Hyde Bay Logo Herbert Pickett's Family History
Hyde Bay Camp Begins

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Herbert Pickett, Jr. writing:

      After camp closed, we went up to the farm, this time in our new Chevrolet touring car. Dad and Mother talked a lot about what to do next, One day, we packed a picnic and drove over to Rathbun’s Hyde Bay place. We may have gone for a swim; I don't recall that detail.  Old man George Rathbun was around looking after things, and Dad asked him if he knew of any properties around the lake available for a camp.  George said, "Well, I might be willing to rent you some of my place." At the North end of the property there was a small hotel and an adjoining cottage, The hotel had a large dining room and kitchen and lounge on the first floor, and maybe a half dozen bedrooms on the second.  The toilet was a two section privy at the end of the porch, back of the kitchen. Lighting was by an acetylene gas system. The bedrooms had partitions only to ceiling level, no ceilings. Obviously it was no longer popular to a more sophisticated public, and old George was glad to get some income from it

      All of Hyde Bay, Including this property, was part of an estate of many thousand acres, extending from Springfield Center, all of Mt, Wellington, all of Strawberry Mountain and the shore to Peggs Point, the entrance of the Bay.  King George III had granted it to one George Hyde Clarke, and all the eldest sons bore the same name, being called alternately George or Hyde.  The ancestor built a large English Country house on a level spot on the edge of Mt. Wellington, so named in honor of the Iron Duke. who may or may not have been a friend of the first Clarke.  The house was called Hyde Hall, and later was featured in national architectural magazines.  It was a typical English manor.

      George Rathbun was a farmer up the road toward East Springfield, who also had a waterpower gristmill and sawmill on Shadow Brook, which cut through the farm.  He began the development of the landing area: first a dock for the steamboat, then cottages and then a hotel.  He just did it at a time when one of the George Hydes was otherwise occupied.  When a more alert holder of the name tried to collect rent, George R. said I’ll pay when you pay me for my buildings, Somehow, squatters rights or whatever, Rathbun became the owner of that land.

      Then came another development that was to have a large influence on that summer. That fall, Grandpa fell ill. Dr. Porter referred him to a Dr. Baetjer, a diagnostician, who put him in Union Memorial Hospital.  This was traumatic for Grandpa, because his experience of hospitals up in the country was that they were places where folks went to die.    He was put in an eight or ten bed ward, with a number of other men, mainly older.  I have a recollection he was there for quite a while.  He enjoyed the company of the other men and was glad to discover that not all who entered the hospital left feet first.  He had one or two blood transfusions, which cost Dad the going rate of $50 apiece, volunteer replacement not yet being instituted.  When later he turned almost brown from jaundice, he said to Dad,  " I don’t object to your trying to save money but it wouldn't have cost you much more to buy white blood."  (To be a Pickett is to be an incurable joker, I guess.)

      Anyway, he came home with us but didn't get much better.  Finally in. the spring, Dad took him to see Dr. John M. T. Finney, a famous surgeon at the Hopkins and President of the Trustees of Gilman.  He examined Grandpa, said to Dad by himself, “There's just nothing I can do for him. I could feel that large growth on his liver.  Just keep him as comfortable as you can, and I wouldn't tell him if I were you."  Dad said, “I have never kept anything from my father as long as I've lived and I'm not going to start now.”  As must be clear, it was cancer of the liver that blocked the bile duct and caused the terrible jaundice.

      By this time Dad had made commitments to Rathbun for the property, to teachers for the school, and to the cooks. He felt he had to go ahead.  Later, he said that was a terrible mistake. He should have canceled everything and given the summer to Grandpa's care.   June came; Mother hustled around to put away more valuable things and prepare the house for rental. Gilman gave us the right to sublet the place for the summer, which helped with expenses.  A family who lived downtown In Baltimore took it for the fresher air of the Gilman campus. After Brooklyn while Dad marked College Boards, Hyde Bay Camp and Summer School began its first year.

      The family and teachers lived upstairs in the hotel. The few tutoring students had a sort of bunkhouse in the cottage, The first floor of that building provided rooms for the tutoring. The teachers were Jim Dresser, still a bachelor, for math, possibly Ed Dunning of the Governor Dummer Academy in English, Ed Russell in Latin, Dad, of course for history.

First Tent
Left to right: Don Tag, Lawry Pickett, Herb ("Sonny") Pickett, Page Smith.

      Dad went to George Hyde Clarke and rented a piece of the adjoining land.  There under a large Pine tree he pitched the white wall tent they had used on their honeymoon with the words, "T. Eaton, Toronto” stenciled in the back. It was 8' x10' and took four cots, in which Page Smith, Don Tag and I slept with the councilor, Chink Warfield.  I have some recollection that Dad hired a Cooperstown boy to be our councilor, though Chink did things with us, and was waterfront director.   Ed Russell got the cooks from his Princeton eating club to come for the summer.  They were an older couple named Henry and Annie, but they were good cooks and the food was excellent.  Dad put a dock out by the sea wall below the cottage and rented canoes and rowboats from George Rathbun. With the help of some oil barrels and a platform about 12 Feet Square, a raft was constructed.  Through Moses Lippett, who owned the Otsego Lake Boat Company, he bought a motorboat, a 20 ft. Palmer Launch, heavy, round bottomed, and powered by a big two cylinder, two cycle engine.  Its ignition was magneto so no battery was needed.  You started it by spinning the flywheel, that is, when it wanted to start.  It was balky and caused a lot to trouble.  He also bought a 17-ft sailboat, which we used for years.  It was cat rigged, an enormous gaff rigged sail.  The hull was rather shallow, more of a sneakbox, not full in the bows as a Cape Cod cat.  There was a big iron centerboard and a 'barn-door' rudder about three feet long.

      We four small boys soon found enough to do.  We swam a lot, passed the "canoe test" explored Shadow brook, fished for sunfish or rock bass off the dock.  Dad took all the camp over to the farm for picnic and exploring the Decatur Creek where he used to fish as a boy.  We had one over-night, when Chink and the other guy took us in two canoes down to Fairy Springs, down near Cooperstown.  It came on to rain torrents and our blanket rolls got wet.  (Sleeping bags weren't in use until much later,)  Us were miserable.  They got some sort of fire going, but the wood was wet and didn't give off much heat.  Then the two councilors took a canoe and paddled the half-mile or so to the Cooperstown docks, called camp for Dad to come get us, and then had themselves hot coffee and breakfast.  We four kids were crouched over the smoky fire, shivering. Dad soon turned up and we were taken home, wrapped in warm blankets with dry clothes and plied with hot cocoa. You can imagine how Dad bawled the councilors out! There wasn’t room for Larry in the tent, but he was included in all activities. He was seven, the rest of us ten.

      All this while, Grandpa was in his bedroom in the main house, quietly dying.  With help he could get to the outhouse on the porch.  I helped him the last time he made it, and it wasn't hard because he was so wasted away.  Finally he was taken to the Basset Hospital in Cooperstown, where in a few days, he was relieved of his suffering.

      Dad and I went to Worcester to make arrangements, in the course of which he shared his grief with me.  I shed tears too at his passing, because I felt close to Grandpa and did a lot of things with him.  The funeral was at Clem Pierce's home on Main Street, Worcester.  The funeral was notable for two events. When the casket was brought in and opened in the front room, a strange woman was wandering around, and at the sight of the body set up a loud weeping and wailing and carrying.  Dad and Mother didn't know who she was, either.  She claimed Grandpa. had visited her many times while he was peddling brushes the previous summer and had promised to marry her. The other event Dad recounted in his reminiscences about the Picketts and their capacity to have grudges.  When Dad asked Clem (who was his first cousin, son of Mary,) if the funeral could be in his house, he said, "Of course, but with one condition.  If Grace steps through that door, I’ll throw her out bodily and I don’t care what is going on!" Dad hoped Grace, who was a daughter of Grandpa’s sister Delia wouldn't turn up.  But she did.  Dad ran out the walk and intercepted her on the sidewalk and told her what was about to happen to her.  She spun or her heel and stalked off, and our branch of the Picketts haven’t had anything to do with her or her twin sisters since.  Finally, the casket was laid to rest in the Trickey lot in Maple Grove, and we returned sadly to Hyde Bay.

      Finally, camp closed, the one tent was struck, the big boats sent to Cooperstown where Lippitt's would store them, and we headed back to Baltimore.  During the winter, it seemed to Dad that the summer school idea was still viable.  He talked with Ed Russell about it, and others, and the upshot was that Dad, Ed and Pete Saunders of the Hill School formed a partnership.  Rathbuns was rented again.  Dad enlarged his rent from George Clarke to include all the land later to be Hyde Bay.  They located a number of tutoring prospects.   The pickings still scarce for younger campers.  Page Smith was signed again, and Jack Taliaferro, a special friend of mine, (pronounced Tolliver, some unknown Maryland reason.)  Then Mrs. Smith got in touch with friends from Morristown, New Jersey, where she had lived in her married years.  Fordy King, Dick Williams and several others were signed up.  No more than three, as they made up two tents, or ten boys. Dad went over to an Army Navy Store in the east side of the city.  They had army surplus squad tents, 16 feet square, pyramidal.  They also had iron army cots and mattresses, and were willing to ship them to New York State.  Dad bought five tents and cots enough to fill them.   They were duly sent by freight to Cooperstown.

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      Camp wasn’t to open until after July 4th, to give us time to get ready. After College Board marking, the partners met and began preparing for camp. There were three tents in the big boy’s circle, just above where the Dining Hall was to be.  Two tents for the smaller campers were set up the other side of a thicket.  The local farmer came with his team and mowing machine to clear the needed land. Tent platforms were devised of spruce flooring, two by fours and posts.  When Dad was trying to figure out how to fasten the-side ropes, stakes or whatever, the father of one of the boys came in and said he was a retired army officer and had used these tents a lot and could show us a few tricks.  He suggested that two poles be placed on each side under the platform as a sort of lever and a light pole set across the two to which to tie the eight ropes on each side. It worked and we used the system as long as we used the tents.  The dock for swimming and boats was placed about where it was for the rest of camp life.  There was no boathouse yet.  Meals and tutoring were done at Rathbun's as previously, and as far as I know, Henry and Annie were the cooks again.

      Dad sent to Yale and hired a student named George Poore He was premed and a member of the water polo team.  He had the needed Red Cross instructors training.   Dad also hired Bert Moore from Baltimore, who was to teach in the Lower School while getting his graduate degree at Hopkins. They were the councilors in the two younger tents. Don Tag, Page Smith, Jack Taliaferro, Fordy King, and myself in the older tent, Larry, Dick Williams and two more in the other.  Bert Moore was an expert in nature study, especially butterflies and moths. I don't remember who were councilors in the tutoring tents. Maybe Chink Warfield was back.

The Turtle
"...sailed on the sailboat, which was eventually called the 'Turtle,'..."

      Dad began to develop his philosophy of nonscheduled informal camping.  We collected butterflies and moths and other nature items with Bert, practiced swimming with George, sailed on the sailboat, which was eventually called the “Turtle,” took trips in the motor boat, when it could be coerced into running, learned canoeing in the first of the wooden canoes we used for many years. On a hike, we discovered that the mountain behind the camp had marvelous wild strawberries in the field at the top. So it became forever "Strawberry Mountain.”  We took overnight hikes there.  We nailed pieces of wood to the elm tree in front of our campus, and made a small tree house platform there.   Fordy King fell out of that and had to be rushed to the Basset Hospital, but survived with sprains and a slight concussion. The ladder pieces were removed at once.

      Horses.  That first year, we began a riding program, if that isn’t too grand a description.  Dad inquired around and found farm boys who had riding horses who were glad to rent them to us in the summer, when they were too busy on farm work to use them. He contacted the Yale student employment office again and they sent us a riding councilor.  He was Whitfield Jack, a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, a graduate of West Point and a student at Yale Law School. The Army was so small then that he had not served as an officer. West Point trained the cadets thoroughly in riding and horsemanship, because officers had to

EMily on a Horse
"...we managed to scrounge up a motley lot of saddles, bridles, etc.we managed to scrounge up a motley lot of saddles, bridles, etc."

lead their troops into battle suitably mounted.  (This after WW I!)  He was with us one or two years. Anyway, that first year we managed to scrounge up a motley lot of saddles, bridles, etc.  We had a couple of army officer’s saddles, which we bought from Bannerman’s in New York, a famous well-known surplus dealer. Many of the local roads were dirt; traffic wasn’t too bad, so there were good rides available.  A logging road that went off by the Ethical Culture entrance led to the top of Strawberry Mountain and connected to bridle trails the Clarks had constructed all the way to Cooperstown.  The Clark Estates owned the whole side of the lake and mountain. Whit Jack then developed overnight horse hikes to a place over beyond Midfield Center.  Neo was later acquired for this purpose.  We also rented horses from dealers in Richfield Springs, West Winfield, and other places.

      In these years Mother thoroughly enjoyed the camp.  She was a good swimmer from her summers at Long Beach.  One summer she did two long swims, first from Clarke’s point to the camp, then across the full width of the lake from Five Mile Point.  It took her about an hour and a half of her steady sidestroke. She enjoyed the aquaplane behind the motor boat,  (before the invention of water skis.)  Then she wanted to try riding, so she bought a pair of white linen knickerbockers, and the only bra I’ve ever known her to own, and went riding horseback.  

      The winter of 1928-29 was spent planning for the following summer.  Ed and Pete didn’t want to go in partnership again, and Dad preferred to go it alone, so he decided to build.   We went back to the Army-Navy Store, (I say “we" because I recall going along with Dad and Mother,) and bought a stove, cooking utensils, china and silverware.  As soon as we could get away, we went to camp and Dad engaged a carpenter named VanAuken to build the buildings. They worked out the design together, for a kitchen and dining hall, 16x32 ft. with kitchen 16 ft square with a lean-to on the side for the cooks, There was a porch along the front and side.  The tutoring school was to be about the same size, a study hall and four classrooms.

      We went back to Brooklyn for marking college boards, and when we got back, VanAuken and his crew had the two buildings erected.  The stove and other stuff came over from Cherry Valley freight station.  Pretty soon we had a camp. For cooks, Dad hired a Gilman chef, Fielder Brown, who came with his wife, Prudence.  Fielder was tall and slim, almost as tall as Dad, while Prudence was short and fat, a real 5x5.  They stayed with us many years, and were good friends.  Fielder taught Mother all the ins and outs of ordering food.  For supplies of all kinds we began to trade more and more with Roy Flint at the East Springfield General Store. He could order almost anything we needed, food, hardware, equipment, you name it.

     For living, Dad put up one of the army tents about where the Director’s cabin was to be, back of the boathouse. They put in one of the Victorian bedsteads from the farm, the tall headboard against the center pole.  Bob slept in a cot in front. How many boys did they have that year? The new dining room held only three tables, which would have seated about 15 tutoring types more or less.  Sanitation was by pit privies or outhouses. (How many dozen of these pits have we boys dug over the years?) Water for the kitchen came from Rathbun; 3/4" galvanized pipe laid across the ground.  Wastewater from the kitchen was led into an ever expanding series of dry wells and drain tiles that eventually went half way to Shadow Brook.  The soil was dense hard pan clay that would not drain anything.  Lighting was by kerosene Aladdin mantle lamps, barn lanterns in the tents.  Probably that year Dad bought a Model T Ford pick-up truck, for the nightly run to Dean Rathbun's farm for milk.  Dean was George’s son and a very efficient farmer.

Model T Ford
"Suddenly the tailboard came loose and fell down, and I went out on the road."

      I remember one of those milk runs.  The East Lake road was dirt toward East Springfield until the tune by “The Russians,” then became blacktop.  Mother and Dad went for the milk after supper one night, and I went along.  As we were coming back, I was sitting in the back, leaning against the tailboard.  Suddenly the tailboard came loose and fell down, and I went out on the road.  For some strange reason, I wasn't hurt except for a minor scrape or two, but I yelled and Mother looked around to find her first-born missing.  I was not hurt.

      We made other contacts for supplies.   Bob Stocking provided cream and butter, since they had Jersey cattle. We brought chickens from a number of different places.  One of Dad’s ideas was to have the very best food possible, simple, fresh, farm-raised.  Wednesday and Sunday were always chicken and ice cream, which we made ourselves, and a great UL chore was turning the freezer, the reward, licking the dasher.

      For laundry, he found a couple named Guy and Rosie Van Patten, who lived in Middlefield Center and were willing to take on that job.  As the camp expanded, they added more machinery and hired more neighbors, and provided the service for many years, Hyde Bay their only customer.  One result was that the New York State Labor Department claimed Dad ran an illegal laundry.  Rosie often helped us with cleaning and cooking before camp started.

      As to staff, George Poore was back for swimming and Bert Moore for nature, etc.  We had St. Lawrence skiffs from Rathbuns for rowboats, and we began to collect those ghastly wooden canoes.  It was many years before we got some decent Old Town canvas canoes.  We had the raft on six oil barrels by that time, but hadn’t figured out how to keep the barrels under the raft in a storm.  They usually came ashore.  Eventually we worked out the cabling system.  The sailboat was in constant use, of course, and motor boat still had the inboard engine, which worked off and on.  We made an aquaplane to tow behind the boat at its stately eight knots or so. This summer I was 12, Larry 9, Bob 6.

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