Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
The Beginnings of HBC

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      Ed Russell had a Princeton friend named Norman Park, who wanted to start a camp.  Ed referred him to Dad, and he went up to New York for an interview.  The upshot was that Dad agreed to be Assistant Director or manager of this non-existent camp. Norman's wife, Julia, a truly lovely and aristocratic lady, had inherited an estate on Stony Brook Harbor, near St. James, N.Y. on the North Shore of Long Island.   There was a large shingled main house, a typical country home, well furnished, year round.  There were many acres to the estate, running down to waterfront on the harbor. There were a number of other useable buildings, cottages, barns, etc.  Norman thought it an ideal site for a camp, and it was. He was an enthusiastic visionary and promoter, but not always practical, or, as it turned out, not very honest, It was to be called Camp Nissequogue.  He printed a catalogue and brochures hired staff and organized the whole thing, The big barn and carriage house was transformed into a kitchen and mess hall. He designed and built screened bunkhouses for about ten boys and a councilor, and bought cots and mattresses, etc. There was a rustic cottage off to one side, which was our house.  Mother said it was a real bungalow, since it had a covered porch around all four sides, and. had been copied from the Indian prototype.  The Parks and their three daughters lived in the main house.

      Once school was out that June of 1924, we went to Aunt Grace’s in Brooklyn.   Dad was marking College Board exams in Ancient History.  I don't know if this was the first year he did it or not.  The marking was done at Columbia University, and he went back and forth on the Subway.

      That June we didn't stay as long in Brooklyn as we usually did.  Mother got us all packed up and we went over to Grand Central Station and took the New Haven Railroad to Providence, RI There, Aunt Emily Richardson, and, I think, her husband and assorted Lambs, particularly Cousin Leonard, met us and took us to Attleboro, Mass, to Aunt Emily's home.  She was Grandmother Mary Elizabeth Lamb Ames' sister and Mother's namesake.  We were to stay there a while, and then go back to New York, where Dad would pick us up. At the end of College Board marking, He had gone out to Nissequogue to get the camp under way. Anyway, we had a good time visiting the Lambs and seeing where Mother used to visit as a child.

      A day or two later, while we were getting ready to eat breakfast, we looked out to the front of the house and there was the faithful Model T and Dad striding up the front walk.   How come? He was supposed to be out on Long Island running a camp.  He told us that, when he got to the camp, there were twenty councilors, but not a single boy.  They did what they could with that mob, but still no boys.  Finally, one duffel bag arrived and Dad finally told Norman Park that he had it.  It didn't look as if there was going to be any camp. He was going to be with his family, and if he could turn up with a camp, Dad would come back to run it.  Norman said, ''How do I know you'll come back?"  Dad said, "Here, keep this to prove I'll come back."  He then gave Park a duffel bag or suitcase of summer clothes that weren't needed in Attleboro

      Aunt Ruth Tag, in the mean time, had taken a cottage for the summer at Dennisport on Cape Cod.  So we hopped into the Ford and chugged out to the Cape, and had several good days with them over the Fourth of July. Next to their cottage was a big potato cellar or something of the sort where the roof came right to the ground.  Donnie, Larry, Helena and I liked to scramble to the peak and slide down the shingles to the ground; fun but hard on the seat of our shorts.

      After that pleasant interlude we headed back to Long Island via the Bridgeport, Port Jefferson Ferry. When we got to the camp, there were only two councilors and some boys had turned up, maybe a dozen or so.  So there was a camp after all. They had horses and I learned to ride. Norman admonished Mary Ellen, his youngest, about my age, to go slowly with the horses.   As soon as we got out of sight of her father, she took off at a full gallop, and of course, I had to follow.  There was a big old catboat named the “Ruth”, very leaky, which we sailed on the harbor. Dad did the sailing; of course, at 7 I was only crew of sorts.  At low tide we could go over to the sandbar and dig all the clams we needed.  They had a great Italian chef named Pietro, so the food was good.  So the summer passed pleasantly.  Grandpa, in the meantime, lived up at the farm.

Camp Nissequogue
Click picture for the Camp Nissequogue information, application, catalog and map

      So back to Baltimore for the winter of 1924-25. When Dad got back to Gilman, he found that Boyd Morrow's tutoring school was in need of a place.  The camp at Sodus had folded.   Dad once said that two things would kill a camp instantly: a fatality or a homosexual incident.  The Sodus camp died of the latter, Dad got Boyd and Norman together and the tutoring school went to Nissequague. The camp was assured of a good enrollment, I would guess 60 or 70. Norman built a string of his bunkhouses on the bluff back of the shore.  He also bought a half dozen wooden dory-like boats, equipped them with Old Town canoe sailing sets and made fairly decent sailboats for the boys.  There were a number of canoes, good Old Towns, a field for baseball, the horses, etc.  It was a pretty good camp set up.  For myself, there were a few eight and nine year old boys who were given bunk-space in the barn used otherwise for the tutoring school, with our councilor and activities. I learned to swim that summer.  The water front director tried to teach me, and failed.  The Park's middle daughter, Marie, took me in hand and accomplished the task.  I swam the required fifty feet; or something, and was declared a swimmer.

      Dad organized a number of canoe trips.  There was a day trip to Nissequogue River.  The big event that Dad developed was a weeklong canoe trip around Long Island.  They trucked the canoes to the South Shore on Great South Bay, paddled East to Westhampton Beach, then up through a canal to the Peconic Bay. One year they went up Southold Bay to a pond, and had only to carry over a sand bar into Long Island Sound. Then they paddled west to Stony Brook Harbor.

      I recall other events of that summer. There was a lot of noise on the Fourth of July, also a sort of conflict. Mother and Dad didn't like firecrackers but let us have cap pistols.  Norman Park forbade all cap Pistols but thought firecrackers harmless and great.  Occasionally, there was a cookout on the shore, Pietro cooking over an open fire. This being 1925, Mussolini was beginning to come to power in Italy and some of the boys and staff were talking with Pietro as he was frying eggs, an even dozen in an enormous spider, with a handle about six feet long, (at least in an 8 year old 's eyes).  The debate grew more excited and finally Pietro gave the spider a heave and all twelve eggs flipped over safely as he cried, “Viva Italia!”

      This summer, Grandpa and Uncle Ed Trickey were at the farm, a couple of old boys in their 60’s having a high old time.  Dad bought Grandpa a Ford roadster to use.  Then one night, Uncle Ed had a stroke and died.  Dad and I drove up to make arrangements, telephoning Cousin Katherine in North Carolina, selecting as casket and so on.  I think Grandpa probably accompanied the body to Salisbury, N.C. for burial beside his wife.

      After camp closed, I guess we went up to the farm for a week or two, and then back to Baltimore for School... I would have been in third grade at Mrs. Frey’s, Larry in first.

      Back to Nissequogue in late June 1926, with a larger enrollment than ever and more small boys Park built a bunkhouse for us on a knoll to the right of the path to the beach.  The older boy’s houses were to the left. So we called it "Hilltop" and had a great time.   I can't recall our councilor’s name, I don’t recall whether Larry at Seven years was in with us or not.  We had trips together, once climbing the big windmill at the end of the harbor.  Mother made a pennant about ten feet long with the words,  “Hilltop” in white on blue back ground, and we rigged a flagpole in the top of the tree next to the bunkhouse, where it flew proudly.

      Another trip for the whole camp each of these years was to Fire Island.  We went to Islip on the Great South Ray where Dad hired a big motor boat to take the whole gang of us to the Island, which then was almost totally uninhabited.  There was a great lighthouse, which we climbed.  That was my first experience of surf swimming.  That year the surf was high and the older guys swam out and let the breakers smash over their heads and did some body surfing, I guess.  We didn't have surfboards then.  I ventured out and one of the inshore breakers knocked. me down and churned me all around.  Some one pulled me out, and I spent the rest of the time watching.

      For the camp at large, it was not an idyllic time.  Pietro was no longer chef, and Park had hired a little Frenchman named Pierre.  Park was also running into financial problems, and tried to save money on food. The food was terrible, some meals nothing but macaroni.  Dad caught Pierre once wiping the mold off a lot of hot dogs to be served.  Dad complained so much that Pierre tried giving his table a decent menu while the rest starved.  For whatever reason, Park just didn't pay any bills, and Dad said that his credit was so bad, the horses had to be ridden twenty miles to find a blacksmith that would shoe them.   Dad stopped in Norman's office once and found a table they’re piled high with unopened mail. Norman said,  “I don't know what to do. Somewhere in that pile is a letter from my dear old mother and I want to answer it and I can't find it."

      Another problem was that Captain Miles had resigned as Headmaster of Gilman and Boyd Morrow had been appointed in his place, Boyd more or less commuted between Long Island and Baltimore that summer. All in all, the life of Camp Nissequogue was doomed.  Dad felt he was ready to go out on his own.

      This summer, Grandpa was alone on the farm.  He managed to get a Fuller Brush sales job.  Fuller brushes were sold by door to door salesmen, paid by commission.  He took what training that was necessary and received his suitcase of samples, all with folding handles.  I never knew how much he sold, but he had a ball running all over the country in the little Ford roadster.  One old lady turned up at his funeral who said he had promised to marry her.

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