Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

Camp Wabigoon -- Plus Sixty Years

July 19, 2021 --

This is the time of year when LPR's thoughts evoke the memory of Camp Wabigoon (for boys) and Camp Wahanda (for girls) in Winsted, Connecticut. This summer of 2021 marks 60 years since my last summer -- the summer of 1961 -- at Camp Wabigoon.

That summer was my fourth as a counselor and 15th at Camp Wabigoon -- as camper, camper waiter, regular waiter and, finally, counselor.  Those 15 summers encompassed 121 weeks at Wabigoon, in Winsted  (15 times the 8-week season, plus an addition 10 days in 1949 because of the polio epidemic),   

That makes for well over two years a Wabigoon. How could the period from July 1 to August 26 not bring Wabigoon and Wahanda and Winsted to mind, every summer.

The sixty years since the summer of 1961 are a rapid blur.  To think of the sixty years between 1901 and 1961 is, however, to think of nearly ancient history. In 1901, the United States did not have jet planes, radios, television. Interstate travel was by railroad.

Fashions, men and women's, was unlike the fashions of 2021 -- although the fashions of 1961 and 2021 are remarkably similar, hardly are current fashions in the futuristic style contemplated by artists in 1961: the fashions of, say, the Star Trek TV series. 

Automobiles were very much in their infancy in 1901 -- but today's cars are not that different than the vehicles of 1961 (except for today electric and robot-driven vehicles. LPR believes there were electric cars in the early days, even the Stanley Steamer).

In brief, it is not inaccurate, LPR believes, to consider the world of 1961 much closer to 2021 that it was to the world of 1901.

This time of July would have marked the heart of the summer season at Wabigoon and Wahanda. By the third week of July a routine would have set in: freveille at 7.20 a.m., line-uo with the flag-raising at about 7.40 a.m., breakfast at 8 a.m. Breakfast consisted of two servings: cereal (hot or day), followed by eggs: scrambled one day, fried another day, with hard-boiled eggs, every morning. Orange juice or orange slice, first, and milk or hot chocolate. (Coffee might have been available for the counselors). LPR has never had more delicious morning rolls than the morning rolls at Wabigoon

Inspection was at 9.30 a.m., followed by the morning activity at 10 a.m. The morning "general swim" must have been about 11.30 a.m., (the campers buddying up for the deep water), in Rowley's pond, about a quarter mile down from the Wabigoon campus, line-up for lunch about 12.30 p.m. with a 'rest hour' following lunch. After "milk and cookies," the afternoon activity, followed by the afternoon "general swim."  Then another line-up for dinner at 6 p.m.  Next the evening activity and Taps at 9 p.m.  

Counselors had free time following Taps, until midnight.  Two counselors served O.D. while the counselors either went to the guest house or into Winsted. The Connecticut drinking age then, as now, was 21. In 1961, therefore, I could go to Pete's on Elm Street in Winsted and legally get a beer or an alcoholic drink (probably vodka).

I was impressed by the girls' waterfront counselor who would order a "Singapore Sling." (My first year as counselor, at 18, I was legal in New York state, and purchased my first beer, a Budweiser six-pack, in Millerton, about 40 minutes west of Winsted where U.S. 44 meets N.Y. 22.)

The day activities includes softball, basketball, volleyball.  Other activities included arts and crafts, tennis and handball, and archery.  (In the late 50's horseback riding was offered; not many campers signed up for it, however, and horseback riding lasted only two seasons.).  

The boys' groups were comprised of  freshmen, sophomores, juniors, inters and seniors (including camper waiters --paying half price for the season. ) The next level was that of the regular waiters, who did not pay for the season, and, at summer's end, divided tips from working the Wabigoon and Wahanda campers' tables. The regular waiters also "bussed" in the guest dining room, on weekends, another source of summer income.  Regular waiters were eligible in Color War. 

 The level after being a regular waiter was counselor status.  The waterfront counselor was always assigned to a senior bunk. Traditionally, the regular waiters lived in a tent, next to bunk 14, the highest senior bunk and behind bunk 11 -- until 1957.  My three colleagues and I lived in the tent until midseason, because I became too friendly with a skunk, feeding it form time to time. Although the skunk never bothered us, my tentmates prevailed on co-owner Gladys Brandstein to let us spend the rest of the summer in a bunk -- and so for the first time regular waiters were assigned different bunks for the rest of the summer. (I was assigned to a freshman bunk.)
The Wahanda groups were the wrens, buds, debs and seniors.  The next level was junior counselor -- and then counselor

Each of the boys' groups put on a play, successive Saturday nights, in the Wabigoon rec hall. Sunday nights we walked to the Wahanda rec hall for Sunday night movies. The one film I can recall, from my 15 seasons, was 14 Rue Madeleine, starring James Cagney. Every once in a while the 16mm projector would break down, but always the movie was resumed.  Wednesays, "Choose Day" the groups (the older, more often than the younger) would go to town to see a movie at the Strand. 

Each summer Wahanda seniors went to the Jacob's Pillow dance festival. Wabigoon and Wahanda seniors went together to  Lenox, Mass. for the annual Boston Pops "Tanglewood on Parade" concert. Two summers ,the Wabigoon and Wahanda seniors went to Stratford, CT, for "Measure for Measure" one summer, and "The Merchant of Venice" the second summer.  Kent Smith starred in "Measure for Measure,"  Katherine Hepburn  (Portia) and Morris Carnovsky (Shylock) starred in "Merchant."

(To be continued, August 5.)