Tall Timber Tales
My Dad
by Demian
December 30, 2005

Melvin Coburn
At home, Newtonville, Mass., circa 1957
One of the best memories I have of my father was of the time we spent as a family working in children’s summer camps. I got to see him at his very best as camp director, scheduling an active program for youngsters (geared just right for each age level), and teaching the counselors (barely older than the campers) to oversee them.

The camps were within bungalow colonies, which meant the parents were near, or on, the grounds. It added pressure to the job. He often needed to play mediator or diplomat between warring kids, counselors or parents. I also learned a lot from him about resource management, particularly as funds for equipment and crafts were low. The job was well-suited to his action-oriented disposition.

I started working as a counselor-in-training when I was 12. Dad taught me how to care for kids without resorting to coercion or yelling at them. He eventually put me in charge of the crafts program as well as the campers’ theatricals, which were invariably musical shows.

My brother Norman and my dad
May 1960
Some years later, I realized that the shows he had the kids put on where modeled after Vaudeville. The closest I had seen to the format and style was television’s Ed Sullivan Show.

Basically, all the acts were very short. Not quite, “Wait a minute, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” it was more like “Wait a minute, your kid will be on soon.”

And all the kids got parts, if only in a chorus. It was important to him that all the kids got equal treatment. Instead of passing out only a few awards for excellence at the end of camp, all the kids got modest presents.

One of dad’s most striking features was his sense of fairness. All kids were treated equally, even his own. We, as his sons, never got special treatment or favors. During camp time, we didn’t call him “dad.” We called him “Uncle Mel,” just like everyone else.

Dad was not only a very good provider, he was a good example of how to deal with people and manifest justice.

— Tall Timber Tales —
            Tall Timber Tales - An introduction by Demian
            My Dad - by Demian
            An Exhausting Winter’s Tale - by Demian
            Summer Camp Emergency - by Demian
            Tall Timber Drama - by Demian
            Thanks for the Plaque - by Jay Leites
            Indifference to Poison Ivy - by Bob Solomon
            A Boy Called Jacob - by Peter Berkrot
            The View from Far Right Field - by Peter Berkrot
            The Time of Our Lives - by Debbie Levy
            The Choice - by Jeff Gilbert
            Tall Timber Alumni - Notes from the campers
      Photo Galleries
            Summer Camp Kids - Photos by Demian
            Jack’s Kids - Photos by Jack Ritterman
            Roza Photos - Photos from Barbara Roza Iannotta
            Rucker Photos - Photos from Brian Rucker
            Arthur’s Photos - Photos from Arthur Marder
            Robin’s Photos - Photos from Robin Melasky Sloma
            All-Camp Mug Shots - Photos of the entire camp
                    1961 All-Camp Mug Shot - Who’s Who - Indentities
            Group Mug Shots - Photos of individual groups
      Reunion - Aug 15, 2009
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Jon Broz
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Jay Leites
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Michael Melasky
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Gary Solomon

Entire contents © 2015, Demian
Seattle, WA