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Camp Kawanhee
A Memory Book

The "Women" of Kawanhee

O.K., so shoot me…I'm going to travel a bit a-field and sidestep all of my fantastic memories of Kawanhee, of it's never-ending activities and events…of the trips and campfires and many friends and mentors who helped to forever shape my life…and to whom I am eternally grateful…to focus on the feminine mystique that somehow found its way into the deep Maine woods and in fact to the very shores of Webb Lake itself. Look, lets accept the fact that we males need mothering and nurturing and "contact play", that cannot totally be neutered by the wind blowing through the White Pines or the crack of an aluminum boom on a young skull as we incorrectly jibe across the camp cove in a tech dingy.

I consider myself truly fortunate to have spent twelve of the best summers of my life cavorting at Kawanhee. As a young neophyte acclimating to the rigors of life at a "boy's camp", I bunked my first year in Hawk Lodge in 1957. Twelve seasons later I had, albeit not so gracefully at times, nevertheless finally ascended to head up Campcraft & Tripping. Reflecting back over those many years I cannot help but to focus on the overall importance of the female element at, in and around Kawanhee. Please remember that this occurred at an ancient time in history, when it was still correct to assume the existence of two separate and distinct sexes, and during those early years, when females were more or less banned from the Kawanhee campus.

As a ten-year old my earliest female memories at Kawanhee were of the "mother-figures" at camp. Franny Frank, with her rapid-fire high-pitched voice and favorite phrase of "as you can plainly see…" was nothing like my own mother but after a few weeks filled that role nicely. Mary Baker, who worked the Nature building with my uncle Forrest Dexter was simply put a gentle sweetheart who reminded me of my grandmother. A word or two from Mary seemed to stabilize my male world instantly. Our camp nurse Liz Compher was a tremendous comfort and a beautiful human being.

As years passed-by and hormone levels exploded, the camp mother's stature was somewhat replaced by the "female camp visitor". Oh that someone's sister (or even a few of the younger mothers) would come to visit. Word would spread like wild fire through camp that a true vixen had entered our midst. Instant trips to the fort were demanded, all with a hope to catch even a glimpse of "the prey". Good looks were considered secondary to the fact that a living breathing human with different body parts had gracefully descended upon our ranks. As the long, hot summer wore on and took it's toll, every woman visitor to Kawanhee, looks notwithstanding, was placed upon a pedestal of visual worship, and if a truly hot babe walked through camp, the vision and accompanying stories lasted for weeks. Saturday night campfires became hotter, Sunday church services became more focused and swim meets became more frenetic, all at the hands of these visitors from a distant world.

As a young counselor at Kawanhee the ground literally shook the summer that we discovered a fantastic secret…that there were girls staying with their parents in the camps and cottages nestled along the nearby Inn Beach. Not wanting to appear "un-manly" by carrying a flashlight, many an injury was sustained clawing our way through the puckerbrush and even Stanley Williams open dump in the woods after dark, all in our attempt to meet those goddesses. During my tenure it was Diane and Debbie Merrill, Margy Ames, Kathy Farmer and my cousin Jeannie Dexter that held we male moths in their proverbial flame. All I can say is that those women held sway in the lake and mountain air, and I was always disappointed to return home at summer's end and to painfully adjust back to "the locals".

Although others will have their own female memories, I can well-recall the other regional sources of feminine "product" which included: The walks to Masterman's General Store in Weld to stock up on "candy"; The Square Dances in Weld (I'm still a little sore from being thrown around by those amazons) and the inter-camp dances at Camp Kineowatha in Wilton; The chambermaids at the Weld Inn; The tough locals in Mexico and Rumford who hung out at The Rooster Restaurant; The girls of the beach scene in Old Orchard that we ogled on our good old days-off; The farmer's daughters at the Skowhegan State Fair (not to mention the "girly shows" in tents); The buxom clerk at Puna's Hardware store in Rumford (oh for a bag of ten-penny nails!); The "mountain girls" to be found at the Sunday swims in the Swift River falls; and finally, the mixed dorms at the huts in the White Mountains frequented by those girls camps traveling the Mount Washington and Katadin circuits. I loved them all in secret…and thank them now for making my total Kawanhee experience even that much more special. Even today, the combined smell of lake water and pine trees stirs not only memories of archery, boating, baseball and range…. but of countless mystical summer beauties and of un-realized relationships and fantasies that provided a veritable fabric of magic to my early adulthood.

Frank Stewart camper/counselor 1957-1968, Campcraft, Tripping and JMG:
My Kawanhee passion for the woods lead me to a BS & MS at the University Of Maine in Forestry and Land-use Planning. I am currently President/CEO of Northland Residential LLC, an environmentally friendly high-end residential development firm that has implemented over 130 projects throughout New England. I released my first singing CD this past winter; wife Marjorie and I live in Gloucester Mass and have three children and three grandchildren.