Spring Lodge Bungalow Colony & Day Camp - HOME
AFTERTHOUGHTS
AFTERTHOUGHTS
A Collection of Random Spring Lodge Summertime Memories
  For the first 6 or 7 years Evan and I were at Spring Lodge the only way the counselors and camp director were able to tell us apart was that Evan always wore blue sneakers and I always wore red ones. I guess that was my mom's brilliant idea... and you know what, it worked perfectly.. except for the times Evan and I swapped sneakers. We often fooled our mom doing that.
  For some odd reason I have this vivid memory of the Quonset hut bathroom. I guess maybe it just felt strange having to use it during day camp but most likely I think it was the musty water-closet smell it developed throughout the years... I suspect all of us were just used to our overly tiled New York City apartment building bathrooms. It's said that our sense of smell is the most powerful memory trigger we possess. Can we ever forget those unique country odors that only the bungalow colony held? I know that I can't.
The famous bungalow colony tractor  Speaking of certain odors... another amazing memory I still have is waking up on the first or second morning of the summer and getting this overwhelming smell of freshly cut country grass coming through the open bedroom window of the bungalow. We all knew immediately what that meant. Mr. Bellak was out there mowing the softball field on that old yellow tractor of his. How could grass smell that strong? The whole colony was filled with the scent of it. Hell, just thinking about it now takes me immediately back there. It will always remain in my mind as being the very first sign that another great Spring Lodge summer had finally begun. Even today the slightest odor of cut grass triggers my memory of the colony softball field.
  I remember how I always hated it when we were playing catch or tossing a Frisbee around and somehow it wound up underneath one of the bungalows. Crawling under there to retrieve it was definitely one of the most frightening experiences of summertime life.   I really loved the day of the Treasure Hunt! The only clue I can remember was hidden in a crack in the handball court wall...they were so so clever....we were so young and easily amazed.
Our beloved bungalow colony owner
  On Mr. Bellak: We were doing our annual day camp play one early evening in the Casino and I was standing there on the stage in my 'Head Munchkin' costume(see picture on page 1 of the Colony Photos) just staring out at the parents in the audience. That's when I saw something i'll never forget. In walks Mr. Bellak through the double screen doors, his hair still wet and combed flat, obviously just out of the shower. He was dressed in a suit and tie and he stood there by the concession looking up at us on the stage holding that trademark cigar between his teeth. I had never ever seen Mr. B look like that before. Not the same Mr. Bellak we all knew and feared... wild hair, chomping on a cigar butt and only taking time to acknowledge us when he was yelling at us. Nonetheless, he didn't stay very long, never said a word to anyone, and I swear to this day that I could actually see him smiling as he watched the play.
Head Munchkin David

   "We welcome you Dorothy to The Land of The Munchkins. We are so grateful to you for killing The Wicked Witch of The West
  and for setting our people free from bondage" ... The only line I had as "The Head Munchkin" in the Spring Lodge Day Camp
  production of 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Bungalow Treasure!I was thinking the other day about how when we were kids and on the very last day of summer we would go 'exploring' in all the empty bungalows where the people had already left for the summer and gone back to the city. My personal favorite was finally being able to go up and into the Penthouse and getting to see the colony from 'way up there'! I was once told by somebody that many of the parents would purposely leave nickels and/or pennies in the emptied out drawers for us kiddie-explorers to 'luckily' find because they knew we would always show up to rummage through their empty bungalows. My best year-end bounty I think was 15 cents, 8 mothballs and one slightly bent wire hanger.
 My parents met actor James Whitmore at a Chinese restaurant in Monroe one summer back in the late 60s. He was gracious enough to sign their menu (which the owners let them keep and we still have to this day) and was very friendly. But truthfully, other than just a famous autograph, when I look at the menu once and a while these days I'm much more amazed at what the price of dinner cost back then.  I remember having to always take the garbage up to the casino after supper and my mom always saying very sternly "David, remember to keep one hand underneath the bag, I mean it, hold the bottom of the bag"! After spending 15 minutes one summer evening scooping up the wet nasty junk from in front of the lower handball court I always heeded that very wise advice.
Part I: With each passing minute the sky above Monroe grew a little darker and we all felt a certain excitement building. The freshly cut grass of the colony softball field became a Mecca as kids from all over the colony began making their way towards home plate to wait for the adults to show up with their bags of goodies. You guessed it, it was the Fourth of July at Spring Lodge again! The summer was still brand new, day camp hadn't begun yet and curfew was just a vile memory from last year. There would be loads of firecrackers, roman candles, M80's, punks, sparklers and whatever 'special' explosives might have made their way in from the city that summer. Little kids love seeing things that blow up and we were no exception(okay, we all know about the frogs, tadpoles and fish but that's for another story). With the darkness finally upon us and the ballfield covered with hundreds of kids and adults, it was time for the noisy summer celebration to begin. I remember the air around the bungalow colony filling up with a thick haze of white smoke, most noticeable when it was being illuminated by the spotlights on the Penthouse bungalow. The smell of exploded firecrackers was so distinct to us when we were young and was always a welcome sign that another summer had just begun. The strong scent of gunpowder was everywhere we went for the rest of that warm summer night and I am absolutely positive that I could still detect it early the next morning.
Part II: Early The Next Morning: I always had sort of a tradition on the morning of the fifth. I would wake up real early and get dressed, quickly head out the screen door trying not to wake up my parents, and make a beeline straight for the softball field. Why you ask? Well I'll tell you in two words: unexploded firecrackers! The prized jewel in every kids summer arsenal. Hoping that I'd be the first one to locate all the treasure, I scoured the infield using an ingenious mental grid system. Okay, I'm lying... I really just wandered around aimlessly hoping to find anything left unexploded from the previous night. There always were a few 'duds' lying around, some where the fuse got pulled out when the whole pack exploded at once and some with a tiny bit of fuse left in them. And then, there was the real prize jewel of "Spring Lodge cracker huntin", a fully unexploded firecracker in perfect condition with the fuse completely intact! Jackpot!!! I stuffed them in my pockets organized by condition and after making one last grid search I headed back to our bungalow to stash the priceless little goodies knowing they were only to be used on those "special" occasions when nothing less than a firecracker would do. And I have no doubt in my mind that we all can guess what those "occasions" might have been.
The 1966 Marlins
  It was the very first day of camp. The year was 1966. It was one of those real dreary mornings, overcast and grey with huge raindrops falling here and there.. But still it was just the start of summer and at least it was warm. We were on top of the world knowing we had the whole season ahead of us. After lineup we all were sent off with our counselors to choose a name for our group. This was the very first time in Spring Lodge Day Camp history that we were asked to name our groups.. Morty was the new Camp Director and I guess things were going to be done his way. We walked around and finally settled down just off to the side of bungalow #1 where we sat in a circle and began our quest to find a name we could all agree with. ...I was 10 years old and all my friends who had been going to Spring Lodge every summer were there.. David Ornstein, Bruce Ferber, Steve Reiner, Bruce Miles, Kenny Schwartz and of course my twin brother Evan. The "theme names" of the groups that year were to be some kind of fish. Yeah, fish. We all suggested a few names ranging from the obvious "Sharks" to others that were just plain dumb. Needless to say my first suggestion "Gefilte Fish" was strongly considered but ultimately rejected. LOL. Hey, we were 10 and lived in the city so what the hell did we know about fish other than maybe Guppies and other fish tank types. Each name suggested was soundly rejected by a majority vote and we moved on to the next one. After about 45 minutes and being up against a time constraint for this somewhat daunting task I got up and took a short walk towards the road that passed by bungalow #1 just to do a little thinking... and the rest they say is history.
   Parked on the road facing the back was the oddest looking car any of us had ever seen. It was two-tone red and black and had this strange sloping back window that went from the roof all the way down to the tail lights. At the bottom of this strange slope was a huge emblem donating the model of the odd car. Inside this emblem was the picture of.. yep you guessed it, a fish! A Marlin!! No shit!! I screamed the name out and waved the whole group over to the car. As it turned out, this was Bruce Ferber's dad's brand new car. An AMC Marlin. Amazing...
  We all quickly agreed on that name and were forever to be known as the 1966 Spring Lodge Day Camp Marlins!
  My absolute favorite time of the day at Spring Lodge was always right at dusk when the fireflies came out and the night became still and quiet. I loved being outside as the light slowly faded from the mountains and the once hot charcoals in the grills began to slowly burn out.
  There was always something very special about being a kid on a summer evening and being allowed to be outdoors. Not like the rules of city, right?
  To this day, no matter where I am or what i'm doing, I HAVE to go outside at that time of day and watch as the light fades from my surroundings.
  1968. He stood just a foot in front of me. That close. I couldn't believe it. He was my childhood idol/sports hero... But my eyes were totally focused on the dozen or so zipper length scars he had on both knees... he was signing autographs for kids.. I was 12 and never in my life had I seen anyone with scars like that.. We all knew he had bad knees but this was almost scary..
  We were on a Spring Lodge Day Camp field trip that brought us up to the NY Jets training camp in upstate New York... And of course the person standing right in front of me was none other than the great Joe Namath.
  I miss the smell of real old-fashioned charcoal grills. Remember how great the bungalow colony smelled when everyone had their grills going at the same time? There was nothing like it in the world. Food never tasted the same after the invasion of propane gas grills either.
  Spring Lodge when it rained was not a friendly place. But we made the best out of it by playing board games and/or cards in our own or a friend's bungalow. We eagerly kept watch outside for any sign of the rain stopping so we could go and resume our regular activities. Post-rain activity #1 usually included chasing those colorful Salamanders all around the colony until we got bored..   After supper we almost always met to play paddleball. It was a pretty big thing back in Spring Lodge when I was growing up. Like clockwork you would see each one of us walking towards the handball court carrying those old style heavy wooden paddles. We usually played doubles and it lasted until someone had enough sense to yell "game called on account of darkness"!
  Whether it was The Star Spangled Banner or Day is Done that we were singing the real moment of glory was being the one picked to either raise or lower the flag on the flagpole at lineups. Trying to keep pace with the singing was the hard part. It really made us feel special to be given such an honor.   Everything would usually go fine as long as you didn't look directly at your friends lined up there. They'd do everything they could to try to make you crack up while you fulfilled your day camp duty. And for God's sake don't let that flag touch the ground!