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Our New House
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A Letter
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Old Topics

Camp Kawanhee
A Memory Book

Food Raids

I think it was the summer of 1955. This much I do know. Fred Hoster and Amos (Abe) Whitney were Maroon and Grey captains, respectively. I was assigned to the Green Barn, under the care of senior counselor, Jock Duncan. Abe was our JC and was hilariously funny all summer long. There was an assorted allotment of Columbus Academy freshmen also in the Green Barn that summer, including Bill Dutcher, John Schwarzell and Fred Hoster's younger brother, Albert (known as Chief). We quickly learned that both counselors, Duncan and Whitney, were amazingly sound sleepers. Evidently, we campers were not, because more than once we awoke in the middle of the night and formed raiding parties on the food supplies stored under the dining hall, all without waking up Jock or Abe. There was always a night watchman on patrol, but we were able to evade him. How we got into the food storage room undetected, I have forgotten. Apparently it was not too difficult. Being an institutional commissary, the tins of food came in huge quantities. A gallon of peanut butter, a gallon of jelly, etc. As you can see, we were only interested in the valuable stuff. Can you picture us, heavy-laden with our treasures, toting them in the dark back to the GB for the silent feast, whispering to each other how incredibly clever we were? Fortunately, Duncan snored which muffled our giggles, our triumphant comments and the sounds of us stuffing ourselves. To my recollection, the raids went unnoticed.

The Tower

Behind the GB that summer, on a hill above the trail leading from the Cove to the Inn Beach, was a good-sized tower, at the top of which was a very small room used as a temporary bedroom by a bearded, longhaired man who was in the habit of sleeping most days. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing him up and about. Since this was our summer of daring-do, we GB'ers frequently snuck up the stairs of the tower to peek through his window during the day and, inevitably, he would be lying in his bed snoring or just sleeping quietly, surrounded by empty or partially empty liquor and beer bottles. Since the tower had no toilet facilities, the circumference on the ground surrounding it was, shall we say, not hospitable to any form of plant or other life. It was a test of our bravery just to enter that circle, to say nothing of actually climbing the stairs of the tower in broad daylight to look inside the room. To my knowledge, none of us ever dared go up those stairs at night. Who the man was, why he was there or what became of him, we never discovered.

The Uranium Mine

Fred Hoster and I had been best of friends back in Columbus. Fred was two years older than I, making him all of sixteen that summer, and, more importantly, he was a big deal at Kawanhee, junior counselor, captain of one of the teams. George Frank trusted him implicitly. Fred and I got to talking one day about the tutoring camp, Long Lake Lodge, in North Bridgeton, Maine, which I had gone to the previous summer.

One of us, I forget which, said, "Wouldn't it be fun to hitch-hike down to Long Lake Lodge and back." How he did it, I will never know, but Fred got George Frank's permission to take me, aged fourteen, hitch-hiking on his next day off the one hundred twenty miles from Weld to North Bridgton and back in order to visit my old camp.

There we were one bright and sunny morning, standing on Route 142 South with our thumbs out, hoping, hoping, hoping for a ride. I don't recall how many cars passed us by or even how many rides we got that day, but fifty years later one ride stands out in my mind. A man picked us up and, after the usual "where ya headed?" told us that he was driving to a uranium mine and "would we like to go?". I don't think I quite knew what uranium was, but I had heard that it had something to do with the A-Bomb that had won WW II for us ten years before and that it was the stuff that made my watch glow in the dark. Let's just say that he got our attention, especially when he showed us his Geiger counter. The man was serious about this! So, Fred and I decided that Long Lake Lodge would have to wait. This would be much more interesting.

It was. The "mine" turned out to be rock that had been dynamited into large chunks, not deep within the earth, but right out there on the side of a hill. When our "miner" got out of the car, opened the trunk and turned on the Geiger counter, it sounded mildly excited to be there. There were several people at the rock site, all doing the same thing, walking around with Geiger counters that were beeping somewhat energetically. I don't actually recall our miner-driver taking any uranium from the mine to his car, nor did I see anyone else do that either. But the equipment was saying there was some there under all that rock.

I wish I could report some extraordinary effect on us of our having visited the uranium site, like "Fred and I arrived back at Kawanhee with a certain unexplainable glow about us." All that really happened was that we aborted the trip further south to see Long Lake Lodge and started thumbing our way back to Weld, leaving our miner to continue poking around the rocks and arriving at Kawanhee without any particular attention being paid to us at camp. But Fred and I knew we had had the adventure of a summer, thanks to that nice George Frank, to whom I have ever since been grateful. So, you might say, "how'd you feel if any of your three Kawanhee sons had been given the same permission you and Fred got"? That's a tough one.

David Jeffrey: Camper at Kawanhee, 1950 (Panther Lodge), 1951 (Pine Tree Lodge) and 1955 (Green Barn).
After getting an M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary and an MBA from Columbia University my career has been as a financial analyst at a bank and, since 1979, at a small consulting firm that trains other financial professionals. Semi-retired now, I happily spend volunteer time with several non-profit organizations.