Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:
Stories from Camp Read's Past
CSR in the Adirondacks: the First Ranger, Part Two
August 14, 2021
A little more history from Jim Smith, former Staff Member and Camp Tomahawk Director, for those who did not know, but have often wondered....
To set the stage and bring you up to date from my previous story: it’s 1948, the Fenimore Cooper Council, B.S.A. had just purchased the Great Camp known as the Hermitage in the Adirondacks from C. L. Collins, Fred Smith was the Scout Executive and he had just hired Art Boland to be the year-round Ranger for the property.
As previously mentioned, Art was not only the Ranger, but was a major part of the program that set the tone for what became the “magic” of Camp Read. His unique personality was infectious, creative and fun. He liked to play games (charades), sing songs and create adventures.
This part of Camp history is comprised of excerpts from Art’s book:
From Early in the Morning; The Life and Times of Art Boland; Chapter 3: The True Story of Camp Read. (1) The first limited edition of the book was published in December 2000.
I hope you can get a feel for Art’s personality from his own writing. He was quite a character and made work and life fun! He was 85 when he wrote the book so his memory of events and their order was not as keen, understandably, as it once was.
His writing still contains Art’s warm and captivating style. For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Art, it is possible to hear his voice spinning his life’s endless web of tales as you read along.
Art in his own words:
"I was talking with Lizzie Hill, the wife of the caretaker of the Heller Estate where I had worked the previous two summers. Her brother came along and told us that the scouts had just brought the Hermitage property and that they were looking for a Ranger to oversee it. Lizzie said I should go and see about it, for these jobs were few and far between, as the saying goes. Thanks to God and Lizzie Hill I got the Ranger’s job, which did not ingratiate me with some of the townspeople as I was practically an outsider and this was their town.
It was nearing the end of August of 1948 when I got the job. Fred Smith did not want to ruffle Mr. Heller’s feathers since he was our next door neighbor. So a time was agreed upon when Mr. Heller could spare me – when the hay was in the barn. We got the hay in the barn three days before the end of the month. Because I left with three days to go, one of them a Sunday, he docked me $60. when he paid me off. That’s why he was so rich. He once argued with the milkman about why chocolate milk cost a penny more than white.
I came to the scouts $60 short but have never regretted it, even to the last day, because I made some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. To show you that I remember, I’ll name a few: Peter, Jim, Allan, Dick, Fred, Jack, Jay, George, John, Bob, Al, Leroy, Ralph, Louie, Ed, Brendan, Charlie, Shylock, Dan, Tiny, Rusty, the Venuti Brothers, Tony, Albert, etc., etc. I had those etc’s just in case I left out someone really important.
We had contractors come in to look the place over and give us bids to install a dam for a reservoir, convert the big horse barn into a dining hall, add a kitchen to the proposed dining hall, etc., etc., etc. Also in late 1948 (I put 1948 in four digits just in case of that Y2K thing), three guys came to camp driving an old, old pick-up truck. Their names were John Hindle, John Farley, and last but not least, Bob Johnson. They came expecting the new Ranger to have a beard, a typical mountain man. After all, this was the Adirondacks and they didn’t expect a Ranger fresh out of the service, clean shaven, and born and raised in Brooklyn, NY to boot.
The four of us had to tear down a carriage shed that was in the way of proposed construction. I learned that their sense of humor was a bit sadistic. I was on a ladder taking some boards off the roof and swinging the hammer in an upward motion. The hammer slipped off the board and hit me in the head, right between the eyes. You would think I told the funniest joke in the world, the way they laughed and couldn’t stop long enough to help me down. Of course I was bleeding to boot. I got down myself and stanched the flow of blood and watched Farley rolling on the ground in laughter. I got the picture and saw the humor of it all and joined in the merriment, even though my head was throbbing. The four of us became friends for life.
Somehow things worked out and the contractors accomplished great projects that fall and early spring. Camp Read opened for the first year in 1949, a great year.
The first of June a multitude of Scouters rolled into Camp to build tent platforms, latrines, and sinks for the four campsites, and tables and benches for the dining hall. We had to lay pipelines for water to all the camp sites. This was no small task with two inch galvanized pipe in 20 foot lengths, not very light in weight, especially carrying them through the woods. The scouters had liquid energy to keep them going.
The first year of camp was a doozy, given the young staff and devil-may-care attitude of all concerned. I really think that it made the scouts enjoy themselves, and they loved it. John Farley and Bob Johnson were there in 1949, but neither of them in 1950. John wrote to me after the ’50 season as I still have my answer to him. I wrote it on a yellow pad and I have it to this day. I hope I sent it to him but I shall now write it into the record.
(Editor’s note: Art records the letter to John Farley in the book. He signs it: Arthur (the-man-with-the-beard) Boland. He also adds a P.S. Ten of the boys came up with Ed Gardner over Xmas to ski. It’s the start of a winter camp program, I guess.)
In the 1950 season, a national man, McMasters by name, and supposedly a great map reader, took off for someplace, Pharaoh Lake I think, and wound up on the state road (Rte. 8) below a different mountain, Third Brother. Steve Schwartz, from Pioneering, duplicated the feat later in the season, and again the next year. He was rightfully awarded his honorary McMasters degree in Wrongturnology.
It was in the 1951 season that the Maintenance Crew came into the limelight and composed a song about the trials and tribulations endured in the course of their work. It was to the tune of “Mocking Bird Hill” and went like this:
From early in the morning till late at night,
The maintenance crew works and does everything right;
They never do grumble they never do groan,
They try to make everything just like at home.
Tra la la, twiddle de de it’s great to see,
The maintenance crew busy as any old bee;
Tra la la, twiddle de de they work the day through,
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! For the maintenance crew.
The little ganubees, they step on the pipes,
The scoutmasters come to the shed with their gripes;
Then we fix them and mend them and tell them more lies,
Than there are cross ties on a railroad or stars in the skies.
We walk the pipeline by the light of the moon,
We find all the bad breaks and fix them soon;
They never escape us or get out of hand,
We are the best dang plumbers in all of the land.
Karl Sailor and I built the new Ranger’s headquarters during the winter of 1950-1951. Council figured on surplus attendance in 1951 so they decided to spread out and in the spring added two more campsites to the expanding camp, one to the east end of the infield of the racetrack and the other to the west end of the pioneering area. Fred Smith, Bob Jones, and a new worker, Brendan Boylan, came up in June and we went to work again, building more platforms for the two new campsites.
We also added a rifle-range to help keep the little Ganubees occupied. Ganubees: a new name for the dear little campers, (primarily first year campers): ga-as in garage; nu-as in new; bees-as in bees. And we also added a chapel to care for their little souls.
I spent 18 years as the Camp Ranger and loved every minute of it."
(L to R) Peter Oberdorf, Jim Smith, Art Boland & Andy Kalmykow, III
I hope that this filled in more of the blanks, and preserves some more of the history of Camp Read.
Stay tuned - next up: The Fourth Period Games!
Yours in scouting,
Former Staff Member and Camp Tomahawk Director
From Early in the Morning; The Life and Times of Art Boland can be purchased from:
The Red Fin Press
P.O. Box Six
Adirondack, New York, 12808
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!
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