Tall Timber Tales
Summer Camp Emergency
by Demian
December 30, 2005
It is the very last day, on the very last hour of Tall Timber summer camp in the quiet summer tourist town of Mohegan Lake. It is the early 60s, and for the past two months I had spent nearly all of my time teaching arts and crafts, and directing the camp’s theatrical presentations.

Fran Rosenthal (later became Shectman), 1962.
My friend, Fran Rosenthal, is highly skilled with kids and the only other senior counselor. The rest of the counselors are barely older than the campers, and have little child-care experience. Uncle Mel, the camp director (and my dad) guides the counselors and campers with the surety of years of experience, and a love of his work.

The campers of Tall Timber would soon return to being the full-time responsibility of their parents. While I have enjoyed the teaching, refereeing, caring for, coaching, and being a confidant to children, I look forward, with relief, to the quiet of non-counselorhood.

The financial compensation for the summer will be a meager salary, plus a few small cash tips. At 17, I long-identified myself as a photographer, and my wages would soon all go toward a better camera to assist me in producing my art.

Uncle Mel just finished distributing the end-of-season presents to all the camp kids. And everyone is in a pleasant, though restless and unfocused, mood.

Most camps give out awards of excellence in various categories. It was Uncle Mel’s idea to prevent the potential jealousies and feelings of inferiority by giving a toy or memento to everyone. The presents were sometimes cheesy, a fact often remarked upon by the youthful counselors, but the kids usually like them well enough.

Ronald Becker, Simon Halegoua, Russell Senz, Mark Mallowitz,
Mitchell Schecter, Bobby Solomon(?), x, x, x.
My 1961 group of campers awaiting their big chance at stardom.
Anyone know the names of the rest of these kids?
There are a few more things to do before everything completely winds down — a couple more songs to sing, and a great many tearful good-byes. Parents and counselors are milling about, their minds mostly on pending supper.

I hear something hit the ground. As I turn around, someone says, “He was walking on the benches.” The benches are simple, long pieces of plank wood, attached at right angles to a short piece of wood, that are not anchored into the ground. Thirty feet from me, one of the ten-year-olds is splayed on the dirt with his forearm bent at a peculiar angle.

As I run over, I yell for Uncle Mel. Mel was not just the camp director, he had medical knowledge, and a full range of experience with child care. He was the one you called for in an emergency.

Larry  , Gary Rucker, Phil Glotzer, Paul Thailer
My 1962 group of campers on an overnight stay in the woods.
“Hey, did anyone remember to bring the TP?”
By the time I am at the child’s side, he is screaming in pain. Mel scoops him up and yells to my mom, Sylvia, telling her we are going to the doctor’s and asks her to call ahead. We run to the car, leaving her and Fran in charge of finishing the day’s work.

In the car, I hold the child in my arms. When I can get a word in between his screaming, I tell him not to worry, we are going to the doctor. He is not placated.

As Mel races through the country roads, he tells me that the kid has a “greenstick” fracture, which was better than breaking the skin. It needs to be reset, which I know will be more than unpleasant for the child.

He also tells me he is angry at the kid’s counselor for the apparent lack of supervision on the benches. Uncle Mel often stressed safety, especially around the pool. As he frequently put it, “What would you say to a parent if you had to carry to them their drowned child?”

Happy camper Gary Rucker, just before seeing the “Holy Cow” view at
Bear Mountain State Park in 1962. I call it the “Holy Cow” view
because each one of us uttered that phrase after climbing up the steep
rock face, and turned around to see the vast expanse for the first time.
We lost the trail and, to return, we had to slide on our backsides down
a scary, rock precipice. Larry — usually disinterested in athletics —
was the only camper not freaked out, and really enjoyed the climb.
Concerned to get the child to the doctor as fast as possible, Mel pours on the speed. I’ve never seen my dad drive so recklessly. The car repeatedly lurches and bounces as we hit the ruts in the old roads. The kid stops screaming just long enough to say, “Uncle Mel, don’t drive so fast!” He voices what I am thinking, because at this point, his driving terrifies me.

The doctor is of the old school — he has seen it all, which is comforting, as he knows right away what to do. I hope that his red face is merely from high blood pressure, and not from recent drinking.

My arms are around the kid, securing his shoulder and upper arm, as the doctor pulls the kid’s lower arm. The kid howls in agony, and, to get the doctor to stop, promptly kicks him in the leg.

This time, while I hold the child, Mel holds his feet. The doc pulls on the arm. Another round of screaming, and it occurs to me that it is highly fortunate that the parents are not here with us. I am crying to see this child suffer and I start to shake.

Still the bones are not set properly, and the doc braces for yet one more hearty yank. Again, a huge scream, and the kid yells at the doctor that he is “a very bad man.”

When we got back, camp is over. I get my tips, and an unforgettable lesson in child rearing. The kid shows off his cast, racing around the very same benches that had caused his tumble.

— 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