Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This One Time, At Summer Camp...

Ed and were talking this week about kids who go to summer camp - I asked him if he'd ever been - he has, I haven't. But I always wanted to go.

The following pictures are from the "Images of America" book series; this one is on the Town of Mamakating and was written by Monika A. Roosa. I'm including these photos because they're of the beach my family owned on Masten Lake in the Catskill Mountain area of New York, where I spent most of my teen years.
There were several summer camps in the area and a few of them used our beach as access to the lake to teach kids how to waterski, etc. I used to look at these kids and think, "How cool are they that they get to spend the whole summer at camp??" They were usually city kids - Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens - and they'd come up to the country to spend the summer in the sticks.

A lot of them were rich kids, who were usually the only ones fortunate enough to be sent to camp for the entire summer. Whereas my mother would be the one writing my name inside my clothing with black magic marker, these kids were the type
to have woven labels with their full names on them, sewn into everything they owned. This wasn't a camp for poor kids.
At the time I didn't give it much thought, but now I realize there were some benefits to sending kids to camp. And for those who went year after year, they'd build lifelong friendships with people that continued throughout their lives; some campers even came back as adults to be counselors themselves. Another plus, the kids got to get out of the broiling hot city for the summer. Lake water is much more fun than the city pool.

I suppose as much as I wanted to go to camp, I didn't really need to. I already had what these kids were trying to experience. I lived in the country. I had access to a beach and a lake, I waterskied at will, my brother and I would take the jon boat out to row over to the "cove" area where the water was covered in lilypads and where we were convinced the best fish hid out, and we spent every day of our summer on the sand and in the water. We lived camp every day, not just for a few weeks. Camp Lakota was located across the lake, and had been there since the 1920s. Sometimes we'd attempt to swim from our side of the lake to theirs, but we'd get halfway out into the lake and realize just how far it really was. We'd have to lay on our backs and float for a while to get the energy to swim back. Or holler to someone on the beach to get the boat and come get us.

Camp Na-Sho-Pa was the camp that used our beach area. They'd show up in vans, all the kids would pile out, and they'd congregate in one corner of the beach area, at a dock that was in the same place as the one you see in the foreground of the photo above. They'd bring their ski boats and load up the kids at the dock, taking them out in shifts to teach them to waterski.

While they did that, my girl cousins and I would ogle the cute camp counselors. I'll never forget Danny - cute, long foppish hair, golden tan - he looked like what we imagined a "California Boy" would look like. Even though none of us had ever been west of Pennsylvania, let alone to California to see boys of any kind.

In the second photo, you'll see the building we called the casino - it wasn't a casino in the way we use the word now, as there was no gambling going on there. In some cases, these type of casino buildings did have some gambling, but this definition I found online more defines the way we used the word: "The term "casino" is of Italian origin, the root word being "casa" (house) and originally meant a small country villa, summerhouse or pavilion. The word changed to refer to a building built for pleasure, usually on the grounds of a larger Italian villa or palazzo. Such buildings were used to host civic town functions – including dancing, music listening, and gambling."

Since there weren't any villas in the neighborhood, our casino was used more in the pavilion sense, with music, dancing, and food. The caption under the Masten Lake Casino photo in the book read, "Many dances with live bands were held there in the 1920s and 1930s. The casino also contained a jukebox, a bowling machine, pinball machines, Ping-Pong tables, and a piano. Sunbathers were able to rent 100 percent wool Jansen bathing suits, and nearly 70 lockers were available so that they could safely store their belongings. Candy, ice cream, soda, and hot dogs were available for the swimmers as well."

We ran a concession stand from the casino for years, selling hot dogs and sodas and candy. The interior wasn't open to the public but the dance floor was still intact, there was an old jukebox standing in a corner, and the changing rooms were still in the back, outfitted with benches, hooks for your bathing suits, and curtains for privacy. Year-round, we used a lot of the space inside for storage for our restaurant - overflow tables and chairs, kitchen equipment, extra china, and coffee cups and cutlery to name a few. It was a great time in my life, being at the lake and working the concession stand. I felt like I was at camp every day.

Eventually, the building was condemned and in such disrepair that it had to be torn down. That was a sad time for me, as if my memories were being bulldozed, but intellectually I know that's not so. I will carry those memories forever, as they are some of the best of my life.

I guess I didn't need camp to have a great summer, as being camped out at Masten Lake, surrounded by my family and friends (and cute boys!) turned out to be more than enough.

9 comments:

carports garages said...

Wow! It looks really fun. Nice photos.

ELH said...

I used to send both of my boys to summer hockey camp in Winona,Minnesota for several years..my daughter went out to Vail,Colorado for figure skating,and to Indiana for her swimming camps..
All the camps were expensive, yet they went with friends and to this day they still talk about how much fun they had,and the friends they made and still are in touch with today..they also state that when they have kids, they definetly would treaT them to sport summer camps...

The Daily Rant said...

ELH: How awesome that your kids got to go to camp - I really like the idea of a camp with a "theme", like hockey, figure skating or swimming. I think that's a great way to allow them to do what they enjoy, yet be in a structured environment at the same time. You have really done a lot for your kids - and on a trucker's income! I'm in awe of you!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Salena, In the late 1960's, we started coming up to Masten Lake to spend summers with our Porpora cousins. For us Bronx kids, it was heaven! The water was gorgeous, Uncle Frank let us use the rowboats any time we wanted so we could fish to our heart's content. I learned to really swim in Masten Lake - and waterski too! But the best part was the friendships that we made and have lasted to this day. Our friends may be scattered across the country (Florida, Arizona, Texas, California and elsewhere) but the memories and friendships we made are always there. Cousin Maria

Unknown said...

This was wonderful to read. My grandfather owned Camp Lakota and Masten Lake is named after my family. My dad and late uncle worked at Camp Lakota when they were young. I'd love to know more. Feel free to write to me.

Unknown said...

My email address is susan.j.masten@gmail.com. Sorry I thought that would be linked to my comment.

The Daily Rant said...

Susan: I have sent you an email.

john walsh said...

I used to spend m6 summers on Masten Lake with my Grandparents , we would drive up from Yonkers. The memories are spectacular
So much so , after living in California for 40years , I am back , hav8ng bought a lake house 4o minutes away, over in Glen Spey N Y.
I truly feel like I’m at home . I loved your picture of the casino I remember buying licorice and ice cream there as a kid.
I have a wonderful photo of my self at like 3 years old chubby legs sitting on the boardwalk., I’ll try and find it.
Thanks so much for your postings feel free to respond
John Dillon Walsh
Walsjhd@sbcglobal.net

The Daily Rant said...

JOHN: Can you check your email address? I sent you an email but it's been kicked back to me. Thanks!