A Tribute to the "Old Doc"
Special thanks to Marc Adelman for supplying this
The following was read by Peter to us at the Old Doc's memorial service at the Point in June of 1992, shortly after he died and shortly before Camp's last season
Selections From Peter's Writing
On Arriving at Camp (1986)
The Chief (Peter's grandfather, the man who founded, nurtured, and established our small, beloved institution) came to our apartment on Egmont St. in Brookline in the winter of 40/41 to recruit my brother and me to camp. It was one of the last seasons he actively recruited. The only question my 8-year-old mind could come up with was asking him if it would be a good idea if I brought my impressive collection of baseball bubblegum cards with me (I wish I still had them). He said no. My brother and I showed up for the 1941 season.
...It was a journey to camp then, a trek. No highways. No smooth transition. One was transported from the city (and all that meant) to a remote place, a world unto itself. We had no radios, nothing coming in from the outside (except mail). I mention this remoteness in which camp was ensconced. It made camp more independent, more of a world unto itself.
Of course as an eight-year-old in 1941 these things were not considerations. The first thing to be sorted out was who could play ball. As soon as things were put away, games of catch and running bases began. Baseball was the main action. No doubt about it. And the basic non-ending program--fixed it was, like the solar system--"What's today?"--sing-baseball-nature-swim-baseball for competition in the afternoon. Crackers and milk before general swim, bunk night, taps, and tomorrow we do it again. The program, structured and compulsory, and with a discipline of the day that reflected a more ordered, sure society but not in general terms a more benign one.
My very earliest memory of my favorite activity, baseball (not weightlifting) was in the first freshman competition game, and what counselor was laying them up for us I don't know, but catching for us was Ed "Pop" Rosenthal, and I hit one pretty good for an eight-year-old, and Pop said in true astonishment, "What a wallop!" What soaring gratification I received from that kindly man's encouragement and approval. I never forgot "what a wallop" and know (and learned) that to pat a kid on the back with some recognition of his efforts means a great deal to any kid, whether it's 1941 or 1986.....
50th Anniversary Reflections (1991)
This is my 50th anniversary at camp. And I've spent the vast majority (38) of those summers here. I consider myself most fortunate indeed to have been in so worthwhile (or whatever the word might be that is beyond worthwhile) a community. I've often said that camping per se holds no great allure but that Camp Alton, in its uniqueness as an entity and beauty, as a place is special. Like other things it can be enjoyed on many levels: an eight-year-old can be as captivated by its aura and rhythm as can any full-grown "idiot" adult. Who gets the biggest kick out of our "Circ-ass" the kids in. the costumes and doing stupid human tricks or the intrepid producers who put so much into it? ... The days here are so fast, so fleeting, but if they are worthwhile, and they always are, the memories they produce are permanent and fulfilling. The friendships are, too. So if camp is used in a positive way, and opportunities for doing the "fun things" and the useful things are taken advantage of, and friendships are started and deepened, then there may be sadness when a season ends, but there are no regrets.
Life Lessons: Thoughts After Seeing the Movie "Stand By Me" (1987)
For some kids being away from home for the first time, or maybe even the fourth time, presents a challenge, a hardship, a mixed bag of feelings positive and negative. But once the uncommitted are here for a while and stick out the first few days and get by them, and take part in camp, in the program, in the bunk, and in the season, by the end of the season they have taken part in an experience, a shared experience, that they cannot find in school or at home. The experience alters them. If a kid is here for a year or two, the change is normally temporary. Just another in a series of childhood endeavors, usually positive, that kids enjoy before they move on to the next step up the ladder of and through the series of middle class educational and "enrichment" experiences. But if a boy stays on a long time, several seasons from a freshman or sophomore to a senior and beyond, he is changed permanently. A corner of his mind will be forever captured and held in emotional ransom by this camp.
I always sort of knew this, but it was crystallized by last year's 50th camp reunion (held during our 51st season.) In reading and re-reading the many, many contributions of former campers and staff, recounting the games, plays, bunks, prizes, people, Rushes, Sings, and, again, the people and the sharing of all these things -- the most important thread that emerged was that these people remembered deeply -- that is, way down deep -- they remembered each other, unbroken friendships made in the "best of times" in the best of settings, and the great thing is it's still valid -- it still works. As a matter of fact I think it often works better than ever. These camp times, these events, this living together in an actively benign, educational (in the best and less formal sense of the word) environment.
Camp operates on several levels. On the most basic level is its idyllic physical setting; the sweeping shoreline, the large level playing fields, the tennis courts, the beach, and the weight room (just a bit of levity here.) When prospective campers and their parents come for a look-see, they see that first. And their first questions most naturally concern the program, what the kids do every day, what opportunities there are for learning and improving swimming, athletic, and other skills. They ask the questions of consumers and they are questions that must and should be asked. On this level alone, as a product, this camp is a special and positive place. Many camps have a good product. On another level, camp operates as a real community, one that meets three times a day making sure that what is happening is known by all and that what has happened, is reported to everyone. Camp also operates on the level of its leadership and among all the qualities that typify that leadership is the combination of thoughtful intelligence and integrity. When these and numerous other variables are put into the mixer, camp achieves its objectives in the minds of its hardcore participants. Those other variables are the humor, the color, the shtick, and, most important, the year-after-year sharing and commonality. The friendships deepen and take on more and more meaning and ... well, depth.
.... During some recent difficulties of my own I found out what I always knew anyway. I was in a hospital and my "apartment" had to be moved. Close friends moved it. Close friends rallied around me in every way with visits and continual contact when I left the hospital. Deep in the throes of chemotherapy they called--somebody, every day. It didn't last for a week or two, it lasted for a year and a half, this caring and concern. If I needed a ride, I got one. If I needed encouragement, picking up, lies (that I looked better), or general kibitzing, I got it. Always camp people. People I've known for decades, or only a few years (less than twenty). Well, I was stood by.
Like I said, camp operates on many levels. Some of them are deeper than others, but all of them are good.
As that wonderful, soulful song done by singer Ben E. King says: "When the night has come/ And the land is dark/ And the moon is the only light we'll see/ No, I won't be afraid/ No, I won't be afraid/ just as long as you/Stand by me."
On Lifting and Friends (1990)
Lifting with friends on the Fitness Center Porch, music, scenery--it don't get much better!