The Extraordinary Summer of 1955 at TMR

Stephen Bergman


    
    Despite the passage of more than half a century since my camp and staff experiences, TMR memories remain vivid. To this day, I chuckle about mess hall food and instinctively flee from any drink resembling bug juice.

     In 1953 there was excitement and anxiety when this thirteen year old rookie, albeit part of my home troop full of other rookies, was plunged into the culture of the Lakeside Division of Camp Man. This initial stay was limited to one camping period, but those two weeks were sufficient introduction to a new world...one replete with rubber pancakes, apple butter, and bread pudding covered in a mysterious purple sauce which some claimed moved of its own accord.

     The month long 1954 stay at the re-designated Camp Lakeside was accompanied by a high comfort level. After all, no longer a rookie, I was sanctioned by TMR tradition to roll up the bottoms of my uniform's shorts.

     Serving as a staff member at Camp Lakeside (1956) and Camp Chappegat (1957, 1958), proved a source of great satisfaction and pride. Our Happy Chappy camp director, Samuel King, with his Smokey-the-Bear hat and his ever present bottle of hot sauce, exhibited extraordinary leadership skills at a camp where racial harmony worked seamlessly. After all, we were all the same...we were Boy Scouts!

     Truth be told, the happiest and most profound TMR memories are rooted in Summer 1955 when, for the first three camping periods, I was a proud crew member of the LS (Landship) Amochol at Camp Lakeside.  Our unit was colloquially referred to as Ship.  Rather than a scoutmaster, we were lead by a skipper, one Arthur P. O'Leary, a resident of Hingham, Massachusetts.  In subsequent years, Arthur became Lakeside Camp Director.  Our first mate, Jack Ringelberg, was subsequently elected Chief of Suanhacky Lodge.  Years later, rumor had it that Jack had joined the U.S. Navy...not surprising for a man with roots on the LS Amochol.

     Assignment to Ship meant having living quarters aboard the most prestigious unit at Camp Lakeside.  The benefits were apparent.  For one, we actually had electricity throughout the ship,  something no lean-to or tent or even leaders' cabin at Lakeside's conventional campsites could boast of, short of the posh living conditions at Staff Camp.

     The men of Amochol wore sailor hats and sported a blue bandana attached to a side belt loop, along with the conventional khaki scout or green explorer garb.  We were not Sea Scouts...we were Explorer Scouts. 

     Our unit's boundaries were defined by a thick rope mounted on posts, the hawser, which prominently displayed the cautioning sign, "3 Mile Limit". That is, Ship property was officially off-limits to all but members and their invited guests.

     Ship had a game room onboard. Of course, in accordance with nautical parlance, this was the forecastle.  It was the site of nightly Nok-Hockey tournaments which were the talk of the ship.

      When each Lakeside unit was scheduled to hold a unit campfire, Amochol's "campfire" was held on the aft deck. This venue was much more comfortable than sitting on the cold ground of a conventional campsite and breathing in wood smoke.

     At all times, a crew member was on station in the wheelhouse where the ship's bell was positioned, whereby the time of day was sounded.  Only those privy to the nautical system of time telling could fully appreciate this feature.

     Throughout Camp Lakeside, each latrine was assigned to scouts from multiple campsites. Ship had its exclusive state-of- the-art latrine which was located at the Lakeside Quadrangle. Such convenience...such luxury!

     The LS Amochol served many diverse purposes.  Its primary goal--unbeknown to us because we were too busy having fun to analyze anything--was to retain older scouts who sought something more than the conventional campsite's culture.  We had all happily experienced customary campsite settings and now, at age fourteen or fifteen, we craved something new.  It is worth noting that many Ship alumni, interested in staying in Scouting, transitioned to positions as TMR staff members when they came of age, which was sixteen.  This, despite the agony of obtaining "working papers" from the New York State Department of Labor.  We were proud of our ship for a myriad of reasons.

      We were at our happiest when showing off the Amochol to parents on visiting days and to young ladies from various girls' camps who came for "the tour".  We always displayed our signal flags on such occasions, spelling out "WELCOME" and, it was rumored among the crew, some less conventional messages.

      Moreover, we were the only unit participating in dances, for which we traveled to girls' camps by flatbed truck.  This was the very same truck which, by day, was used to transport garbage barrels from the mess hall to the dump.  Being fourteen or fifteen years old, we were ecstatic to receive letters doused in perfume from the young ladies we met at these soirees.

      In a camp known for its dining hall and campfire songfests, the Amochol crew members were in the forefront.  We even had our own fight song, much to the chagrin of the rest of the campers.  It went something like this: "Oh, we have no keel or rudder and we've never been to sea, "But we can take the gravy from the bloomin infantry,"We have no time to worry, 'cause we're itching for a fight, And victory will be for Amochol tonight!"

      Without fail, each camping period Ship achieved the honor of having earned more merit badges than any other campsite at Lakeside.  Because Ship was, appropriately, located on the lakefront, many crew members earned all four aquatic merit badges:  Swimming, Lifesaving, Canoeing, Rowing.  My own experience with Canoeing Merit Badge involved a mandatory several days canoe trip on the Delaware River.  Many Ship men served as lifeguards, manning the painted bamboo pole at the Lakeside waterfront during camp-wide swim sessions.

      During the first camping period of 1955 I undertook the ordeal for membership in Suanhacky Lodge of the Order of the Arrow.  Little did I suspect that four years later I would be elected lodge chief.  A good percentage of Ship members had already been inducted and it was no surprise that our skipper served as leader of the OA ritual team.

     At Friday evening retreat, when Lakeside, Central and Kernochan scouts assembled at the Central parade grounds, it fell to hand picked crew members from Amochol to be responsible for firing the cannon and lowering and folding the American Flag.  I was chosen to participate on two occasions.  To this day I am convinced I achieved this status by deliberately sporting a freshly cleaned uniform at the time I knew the skipper was selecting participants.

     Because Amochol scouts usually stayed at camp for two, three or four camping periods, we were able to take advantage of the bus trips to Monticello, New York, which were arranged for "change day".  This outing provided an opportunity for a much needed haircut, a movie and a deli sandwich.  However, the deli owner did not applaud our presence because, immediately upon taking a table, we would devour all the pickles in sight.  Oh, yes, the owner's daughter was about our age and gorgeous and, true to the red blooded tradition of Amochol, we were all madly in love with her.

     One of the strongest memories was of leaving camp for home at the end of the third camping period.  At that time, unfortunately, what the Amachol men had in common with the rest of the camp population was illness.  The weather at camp had turned exceedingly wet and unusually raw for August.  Most of us, including the skipper, were running low grade fevers and visiting the latrine on an ongoing basis.  Being of an analytical bent, we diagnosed our malady as the "creeping crud".  To this day, on those rare occasions when I exhibit similar symptoms, I label the malady in the same scientific fashion.

     Being assigned to Ship provided the very best of times for this TMR camper. For reasons I am not privy to, the good ship Amochol was dismantled in the early 1960s, but the terrific memories Ship provided can never be dismantled.


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