Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
Hyde Bay Camp in the Early 1930s

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      The next Summer, 1930, VanAuken was again employed to build two cabins, each 16 ft. square which included a 4 ft porch. Each had two rooms, 8 x 12 ft. One was for the Director, that is, for Mother and Dad, located just beyond the boathouse. The other was for tutoring school staff, to the left of the school. Dad added a sleeping porch on the side of his, with a canvas roof. The dining room was extended eight feet toward the hill to make space for a table, which was the Director's table for the rest of camp. Then he had the porch on the north end of the dining hall enclosed for a recreation room in which he installed an old upright piano. As the enrollment increased, especially of teen-age tutoring boys, new tents were bought and installed.

      On the waterfront, the diving tower was constructed. This was a platform about twelve feet square on 4 inch square posts driven into the bottom in eight feet of water. We constructed a diving board of an oak plank bought from the sawmill in Cherry Valley. Then Dad designed and had Harry Baird, the blacksmith in East Springfield build a tower of steel strips bolted together with platforms at four, six and eight feet in height. Installing and removing this structure was a major effort at opening and closing. The raft was anchored between the tower and the end of the dock. The motor boat and the sailboat were moored to buoys made of 30 gallon oil drums anchored to concrete blocks.  

Volley Ball Net
"...On the level area north of the dining hall, between a tree and a post, we put up a volleyball net, where we had games many nights after supper."

On land, Dad had a field above the tutoring school mowed and laid out a baseball field, which he named "Double Marsh Field." We had Softball games there. Dad always pitched for one team. I was eventually his catcher, since I don't remember ever catching a fly ball out in right field. On the level area north of the dining hall, between a tree and a post, we put up a volleyball net, where we had games many nights after supper. There were horseshoe pits toward the shore. The whole property was fenced and the gate up at the road always closed so the four horses had the run of the whole place. One U.L. chore was daily to pick up their leavings in populated areas. By the vegetable garden at the entrance, there was a small shed to store horse feed and tack, i.e. saddles, bridles. We never fed them hay; we figured grazing would be sufficient supplement.

      The effectiveness of Hyde Bay was not so much program and equipment, as important as those might be, but was due to the great collection of personalities that gathered there. Of course it was Dad's personality that drew and kept them in friendship and loyalty. It is gong to be hard to do this because there are so many stories, so many unique persons to describe. Of the teachers:

      Edward T. Russell, one of Dad's closest friends from early Gilman days, at this time still a bachelor, I think. I know he was there in 1932 because Dad was shopping for a better hull for the outboard motor we had at that time. We took the boat we had to Moses Lippet's summer home across the lake to shift the motor. Ed was with us. The motor was a Johnson 32, the largest outboard motor made at that time and quite a big machine. When we got there, Dad told me to shift it. Ed got out to help, but didn't do anything but get in my way. I unfastened it, picked it up and carried it over to the other boat and installed it. Ed shook his head and said, "Polaki, you're my next heavyweight." Ed was wrestling coach at Gilman and his team won the state championship ten of the first eleven years, and I was his heavyweight for three years. All from an outboard motor. I think he finally married Florence Campbell about that time, after a courtship of many years. After that, they used the "yellow house" at camp and then the cottage over in the woods. At Gilman, they moved into the other half of the duplex and continued as the family's closest friends.

      Karl Hartzell, who taught French. He was a professor at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa. His was an emotional nature, with an explosive temper we all carefully sought to avoid. He was a fanatical bridge player. He was almost a radical in philosophy, as he kept volumes of Veblen, Marx and Lenin on a shelf by his tutoring table. While he didn't push his ideas on others except in discussion. His chief contribution was to build the final bon fire for the last night of camp, which took him three or four weeks in August. They were great fires.

      James Leland Dresser, called Jim, was a math teacher. One year he led the Trenton Falls trip before I was old enough to do that. When we got to the camping place, we discovered that we had forgotten to bring all eating things, cutlery, plates, etc. While the other councilors led the hike up to the falls, he drove back to camp and picked up the missing items, 55 miles each way. Dad pointed out that it would have saved time and money to have gone to the nearest store and bought the things. Jim, like so many of the bachelor teachers, married late in life to Elizabeth. I believed they, too, lived in the yellow house. They liked the area so much that they bought an old farm in the hills across the lake, and made it the their home for the rest of their lives. A part of the family mythology about Jim is that Dad first met him when, as a new college graduate just hired at Gilman, he came to teach at the Nissequague tutoring school. The first day, Dad invited him to go out in a canoe for some reason. Getting into the craft awkwardly, he managed to dump himself and Dad into the water. Despite that he was a life long friend.

      Miles Marrian, a Gilman master, bachelor, a very quiet person, who taught Mathematics. He was a good baseball player, and pitched for the local Springfield Center team. During the war, he was a professor at West Point.

      Alfred Townsend, also unmarried at this time, who taught Spanish. He could be a pretty prickly person. In a year or two, he finally married, which ended his Hyde Bay career.

      It seemed difficult to find a good English teacher. One year, Dad persuaded Cooper Walker, a Gilman grad at Yale, to do that. Dad thought he would be a good teacher, but he became a travel agent instead. Tom Mercer from Governor Dummer Academy was there as English teacher from the late 1930's to 1955.

      Dad taught history, but I don't remember his having any pupils. He believed history didn't have to be taught if a person could read. He proved this with me. The summer of '34, I spent an hour or so a day reading the history text. The following June I took the College Board in Ancient History and got 90 I think, without going to any class.

                                                            Camp staff
      Once we had a piano, Dad hired a musician to lead singing after supper or other times. One of the first was Frederick Weaver, whom Dad always called "Buck." He taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, and was organist at First Presbyterian Church. His wife was a friend of Mother's from the College Club, I think. They had two daughters. A part of the rental of the property included a rather small dilapidated house across the road from the entrance, painted yellow, and so was always "the Yellow House." We cleaned it up some, painted the walls with water based paint, furnished it with some of the things from the farm, and the Weavers lived there. In a couple of years, they left and Ed and Florence Russell stayed there. Weaver's chief contribution was not musical. Dad wanted a fireplace in the recreation room. We dug a pit in the ground at the proper place, poured in concrete footing, and Fred did the masonry. Dean Rathbun had the foundation of an old barn on his farm and he let us have the squared limestone blocks, which we brought down a few at a time in the station wagon and Fred worked most of two years building it. There were two problems, of course. The first is that recreation room became a part of the dining room, and the fireplace has no real use. The other is that we had not figured on a high water table being so close to the lake and that the frost in the winter went very deep. In a couple of years, the fireplace leaned back about six inches, making a contribution to Hyde Bay's unusual architecture.

                                                        Head Councilors.
      I think Charlie Classen was the first with that title. He was a Gilman grad, a student at Princeton. I believe he was there maybe two years. Bill Formwalt, a Gilman teacher, who I think worked out pretty well, followed him. Then he hired a Gilman grad at Yale, George Chandlee. Here is George's recollection of this, written in the Gilman Alumni Bulletin after Dad's death:

      "When I was hired as his head councilor, this was the only explanation he gave me of my job: 'You get blamed for everything that goes wrong, and I get the credit for all the good things.' For nearly twenty-five years we worked agreeably together on this basis. Hyde bay has a spirit that cannot be described, and an architecture that must be seen to be believed. Most of the building were erected by the Director's own hands, with or without the help of a series of competent and incompetent assistants."
      George was so close to us as a family that we called him "Wilbert" the fourth Pickett boy. When Dad started Cooperstown Academy, he was on the first faculty. War service intervened, and afterwards he returned to Gilman, where he was a nationally recognized lacrosse coach. He continued as head councilor.

      Walter Lord was a classmate of mine at Gilman, and then attended Princeton. His relationship to the camp was a little hard to explain. He wasn't a councilor. He certainly didn't need tutoring. The best I can call him is the resident personality. He played all kinds of games. He sometimes put on a trench coat and a military cap and played "Der Fuehrer" when that German leader was still an object of American humor, not the evil force we have come to know. When he had a car, he found some where a spare tire cover with the words, "Owen P. Brady for Sheriff" written on it. Driving home to Baltimore he stopped in every little town in Pennsylvania and gave a campaign speech. He went up to a local farm and bought a little white baby pig, which he called "Pearl Susscrofa." One night they gave her a debutante party. Larry, Jake Madden, Billy Lynn and Bucky Turner were his gang in jokes like that. He just liked being at camp and another part of the Picketts.

      In June 1932, Ed Dunning of Governor Dummer Academy told us that he had a grad of that school who would be a good councilor and badly needed the job. Dad agreed and a stocky guy turned up whose full name was Horatio John Young. Horatio quickly got lost ands he was just "Jack" to us. He was a native of Newfoundland, whose mother had immigrated to Northampton, Massachusetts. He went to Governor Dummer for college preparation, and then spent a year at Harvard. He practically starved. He quickly fitted into camp. He was good with tools and took care of the repair of the boats. He had a great sense of humor, and got on well with the boys.
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      Would he go back to Harvard? Dad then suggested that he come back to Baltimore with us and apply for the job at Gilman of house master in the cubicles. The younger boarders were not housed in rooms but on a third floor corridor where wooden partitions provided a compartment about eight feet wide, with only a curtain for privacy, each containing a cot, dresser, and some sort of clothes storage. It was thought these youngsters needed more oversight, which this would provide. There was a room at the entrance where the housemaster, usually a college student, lived and watched over the lads. Dad wrote Boyd Morrow and asked if the position were filled yet, and that he had the ideal applicant. Morrow's answer was that the position was vacant, that Jack could have the room, but because of the depression and school finances, the school could not provide meals in the dining room with the other boarders. Dad was furious. It was typical of his relations with the head in those days. So his answer was, "Okay. We'll feed him if you will give him the room and job. So Jack went back to Baltimore with us in the station wagon. He applied to Johns Hopkins College, got a good scholarship. and all that year he had breakfast and supper with us, tasking his lunch at college. (I say "supper", because the noon meal at Gilman was a full three-course dinner. It was a break for Mother, she had only two dinners a week to cook.)

      Gilman liked Jack and he continued as housemaster with food until he graduated from Hopkins. In essence, he was another Pickett boy. He went on to Tufts Medical School, near Boston on a Commonwealth Fund fellowship which paid for his medical school in return for a promise to spend the first five years of medial practice in a rural community. He continued as a camp councilor through his medical school years.

      The Payne brothers. When Whit Jack wasn't able to continue as riding councilor, Dad asked him if he knew of any one to take his place. He recommended Francis Payne, a student at Tulane University, New Orleans. He knew horses because his family owned and operated a cotton plantation near Greenville, Mississippi. Dad hired him and he was good member of the camp community. We called him "Fanny." I believe he may have been on the football team. He stayed a year, and then recommended his brother Billy for the job, who served maybe three years. He was on football scholarship at Tulane and their first string running back. He was more of a "jock" than Fanny, and was fun to have on the staff.

      There are others I might mention. Such as Page Smith, the first camper. In his junior year at Gilman he was a sort of junior councilor, as were Don Tag and myself. He wrote of Dad in his notes, "We would call him in the jargon of our times a 'Father authority figure,' but it would be a singularly bloodless way to describe as rich and humane a character as Herbert Pickett." Neither Walter, George, Jack or Page had effective fathers; Dad was their authority figure. There was Doug Wise, who drove the station wagon up to camp before I got my license. Ham Welbourne had sailing experience from summers on Gibson Island, which was Baltimore's yachting resort. He taught me most of what I knew about sailing in those days. My cousin, Don Tag was with us until he went to college at Lehigh. His expertise was in swimming, but his life long passion for guns was hardly useful.

      Back to Hyde Bay in the early thirties. (This is not a history to find the exact date of each event, but I think things happened more or less as I describe them.) Across a brook that ran down the north side of the tent circle, Dad leveled off a piece of ground, erected fencing and soon had a tennis court. A while later, Larry and I borrowed a team of horses from the neighboring farmer, and with a plow and dump scraper made a basketball court. Next to that, Dad built one of his most experimental buildings, the theater. In a swamp above East Springfield, which was the source of Shadow Brook, There was a grove of cedar trees the local owner wanted to sell. Dad bought a number of these, and buried their ends in the ground, laid a sill over them and the rafters of a roof. He covered the roof with bark, which never did keep the water out. He built a stage at one end, and once a week, (Fridays?) each tent had to plan, write and produce an original play. Several times as a part of the wind-up activities, he and staff members put on a serious one act play.

Delco House
What remains of the Delco House in 2009.
Photo by Rusty Pickett.
"Dad built a small shed near the kitchen, installed a Delco plant and amateur electricians ran wires to the dining room and the tutoring school and the two cottages."

      This was made possible because we finally converted to electric light. The government rural electrification didn't come in until much later. The Delco Company, a division of General Motors, made generators for farms or isolated homes, a 32 volt direct current system. Dad built a small shed near the kitchen, installed a Delco plant and amateur electricians ran wires to the dining room and the tutoring school and the two cottages. The heart of the system was a bank of batteries, sixteen glass cells, about 14 by 8 by 6 inches in diameter, each a two volt lead acid battery. The gasoline powered generator charged the batteries, and under the load of darkness, provided power for the whole system. With the batteries, the motor didn't have to be running all the time. The system we bought didn't work out too well. The generator was too small to carry the whole load. The batteries could not be left there in the winter, and it was a miserable chore to move them to warm storage.

      At that time I had read of Thomas Edison's invention of iron alkaline batteries which had some advantage over lead acid. One day we were looking at a store in down town Baltimore for equipment of some sort and saw strange looking steel series of boxes. We asked the salesman about it and he said it was an Edison alkali battery, 32 volts. We bought it, had it shipped to camp and it served us well until the 110 volt line came in. The generator was still too small. Somewhere we found a Westinghouse 1500 watt generator with a big single cylinder engine. We had an electrician hook it up and it was just right, and the Edison batteries never needed any maintenance. We thought the Westinghouse ran on gasoline, but we wondered why the exhaust pipe turned red hot. Finally some one informed us that after being primed with gasoline, it burned kerosene. I guess it was a sort of semi diesel, but properly fed it did the job.

      That didn't supply the theater. Dad wanted to show movies and 32 volt DC wouldn't work, and furthermore was too far away from the generator. He then bought a Kohler 110 volt generator and placed it in another little house fifty feet away or so. It was a neat four cylinder engine that ran very quietly, and produced all the juice needed for the theater. With a 16 mm sound projector, there were weekly movies. (Pardon if I bore you with technical detail, but my part in the operation was to maintain machinery, and I won't go into the goofs I made in that.)

      Dad wad concerned to find a decent canoe trip. We tried the Susquehanna, but the part near Cooperstown stank of septic overflows. We referred to it as the "Cesspoolhanna", and the Goodyear Lake dam created too much still water. We went out one day, Dad, Mother, me and Garbo. Following up some real estate ad we looked at a camp in the Adirondacks. We looked into a cabin and it was filled with the taxidermist's art, all kinds of deer. Garbo began to bark and shook in fear. Then we realized she was face to face with a mountain lion on the back of an unfortunate buck. It was not what we wanted. We did find a river that seemed to have possibilities for white water paddling. It was the West Canada Creek, near the town of Trenton.

      We took five canoes up there with qualified boys and councilors. Dad led the expedition. We camped just down the stream from a small hydroelectric plant. We went to the powerhouse and in those simple pre-terrorist days, we were welcome to go down an elevator to the plant. There were four older generators and three more modern, larger units. We were free to explore. We went out a door on the upstream side of the powerhouse to explore the gorge. It was a wonderland. The walls of the gorge were a couple of hundred feet high. There were two waterfalls with a trickle of water running over. Most of the creek's flow was in the great pipes, called penstocks, carrying the water to the powerhouse. There were deep pools at the foot of the falls, where we went swimming. The next day we went down the creek, past Poland to Newport. The first part was ideal canoeing, some challenging white water, but past Poland the water spread out over rock ledges and we had to do a lot of wading. So began the highlight of every year, the "Trenton Falls Trip."

      A couple of years later, there had been heavy rains in the mountains and the river was in flood. The water in the usual run was so deep that there was no challenge. We decided to go on over the ledges. It was rough. Every canoe but Dad's dumped. He put his 250 pounds in the bottom and it had the stability to survive. I had Wally Lord as bow man in my canoe, and when we went over, he was totally delighted. Even at that time, he was a student of the Titanic disaster, and here he was in a real shipwreck! He put his shirt up on his paddle and cried for rescue. The capsized old wooden canoes kept hitting rocks and were severely damaged. Jack Young had his work cut out for him when we got home.

      How to transport the canoes? The neighboring farmer had s model T Ford sedan just sitting there, Dad bought it, towed it down into camp and said, "Here it is boys, all I want is the frame and the wheels." We pitched into it with any tools we could lay our hands on, sledge hammers, hack saws, wrecking bars, whatever. In about three hours Dad has his frame and wheels. (What a joy to us adolescents!) He took this to Harry Baird, the blacksmith, and he mounted two oak beams at each end about three inches square, eight feet long. From the Sears Roebuck catalog, we bought a tongue that attached to the front axle and the tie rod that turned the frame into a trailer. We could put three canoes on the bars, two on pieces of wood over them and one on the top, and tie the whole down with a length of rope. With a hitch added to the station wagon, we were ready for canoe trips.

      Shortly after the trailer was finished, it was up by the garden at the gate. The road went down a slope, turned to the left in trees, then down to the camp. We had to take it down, but Don and I figured it was easier for me to sit up on the front bolster, hold the tongue out in front and I could guide it easily. So he hopped on the back beam and we took off. It went like a dream. I asked Dad if we could do it later with other kids and he said, "It sounds like fun," and approved. After supper, as I went up to feed the horses, we pushed the trailer up again. About ten kids climbed on and we took off. In about ten feet, I realized it was a mistake, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. No brakes and the additional passengers added weight that increased our speed. I managed to get it around the curve, but then it went off the road and the rear bolster clipped an elm tree, scattering passengers all over and bending the supporting angle iron considerably. No one was hurt more than scratches.

      In this time, the "U.L.s" were invented. (Means Unskilled Labor,) Campers about thirteen or fourteen were given reduced or free tuition for carrying out certain jobs: bring in ice, split wood for the kitchen stove, taking out trash, and other chores around the kitchen, assisting councilors as they grew older, doing manual labor on projects that the Director wanted done. For many, it was training to be a councilor, and school seniors were essentially junior councilors.

      Dad also added to the kitchen staff. Fielder and Prudence needed more help. Dad hired another dining room man from Gilman, Theodore Chapman. He came up with us in the station wagon, and cooked for us until Fielder came. We built a 12 foot square cabin for Fielder and Prudy, and Theodore took over the lean-to. Dad hired an old carpenter named Hosey, (for Hosea,) Wicks. With Don and my help, he erected that house in about three days. To us teen-agers, he seemed about a hundred years old. Theodore quickly became a good member of the camp family. He had been a good baseball player in the army in WW I and he occasionally played catch with Jack Young or Miles Marrian.

      Which reminds me that Miles was the pitcher and Jack the catcher on the Springfield Center baseball team, which played other towns Sunday afternoons. We took groups of boys to the games.

      On the waterfront, we scrapped the engine in the big motorboat, (which, Larry reminded me, was popularly called the "Sea Witch", every one understanding that the letter 'B' could be substituted,) ripped out the rear deck and installed the Johnson 32 outboard engine on the transom. It worked pretty well, but a little hard on the ears of the operator. We could carry 15 or 20 boys to town or other camps. Then we bought the boat that was designed for the motor, as runabout that would seat six or eight. With only the driver, it planed and could go at good speed to haul the aquaplane or rescue a dumped sailboat. An Evinrude twin was bought to power the SW. Dad wanted a boat the kids could use. One day, he and I took the station wagon without seats over to Amsterdam and bought a 12 foot boat made by the Old Town Canoe people and a five or six horsepower motor. When we launched it, Dad, with his usual whimsy christened it the "S.T. 37". At that time there were sunken submarines with a title like S-57 and airplanes that also were known by letter and number combinations. He chose the name of a popular sore throat gargle. It was popular with the boys and another skiff and motor were added.

      A tutoring boy named Herb Smelser assisted me in my care of machinery. He was very knowledgeable about machinery and Dad thought him a mechanical genius. He had his own outboard boat the last year he was with us. We worked together, and once replaced the head on the engine of the 1929 Ford station wagon. He was on the Gilman wrestling team at 175 lb., so I worked out with him. He was not up to Ivy League, but went to the University of Alabama in engineering. At the Christmas vacation, 1936, he and his wife were killed in an auto accident on their way home to Maryland.

      I have already mentioned that Ed and Florence Russell married and spent one year in the yellow house. The next year Dad had a cabin built in the same 16 foot square design as his, over in the rather marshy woods to the north of the main campus, and it was the Russell's as long as they were at camp.

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