Mud sliding, a plane dropping leaflets to open a camp’s “Color Wars,” a 14-year-old pitcher striking out a visiting Lou Gehrig, a polio epidemic, the controversial arrest of a popular camp owner, kids finding “lost” caves, folksinger Theodor Bickel entertaining campers.
These are some of the stories in the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society’s new exhibit on area camps, Swimming, Singing and S’mores: 120 years of camps in the Mid Hudson Valley.
The exhibit features sections several types of camps. The exhibit features camps in Copake, Ancram and Elizaville over the last 120 years. A church opened the area’s first camp in the 1890s. In 1913, the YMCA operated a second one. But in 1928, it moved to Massachusetts because the Y decided that Ancram had become “too crowded” for nature study. In the 1920’s, basketball’s first superstar, Nat Holman, founded Camp Scatico, and two other groups of New York City folks started Camps Ferosdel and Pontiac. Others followed in subsequent years.
Other stories tell of a camper’s near fatal plunge at Bash Bish Falls and of an integrationist camp that brought some Comanche people and some African Americans from Oklahoma and Mississippi to bunk with white kids from the suburban Northeast. There are stories of Boy Scouts accidentally setting fire to woods near their camp, and of two arsonist who destroyed some camp buildings. The exhibit also discusses several area Civilian Conservation Corps camps and a few that catered in part to adults, featuring Liberace and other entertainers.
The exhibit is open through October 12, from 2 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum is at 8 Miles Road, Copake Falls, NY, opposite the Taconic Wayside Inn. Admission is free. Visitors can also take in the quarter mile trail to Bash Bish Falls, and the new Copake Iron Works Museum, which are both nearby.
Photo: “After the Camp Mudsliding” by Cory Schwartz (provided).