A Collection of Random
Spring Lodge Summertime Memories
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"We welcome you Dorothy to The Land of The Munchkins.
We are so grateful to you for killing The Wicked Witch of
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'.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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..
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"!
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!