As we approach what would have been parents' visiting weekend, I write this as a remembrance that might appeal to those of a certain age, and on the off chance, too, that other alumni from this camp will read it and offer comments.
As a boy, I joined many of my fellow New Yorkers in attending a summer camp in Charlton, MA. This was when summer camp meant spending 8 weeks outside virtually all the time playing baseball, basketball, tennis, and swimming (at least 2 hours per day). It meant inspection of your bunk every day and winning double portions of ice cream if you had straight 10's -- floor swept clean, hospital corners and penny-bouncing tight blankets on your bed. It was boys only.
Camp Wamsutta was founded and run by Sam and Leah Sleeper, Worcester residents who decided in the late 1940's that they wanted to run a boys camp. They bought an old farmhouse, barn, chicken coop and land in Charleton. It had a small pond, and a river ran through the land. Ten years later, the Army Corps of Engineers built the Buffumville Dam, and the Sleeper's then had 100 acres of lakefront property, enabling them to have a real swimming and boating program as part of their camp activities.
Sam taught at Classical High School in Worcester. To get his job in the Worcester Public Schools in the 1930's, being Jewish, he had to change his name from Goldstein to Sleeper.
The Sleeper's had three sons, of whom the middle one, Marty, was most involved with the camp. In later years, Marty would become the beloved principal of Runkle School in Brookline, MA, and he now works for Facing History and Ourselves. My birthday greeting to him (courtesy of Facebook) led to a small reunion this week with four of the campers. A video follows with highlights.
The crowd included Howie and Eddie Gaynor, brought up in Framingham, MA. Their dad, Doctor Sidney Gaynor, was the mohel for the Boston Jewish community, conducting virtually every circumcision for miles around for several decades. Sidney, like Sam, changed his name (from Ginsburg) so that he could get into medical school in Philadelphia. Ironically, as Howie points out, "Gaynor" is now considered a Jewish last name in Framingham.
The other party at the dinner was Mike Sack, my boyhood (and lifetime) buddy, who was one of four brothers from his family to attend Camp Wamsutta.
Our first year at camp was 1959, when Howie, Mike, and I were 9 and Eddie was 8.
In the video below, you hear Marty explaining how the camp came to house so many Jewish campers. Sam would visit Central Massachusetts rabbis and ask them for names and address of boys in their community. One of them had a friend in New York, and from then on, the camp was dominated by Jewish boys from Long Island and Westchester.
Watch and listen as Eddie explains how Howie took away his double ice cream portion because his parents wanted the younger brother to lose weight, getting weighed every week by the camp nurse. Mike and Marty describe the special train from Grand Central Station that made unscheduled stops twice a year in Oxford, MA to drop off and pick up the campers. Howie, meanwhile, talks about how far away the camp seemed to be from Framingham (47 miles!).
And then there are images of the camp yearbooks from two years, 1959 and 1962, which provide a nostalgic view of the simple life of kids at the time. Also, there is a list of campers, so if you see someone you know, please forward this to him. Thanks.
If you can't see the video, click here.