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LPR's Annual Homage to Camps Wabigoon and Wahanda


August 15, 2014 --

Not a summer goes by when I do not think of Camp Wabigoon for boys, Camp Wahanda for girls.

I began at Camp Wabigoon as a 7- year old freshman, in 1947 when gas cost about 23 cents a gallon, and the average income was about $3500; and ended my Wabigoon summers as a 21-year old counselor in 1961, when gas was about 30 cents a gallon and the average income was about $5300.

The Wabigoon/Wahanda summer began on July 1 and ended on August 26.

The camps were located on Spencer Hill Road, above Winsted, Connecticut. We took the train to Winsted, in 1947 and 1948, and switched to buses for the 1948 trip home, and thereafter.

Dew on the grass in the morning, deep blue skies with white fluffy clouds during the day, three rolling hills to the north, star-filled skies at night Softball, basketball, volley ball, swimming in Rowley's Pond, tennis, handball, arts and crafts, learning lines for the Saturday night plays, during the day. Campfires, Spell-It-Out, boxing, movies, social among the evening activities.

Six ounce bottles of Coca Cola for a nickel; the delicious ice cream from Torrington Creamery. MIlk and cookies after rest period. Trips to see movies in Winsted, the Boston Symphony in Tanglewood, the American Shakespesare Festival. Towards the end of the 1955 season, the walk to see Winsted after it was devastated by hurricane-caused flooding.

The camps were established in the early 1930's by the Brandstein family and continued up to the early 1970s. (Memorial thanks to Gadys and Phil Brandstein for making Wabigoon and Wahanda possible.) This would be the time of summer when counselors would be writing mid-season reports to send to the parents of our charges. The summer's first camp-wide activity was the Fourth of July trackmeet. Usually the day after the "Big Show", Color War would break out (about August 16 or so,) with the banquet and burning of the CW on August 24.

Just some random thoughts of summers past -- thoughts that suggest "nostalgia" means never having to say "I'm moving on."

Camp Wabigoon and Wahanda were not luxury camps. We did have running water in the bunks, but the water was good only for washing, not for drinking. Drinking water came from the mess hall and the fountain outside the mess hall. For hot water showers, the boys camp went to the showe rhouse underneath the Wabigoon and Wahanda mess hall. The shower house was also the place where huge blocks of ice were stored. We did not have ice cubes -- ice for water and cokes was chipped from these blocks.

A view down Main Street in Winsted.

Memorial to the victims of the Flood of 1955.

The Camp Wabigoon waterfront on Rowley's pond as seen from left field on the old Wabigoon softball field. A fly ball in the lake was usually a home run (unless, in going around the bases, the runner missed second, as this writer once did--the one time he hit a ball into the lake.)

The eight-week Wabigoon/Wahanda season ran from July 1 to August 26 -- days filled with activity still clear in mind's eye more than half a century later We believed that the Wabigoon spirit more than made up for the "luxuries" stronger that might have been available at other camps in the northwest Connecticut area. Recently, LPR learned of summer camps where the eight-week season carries a $12,000 price tag, with visits, at extra expense, to upper- crust spots in Manhattan. Wednesdays, at Wabigoon, we went to WInsted to see a movie matinee. We also had jaunts to Tanglewood and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ct. Looking back to my days at Wabiggon, from 1947 to 1961, I'd say my experience, thinking, among other things, of the Milky Way-filled night sky above Wabigoon, is "priceless."

The Wabigoon Alma Mater

At the end of an evening activity, Wabigoon campers would sing the camp alma mater, Taps, and the camp song.
Here are the words to the Wabigoon alma mater (the melody comes from the NYU alma mater):

Campers, we lift our voices singing, in praise of Wabigoon so fair
And through the hills are echoes ringing, as cries of vict'ry fill the air
Through all, we stand a camp united, linked firm by bonds of friendship true
And carry high our torch ignited, with this our song to you

And here are the words to the camp song.

The Wabigoon Song

We are the boys of Wabigoon you hear so much about
The people stop and stare at us whenever we go out
O we're noted for our wisdom and the clever things we do
Most everybodylike us, we hope you like us too
As we go marching, and the band begins to p-l-a-y
You can hear them shouting, the boys of Wabigoon are on their way, rah-rah-rah
Stand up and cheer, stand up and cheer for dear old Wabigoon
For today we raise - the green and white above the rest, about the rest, da-da-da
Our boys are fighting, and we are out to win the fray,
we've got the team, rah-rah, we've got the steam rah-rah
For this is dear old Wabigoon's da-a-ay.

NOTE:Parts of this story originally appeared in the August 1, 2013 issue of LPR. Photos from the LPR Archives, July 17, 2005.



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