the concept of a “Black Hole.” The Hyde Bay Camp website is such a place, and has sucked in another former camper. (That camper/ UL would be Mike Fish.)
I introduced Mike to the website, and he and I both send our bests to Josh and Jolly, TK Lynn, Sandy Pickett, and the rest of the Mouldy City crowd.
Jeff Lew (of Ethical Culture School Camp) 03/28/2005 - I have distributed word of our correspondence and the address of your website to a cadre of ex-ECSC campers/counselors and staff with whom I am still in touch. I am waiting to hear what they think, first about my own summary of what ECSC was like and about what the HB boys understood or misunderstood of us.
Your website did not publish how to get the Cooperstown Chronicles [see below]. In a way I may be accused of crassly pushing Peter Rutkoff’s book, but I can’t help from restating how much I recommend it to Hyde Bay campers who might have curiosity about what went on over at our side of the fence. The book is a novel and the story lines are technically fictional. However, I can attest that description of the places, people and routine events are virtually photographic representations of fact. For your Hyde Bay mates who I imagine would enjoy re-living just a little bit of that youthful era, the stories should be entertaining especially considering that they presumably took place just over the rise from Hyde Bay camp. In case I’ve convinced you to look into the book, I’m tacking the bibliography info to this message again.
Hope to continue corresponding with you. I Will keep scanning the Hyde Bay web site from time to time. You have a lot of info there. If you get any new info or comments about Ethical Culture School Camp, please alert me. For the moment, have to break to do some other things. So take care and be well. Extend best regards to everyone connected with Hyde Bay Boys Camp.
COOPERSTOWN CHRONICLES: LOVE & OTHER CAMP GAMES, by Peter Rutkoff.Cooperstown Chronicles, is an intimate book, a group of interwoven tales—short stories that form an extended memoir—set at a summer camp in upstate New York during the 1950s and 1960s. If the themes are personal and universal (love, sex, growing up), the milieu is highly particular, for this is an “ethical,” “noncompetitive,” interracial camp for left-wing New Yorkers. The strong sense of a small, specific world, with characters who reappear from story to story, accentuates the intimacy, as does the perspective of memory, the knowledge that this is a world that has disappeared.144 pages. Hand-colored wood engravings by Frank C. Eckmair. Letterpress soft: $23.50. (ISBN:0-913559-69-5).
Rusty Pickett 03/20/2005 - Campers, with regret I pass along that Ginny Carlton passed away this morning after a relatively short battle with cancer. Susie (an honorary camper in the mold of Carolyn Mercer, Kristen Garver Ann Davison et al) was at her side. Please keep Susie and Scott in your thoughts and prayers. Sandy Cochran writing — March 20, 2005 — Will spend some quality time with this (identifications) down the road, but here are some for starters (and my brothers [unfortunately, Ted passed away several years back]) [Sandy supplied three sets of IDs for the Tent Groups].
Dayman 03/19/2005 - Thanks, Tom. I’ll see that our ECSC reader sees this entry. I, who was as excited as anyone could be about girls and sexual possibilities, do not recall any nude-ECSC stories. Ah, what speculative fun I missed!
Tom Lynn 03/18/2005 - It was great to read about the life of an Ethical Culture camper. I distinctly remember how mysterious it all seemed “down the shoreline.” The thing I most recall, though, is the rumor/myth that was shared among my fellow campers when we were first starting to feel our male hormones “awaken.” The story was that the swimming at Ethical Culture was done in two separate shifts: one for the boys and one for the girls. Not particularly fascinating in and of itself. However, what compelled us to squint and strain to see in the direction of ECS was that these shifts were — most assuredly — swum in the nude! Oh, how we 12 and 13 year olds were so sure that we had occasionally glimpsed … something! How exotic and continental those ECC campers surely were! (Where were the binoculars when we really needed them?)
Ps When I mentioned this to my father, he said that they had the same belief in his day. He said that some of them had even paddled a canoe down toward ECC and hidden themselves in the trees to get that same glimpse that I was wishing for 30 years later! (I wonder if this rumor was purposely passed down from the older boys as they eventually found it to be untrue — Woolly Ants, anyone?)
Pps Oh, FYI: I was only looking during the supposed “girls’ shifts” — not that’s there’s anything wrong with those who looked during other “shifts.”
Ppps Could Todd Mulvenny give us the same sort of insight into Chenango Camp life?
Pppps Hello to my former Mouldy City-mate David Dube — he of the “annex” along with Sandy Pickett.
David Dube 03/15/2005 - As I spend more time reading the website it is clear that most of us campers are still that way, and clearly all of us seemed to share the same ‘Hyde Bay’. And THAT is a remarkable feat. Best regards.
Sandy Cochran 03/17/2005 - Just found out about the Hyde Bay web page and have spent hours going through old pictures. Have some positive IDs for myself and two brothers (Ted and Gill). Hope all goes well for you. What wonderful years those were at Hyde Bay!
Charlie Burnham 03/14/2005 - Just discovered the Hyde Bay Web site, and it stirred up 50+ year old memories! Glad to see you are still active! [Charlie sent along two picture IDs as well].
David Dube 03/05/2005 - I was a camper from 1961 till the last night. (Two years off, age 14 and 15).
What wonderful memories. The place definitely stamped me for life, and I have done my best to try to help stamp my kids with the same credo. And, I believe I learned more about tolerance, acceptance, and belief in self there, than in any other venue in my life. Hope all that may read this may feel the same.
I was a tiny kid when I started in 1961. Charlie Tracey, my councilor, called me “Dabba”, a take-off on a popular Brylcreem commercial of the era. (’Brylcreem, a little dab’l do ya). First time in my life I ever felt OK to be tiny. Sandy Pickett, Robbie Feather, Kevin Considine tent mates. Highlight of the summer was passing the ‘A’ test swimming — took two and a half hours! Best to all, David Dube (still pronounced ‘dooobeee’)
Jeff Lew (of Ethical Culture School Camp) 02/26/2005 - The fellow seated in the left-most chair in the 1961-12 photo is reminiscent of Linda Mearns' "Murph" in my mind. I particularly remember the haircut being similar to that seen in this picture.
The sailing counselor to whom you refer is a fellow named Fen Fuller. He was a close personal friend and mentor who taught me how to sail when I was camper from age 8-14 (years 55-61). I was a sailing counselor from 64 - 67 when I was 17-20 years old and Fen was my boss as head of our sailing instructor staff. Fen was a central figure at the camp during my era there. Professionally he worked at the Fieldston School, which is the private school in Riverdale, NY run by the Ethical Culture Society. Among his interests was international folk dancing.
Fen participated in that hobby all year and he "D.J.ed" and taught us folk dancing at camp. That is perhaps another aspect of ECSC different from HBBC: we danced. We did folk dancing and some social dancing almost every night. Basically it was like this: after dinner on most nights there was free time and light sports. We had enough older (12-14 age) boys to organize into 3 softball teams and some evenings these teams played a game. About dusk the whole camp moved to our "social hall" building for some kind of planned activity that included music recitals by campers and counselors (those who had ability and instruments brought with them were tapped for this), skits, sing alongs (with words shown on slides - early Karaoke?) and other entertaining presentations and diversions. Then we cleared to the sides the fold-up chairs that were usually pre-set in audience-facing stage style leaving an open rectangular floor space. As if by rule, although there wasn't such, all the girls sat on one long side and the boys on the other. A stage elevated from the hall floor level by about six small steps extending full width was at one end of the rectangle and the entrance door was at the opposite end closer to the girls side. Then Fen from a corner of the stage played dance music from a turntable and records. Early on the dances were simple circle-style folk dances. At intervals of about ten minutes, Fen would announce that it was bed time for campers in groups from youngest to oldest. We were organized according to age and the groups were called "A" (8yr olds) "B" (9yr olds)..."F" (14 yr olds - the oldest). Fen would say "Milk line for A" which meant that the youngest boys and girls and their counselors left the back of the social hall, walked a short way to line up at a nearby small building with a porch and a window from which the kitchen staff served paper cups of milk and cookies (one each per person strictly!) By now it was dark, the campers walked to their respective bunks and tents, and got ready for bed. Back at the social hall, as the older campers remained, the folk dancing got to be more complex and advanced. When the groups E and F and sometimes D were still present, occasionally Fen would throw in social dances. Just the other day I had a message from an ECSC camper who was (is) 5 years older than me whom I haven't heard from in 50 years and who remembered slow dancing with the girls to Johnny Mathis played by Fen. Needless to say, this is when the older kids who were just into early adolescence began to "pair up" into boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. By today's standards the activity was tame. It was a big deal for us guys if you held hands with your girl friend and vice versa for the girls on the way to milk line. The boys lived in a line of platform tents (except for the youngest who lived in three bunks) called the "boys' line" (thinking back, we had an awful lot of "lines") and the girls lived on a "girls' line" of bunks (except for the oldest who had tents). The boys' line and girls' line were far apart so, especially for the older kids, leaving from milk line separately to respective boys'- and girls'- lines was a serious farewell for those who were "coupled". Of course, there was tons of gossip the next day about who liked whom and who might have kissed whom. Back in our tents/bunks at 9:00 pm campers had lights out and taps was played live by somebody who had a trumpet or other wind instrument. I think I played it once or twice on my clarinet. After that it was no talking sleep time. However, except for two male and two female counselors assigned to be "on duty" at respective boys' and girls' lines and who sat on a blanket by their lines with a kerosene lantern until some counselor took the lantern and went to bed, the other staff was free to do as they liked.
This brings me back to Fen Fuller. Counselors and other staff would use time away from kids for relaxing and socializing in such ways as running into town for coin-op laundry, pizza and beer, raiding the camp kitchen for snack, reading, talking, perhaps more intense socializing, and the like. Fen had a preference for retiring after taps to Weiner's restaurant and bar which I believe was, and is perhaps still is, located at Route 20 intersection with the east lake road north from Coopestown. There he would down beers and shots for a while and hold court for those of us who were so inclined to join him and who either had cars or were fortunate enough to catch rides. As I recall it was at these type gatherings where we counselors got a chance to unwind by talking often critically about the kids we had to tend to during the day and their peculiar idiosyncrasies. It was perhaps at this location that HBBC staff/personnel and Fen and ECSC people had greatest opportunity to meet each other. Getting back to Linda and Murph again - sorry for harping on this - I have a memory in my mind's eye of one evening after taps in the camp kitchen where a few of us were hanging out and occupying time when Linda brought Murph in to say hello.
About our impressions of HBBC, opining for myself, I thought of the boys camp guys as being rowdy, rough and tumble but not in a mean way. Kind of like "boys will be boys" and especially so when there are no girls around to perhaps provide an incentive to behave. Again, to my knowledge there never was formal interaction between our camps so I have no firm basis for having these feelings. As mentioned I was sailing camper and counselor who spent many hours on the lake. That is were we were closest to Hyde Bay boys. I think we knew that you guys had horseback riding and am sure that we would have envied doing that. The pictures from your website bring back to mind the big raft and slide tower that you had on the lake and that was visible for us to see when we canoed to Shadow Brook from time to time. Perhaps I got the feeling that the boys could be agressive because they would seem to buzz our slow moving catboats in their fast comets and lightinings. Maybe those guys were coming in close out of curiosity or to show off to the girls that we had with us on board? There was never a bad incident between us that I know of. And, as I may have said, on a couple of occasions our boats capsized and sometimes Hyde Bay came to the rescue in your motorboats, as I recall.
As for ourselves, the camp was Ethical Culture in name and practice but not in "preaching". There were no ethics classes or lectures of any type. We learned ethical behavior by living it. It was a truly egalitarian place. We had campers and counselors of all races and ethnic backgrounds, some of whom probably stood out in the central NY state rural farmland environment in and around Cooperstown. You could see that we were somehow "different" when we occasionally went to town as and with campers and got stares from the locals. Some kids came from very wealthy homes. A kid in the next tent from me was Peter Simon son of the Simon of Simon and Shuster book publishing and brother of Carly, who, incidentally did come to camp on one "parents' weekend". However, mixed in were many average and low income family children. My family was low middle class and we lived in a (high-rise housing) "project" in the Bronx at the time that I was a camper. We were not allowed to have money at camp. We could buy either one piece of 1 cent or 5 cent of candy per day and occasionally toothpaste, letter writing pads and pencils and other sundries from a $5 expense account. There was a pervasive control of competition. We had very few activities with any competitive emphasis (softball games mentioned earlier being an exception as was sailboat races - but even these were kept good-natured). Indeed the boats we had were so intrinsically different in sailing ability -despite being of the same class, that it was a foregone conclusion from the outset who would come in first, second, third and fourth, by which boat you were in. For the most part, everybody was given an equal opportunity to participate to level of desire and ability.
They say that e-mail is supposed to be short. Broke that rule! Was fun for me to recall these things as I related them to you. You might be interested to know that the some nearly truthful description, and essence and flavor of Ethical Culture School Camp can be found in a series of fictional tales recently published in a book by another person long-involved with the camp. The gentleman's name is Peter Rutkoff and his book is called "The Cooperstown Chronicles". Peter is now a Professor and Department head at Kenyon College in Gambier Ohio. I have a copy and can tell you that reading it was like re-living the experience. I think the book can be bought at a couple of places in Cooperstown, including the Farmer's Museum.
Well I hope to continue our correspondence and hope you enjoy reading about us wierdos just on the other side of Rathbun's. Have to run off. My wife wants to see my daughter, a senior at University of Delaware, now performing in Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues, and I have to take her there on way to the boat supply store for readying our sailboat (naturally! - but that's another story....) for spring. Feel free to use any of the above in your website. Anything that can be done to keep alive the spirit of our camp, and yours, should be done.
John Mercer 02/24/2005 - Yeah, I always envied ECSC guys because of the girls . . . the Murph was no doubt Sherman (Sherm) Murphy, who can be seen at these pages: 1961-70/1961_12; 1950-60/1951_05; 1950-60/1955_04; and 1950-60/1950s_53.html
There used to be a very sociable ECSC sailing councilor, an older kind of guy whom I used to see and talk to occasionally in various Cooperstown bars. We have 'Durbars' (reunions) about every five years or so, with 50 to 100 in attendance. You can see the results of the most recent one at http://www.hydebay.net/Durbar.html.
As to how ECSC was perceived, I think it was thought of as somewhat effete and intellectual, being based on such a peaceful and nonviolent philosophy. Some of us knew, however, that respect was due. I, for instance, raised as a Unitarian, knew a good deal about the Ethical Culture movement and was brought up to respect those principles. Yet, boys being what boys are, I do not doubt that I thought myself much more swashbuckling that the ECSC guys. And how as Hyde Bay perceived? Rough-housers, I imagine.
I remember the catboats.
Jeff Lew (of Ethical Culture School Camp) 02/24/2005 - I stumbled upon your website hydebay.net while googling the net for traces of our own camp, that is, the summer camp that I attended for most years between 1955 and 1967, namely, Ethical Culture School Camp, that had a waterfront on Lake Otsego, Cooperstown, NY. I found a page on your site that referred to "Ethical Culture". It is www.hydebay.net/ULs.html However, I can't find that page in the current hydebay.net hierarchy. Perhaps you dropped the link.
Anyway, browsing the pages of your site brings back a lot of memories for me and I am sure my fellow camp mates. We were well aware of Hyde Bay Boys Camp and there no doubt was some interaction on an informal level. I'm sure that despite the proximity of the two camps that there was never formal visits or meetings between us. We used to sail our 14 heavy catboats around the bay and occasionally received attention from the faster Comets. We (at least me) were envious of the big, loud and fast power boat that the Hyde Bay boys used for water skiing. I guess the one salient attraction that we had for Hyde Bay Boys Campers was girls!
One HBBC-ECSC relationship that became well known, talked and kidded about in our camp was between a blond ECSC woman counselor and a counterpart at Hyde Bay. Her name was Linda Mearns and all I can remember about the guy was his nickname: Murph!
I'm curious about what life was like at HBBC (although your website is so detailed and documented that I think I can figure it out from reading through it), and in particular what was thought of or known about our camp from your perspective.
Our camp stopped operating in 1971. I think HBBC stopped somewhere about the same. Some of us stay in touch although separated all over the country now. We're thinking of heading back to the campsite for a reunion. Do you folks ever do stuff like that?
Hope you won't find it foolish of me to send you a message like this. Would very much appreciate to connect with anyone who knew about all our old familiar childhood places like Shadow Brook, Sleeping Lion, etc.
For your information and perhaps curiosity, I am a 58 year old patent attorney living in Wilmington, Delaware.
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