Early Programs at Huntington
Acquisition of Camp Huntington
The following two essays focus on the discovery and acquisition of Camp Huntington in 1947-48. Written by two of the principal participants, Harlan "Gold" Metcalf and Walter Thurber, these essays express rather different philosophical views about outdoor education, yet the authors worked together to bring about the establishment of Camp Huntington. For his prominent role in obtaining the Huntington property and for his long directorship of the recreation education programs at Raquette Lake and his national leadership role in the field of outdoor education, Dr. Metcalf was honored in August of 1983 when the century old Recreation Hall was renamed Metcalf Hall.
...After several months of correspondence and negotiation it became apparent by late spring of 1948 that the College could receive the Huntington property. Even though the deed had not been transferred yet, Gold Metcalf was anxious to begin a camp program that summer. This section begins with George Fuge reflecting on how his participation as a student in that first work camp helped focus his career goals. He also makes some observation on the growing significance of outdoor education state-wide during the years he has been director of the Outdoor Education Center.
The Science Camp, or Wilderness Camp as it was often called, made few demands on the facilities at Camp Huntington as Walter Thurber, the founder and first director describes in his essay. The program was soundly based on the discovery method and achievement through doing. The camp provided the kind of outdoor living experience for a three week period that the students in the physical education and recreation programs achieved on their briefer overnight trips away from Camp Huntington. George McDermott became the camp director in 1952 and was followed by Charles Wilson in 1956. When the College curriculum began to emphasize concentrations in specific sciences rather than general science in 1960, the Science Camp tarps were folded for the last time.
An integral part of the Campus School curriculum from 1949 until its closing in 1981 was a one or two week educational adventure at Camp Huntington. In his essay, Frank Coolidge describes how he, as principal, initiated the first camp. In support of Dr. Coolidge's statement that camp experience has had a positive impact on the lives of young students, the editors note that former Campus School students were well represented among those who attended the Camp Huntington Open House in July and September of 1983.
From the beginning, physical education became a primary summer user of Camp Huntington with men and women conducting separate camps. In those early years it was very difficult to operate a program in a facility that had been neglected and unused for nearly half a century. Furthermore, little money could be diverted to Camp Huntington from the general College budget, hence instructional equipment was in short supply as noted in Dorothy Arnsdorff's essay. Much of the early equipment was military surplus, some of which had seen better days. The lack of equipment, however, did not dampen student enthusiasm or learning opportunities.
Work projects directed to improving the camp property, as described by Roland Eckard, were a necessary part of each of the early camp sessions. As physical facilities and equipment improved, more time could be devoted to instruction and less to work, yet even today students in each session devote a few hours to camp improvement. Much can be accomplished in a short time when 40 to 60 people are working toward a common goal. Students from every session can point with pride to some significant improvement they have made for the enjoyment or comfort of those who follow.
Written by Dr. Harlan "Gold" Metcalf, professor emeritus recreation and leisure studies
I have been a camper, camp counselor and camp director many years. When I was eleven years old I went to the second YMCA camp in the country, Camp Becket in Massachusetts. I know what camping did for me and what it can do for others. I also knew about Sargent Camp, the physical education camp for Boston University) the Springfield College Camp, and the New York University Camp for Physical Education majors where I was on the staff for ten years. During my last two years as director of physical and health education at Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Conrad Wirth, the director of the National Park Service) loaned me the use of Montgomery Bell Park just 40 miles west of Nashville so I could start the first camp for training camp directors in the South. Camping has always been a part of my life.
Well, I just couldn't see a complete program of recreation education or physical education without a very good camp with all kinds of appropriate facilities. So, as soon as I came to Cortland I began looking for one. The Science Department had been looking for a place where its faculty members could conduct many of their classes and they showed me a property on the shore of Labrador Pond. I liked it from the standpoint of nature recreation and nature education but for a total program of outdoor education it was not adequate for many reasons.
I had not been in Cortland long before Walt Thurber asked me to go on a canoe trip with him on Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks. He had just purchased a Grumman canoe and he wanted to try it out. So we went to Raquette Lake, parked at Bird's Landing, paddled over to Big Island, and spent the night there sleeping on beds of hemlock needles. The next day we paddled along the shore of the lake — not all of it because it is over one hundred miles, but quite a stretch of it – especially looking at old campsites, houses, and the flora which was very rich and beautiful. We were particularly interested in what we found out later was Pine Knot Point on South Bay of Raquette Lake. It was beautiful; log cabins in particularly artistic style blending harmoniously with the surrounding white pines, red oaks, hemlocks and white birch. There also was plenty of shore-line.
When we were through with our trip we stopped off at Raquette Lake Village. Dr. Thurber agreed that we would have time to make some inquiries, so we looked around for someone who could tell us who owned Pine Knot Point. We happened to find Moses Leonard, the forest ranger who said that there was a caretaker named John Moore who lived there with his family. So when we got back to Cortland I wrote a letter to John Moore to find out who the present owner was and discovered it to be Archer Milton Huntington, the son of Collis Potter Huntington-the railroad magnate who for five years had used it as his summer retreat for entertaining guests. In fact, he died there in 1900. John Moore said the camp hadn't been used in nearly 50 years; in fact, it hardly had been visited. He said that the owner lived in Redding, Connecticut, and he gave me the address. When I got back to Cortland — it was October 23, 1947 — I wrote a letter to Mr. Huntington telling him that we were in desperate need of a camp for preparing physical education and recreation education students in camping skills, conservation, and outdoor education. I said we were not interested in "cutting any trees or developing the property or selling pieces of it. We wanted it just as it was. And I told him that on the canoe trip we were particularly interested in Pine Knot Point which we felt would be ideal for our purpose. To quote from my letter:
"Quite frankly, we were wondering if you would be interested in making this tract of land- -or a part of it with lake frontage- - available to the State Teachers College at Cortland for its permanent Outdoor Education Training Center. Your assistance in the establishment of this needed facility would be a contribution to the youth of the State of New York, the value of which is immeasurable."
"It is our hope and belief that someone will want the opportunity of serving the youth of the State in this way. You are the first person to have been given this opportunity. If you are interested in our objectives and would care to invest some land or money in serving the youth of our State in the way suggested, I should be happy to visit you and discuss the project further."
I didn't think I'd ever get a response to that letter, but I did on November 6. I received a cordial letter from Mr. Huntington saying that he was interested in Cortland and what we were trying to do and he wished that we might get together soon. He suggested that I come and have lunch with him at his home in Redding where we would talk it over. Well, I replied, of course) that I would be glad to come. I checked with President Donnal V. Smith to see if it would be all right to go and he said "sure." In December I took a train to Bethel, Conn., where the chauffeur of Mr. Huntington met me) and took me to his home in Redding. We had a very delicious luncheon at which I was particularly pleased to meet his wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, whom I learned later was one of the foremost American sculptors of animals and was recognized internationally for her outstanding achievements. Her great love of animals was apparent in the many beautiful animal sculptures placed around their attractive home. Her willingness to talk about them was a real treat and our conversation was very interesting as she described some of them. She had sculptures of panthers, bears, lions and particularly horses plus many others. Perhaps among her better-known works are these three- - Joan of Arc on horseback which is on Riverside Drive in New York City, and The Cid and Don Quixote, two other equestrian sculptures in the Hispanic Museum in New York.
I found out also that among Archer Milton Huntington's interests and recreational pursuits were archery and ornithology. Because of his interest in birds, I told him of some of the birds I had seen at his Pine Knot Point Camp on my recent canoe trip there — loons, grebes, herons, ducks of different kinds — and of the beautiful song of a winter wren, when close to a heavily wooded shore. I think he was interested in that.
Perhaps Mr. Huntington's greatest interest and recreation was in Spanish history and in writing Spanish poetry, some of which he showed me. His wife had made a very dramatic and beautiful. sculpturing of "The Cid on Horseback" which was placed in Mexico City. Several replicas of it are located in different parts of the U.S.
Well, we had interesting conversations that afternoon and time passed very quickly. The first thing I knew it was about time to leave and we hadn't really gotten down to the nitty-gritty of talking about whether or not we could have the camp. But Mr. Huntington also noticed that the time was getting short so he said, "Well, I think we can handle this all right. I'd be glad to give the camp to the College. I have a few specifications. I would want John Moore, the caretaker, and his family to be able to stay there as long as they would like to, and I want you to go back and write up a proposal for the property and send it to me and if I like it, I'll accept it. If not, I'll make some suggestions and we'll agree on it eventually." I pretty nearly fainted with joy when I heard him say all this, but I managed to stand up as I was about to leave. I hope I expressed proper gratitude on the way out to the car which took me back to the train.
I reported to President Smith of course, and he was very interested and excited. He said "Well, one of the first things for you to do is to go up and see what you and Dr. Thurber can find out about the property deeds previous to the Huntington's ownership." So the two of us did go to Lake Pleasant which was the county seat for Hamilton County, and spent a lot of time tediously looking up the various deeds. In fact, there was so much to look up that we didn't have time to finish it that day so we came back to Cortland. Dr. Smith wanted the job done as soon as possible, as we all did.
So back I went to Lake Pleasant to finish up charting the deeds. This time President Smith suggested that I take Professor William Clemens with me since Walt was not able to go again at this time. This was an excellent choice, for anyone who knows Bill Clemens knows that when he tackles a job he completes it thoroughly and conscientiously. We went back to Lake Pleasant and finished the job by the end of the day. We then decided to drive back to Raquette Lake Village and made arrangements to put up for the night at the Raquette Lake Hotel which was some experience. We wanted to see the camp which we still hadn't seen because it had taken us until dark to do the work of looking up deeds. It was twenty degrees below zero that December night and I'll never forget it. But we started out, following a snowshoe track across the frozen lake which I thought was leading to an island, but it was to Pine Knot Point, and the snowshoe track led right to John Moore's cottage. It was about 10 p.m. when we got there. The Moores were very hospitable and glad to see us. We told them what our visit was about. Oh, incidentally, earlier I had asked Archer Huntington to write a note to John Moore and tell him that we were coming up and he had done that. Well, John and Grace Moore were very, very cordial and she fed us with her fresh homemade doughnuts and coffee, which went right to the spot after our frigid mile hike. Then John got his powerful flashlight and took us to all the various buildings (about 17+ in all) and unlocked the doors so we could look inside and see what they contained. The buildings themselves were most beautifully built of logs and were particularly artistic in their design and trimmings. All the buildings appeared to be usable inside, but some would soon need re- roofing.
One of the first things the College administration did for John Moore was to put him on the payroll of the State as a park ranger. He was well recognized as one of the best Adirondack guides. I think he was really quite pleased with his new position. He never showed any negative reactions and was always cheerful and willing. It seems that no one from the Huntington family had visited John Moore, the caretaker, after Collis Potter Huntington had died. (Archer Milton Huntington was badly pained with arthritis.) John Moore single-handedly had kept the roofs and other things in shape. He had to climb up every winter and shovel snow, pine and hemlock needles and duff off the roofs. Otherwise, they would have rotted out in a short time. But they were usable. Of course, I reported this all to President Smith in writing. Both he and Mr. Huntington were anxious to complete negotiations. However, Archer Huntington had been paying quite a bit in taxes and there was some question as to whether the State would allow us to accept property without paying any taxes on it. Fortunately, Harold "Cap" Creal, our State legislator from Homer, N.Y., went to bat for us and put a bill through the State legislature enabling Cortland State to receive the gift of the entire property. The bill was signed by the Governor, Thomas E. Dewey. I am sure that President Smith spent a good deal of time in Albany helping with the passage of the bill. At the time I reported to Dr. Smith that Archer Milton Huntington was giving us the camp, Dr. Smith said, "When you see him, ask him if he wouldn't like to have some plaque in the camp as a memorial to his father, Collis Potter Huntington." I did speak to Mr. Huntington about it and he readily agreed. He was very grateful that the College had suggested it.
The first College camp was held in the summer of 1948. At first Dr. Smith didn't think we could or should, because we didn't have any money for one thing, but a group of the best physical education men (George Fuge, [then] current director of the Outdoor Education Center, was one of them) volunteered to put the camp in shape for use. My wife, Peg, took on the responsibility for food. She planned the meals, ordered the food, took the motorboat and went across the lake to get the groceries and milk cans every day — and delivered the mail. She hired the cook and supervised the food service. (Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a favorite even then!) We did get money enough to buy a small outboard motorboat, and we used one of John Moore's two boats in emergencies. There were no canoes. There was very little, if any, camping equipment.
Dr. Jack MacPhee went with us on this first Student Men's Work Camp as my assistant. I was fortunate to have him on my staff in the Recreation Education Department and he was a valuable staff member on all the early Recreation Education camps. This Student Men's Work Camp had literally to chop the old stove in the kitchen out of the floor where it had settled by not being used for nearly 50 years. The stove was heavy and not usable, so our very first meal was cooked "by invitation" in the Moore's kitchen and the later meals over a campfire until a new stove arrived. These students were great sports who paid their way up there and worked very hard all the time. We built a couple of docks — one near the kitchen, and one near the main landing, and stationed outhouses in suitable places, and carried out many other projects.
I was particularly interested in seeing the waterfront developed. I wished that we could obtain a number of canoes, so I asked Dr. Smith for some money. He gave us a hundred dollars. I guess that to buy an Old Town canoe at that time you would have needed $500 or more. Well, I looked for canoes at several places around Raquette Lake. Finally, at the Yeaples place at the mouth of the Marion River, I found three old wrecks of canoes which I thought we could repair. These were purchased for the one hundred dollars. I took them back to camp and we put the campers to work trying to fix them up. One of the canoes needed a keel and stemplate. From a discarded oak bedstead found in the loft over the toolhouse we cut pieces for the keel and stemplate. We found an empty 50-gallon drum which we put over the fire and filled with water. Then we soaked the pieces of oak in boiling water until they were soft enough to bend. Then we bent the sticks into a stemplate and keel for the canoe. To repair some of the planking in the canoes, we used the sides of some orange crates.
I remember another interesting time when we needed a canvas on one of the canoes, and it's quite a job to put a canvas on tight. We had the canvas safely attached and hanging from the limbs of two nearby trees with the canoe on top of the canvas. We put two girls in the canoe, one at each end. This held the canvas snugly against the hull of the canoe so it could be attached to the gunwales without wrinkles. We finally got the canoes so they were safe and usable. It was good fun and a real educational experience.
It was very difficult getting ready to run a camp with almost no equipment, but it was fun; all of it was fun. The men of this Work Camp were very loyal, worked hard, and had fun too. We were able to acquire a couple of large army surplus rubber rafts, one of which the men played on during the swimming period. Later, after fastening on a wooden platform, one raft lashed to a motor boat was used for carrying many supplies and people back and forth from Bird's Landing or Raquette Lake Village to the camp.
The recreation education camps from the start have always been coeducational. We also have had many of the physical education men and women with us when they were unable to attend the physical education camps. It worked out beautifully.
Beginning with the small work crew 35 years ago, the recreation camp has evolved into three sessions with each having a structured instructional program focusing on camp skills, nature recreation, and camp leadership. Many of our students have gone on to hold important positions in organizational camping. I am proud to have played a part in making the camping experience possible for Cortland students.
Written by Dr. Walter Thurber, professor emeritus biological sciences
Occasionally I have claimed that had I not bought a canoe in 1947 Cortland would not have had Camp Huntington. That, of course, is an oversimplification. Every situation is the result of many single, often independent, events. Probably one could isolate a single event that finally convinced Gold Metcalf to come to Cortland. And Donnal V. Smith to accept the College presidency. And the son of Collis P. Huntington to make a gift of Pine Knot Camp. Nonetheless my aluminum canoe did play a part.
Generally, my windfalls, such as checks for extension courses, were spent for prosaic purposes. But in 1947, I decided to indulge myself — I bought a 17-foot, lightweight, aluminum canoe. For its maiden voyage I needed as a companion someone knowledgeable in canoeing and camping. Gold Metcalf had recently joined the faculty as a specialist in outdoor education. What better opportunity to get to know him!
We chose, more or less by chance, to go to Raquette Lake where we spent a memorable weekend. My mind was chiefly on the canoe, the beauty of the lake, and the fun of camping. Gold, however, was preoccupied. He wanted to examine each point and each bay as a possible site for a college camp. We were limited because at that season there were few who could tell us about available properties. We spent time at Sunset Point looking over a prewar children's camp without learning the names of the owners. On Sunday, we made a hurried trip almost the length of the lake only to find that a camp reportedly for sale had already been sold.
My cooperation with Gold was somewhat lukewarm. I was disgruntled with the camp project and still sulking. When Don Smith came to Cortland I was surprised and delighted to discover that he was seriously interested in a camping program. He viewed camping as an opportunity for young people to gain social experiences once provided by large families and small communities. My own interest was chiefly in a camp to serve as an outdoor science laboratory but I needed no arguments from Don; several years service as a scoutmaster had convinced me that patrol and troop camping programs contribute mightily to character development. In addition, I had been much impressed with Lloyd Sharp's then well-know Life Camps for underprivileged kids.
Don appointed a committee to find a suitable site for a college camp near Cortland. The Labrador Pond area near Truxton, though far from ideal, was the best we could find below the financial limit. Ecologically, the area was sufficiently unique to warrant a bulletin of the New York State Museum. The surrounding region was sparsely inhabited and heavily wooded. Land values were low. On the negative side, the pond was shallow and muddy-bottomed) its margins were generally swampy, and) in season, it was a megalopolis for mosquitoes.
Don assigned me the job of getting options on as much of the area as possible. I cannot estimate the hours spent blowing dust from land records in the Cortland and Onondaga Courthouses, searching out present ownerships, property lines, possible restrictions and clouds on titles, then into the field to trace boundaries and haggle with owners about costs. But at last I had the whole area under option except for the north edge of the pond and a tiny enclave around Tinker's Falls. The area included both sides of the valley to the crests and extended well south into Cortland County, beyond which a property of more than 200 acres, then under litigation, would probably become available. As I recall, the options covered much more than 600 acres. All for less than $l0,000! Imagine my disgust when the State refused to take up the options.
Fortunately, Gold had not yet suffered such a defeat and was still eager. He pushed all weekend. We had one brief hope when someone suggested that the local ranger probably knew all about available properties but we could not locate him. So Gold had achieved nothing concrete by late Sunday afternoon when we loaded our gear in my station wagon.
As in turn-of-the-century "mellerdrammers" suspense in this story has been dragged along to the last possible moment. We were barely on our way when stepping out from a trail was the very man we wanted to see, recognizable by his uniform. (Those who like to ponder the workings of chance may now care to speculate on the effect of an event that might have delayed the ranger an additional minute.) Gold and I did not appreciate at the time the importance of this coincidence because the ranger knew of only a few properties that might be available and these were too small for our purposes. But as we were about to leave him, the ranger, as something of an afterthought, told us of Camp Pine Knot. The owner, son of Collis P. Huntington, never used this large and beautiful camp. He came about once a year to discuss needed repairs with the caretaker but did not even spend the night. The ranger believed he had never slept there since his father died. The ranger also thought it possible that Mr. Huntington might be willing to dispose of this costly property for a good cause.
Details of the rest of the story must be left for others to relate because I was involved in only minor ways. I accompanied Gold and others to explore Camp Pine Knot, then again with Gold and Don and others. Don, Gold and I went to the county courthouse where my experience helped us find land records pertaining to the camp and adjoining properties. After that Don carried the ball. He must have applied tremendous powers of persuasion, not only to convince Mr. Huntington to make the gift but also to persuade the State Education Department to promise financial backing and the State Legislature to pass a bill permitting the College to accept the gift.
I gradually regained enthusiasm but under difficulties. I had wanted an area close enough to the college for 2-hour and half-day field trips and weekend camping. The money spent rehabilitating the buildings on Camp Pine Knot, including purchase of a sawmill,would have bought Labrador Pond a dozen times over, or would have quadrupled the area (the State later acquired for reforestation the portion in Cortland County plus much more that was readily available), or might have purchased property on a nearby Finger Lake. Also, I was upset when it became obvious that students would be given experience in what I sneeringly referred to as "cottaging" rather than in true outdoor living. But for purely selfish reasons I loved Camp Huntington and did what I could to have it utilized according to my philosophy.
Written by Dorothy Arnsdorff, professor emerita physical education
In the early years, the purpose of the program at Camp Huntington was to provide a creative, educational, and inspirational experience in cooperative group living in the out-of-doors. It was hoped that students would continue to enjoy these experiences in their leisure time. Another purpose was to provide opportunities for students to develop skills, knowledge, and ideas that they could use in summer camp counseling jobs and public school outdoor education programs.
During the spring quarter of the freshman year, an on-campus orientation program was conducted by the camp staff. The purpose was to provide the students with a background of information which would make the experience at Camp Huntington more meaningful. Topics, such as the history of camping, types of camps, camping as an educational force, and safety and health, were discussed. Some on-campus practical experiences were provided in map and compass reading, knot tying, fire building, and tent pitching.
Students attended Camp Huntington the summer following the freshman year. Skills were taught in campcrafts, canoeing and boating, orienteering, nature and nature crafts and "primitive camping." The word "primitive" was used advisedly! Materials and equipment were somewhat limited (see inventory) in those early years which made it necessary for the staff and students to be very creative — even ingenious at times.
A survey conducted in about 1956 of physical education women graduates overwhelmingly indicated that what they remembered most about their camp experiences were the camaraderie, the friendships acquired, the inspirational moments around the campfires, the songs sung — even while on K.P., and the wealth of information and personal skills that they acquired in just two short weeks at Camp Huntington!
Since those early years, great strides have been made in the improvement of the facilities, equipment and programs at the Outdoor Education Center under the very able leadership of George Fuge.
Equipment Inventory for Overnight Trips, September 1951
|Axe (double blade)
|# 10 cans
|# 10 (w/o cover)
|Tin custard dishes
|Frying pans (large)
|Knap sack (medium)
|Knap sacks (large)
|Cookie sheet (burned)
|Metal plates (large & small)
|Cups (all sorts)
|Canteens (without covers)
Written by Roland Eckard, associate professor emeritus physical education
Education programs tend to reflect the needs of the society in which they exist and perhaps more importantly, to enrich the individual through the educational experience. The programs developed in the Men1s Physical Education Camp sessions reflect this dual effort. Thus, the early curricula were designed to develop student skills and provide training as camp counselors. This was an important summer job opportunity for the college students at that time.
The first programs were planned to provide experiences in camp waterfront activities, nature study, camp crafts, evening programs, and basic camping skills. The area of camping skills included: camp organization and leadership, camp sanitation, safety, hiking, overnight camping, firebuilding, cooking, use of knife and ax, and use of maps and compass.
The organization of camping trips, the social experiences and the need to work together under primitive conditions were an important aspect of the program. It should be pointed out that the first few years of the camp operation were conducted under rather primitive conditions. There was no electricity or running water. There were virtually no equipment and supplies, nor funds to provide them.
Student work details were essential to repair and clean the buildings, to build docks and other facilities, to bring in firewood, and to handle sanitation and other chores essential to the basic operation of the camp. It is important to note that the students accepted these responsibilities willingly. Each group developed a certain pride in leaving the camp in better condition for the groups which were to follow them.
With the gradual procurement of more equipment, a greater range of instructional programs was introduced. Extended canoe and mountain climbing trips, instruction in sailing, water skiing, and other activities were eventually included.
It soon became evident that the original program objectives for the Men's Physical Education Camp, the preparation of a camp counselor, were no longer appropriate. There even was serious doubt that the camping course should remain as a required part of the physical education curriculum. However, with repeated surveys of graduates, it was found that almost without exception, the camping course was believed to be an important part of their professional preparation and should continue as a requirement.
Thereafter, the programs in the men 5 camps were planned with more emphasis on the value of camping activities as lifetime recreational skills to enrich the lives of the students. The program would also provide them with the experience and skills needed in public schools and in a family situation. Instruction in motorboat operation and certification as motorboat safety instructors were a part of the program during the 60's. Camping skills, compass and orienteering~ and basic survival skills became areas of program emphasis. Environmental conservation and nature appreciation were given greater emphasis.
There were always maintenance problems around the camp and work projects continued to be a part of each student's educational experience. They may have built a trail through the swamp to the old houseboat or helped build an Adirondack lean-to for the use of future camp groups. Most camp groups contributed in some way to make the camp better for the future. It soon became evident to staff members that programs which included an understanding and application of social organization, leadership and group cooperation in a primitive setting were of special importance. It contributed to the personal and professional development of each student. Canoe or hiking trips required organization and planning. They required leadership and cooperation. Students learned that failure to carry out assigned responsibilities had an immediate effect upon the safety and welfare of the entire group.
Winter camping programs were included in the Men's Physical Education Camp in the early 1970's. The plan was to provide a week of experience in winter camping and survival and a second week of experience in summer camping. This combination of split seasonal sessions has proved quite successful. The winter program was designed to provide instruction in winter camping and survival skills. Winter recreational skills were also stressed.
The program included: Basic Winter Camping Skills Tracking and Hunting Cross Country Skiing Winter Survival Skills Snow Shoeing Compass and Orienteering Ice Fishing Nature Conservation Snowmobile Operation Overnight Camping Hunter Safety
Winter camping in the Adirondacks can be quite a challenge. Temperatures can reach 30 degrees below zero and the snow can be three feet deep. Survival under these conditions can tax the students' resourcefulness. The importance of learning how to survive and live comfortably out-of-doors is a satisfying accomplishment for most students.
In summary, the programs offered at the Physical Education Camp, now co-ed, will continue to provide for the development of lifetime sports and survival skills. The experiences in group organization and cooperation are a valuable asset for future teachers and citizens.
Written by Franklin E. Coolidge, head of the college lab school
One frosty winter's day in early February 1949, I received a call from the office of Donnal V. Smith, the College president. His secretary announced that Dr. Smith wanted to see me immediately. This was my second year as head of the College laboratory school, variously called the school of practice, campus school, or by its full title, "The Ella Van Hoesen School." But I had already become acquainted with Dr. Smith1s sometimes unceremonious way of initiating new ideas. I knew he was not only a great original thinker but also an enthusiastic "doert1 so I was only momentarily disconcerted by his rather brusque greeting. "Coolidge," he said, "on May first you will take the seventh and eighth grades to the Raquette Lake camp for a two-week outdoor-education experience. I've considered everything and I don't want to hear any objections from anybody!" "Well, you won't hear any from me," I replied, "but I'm not sure you are aware of all the possible problems in this venture. If you will back us all the way I think we can handle them but there will be more than you think." "Anything within reason," D.V. replied. Thus began the great outdoor education experience for the Campus School children.
We were not the first to pioneer such camping but we were among the first. The next two and a half months were filled with preparation and research, first with those College faculty members who would act as camp counselors, then with the children and the student teachers who were to go with us as student counselors.
Fortunately for me, my father and grandfather had been locally famous as hunters and outdoorsmen. From childhood I had been instructed in the lore of and an appreciation of the natural world. We lived on the edge of forests where one could travel for miles without encountering a road or dwelling and I have been a camper virtually all my life.
With some dismay I discovered that only one of the six faculty counselors and two of the student teachers had ever been truly interested in camping or had much knowledge of the fields and forests. However, all of them were willing and in the two months which followed we read everything we could find about school camping. Before the day of departure arrived, most had become enthusiastic about the project.
We established a fee of fifteen dollars for each child for the two weeks. Even in those days this barely covered their food. There were some gifts of money from interested faculty people and we were able to discreetly assume that fee for the few children whose families were in less fortunate financial circumstances. No child ever missed camp because of inability to pay. While the majority of the children in the Campus School came from comparatively well-to-do families this was by no means true of all of them and we had always been careful not to emphasize that difference.
I had been a teacher and administrator working with grade school children for over eighteen years before coming to the College and I knew that thirteen and fourteen year olds were young enough to be homesick in a strange environment so we tried to foresee and avoid that type of distress. In a large measure we succeeded. I do remember one little miss who cried herself to sleep the first night in camp. I also remember that same young lady cried bitterly when it came time to leave camp. In fact her father remarked to me, "I guess that she surely had a good time here. She's crying as hard as anybody."
You must remember that most of these young campers had never been away from home overnight unless accompanied by their parents or visiting an older relative. Many of their families owned summer homes or cottages on lake property near Cortland but so far as we could ascertain none of them had ever had any experience in or on the edge of what could be called wilderness. I was glad that they had enough apprehension that they wouldn't start out blithely and get lost.
D.V. Smith was as good as his word and did everything possible to facilitate the project. He got the manager of the College food services to make out menus and lists of food to be purchased. As a public relations policy we tried to get many of our supplies through the local store in Raquette Lake Village. The rest was dispatched to camp by campus truck. He also assigned Miss Madolyn Volpe to be our camp nurse. He saw to it that Miss Camille Brown of the Health Education Department was released from other College duties to be another of our counselors. The rest of the faculty counselors were employed full-time in the Campus School so there was no problem in that respect.
In addition to those just named, the other faculty counselors were: Leonard Davenport - 7th and 8th grade Supervisor of Math and Science Mary English - Music Supervisor James Timmins - Art Supervisor Merrill L. Walrath - 7th and 8th grade English and Social Studies Supervisor Franklin Coolidge - Campus School Principal
None of us had ever visited Pine Knot Point and we felt that we should go there in advance of the camping period. We asked Dr. "Gold" Metcalf to accompany us and one bright sunny day in late February or early March we started out bravely. It was well that the weather was not stormy for as our little expedition drove northward, the snow banks on each side of the road grew progressively higher and the highway progressively narrower. By the time we got to Old Forge it was almost like driving in a snow tunnel. In those days roads were plowed out enough to be passable but the boom in winter sports and recreation was still in the future and roads in that area in winter were anything but superhighways.
We had planned to buy our lunch en route but found that all the restaurants bore large signs with the legend, "Closed for the Season." We had to content ourselves with what ready-to-eat snacks we could buy at a small grocery store in one of the little villages.
We were riding in privately owned cars and though the ice on Raquette Lake was twenty-four inches thick, the car owners declined to drive across it so we walked from Bird's dock to camp. John Moore, the resident camp caretaker, was waiting for us at Bird's with a sled to haul our luggage across the snow covered ice. To say that the air was brisk would be an understatement. Next morning the thermometer registered twenty-four degrees below zero. As John stepped out the door, flannel shirt open at the neck, he remarked, "Just a spell of nice winter weather."
John had kept a good fire in our cabins all day before we arrived. Those glowing coals in the fireplace certainly looked cheery. He assigned the men to the Durant cabin and the ladies to what was then called "The Old Maid's Cabin," so named because the Huntington family had a newer maid and another who had been with them a longer period. Our lady counselors lost no time in fashioning a big chalkboard sign for the front of their lodging place. It bore the cryptic letters F.M.O.A. It took some gentle persuasion but they finally translated it for us. For obvious reasons they disliked the term, "Old Maid's Cabin" and preferred it to be known as the home of the "Future Mothers of America." It is a great temptation to recount the many humorous events of that weekend and of the later two-week camping period but I shall try to mention only those which illustrate some of the problems encountered. One who visits the well appointed and equipped College camp today can hardly comprehend the situation when the College acquired the property. While it had been luxurious by the standards of the nineteenth century there were not many of the so-called creature comforts. There was no electricity on Pine Knot Point, hence no running water. There had been a system of water piped into some of the buildings from an elevated reservoir but it was no longer operative. There were no inside toilets, no telephones and none of the household devices automatically regulated and controlled by electricity and to which we have all become accustomed in our modern homes.
The buildings for the most part were heated by fireplaces, attractive to be sure, but not very efficient. In the Durant cabin there had been a good fire of hardwood logs burning all day but it died down during the night. There was a pail of drinking water sitting on the floor. That night the ice on the top of the water froze to a depth of a full inch. Out of curiosity we measured the distance from the pail to the big stone fireplace and found it to be just eight feet! I was quite comfortable sleeping in two suits of 100% wool long winter underwear and in my own good sleeping bag but some of the men shivered under four or more thin wool surplus army blankets. Cathedral ceilings lined with beautiful white birch bark are certainly picturesque but not very practical in the Adirondacks, except in summer!
I had been "volunteered" by my companions to be the cook for the weekend, given money from each, and admonished to buy provisions for a "real good dinner." Did you ever try to cook seven inch-thick porterhouse steaks frozen hard as a rock, frozen peas, warm the French bread, thaw the butter, make percolated coffee and bake seven big potatoes in an ice-cold kitchen on a small reluctant wood burning range? Need I say that dinner was a bit late that evening? My respect for my mother who had cooked for our big family, with similar equipment, grew apace. I wondered how our camp cook would prepare food for over forty campers for two weeks.
Dr. Smith managed to buy and send to camp a propane~burning cook stove and purchased coal as a more reliable fuel for the old range. When we did arrive in May we found that the cook and her helper planned and managed very well. After that weekend at camp we returned with many new ideas for the program. We had known, of course, that our real purpose was to educate prospective teachers by letting them work with children instead of merely reading about working with real live subjects. Believe me, the children in the Campus School were "real live" individuals as anyone who ever taught there will testify. I loved working with them in camp or in the usual school situation.
Committees of children, students, and faculty worked diligently, and certainly the children learned more about arithmetic, geography, history, grammar, spelling, etc. than in the conventional lessons. They wrote many letters of inquiry. They planned and ultimately ran a camp store-ordering materials, checking the invoices, keeping a running inventory of stock on had, and doing the necessary bookkeeping. They were very proud of the fact that the final audit showed everything correct down to the last penny.
It would take too long to list all the many activities carried on in preparation for camp and at camp. Since the children would arrive by boat, they had all passed swimming tests in the College pool before we left Cortland. There was a "buddy system" so each camper would have someone keeping track of him or her.
At camp they took day trips to climb Blue Mountain, to interview long time residents, to learn how to actually use the knowledge of map and compass they had studied in school.
They were fascinated by the chalet architecture and had read much about it. They went to see the old steam engine which had pulled passengers in the long ago. They tried to learn as much about natural phenomena and the geography of the region as they could.
They were interested in the many old railroad lamps in the lamp shed. They learned about making paint from the half-used barrels of pigment, lead, linseed oil, etc. still in one of the buildings. They were even too interested in the old water tower, a huge wooden tub, set high in the air on steel supports. The boys were determined they were going to climb to the top and it took a considerable amount of insistence to keep them away from the dangerous rickety affair. I was much relieved next year to find it had been taken down.
Every aspect of the buildings and surrounding area furnished learning and we tried to capitalize on them all.
They visited the little church or chapel which Mr. Durant had built for the use of his workers. They went to see beaver cuttings and the beaver dam on one of the lake inlets. They studied wave action and went to see the barrier sand bar at Eldon Lake. They camped overnight in open front leantos on Big Island. They measured the buildings and tried to compute the amount of new roofing which would be needed to make the much needed repairs to some of them. By the use of ratio and proportion and a wooden pole of known length, they attempted to determine the height of the tremendous pine trees, remnants of the original forest known as "The Three Sisters." They marveled at the remains of the houseboat or barge drawn up on shore and awaiting ultimate restoration. With permission I felled an ash tree, taught the girls and boys how to use a six foot crosscut saw in cutting it into short logs. They used some ingenuity to devise a method by which they could transport those logs to the water. After soaking for four or five days we hauled them out- -beat them with clubs until the growth layers separated, split the thin layers into splints. Then under the direction of the art supervisor, Mr. Timmins, we wove baskets in the manner used by the Indians. I still have a pack basket which I finished by the light of a gasoline lantern long after the rest of the campers were in bed.
In the process we all learned to appreciate the labor, the skill and the cleverness of those so-called "savages" who had originally devised such methods of utilizing native materials to make needed implements. It was unfortunate that the only time available for the Campus School children to be at camp was so early in the spring, just after ice-out. There were no birds to study except the few winter residents. All plant life was dormant so there was no chance to learn about it. There was one great blessing. There were no insect pests. The black flies, mosquitos and pesky punkies or no-see-ums posed no problem. The ice along the lake shore formed crystals some nights but quickly melted each morning. At least we were free of any need for insect repellent! At that time the College owned two fourteen foot Thompson boats and two seven and a half horsepower Martin outboard motors. One outfit was assigned to John Moore and the other to the camp director, i.e., yours truly! The children were transported to Raquette Lake by car pools of parents and of course every parent wanted to visit the camp.
Those two boats ran constantly for hours on the days of arrival and departure, ferrying parents, campers, luggage, etc. across the lake. During the entire two weeks, fresh groceries, milk, mail, etc. were carried in by boat. There was at least one trip to be made to the store each morning. All field trips off the point began and ended with a boat trip. John Moore was a tower of strength and understanding, always willing to help. I ran a water taxi service and developed calluses in parts better left unmentioned.
In later years when the College had more boats and motors, it seemed that many faculty counselors had a penchant for breaking or bending propellers on the rocks. Someone noted that John Moore never seemed to have any such trouble and remarked, "John, I'll bet you know the location of every rock and shoal in this lake." John instantly replied,"No, I'm afraid I don't, but I know. the places where they ain't and that's where I go!" A wise and talented man was old John, not only about his native territory but alert, well read, and knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects — sometimes more so than those with multiple college degrees! He was one of the camp's greatest assets.
We tried hard in succeeding years to find new activities and in some measure were successful. Each camp was different but eventually the programs tended to repeat what had been done in former years. In a way this was a mixed blessing. Children learned from their older brothers, sisters and friends what to expect and looked forward to each of those experiences. Although some spontaneity was inevitably lost, traditions were developed and served both as motivating and as stabilizing influences.
We had determined at the outset of that first camp that we would not spend time doing at Huntington things that could be better done in Cortland. This immediately ruled out baseball, volleyball and many of the usual day-camp activities. To have campers learn about nature, to appreciate the development of our physical environment, and above all to nurture a proper sense of values toward conservation of natural resources was ever foremost in my mind and in the minds of the counselors. For the children, camp was fun and so it always should be. More effective than any amount of preachy lectures, the enjoyment of the outdoor world will lead to the desired attitudes.
Dr. Smith had a strong conviction that people in general had become too passive and complacent about many of the comforts of modern living. In fact children accepted thermostatically controlled heat, automatic hot water, good food on the table and automobile transportation with little knowledge or little interest in how these things were accomplished. In this, they were only doing what all of us had become accustomed to as a way of life.
In camp there was running water if someone ran to the lake or the well to get it. If you wanted hot water it was necessary for someone to split wood and kindling, keep a fire going, and heat the water on the stove. If you wanted to go somewhere you walked or went in a boat. It wasn't difficult to see why the earliest routes in the wilderness were waterways.
At home the children had accepted, as we all do, the presence of clean dishes on the table without much thought. In camp all the work of serving food, cleaning up afterward and keeping one's living space neat and clean revolved upon the individual. It took no great amount of intelligence to discover that sharing and planning made the work less burdensome. In fact the dishwashing committee became popular for it was always warm in the kitchen and we sang as we worked.
There were committees for everything from evening program to table decorations using native material, to cleaning the outdoor toilets--"the John" committee. Committee assignments rotated so every one got the chance to do his/her share of each needed service.
Children also learned to eat many items which they had disdained at home. We had balanced meals and food in plenty and the physical activity made for good appetites.
Although is was not emphasized for the children, the faculty were interested in noting the sociological changes brought about by living together in camp. Before leaving the school we had asked each child to write down in confidence the names of three others with whom he or she enjoyed playing or working or whom he or she considered to be "best friends." Then the counselors under the leadership of Miss Brown had drawn charts. This immediately identified the children who were very popular, moderately so, or practically loners in the classroom hierarchy. It was especially noteworthy and revealing to find that friendship, as shown by these charts, was not always reciprocal. For example a child might list A, B, and C as friends or enjoyable companions but was not listed by any of them in return.
In camp a new leadership appeared. A child who had not been looked upon as a leader in school became through skill or willingness, or a sunny disposition, or other character trait, a leader or at least a valued companion. They also learned why honesty had been commonplace in primitive societies. If there is no way to lock up one's special little possessions there has to evolve a mutual trust and a universal contempt for one who doesn't practice the difference between "mine" and "thine."
There is nothing like a succession of two or three rainy days in camp to bring out the best or worst in people of any age. The changes in social structure were confirmed after our return to Cortland when, without any explanation, the children were again asked to make three choices of individuals whom they considered their friends. A few months later a third chart confirmed that these new alignments tended to persist. Though by no means defensible as scientific research we were sure that our results proved that concomitant with the obvious values attributed to the program came other desired results.
In the ensuing years the program evolved and changed but slowly. We expanded it to include a week-long fall camp for sixth grade children and the first two weeks in May were always reserved for the seventh and eighth grades. One year the ice did not go off Raquette Lake until four or five days before we arrived. A few freezing nights and cold days could not negate our enthusiasm. We had laid a good foundation in those first years, and twenty years later our successors were still following much the saree regimen. Thus do new ventures become accepted and turned into traditions. There are those who belittle traditions in any aspect of human behavior. It is always good to experiment, to look ahead, to improvise and to improve. We should not, however, forget that tradition tends to perpetuate the practices which have proven successful and which tend toward lasting value.
Many people say they are afraid of "getting into a rut." So they should be, but a rut cannot be evaluated by looking down upon it. It may only be a groove in the earth but one must look along it, first toward its source to see from whence it came and what obstacles it surmounted, then in the opposite direction to see where it had led and where it still may lead. Only then can one decide whether that route should be used, modified, or abandoned.
Those first faculty counselors are now enjoying retirement. Those first student counselors are now in their late fifties and some of them are still promoting outdoor education. Those first children are now grandparents. I see them now and then, for many still live in the Cortland area. Without exception they speak of the Campus School and of Raquette Lake and of attitudes learned or developed there.
There is no way to properly acknowledge all of those who helped make the program a success, but I would indeed be remiss if I did not mention two who contributed greatly to that end. Professor Stanley Kullman and Dr. William Olcott, now both retired, were my right hand men during my tenure as school principal. Each served in turn as camp director after increasing College responsibilities precluded my continuing in that capacity. Both are fondly remembered by former pupils and by the student teachers whom they guided.
Although the camping program for children died with the demise of the Campus School, it touched the lives of many. I do not know how many of them believe, as I do, with Bryant that "The groves were God's first temples" [from William Cullen Bryant, "A Forest Hymn"] but I do know that what we attempted to instill was not forgotten.
It is good to know that after thirty-five years there is a much expanded physical plant at Pine Knot Point and an even greater development of outdoor education as an integral part of SUNY at Cortland.
Written by Dr. Walter A. Thurber, professor emeritus biological sciences
Although I credit myself with the original proposal for a science-based camp as one of Cortland's science offerings, others played essential roles in developing and implementing the proposal. Of course nothing could have been done without the consent and active support of Donnal V. Smith, then president of the College. In terms of dedication, none contributed more than William Clemens of the Science Department, and his wife, Evelyn, who worked out with me the detailed plans for the program and served on the staff. Arthur Howe, director of Camp Huntington, enthusiastically provided logistic help and solutions to problems I considered insolvable.
Dr. Smith was a proponent of group camping as an important social experience compensating in some degree for the loss of social interactions once common in small communities and large families. I recognized these values also due to experience with Boy Scouts in patrol and troop camping. But I believed that group camping can have additional goals without sacrificing social goals. One serious problem in science education is providing truly basic experiences upon which to build. As a science teacher in both rural and urban schools I had been shocked at the contrast; rural youth had richer experience backgrounds, were easier to motivate, and could grasp fundamental ideas more quickly. I knew that camping provides an endless variety of basic experiences denied to most urban dwellers.
Don and I had been impressed with the Life Camps operated by Lloyd B. Sharp for underprivileged children of New York City. Children were divided into small groups each of which lived in its own tent village well isolated from the others. A village was largely self-contained; children organized their own program, prepared their own meals, and to a considerable extent disciplined themselves, all under well-trained counselors. Don invited Mr. Sharp to speak at Cortland, sent a faculty group to a workshop at the Life Camps, and sent me for an additional period of observation.
Fay Welch, who operated Camp Tanager in the Adirondacks, also had a valuable program. Fay was well known to us at Cortland; for years before Camp Huntington was acquired, he provided camp leadership training courses at Camp Tanager for the Physical Education Department and several of the faculty, including myself, served on his staff. A unique characteristic of Fay's program was its expanding adventure theme; children knew from hints that in a day or so there would be something more exciting than anything they yet had experienced. If they came back for a second year, they would do things first year campers did not do, and so on. (Many children returned year after year until reaching the age limit; a few even came back then to wash dishes and eventually serve as counselors.)
Bill Clemens, Evelyn, and I had another source of inspiration and practical experience. We had studied under E. Laurence Palmer, professor of nature study at Cornell University, taking courses in which field study came first and all else was based thereupon; we studied with some of Cornell's few remaining great naturalists. Especially exciting was Dr. Palmer's unique camping course in which the biological, physical, and earth sciences were tightly integrated.
We three brought together other helpful experiences. Evelyn was an experienced Girl Scout leader who had specialized in camp cooking; she took charge of that important division of the program. Bill was an enthusiastic camper, hunter, general outdoorsman, and field naturalist. I had served on the staff on the New Hampshire Nature Camp (now defunct) and one of the Audubon Nature Camps.
We planned a program rich in science experiences that could be analyzed qualitatively. For example, we wanted campers to visualize the resolution of forces acting on a canoe paddle. We planned to teach axmanship by analyzing the energy and forces involved. Techniques of fire building and maintenance were to be taught by calling attention to the many scientific principles in action. Personal health and personal comfort instruction was to be based on reasoning. We intended to point out the interrelationships of the natural factors with which the campers were in constant contact. We wanted the campers to realize that conscious application of scientific knowledge makes our lives simpler, safer and more pleasurable. This was of special importance.
The Science Camp was to be a self-contained village. We chose a small clearing in the most remote part of the Camp Huntington property. Although actually only a few minutes walk from the "civilized" part of Camp Huntington, we transported the campers by long boat ride around Long Point so they felt well isolated. To conform with our plan we carried in advance supplies of tools,canvas, rope and miscellaneous hardware in quantities and variety for expected needs and for unplanned possibilities. A well-stocked commissary permitted flexibility in menus and was self-contained except for certain fresh foods to be brought by boat. Although we preferred to have the campers find a truly primitive site upon arrival, we were obliged to erect one shelter to protect the supplies and to serve as an emergency tent for the first day. We threw our largest tarpaulin over an A-frame of lashed poles; this provided an example the campers could use for their individual shelters, and later became the mess tent.
The first staff included Joe Halper, a recreation major, who in my physics course showed aptitude in applying scientific principles to commonplace situations. Joe was in charge of water-front activities but helped in other capacities as well. Evelyn had complete charge of cooking. Bill and I shared in field natural history and general camp skills. Our staff was supplemented from time to time by members of the College faculty so that no group went unsupervised, thus avoiding problems with insurance.
For the first two weeks the campers were divided in three groups that rotated through a single program for three days; the program then changed and rotation continued. During the third week the campers formed two groups which alternated through two programs. Sunday schedules were relatively open. Those who wished could go by motorboat to church. Meals were prepared by the staff: breakfast, materials laid out for a sandwich lunch to be eaten where desired, and a special evening meal, once a "buffalo steak roast" (thick steaks tossed on a deep bed of glowing embers in a shallow trench) and once "bean-hole beans" (well-seasoned beans and bacon cooked for 18 hours in a pit of hot coals).
The basic daily program included four planned activity periods of two hours each, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Outside these hours campers were assigned camp duties, one group to cooking, one to camp maintenance, and one group given "free time," a device I had found very successful with scouts. The groups rotated daily.
The program for the first three days was as follows. From 8 to 10 a.m., one group studied the woody plants of the camp area with emphasis on useful characteristics. The second group engaged in camp improvement activities such as building privies, tables, and a boat dock. The third group had been cooking since 6 a.m. so after cleaning up they rested. From 10 a.m. to noon, one group was instructed in water safety and life saving. Another group studied use of maps and compass. The third group learned about menu planning for camps followed by preparation of the noon meal. The afternoon activity periods included canoeing instruction, life histories of herbaceous plants including ferns, mosses, fungi, and lichens, rope work and theory of knots, axmanship, outdoor cookery and preparation of the evening meal.
After the first three days the campers began to leave the camp area in a series of progressively more distant explorations. During the second three-day period there was a short canoe trip to a nearby bay partially blocked by a sand bar to study the formation of the bar, the beginnings of plant invasion of the lagoon, and insects netted in the lagoon. (This morning trip was followed in the afternoon by more canoeing instruction to remedy deficiencies made obvious by the trip). A walk through second-growth and virgin forest to a former lagoon now completely covered by plants displayed several stages of plant succession.
During the second week exploration extended farther. A long canoe trip across the lake and up a placid, winding stream led through a variety of aquatic associations including an abandoned beaver dam; this was a "bag lunch" trip. An overnight trip by rowboat to an island gave practice in setting a course with map and compass, and in using "tin-can" cookery with utensils fashioned by pairs of campers earlier in the day. Another overnight trip to a mountain top, its base attained by motor boat, was preceded by instruction in light-weight packing and cooking with limited firewood; at the summit topographic maps were compared with the visible topography. In the third week there was a three-day canoe trip up a river, across a portage, and along a chain of lakes, this giving many experiences with different habitats, the mechanics of lifting and carrying canoes, new types of cooking, and so on. Alternating with this was a trip into the High Peaks region to climb Mt. Marcy and, incidentally, study zonation and mountain geology.
I have outlined only sketchily the planned situations leading to and/or reinforcing science understandings. These represent only a portion of the valuable experiences actually obtained. Many situations were unexpected: a Barred Owl that sang night after night in a tree almost over the evening campfire; a raccoon that mastered a series of latches on a food locker constructed by the campers. Experiences could be anticipated but not planned: ducks and mergansers along the waterways; fruiting fungi; morning fog over the lake.
It was also anticipated the campers might solve problems in ingenious ways if tools and materials were available. After a camper found heavy, quarter-inch screening among the supplies she fashioned a basket for dishes that were to be sterilized by immersing in boiling water. One young man, tired of blowing on the fire on damp mornings, constructed a bellows from packing case boards, pieces of canvas, and scraps of leather. A farm lad split a log with wedges, added legs to one piece, and provided the campers with the model for benches so they need not sit on the ground while eating.
Casual comments of the staff stimulated other projects. One cool, rainy evening at the campfire I mentioned that Indians had greater comfort around fires in their longhouses and teepees. I was asked, jokingly, if we "just happened to have enough buffalo skins for a tepee." No, but we did have canvas and sailmakers' supplies. Soon we had a tepee. And then the campers had to learn how convection, radiation, wind direction, and Bernoulli's theorem applied to the smoke flaps, the door, and the ground cloth around the base.
For the first session, Charles Gardner, a science teacher in Syracuse, and his wife Helen, elected the course. Both were members of the Adirondack Mountain Club and experienced campers; Charlie had made a specialty of reflector oven baking. I suggested that he take a simple oven on the first overnight; he served the surprised campers with pineapple upsidedown cake. From then on many campers made their own little ovens for the overnights. One camper found among the supplies a heavy sheet of aluminum, enough for two large reflector ovens; thereafter we all feasted on biscuits, pies, and cakes, including an occasional surprise birthday cake.
Our supplies included items that were never used and some used in one session but not another. A small field library and a binocular, widefield microscope were little used; there was too much competition.
I must mention the evening campfires. Except for the first these were not scheduled but they were regular, nonetheless. Most of the time was spent singing although occasionally someone related at length some amusing incident and there was much teasing and banter. All the campers had studied elementary music and some were in choral groups; their singing was truly beautiful, a delightful ending for the day. A few individuals added informal performances. One girl gave a comic version of "Cuppa Java." It was so popular that she was asked to repeat it almost nightly. A little Irish girl from one of those New York City enclaves where homes, schools, and churches were almost 100% Irish, charmed us night after night with Irish songs. (I was surprised to learn that she had failed a freshman music course because "she could not sing the scale." Could she have learned a natural scale instead of our artificial tempered scale?)
Some may ask what singing at campfires has to do with a science camp. I refer back to the vision of Don Smith and myself. I would have been greatly disappointed had the campers returned home with no more than additional scientific knowledge.
Written by George Fuge '49, director emeritus Outdoor Education Center
It is June 1983. I'm sitting at William West Durant's birch bark desk looking at the mirror calm waters of Raquette Lake. This is Durant's cabin, now my office and the leaded glass windows create an interesting mosaic as the antique glass distorts my view. It's a beautiful June morning. I can't get enthused about pounding the keys of the typewriter because the changing scene before me is distracting. The sun is slowly burning off the morning mist and a mink, whose movements first distracted me from my work, has completed its daily tour of the dock and suddenly disappeared somewhere into the shoreline. The beautiful, ever-changing scene before me is conducive to daydreaming and reflection.
It was just thirty five years ago, in June of 1948, that I first visited this place. I had completed my junior year at Cortland State Teachers College and had enrolled with fifteen other students in the College course to be scheduled at the newly acquired "camp at Raquette Lake." The drive from Cortland on the bumpy, winding, partially paved Adirondack roads had resulted in two flat tires that, coupled with the ride across Raquette Lake from Bird's Boat Livery in a dilapidated boat equipped with a malfunctioning outboard motor, had dulled my enthusiasm. I recall thinking about how strange it was to be making this trip to take a college course. These thoughts persisted as we arrived at a rickety wooden dock and unloaded our gear, but they were quickly dispelled upon observing an amazing cluster of buildings seemingly growing out of the forest. We were informed that we had arrived at Camp Pine Knot and were to be the first occupants in almost half a century. The buildings had not been used since the camp's wealthy owner, Collis P. Huntington, had died here in 1900. Following his death, the family left Camp Pine Knot, never to return. His heirs, Archer and Anna Huntington, had recently given the camp to the College.
Our observations confirmed the fact that the camp had been dormant for a long period of time. The forest had begun to engulf the buildings. The dense intrusion of the forest, the rotting porches and the sight of trees beginning to grow on debris laden roofs was adequate confirmation. Yet, the camp was impressive and retained the majesty and aura of a forgotten era. It was a unique experience to see these strange structures that blended so comfortably into another age. Intricate patterns of logs and bark seemed to emerge from the forest as we approached each building. Inside, elaborate kerosene lamps hung by ropes from hooks and pulleys. Rustic furniture composed of logs, bark and twigs laced with a half century-old cortina of cobwebs filled many of the rooms. One had the feeling of discovering an archeological treasure hidden in the Adirondack wilderness. We entered one building and found its half century old furniture wrapped in its original packing paper. The building was 48 years old and had never been occupied. What an unusual setting for a course!
It was becoming more difficult to accept the term "camp" for this singularly beautiful complex of log and bark structures. It seemed more appropriate to call it an estate. But we found too, that the amenities of the civilized living of the past were lacking. There was no water supply, no functional bathroom facilities, and no electricity. We had to work to provide some basic necessities. Our very first projects included the cleaning of the old wells so that water could be drawn by winch and bucket. It was necessary to reestablish the functions of defunct outhouses and reactivate the old kerosene lamps. Fortunately, Gold Metcalf and some of the College staff had preceded us and had managed to activate the wood stove in the kitchen. At least meals could be prepared. It seemed that a good portion of our time was occupied with projects planned to make the place operable. But it was a good time, and we learned new things every day. Metcalf had carefully planned instructional sessions to relate to the work sessions of the day.
When I first arrived at camp, I wondered about the content of the course. As a youngster, I had spent considerable time in outdoor pursuits. Prior to coming to Cortland I had completed three years of service with the U.S. Army ski troops where I had undergone extensive training in outdoor and survival skills. When I entered Cortland I had two major interests: a strong desire to be a teacher and a consuming interest in the out-of-doors. However, until I entered Cortland I was unaware of a legitimate way to combine these two interests. I had never heard the term "outdoor education. I heard it first in my freshman year at Cortland and with increasing frequency during the next two years preceding my visit to "camp." It was a term newly coined in the jargon of education and was supplanting "school camping," a more common reference to outdoor-oriented educational programs of the '40s. Outdoor education seemed to imply a more basic educational context, but the term was nebulous, and I could not find two educators who used the term in the same manner. However, it did provide for a merger of my interests: teaching and the out-of-doors. The two week session at Raquette Lake in 1948 gave me a whole new perspective on how I might combine these two interests, although I did not realize it at the time.
During my preceding three years at Cortland I had been deeply influenced by the teaching and philosophy of some outstanding instructors including: Ralph Adams Brown, Ben Sueltz, Dean Schick, Fred Holloway, and Ross Allen. They had provided me with a background of educational philosophy that would be the foundation for my future as a teacher. Additionally, I had been introduced to the outdoor-oriented teaching philosophy of three unusual teachers: William Clemens, Harlan Metcalf and Walter Thurber. They were pioneers in the area of outdoor teaching and all three, incidentally, had been involved in the acquisition of the camp at Raquette Lake.
While at camp in 1948 I thought little, if at all, about the influential teaching of these instructors. We were so completely programmed by Harlan Metcalf into a crammed schedule involving a mixed bag of instructional sessions and camp improvement projects that there was little time to celebrate on educational goals and philosophy. Spending twenty four hours a day living, working and learning in informal sessions with my fellow students and our instructors was so inconsistent with the traditional educational format that I must confess to wondering, at times, if this was really a bonafide college class.
The time went quickly. Too quickly. Two weeks after arrival the session suddenly ended in a confusing conglomeration of new experiences highlighted by strong bonds of friendship with my fellow students and instructors. Had I been asked to evaluate the course at that time, I would have found the task difficult. Certainly, my evaluation would have been flawed. At that point in time, I was totally incognizant of what had really happened. To borrow a phrase from my previous army service, "I had missed the big picture."
It was not until mid-summer following my return to summer classes at Cortland that the real picture began to emerge as I began to piece together what had really happened during those two weeks at Raquette Lake. I had learned how easy and effective it is to teach and learn in the outdoor laboratory. So natural, in fact, that I had previously failed to perceive how cleverly Harlan Metcalf had manipulated me and my peers into an intensive learning experience without my recognizing it happening. Momentarily, I was a bit peeved at Metcalf, a man I greatly respected and admired!
That mental confession makes me chuckle. I think about the many times I have said to future teachers, "A good teacher has to be a good actor." Metcalf is a master; he should have been on the Broadway stage. How many times have I put on an act to make a point with my students? I think about Doug Pens, a Cortland graduate who was a student in many classes here at the Outdoor Education Center. Now, he is bringing his high school classes to Raquette Lake and his classes are a mirror image of my experiences in Metcalf's program thirty five years ago. That "beaver tail in the beaver house" act that he uses to manipulate his students is a masterful charade. When he reveals its purpose, his students first feel deceived and then come to the realization that he is teaching them to see, to understand, and to interpret correctly. They love him for it - and it's fun. What a marvelous, productive way to teach and you could never do it like this in the traditional classroom.
So it was during that summer thirty-five years ago [at the time of this writing] that I came to the realization that I had, during my brief course with Metcalf, been unknowingly subjected to a cram course in biology, nature interpretation, ecology, math, language arts, history, art, engineering, science, canoeing, cartography, music, leadership training, folklore and most important, outdoor teaching methodology. I realized how that two week interlude enabled me to put my experience and education of the past into a new perspective. I entered my senior year at Cortland with a clear and precise goal: to be the best outdoor educator I was capable of being. It is incredible to even suggest that a two week course, in an antiquated lodge in the middle of the Adirondacks, could have such impact. But it did! And now, thirty five years later as I sit on this same spot, I'm more convinced of this than I was during that summer of 1948.
Following my graduation from Cortland in 1949, I taught at Suffern High School for the next thirteen years. It was a superior school and a successful and rewarding time for me. I managed, whenever possible, to involve myself in outdoor programming. My summers were spent on expeditions into northern Canada. But outdoor education was in its infancy. Although tolerated, it was not yet accepted as a bonafide educational methodology. It was a time of frustration for those of us dedicated to this "new trend." Public education was not yet ready to accept the fact that effective teaching and learning could take place outside of the conventional classroom.
My outdoor education activities were accepted with kindly, understanding smiles of tolerance while my teaching effectiveness was really evaluated on the basis of my classroom teaching. The school was in a strong back-to-basics mode following a devastating go at the "progressive education" fad of the '40s. That had been a dismal failure and was locally referred to as the Finger Painting Era. The pendulum had swung in a high arc and any deviation from the straight and narrow of classroom instruction was looked upon with disfavor.
During the decade of the '50s things began to change. L.B. Sharp's work in outdoor education was more often discussed by professional educators. E.L. Palmer at Cornell was training biologists to teach in the field and to interpret nature. Julian Smith at Michigan State was developing the beginnings of the National Outdoor Education Project. Things were happening. "School camping" and "conservation education" were terms slowly being replaced by "outdoor education." The process was slowly developing. I often dreamed of new opportunities as my thoughts drifted to that education gold mine at Raquette Lake.
It was like a dream come true when it happened. It started with a phone call from Dr. Donovan Moffett, president of Cortland State Teachers College. It was April of 1962 and he was inquiring about my interest in taking over the director's position at the College's Raquette Lake Center, a position that had been vacated by the death of Arthur Howe. I was proud of my work, my school, my colleagues and my community, but the decision required little deliberation. I was appointed to the position at Raquette Lake in September of 1962.
It is 1983. The College has been operating the Center for thirty five years and I have been observing changing scenery through these leaded glass panes for over two decades. I've had opportunity to observe the changing programs and the growing emphasis in the field of outdoor education. In 1962, only a few public schools were even experimenting with this methodology. Today, over 200 schools in New York State are conducting organized,school sanctioned outdoor education programs. Programs similar to what I experienced as a senior in college are now part of the curriculum in many public schools. These programs are very sophisticated and productive. Most states have outdoor teachers organizations. New York has the largest and most active. The New York State Outdoor Education Association was founded and had it's first formative meeting at Cortland State. Many institutions, schools and professional educators must be credited for their contributions to this movement, but much credit must go to that Teacher's College in upstate New York whose administration and staff took the initiative more than thirty five years ago to begin the process of teaching teachers to teach in the out-of-doors.
The foresight of administrators and faculty at Cortland must be credited as contributors to the acceptance and growth of the outdoor education movement. In 1937 it was Donnal V. Smith, Francis Moench, Fred Holloway, Harriet Holsten and others who moved Cortland into this arena. In 1947 it was Smith, Harlan Metcalf, William Clemens, and Walt Thurber who acted to provide the College with the Center at Raquette Lake. By the 60's, 70's and into the 80's these leaders relayed the initiative to over a hundred staff members who continued the evolution and development of programs at the Center and at the College. During this period a succession of College presidents renewed and amplified the College's commitment to quality education and the outdoor education methodology. Drs. Moffett, Ben Sueltz, Ken Young, Dick Jones, Stewart Gordon, and Jim Clark each contributed to the College's outdoor education efforts. The Raquette Lake Center has doubled in size and increased it's programming twenty fold. The Hoxie Gorge Campus, only a few miles from the main campus, has added a new dimension to the resources of the College. More recently, the extensive development of facilities at the Brauer Geological Field Station has provided Cortland with a third field station. It is doubtful that there is another college in the country with the unique diversity of resources evidenced in these properties.
The resources are in place and new faces are emerging from within the College to join with the current leaders to discover and implement programs to meet the needs of the future. Cortland has a history of anticipating these needs. School camping, conservation education, environmental education, experiential education and outdoor education are all part of contemporary education. Cortland has programs in all of these areas. During this 35th Anniversary year an outdoor education minor has been introduced as part of the College curriculum and planning processes for the future have been initiated. This new initiative is reflective of events of the past.
In the 21 years I have served as director of the Outdoor Education Center I have seen thousands of students participate in programs at Antlers and Huntington. The Raquette Lake experience has provided students with a background of knowledge relative to the natural world. The time they spent here has better prepared them to make future environmental decisions based on sound value judgments which include an understanding of ecological relationships, environmental concerns and human needs.
I wonder what changing scenes these leaded glass windows will reflect thirty five years from now. I hope that the students of the future will gain as I did from my Raquette Lake experience in 1948.