Thank you to Steven Fay et al for the memories and the pictures. My memories flood back as I read his testimony. I too was born in 1949 and learned much about life at ‘Berkeley Camp’ as we called BTC. Steven didn’t mention if he had taken the opportunity to apply to be a staff member for a summer. I was a camper for many years and then on the Boys’ Staff for the summers of ’67 & ’68 and then returned for the summer of ’71. My older brother and my younger brother were also on the staff in their time. Steven’s letter has moved me to record a few memories too.
It seems that most of the Boys & Girls staff helped generate and “perform” some of the skits. Only at camp could those skits receive generous applause and appreciation. Of, the songs we sung as the next skit was set up or at the conclusion of the campfire, both as campers and then as staff ~> nothing short of a summer vacation tradition that many have claimed as their own. Titles such as: Little Red Caboose; There’s no place like Camp Tuolumne; One little thumb keep moving; Day is done; See Him There, the Zulu Warrior; not to repeat those mentioned by Steven. Even today, when the time seems special and the grand kids are restless, I will launch into one of these old standards from my teen years at camp.
When high school or college concluded for Easter Break, the Boy’s staff would head up to camp to clean up the damage left from winter storms. Bill Rhodes would also have a couple of projects planned for ‘improvements’ to the facility. The trip up from the Bay Area would, over the 3-1/2 hour journey, clear one’s head for another camp experience. The cold and snow upon arrival was a first signal that spring was not too far away. The river was typically raging; it was far too early to consider installing the rails and the wood planks of the two dams that created the swimming hole. The early construction stay at Easter may have lasted 4 or 5 days, or possibly a week; I don’t remember exactly. But the work was plentiful and the camaraderie bridged any gaps in age, skill, or familiarity with co-workers. There was a job to do and we all pitched in as best we could.
When summer arrived and camp came to life, it was as if the outside world faded away. Day trips to Yosemite or Groveland were as far as one would want to go. Trips to the Bay Area for supplies were occasionally necessary, but brief; the gravity that was Berkeley Tuolumne Camp would preclude an overnight stay at home. For the staff, one week would roll into the next with a fairly constant migration of campers leaving as other campers were arriving. Old acquaintances would be renewed as if no time had passed between summers. Weeks turned to months and then the “last” week of camp would arrive. Its been 45+ years since I joined the staff for my first time. I believe that the normal season for campers came to a conclusion, but there was a week of camp reserved for the California Youth Symphony. The kids move in, tuned their instruments, began practicing their parts, joined into small groups of similar instruments, then into larger groups by type, and finally into an entire orchestra. It was fantastic to watch and hear throughout the week; as a cohesive organism, they performed one last time without interruption. The players outnumbered the listeners five to one, possibly ten to one. How privileged we were to hear that performance. It was a fitting way to close camp.
There was yet another several days to a week expended closing up camp for the winter that would arrive soon. And finally, it was time to go. It was time to return to a parallel world that included the reality of school and life away from camp. Yes, the fire consumed the structures that were so familiar and friendly. It consumed the shrubs and the trees that had been present during my youth. But the fire also has sharpened my memories of the life that I hold dear for the years that I was a camper or a staff member in the parallel world of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. I Consider those years a blessing of great importance.
a resident of Seattle, WA since 1975