“The Impact of the Rim Fire and the Future of the Stanislaus Forest”

Tuesday April 14, 2015 7pm – 9pm
Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse  Berkeley
Click Here for Tickets

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Our Dining Hall and Circle of Green Chairs

The Rim Fire was one of the nation’s worst disaster’s and one of the worst fires California has ever had. Come see an amazing and powerful presentation, and ask questions about The Rim Fire and its effects on the land we love by the US Forest Service, as they work towards reforesting an area the size of Los Angeles!

Evening Program:

7pm   Welcome by The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

7:15pm – 7:30pm “The Fire Next Time” – an amazing 13 min. film on The Rim Fire and Mega-Fires  by Stephen Most and Kevin White of Filmmakers Collaborative SF.

 

7:30pm – 8:15pm   The Impact of The Rim Fire and How You Can be Involved in the future of the Stanislaus Forest

Clare Long – Rim Fire Recovery Partnership and Volunteer Coordinator

Seth Connolly – Tuolumne River Trust – Restoration and Volunteer Coordinator

Q&A with Scott Tangenberg – Deputy Forest Supervisor – USFS

 

8:15pm    What does camp look like today?  Slide Show of Camp Tuolumne, December 2014

8:25pm – 8:45pm Update on Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp by the City Recreation Staff

8:45pm  Closing thank you’s – The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

    9pm      5 min of unseen footage that was saved in the fire of Camp Tuolumne in 1948

please note: The presentation includes video of The Rim Fire up close – we hear and see the fire in amazing footage. This event may not be good for small children. Please feel free to email me personally (scott@fobtc.com) if you have questions.

Thank you,

Scott Gelfand

Executive Director FOBTC

& the Board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

 

Click Here for Tickets!

February Town Hall Meeting – our Update!

Hi Campers!

We had a great Town Hall Meeting on Feb 10th in Berkeley.
We were so impressed with campers showing up to get involved, lend their voices, and tell us their concerns.

We wanted to send out a recap as to what was discussed, for those that missed it. We had over 100 people sign up to come, so we know there was a lot of interest!

Here is a summary of what was discussed. Feel free to email me (scott@fobtc.com) with any specific questions, or if you’d like to be more involved with the Friends and how you might plug in…

Thank you!

Scott Gelfand and the Board of The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

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After the presentation below, we broke out into 4 groups – Fundraising, Political Strategy & Partnerships, Live Events & Community Engagement, and PR and Communications. Attendees went to whatever area interested them. The conversations were full and vibrant, and there were great ideas and passion. We hope to engage as many volunteers as want to be involved with us, and continue to do the work of keeping our camp community engaged and informed.

They gave us great ideas on giving campaigns and fundraising, special events like a Theme Day in the Park to bring us all together (they literally had dozens and dozens of fun ideas), PR to reach out to younger campers and get them involved (we have sinced launched an official Instagram page), and continuing and growing our advocacy and partnerships work to make sure we are educating and involving all the important legislators and decision makers.

Update on Camp and Current Status

The City, their Insurance Company, and the USFS are currently negotiating the Zoning and Master Plan areas.

Specifically: What can be built, where can it be built, and what insurance will pay for.

All 3 stakeholders are hopeful this process will be complete this spring/summer and an agreement will be signed.

This is a sensitive process, and a complex negotiation. But indications from the City staff are that it is going well and moving along in a good direction.

Big thanks to Scott Ferris for his leadership and stewardship of this.

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Master Plan Process

›Once that agreement is made, a new Master Plan draft is created for feedback and a public process will ensue.

›FOBTC will help the City create venues for feedback and inclusion as much as possible.

›The City has retained 2M Associates for the next few years, and they have already been working on Camp re-designs for a few years now, and know the Camp VERY well.

›The goal would be to re-create the camp feel and footprint as best as we can.

›We’ll know more hopefully by this summer.

 

The Land, Trees & Logging

The Camp has had approx. 1400 hazardous trees removed in the Fall

››There is no work being done during the Winter.

››They will evaluate some trees (not many) in the Spring

›The goal for everyone is to leave as many trees as possible, of course.

No one is allowed to be on the Camp property. Harden Flat Rd. is open, but the camp property is closed. They will cite you for trespassing if caught on the property, and the city could have issues. Please do not go onto the camp property.

 

The Camp Business

›Sierra Family Camp expanded to 5 weeks of Family Camp this summer

›A larger staff size to improve family camp and keep the Tuolumne Spirit alive and well

›Thanks to Denise and Craig for their leadership and vision! Weeks are selling well, but there are still openings.

Sign up for Sierra Family Camp Today!
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FOBTC:   It’s Been a Very Busy 2014 – What we’ve done!

›Improved Camper Communication: we now are in communication with over 2300 campers via our email and Facebook page. Our goal is to double that so that we can keep everyone informed and educated and involved. We are expanding our web site, and our monthly communication.

›New Partnerships and Advocacy: we now attend and are a part of the powerful Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions partnership, the group that meets regularly with the US Forest Service. FOBTC now has a relationship with the US Forest Service and got a unanimous agreement to treat the 14.5 acres of Camp land as a unique part of the forest and to have a special prescription for reforestation. We are also partnering with the Tuolumne River Trust on events and issues relating to Camp and the South Fork of the Tuolumne River.

›Political Strategy: we have monthly meetings with Scott Ferris, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront who keeps us updated as to their negotiations. FOBTC meets with the Mayor’s office, Berkeley Council people, and all stakeholders who have an interest and connection to Camp to maintain healthy relationships and continue to advocate for the camp.

››Live Events & Engagement: we have done 8 live events in Berkeley since the fire, almost one every other month, to continue to engage the community and connect our campers, bringing The Camp Spirit to Berkeley. This is a vital role for FOBTC to play to keep our community strong.

›Fundraising: While not going full speed on fundraising until we have a Master Plan and a camp being built, we continue to do small fundraising so that we can continue to support family camp at Sierra Family Camp.

In the first summer at Echo Lake, we helped build the stage, and bought the sound system and lighting so that Sierra Family Camp could have the traditional Staff Show.

We bought and built over 25 Green Adirondack Chairs to create a Green Circle of Chairs.

We augmented the Ahwanee fund to give the staff an end-of-year dinner in Lake Tahoe.

We donated money for programming supplies – arts and crafts, and recreation program needs, so the camper experience would be supported.

We donated a small refrigerator for the D-Hall, and some other small items to enhance the staff needs.

The new green chair circle up at Echo Lake.

The new green chair circle up at Echo Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOBTC 2015 – What we are working on! Please join us!

April 14th 7pm – 8:30pm  Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse
“The Rim Fire and the State of the Stanislaus Forest” – a USFS presentation and update on what YOU can do and how to get involved! This is a powerful presentation and one in which you’ll be amazed at. We’ll also present an update on Camp from the City of Berkeley.  Q & A will follow.

Saturday May 16th  1pm – 4pm  “A Day on the Tuolumne River” – a family canoe trip with Tuolumne River Trust

August 28th – 30th  Look for “The Blues Weekend” to re-surface

Sept 4th – 6th  Potential Labor Day Weekend at Echo Lake!
1st Annual Echo Lake Boat Regatta

Sept 12th   2nd Annual “Tee off for Tuolumne” Golf Tourney at Tilden Park

Dec 21st   Holiday Staff Show tradition at The Berkeley Rep’s Osher Studio

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Keep your family camping! Plan a summer get-a-way!

Hi dear campers…  we know you love Tuolumne Camp and Family Camping, so as we continue supporting the rebuilding of Tuolumne at Harden Flat Road, we wanted to encourage you to continue to keep your family camping, somewhere, somehow, so that the best memories of being in nature and having fun as a family continue uninterrupted.

To make that a little easier, here are 2 choices that are near and dear to Berkeley/East Bay families. We obviously want to support Sierra Family Camp first and foremost, as that is the home of our beloved Camp and its traditions. But some people like trying new areas, so we thought to introduce you to our friends at Lair of the Golden Bear. In any case, we hope you go Family Camping!

1.  Sierra Family Camp

The temporary home of Tuolumne Camp, and City of Berkeley’s beautiful Camp since 1922. It sits just down the road from Echo Lake, and hovers above Lake Tahoe with a dramatic view. It is smaller, and cozy, and gorgeous. And there is boating on Echo Lake!!

Tents with a view

Tents with a view

 

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The pool is fixed, the staff will be larger and there will be 5 weeks of family camp. We want to fill every space!

Here’s the web site link:

Sierra Family Camp at Echo Lake!

Here is their tent availability:

Calendar of Availability

We LOVE this camp! Check them out and reserve today. Steve and I are working on this year’s Staff Show already, and there will be great, returning staff who cannot wait to get back up there.

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2. The Lair of the Golden Bear

The famous Lair of the Bear Camp invites Berkeley Tuolumne Family Campers to join them at their family camp this summer in Pinecrest, CA. They offer a full schedule of activities for the week, 3 hearty meals a day, and the beauty of the Sierra. You don’t need to be a Cal alum to camp at the Lair.

Check out their video:

Lair of the Bear Camp Video

SPECIAL:  They’re offering a 15% discount off their regular rates to BTC families for this summer’s Week 2 (June 20 – 27) or Week 3 (June 27 – July 4), so go make a mountain of memories at the Lair.

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Please visit their website for more information, or give them a call if they can answer any questions or help you book a tent:  510.900.8255.

We hope this helps keep your family CAMPING this summer, and for summers to come. In the end, that’s what we all love to do..

Scott

Executive Director

Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

 

 

One campers’ inspiration to design a Quilt!

January, 2015

While cleaning my closet last fall, fond memories of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp came flooding back after finding a trove of BTC tee shirts from past years. While I contemplated keeping them, the concept of Wabi-sabi sprang to mind. Not easy to define, Wabi-sabi represents a “comprehensive aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection”. It can also mean “a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing (brought on by an object)”. It acknowledges three simple realities: “nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”. Wabi now refers also to rustic simplicity, or wisdom in natural simplicity. This reminded me of the spirit I associate with Tuolumne. With this in mind, I was inspired to simplify my closet, and to re-purpose the tee shirts into a BTC memory quilt.

A New Quilt by Beth Stone, a longtime Camper

A New Quilt by Beth Stone, a longtime Camper

I used many of our family shirts, and received quite a few donated shirts from other campers and staff. I am now about 2/3 of the way done. I want to finish the quilt this spring, and I need about ten more shirts to complete the total number of blocks needed.  Please look in your own closets, and donate additional shirts to Scott Gelfand, (scott@fobtc.com).

Thank you for donations; I hope to eventually see the quilt in the dining hall of BTC when it is rebuilt and opens once again.

Sincerely,
Beth Stone (30+ year camping history with BTC)

Join FOBTC for an Update at our 1st Town Hall Meeting!

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When: Tuesday Feb 10th 7pm – 9pm

Where: The Northbrae Community Church 941 the Alameda Berkeley

Cost: FREE – but space is limited so please RSVP to our Eventbrite page to get tickets

Please join the Board of The Friends of Berkeley Camp for a small group discussion and a chance to ask questions and voice concerns!

We want to include every camper in our work to rebuild Camp.

We’ll present an update on what we are working on behind the scenes, including photos of Camp, and where we are in the process of rebuilding Camp. This is YOUR chance meet “The Friends” and to get involved and updated, and help us keep our community strong and engaged as we move towards a new phase for Camp.

We hope you will join us and add your voice!

 CLICK HERE to RSVP and reserve your FREE tickets:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-latest-news-on-camp-and-a-community-town-hall-meeting-tickets-15359824649

Agenda:

7pm Welcome and Introduction by Steve Geahry, the President of The Board, and The Board of Directors of FOBTC.  An Update and Presentation by the new part-time Executive Director Scott Gelfand including a slide show of Camp today, progress made in the past year, and what FOBTC is focused on for 2015, including an overview of table topics.

7:20pm   Small Group Table Discussions – We want to hear from YOU!  Please join a table and add your voice. Move around if you want to.

A. Events (Hosted by Phil and Jen) 

What kinds of events can keep the traditions strong and the community engaged?

B. Political Strategy and Partnerships (Hosted by Barry and Tim)

How can we create and foster alliances with key political and organizational stakeholders?

C. Fundraising/Capital Campaign/Membership (Hosted by Steve/Anne/Craig)

How should we organize our membership and plan a possible capital CAMPaign?

D. Public Relations & Communication (Hosted by Jenell and Richard)

How can we best present our brand and our message to the community and public?

 

8pm Each table’s Host Board Member reports what was discussed and next steps

8:30pm Large Group Discussion: Concerns, Questions, Dreams – Full group format to discuss what is on your mind, and for FOBTC to prioritize our work in 2015.

8:50pm Closing Comments and Next Steps Summarized

9pm Meeting Adjourned

 

End of the Year Update: Looking back to 2014 and ahead to 2015!

Hi dear Campers.. happy holidays to you and your family! What a busy year it has been for our beloved Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, and for the non-profit Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp! Here’s an end of year update and what is coming ahead in 2015.

Latest news regarding camp: The hazardous trees have been cut down at camp, and they’ve done a good job of being careful not to harm any camp land, and only remove the tagged trees. We were there with the Mayor and the City staff and USFS, making sure every effort to keep as many trees as possible was made. The road around camp is open now, but the property itself is closed to the public. You can see a lot from the road, but please, DO NOT trespass and go on Camp property.  We will present some photos in our February town hall meeting.

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As we announced at The Staff Show last Monday night, negotiations and the Master Plan process are coming along and everyone involved (The City of Berkeley, the Insurance company and the US Forest Service) is positive and working together to get us back to that location. We will know a LOT more in the late spring/early summer hopefully, as this process gets completed. But for now, signs are very good and moving in the right direction for us. Hurray for the Scott Ferris and his City of Berkeley staff who are working SO hard on this.

The summer of 2014 found us a lovely temporary home at Sierra Family Camp, at Echo Lake in Tahoe, and what a beautiful camp it is! The City of Berkeley moved staff, programs and traditions there for 5 weeks of family camp in the effort to keep Camp Tuolumne families and staff continuing to enjoy the summer together. The weeks were sold out, and after some challenges and adjustments in a new environment, the general overall feedback was that it was lovely to be at CAMP together, and as the Staff Show sang, “Camp Spirit is Everywhere”.. it is in the friendships, the trees, the freezing cold water, and the green adirondack chairs…

The new green chair circle up at Echo Lake.

The new green chair circle up at Echo Lake.

 

There is still some availability to sign up for next summer!! Days are filling up, but you can get more information here: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/EchoLakeCamp/

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2014 was a very big year for The Friends of Berkeley Camp!  5 new Board Members were added in the year as a few former Board members and founders moved to Emeritus Status, opening up positions for new energy and effort. Working with Board members who have been with the organization for 40 years, new Board President Steve Geahry guided the organization in updating its By-Laws and policies, creating new communication systems, organization tools and a new and improved web site.

This past November, FOBTC hired its first Executive Director in a part time capacity to continue to devote dedicated work time to the needs of the organization – advocacy with The National Forest Service, alliances with other stakeholders (City Camps, Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions, Tuolumne River Trust, other non-profit forest organizations, The City of Berkeley staff and policy makers), and the continuing effort to keep the Camp Community connected, informed, educated, and engaged.

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In the summer and fall of 2014, FOBTC participated in the Rim Fire Recovery Technical Workshop in Sacramento, and in Sonora. We are at the table representing the voice of recreation camps and campers who come to enjoy the forest, reminding the Forest Service of the importance of our beloved Camp and its historical place in the Stanislaus National Forest. We were asked to be a part of the Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions Group, thee advocacy and policy organization for the Stanislaus Forest. We found the USFS to be people who deeply care about the forest and environment, sympathetic to our loss, and allies in our mutual goal to rebuild at our old site. These relationships take time to build, but they are growing and maturing into excellent partners who have a similar dream.

Since the fire in August of 2013, FOBTC has organized many events to keep the Camp Spirit strong and alive:

In October at The Berkeley Rep (2013 Staff Show); in April at The Freight and Salvage (Table Night and Update from The Mayor of Berkeley); in August, the One Year Anniversary Campfire in Cordinices Park and the 1 yr Candlelight Vigil in the Park; in Sept, at Tilden Park the First Annual Tee Off for Tuolumne! and The Solano Stroll, parading behind a rolling green chair; and finally, last Monday  December 22nd, the 2014 Staff Show, The Wizard of Echo Lake, sold out at The Osher Studio in Berkeley. All of these events kept our camp community connected, singing our songs, reuniting our campers, and all conveniently here in Berkeley!

vigil 2014

What’s ahead in 2015:

Tuesday Feb 10th 7pm – 9pm –  “Meet The Friends!” – a town hall meeting in Berkeley for the camper community to talk with and meet the Board of the Friends of Berkeley Camp and ask questions, get updates, express fears, concerns, issues, and be included in the process of rebuilding our camp. Location will be announced.

Coming in April –  “The State of The Stanislaus National Forest” – a presentation and update from the US Forest Service on our favorite forest after the Rim Fire, and how you can get involved if you want.

June, July, August – work weekend, Fish Camp, and Family Camp at Sierra Family Camp!!

Saturday September 5th – The 2nd Annual Tee Off For Tuolumne! Fundraiser and Dinner/Auction

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We love your support and hope you will get involved with us to further our mission to rebuild camp. You can make an end of the year tax-deductible donation by clicking on the Donate Here button, and/or let us know your email address and how you’d like to get involved, from event help to web site to community organizing, to fundraising.

Have a great holidays everyone and we look forward to the sun rising on 2015 with enthusiasm and optimism!

You dream of me, and I’ll dream of you…..

Scott Gelfand – FOBTC Executive Director and The Board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

Win an Authentic Adirondack Camp Chair at the Staff Show in Berkeley!

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Hi Campers, Staff and Friends!! Happy holidays!

We have just released the final remaining 10 tickets to the The 2014 Staff Show, “The Wizard of Echo Lake” on Monday Dec 22nd in Berkeley – so if you want to come, buy your tickets NOW!

Buy Tickets to The Staff Show on Dec 22nd 7pm!

Whether you can make the show or not,  you can still have a chance to WIN the Raffle of the Year for a GREAT holiday gift, a Camp Chair! All new and painted green (of course), we will pick a winner at the show and you do NOT need to be there to win! We will also pick winners for t-shirts, and other donated items!

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All donations are tax-deductible, and go directly to the work of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, supporting the mission of keeping the Camp Spirit and community strong, rebuilding camp and advocating and working with The City of Berkeley, the Stanislaus National Forest Service, and the staff at camp to provide the best camp experience possible for campers.

We will add your number of raffle tickets to the BIG GLASS Bowl and pick the winners at the show! We will then contact you via email (**Please let us know your email address) to coordinate getting you your Holiday Gift! I HOPE you win!!!

Click Below to Buy Your Raffle Tickets and Win Your Own Green Camp Chair!!

Buy 1 Raffle Ticket  – $8

Buy 5 Raffle Tickets – $30

Buy 10 Raffle Tickets – $50

Buy 20 Raffle Tickets – $80

We will see you at the show on the 22nd!

If you are not coming to the show, please let us know your email address if you bought raffle tickets so we can get you your Camp Chair (or t–shirt!)

Happy Holidays and thank you for helping us keep the Camp Spirit alive and well!!

 The Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

Contact e-mail: scott@fobtc.com

Want to Learn more about the reforestation of the Stanislaus Forest?

The Stanislaus National Forest is having an open house for the public to ask questions and get more informed regarding the reforestation process following the Rim Fire. All are welcome!

Open House Flyer for Dec. 16

This is next Tuesday in Sonora. I will be there representing FOBTC.

We are working on bringing the Forest Service staff to Berkeley in the Spring to do an update here so that our local campers who really want to be better educated and more involved in the process will have a chance to do that! But if you want information sooner, come to Sonora next Tuesday!!

In the Spirit of Thanks-Giving… an amazing letter about what “Camp” means!

“…when a Summer Camp Bums Down”

By Stephen Fay

(Photos by Tim Messick  – http://www.timmessick.com/store-btc)

Somebody’s going to say that the destruction, by fire, of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp out near Yosemite is an indescribable loss. It isn’t. It’s very describable: infinitely. Everyone who ever went there can tell you what the loss means. They just won’t use the same words or phrases because everyone who went there, and we number in the thousands, will have their own take. This is mine.

Camp Tuolumne (too-ol-a-mee) was always going to burn down. That stretch of the Sierra Nevada’s is too hot and arid and inaccessible. The fact that camp lasted for 91 years is just about miraculous. It was never going to last forever.

To which statement you might reply, well, of course, sorry, but nothing lasts forever. Which means I wasn’t clear. The tent platforms, dining lodge, timber bridges, laundry room, bathrooms, arts and crafts area, dance hall, outdoor stage and slab-sided teepee were going to last only so long. But the Tuolumne that is a cloud castle of best self, campfire songs, first love, astonishment, fierce loyalty, second love, fishing awards, daring and discovery — that camp — that camp is as fireproof as youth and as indestructible as I don’t know what. Hope.

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That said the loss of Camp Tuolumne is describable, and it is. It’s just not easily describable. It wasn’t a place or even an era. It was a dream, the scent of sun-baked pine needles, a culture of horse shoes and badminton, two weeks in July during which each day had a dozen moods, the dopey feeling of an afternoon nap in the heat on a cot under a war surplus canvas tent and the taser shock of cold water when you dive in and swim for Beaver Head Rock.

At Tuolumne, the pancakes were irrationally delicious, the college guys on the boys staff were Olympians, the girls staff was a blend of Miss Americas and the best big sisters you never had. Our campfire songs were the merriest, our family night skits were beyond witty. The camp store next to the volley ball court had ·the most exotic candy bars as well as cold drinks you could get no where else. Potato chips tasted better, comic books read better. In short, Tuolumne was Life and the other 50 weeks of the year were a time of weary exile when you grew pale and petty and so did everyone else.

When I was 12, I wrote myself a letter from camp. Camper Me urged my city self not go back to my other self, to keep the flame going, to hold onto the handsomeness, the lightness of being. The light.

Every pathway of memory leads me back to Tuolumne. None leads out.

My parents, Mildred and Carl Fay, were better people at camp. My father, a Berkeley fireman, was a product of the Great Depression and abandonment by his own father. By the time I came along in 1949, he had buried two infant daughters. His surviving children, six in all, were obligations and responsibilities, and he was a responsible dad. But he didn’t know you could have fun with your children.

Except at camp. Once we arrived at camp after the long drive, the backseat shoving and whining, the bickering and boredom and the very occasional barf, my dad shed his wary intensity, traded it for two weeks of rest, hikes, swimming (he swam at Tuolumne and no where else), naps, big meals in the lodge and singing. He would break into “My Fair Lady” or “Oklahoma” during Happy Hour.

After lunch and Quiet Hour, we emerged from our tent (they were more like cabins with canvas walls and roofs) for a bracing swim. As a very little boy, my dad took me swimming on his back. I hung onto his trapezoids as he muscled through a modified breast stroke, barely keeping his chin above water, his breath coming in measured gasps. Umm-pfff, umm-pfff. The skin on his broad back was baby smooth. It was the closest I ever got to him.

My mother’s transformation was more subtle, but still substantive. Most significant was her opening of a charge account at the camp store. We all could use it. It was an impossible benevolence; it made everything free: ping pong balls, badminton birdies, salmon eggs for trout fishing bait, Coke, fish hooks, Sea ‘n’ Ski, ice cream sandwiches, Mars bars. This was not the way it worked back home.

When I was tiny, I spent most of the day in mini-programs with beautifically patient staff girls. I learned to swim in the Minnows Program. Each year, a new accomplishment: assembling a B-17 bomber model from a kit, catching several rainbow trout (great name!), climbing to the top of Sawmill Mountain and leaping past a rattle snake and, when I was 14, kissing a girl on the lips. That’s as far as it went. But I wasn’t complaining.

Kids who came to camp year after year developed a loyalty, a chauvinism, that exceeded Japanese nationalism. We thought people who went to Oakland Camp or San Francisco’s Camp Mather or the San Jose Camp – all within several miles of Tuolumne – were hopeless losers. There was only one camp.

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One last thing: Camp Fire.

Without a camp fire, it ain’t camp. It’s a visit – at best, a picnic with swim. Camp fire seals the deal and Tuolumne camp fires unfailingly rocked. We gathered at 7:30. The boys staff guys would ignite the kind of inferno Incas used to sacrifice virgins: driftwood, logs and the super-sized pine cones that only Tuolumne’s super-sized sugar pines could birth. Bill Rhodes, the unflappable camp director throughout my childhood, stepped forward and, without preamble, started singing “Did You Ever See a Fishy on a Bright and Summer Day?” Three words into the song and we had all joined in. More songs followed, the lyrics known only to us campers. Then followed the evening’s entertainment .

Onto the rustic boards came the players. It depended on the day of the week . There was campers night, children’s night, table night, staff night and Aquacade … which took place down on the water with the girls staff doing an Esther Williams number at the base of Beaver Head. The night’s program always concluded with (need we say?) “Day is Done, Gone the Sun.”

Then to bed: sleeping bags under the stars. The stars. Even in the 1950s and ’60s, starlight was a rare species in Berkeley. At Tuolumne, the entire solar system was on show. My experience at camp was so life shaping, so, oh hell, so indelible, that I was primed and prepped when the Down East Family YMCA decided we needed a summer camp kids could call their own.

Cooper Friend led the fundraising charge. It took two years of asking people and banks and utility companies and newspapers and construction companies and foundations and each other for money. Our little group was motivated and heaven help the poor schmoe who asked me why I thought a summer camp was such a big deal …

Big deal? Only deal. I had promises to keep. Fifty-one years earlier I had received a letter from a skinny squirt with freckles and a goofy grin holding up a l0-inch rainbow trout he’d just caught . Don’t forget camp, he said. Like I was going to let Camper Me down?

I don’t think so.

Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American, is chairman of the Board of Directors of the James Russell Wiggins Down East Family YMCA.

Photos by Tim Messick  – http://www.timmessick.com/store-btc