Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:

Stories from Camp Read's Past

Bob Gwinn

July 6, 2020 (Burnsville, MN)

Fog in the Kitchen!

Standing outside the Tomahawk Dining Hall waiting for the flag raising and breakfast, campers and staff would look up and see Mt Stevens in all its glory in the background. Occasionally, the morning fog would roll in, thick as pea soup, and the mountain would disappear. It was then that the Tomahawk Acting Company [1] would jump in and react in a panic. The mountain had disappeared and possibly been stolen or abducted by aliens. We also knew that when the morning fog burned off it would be a great day.

 

It also needs to be said that among the toughest tasks for a Camp Director is finding a food service that would deliver in the middle of nowhere. Next, a cook to feed hundreds of campers and staff using a relatively ancient stove. Surviving on a diet of Cool Whip and Pringles Pop Chips would have been difficult to say the least.[2] 

 

Over the years, the Tomahawk Dining Hall had many cooks. The one I remember best was Teddy. He was a nice guy and very helpful (even if he did get the sugar and salt containers mixed up) but he was out of his element in the Adirondack wilderness.

 

It was a Sunday morning, in between camp sessions, and we were expecting the next group of campers that afternoon. I was in the dining hall with a project spread out on a table when Teddy came running out of the kitchen. He was complaining that he couldn’t cook because of “all the fog in the kitchen”. We went back into the kitchen and indeed the stove was shrouded in thick, fog-like smoke. The kitchen was on fire! The floor was burning underneath the huge cast iron stove in the center of the room. Teddy had taken the smoke to be the morning fog that occasionally covered Mt Stevens.

 

Things were a bit of a blur after that. We grabbed fire extinguishers, called the Brant Lake Fire Dept, and got the fire out. Dick Trier and I spent the rest of the day underneath the dining hall kitchen in the soot and charred timbers shoring up the floor, fighting the black flies and trying to keep the stove from dropping through the floor.

 

I never saw Teddy after that. He may have hopped on the camper bus back to civilization. It’s too bad he wasn’t a scout as a kid, I’ll bet he really would have enjoyed his time at Camp Read.

About the Scout:

Bob Gwinn, Eagle Scout 1964, Troop 69 Manlius, Onondaga Council, Syracuse, NY. Camp Read Staff 1967, '68, '69 in various capacities and Assistant Reservation Director in 1974. I was not a scout in WPC and actually it was Washington Irving in the 60's when I first went to camp. I was a member of Manlius Troop 69. Manlius is the town where Green Bar Bill (Bill Hillcourt) retired. After I graduated from college I started my career in education as a teacher at Fox Lane Middle School in Bedford, NY and continued to work with the scouts at the council and district level. I think my work with the scouts helped me get the teaching job. I did my Woodbadge at Schiff Scout Reservation (the national camp where the founders hung out!) in 1973. The program was not as well known back then and only a few scouters got involved. Frank Turnbull was my mentor.

I've stayed involved in scouting now for 60+ years. My son is an Eagle Scout and my granddaughter is well on her way to achieving the same.

rgwinn@gmail.com

11516 Galtier Dr

Burnsville, MN 55337

Endnotes

1.  The Tomahawk Acting Company was not a theater group but rather members of the staff who put together some amazing skits and programs in and out of the dining hall. Jim Smith was the camp director and he assembled an amazing group including myself,Tom Dietz, Denis Pisanello, Trier, Dan Rile and others who were provisional scoutmasters. Our repertoire included Uncle jokes, walk ons, Stubby Scout (Trier +), Little Nell, songs with guitars, Jim's Lion Hunt and inspirational stories, and many old time staff members who came back as Special Guests to do their special thing or song, such as Ken Hadermann and "Master Musician from Curtis Read".*

2.  Back in the 60's General Foods in White Plains would send their surplus or trial food products up to camp. When Cool Whip first came out we had all we could use and more. If you wanted to you could put jello on your Cool Whip bowl instead of the other way around. Pringles Pop Chips were not the Pringles potato chips you see today. They were cone shaped, like Bugles, and probably made out of corn. Apparently they couldn't be sold as the butter fat content was too high. At least that's the story we were told. All I know is the raccoons wouldn't even eat them.

*The Master Musician

"I am a master musician and I come from Curtis Read.

I can play on my (violin, trumpet, drum etc)"

 

Then Ken would dance and prance around the dining hall playing the instrument and for the good of the camp, you had better make sure you played along!

 

What a show!

For generations, summer after summer, scouts have been making memories at Camp Read. In 2020, the pandemic may have forced regular activities to pause, but campers from years gone by are sharing their stories here in an effort to fill in the gap. Read on to get your fix of Camp Read hijinks until we can safely fill a parade ground once more!

 

Have a story of your own? Please submit to webmaster@campread.org!

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