Friday, March 05, 2021
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

Additional thoughts of
Wabigoon and Wahanda

July 19, 2020 --

By this point -- well into July -- days off for the counselors had begun, once inspection had concluded, close to ten a.m.  Generally we might travel to Boston, to go to a restaurant and listen to a Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River.  Or we might stay closer to Winsted, going to Torrington, south, or Norfolk, west. One favorite restaurant was the Yale Barn, on the way to Norfolk. LPR never made it there, but did no to Jimmy's Harborside in Boston, and a neat restaurant in Lenpx )or was it Lee) before going to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony perform under the direction of Danny Kaye.   I recall that at one point in the concert, Maestro Kaye addressed the audience about being a conduct. He also mentioned the time, speaking to students at Brandeis University, he mentioned how the students disparaged his conductorial efforts.   I cringed, knowingly, at these unfortunate remarks from students as happened to be a Brandeis student at the time.   It was expected, among some bunks at least, that counselors would return with gifts from their days off.  One popular gift was a paddle board with rubber ball attached.  Of course, returning near midnight with meatball heroes for the bunkmates to consume as their counselor related his day off experiences was quite acceptable.   (LPR recalls his charges enjoying being read ghost stories before going to sleep.)

After taps, the counselors had free time till midnight. Often we went to Pete's on Elm Street and relied on counselors who were over 21 (or had ID cards claiming so to order drinks for them.  The two exotic drinks LPR recalls were Singapore Slings and Sloe Gin Fizzes.  Often as not we would manage to get by ordering beer.    Other nights we would walk to the guest social hall and get Cokes from the soda machine.  The six ounce Cokes were either a nickel or ten cents.

Counselors who had O.D, shifts had to stay on campus while the rest of the counselor staff was off campus.  We checked the bunks every half hour or so, while spending the rest of the time at the middle of campus near the flag pole, probably smoking  a cigarette. In those days  (1958 - 61 ) there was no thought that smoking caused cancer.  The most important responsibility O.D. tours was waking the submariners (bedwetters) to go to the john, making sure they did not soil their sheets.

The last Sunday in July was the day of the boys's circus, which featured acrobatics, from the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, inters and seniors,   After these acts, campers and visitors spent time at the concessions, in front of the bunks. Proceeds went to the United Jewish Appeal. One popular concession was Dunk the Counselor.  As LPR recalls, the marriage concession never did particularly well.  One year Bunk 13 connstructed a miniature gold course alongside the bunk. The concessions also feature roulette wheels, and other games of change. 

Every year there seemed to be a concession consisting of a wire loop connected to a board with a piece of metal that was crooked along the way: rthe object to bring the loop along the metal bar without touching the bar and setting off an electric light. A prize went to those who could avoid making contact between loop and bar.

Sunday nights were move nights for Wabigoon and Wahanda, at the boys' social hall. The seniors from the two camps had a social following the movie (and also on Wednesday night) and most couples had paired off by the end of the first week (although split-ups during the season were not unheard of). Some camp couples went on to get married (and subsequent split-ups were not unheard of.)

Monday evening at Wabigoon was a Watermelon League, featuring Rustyball, right after dinner, Spell-It-Out was on Tuesday night, with the camp split in two with the results going as Watermelon League points. 

(At the end of the season, the winning team -- there were eight teams -- was awarded a...watermelon.) 

Until the mid-fifties, I think it was, the seniors ran Spell-It-Out, and the other campers would sit on the sides of the boys' social hall holding letters, waiting to form answers, at the bidding of seniors who would arrange the letters in appropriate order at the edge of the social hall stage. At times there was artistry to the work of the seniors, when one senior clutch would know the answer, get the right letters and arrange the answer while the other team was walking around bewildered. There were even times when both teams acted on the answer and the point went to the team best organized to get the answers up, evenly spaced and line up in front of the stage.

But then there was the season when social equality among the boys' groups came to the fore and head counselor Rusty Grant ordered participation in the answering clutch from all groups, even the youngest. The plurality of clutches still went to the seniors but for LPR  Spell-It-Out had changed irrevocably. 

All these years of waiting to be part of the senior clutch, and when he reached the senior group, the clutches were no longer limited to seniors but spread out among all the groups. 

It seemed to LPR that the camp had even given up a drawing card. No longer would a camper have to spend seasons at camp, waiting to be part of the Spell-It-Out clutch.  He would have immediate satisfaction as a young camper -- and without even savoring the  experience of getting Spell-It-Out answers up  in fine order, as a well-organized human mechanism.

It was perhaps no coincidence that this was also a period when "social science" was replacing history.  (Rusty, by the way, was an assistant principal in New York City during the off-season.)