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Charlie Burnham


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Charlie Burnham
Camper and Councilor 1953-1961

Charlie Burnham

      1953 must have been a good year for the market. The Dow must have been up and Standard and Poor’s had a bright outlook. When I arrived at Hyde Bay camp that summer of 1953, there were two new tents: 53A and 53B. I think that year was also the start of 9½ and 8½. Herb Pickett somehow was able to recruit an extra 14 campers - so more tents! I was only eight at the time and had no camp experience. My best friends Rick Malm and “By” Johnson came along with me so there was no thought of being homesick. We quickly learned about the kooks: the shower-orium and the washstands with the wooden trough five or six faucets to brush our teeth and cubbyholes to store tooth brush and paste. The trough was repainted every year to keep it sanitary. The water ran out the end of the trough onto the ground and into the woods.Charlie Burnham

      I had new glasses to correct my extreme nearsightedness and when I tried to play tennis for the first time, I noticed that when the ball was coming right at me, it looked like it was coming toward my right elbow. Needless to say, I gave that up right off.

      To get to the ball field from camp, there were about a dozen pathways crisscrossing through the woods. We all got to know them and I’m sure there were names. Capture-the-Flag games were won by the teams that knew those trails best. Baseball on the upper pasture seemed to last a long time. We had the Rochester and the Baltimore teams in hilarious rivalry.

      The old Ford tractor sat in the weeds near the ball field, and I was fascinated seeing this ancient marvel. Every time I see an old Ford tractor, I think of Hyde Bay. Only the most talented and skilled UL’s were allowed near it.

      I remember riding the HB nags around and around the riding ring ‘till I almost fell asleep. I found out right off I was allergic to horses after brushing and cleaning one for an entire afternoon.

      The ah-oo-ga horn woke us up in the morning and called us to meals. It was firmly attached to the roof of the back of the kitchen. One day it went missing and chaos ensued until it was found and returned to the roof.

      Over a span of five summers I enjoyed the regime and life at Hyde Bay. We could count on meal times, cookies and milk time, morning tent inspection time, store time after lunch, before rest hour, and  the credit slips at the store to buy sundries like stationary pads, candy bars, soap, toothbrushes, stamps, and pencils (this was before the days of Bics).

      As the youngest campers, we quickly learned about the Round-the-Lake trip – a voyage following the tracks of Natty Bumpo. I was awed about the possibility of paddling all the way around the lake in ONE day!  Intriguing was the stop at the Sunken Island in the middle of the lake! It was a shallow spot where even an eight-year-old could stand!

      Then there was climbing Natty Bumpo’s cave and hearing the stories about Chingachgook at Buttermilk Falls. I remember how tired I was after that monumental trip!

      I watched the building of the new Russelorium. I can’t remember what happened to the old one. We would learn to wrestle there.  I was always amazed to realize that there were structured rules to the sport.  It was named for long time instructor Ed Russell. I remember taking summer school courses/tutoring from him.

Charlie Burnham and Al Kerr      Returning as a counselor around 1961, I remember the grubby little meatballs in my tent were all from Baltimore. I was the assistant in the crafts building. We had clay activities and we dug our own clay up Shadow Brook. We loaded up the ST-37 with gray clay in galvanized barrels. After we fired it in the electric kiln, it turned pale orange. Gimp was also a favorite activity. I remember teaching dozens of young campers in the basics. We had many rolls of all different colors. We even did basket weaving. Somebody found an animal skull and I remember helping to wire the jaw bones into the skull.

      Every day seemed to bring out a lot of focused kids. On rainy days we all put on our raincoats and rubber boots and made dams along the brook running behind the showers and theater. We would launch flotillas of ships to race down the brook that raged during rain storms.

      There was a championship miniature golf course next to the craft building up from the beach. I remember finding an old bed board and painting it white with green letters announcing the Glimmerglass Course. We enlisted brigades of campers to bring buckets of beach muck to line the beds of the championship course. Logs, spare boards and a lot of brain dust was used to set up the course. Henry supplied tin cans for the holes. I have no recollection as to where the putters and the balls came from.

      We looked forward to learning to swim. I was never very good but did manage to eventually pass Jr. and Sr. Life Saving. This enabled me to take many Susquehanna canoe trips: Goodrich Dam, swinging on the big rope from the willow tree into the water and muddy clay banks to climb out of the water.

      I remember spending hours watching Jack Garver painting the banners on the Store, the Russelorium, The Councilor’s Lodge and others. His creativity enthralled me to look at things with a different perspective. I remember the first time I saw his aerial sketch map of the camp and spending hours looking at it thinking of how to improve it but never could. I think it was that sketch that propelled me into my 45 year Landscape Architecture career!

      We were well taken care of and looked after. Mail was a special event – especially when mom sent comic books. Betty Pickett lanced boils and provided the poison ivy salve. I was always glad to see her. Sunday night ride to Cooperstown in the Hacker if your tent won the inspections for the week. I think we won it once. Mouldy let me put it into gear before he reved it up to full throttle!

      I left camp after the 1961 season.

      I spent several summers as a guide at Northway Lodge for Girls in Algonquin Park, Ontario. Then on to Berwick Academy in Maine to finally graduated from High School. My Headmaster was Al Kerr from Hyde Bay.

      From there I spent five years at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, obtaining two degrees in Landscape Architecture.

      Vietnam was in full swing and I was accepted into Navy OCS in Newport, RI. From there, Ensign Burnham went on to become a deck officer on an oiler enroute to a year in Vietnam. Commodore Lord stories swirld in my head while my Navy Reserve career spanned 24 years mostly in Naval Intelligence. I retired as a Captain in 1995.

      My main career as a landscape architect was spent around Stowe, Vermont where I have lived and worked since 1973. All these years my clients have paid me to walk in the woods making the same observations I made at Hyde Bay - How can we use it, enjoy it and leave it for the next batch of campers to enjoy. At every turn of my life I kept looking for those friends made at Hyde Bay. I never came across any until the 2011 Durbar in Cooperstown last month. There were a lot of old guys there and when the stories started to roll we were all transformed back to the days around the campfire…

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