In the late 1930s, Lou Gehrig visited Camp Scatico in Elizaville. When word got out that he was coming, 1000 locals and summer visitors flocked to the camp.
In practice before a five inning junior-senior ball game, Gehrig hit some record-breaking shots to various parts of the field. Later, after the game was underway, camp director Holman announced that Gehrig would pinch-hit for one boy. The crowd went wild as 14-year-old pitcher, Milton Gross, known to friends as “Stinky,” wound up for his first pitch. Gehrig swung–and missed as catcher “Butch” (real name unrecorded) shook his head in disbelief. Gehrig similarly missed the next pitch, a fastball, swinging so hard that he fell to the ground. He then swung and missed the third pitch. Did Gehrig strikeout on purpose? He never said.
Some years later, Stinky was in uniform in Europe. There he allegedly made a small fortune betting fellow soldiers that he could prove he struck out Lou Gehrig. After making each bet, he would produce a faded newspaper clipping about the incident and collect his money.
The ropes in these photos taken at Camp Ferosdel (c. 1958) were there because of fear that the visitors might bring the polio virus to the campers.
The connection between concern about polio vis-à-vis Roe Jan area camps was expressed as long ago as 1917. In that year, a New York City newspaper article referred to a Copake camp as “well removed from the dangers of infantile paralysis.” But that was wishful thinking. In fact, until the development of polio vaccines, fear of the disease and the polio virus itself was present wherever children gathered.
In 1944, two Camp Scatico campers came down with the disease, as did some children at a couple of other camps over the years. In a letter to parents, Scatico assured parents that the Health Department tells us “your child is as safe here as he or she would be . . . [at] any other place.” Nevertheless, fearful parents withdrew their children causing the camp to close a couple of weeks early. Only after the first polio vaccine’s release to the public in the early 1960s, did people give up their anxiety about the disease.
One summer in the 1960s, 11-year-old Sharon, a Bronx House camper, became deathly afraid of a particularly somber counselor. For some reason, the counselor regularly carried a sheath knife in his belt holder. Sharon had decided that this counselor was none other than Cropsey, a fictional deranged man who was the subject of scary nighttime stories.
The stories were usually told around campfires or in bunk houses. According to the ones about Cropsey, he had a hook for a hand, having become disfigured in a camp prank gone wrong. So Cropsey would lurk in the shadows waiting to take his revenge on campers who wandered too far from their friends. Just mention of his name could make the hairs on many campers’ backs stand up.
Sharon’s fears were sometimes shared even by some older folks. A former Natchez counselor recalled how he became so anxious after he and some fellow counselors told each other ghost stories during a camping trip that he had trouble sleeping afterward.