Thursday, March 20, 2008


We'll start relatively early I suppose, with a person I met in the summer of 1993.

That summer I finished my second year of CIT (Counselor-in-training) at Camp Henry Kaufmann in Ligoneer, PA (not far from Johnstown). The camp has since been sold out of the Council because it was too big, too old, and in need of too much repair for the Council to maintain. Plus, before the rezoning, it was technically outside of the Pittsburgh-based Council's territory. Now, of course, it's smack in the middle, but hey - what can you do?

Anyway. Ruth was from England, one of the counselors brought in from overseas every year, and she quickly got tagged with the camp name "Doc", for reasons I hope should be obvious. For whatever reason, she and I really hit it off. I spent the last week of the program in her unit, assisting her and the other counselor ("Chatterbox") with programming and whatnot. I recall that I was put in charge of the All-Camp skit.

For anyone not familiar with All-Camp, aka - just about anyone reading this, it took place on the final night of the 3, 4, or 5 day session, and all ten units in camp would bring their groups down to the Maple Ridge field and put on a little skit or show. Each session had a theme (fairytales, cartoons, christmas, talent show, etc) and the skits were supposed to have some relation to both the camp and the theme. The productions varied - sometimes the counselors would write the skit or song, sometimes the scouts would, sometimes the troop leaders would take charge. It depended a lot on how many days the group was in camp, how old the girls were, and how pushy or confident the leaders were.

I don't particularly remember what our skit was that night, though I want to say it was "Snow White and the Eleven Dwarves", a production that also featured Goldilocks and the Five Bears and Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Elephant. What I do remember quite clearly is that after spending the week with Doc, I had developed a freakishly good English accent and that when I opened my mouth that night to introduce our group, I did the whole thing in Brit-speak. God, the rest of camp teased me about that for days.

Ruth and I kept in touch for a few years, but this was before email was universal, and I'm not sure whether or not she ever got my last letter, because I never got a response. I remember that I loved her address - Rose Cottage - even though I don't remember the town it was in. The last I heard from her was in 1997 or so, I think. I remember that she always talked about her boyfriend Alan. I wonder if they stayed together.

I don't know where she is or what she's doing, but she's definitely a character who made her mark on me. I hope she's well and occasionally thinks of me as I do her.


Anonymous said...

I write to you as someone who DOES remember All-camp, upper and lower camp, polar bear swim, white green blue and red caps, hiking to Primitive camp 1-3, and the Indian lovers, forever entwined above the climbing rocks.

I was never a counselor, always a camper at CHK during the summers of 1972-76, but I remember "Frodo, Cricket, Peanut, Bilbo, Mars" and a bunch of other fun and adventurous girls who went out there "Into the Wild" with me. After camp Henry Kaufman I continued to hike and climb with Ed and Kathy Coll (and Little Ed) on the Golden Nugget to Colorado, a group that met and learned to climb together during those fun, hot summers.

But then you move on, go to college, the camp fades away and suddenly, you find yourself with your daughter (as I did this weekend), camping again and trying to teach the new young girls, all that you experienced and learned. (to be's tough to do!)

Last night I sat with a group of 150 girls scouts at campfire, and at the end of the evening, the program leader asked, "Who knows how to sing "Taps?" Only 3 hands were raised. So I stood there, under the starry sky and sang it out, just as we all did at Henry Kaufman, on the great big Flag Field, and the sound was as sweet as it was the first time....I could hear the echo of the bugle just over the hill.

I hope someday, you will hear from Ruth.

kate said...

always good to hear from another CHK alum (camper, counselor, or otherwise.)

By the time I was at CHK (mid 1990s), upper camp had become pretty overgrown except for the treehouses.

Ah - Running Bear loves Little White Dove... yes indeedy.

michelle said...

it is sooo good to hear from someone else who found true friendships and good times at chk. i also worked there while you were there. i remember doc and chatterbox. such good people came about that place.

just the other day i took my kids up there. i knew developers bought it, but i still needed to see it. i expected a lot less than i saw. it was amazingly well kept with the grass just like my backyard. of course the paths to the dig and the adirondacks and whatnot were over grown, but everything else was still there. i know we were tresspassing, but i just had to look around. some of the doors were open to the unit houses and both dining halls, and it seemed like everyone just left everything and walked away. there were bunkbeds in the unit houses, dishes in the cabinets in connell dining hall, toys laying around, it was almost spooky.

we walked all the way up to the water tower and treehouses, which were still there too. all the stuff in the obstacle course was still hanging from the trees. it totally blew my mind.

the depressing part was that there were beautiful views of other mtns that were never there before. target energy thought that it would benefit them to rip out a shitload of trees to put about 20 natural gas wells on the property. i couldnt believe it. my kids even know how important the natural land is.

anyway, it was nice going back and reminiscing my "glory days". i took about 250 pics of everything from the valley to the tower. i cherish all of them.


kate said...

Thanks for the update... it hurts me to think about the place just sitting empty.

-Goldilocks :-)