Tall Timber Tales
Tall Timber Alumni
by Demian
April 24, 2015

Tall Timber - Winter 1961
Camp Tall Timber, run by “Uncle” Mel Coburn, and assisted by his wife, Sylvia, ran from 1961-73. I was a counselor there in 1961-63, 1965, and 1968.

The following remarks are edited from e-mails by those campers who have contacted me.

Notes:

Alumni who wish to be contacted have offered their e-mail addresses.
None are posted without permission.

Mike Schinasi started a Tall Timber discussion board Web group on March 14, 2006:
groups.google.com/group/tall-timber
Note: All of the 2010 entries are spam, and there have not been any new blog entries since then.

Click here to see the Mohegan Lake area on Google Maps.
Once there, click on the Satellite button for the landscape view.

Tall Timber Alumni
Roberta Agatstein (Steele)
1962
I can’t tell you how excited I was to find you. My sister-in-law Nora (David Agatstein’s wife) found you by accident. David has told her so many stories about our “Golden years” of childhood at Tall Timber that she feels part of the bungalow colony family. David has actually taken her to see the place.

Some quick facts about our families (as of May 2006):

  • I have taught school for 32 years, and live in Palm City Florida; 40 miles North of Palm Beach.
  • My husband of 27 years is Dennis. He is a boat captain/sportfisherman.
  • Our 24-year-old son Matthew is a U.C.F. graduate living in Orlando.
  • My mother Belle lives in Stuart, Florida (3 miles from Palm City). My dad, Bill, passed away 10 years ago.
  • My brother, David, and his wife Nora and their two daughters also live in Stuart.
  • My cousin Barbara sang “My Man” in the camp show. She and her brother Henry live in New York; Henry in Rockland County, and Barbara in Brooklyn. Henry has a wife, Hildy, and a son and granddaughter. He is an assistant principal at Music and Art High School. Barbara works for the state.
We sadly miss some of our friends who have passed away. Mitchell Guth, Sandy Malkin and Julie Rosenfeld are the people I know about.

Roberta lives in Palm City, Florida. She can be reached at steelerfugly@yahoo.com

Peter Berkrot
1964
2006
I am working on a piece about Tall Timber. I’ve written a few short essays just for fun. I was a year younger than Norman Coburn (we called him Nah-my). My brother is three years older. My family was there from 1962 to 1972 maybe?

I couldn’t believe it when I saw a picture of Phil Glotzer!! He was my favorite counselor and one of the people I’ve written about.

Demian, I also followed a path into theatre and film (I looked at your resume). Rob Morrow was a great friend of mine. Maybe you bumped into him on the set of “Northern Exposure.” [Note from Demian: Yes, I did. But it didn’t hurt much. He caught me stealing cashews from the stars-only food table.]

See Peter’s’s articles on his summer camp experience:
        “A Boy Called Jacob”.
        “The View from Far Right Field”

Peter directs the “New Voices-New Visions” acting school in Massachusetts.
Peter may be contacted at newvoices@juno.com

Jon Broz
1964
I found your website by accident a few weeks ago and must thank you for some wonderful memories.

My father, Irving Broz passed away in 2003 and, every so often, I Google his name. I was very surprised and delighted to come across your writings and photos. I also found an article by Jay Leites which gave my dad credit for a song he wrote about Uncle Mel. Dad loved to write and became an amateur poet, belonging to on-line poetry clubs as he was home bound in his later years.

My mom is well and living in a West Palm Beach suburb, and my sister Linda and her family live close to mom. I stayed in New York with my wife and two children, who are now [in 2006] 22 and 24 years old.

I was sorry to hear that your father died. I have wonderful memories of him and sometimes catch myself humming camp songs while I’m driving alone in the car. Your dad was a true gentleman and great role model for a bunch of kids.

Jon lives in New York. He may be contacted at jonbroz@aol.com

Ken Glotzer
1962
2009
Hi Demian:

Though it is almost a lifetime ago since we last spoke I wanted to share with you a few things.

The Coburn family has really made a huge impact on my life. Many of my principles, especially those about caring for others, I learned from “Uncle Mel” and his son Al, who was my counselor for 3 years.

I taught for 33 years and have directed day camps for 37 years. In 2009, I wrote the first, full master’s program in camp leadership for the American Camp Association.

My book “There is No Place Like Camp: A camp director’s guide for parents” extols the virtues of camp. It contains lessons I learned from your family that I wanted to share with others.

Presently, I am writing a TV series, “Confessions of a Camp Director” - again, lessons learned from Tall Timber and your family.

Though we rarely spoke, thank you for really showing great respect for your parents.

Ken is the founder and director of Day Camp in the Park, in Harriman State Park, NY.
Ken lives in New York City. He may be contacted at dcitp@aol.com

Jeff Horowitz
Jeff’s Bar Mitzvah, with Molly and Joe Marder - October 1968
2015
Written on April 2015:

My parents were Hy and Lilly. Joe Marder was my mom’s uncle. I am still in touch with their son, Artie Marder, my first cousin, once removed.

My daughter is about to turn 19. When she was 12 I told her about Tall Timber. I told her that about 50-or-so families lived there for the summer; a place where no one had an air conditioner, or a TV, and there was only one pay phone for all of us. She couldn’t understand how we survived, let alone had the best summers ever.

Jeff lives with his wife and daughter in Syosset, NY.
Jeff may be contacted at 516-313-2527;

Jay Leites
2009
photo by Jon Broz
Thirty years after the final rendition of “Day is Done” at Tall Timber, I still know that song, and all the rest of “Uncle” Mel’s camp songs by heart. I can’t listen to Taps without hearing at the end: “Talllll Tim-berrrr — walk, walk, walk.”

My father Aaron, mother Frieda, and brother Brian spent about a dozen summers under the Club House’s penthouse. They were the happiest times I have had. That’s saying a lot, as rest of my life has been fairly happy.

But if I could once more, spend an entire summer, with good friends, in a country setting, with no duties or responsibilities, except to have fun. Well, that would be swell indeed.

        >Sigh<

For more of Jay’s reminiscence please see his article: “Thanks for the Plaque”
Jay lived in Queens, New York. He died on April 10, 2011.

Jay Leites - 1955-2011
From Billy Berkrot:
“Our dear friend, Jay, passed away this morning. Several of us have been close to him since those early childhood days — without interruption — and this is a really horrible and surreal thing to deal with. He love all things Tall Timber; expect, of course, being forced to play sports. I truly believe those summers were the happiest time of his life. He had a great time at the reunion, and really enjoyed reconnecting with folks from Tall Timber.”
See the Reunion 2009 photos in the menus below, some of which were shot by Jay.
Debbie Levy

1971
2007
I remember quite a bit about Till Timber Day Camp because “Uncle Mel” and “Aunt Sylvia” were the most extraordinary people I have come to know. We had the time of our lives there. There would never be another camp like theirs.

I loved Aunt Sylvia as she used to keep an eye on me, as I was one of those kids who didn’t like to stay with her group! I always hung out with Aunt Sylvia while she did her crafts. I can’t remember if she was into knitting and crocheting.

For more of Debbie’s reminisence, please see her article: “The Time of Our Lives”
Debbie lives in Yorktown Heights, New York. She may be contacted at heidiwill@aol.com

Mike Lisenco

My heart went into my throat when I saw the photographs. I stepped back in time.

I went to Tall Timber for three years in the mid 60s. Your brother Allen was my counselor, for the senior boys, at one point. I also remember your father, “Uncle” Mel, with his thick Massachusetts accent. Of course, we had no accent.

I can still hear him at the end of each day counseling us to “walk, walk, walk” as we charged away from the singing of taps to run home for dinner. Sometimes I find myself humming the refrain somewhere deep inside my head. Funny how some things stick with you some 35 years later. I'm truly sorry to see that he passed on.

The first year we were there we lived on the “other” side of the street. The next two years were spent in one of the main buildings near the casino and the pool.

I see that you are an actor. I am, too. I make my living mostly in commercials, here in New York, along with the occasional TV or movie role.

Mike lives in New York.

Mark Malowitz
1961
Mark writes in March 2007:

I have quite a few clients up in the Mohegan area. In fact, I will be going up to Peekskill (now called Cortlandt Manor) on Tuesday (April 2, 2007). I haven’t looked at the old place in quite a while, but, after seeing the pictures on this Web site, I’ll probably take a side trip.

A lot of the old businesses are gone. White’s ice cream stand is now a butcher shop. Caldor is now a Koles. The Dugout is gone, and so is The Rodaks ice cream stand in Mahopac. The old Mohegan Country Club is now a condominium development.

Living in Rockland, I have been in contact with some of the old crowd, sometimes in strange ways. I ran into Nancy Solomon at the George Washington Bridge when they were doing “Hands Across America.”

On another occasion I went to a garage sale with my wife, and it turned out that it was Beth Rozoti’s parents’ house. I saw “Rozoti” written on a box in their garage, and asked if it was Frank and Lita. 10 minutes later, Beth showed up.

Mark lives in Rockland, New York. He may be contacted at malowitz@optonline.net

Jack Ritterman
1961
We Rittermans (mom, dad, and sister Marla) spent many summers there. I was a camp counselor to Marshall Adelson — we called him “Mousy” — and his friends. I only have fond, fond memories of that time in my life. The place was terrific.

The Tall Timber grounds are now garden apartments.

Marla Ritterman
1961
I think it is so great that you put this site together. It brings back so many memories. Memories keep you young, and that’s a good thing.

Your dad [Uncle Mell] used to call me “Sharp Eyes” because I used to find all the arrows that were lost.

Alice Roza
1964
I went to Tall Timber for years. We were all the Greeks that lived there.

I was the tom boy that played ball with all the boys.

Joey Taft is now a doctor in Queens where I live.

Great, great memories.

Alice lives in Queens, New York.

Barbara Roza (Iannotta)
1963?
I was a camp counselor in 1962. My sisters Sandy and Alice say it all: the days at Tall Timber were great we had a good fun. Going to the Fireman’s Fair was great. We all got into to my fathers 1955 Dodge and went down the hill.

Barbara lives in Queens, New York.
Barbara sent a batch of photos. See: The Roza Photos

Sandy Roza (Kushner)
1962
I stumbled upon your Web site while surfing the Web, and doing the last of my six loads of laundry (2 teenagers). I must say, the articles brought me to tears.

I was one of those “Tall Timber” campers that you wrote about. My family would make their pilgrimage up to Lake Mohegan every summer from, I believe, 1960-1965. My sisters — Barbara and Alice — were camp counselors. They were some of the best years of my childhood.

I remember 12 kids piling into my dad’s Dodge and driving up the road to Whites for ice cream, and the “fog man” (the pesticide truck) spraying his cloud of chemicals as we all chased after him inhaling what is probably the cause of my nuttiness.

I remember “Uncle” Mel with such fond memories. I am now 48 years old and sang many of his songs to my kids. Some of them didn’t even have words, just gestures and melodic sounds, but they were entertaining.

When my family gets together with fellow “Tall Timberites,” Uncle Mel’s name always comes up. On Shabbat evening, we would all gather around Uncle Mel and sing. He would dismiss us and holler “Walk, walk, walk.” I was sorry to hear of his demise but I am glad that he lived a long life.

By the way, the second person in the camp photo is Simon Halegoua. He was my dance partner on many occasions at camp. I also thought he was my cousin.

Many of us were the children of concentration camp survivors, and our parents told us we were related. I think I was 25 before learning we were not really relatives. Simon is well and living on Long Island in New York.

I really enjoyed your pictures and your stories. I am going to call my sisters and tell them about the site. Great Web site.

Wish I could go back to camp. Wish my kids could have experienced Uncle Mel.

Sandy lives in New jersey.

Brian Rucker
1961
Your site brought back some fond memories; especially of your brother Norman. Give him my best.

Brian sent some photos. See: The Rucker Photos

Ira Rucker
1961
2006
I attended Tall Timber Day Camp, with my brothers Gary and Brian, from 1960-1964. We had a small house in the Mohegan Lake Highlands that was just across the road from the Tall Timber Casino.

I came across the Tall Timber Tales Web site yesterday (June 27, 2006) and was totally blown away. The memories came flooding back after forty years (can it really be 40 years!).

Loved the total group shot camp photos. I saw you also have some photos of Gary in another section — the trip to Bear Mountain. [See bottom two photos on Summer Camp Emergency]

I am currently living in San Diego with my wife Barbara and two daughters, Elizabeth and Kayla. I retired as a naval officer some time ago, and took up a second career as an attorney.

I am a softball umpire for the Amateur Softball Asssociation, which is sort of how I found your Web site. I just finished umping a divisional championship game this past weekend in nearby Escondido in really oppressive heat and humidity. For San Diego, the humidity is rare.

I had the feeling, standing on the humid ball field, that I was back east, in New York. It reminded me of Mohegan Lake and Tall Timber and those many summers playing ball in really hot, humid conditions.

When I returned, I got curious as to what Mohegan Lake looks like now, so I brought it up on Google Satellite (a very neat feature) and had a look around. [See the Mohegan Lake area on Google Maps. Once there, click on the Satellite button for the landscape view.]

Then I did a word search for “Tall Timber” and “Mohegan Lake,” on the off chance I might find out what happened to the camp, and your site popped out at the top of the list.

I also found the Google Tall Timber Group and left a note. [See Mike Schinasi’s Tall Timber discussion board groups.google.com/group/tall-timber]

I got an answer from Phil Glotzer this morning. It was great hearing from him. It was also great to hear that he and his brother (and best friend from those days) Kenny and his sister Heidi are doing well. It is just so amazing to connect with somebody that was that far in my past.

I’m sure others have told you how much Camp Tall Timber and your dad, uncle Mel, meant to us growing up. He created a wonderful world of play, education, and competition (Color Wars!). As a small child, I remember the first time I met him. He spoke in such a thick Boston accent I thought he was from a foreign country. I think he laid it on a little thick for our benefit.

Be it softball, horseshoes, swimming, ping-pong, crafts, dancing, kick ball, the days were always filled with fun activities, and your dad (and his helpers) were responsible for organizing it all.

Would love to hear from others and learn how they are doing.

A further note from Ira:

I spent an hour today, doing cardio, totally lost in thought; mostly in Tall Timber. It was a very fast hour and I found myself smiling, and tearing up a bit, as the long-ago scenes unfolded like a movie.

This was the time of year, the last week of June, after the last day of school, when we loaded up the old two-toned Plymouth and changed worlds for two months. My brothers and I would be packed into the back amid the blankets, pillows, and towels for the hour ride from the gray, concrete Bronx to the incredibly green Mohegan Lake.

It has been more than 40 years, but I still remember the feeling of unbounded exuberance I experienced when we arrived, and I knew that an entire summer of fun stretched out before me.

Ira lives in San Diego, California. He may be contacted at bluelaser7@aol.com

Mike Schinasi
1962
I was just reading the e-mails from this (Tall Timber Tales) site. Makes you choke up a little. It’s a real shame those times do not exist anymore. I would have liked to have done the bungalow colony scene with my kids. It was the old version of this generation sending their kids to sleep-away camp, and the parents joining a beach club. Nothing is done together. Besides, today, how many fathers could come up on a Friday afternoon, stay the weekend, and go back to the city on a Monday morning. Times have changed.

Mike lives in New York. He may be contacted at mschinasi@aol.com

Bobby Schlesinger

We went to Tall Timber until about 1969, but we may have known your family at some other bungalow colony. [The Schlesingers followed Uncle Mel from Camp Kiawanna in 1961.]

Our family, the Schlesingers, were very close with yours. In fact, I always thought that your dad, “Uncle” Mel, was my real uncle.

I know that my dad saw your mom and dad in Florida in the 90s. He gave my dad a Tall Timber T-shirt to give to me. I always meant to call your dad to say thanks, but never did. So, anyway, thanks.

My mom, Marilyn, passed on in 1968. My dad, Walter, passed on in 1998. My older brother, Mike, is doing well, and so am I.

Those were very sweet times.

Michael Schlesinger
1961
Michael lives in Washington, D.C.
Sharon Senz
1962
I spent four wonderful, fun-filled summers at Tall Timber, from 1961-64. The Berkrots were our next door neighbors for three summers. In September 2005, I saw the Krochaks, who stayed at Tall Timber way longer than I did.

I remember every show I was in, and the words to all those songs. We have old movies of Tall Timber, the shows, the carnivals, the Sabbaths, and color war. Unfortunately, the technical quality of the film has diminished with time.

I remember every night gathering on the hill and singing “Day is Done.” I am starting to cry as I write this. These are such sweet memories to me. I remember “Uncle” Mel’s songs “Mine Hans On Mineself” and “I Don’t Want No More of Army Life.”

Right now, you are probably asking yourself (as did Sharon) “What are the words to the ‘Mine Hans song?’ ” They came to me in a nightmare. Twenty campers had pinned me to the shuffleboard court and demand that I sing the song for the 1,040th time. I awoke with a scream, remembering the rest of the lyrics. Which has provided us with

A Refresher Course from Demian on the Song
“Mine Hans On Mineself”

Mine hans on mine self,
Vass hass du here?
Das is mine ________ mine teacha dear.
________, ________, peek-a-peek-a-boo.
Dots whot we learn in da schoola.
        [In New York it is pronounced: “Dots whot we loin in da schoola.”]

Thanks to Norm Coburn, we have the Definitive Parts List to fill in the blank spaces:

Shvett Boxa
Eye Blinka
Nose Blowa
Soup Straina
Girl (or boy) Kissa
Chin Biscuit
Bread Basket

Each time the song is sung, a new body part is added. On the “peek” line, the previous parts are stated before with the new one.

I have very fond memories of Uncle Mel. It is a real blessing that your family has had such a positive impact on so many people’s lives.

Thanks for sharing the camp stories and photos, they are priceless! You are honoring your dad by continuing his legacy of sensitivity and kindness. It seems to me he taught you well.

We have a print of the second picture in your article “Summer Camp Emergency.” The third boy from the left is my brother Russell Senz. If you have any other pictures of him, our family would greatly appreciate seeing them. He died in an accident in 1968.

I am printing all your memories for my parents to read, being that they don’t use the computer.

Thanks again for the memories.
Sincerely, Sharon Senz (Jack, Ella, and Russell).

Sharon lives in New York. She can be reached at neileiger@optonline.net

Bob Solomon
1961
I was at Tall Timber, though hardly ever at camp.

It was my job to pick berries, although, how I knew to do that is a bit of a mystery. Like most campers, I was a New York City child, from parents who grew up in the City as well. My parents never ate wild blackberries, and they were a bit nervous about eating something wild that did not grow on a truck.

More of Bob’s story can be read here: Indifference to Poison Ivy
Bob lives in North Carolina. He may be contacted at eclepticearth@hotmail.com

Gary Solomon
1961
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Tall Timbers site! It made my heart jump with joy. I have such fond memories of Tall Timbers and Uncle Mel.

My family was there from about 1956-67. I was in Normy’s group, along with Michael Melasky, Alan Malowitz, one of the Kroshaks, and I can’t remember who else. I posted a message on Mike Schinasi’s Tall Timber Google Group of many of my favorite memories.

So sorry to hear that Uncle Mel passed on.

My dad is about to turn 80. He and my mom live in Spring Valley, New York (Rockland County). My younger sister Michelle and her family, and my family also live in Rockland. My older sister Nancy lives in Santa Fe, and my brother Bob lives in North Carolina.

I’d love to have a reunion. Is there any interest in having one?

Gary lives in Rockland, New York. He may be contacted at garysolomon@optonline.net

Brian Tessler

Demian, I just came across your Tall Timber site, and it brought back old memories.

I lived on Kimble Ave., down the road from the camp. I was born in 1963, so I was four when we moved there from Cortlandt. I went to Tall Timber for one or two years, probably in 1967-8. I recall walking to camp alone.

I remember the Marders, mainly Joe’s wife Molly. And I remember the Ruckers; Ray, I think? [ed. Parents: Jay and Evelyn. Kids: Ira, Brian, Gary. See the Rucker kids photos here.] They lived up the street from me. Their mom was from Israel, maybe? I think they had a house fire around 1967.

I remember being in a play and singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” while dressed up like a dog (thanks mom).

My neighborhood used the baseball field, tennis courts and clubhouse next to Tall Timber (west of camp). We used to play ball every day, and I remember hearing kids play across the field.

We used to buy candy — the large sweet tarts — at the casino store. It smelled musty!

Tall Timber must have closed down sometime after ’68, because I walked through the bungalows when I was 10-13 years old. The buildings were beat-up with broken windows and doors.

I live across town in Yorktown now, and still drive around the old neighborhood. There was talk about the Town buying the land and making a park, but it never happened.

Thanks for bringing me back.

Brian lives in Yorktown, NY. He may be contacted at briantess@hotmail.com

Robert Wiederlight

I was a camper at Tall Timber, in the same group with Norman Coburn. I am so sory your dad has passed on, what a great man he was. My parents have passed as well.

I often thought how wonderful it would be to have a reunion.

Thanks so much for the memories and pictures.

Robert lives in Westport, Connecticut.


— Tall Timber Tales —
      Stories
            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
Demian
Seattle, WA
206-935-1206
demian@buddybuddy.com