Wauwepex – a tale of a scout camp and a young man – from “Stories from the Journey”

By Bruce A. Smith

Wauwepex was the Boy Scout camp that saved my life growing up. Or at least my soul. It was a place I loved – and still do – but it was also a place where I felt absolutely alive as a kid, and true to myself.

I’ve come to realize its value to me as an older adult because nowadays many of my memories trigger regrets or shame, which I didn’t feel at the time of the particular incidents. In meditation today I realized that Wauwepex was the place I could safely make mistakes – even big ones – and grow up.

I first got drunk at Wauwepex. I got fired for the first time at Wauwepex, too, and the second, as well. On a hilltop overlooking the lake I discovered how messy and bloody having sex with a virgin could be. I first got angry at adults at Wauwepex, or at least expressed my anger, and I acted-out against authority figures who took themselves too seriously, as well.

But Wauwepex was sacred. It was gentle. It was fun and accepting. It was a scrub-pine wilderness at the edge of the suburban sprawl of Long Island, and as such it was like an oasis. It had a big lake called, ironically, Deep Pond, and I felt so safe in it I swam at night in its waters. I even swam upside-down wearing my snorkeling gear.

Camp Wauwepex is in Wading River, NY, and is an 600-acre parcel adjacent to several huge military reservations that were carved out of the Pine Barrens of central Long Island in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, during the lead-up to WW II my father spent time at a recruiting station in Yaphank, one of the few towns in the Pines. These days, what we once called the “Navy Lands” are known as the Calverton National Cemetery and the remnants of an old Grumman aviation facility.

I first went to Wauwepex in 1961, when I was eleven. My Boy Scout troop, #166 of Garden City, would go for overnight camping trips there once a month. In the winter we stayed at one of several little cabins situated around the camp, and I loved the camaraderietwenty scouts nestled in bunk beds near a big stone fireplace and our scoutmaster, Mr. John Peters, made hot cocoa in the kitchen area. One year, I forgot my sleeping bag and Mr. Peters scrounged up enough blankets to keep me cozy.

Our two-week summer camp outing was sheer bliss. Every day I would keep count of how much time I had remaining in my stay. Three days down, eleven more to go! I would silently say to myself. Even when I got to be on short-time I was still happy. Twelve days down, but I still have TWO DAYS LEFT!

I loved the freedom to do what I wanted, even when it meant being part of some organized activity. In my first couple of years, Mr. Peters or our senior scouts would lead instructional sessions to teach us camp skills, like recognizing poison ivy or reading topographical maps. Usually they were geared towards earning our next “rank.” We started as “Tenderfoot” scouts, and then became 2nd Class as we mastered basic outdoor skills, like going on a five-mile hike with a pack or startling a fire with only two matches. Usually we gained all those abilities in our first year in scouting.

Next came the tasks for 1st Class, and these would include cooking dinner over a fire, knowing Morse Code, and some rudimentary aspects of first-aid, such putting a broken arm in a splint, knowing how to treat a snake bite, or what to do for heat exhaustion. We also had to learn how to sharpen axes and knives, make emergency shelters, or follow the tracks of animals. I loved ever minute of it.

Most of these skills were taught in the mornings right after breakfast. After these 45-minute sessions we typically went to another organized activity like target practice at the rifle range, an Indian Lore presentation at the Teepee in the central area of camp, or a wood-working exercise at the craft lodge.

As Mr. Peters said, “The purpose of Boy Scouting is to learn stuff while having fun.”

Not only was John Peters the best scoutmaster I ever had, he was also the best leader of young men I have ever seen. He was firm but kind. He was also soft-spoken and differential—and gave his scouts a lot of lee-way to do things. But he always kept an eye on our whereabouts so that nothing got out of hand. He particularly trusted his older scouts, who generally ran the day-to-day operations, like making duty rosters for cleaning the latrines, sending mess-hands down to the dining hall fifteen-minutes before a meal to set the tables and get food ready, and organizing an evening camp fire.

The hierarchy of my troop was simple: Mr. Peters was the sole adult leader, and assisted by a Senior Patrol Leader, who was usually our oldest scout, often 16 years old. Next was an assistant Senior Patrol Leader who was usually 14 or 15 years-old. The regular scouts were an assortment of 11, 12, and 13 year-olds. Most of my years in scouting we had about 25 kids at summer camp.

Since my troop was sponsored by St. Anne’s Church, we were all Catholics and went to mass every day at the outdoor chapel. Although I considered the chaplain, a Franciscan friar named Dave Reedy, a great guy, daily mass got to be a hassle for me. I was chronically guilt-stricken and never received “communion,” which is the host-taking that Catholics do at mass. That made Mr. Peters worried. When he asked me why I didn’t take communion, my squirming, shrugging, and grunted professings that nothing was wrong, kept him at bay. For the rest of the summer he left me alone with my weighty conscience.

Looking back at this dimension of my spiritual life, I can’t remember what the issues were there was nothing majorbut I sure felt unholy. Maybe it was just an endemic unworthiness that unsettled me. I just didn’t feel clean enough to receive communion. Maybe it was tied subconsciously to my inability to poop or pee with anyone around, which made relieving myself at the latrines an iffy outing. I had to pick my alone-times carefully.

Regardless, the major fun events at Wauwepex focused on all the usual aquatic activities. Typically, the older scouts had some kind of swimming lesson in the morning, such as Lifesaving Merit Badge. In the afternoon, all the scouts had two sessions available – one could be swimming, and the other could be rowing or canoeing. Or neither. Nobody forced us to do any of it, which was the first time in my life that no adults were keeping tabs on me. But I loved all the lake activities, so I was there at every opportunity.

There was also some free time in the afternoons before dinner when I could do some archery or leatherwork at the craft lodge, which was a old log structure built in 1922 when the camp first opened. Its wooden-slatted floor was sloped and misshapen, and reeked of “oldness.” But the biggest time for personal activities was after dinner, and I was often back at the craft lodge.

My first phase at Wauwepex ended when I was fifteen. I had been a summer camper there for five summers – 1961 though 1965 – and like most scouts, things changed when I got deeper into the teen years. For most adolescents, scouting is not cool and they leave the BSA by the time they are sixteen. But for me, I intensified my relationship with the scouts, and in the summer of 1966 I went to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. That was an epic 30-day adventure with forty other scouts from my home council of Nassau County, and it was transformative.

At Philmont we hiked nearly 100-miles through the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains and explored “God’s Country,” as the staff described this 100,000 acre encampment. In addition, I fell in love with New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment.” Something deep in me was touched. A spiritual connection to the grandeur of the Rockies and the western United States, at least, but there was more. The landscape was transcendent: red rocks and sandy escarpments, flash floods and bear warnings, climbing mountains above tree-line, and feeling our bodies toughen and getting strong. All in the company of really good scouts, and in the aura of something intangible and deeply sacred. As holy as Wauwepex was for me, I sensed something else at Philmont, but it is hard to put into words, even at this date. But to celebrate it and keep it physically close to me I took the Zia symbol – the sun sign that is ubiquitous throughout all of New Mexicoand adopted it as my personal cartouche.

The Zia symbol is a circle with four lines radiating out from its four quadrants. Some say that it represents the four seasons. Others say it symbolizes the cycle of lifebirth, childhood, adulthood and death. Some describe it as the flow of the 24-hour cyclemorning, afternoon, evening and night. But for me, it speaks to all of it. It illumines all of lifethe grandeur and unlimitedness of being alive, of being “woke” to use a term of our time. Regardless, I brought it back to New York and carried to Wauwepex the next summer when I was hired on the camp staff.

In 1967, I joined Wauwepex’s Camp Ranger, Johnny Jones, and his maintenance crew. My father had suggested I learn how to do something with my hands, so I volunteered for the maintenance staff, where I was the junior member. Besides Johnny, I was teamed with Charlie P., a swarthy Italian guy from Franklin Square who distinguished himself by owning a car. He also had a girl friend, so he was my window into the world of being a “young adult.”

As a kid, I had helped my father around the house a little, but he never really showed me how to do anything. So, other than knowing which end of a hammer to hold, I really didn’t know how to fix anything.

Johnny was like a second father to me, and I worked for him for three summers. His first words to me have stayed with me all my life. “I have two rules: If you don’t know how to do something, tell me and I’ll show you. Second, if you break something – a tool or some fixture or something – tell me right away so I can go fix it and not be surprised later on when I need it. Shit happens. It’s a fact of life. Don’t worry, I promise not to yell or get mad.” He never did.

Later on, he told me some other rules of life, such as: “Never ask a man to do something you’re not willing to do yourself.” Johnny and Charlie taught me the honor of hard work, even if it’s sloppy and stinky. The three of us went on garbage runs every morning; it was how we started our day, picking up the slimy burlap bags from each campsite that scouts had filled with the detritus of outdoor living. But more importantly, Johnny and Charlie were always as knee-deep in the muck as I was.

They also taught me how to drive stick, learning on the camp’s old pick-up truck, a ’52 Chevy. I also learned how to use power tools, pour concrete, and bang a nail without spitting the wood. I learned how to splice telephone lines and connect electrical systems. I even fought a small forest fire.

Plus, I maintained the truck engines and learned a few tricks on how to change a flat when the lug nuts won’t come loose. I witnessed a sign painter at work, and saw how to use a stick as a guide on one’s unused hand to act as a steadying rod.

Eventually, Johnny took me on runs to town to get supplies and hardware. If the day was hot and sunny we always stopped at the Wading River Beach on Long Island Sound for a “bikini check.” It was the first time I had ever gone girl-watching. Johnny and Charlie even taught me how to cuss, not really profanely, but it was a start.

From time-to-time after work, Charlie took me to the Greenbrier, the local tavern in Wading River. There I had a real beer for the first time, not a sneaked sip of some scuzzy slosh that had cigarette ash in it. This was also where I spent time with my friend Mike in subsequent summers, when we became best friends.

But before Mike, there was a bachelors party for another camp stalwart, Bob LeSal, and at the open bar I had thirteen delicious drinks that I think were Seagram’s and Sevens. But the bar closed when I couldn’t close my hand around the glass and it slipped out, crashing to the floor. Charlie took me back to our tent, and I experienced my first Spinning World Sensation, vomited, and then dealt with a hangover. Johnny laughed the next day when he saw me, and didn’t show me any pity.

By my third season on camp staff, Charlie was gone to a real job fixing cars in Stewart Manor and I was Johnny’s main guy. Mike had also arrived, and one night near the end of the summer Mike asked me to go to the Greenbrier. I jumped in his car and off we went. But I hadn’t asked permission to leave camp, as was required, and when I was discovered I was fired. But it wasn’t unexpected. I had been on “thin ice” as Johnny told me earlier for my increasingly out-spoken attitude and non-compliant behavior towards bossy scoutmasters, especially with volunteers in an honor campers society called the Order of the Arrow, generally referred to as “the OA.”

One night in particular I was about to close down the maintenance shop and a call came in asking if I could transport a recent delivery from the commissary to one of the dining halls that was catering an OA ceremony. I agreed and jumped in a pick-up truck. I delivered the foodstuffs, but somewhere along the line someone handed me a can of beera very strange occurrence and one that had never happened to me beforeand I drank most or all of it while hanging out with the kitchen staff. Buzzed, I decided to drive around the lake, a beautiful cruise at 10 pm. On the lake road I came upon OA guys leaving a ceremonial encampment on the shore. I stopped, rolled down my window and shouted, “The OA sucks,” then tore off.

The next day, Johnny told me how precarious my employment status was with the Camp Director, and he indicated he wasn’t too happy with me, either. I was making Wauwepex look bad, and putting a sour taste in the mouths of senior staff and Johnny. One more misstep and I would be gone. That occurred two days later with Mike at the Greenbrier.

But I was also tired of being a maintenance guy. I was much better suited for working directly with scouts and teaching camping skills. Mike knew that and got me re-hired the next summer as a provisional scoutmaster. These staffers were assigned to a troop of scouts who didn’t have an adult leader from their home district. Wauwepex specialized in those kinds of troops and we had at least six of them at any given period of time. Beginning in mid-summer 1970, I was leading one of those units.

But 1970 was also a time of turmoil in the country. Kent State had just happened, and Wauwepex was not immune. Beside the ambient politics swirling around, former camp staff who had just returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam were looking for their old jobs back at summer camp. As a result, we possessed a weird mix of former-Marines and hippie war protesters. For me, marijuana got added to the mix, and a girl friend on the hill on my day off, along with a pint of Bourbon. And a growing sense that I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do.

Worse though, the fun and freedom that I felt as a camper was missing as a staffer. I began to chaff at my camp responsibilities in quiet, mysterious ways that I was not fully conscious of. Additionally, by mid-summer I had decided to drop out of college, so I was bursting at the seams. But I didn’t know it.

Nor was I alone. I was part of a rebellious, liberal crew of fellow provisional scoutmasters, and I loved those guys immensely. One night, two of them, Jeff and Jim, came by my troop’s camp site on an overnight hike away from Wauwepex. They invited me to the Greenbrier. Again, I got fired.

Note: the night before I wrote all of this down I was wracked with guilt and shame for all the stupid, irresponsible things I had done in my life, especially at Wauwepex. Nightmares followed me into wakefulness. This panic was severe, but not new, as I had experienced several nights like this in the previous weeks and monthsin fact they seemed to be occurring with greater frequency and intensity. The morning I commenced this missive, I had decided to confront the terror and see why it was coming into my consciousness. I began meditating on the scenes from my dreams, asking my subconsciousness to reveal to me what Wauwepex meant to me in deeper ways. Something was buried in the furthest recesses of my being, and it was profoundly troubled. I had to find out what it was and why it was haunting me.

So in my meditation I returned to Wauwepex. I embraced the realization that Wauwepex was, and is, holy ground to me. I continued to push onward. I focused on the dreams and the anguish. Then, gently and simply the realization arose that Wauwepex was truly a unique place for meit was absolutely safe, especially emotionally. I realized that I was psychologically secure enough in Wauwepex to make Really Big Mistakes, maybe the only place for me to do that. I saw that Wauwepex had been a place for me in my youth to experiment with life, to express my desires, and to feel my powerno matter how clumsily or at what expense.

On that last hike I had abandoned thirty scouts to go get a beer with friends, and I had left them with my 17-year old assistant. Stupid? Yeah. But I had accepted that long ago, so why was I struggling so mightily forty-five years later?

I re-examined that night. When Jeff and Jim came by and invited me on their escapade, I joined without a thought. I was so hungry to be with them, to be carefree and connected. Having my assistant handy fulfilled any conscious acknowledgment that I had to care for my campers. Now, I saw that I longed for something Jeff and Jim representedtrue friendship, true intimacy, the deep excitement of being alive with kindred spirits. It was sweet, even if short-lived.

We three were fired the next day. However, I was able to talk our way back into our jobs. But that was my last summer at Wauwepex.

In the years that followed I maintained my friendship with Jeff and Jim, and a few others, like Mike, but over time they all faded as the delights and responsibilities of marriage and adult life consummed our lives.

Nevertheless, ten years later I wrote my old camp ranger, Johnny Jones, on Father’s Day. I sent him a card and told him how much he meant to me. I also found the courage to tell him that I considered him a second father.

Ten years after that I visited Wauwepex for the first time since getting fired the last time. Johnny was gone, but his son Wally was now the new ranger. Wally and I talked about the old days, especially how much Wauwepex meant to me. I told Wally that his father was very important to me as well, and Wally said, “Yeah, he got that Father’s Day card and it meant a lot to him, so thanks. By the way, you’re not the only one tell my Dad he was kinda a father figure, or send him a card!”

I smiled.

A couple of years after that I received a phone call from a Boy Scout official at the Nassau County Council headquarters. The fellow said he wanted to talk about Wauwepex and the strange “magic” it had.

I’ve heard from so many scouts,” he said, “especially camp staffers that Wauwepex was a special place – personally and in other ways. What made it so special? I don’t hear scouts or staff at our other camp, Onteora, in upstate New York, talk about that camp in the same way. Not even close.”

Wauwepex is special,” I replied. “I worked at Onteora as a provisional scoutmaster the summer after I last worked at Wauwepex. It was only two weeks, but I could see it was not the same, not at all. I’m not sure what it is about Wauwepex, at least being able to put it into words. Part of it might be the land – it is still virgin ground, as it was never farmed, and that’s special to us New York City suburban kids. It has always been a pine barrens, and as such the soil is thin. You can even see the white sand in a lot of places. The pine smells are rich and sharp, especially in August when all the needles on the ground turn bone-dry and get crackily when you walk on them. The lake is gorgeous; it’s deep and blue and looks just like it did when the Indians lived on Long Island. There are no structures on the shoreline; its pristine. The forests are open and it feels free – the trees are scrubby and spaced far apart – not like upstate where the forests are dense and dark from the broad-leaf hardwoods. Plus, Onteora’s lake is just a dammed-up creek. Not too scenic, even if it’s functional.”

The official asked me to reach out to other Wauwepex staffers and encourage them to call in with their thoughts. The guy said he wanted to see if he could find a way to instill the Wauwepex magic into Onteora, especially since Wauwepex was being “retired” as an active camp.

It’s been receiving campers every summer since 1922,” the official said. “Around every campsite the forests are depleted of firewood, and the ground is compacted, especially on the trails. Wauwepex needs a rest. Besides, we’re still using it during the fall and spring for troops to come out on the weekends, so it’s not like we’re abandoning the place.”

I endeavored to contact Jeff, Jim, and the rest of the crew, but to no avail. I never heard back from the BSA official, either.

But I went back to Wauwepex a few summers ago. It’s still resting, but I walked around the lake and smelled the pine needles. All the pit latrines are gone now, and replaced with large heated bath houses due to county health regulations to control ground water contamination. That’s a good thing in my opinion. But in every other regard, Wauwepex is just the same.

Last night, I slept pretty good, too.

Editor’s Note:

This is an update to the above article. A number of scouts have contacted me to say that Camp Wauwepex suffered a name change a few years back. It’s now known as the Schiff Scout Reservation, in recognition of the years of support the BSA have received from that iconic Wall Street family.

In addition, the Nassau County Council, BSA has also undergone a name change. It is now the Teddy Roosevelt Council, BSA, reflecting the fact that the 26th President of the United States lived in Oyster Bay, and his home, Sagamore Hill, was the summer White House from 1901-1909.

Also, the old Frontier Hall burned down in 2011 due to causes that are still undetermined. However, officials indicate that arson is not suspected, and a new dining hall, named Hickcox Hall was built for $1.9 million. Along with a full-service food capacity, it also has an indoor climbing wall. Besides the scouting programs that continue at Schiff/Wauwepex, this facility is available to the general public, such as for weddings and family gatherings.


For a full line-up of pictures of Camp Wauwepex, BSA, visit: billcotter.com.

Camp Wauwepex Camp Staff, 1970. Photo courtesy of Bill Cotter. I’m in the fourth row, sixth in from the right. Sandy-colored hair.

Phil, Wauwepex staff, 1970, 4th row, Me and Phil.jpg


The Zia Symbol, courtesy of the Zia People, Zia, New Mexico:

Zia symbol, red on Yellow

Topographical Map of Deep Pond:

wauwepex, topo map, circa 1960s

Signage at Camp Wauwepex, circa 1970:

Wauwepex, sign old, maybe 1960

Wauwepex, Deep Pond, white sand, cw-2001

Deep Pond from the old Frontier Division swimming area, with a sliver of white sand in the foreground. Circa, 2001. Special thanks to Bill Cotter, an old scout from Troop 182.

Wauwepex, Indian waterfront, early 1960s,-

The old Indian Division waterfront, circa 1960. Again, thanks to Bill Cotter.

Wauwepex, buckskin-cabin-2000, cabin in the woods

Buckskin Lodge, one of the cabins available for winter camping at Wauwepex. Note scrub oaks and pines in the surrounding forest. Thanks to Bill Cotter for the picture.

Wauwepex, archery, early 1960s, postcard

The archery field at Wauwepex. Circa 1964. Thanks to Bill Cotter.

Philmont Scout Ranch Photos:

Special thanks to Philmont and their staff for these pictures.

Philmont, Tooth of Time

The iconic “Tooth of Time” at Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico.

Philmont, Mt. Baldy

Mount Baldy, one of the tallest mountains in New Mexico, is in Philmont. Several of my crew and I climbed it.

Philmont, trail to Mt. Baldy, campers

A typical view of Philmont hikers. Here, heading towards “Baldy Camp,” an old mining town at the foot of Mt. Baldy and now a major encampment for Philmont scouts.

Editor’s Note:

Besides being a former Boy Scout, Bruce A. Smith is the author of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking, available through Amazon.




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99 Responses to Wauwepex – a tale of a scout camp and a young man – from “Stories from the Journey”

  1. Lu says:

    Like all the previous stories, this is also a great one – easy flowing, jam-packed with action, and with contemplation too. I liked it! Thanks, Bruce!

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Lu. This story may not be a “story” in the usual sense. Sometimes it feels like therapy, a process; nevertheless, it felt important to write. I am grateful that you see many dramatic elements to it, and it not just me spilling my guts.

      • Tim Holmes says:

        Hi Bruce,
        I worked at Camp Wauwepex the summers of 1969 and 1970…in the Indian Dining Hall. I am in the 1970 picture, top row, first from the left in “whites”…next to John Scarpato who died Memorial Day weekend 1977 in a motorcycle-car wreck…on the motorcycle…not his fault. I seem to remember you from your picture and have many memories of the Greenbrier and numerous other goings on those two summers…I could easily write a fairly long story. 😉 Other friend: Jeff Cramer, Gene Thomas, Donald Chester, Johnny Jones, Wally Jones, the Firetogs, Dwight Webb, George Smalling…parties with the Girl Scout camp staff…on and on. Very fond memories…I grew u/matured a lot those two summers. Thanks for your story. Tim Holmes

      • brucesmith49 says:

        Ah, yes – Gene Thomas. I worked pre-camp with Gene, I think. Played a lot of music with him. Him on the guitar and me on the banjo.

  2. Bill Cotter says:

    A great and touching remembrance of a special place. I enjoyed it even though I would debate the comments made about Onteora! 🙂 I got your email and will be in touch. For now, if anyone wants more information on Wauwepex, they can start here: https://www.billcotter.com/onteora/wauwepex/wauwepex.htm

  3. Eric Rosen says:

    I to am a huge Wauwepex fan, and although I never attend the camp while I was a youth, I have spent a lot of time there with my son ain his scouting career. The place always had a special feeling to me and I was and still am very confotable when I am there and feel a special peace within.
    Thank you for the great easy to read story
    Eric Rosen

  4. Victor DiGioia says:

    You’re essay left me with a tear and a smile, and stoked a memory of a life’s regret. There was another member of John’s escapade to the Greenbrier that night, it was me. I was Phil’s assistant and coincidentally a dad of one of the campers joined our overnight hike that day. So when John came by, we left the dad in charge of our troop and I went off with Phil and John to find you. A horribly irresponsible move on my part and one that could have jeopardized all the kids that depended on us. I never overcame the feeling of remorse and guilt but I did learn a life’s lesson – make your own decisions.

    I also learned the value of kindness and respect by the example you set, Bruce. More than once I saw you intervene to correct a staff member or scout that was treating another person disrespectfully, and that motivated me to follow your example more than you will ever know.

    And you may remember the difficulties I had with the OA. I was told “Don’t be another Bruce.” 🙂

    Hope to catch up soon.


    • brucesmith49 says:

      So, you were with us on The Night In Question?” Wow. Yes, I knew you Phil’s assistant, but I never heard the Dad story. YIKES!

      I spoke with Phil today for the first time in 30+ years. Lots of news. Thanks for your kind words, too, Vic. I didn’t know you had trouble with the OA, too. What was it about that organization that put us off? I was wondering that a lot, today. I was trying to find John today, but all of his “recent” contact info is errant (10-15 years…)


    • Victor – John here. Not quite as irresponsible anymore but still something of a free spirit. Check out my website – http://www.thinklaughlearn.com – and be in touch!

      We need a reunion – Phil, Bruce, Victor, John , Bob Rowan, Bob Rohan, Chris Drewes, Ed, others?

      All are welcome to visit on City island – sailing this summer?

      • brucesmith49 says:

        Ah, John, we finally make contact with you! A sail out of City Island sounds wonderful. I should be on LI in June for my momma’s birthday – 94th.

  5. Matthew Battle says:

    Great story. I have similar feelings for Onteora though I was never on the staff there. I camped at Onteora with my Troop, 179 from Baldwin, from ’69 to ’74. In ’73 I attended a second two weeks at Conservation camp and then a second two weeks in ’74 with a Provisional Troop. My Provisional Scoutmaster was Chuck Howle (?), I was in Qua Paw site. Both Wauwepex and Onteora were great places. Thanks for the story.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Troop 179 in Baldwin? Bill Cotter, the fellow who has collected a trove of Onteora and Wauwepex pix on the Internet was in Baldwin, too, I believe. Troop 182.

      Was Paul Johnson is your troop? He was a major staff figure at Wauwepex all through the 1960s and early 1970s. “Moose” was his nickname.

  6. Remember when we took the sailboat from Indian waterfront and sailed under the stars? I can still remember our camp director Gilmartin – “Scardina, get off the lake!” echoing off the sandy hills,,,

  7. Philip Calabria says:


    ​Fortunately, Ed Gilmartin didn’t yell at me. He hired me and that’s how this all came to pass. Strong thanks to Bruce for this new reflection and for getting 4 old friends in contact once more. It is not unlike the way we first came together back in the summer of 1970. Open, friendly, cautious, challenging & true. The story for us, though, goes beyond that immature night at the Greenbriar. For our time at CW, as Bruce writes, shaped many more facets of who we became. I would not change any of it.

  8. Brian O'Neill says:

    I first went to camp in 1964 and then served on staff from 1966 to 1973, kitchen, nature lodge, provisional ASM, provisional SM and then program director on the indian side

  9. Brian O'Neill says:

    I still have most of the staff rosters and neckerchiefs sides also. Still in scouting today registered in both TRC and Suffolk

  10. Regina Gilmartin Couch says:

    I love to read the comments of how Wauwepex helped shape who you all are now….I feel the same way. It was a huge wonderful part of my life… those 8 weeks of summer as a kid. Lots of wonderful memories. Hi John Scardina!
    Regina Gilmartin Couch

  11. Ed DiGioia says:

    I read your article, yes it is Ed, Victor’s older brother. I was contacted by a dear friend, Ron Homan and we are still in contact from those days at Camp Wauwepex. My first summer job starting in the Kitchen at Frontier dining hall and ending as a Provisional Scoutmaster. Such memories and had you not experienced it first hand no other outsider would understand. Our motto coined by George “Skip” Packard was ” We make it work at Home”. Those of us would greet frightened first timers and within a few days would mold them into one cohesive unit. The came as strangers and parted as friends. I remember the Gilmartin’s well. Spoke with Victor and would love to hear from you. My Cousin Charlie would love to talk to you as well. I will share this article with you.

  12. brucesmith49 says:

    Hello Ed! I remember well the day that Charlie and I crept through the woods to your tent to hear the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You were the first person to have a copy, and I was just becoming a Beatles’ fan..

  13. Doug Winkler says:

    I’m a bit late to seeing this. When this first came out I was busy in Puerto Rico with post Hurricane Maria recovery and in going back over old emails today I caught mention of this. Wow. The names and places came came back with this article and the comments. I was a camper at Wauwepex in 1964 and 1965, then at Ontiora in 1966, 1967, and 1968. I was hired on the Wauwepex Nature Lodge staff in 1969, was the Assistant Nature Lodge Director in 1970 and 1971, and Nature Lodge Director in 1972, 1973, and 1974. All these years later, I’m still in the environmental field thanks in a very large part to the interests I developed at Camp Wauwepex. Interestingly, the Greenbriar just came to mind when a shuffleboard table in a bar was featured in a scene in something I was watching on television last week. I half expected the next scene involving someone getting dumped in a pond across the street. I would love to hear from any of the old crew. Regards to all.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Welcome to the “Reunion,” Doug. I vaguely remember you – your name – but we were at CW at the same time. I was on the maintenance crew in 67, 68, and 69; then provisional scout master with the guys in the story (names changed here by request) for parts of 70 and 71. My email is brucesmith AT rainierconnect DOT com.

    • Edward says:

      Boy oh Boy, am i have a good time reading this. I remember Doug Winkler of the Nature lodge. Do you remember the Firetog’s they too worked at the nature lodge.Neil Firetog became a judge in Brooklyn.

  14. Charlie Pagano says:

    Hey Bruce, Mike Coco played Sgt Peppers constantly all night long at the Craft Lodge tent. It kept repeating even when no one was there. Since our tent wasn’t far, we heard it always. I remember quite clearly one night you had had enough. 3 am or so, you got up screaming, proceeded to stomp through the woods to the Craft Lodge tent, and as I lay there in near histerics, heard the needle scratching the album. No more Sgt Pepper all night. You returned in triumph. Celebrated with a hit of Moxie.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Yes, I believe you are correct, for I DO REMEMBER that triumphant walk back to our tent!!! It was for Sgt Pepper’s, eh? I’d forgotten that.

      Good to hear from you, Charlie. We’ll talk soon.

  15. Harry A Goodman says:

    I’m thoroughly enjoying these posts as well as the original missive. I remember most of you guys. There was a reunion weekend at Wauwepex many years ago. Perhaps it’s time for another?

    Camper 1970-73, Kitchen Staff 74-75, TMR Kitchen Staff 76-77, Onteora Kitchen Staff 79-80.

  16. Harry A Goodman says:

    I would suggest reaching out to Ken Reese. He is working with the Onteora Alumni Association and also worked at Wauwepex.

  17. brucesmith49 says:

    Thanks, Harry. Will do.

  18. Peter Chelune says:

    Hi Bruce, was in your maintenance shoes (or boots), in 1966. It was me Cliff Jones and Greg Gilmartin. Probably, one of the most memorable summers of my life. I remember the names and the faces like it was yesterday. I also remember those burlap bags, garbage pickup was quite unpleasant. At one camp site I picked up what appeared to be a bucket of mud…..turns out it wsn’t mud….gross. Although I did like driving that yellow dump truck.
    I agree with Charlie regarding Coco palying that damn Revolver Album…..it never stopped.
    So many funny stories, makes , “Meatballs”, look dull.

    PS – Ed Digioia, tell Ron Homan I said Hi.

  19. Cliff Jones says:

    For those who are interested dad passed from a massive heart attack on August 20, 1997. There was a shelter attached to the old commissary erected in his name. I am in the process of having the plaque remade and hope to reinstall it the beginning of the year. My son and I have decided to return to camp each Memorial day weekend and attend the fire department memorial service. It took me 21 years to put my grief aside as I was there when dad passed and had been devastated for many years. Thanks for the read Bruce, I should put my thoughts on paper some day….. Email address is clifton1947@gmail.com

  20. brucesmith49 says:

    Thanks for the post, Cliff. Your Dad was a great man, and I am in tears as I write this. I hope to be at Wauwepex soon, perhaps over the Christmas period, and I look forward to seeing my old Camp Ranger’s – and boss’ – testimonial.

  21. brucesmith49 says:

    Cliff and I have been emailing. I will be on Long Island for the holidays from Dec. 19 to January 16th. Cliff is flying in from his home in Nevada and will be on LI from January 11-14. He wants to go to Wauwepex during that time to re-attach a memorial plaque for his father, Ranger Johnnie Jones. I am suggesting that we rendezvous there on Monday, January 14th. I’m emailing many of you – those whom I have addresses for – but many I don’t. I don’t know if this will be a full-fledged reunion – it is the middle of JANUARY!!! – but I’m putting out the word and seeing might work for a lot of us.

  22. CLIFTON L JONES says:

    FYI Bruce, Monday is the 13th which works as my flight out is on the afternoon of the 14th. Hope we can all get together for a little while. The best to everyone and if we don’t talk have a wonderful holiday season. See you in January. Cliff

  23. brucesmith49 says:

    I just sent an email out to everyone who has posted here, since as admin I can retrieve their address. The pot is stirring, Cliff. We might have a little crowd to wish ol’ Johnnie well as you put up this plaque.

  24. Michael Curley says:

    I enjoyed your article very much as I was also in troop 166, but I would say a different time period, as I graduated from St. Anne’s in 1971.
    The name Me. Peter’s sounds very familiar, but I recall names like Gallagher and Gavin as well as McWilliams.
    I lived in Stewart Manor and perhaps you knew some folks from that part of the woods.
    Michael Curley

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Good to hear from another scout from 166. You sound like you were just behind me, although I did assistant scoutmaster Troop 166 for two weeks at Wauwepex in 1971. Were you there. I forget the SM’s name.

  25. Michael Curley says:

    I enjoyed your article very much as I was also in troop 166, but I would say a different time period, as I graduated from St. Anne’s in 1971.
    The name Me. Peter’s sounds very familiar, but I recall names like Gallagher and Gavin as well as McWilliams.
    I lived in Stewart Manor and perhaps you knew some folks from that part of the woods.
    Wow, reading some of the comments is unbelievable as I remember Tim Holmes and Jeff Kramer who worked in Indian dining hall and they lived in a tent outside of it and I believe Tim Holmes may have worked in a sports store and Roosevelt Field as well
    Michael Curley

    • Tim Holmes says:

      Hi Michael,
      Yes…that would be me! 🙂 I worked Indian Kitchen the summers of 1969 and 1970. Those were great days…The magic of Camp Wauwepex (Lot’s of stories!!) is still in me, but I have not been back there for 20 years or more as I live in the Raleigh area of NC and rarely go up to NY. After the summer of 1970 I worked for Chicken Delight on Merrick Rd, Merrick until 1973 when I went to work in the Hunting & Fishing Dept of the Herman’s World of Sporting Goods at Roosevelt Field mall. Great memory you have! Then I graduated from Nassau Community College…transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where I helped open the Herman’s store that was in the Greece Town Mall…later graduated from RIT and went to the University of Georgia, Athens for grad school…AND much warmer weather. 🙂 I have been living in NC since 1985. I hope all is well with you!
      Tim Holmes

  26. brucesmith49 says:

    Of course, I know Stewart manor. I played in the Stewart Manor Little League. Has the Stewart manor All-Star team ever won a game, yet? In my day, we never did. Kept losing to Mineola every year. My mom still lives in the area, too.

    • Michael Curley says:

      I was on the Stewart Manor Little League All Star team in about 1970 I guess and we lost to New Hyde Park,
      I believe I might have been at Wauwepex in 1971 when you were assistant scoutmaster, I remember Charlie Oliver, Redmonds, Hanrahan, and perhaps the scoutmaster was Powers?

  27. brucesmith49 says:

    I do remember Charlie Oliver. We stored all the troop tents in his garage, and he lived down the street from me. You and I may have been together at Wauwepex in ’71, but I don’t remember you! Sigh.

    The other names sound familiar, but only distantly at this point. I’ll have to ask my mom – she remembers EVERYTHING!

    • Dennis I. says:

      Hi, I was probably there in ’71 or so also. Yes Charlie Oliver, the tents in his garage yes! I also recall a camping trip to Wauwepex in the dead of winter, in tents! We froze our butts off! I also remember a trip to West Point and we were inundated with rain and the Army had to bail us out, they sent trucks out and brought us to a gym or dormitory. Troop 166, ah memories.

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  29. Larry Green says:

    Good God! So much to write. To put it succinctly, some of the MOST nostalgic memories of my life hover around my first day at Wauwepex at age 11 in 1960—Raton campsite, Frontier Division. I was in Neil Firetog’s troop, 242 from Roslyn Hts. Neil was the only SPL I remember, but I never really got to know him. Unlike Neil, I was never on staff. After age 16, my life took a turn away from Scouting. Today, though, I’m a member of the National Camping Subcommittee, and chair the Scouts BSA Online Media Task Force— kind of a full-time volunteer.

    Here’s an account I wrote regarding the impact Wauwepex had on me and describing some of my memories.
    “From the time in the spring of 1960 when my parents and I looked through the brochure for Camp Wauwepex and it was confirmed I’d be going, an incredible anticipation started to swell forming a pleasing backdrop to my everyday, sixth grade, eleven year old activities. As the brochure’s suggested number of uniform V-necked shirts, shorts, high socks along with garters and green tassels ordered from the Supply Division’s catalog arrived at our address, the wave of anticipation started to crest, reaching its height as the list of things to bring were packed in the recommended-size foot locker. I recall my mother sewing name tapes into all the clothing and adding the troop insignia to the shirts’ left sleeves. I also remember being supplied with a personal tube of emerald-green, Prell shampoo, the smell of which, believe it or not, still carries me back to showering at Wauwepex, and yellow, push-up cylinders of 6-12 insect repellent, small enough to fit into a side pocket of my Scout shorts.

    “June arrived. Exiting the Long Island Expressway, my mom followed the directions off the main drag to the little town of Wading River. Clothed from head to foot in one of my new summer uniforms, I was as near to beatific as I ever recall feeling. The first sign for Camp Wauwepex came into view, and my anticipation mounted. The drive through the camp gates was accompanied by the aroma of wood smoke. Inside, there was the appearance of an occasional uniformed older Scout walking on a path by the road, looking calmly intent. Following the dirt road, deeper inside the camp, we came to a welcome area. There, my mother inquired where the Scouts from Troop 242 would be camping. A map marked with a pencil-drawn line laid out the route to Frontier Division and Raton Campsite. That’s where we needed to go! Driving further into camp revealed more and more fascinations. We passed signs for Indian and Pioneer Divisions and soon were in Frontier Division territory where I noticed the large, wooden Frontier Dining Hall surrounded by trees off to the right. Nearby was the Frontier Division parade grounds, and beyond that on both the right and the left, were an array of campsites filled with dark green tents set on wooden platforms.

    “Nearby was our campsite where we were greeted by a young blond-haired man with a crew cut. He was the Scoutmaster for Raton and cheerfully directed us to select a tent and park my foot locker inside at the front of one of the two bunks. A friend from my troop soon arrived with his mother, and we decided to tent together. I remember our mothers commenting on how young the Scoutmaster looked. They soon learned and marveled that he was a twenty year old college student hired for the summer. What fascinated me most about him was the dark green, 1960, Camp Wauwepex patch sewn on his right pocket. I wanted one. My mom bid me goodbye, and as more Scouts showed up and Raton’s population increased, so did my excitement. Glory be! I was finally at Boy Scout Camp!!!

    “While the campsite was bustling with Scouts still excitedly claiming cots and moving their foot lockers into tents, Frank, our assistant Scoutmaster, a college-aged guy with a well-worn uniform, instructed everyone to get into bathing suits for swim check. Raton campsite headed down to Frontier Division’s waterfront where a large throng of Scouts from other campsites had already been herded into lines in front of the white dock leading out to the various sections for non-swimmers, beginners, and swimmers. Along the dock were the waterfront staff, all serious and stern, and looking like college football players. When my turn rolled around, a heavy, no-monkey-business staffer who must have been about 19 years old barked instructions as to where to stand in readiness to enter the lake. Appropriately contributing to the sweeping impact of this whole scene was how he referred to me simply as “Scout.” Of course he didn’t know my name, but being called “Scout” in this Scout camp setting was perfect. It was so appealing, I remember it like it was yesterday!

    “Though I was built like a string bean, I swam all the required distances in the the required way, after which the gruff instructor directed me to tread water. “Hold one hand out of the water. Now hold the other hand out of the water. Whistle Dixie.” I obediently followed all these directions and when I actually began whistling, this intimidating instructor gave me a smile. “Get out of the water, Scout. Blue tag.”

    “Later, right before dinner, the Scouts of all the Frontier Division campsites assembled in the division parade grounds for retreat. Even after all these years, the faded echoes of these assemblies still plays on my mind. The staff, including those enormous waterfront guys, lined up in front of us, and I would always take notice of the instructor from my swim test with his tight-fitting, faded Scout shirt. The only insignia on that shirt was an Eagle Scout medal hanging down on his left pocket. Everyone was serious as a bugler played a flawless rendition of “Retreat” followed by a stirring version of “To the Colors,” as the flag was lowered. Those daily assemblies, with all of us arranged by campsite, decked out in our summer uniforms, reinforced the satisfying sense that we were all part of something the implications and import of which were far-reaching beyond our young minds. As a youngster, I just knew it was really big and it felt good.

    Once a week, these division assemblies were surpassed by a full camp retreat incorporating all three divisions. This was in grand style. Each campsite gathered on the road leading to the main parade grounds which were located by a large amphitheater overlooking the lake. Once in formation, in neat columns, we became part of a procession accompanied by our division’s drum and bugle corps. Like many of these lasting Camp Wauwepex memories, I can still hear the repetitive rhythm pattern of the snare drums as we steadily marched along the road. When we were all assembled in these immense parade grounds, a bugler sounded “Retreat,” and then, just before the first note of “To the Colors,” there was a well-timed, incredibly loud “BANG” from a large canon. After this, the whole camp made its way to the amphitheater where Buckskin Lodge 412, Order of the Arrow, delivered a callout ceremony that to me, though I was only eleven years old, remains one of the most awesome spectacles of my life. For the next two summers, I returned to Camp Wauwepex as a provisional camper, and for the third our troop sent enough Scouts to fill our own campsite.”

    As a young Scout, I have a few recollections regarding a couple of staffers. One is about Moose who, during my years, directed the Frontier swimming area. I never had any contact with him in that he was such a big, and to me intimidating figure, except on one occasion. On Saturday, during our troop’s camp period in 1964, at the Brotherhood tap out ceremony, to my shock and surprise, as the Brotherhood chief (Moose!) made his rounds “tapping” the shoulder of various Brotherhood candidates, he abruptly turned and faced me and slammed down onto my skinny shoulder, twice! After “tapping” me, he then glared at me, his eyes penetrating mine in a fiery fashion. I was astonished and awed!

    Another staffer I remember is Don Gartrell. He would occasionally visit our dining hall, and we would all greet him by gleefully yelling out, “Hey Doningo!” He’d then play his guitar and sing. I thought he was great! When I later became a member of Buckskin Lodge, he consented to sign the back of my tab. “Always follow the Arrow, onward and upward.”

    My other contacts with staffers are more nondescript. I remember seeing a bunch of older, big guys at what I vaguely recall to be an off-camp refreshment area. They were ALL wearing red jackshirts. I was impressed, and eventually my mom bought one for me. Then there was the time I was supposed to go and approach the appropriate staff members to get scheduled to play retreat at one of our division flag ceremonies. I brought mybugle with me, and was startled and confused when one of the older guys hanging out at the tent asked to see my bugle and then blew cigarette smoke into it. I remember feeling chagrined as I watched it waft out the other end.

    Thanks for letting me share!

  30. brucesmith49 says:

    Welcome, Larry, and thanks for sharing your memories. I was first at Wauwepex in 1961, so you were a year ahead of me.

    Further, was Troop 242 the home troop of some other Wauwepex staff? Two brothers that I’m thinking of, the younger one had really blonde hair. Can’t remember their names at the moment.

    • Larry Green says:

      I just learned TODAY that Neil Firetog was on staff! And he was there in ’64 when our troop was present, and I never knew. I gather his brother Teddy was also on staff from reading some of the above comments, but the summer of ’64 was my last summer of Scouting for quite a few years (decades) and I’m not familiar with any Troop 242 goings on during my long hiatus.

  31. brucesmith49 says:

    Editor’s Note: The following is an email from Ed DiGioia, addressed to Larry Green :

    Like yourself I spent many years at CW as a camper and staff. Started in Frontier Division as a dishwasher. Some job as for an Eagle Scout, however had a good time and experimented with a Kosher Camp. That was interesting. Separate dishes, cookware, serving ware and food. I am Italian. Later in the season I transferred to Scout Craft in Indian Division but my best assignment was a provisional Scout Master in the Pioneer division. Worked with a great group of guys. Really dedicated to “Make It Work At Home”. That was our motto. That Camp had a profound influence on many of us and many of us and to this day just thinking of it brings a smile to my face and a tear in my eye. Wish I was still In there. In the days of Covid and Insurrection it would be a much better place.

    You mention Neil Firetog, he had a younger brother Ted, I knew them both well. They paid a prac tile joke on me while I was taking a siesta. They placed a dead water moccasin
    on my chest and then woke me. Well I must have levitated 10 feet in the air. They knew I was deathly afraid of snakes. Oh well survived that episode. The staff had a bond that is solid to this day. Practical jokes were– a plenty.

    You mentioned Don Gartrell. Knew him well as he was I believe the assistant Camp Director behind ED Gilmartin. And there were others. Paul Johnson, affectionately known as “Moose” due to his large girth. He passed away a few years ago.

    CW is dear to our hearts and I read your website and it does bring back some very fond memories. All the best.

    Edward P. DiGioia

  32. dennis irwin says:

    Hi, I also recall an older scout from #166 drunk as hell on Boones Farm Strawberry wine stumbling around the lake one evening LOL I just remembered I must have been there in the summer of ’72 because the Fischer/Spassky chess match was that summer. I remember the term AD swim (after dinner) if not mistaken. Also having to qualify to be able to swim at all. I recall writing letters home and can still remember the tent on the platform. Taking walks with my buddies in the evening, for some reason I recall walking down a dirt road and passing a “latrine” it looked like it was newly built and pretty large. As far as Troop 166 goes I remember scoutmaster Mcwilliams and also another guy I believe his first name was Rob, he was probably in his early twenties and ran a pretty loose ship. Fond memories.

  33. CLIFTON JONES says:

    Well Ed, funny Larry mentioned Don Gartrell, Somewhere in my archives I have a tape of Don singing the I think one of the Indian songs he did at camp. You know my mom, well she fell in love with it and asked Don if he would come to the house and let us tape it. If only I could find it. It would be great to put it up here. Did not know Paul Johnson passed away. Lost track of much of the staff as marriage took over, dad retired, Wally left and then we moved to Las Vegas when dad passed away and I retired from the school system. Will keep looking hopefully I will find it.

    • CLIFTON JONES says:

      OK, I am shocked, brought me to tears, looking through some of mom’s stuff I just found the tape of Don Gartrel singing the O A Song. It is on a little 3″ tape reel. I am going to send it to a friend who has a reproduction studio in San Diego (he is the only one I trust with my vintage tapes) and see if he can put it on CD and maybe make an MP4 for me. Wow, does anyone know if Don is still alive? If so does anyone have his email address…. Thanks Cliff

      • Larry Green says:

        Please keep me posted! If you can save the recording in a digital format, I’d really enjoy hearing Doningo’s voice from all those years ago! Thanks.

      • CLIFTON JONES says:

        Larry I have had really good luck with this guy, but the age of the tape has a lot to do with it, and the quality of the recorder as well. So we will see, waiting to hear back from him. I am in total shock, have been going through my dad’s stuff for a while and every corner turns up a shocker.

  34. brucesmith49 says:

    I’d love to hear the OA song, Cliff. Hope it records successfully. Glad you have the chops to go through your Dad’s and Mom’s stuff like this.

  35. brucesmith49 says:

    Paul, “Moose” Johnson:

    Paul C. “Moose” Johnson, 76, of Baldwin, New York passed away on January 18, 2017. Beloved son of the late Paul and Mary Johnson. Cherished friend to many. Teacher at J.W. Dodd Middle School in Freeport for 25-years. Scoutmaster of Troop #54 in Baldwin for 40-years. Camp Staff and Director for many years at Camp Wauwepex. Advisor for Explorer Post #179 in Baldwin. Merit Badge Counselor. Reposing at the Fullerton Funeral Home, 769 Merrick Road, Baldwin, New York on Sunday, January 22, 2017 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. & Monday, January 23, 2017 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Religious Service Monday, January 23, 2017, 8:00 p.m. at the funeral home. Interment on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at Greenfield Cemetery.


    • Timothy Holmes says:

      Two stories of Paul from my summers in Indian Dining Hall (1969 as dishwasher and 1970 as food handler/cook with John Scarpato, deceased Memorial Day 1977)…1) As new dishwasher I was told I HAD to take my turn making coffee in the big old percolator. The problem was I did not drink coffee (still don’t) and did not know how to make it. The older guys (Jeff Kramer, Donald Chester) insisted that I make it…so I did. After the troops came in for breakfast and prayer was said…Paul came into the kitchen with his cup of coffee demanding to know who made the coffee that morning…obviously not happy. I said that I did. He then told the rest of the kitchen staff that I was NEVER, EVER to make the coffee again!! I never did. 2) We used to get the US government food packages…”Care Packages” as we called them. One of the items was boxes and boxes of raisins. We were told by the Commissary Director, Bob Spice (sp?) to use up the raisins any way we could as there was a large inventory of them in the commissary. So we added raisins to everything we possibly could. After about a week…we made our own Cole slaw…I made that batch and was instructed to add raisins…as much as I dared to add. We served the food and you guessed it…Paul came into the kitchen with his serving bowl full of raisin Cole Slaw…slammed it on the counter and asked who put the raisins in the slaw. Yep…I raised my hand and said I did it. He said to the kitchen staff…looking directly at me…”Stop putting raisins in everything!”…fun times…great memories…no sarcasm…I truly mean that those two summers in Indian Dining Hall at Camp Wauwepex are the best summer memories I have!! I could write a short novel of those two summers. 🙂

      • brucesmith49 says:

        Please write that novel, Tim…

      • CLIFTON JONES says:

        Well Tim, I do remember that year, and I think one of those years there was an abundance of purple plumbs to. Of course they were called gorilla balls as I recall. As I recall the camp paid $1.00 per case of butter, thirty pounds to the case. And there was always tons of peanut butter too..

      • Doug Winkler says:

        I do remember all those desserts of stewed plumbs, Cliff. And I thought that peanut butter wasn’t too bad once you got all the oil stirred back in. We usually ended up with the canned meat (“needy family meat” down at the Nature Lodge to feed the animals.

      • CLIFTON JONES says:

        Oh yes marvel misery meat. I do remember that, nasty stuff. I remember having to go to I think Canal St. in Manhattan with my dad to pick the stuff up. A full rack truck load two or three times a summer. Any yes you had to put the peanut butter in the big mixer to blend the oil back into it. But it was good after that. Had many PB&J sandwiches for school all winter long…..

      • Tim Holmes says:

        Yes…the purple plums…aka Gorilla balls…those were tough to get rid of! 🙂 The “mystery meat”…only Val Edwards knew how to cook with it…had to soak it in water to get rid of the brine/salt solution it was packed in. We had an abundance of it one time and I took a can home on my day off…my mother fed some it to our beagle and she didn’t know about the brine solution. She felt so bad as he drank water all night and his stomach was distended. The peanut butter and the #10 cans of fruit cocktail were the best! 🙂 Well Don and Jeff were older at the time as they were in college (Don went to VA Tech…I think)…I was between sophomore and junior year of college (summer 1969). NOW THAT WAS A CRAZY SUMMER!!! Plus they had driver’s license & cars (we used to sneak into the drive in movie theater in Jeff’s car truck. I believe it was a baby blue 1950’s vehicle with truck that could fit 4-guys in it. We snuck in to see Barbarella with Jane Fonda as it was rated “M” and we were 15/16 at the time and they wouldn’t have let us in…funny compared to what you see on regular TV now!

      • Doug Winkler says:

        Hey, Tim, I like how you referred to Don and Jeff as the “older guys.” They (or perhaps I should say we, since the three of us graduated from Baldwin High together) probably only have a year, or at most two, on you. Funny how significant a few years seemed to be back then. And, as Bruce said, write that novel.

  36. Doug Winkler says:

    Tim, in 1969 Don, Jeff, and I were between junior and senior years in high school. That was my first year on staff, as well. Yes, Don did go to VA Tech. And I seem to remember Jeff having several different vehicles. I do remember an old Chevrolet Corvair that was in pretty poor shape and I seem to remember a Firebird or a Camaro that looked like someone hit it with a hammer every six inches or so down the whole length of both sides of vehicle. For me, during my first couple of years on staff, the older (over 18) guys with licenses and cars were also the source of alcoholic beverages upon occasion. That is the source of some other stories.

    • Timothy Holmes says:

      Hi Doug…interesting that you guys were only a year or so older than me. I remember the blue vehicle with the huge trunk (maybe he borrowed it?) as I was one of the guys hiding in the trunk to get into the drive-in movie. I remember some guys were in college and Mike Cahill (sp?) was in law school or about to go in as he was Jeff’s attorney (so I heard) years later for a car accident where someone died. Yes…alcohol inspired stories are quite abundant…along with some drug use (mostly pot). Sometime in the early 80’s I went back to CW and drove to Indian Dining Hall. I went to the “Food Handler’s” tent platform and opened the old hatch in the floor boards…reached under and found a few cans of beer still under there. I put them back and closed the hatch. 🙂

  37. brucesmith49 says:

    That attorney was Mike COCO, not Cahill. Mike Coco is still practicing. His office is in Glen Cove, and I used him when I bought a house 40 years ago!

    As for Mike Cahill, I was his best friend for several years until marriages and relocations took us apart. He lived in Fort Lauderdale for most of his life. Mike passed away from gastric diseases about three years ago.

    • Timothy Holmes says:

      Thanks Bruce for correcting. I crossed paths with both Mike’s…but obviously got them confused. I remember Mike Coco too! Sorry to hear about Mike Cahill’s passing.

  38. Alan Zimmermann says:

    Thank you for this.
    I went all by myself in summer of ’58 when I was 11. I have a picture of me with my “Mohawk’ haircut that the resident barber gave me.
    Great memories. Got my swimming and cooking badges there.
    Went to camp Onteoro the following year with the troop from Glenwood Landing. I was from the Sea Cliff Troop.

  39. Thomas DeMott says:

    I am VERY late to this party but, this has brought back so many feelings and memories I had to thank you. Not only you but also a number of those who replied and others whose names were mentioned. I was a provisional camper at CW (memory is a fickle thing) summers of 67 68 and 69 I believe. I remember in 69 watching the first transmission from the moon on portable TVs in Frontier dining hall. I remember having Chris Drewes, Bob Rohan, and yes Phil Calabria and Victor DiGioia (for two periods in 69) as provisional scout masters over those years. I am still a fan of Phil Ochs, something I got from Mr. Calabria if memory serves.
    I served on staff, Trading Post/Craft Lodge, summers of 70 71 and 72. I am in the staff photo front row second from right. Richard Silverman is on the end of the row. David Light is third from right on the top row. I have to thank him for hiring me in the first place.
    CW truly is sacred ground and much of who I am today can be traced to experiences I had in scouting and at CW specifically.
    A reunion would be something wonderful.
    Again, thank you all.

  40. Tom DeMott says:

    Had issues logging into WordPress. Seems to be fixed now.
    Must thank Stan Silverman for pointing me here.

  41. Stan Silverman says:

    I thought that you guys might want to see Frank McQuade, Indian Lore, rode a bicycle around camp, implored staff not to throw empties into the woods. https://www.ailalawyer.com/english/AttorneyDetail.aspx?P=15641&A=74630

    I’ll write soon about myself after a gather my thoughts.

  42. Stanley Silverman says:

    I’m Stan Silverman. I was in Troop 74, Valley Stream. I camped at Wauwepex the summers of 1968-71 and worked Trading Post/Craft Lodge 1972-1975. We camped home troop for 2 weeks and Provisional for 2 more weeks the summers of “68 and “69. You might remember that I called myself Jim Thorpe and ran from place to place, though you’d probably recognize me more from my back than my front, as I spent a lot of time tripping on tree stumps. My first summer, 1968, we started home troop and then moved to Teddy Roosevelt with Jim Evans and Dave Scott. 1969 started home troop with a Mercenary Scoutmaster named Ken Hertz, who moved onto staff later that summer. Then I went Provisional with John (Mom) Scardinia and Alan (White Gloves) Rashkin. I remember Going to Frontier Dining Hall to see the Moon Landing on TV ( I couldn’t see anything on that little TV with hundreds of scouts around it and I’ve always been short) and at other times walking around the Trading Post and seeing Mike Coco decorate the backroom, play Met games on the radio and root for his Mets, I guess that it worked out well that year for them. I wasted 2 weeks, that summer, working on Rowing Merit Badge as Steve Belkin thought that it would be funny to wrestle the oar out of my hand and swamp my rowboat when I tried to perform a rescue from the boat. I had already performed the swamping requirement. The summer of ’70 was spent with John Scardina again. I spent 1971 with Vic DiGoya. I remember that almost every Scoutmaster played the guitar at the stone council ring and Bill Jay played the guitar and the harmonica. Did Charlie ever get off of that train? I know the cat came back. I know how to do a W-A-U-W-E-P-E-X time check.
    I was hired to work office staff for the summer of ’72, when Paul Johnson was Reservation Director, Ted Firetog was Program Director, Bill Corwin was the Business Manager (his wife, Renee was the nurse) and Jim Evans was the Camp Director. I was traded for another staff member to the Trading Post/ Craft Lodge after a few weeks. The Trading Post staff member wasn’t working out and Bill Corwin, more than once, asked if Bob Tate and I were fighting over the telephone, again. So, I was off to the TP/CL to be with Dave Light, my brother, Richard Silverman and Tom DeMott. We stayed in the Central Tent Site with Steve Isaacs and Al Lindberg from the Rifle Range. In 1973 I was back to the TP/CL and then eventually, I became Director in 1975, after Richard started working at another camp. After Paul Johnson, in 1972 there was Richard Milewski in 1973 , a scout executive who loved going to John Denver Concerts in 1974 and then the last Reservation Director, a teacher from Ohio, with his new wife who had previously worked at Alder Lake. Many of you have spoken of the Wauwepex way. As each summer went on and attendance decreased, the council worked to cut payroll and expenses. They added soda machines, picked the least worst dining hall, moved the waterfront, cut camp to 6 weeks and instituted layoffs in 1974. This was before deposit soda cans, Art Noble, Council Business Director, decided that we should charge the scouts 5 cents deposit per can, so they would bring the cans back. Of course, some scouts brought cans from home, so Art wanted me to come up with a way to mark the cans that we sold. The only way that I could think of was to paint an interlocking TP or CL on the bottom of the cans. Of course, it didn’t take genius scouts to imitate me. Art decided that it was my fault when we gave out more deposits than we took in. He never gave me a better way to mark the cans, just expressed his disappointment. Scouts, of course, put dirty and sandy coins, homemade slugs, flattened chip monk turds, whatever they could find into the coin slots of the soda machines. I was constantly fixing them. One time I spoke rather harshly to a scout, who had been kicking one of my machines. Next thing I know, Larry Ronnow has lifted me 3 or 4 feet off of the ground, yelling at me that if I ever did that again, he would pound me into next Wednesday. I never did that again.
    It was quite a different summer, that last summer. The Reservation Director came from Alder Lake with his staff and his new wife and her young son. She had been promised an A Frame at Alder Lake, instead was given a lodge for the summer on Deep Pond. She wasn’t happy and so neither was he. He brought his old Alder Lake Staff with him and all of the old guard was gone. He instituted a program where we took each merit badge requirement and described it like a college class. Scouts could pick this class and that class. Whatever they wanted. I fought him, firstly because I had not yet been to college, so I didn’t understand what he was talking about. When I finally did understand, I explained that the scouts would end up with incompletes all over the place. He didn’t care what I said and sat me down and made me write the “Course descriptions” with him. Not the Wauwepex Way. That last summer Doug Winkler and Jeff Hass were gone from the Nature Lodge, the rifle range was closed, Wayne was gone from the Waterfront, the Office staff was all new and Thor’s Palace was painted off of the Waterfront supply shed. It wasn’t the Wauwepex that I knew and loved.
    Some random thoughts: I remember Brian O’Neil driving around with Vermont Plates on his car. I saw him at the payphone by the Commissary. He nicely let everyone go first and then he dumped out a massive load of quarters, as we left. The latrine with the deep poems and book passages. The Indian Lore Tent in Central. Making believe that we were Spasky and Fisher when we played darts during siesta at the Craft Lodge. Playing waterrugby during siesta. Smoking cigars to keep the bugs away as we played soap hockey and then did inventory at the Trading Post late at night.

  43. Jack Ludwig says:

    Hi Bruce. Just stumbled on this thread – a nostalgic read. Wauwepex was also an incredible experience in my life as well although I only spent three summer sessions there as a camper in ’53, ’54, and ’55 (I’m 80 years old). Reading the above comments brought back many memories long buried. One of which was the last summer I was there when I stayed for a second session after my troop went home. My tent mate was my brother who was two years younger. One night there was a tremendous downpour and the platform tent roof leaked like a sieve. My brother and I had to scramble for a busy half hour or so to finally situate the cots so as to best avoid the the incoming drips. I think that was when we really bonded as brothers. My brother passed away a few years back but when I think of him, the first thought that comes to mind is always that night when the two of us worked diligently together with trying to stay dry in that leaky tent.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Welcome to the gathering, Jack. Glad you found us.

      Please tell us more about CW during the 50s. Where the three program areas up and running? Frontier, Pioneer, and Indian?

  44. Clifton Jones says:

    Oh my gosh Stan, your account brings tears to my eyes. Having lived on property for my entire adolescent life it became and always will be home to me. Truthy it was all I knew.
    After my wife Linda and I were married in the protestant chapel and had our reception in Hayden hall life got in the way a bit. I know linda served on camp staff in 1971 and maybe 72 as camp nurse.
    Stan, those were truly the days, there have been many changes over the years some harder for me to accept than others, but they call it progress… But reviewing peoples account of their camp experiences is such a trip for me.
    I am actually going to be back on the island March 15-19 have to take care of mom and dads graves an annual visit. They finally got a new ranger that I hope stays a while. A really great guy.
    Bruce and I are trying to put together an end of the summer staff reunion to try to get everybody back to gather for one more time. You know we aren’t getting any younger and it would be great to see everyone again.
    Stay safe, god bless great to hear from you.

    Cliff Jones
    Staff 1961-70

  45. These stories bring back a boatload of memories. I am Stan Silverman’s older (2 years) brother. I was a camper, provisional only, from 66? to 69. I was called a week before camp started in 1970 to join the staff. I remember the Greenbrier incident (Set ’em up Shirley) very well. I was the office tool when that happened. Camp Direct George Neil Smalling was super pissed. I stayed at my desk out front as the defendants entered the back room at the office. I knew better than to say anything. That was quite a day.

    A week or two later, I was traded to the Mike Coco’s TP/CL staff. I can’t remember the fellow I was traded for, but Mike wanted him out ASAP. They took my stuff, threw it on my mattress, and ran it over to the TP/CL tent. They did the same for the fellow who was transferred to the office. It took all of 60 seconds and I was a part of Coco’s crew for the next five years.

    Mike had a record player at the Trading Post. After opening the garage door, the first one in would hit the lights. That turned on the electricity to most of the outlets (except the freezers) in the building. 40 second later, the record player would reset and start playing Sargent Peppers. Must have heard that album 300 times that summer.

    So many memories that they are hard to name them all. Played water football after 4:30 closing time almost every day. WWRRFICA-C Water Wackies (TP/CL) rifle range, Falcons (Nature Lodge), Indians, Commissary Association aka Central. Remember trying to tackle Bill McCauley many times. He was tough to bring down once he got rolling.

    I could go on for pages. But a few events stand out. We hired some ‘reformed’ addicts one year as head cooks. I remember a few dining disasters. Government spaghetti so undercooked it looked like telephone cable. 2.3 raviolis per scout, Corned beef cooked on a sheet pan. And another year yellow cling peaches that they got a great deal on at almost every meal. The food got so bad, we regularly sent out to the Lake Panamoka deli for sandwiches. I remember we created a little flag with a picture of a sub on it at Frontier. When the Camp Director deemed the food inedible, he would raise the flag to let all staff know that they would be taking orders at the office immediately after the meal.

    One last classic. One year in pre-camp, we were told that this year there would be ‘no problems, only challenges’. Staff really enjoyed those words of wisdom. A few weeks later, the emergency phone rang. It had a very distinctive ring. The voice on the phone said ‘We have a challenge burning out of control behind Tackapuasha. Get your asses up here!’. It was a short run from the Trading Post. I laughed the whole way up.

    Great seeing names from my youth. Be well, all. Regards, Richard Silverman Troop 74 Valley Stream

  46. brucesmith49 says:

    Reunion thoughts. I just got my second vaccine shot, but travel to LI still seems a little dicey. Maybe things will change by August? Hoping for the best. It would be great to be back at camp and see everyone.

  47. Barry Frankel says:

    For some reason last night I entered Camp Wauwepex into my browser and ‘poof’ up comes all this great stuff. I was on the staff from 1956 till 1963.. My years at Wauwepex were the most wonderful of my life.I initially worked on the Pioneer waterfront then had to opportunity to manage the Indian waterfront. Ultimately I became a Program Commissioner of the Indian Division working with Scoutmasters developing two week programs for their scouts. I did not really appreciate the benefits those jobs had in helping me develop in future jobs throughout the years. Bruce Smith mentions two people who had serious effect on my life. First was Johnny Jones who we lost to an accident at the Wading River Fire Dept. I actually suffered the first emotional trauma of my life from that terrible loss. I am happy to hear that the family has carried on.
    The other was Father Dave. every year we would show up a week early to get organized and the question around the place was where is Father Dave. He was a Franscician Monk from Buffalo and would show up in his Hudson at the last minute every year ( Think Fred Flintstone). I spent alot of time with Father Dave and his Ham Radio. The deal was if we could get a homesick youngster into Father Dave’s hands he usually did not want to go home at the end of two weeks. I could write a book about the camp but the bottom line is that it was a great place, an extraordinary learning experience and as Bruce says a safe place to do it in. Thank you Ed GilMartin, Neal Smalling and Larry Nokes.:):):)

    • Pete Chelune says:

      Hi Barry, was it you or your brother that shot the flaming arrow (while standing in a canoe) to light the bonfire? Quite a lot to ask of a guy who wore glasses…..but did not when dressed as an indian.

      Pete Chelune

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Actually, Barry, Johnnie Jones did not die in the Wading River Fire Department tragedy. Rather, his best friend and CW Ranger, Robert T Geary did. I believe the incident occurred on July 4th, 1960. Johnnie became CW Ranger on Dec. 15, 1960, and remained as such until 1980, when his son, Wally, took over.

      • bfran65 says:

        That is exactly right, it was Bob Geary. Thanks for keeping an old man straight, stay safe.

      • M. Richard (Dick) Horn says:

        I was at camp during that two weeks on leave from the Army, when Bob was killed and then took over as Ranger for the rest of the two weeks. The camp lost a very good person when Bob was killed.
        I stumbled on this site and it sure brings back many memories reading about what happened after I left.
        I first camped at CW 1947-50, rifle range staff in 1951, Craft Lodge 52-55, Maintenance 56-60 and worked many weekends on CW Beaver Days/weekends.
        I have been updating the CW section of Bill Cotter’s OSR/CW website as there are only a few of us left from the last Covey days to fill in the blanks.
        I now live at 616 Shiretown Lane, Wake Forest, NC 27587-2658; 919-488-4089.
        Please keep me posted about any get-togethers on the island as Kate and I make about three trips there each year to see family.
        Glad to see a few of the names that I remember.
        M. Richard (Dick) Horn


  48. Clifton Jones says:

    Yes it was Bob Geary who died in the Fire Department Accident. The accurate date was August 27,1960. It was at the annual fire department clam bake. A call came in from Little Flower Children’s Home. Bob tried to board the tanker, slipped and fell under the rear wheels. Sad part it was a false alarm. Dad was with Bob when he passed. On December 15,1960 dad became ranger of Camp Wauwepex and remained until 1982 when he retired. Wally took over at that point. Hope this clears up a little bit. Great to see the list of staff growing here. Spread the word we have been talking about getting a staff weekend together at some point at Wauwepex. Stay safe everyone.

  49. John Ragusa says:

    I first went to wauwepex in 1964. I was eleven years old. Two week summer camp with my Troop125 from new Hyde Park Nassau county. Did weekend trips during the year and back for two weeks summer of ‘65 and even a January trip to Onteora? I visited wauwepex in the summer of ‘97. My old campsite ( Toombstone) was still there. My initials I carved in my lean to were still there! The rocks in a circle for our campfires still there. I was so lucky to know wauwepex!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing your memories!

  50. Bill McCauley says:

    Bruce- Bill McCauley here….I’m second row, center…TP/CL in 1969-1970….ended up asst. director of the camp in 1974….your article was a trip down memory lane for me….thank you for expressing what I’ve felt for many years….

  51. Doug Winkler says:

    Hey, Bill! It was great to see your name pop up on here. The memories that first pop into my mind is your athleticism in such well-known sports as waterfront football and junebug baseball. Also, the Nature Lodge vs. TP/CL water fights.

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