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Friday, February 24, 2006

I've been trying to find traces of my old summer camp on the Net, and I think I've figured out that Camp-Thoreau-in-Vermont must be the Camp Thoreau I went to back when it was near New Paltz (on rural route #7?), in Wallkill, only picked up and moved to Vermont.

The Camp Thoreau I went to, probably 1971-1975 or so, was one of the best experiences of my childhood. I remember singalongs every morning and after lunch, and hikes to a nearby rocky peak, and capture-the-flag at twilight. I vaguely remember the seniors "stealing" the younger campers one night. I met my first girlfriend there, Karen Stein. (I wonder what's become of her? Not a name you can Google fruitfully.)

The camp had a really permissive approach to youthful sexuality, quite aside from having skinny dipping as an organized activity. Some of my closest relationships with girls were after dark. I doubt any camp these days would let two kids camp out on a meadow all night in two sleeping bags.

I miss the profound sense of belonging I had there. I've always wanted to belong, and rarely felt I really fit in. That's what drew me to theater in high school, and makes me such a family man now. But Camp Thoreau really felt like a big family of people who shared a set of ideals. I'm still aspiring to the feelings I had when we sang all those folk songs, and union songs, and Beatles songs. I'm still a little disappointed the world didn't quite turn out that way, but then that leaves something to strive for, doesn't it?

UPDATE (October 8, 2006): There is a Camp Thoreau listserv at Yahoo Groups, and there was just a reunion in Prospect Park. Wish I could have been there!

UPDATE (MAY 22, 20012): There is a Facebook Group for Camp Thoreau in the '70s. I bet there's one for all the other Thoreauvian epochs.

15 Comments:

Alex,

Adam Schartoff here. Someone sent me your blog entry and I wanted to say hello. Feel free to contact me at aschartoff@yahoo.com!

Adam

By Blogger Adam Schartoff, at 8:10 AM  

Hi - I was looking up some lyrics to old Thoreau songs (can't find any of my old songbooks), and thought I'd just let you know that, sort of, yes, Vermont is kinda same camp, but sort of not. I went to Walkill/Pine Bush CT from 1979 through, gosh, I don't know, 1984 or so, after the split, but I heard legends that apparently some one named Greg Finger, perhaps (don't know where in my memory this is coming from) split off from Wallkill CT and moved up north, taking the majority of the campers and staff with him. Paul and Sheila Milkman picked up the pieces and reformed the same place as the same place, just with different faces. That's the nutshell. There's more, but, I don't want to bore you. So, anywho, Vermont is probably more your old C.T. than mine, and it's the only survivor, last I heard, but Wallkill C.T. survived, Tushy Rock in tact, until, goodness, 1989 or so, perhaps?

Anyway, even though I was there several years later, we have the same memories. Enjoy them. Do you still have your songbook? If you do, I'd pay you to copy it for me - I want to sing to my kids, but I find myself simply singing half a verse from "dark as a dungeon" ad nauseum. Happily, one of them is not much of a speaker yet, so I could sing the ingredients of a cereal box and he'd smile, but I'd like to know the rest of the words for the future.

Ok, bye - Brooke (Sissman) Roseberry

By Blogger Brooke, at 4:40 PM  

I too went to Thoreau from 1979-1983or 1984. I am pretty sure that Brooke was in my bunk also. Only using her first name Yale. I have great memories of those summers now, not at the time though. I heard that Paul and Sheila got divorced a number of years back, but that is all that I know. My mom also worked at the camp for a while and she does remember some of the songs, but no song books left.
I would love a copy if you still have yours. Feel free to contact me.
Bye, Jenn(y) Agins-McClaren

By Blogger jenn, at 2:56 PM  

HI Im Tonie wright and went to the Wallkill Camp in 1976, it's funny I just remembered that 30 yrs ago tonight I was at camp and it did in fact change my life. I remember Mickey Mauer and Helping out in the kitchen every now and then, Meeting Jessica Sewell and getting lost comming down Gertrude's nose. It was a magical time.
In 1980 I was a CIT in VIT (vermont) where I bunkked with Adam Schartoff, Hey Adam and Nick. Joe and Ellen were out consulers. Wow it blows me away to see the camp gone. Maybe we can get it back.

Be well everyone

By Blogger Tonie, at 2:03 AM  

Susan here. Went to Thoreau from 1976-1981, first 3 years in Wallkill NY, then followed Greg Finger and Joan Hollister to Vermont in 1979. I do have songbooks somewhere, just not sure exactly where.
The music was an amazing part of camp, Joe, Carol, Lane, Abba, Elias, I still get chills sometimes thinking about the singing. Of course I had no idea it was all so political (No More Genocide, Hang in There, Blacklung, It Could Have Been Me etc.), I just knew that it all sounded so damn good.

By Blogger Susan, at 12:03 AM  

I went to the Camp Thoreau near New Paltz for two summers, in 1983 and 1984, the one run by Paul and Sheila Milkman. My mom and dad had been old friends with the Milkmans in the late 60s. Camp Thoreau went bankrupt and closed down sometime in the late 80s. I lost the mimeographed song book years ago, but I remember some of the camp songs: Cat's in the Cradle, Bread and Roses, Roll On Columbia, Hobo's Lullaby, Mulenberg County, Dark As a Dungeon, Blue Moon, The Garden Song, Draft-Dodger Rag, Fire and Rain, Palace of the Czar. Other things I remember: The tap water had so much sulfer in it, it was almost undrinkable. Each morning we had "town meeting," where the morning's activities were announcced. There were two activity periods each morning, then lunch. Then some all-camp activity. In the evening, after dinner, we got cookies and bug juice. One summer there was a goat that was tied to a tree in the field, and she ate the grass down in a perfect circle, the diameter of the rope she was tied to. The main building was an old victorian house. In the living room was a poster of Charlie Chaplin's "God Rush" and an old stereo with records, including Bob Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home". (Paul Milkman said Bob Dylan was a "schmuk" for writing songs about himself.) There was an enormous oak tree outside the main building, which Paul Milkman claimed Pete Seeger had once leaned against (!). The lake had a muddy bottom. We had "buddy counts" during swimming. I went on several of the bike trips, which wound through the beautiful rural roads in upstate New York. We had a hootenany every week, I think on Friday night. There was a play each summer. The first summer, it was "The Good Doctor" by Neil Simon, the next summer it was "James and the Giant Peach" by Roal Dahl. One night the folk singer Christine Lavin came and performed, and I got her autograph. Paul Milkman's sister once visited and played Joni Mitchell's song "I Think I Understand". A lot of my memories of Camp Thoreau have to do with the culture that the counselors and organizers brought with them, while the kids were into rap and REM, which didn't interest me much.

By Blogger Alex Dillon, at 11:45 AM  

Hi, I also attended the Camp Thoreau in Pine Bush CT,owned by Paul and Sheila Milkman. I also have wonderful memories of my camp experience including the field trips, the bug juice and of course, the lake.

Any old friends feel free to write me.

darylkahan@hotmail.com

By Blogger Funebrarum, at 9:41 PM  

I am so glad I found this blog. I attended Camp Thoreau from approximately 1980 to 1985. Susan's description almost brought tears to my eye. The camp is my Rosebud. I would love to attend a reunion. On a regular basis, I am still in touch with Jason Tanzer, Seth Grudberg and Josh Podwoski who only attended one year.

If you would like to get in contact with me, my email address is madison159@yahoo.com

Best
Chris Mullarkey

By Blogger Chris, at 11:12 AM  

I, too, attended Camp Thoreau in 1982 and 1983. I've always wondered what happened to the camp... Then I found this blog.. I also loved the music and remember many of the songs...If you attended camp in those years and/or you remember me, please feel free to contact me... I was attached at the hip in camp to Jodi Horowitz and Elena Markowitz.... My e-mail address is: dee0514@optonline.net

By Blogger Diana Korall Cohen, at 3:08 PM  

I feel so old reading these blogs from people who attended Camp Thoreau in the 70's and 80's. My name is Karen Leigh (was Willinger)and my sister Jill and I attended Camp Thoreau in Walkill, New York in the early 1960's when Ann and Karl Rodman owned it. Paul Milkman, who apparantly took over at some point was my 1st boyfriend. I have nothing but wonderful memories of the camp and my several years there. Michael Meeropol was the music counselor and we did have town meetings every morning and sing-a-longs every day. I am now 58 years old about to turn 59 and I still think about and miss those times. If anyone out there attended Thoreau during the early 60's and remembers me please say hello at kewl9549@yahoo.com

By Blogger Karen Leigh, at 4:24 PM  

I attended camp Wallkill in 1966. I remember there were like 10 log cabins on the girls side of the river. They were loaded with wasp nests. My younger sister and I did the first and last 2 week stints that year. I was thirteen. I had two male cousins on the boys side and one in the "pee wee" area for the boys. We use to love to sneak over to the boys side late at night and got caught one night and had to sit outside my cabin in the damp dew laiden grass till it was morning. How frightening, after hearing the story of headless haggy Mary and how she roamed the camp in those wee hours. It was a most unforgettable time. Miss Jayne was our head councelor. swine (bazooka bubblegum) and bug juice (koolaid) were the most sought after items on our lists. Miss Annete was my lovely Swedish councelor for my cabin, cabin 3, for the first 2 week stint and an Indian lady, Gita, whom my sister had the first two weeks, was my councelor for my last 2 week set in cabin 2. I met the twins and good friends, Pat and Barbara Cullen there and we remained friends for years. I even attended the high school of Art and design with Pat. It was awesome to see her when I got there. She kept in touch with 2 of the 3 boyfriends I had made there at the time. Johnny who we called RaRa, his best friend Phil and Luke, the most handsome. I was a hottie so none of them minded any of the others being my boyfriend. The twins were gorgeous long straight haired blonds withg reat shapes. I remember cuz they use to wear hip huggers and looked like models. I use to get one of the councelors to pick up ciggies for me when they went into town. I was like the only kid who could afford them. We went with my cousins who were aided by the CAS. Although my family was well to do, they were allowed to each take a guest along and that's how I got to go. I got a huge bull frog from Luke and named him Lukey. He was stolen from my cabin and let loose. I found him when I was getting ready to leave, almost totally dehydrted and undernourished. I put him in the lake, nearby and prayed he'd survive. The twins myself and sister and my entire cabin of 8, were the only white girls at the camp duing those weeks. The twins were there the entire summer. We wanted to return the following year but my parents made too much money for us to be elledgable and my cousins didn't want to go back. I loved the competitions and Friday night dances with the boys coming over to our side where the great mess hall was. I remember performing a skit on stage as the beatles for the one cabin of boys per day we were allowed to have visit us. I was a tom boy and got into a fight the first day there, taking up for an obese cabin mate against a rude black chick, Tracy, who made fun of her. I was the self appointed leader of my cabin and they called me tiny, cuz I was...still am lol. She had raked my face with her long manish nails and I beat her head in until Annete broke us up and threw her out of my cabin. From then on it was war between her and I. I had befriended a most lovely black girl, also named Annete, who took a chunk of meat out of Tracy's arm when she put me down, Both were rushed to the infirmary where the meat had to be taken from the roof of Annette's mouth and re-attached to Tracy. That was after Tracy got her entire cabin to try to drown me in that awesome pool, when she heard I couldn't swim yet. I sent for my cousins and the entire boys side, including her boyfriend, came to my rescue. They broke up and there was a boy I had set my sites on from day one, called Jose. He had the largest saddest eyes, much like my dad. He was very quiet and shy and had no interest in me. I never let on that I liked him but would catch every glimps I could of him and couldn't wait for his cabin to be our dinner guests. When Tracy heard that I liked him, she got him to go out with her. It broke my young heart until the day we came home and I saw his mom...she too, was black and then I knew why he liked her and not me. He did not attend the final two week stint, which was when I met Lukey RaRa and Phil. All we did was makeout in those days, as we, I was too young to go any further. Sunday morning services and sing alongs were my most favorite. I remember the songs and the words till this day. I've lost contact with all of them and would love to know anyone from those days, still existed today. Give me a hollar if you know anyone. Thanks for this blog, it has been great to know others, who's lives were granted a most awesome experience at the camp.

By Blogger Tiny, at 5:24 AM  

And now there's a Facebook group! http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=41624984180

Actually, several.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 12:08 AM  

I went to Camp Thoreau-in-Vermont, which was founded by Greg Finger. It sounds like exactly the same place, full of skinny dipping and the same kind of songs. Unfortunately, the camp closed sometime after 2000, so now I am in the same situation as y'all missing my summer camp, which really was the best experience of my life. I'm always looking around for songbooks to help me remember more of the songs.

By Blogger Margot, at 3:44 PM  

Just came across this site (Thanks Rebekah!). I was in Walkill, then Pine Bush, from 1979-1990 (final year). I share this deep abiding gratitude for Camp Thoreau. Who would I be without it? I can't even imagine. My love of nature, theater, art, guitars, singing, politics, equality, justice, Good ole Pete Seeger, are all from Thoreau. And an ideal sense of community that I had never felt before or since.

Will I ever know such brotherhood and sisterhood again?

Sad to say that Shiela Alson Milkman passed away a few years ago.

Here's to great times, spent on the Main House porch..

Michael Goldfried
Goldenfried@gmail.com

By Blogger Unknown, at 12:37 AM  

Amazing!
I posted a while back and since then so many Thoreauvians have followed with their memories. Much of what you all have posted has brought back even more of my own memories. zSneaking over to the Lean To's with Rachel Fishman and Yael and having to jump into the boys beds when the counselors came by for bed checks. That summer I think I had pink eye and athletes foot most of the summer for that particular act. Followed by KP for the rest of the summer. The next summer began with Paul informing me that I still owed a week from the past summer. Looking back, it was worth it.

I have a memory of leaving Jacob Russo treading water for 20 minutes while I was attempting to rescue him to pass one of the water safety classes. After I successfully and unfortunately left Jacob to drown I think Danny Katzner spent the next 20 minutes treading water while I also let him drown. Eventually I must have saved someone, I did pass.

A few years ago when I wanted to send my kids to camp I looked for Thoreau but it was already gone. They ended up at Bucksrock and having a great time. But I know they never had what we did. FAMILY

By Blogger Jennifer McClaren, at 10:38 PM  

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