JWG (jwg) wrote,

The Camp Killooleet reunion

The Labor day weekend's camping trip was the same weekend as a camp reunion of a summer camp, Camp Killooleet, I attended and was a councillor at for a number of years. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of the ownership of the current owners. Conveniently it was nearby the camp site (about an hour and a quarter drive) so I went there all day Saturday - leaving at 7am and returning a bit after 1am.

The directors/owners of this camp when I went there were John and Ellie Seeger. John is Pete Seeger's older brother and Ellie was his wife - now deceased but well remembered. The current directors are Kate Seeger, their daughter, and her husband Dean Spencer; John is still there and fairly robust even though he is 94. Kate is a member of a fairly well known folk music group The Short Sisters. This is a very musical family, John and Pete's father was Charles Seeger, a well known musicologist with lots of emphasis on folk traditions. Of course folk singing was a constant activity - being there inspired me to buy and learn to play the banjo.

This was one incredible camp - with 8-week sessions for 80-100 campers. I was a camper there from 1948-1951 and a councillor from 1959-1961. (This is not the camp where I was the councillor of Robert's brother!). I was the canoeing and sailing councillor; we had aluminum canoes and small sailing dinghies (obtained at my request) and was also the hike day and trip organizer - Wednesday was (and still is) hike day and we took 2 (or maybe 3) overnighters a year.

Like all camps there was a good mix of activities but here there was a special emphasis on building the community of the camp and allowing kids to have a lot of choice in what they did so the day was not all programmed and kids could develop their personalities and actually do what they wanted. Councillors met frequently to go over kid's problems andi was quite effective - you could see kids blossoming out through the course of the season. A lot of what I learned here as a councillor helped me be a very good manager and participant in other activities. In any work group (or volunteer group) the dealing with personalities and the strengths and weaknesses of the people is a very important component of being successful.

I got there before breakfast and spent some time chatting with John. Among other things he revealed that his father had started doing Yoga in his youth (~1910) and that was a lifelong thing for John as well. I wonder how many Yoga instructors there were in the US at the beginning of the 20th century.

After breakfast our activities were to participate in work crews (that was an activity after breakfast at camp). In this case there was the cleanup after the flood! On August 6 there was a flash flood due to tremendous rains on Route 125 where it meets Route 100 and the camp is located right there. A brook right next to Route 125 flows down from Middlebury Gap in the Green Mountains. This flood took out the dam on the brook that was used to divert water to the lake and messed up the connector brook and took out the dam in their lake so that the lake was emptied. No-one was injured; it was a learning experience for everyone; the staff handled it well; camp went to the end of the season and they did their swimming on a nearby lake. The roads have been repaired - what will happen to the dam is still unknown as they have to deal with various regulatory agencies. Among other things a cow floated down the river for several miles but wasn't seriously harmed.

After and before (from opposite ends)

A messed up canoe:

After lunch it was rest period! I lounged in and fell asleep in a hammock. After that there was choice period and I chose Archery. Then there was a cookout (food less elegant than on our camping trip but just fine - including <em>smores</em>). Then we gathered around a camp fire and people told stories, talked about what camp was like for them, and we sung a lot. At the end we had the traditional candle boat ceremony (candles on shingles floating in the lake); there was enough water to do this. Tony Seeger (John's son) was wearing a great Tshirt with a picture of a guitar with the slogan: This Machine Kills Fascists, a Woodie Guthrie slogan .

Among other things we sung this round at the campfire:

Lying on the hammock and looking up.

It is pretty amazing that after 47 years of absence everything looked pretty much the same. Cabin 7 where I was a councillor had been replaced by a new but similar looking building; Cabin 6 where I'd been a councillor in a previous year looked exactly the same. When I wandered in the living room and looked around I did notice new skylights (installed when they enlarged the kitchen) and then I looked at the bookshelves and saw a copy of Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome that I had read (I've since reread it several times since it was one of my favorite children's books). Somethings had changed - for example, the pony corral was gone because they now have horses and keep them at the farm they now own that is across Rt 125.

Of the about 60 people there I knew (or once knew) about 10 of them. It is pretty amazing talking to someone who you last saw 57 years ago when he was 10 and I was 12. At the campfire people told about their camp experiences. One person, an old friend of mine said - Killooleet saved me. I grew up with dysfunctional parents (they certainly were as I remember) and at camp I discovered there were normal people who treated me like a person. Another person recalled that once when she was agonizing about something her councillor said "What do you want?" and she realized that her parents had never asked that question - they programmed and micromanaged her.

All in all it was a great day and it brought back some fine memories. I'd relive that part of my life with great pleasure.
Tags: camping, killooleet, nostalgia, personal

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