“Swimming, Singing, and S’mores: 120 Years of Camps in the Mid-Hudson Valley.” Mud sliding, a plane dropping leaflets to open a camp’s end of season “Color Wars,” a young pitcher strikes out a visiting Lou Gehrig, a polio epidemic, the controversial arrest and handcuffing of a popular camp owner, kids finding “lost” caves, folksinger Theodor Bickel entertaining campers. These are some of the stories in the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society’s summer exhibit on camps in the Hudson Valley.
The exhibit is open all summer through Columbus Day, on Saturdays and Sundays, 2 – 4 pm, starting July 4. Listen to Howard Blue’s terrific interview on WAMC.
The exhibit celebrates childhood through many camp alumni’s experiences in the Roe Jan community over the last 120 years. It began when a local church opened the area’s first camp in the 1890s. In 1913, the YMCA operated a second one. But in 1928, it moved to Massachusetts because the Y decided that Ancram had become “too crowded” for nature study. This despite the fact that in this period, at summer’s start, such was the rural nature of the Hudson Valley that seven times, cows on tracks stopped a train carrying children upstate to an area camp. In the 1920’s, basketball’s first superstar, Nat Holman, founded Camp Scatico, and two other groups of New York City folks started Camps Ferosdel and Pontiac. Others followed in subsequent years.
The exhibit’s photos show children engaging in sports and many other activities. Beside those cited above, photos and signage tell humorous and touching stories. There’s a camp for children with a rare disease who, unable to tolerate sun exposure, regularly play outdoors only at night. Other stories tell of a camper’s near fatal plunge at Bash Bish Falls and of an integrationist camp that brought some Comanche Indians and some poor African Americans from Oklahoma and Mississippi to bunk with white kids from comfortable suburbia. There are stories of Boy Scouts accidentally setting fire to woods near their camp, and of two arsonist firemen destroying camp buildings.
The exhibit also discusses several area Civilian Conservation Corps camps and a few that catered in part to adults, featuring Liberace and other entertainers. It will run from July 4-Columbus Day weekend.
The Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum is at 8 Miles Road, Copake Falls, NY. Visit www.roeliffjansenhs.org.
Visitors may want to hike the quarter mile trail to beautiful Bash Bish Falls, and visit the new Iron Works Museum, both nearby.
Photo: After the Camp Mudsliding
Photo by freelance photographer, Cory Schwartz, (www.coryschwartz.com). Schwartz attended Camp Scatico in Elizaville, NY from 1988-2001 as camper and then counselor. In 2012, a rainstorm created a huge puddle in the middle of the camp. Stomach down, these boys went hydroplaning in it.