Yes, for some reason Pac village has revived interest in the Macarena. Austin, depicted here, is way into it. So much so that he has drawn the sequence of moves on his arm, so that he and everyone in the village can do the dance in sync. Can you follow along?

I ran into this seated/practice performance by stopping by Hird Lodge (yes, still the home of Pac village, our 15-year-old guys). I walked in and saw them all there, and wondered why. Well, they had returned from their 3-day/2-night hiking trip, had showered and were justing sitting around relaxing. They told me about the Macarena fixation and I snapped photos as Austin gave his sedentary performance.

Here you go:

 

By inducting Beverly Gross Sutton into Frost Valley’s Hall of Fame, we honor a legendary leader among the community of girls and women who in the early 1960s, after eight decades of camping exclusively for boys, pioneered the culture and values of “Camp Wawayanda for Girls” (as it was first called) and then “Camp Henry Hird.” She was admired and known by everyone, across boys’ and girls’ camps both, as “Bev Gross”—or just “Bev,” a counselor quickly famed for her enormous store of empathy, a colleague whose passion for and faith in people’s deep goodness could be counted on to get everyone through the rough times and to celebrate the glory of the happy ones. Bev did as much as anyone in those crucial early years to shape the spirit and sensibility of camping for girls at Frost Valley, and by her very manner of daily being persistently conveyed to all of us the idea—then new to this oldest camp in the U.S.—that girls not only had the basic equal right to the summer camp experience but would learn and thrive and “rough it” in this remote valley as well as, and perhaps sometimes better than, the boys.

In eight influential summers at Frost Valley (1962-68), Beverly held the roles of Junior Counselor, Counselor-in-Training (CIT) Director, and Village Chief. Whenever she worked in one of the original four girls’ villages, hers was always—devotedly—Susquehanna (or “Susky”). She was a J.C. during the very first Susky summer and so they had to improvise their cheering and chants, and she recalls, screamed their presence everywhere they went around camp: The sun comes up on Susquehanna / The moon goes down on 6 through 10 / ‘Cause we’re the best and we’re the greatest / Sing hallelujah, shout Amen!

One rainy afternoon she led Susky cabins on a hike to an campsite for a night of camping. The downpour intensified. Should they remain under their hastily arranged tarps, or quit and return to camp? She recalled the assumption on the part of some of the Boys’ Camp staff that girls might not have the grit to do overnight camping the Wawayanda way. They decided to stay. In the morning, they hiked back into camp, soaking wet but proud, and walked directly through where the boys were gathered for their Flag Raising—the girls now chanting The sun comes up on Susquehanna… As it turned out, all the boys’ overnights had returned. The response at Flag Raising to the presence of these soaked, persistent girls was…a loud, sustained applause. “My campers were very proud,” she recently recalled, “I never felt condescended to by the guys, and we felt accepted. But, still, it took real work to prove that girls were here at camp, and here to stay, and that we could do anything that the boys could do.”

So the famed Bev Gross was loud, and helped make the presence of girls and women at Frost Valley known. Yet she also helped establish the idea of the importance of silence and quiet at such an otherwise noisy, boisterous place—the idea of counseling as a matter, often, of just listening. Everyone from that era can recall a moment when Bev made this point, and its effect on later decades of Camp Hird is incalculable. She had been honored to be invited to give a talk at one mid-session Sunday Morning Reflection (“Chapel”). She chose as her theme the idea that even in the midst of difficult circumstances one “can always return to a place of gratitude.” She meant place as a stance or disposition about living, yes, but she also meant geographically, naturally, this place—the sheer beauty of Frost Valley, so often taken for granted in the high-speed intensity of summer camp. As she concluded her talk, to the entire camp as they were gathered, sitting on logs set in a small clearing among the tall beech and birch trees, she uttered these words: “Now listen to the birds. They are not singing because they have an answer. They are singing because they have a song.” And then she just stopped talking. There was a little confusion but everyone remained silent. Then after a moment birds began to sing, and everyone remained in that place for the longest time, just listening. (Later several Susky campers asked her, “How ever did you get the birds to sing at that moment?!” and she told them: “At Wawayanda,” she told them, “the birds are always singing.”)

Bev had always had the idea of becoming a teacher, but she came from a socially and economically homogenous community and assumed she would find a job teaching in a segregated school. It was at Frost Valley in 1967 and 1968—her final summers and the first summers in which financial aid, or “camperships,” were awarded to children from nearby New Jersey cities she didn’t know—that she decided to devote herself to a career of inclusive teaching. A camper she met and loved—this child could not read or write—inspired her to see her world of collegiate teacher training and her Frost Valley world as merged. She would become a classroom teacher who behaved more like a counselor at Camp Wawayanda for Girls.

Eight years in the course of a long life might seem a small phase, with its memories here and there. But for Beverly Gross Sutton—as for many others who have come of age in this valley where caring is a core value and where empathetic listening is a way of life—those summers were utterly transformative.  “My lasting memory,” she says now, “was the consciousness of joy.”

 

Tonight Pokey-Totem and Pac Village, our oldest and youngest campers, participated in Frost Valley’s traditional Challenge Night. This picture was taken during a non-related look-a-like challenge. It was great seeing the older boys role model and encourage the younger campers to participate!

Today was a warm day here in the valley! I walked through the Dining Hall and asked campers how they kept cool when things are hot. Here are some responses:

“I keep filling my Frost Valley water bottle and pouring it on my head!”

“I am totally gonna swim 4th period!” (4th period is Camp Henry Hirds waterfront period)

“I run from one shade to another shade when walking to activities.”

One of the many things our counselors do on hot sunny days is make sure our campers are hydrated and have access to sunscreen. When I asked a counselor how they keep cool they responded with this:

“I’m a counselor, I’m always cool.”

Rock on counselors.

Kam Kobeissi
Director of Camp Henry Hird

Rain was the theme of the first night of our PAC & Windsong overnights. Both groups set out and over Wildcat Mountain to their respective overnight sites (Merrill Pavilion (P) & Pine Grove (W)).

To our campers this is a rite of passage and a very exciting and unique program that only our oldest villages get to do. The “Hike” still gets talked about by campers well after they have graduated on to their lives outside of Frost Valley. The overnight sites themselves are only used by the PAC & Windsong program and are considered sacred areas of camp.

As soon as our counselors arrived to their sites tarps were set up, camp fires were lit, and food was cooked (Pita Pizza’s the first night). The next day was activities and solo’s (all under the watchful eye of our campers). I arrived early this morning as they were preparing to hike back to camp (picking up the heavy stuff like sleeping bags, extra tarps, trash) the campers were excited about the hike back, to tell the tail of their hike to their friends, to create the memories that makes camp the magical place that it is.

Kam Kobeissi
Director of Camp Henry Hird