Excerpt for Camp Quidnunc by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Camp Quidnunc

By Cindy Gavrity

Published by Cindy Gavrity at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 Cindy Gavrity

Smashwords Edition, License Notes:

Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form and the reader is not charged to access it. Thank you for your support.


This book is a labor of love to honor all the women whose commitment and enthusiasm over the years made our camp the best that it could be. From the Girl Scout Councils, to the Directors, to the staff members, and to the campers themselves who were fortunate enough to get to participate in the traditions and learning experiences that were offered through the Girl Scout Camp.


This book could not have been written without the extraordinary memories of the Camp Quidnunc alumnae. Their stories and experiences helped form the basis of this book. I would like to thank everyone who shared photos and especially the PIPC for sharing their collection of historical data. A big thank you to the girls who took the time to answer my many questions and wrote stories for me.

On a personal note, I would like to thank my husband Peter for reading and editing my rambling thoughts without questioning my mental stability. Also to Judy Henn who assisted in editing the first draft.

Finally, to my parents who made it possible for me to attend camp and strongly suggested I should go.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1 - Camp History

Chapter 2 - The Camp

Chapter 3 - Double Decker

Chapter 4 – Infirmary

Chapter 5 - Foot Locker Follies

Chapter 6 - Travelling Girl Scouts

Chapter 7 - Directors and Staff

Chapter 8 – Hikes

Chapter 9 - Canoe Trips

Chapter 10 - Camper Banquets

Chapter 11 - Camp Food

Chapter 12 -Special Events

Chapter 13 - Camp Jobs

Chapter 14 – Worship

Chapter 15 - Scout’s Own

Chapter 16 - Program Aides

Chapter 17 - Roughing It

Chapter 18 - The Lake

Chapter 19 - Opening Campfire

Chapter 20 - Closing Campfire

Chapter 21 - Splash Party

Chapter 22 - Catch Me If You Can

Chapter 23 – Socials

Chapter 24 - Forgotten Places

Chapter 25 – Canteen

Chapter 26 - The Little House

Chapter 27 – Singing

Chapter 28 – Friendship

Chapter 29 - Reunion Time

Chapter 30 - Uppsy Daisy

Chapter 31 - Girls Tales

About the Author


A girl’s life in the late 50’s and through the 60’s was changing rapidly no matter what age you were. From preteen to young adult, you were affected biologically, socially and economically. As far as role models went, well, there were very few to look up to or careers to choose from. You had your choice of becoming a wife and mother, a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. Usually, you followed in your mother’s footsteps, unless you were lucky enough to have experienced living and learning on your own and with the guidance of a leader who could teach you otherwise. You could find all those things at camp.

Camp for the girls of New York City was an escape from the busy, crowded, and hot streets. Escape from boredom, family issues, and the loneliness of not really belonging to one type of group or another, except Girl Scouts! But if you were a teen girl in those days, you didn’t let on that you were still a Girl Scout…It wasn’t cool.

Girl Scout camp for us New York City girls was located in upstate New York, Harriman State Park to be more specific. To us it was home away from home, the most wonderful place on earth, a place where we could swim, canoe, hike, rekindle old friendships, make new friends, and leave all our personal problems behind.

The camp itself sat off a winding road that seemed to twist and turn as it wound around the mountain. Our lake was across the road, and for us campers, it was only accessible by a wooden bridge built over the road. We weren’t allowed to cross the road any other way.

Up in camp we had platform tents in groups of 3 or more that were spread throughout its many acres. Inside each tent were cots with metal springs to sleep on and an orange crate for storing our personal items. The trunks that held our clothes were sent ahead of us and dropped off at each unit for us to pick up and carry to our tents and then store under our beds.

The bathroom facilities were called the “La”, which basically was a two-sided outhouse with no privacy. There were no showers, bathtubs, or flush toilets. At mealtime, we went to the dining hall. There was a two-story administration building for the director and her staff, called the Double Decker...for obvious reasons...and the infirmary staffed by two nurses.

There was only one paved road into camp. It ran back to the dining hall and it was used to deliver food and supplies. And the famous pump, painted red of course. It sat in front of the DD, and it put out the most delicious, cold, spring water you've ever tasted. Rustic yes; but loved by all.

The stories that follow are actual experiences that we had at camp. Some are funny, some are not. They are tales of young girls learning to be independent, inventive, and open-minded, while cultivating new and lasting friendships. For many of us even now, a song, the smell of pine trees in the woods, or a single picture will evoke memories of those times long, long, ago, and it has affected us so that we have enjoyed seven reunions in the past eight years.

Long live Camp Quidnunc!

Chapter 1 - Camp History

There are many stories about the meaning of the name “Quidnunc”, and the reasons the camp was so named. Some say it comes from Latin quid nunc meaning “what now”. It's also been said to describe a person who was forever asking, “what now” or “what’s the news?”; hence a gossip-monger. However you want to look at it, the word has been reborn in recent years.

The origin of Camp Quidnunc began in 1925. It was located on Lake Tiorati (T-18) in Harriman State Park. That location was short-lived, existing there for only one year, and then it moved to a larger site on Lower Twin Lake (LTL) in 1926. It stayed there until 1930, when it moved to its final site (K-11) on Little Long Pond, where it remained until 1972 when the camp closed for good. For many years, most of our alumnae thought that the original campsite was located on Lower Twin Lake. Why did they make all the moves? Most likely it’s because they needed a larger area to hold all the girls who wanted to go to camp. Tales of storms and fires have been circulating for decades as the reason for the moves. Credit and kudos go to Boni for saving her staff manual after all these years and bringing this to my attention. Her information at first was surprising...none of us had a clue...but after further research, there it was! Thanks, Boni!

The Little Long Pond property was originally established as a Boy Scout camp named Camp Matinecock. It was there from the beginning of the park, when group camps were first established, all due to the generosity of the Harriman family. Edward and Mary Averall Harriman owned 30,000 acres in Arden N.Y. as part of their estate. They opposed the state's decision to build a prison at Bear Mountain, and wanted to donate some of their land to the state to build a park. A year after the death of her husband in 1909, Mary Harriman proposed to the governor that she would donate 10,000 acres of land and $1 million for the creation of a new State Park. As part of the deal, the state would do away with the plan to build the prison, appropriate an additional $2.5 million to acquire additional land, and construct park facilities. The state agreed, and in 1910, W. Averell Harriman presented a deed for the land and a million dollars to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC), and Harriman State Park was born.

In 1912, Major William Welch constructed a road from Bear Mountain to Sloatsburg, known today as Seven Lakes Drive. There were also numerous other roads completed around Bear Mountain and Dunderberg Mountain to make it easier for people to reach the new park. The park also benefited from a large influx of free labor during the Great Depression, when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) offered work to thousands of men building roads, trails, camps and lakes.

The group camping program started a little over 100 years ago, with the belief that parks should be accessible to all people, particularly the underprivileged city people who did not have access to fresh air or leisure time. To address the needs of the urban poor, particularly in New York City, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission instituted social relief programs at more than 100 camp facilities in Harriman State Park. Sponsored by social and philanthropic organizations, thousands of New York and New Jersey children came to the park every summer to experience nature. This plan was so successful that it was repeated and implemented throughout many states. Lucky us!!

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Chapter 2 - The Camp

The overall layout of camp through the years has more or less stayed the same, with a few exceptions. The Double Decker (DD) and the infirmary have always remained in their respective places, but we can’t say the same for the dining hall and some of the units.

The original Dining Hall was located just above Neppies Nook and below Sky Blue (which is another story you will hear about). Very rustic looking...what else would it be...built from logs and boards. I believe it even had a wooden slat floor. It served us well until 1963, when the new, updated building was constructed, with new tables, a modern kitchen, and a cement floor. Our new facility also had a new location, in the back of camp where Caravan originally sat. A paved road now led from the DD back to the new Dining Hall.

So where did Caravan go? Caravan, once a “pioneer unit”, now shared the field with Gypsy Skies. At any given time, there were 8-12 units depending on the years you attended camp. There was Sleepy Hollow, Sherwood Forest, Hundred Acre Wood, Gypsy’s Skies, Caravan, Trails End, Neppies Nook, Hilltop, Journeyman's, Pioneers, and the ever-changing Sky Blue. Sky Blue remained the same until 1960. Then it was renamed Upper Sky Blue and Lower Sky Blue, split up probably because of its size. Over the years, it has also been known by a few other names such as Cricket Hill and the short-lived Rocky Ledges.

Sleepy Hollow was designated for the youngest of our campers, aged seven and eight. They used tent-a-lows instead of the usual platform tents. Tent-a-lows were different because they had wooden sides which went halfway up to the roof. Because the unit housed young, first time campers, it also had its own washing machine, dryer, and refrigerator, just in case they were needed.

Sherwood Forest, Hundred Aker Wood (HAW), and Sky Blue housed girls aged nine to eleven. There was a mixture of new first-time campers, and returning girls. Having experienced campers nearby made the new girls feel more at ease, and it also helped to take the stress off the “greener” staff that we occasionally had.

Caravan, Gypsy’s Skies, Trail’s End, and Neppie’s Nook were comprised of older girls, and were designated specialty units. The special interests were swimming and boating (waterfront unit), sports and games, and at times a hiking unit. In 1966 there were two waterfront units, Caravan and Trail’s End. The older girls, older by one or two years at the most, were in Caravan and the rest were in Trail’s End. Apparently, there were more girls interested in swimming and boating that year. This wasn’t recalled until one early reunion when a fellow camper said she was in the Caravan waterfront unit in 1966. When others said no, Trail’s End was the waterfront unit, there was much debate until we realized that they both were right.

The other units were Hilltop, Pioneers, and Journeymans. Hilltop was used for staff members the year I was on staff in 1969. Prior to that, the Program Aides (PA) had used it as their home. It consisted of two or three tents and was located near Sherwood Forest. Pioneers was located behind Trail’s End, and the name says it all. To get there you had to follow the fire road way out into the woods. Those girls were hardly ever seen, only when they picked up supplies from the pack-out clerk every few days. Then back into the woods they went. Last but not least was Journeymans. It housed our beloved director and her staff. They had showers in their La’s and they were located close to the DD. The nurses slept in the infirmary and in later years, it was the only place that had A/C. I always wanted to sleep there and I would try to whenever I had a chance. I wasn’t the only one who tried either! One time, I actually did get to sleep there while I was on staff, or so I've been told. I really don’t remember, but I might have had a sore throat.

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Chapter 3 - Double Decker

The Double Decker, aka “DD”, was built around 1917 for the Boy Scouts; it was their camp first and it was named Camp Matinecock. They occupied the property from 1917 - 1929. The porch of the DD at that time was used as a mess hall. The buildings were rustic and in harmony with nature. There were two large, spacious mess halls. One of these was widely known as the Libskoozeum, for it contained the library, school and museum. The other was the infamous “old dining hall”. They dined on the back porch of the Libskoozeum or the DD as we know it. At the DD in our time, you could buy necessities at the trading post, like candy (at times it was necessary), soap, and Quidnunc memorabilia. It also housed the offices of the director and her staff. Upstairs you could listen to records and iron your clothes, if you were a staff member. On the back porch we did Arts and Crafts projects, leathercraft, painting and wood-burning, for example. But the most famous item was the red pump. Ah, the cool clean well water that came out of the spout - there was nothing like it. Pump, pump, pump that arm and up came the water from an artesian well. You didn’t mind the work because the reward was great. Can’t imagine how many pictures were taken of that pump and sent home to the families. Unfortunately, in 1971 or 1972 the DD was condemned and the staff was not permitted to use the second floor. Buildings in the park were to be maintained by the PIPC and the state. Many of the camps in the park were decaying and in need of repair, which was never done. To this day, it is still a problem, but it seems to be improving slightly.

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Chapter 4 - Infirmary

Another very rustic building, not as big as our DD, but one-story with a stone foundation, parts of which are still there today, is the infirmary. Going back to the beginning again, the Boy Scouts used this building as their camp headquarters and named it Onondaga cabin. They may have housed a first-aid station there too. There is mention of a “hospital”, but no details were given. However, Quidnunc’s nurses lived there. They saw many different ailments over the years, I’m sure. That was one of the first places you and your unit went after you settled in your tents. They lined us up on the porch, sitting on the edge, with one nurse checking our heads for lice and the other checking our feet for athlete’s foot. For many of us, this was a scary situation; we were afraid of them finding something wrong. Sitting there spreading your toes apart for them to inspect, what would they find?? Mostly lint-filled toes and smelly feet. For those who did have the fungus, the protocol was you had to wear your sneakers in the water and on the waterfront. Ever try swimming in sneakers? It’s also been said they wore socks one year. I was one that wore sneakers one year in the water. What a horror that was. Needless to say, it was embarrassing, and my shoes fell apart. That summer I walked around with wet sneakers that were held together with duct tape, adhesive tape, or whatever was around at the time. As we all learned, it did nothing to prevent the spread of the fungus, it just made us feel and look ridiculous.

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Chapter 5 - Foot Locker Follies

Okay, now it’s time to pack for camp. You’ve had your physical, sent your application and fees for camp. What’s next? Packing. You get out the old trunk and in it go your camp clothes, complete with name tags sewn inside. I don’t know about you, but my trunk was an old Air Force foot locker and weighed a ton. Blankets, sheets, pillow, ditty bag, flashlight and the ever popular 6-12 insect repellant (non-aerosol), all had to go in, and room for clothes was needed, too. Of course, there were towels and bathing suits that came home damp and mildewed. Most us did come home with all our clothes, but there were some who didn’t. Never understood how you could manage that, or how your underwear ended up in the Lost and Found. Once every session, the Lost and Found box was dragged out and articles held up for all the camp to see. As the pieces of clothing, etc., were pulled from the box, the director would hold them up and ask” who belongs to this?” There would be lots of laughter when a bra or panty were displayed. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, at least it wasn’t run up the flagpole as a joke. So, keep track of your unmentionables. Good advice!

Trunks, footlockers, and occasionally duffle bags, were then picked up about two weeks to a month before you left. They were stored and then delivered to camp when you arrived. Piled in the field next to the road far from its final destination sat your trunk. This is where you learned who your friends really were. You and a tent mate would help each other up the road to your unit with the trunks. Mine always made it in one piece, but some of them didn’t. They got banged up; some even popped open. Those were the black shiny ones, many times bought in a discount store that didn’t fare well. If you didn’t make friends on the bus ride up, you sure did after this adventure!



Madeline Paretti Williams (Perry)

Where Are My Clothes?

Some Staff members traveled from far away to work at Quidnunc. There was a lovely girl from California, Penny something, pretty blonde hair, peachy skin and big blue eyes. She was such a sweetheart too, very nice person.

I remember her stories about growing up in California, her parents had owned a motel at one time, and some of the incidents with the Hells Angels wanting to stay there. I don’t remember the details, I just remember being scared, hearing her stories.

We were surprised to discover that she had traveled from Southern California to NYC by bus. I never knew anyone who had traveled that far by bus. And the poor thing, the bus company had lost her luggage! She arrived at camp with her purse, and the clothes on her back.

The bus company had finally located her luggage, but it was now in Pittsburgh, and headed back to the west coast, and it would take at least 3 weeks before they could return her luggage to her.

Being good scouts, we all got together and tried to give her some clothing to wear, we all took care of her. We let her use our hair products, curlers, whatever. I thought that was great. It showed real concern for someone in need. And this happened the first week of camp, it was a great introduction to the type of people with which I would be spending the rest of the summer.

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Chapter 6 - Travelling Girl Scouts

The day has finally come; it’s time to go to camp! I’m going to work backwards, from the early 60’s to close of camp, since this is the easiest information to find. In 1963 and 64, my first two years at camp, we met at Washington Irving HS in Manhattan to board Red and Tan buses. A sea of girls dressed in their “greenies”, and mothers, for the most part, holding back tears was the scene in the auditorium. What was all the fuss about? This was a good thing. There were tears from the younger girls but not for long because we sang and talked our way to camp. After those two years, our buses left from the Port Authority in the city. Again, we filled the station with the official green and white uniforms. Otherwise, if you were lucky enough, your parents would drive you to camp. Being that it was only 90 miles from NYC, the drive was pleasant without all the drama. That was my mode of transport from 1964 – 1969.

I remember carrying a small suitcase with a change of clothes and bathing suit in it. Maybe a few personal items would be added. If you had musical talent, you would bring your guitar and carry that in your other hand.

Belle Gross wrote; I grew up in Queens. Spent about eight years at Girl Scout camp. First year at Andree Clark and then at Quid. My parents drove me to the 178th Street, George Washington Bridge terminal to get the bus. It became a family joke in the mid 60’s when my Dad reassured me that I never had to be afraid of the mean city when I was up there, that if I got in trouble in Washington Heights all I needed to do was yell out “I Love the New York Yankees” and someone would help me. The place was crawling with girls in greenies –green shorts and white blouses. I wore the official blouse because if I traveled in it then it would get less wrinkled than it would get in my trunk. (Since we wore greenies for dinner too I had several white tee shirts that did get wrinkled packed away. I remember that since we needed to wear a clean shirt every night I would wear a shirt one night, then wear it backwards, then wear it inside out frontwards and finally inside out backwards!) I often wore saddle shoes as they were “tie” shoes for hiking and my mother thought slip-ons were useless at camp. On the bus, I carried a smallish tote bag with a diary and camera and I think writing paper and envelopes.

From what I have gathered, the bus trip from NYC was similar for the girls of the 40’s thru the late 50’s. No, they didn’t wear greenies: they wore shorts, shirts and sturdy shoes, or maybe even a Girl scout uniform. The departure locations changed from year to year. Yes, they did leave from the Port Authority, but they also boarded the buses at the Armory and from the council office in Queens. They sat on the bus for the two-hour ride north, which took them up Route 9 through the Palisades. The New York Thruway wasn’t built yet. Super highways and faster vehicles have shortened the trip, as long as you don’t get lost ...Ahem.

Now you are here! Buses unload the girls in the field by the waterfront. We gather under the trees and on one of the large boulders that are embedded into the landscape to await our unit assignments. If it is your first time away from home, you look around the group for a friendly face, hoping to make a connection and a friend. For the experienced campers, you look for your friends from last year. Are they here?? Will they be in my unit again?? runs through your mind. The director is in charge of calling names, units and their leaders. When will she call my name?? Oh boy: she did and off to the unit you go!

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Chapter 7 - Directors and Staff

Miss Ford 1925 - 1940

Miss C. Evangeline Ford, known as Gay, was a professional Girl Scout working in the Queens council starting in the 1920’s, working her way up from a leader to executive director by 1929. A Vassar graduate, she also received an MA from Columbia University. She is credited with increasing scout membership from 931 girls in 1929 to almost 6000 in 1941 in her borough of Queens. Quite a legacy! Unfortunately, she died in 1941 at age 44.

It’s hard to pinpoint when Miss Ford became director at Quid, but it appears that she was probably the first director in 1925 and continued until 1940. She would train counselors in the Queens borough office with the aid of her assistant, Annie Sue Waldrop, aka Tommy.

Tommy, we believe was Miss Ford’s assistant director at camp. In 1941 Miss Margaret Lynch, Bridgie, had taken over the position of director and Tommy was her assistant for two years. Tommy left to join the WAVES in 1943, leaving her dog behind in the care of Randy, the head counselor. The adventures of the dog were kept in a diary. Shanty Wu, as he was known, was no stranger to camp; he always wanted to camp with Tommy, although this year was a little different. Tommy was off to war and Shanty Wu’s new home was Caravan. He also had a new pal of his own kind, a large black and white dog named Jock. Who Jock belonged to is still a mystery.

Here is a list of the Administration staff in the late 30’s:

Director - Miss Ford

Program Supervisor - Annie Sue Waldrop

Personnel - Adelaide Avry

Waterfront Director - Martha Shamberger

Food Supervisor - Margaret Lynch

Bridgie 1941 – 1958

Love that name!! Her real name is Miss Margaret Lynch. Bridgie took the reins as director at Quidnunc in 1941, after the death of Miss Ford. In 1943, Bridgie chose Doris Biggio as her second in command. Previously, Bridgie was the food supervisor at Quid and, having a home economics background, she was familiar with the running of the camp. And for the next fifteen years, was a permanent fixture in the DD. The impression she left is still talked about today among her lifelong friends she made in those years. One of her friends later became one of the most beloved directors of camp. Bridgie and Doris were known for their high standards: shape up or else! That was mainly directed at the staff members, but for the younger campers, Bridgie was kind and forgiving. These two women guided the camp until 1959, when Bridgie left, (remember, she was getting older, and probably was around 60), and Doris and Chet went to Camp Merrywood, aka Camp Kaufman.

Here are a few stories about Bridgie you might like or remember.

Glo writes... Many hot nights when the three of us, Cathy, Ellie and myself looked for mischief, the idea was to go down to the lake for a swim in the Brownies crib. (I didn’t know how to swim, so my buddies were kind enough to stay with me). One night we caught the sight of a lantern moving toward us, until we saw the legs in the light. We didn’t know it was Bridgie. Wow, did we move fast, and of course she read us the riot act. That part of our evening entertainment ceased for the rest of the season. When I returned to Cleveland I received a letter from Bridgie telling me I was fired unless I shaped up. Needless to say, I apologized profusely and was able to stay on. Later we found out that Flip (Jean Allen) the waterfront director, had squealed on us.

Molly French… Bridgie was director when I was a camper (55-58). She seemed to lead all of camp in our “high standards” but I think her direct involvement was mainly with staff…except for a certain Brownie named Lou (Louise Black) that story!! Ellie was, I think, arts and crafts director then. She made what I thought were the most fabulous decorations for the banquets. I was an aspiring artist then and her work definitely influenced mine. Although there never was much of an audience for cute happy camper girls outside of camp! Ellie was director when I was on staff (60-61) and was great in that role as well.

Connie Wright… At our final camp dinner at the Bear Mountain Inn, I had been asked by Doris Biggio to compose a song for the poem, “Whoever Walks a Mountain Trail”, for Bridgie. Our wonderful staff would practice at the chapel on Sundays and performed with love and professionalism. So, whoever walks a mountain trail, will never walk alone………

Joan Troutman... One day at lunch I annoyed one of my counselors and to “discipline” me she sent me away from the table to stand outside the dining hall. (I was only 8 years old). Bridgie saw what happened, spoke to the counselor and had me return to the meal. I appreciated her kindness.

Louise Black… When I was a camper in the Brownie unit in (I think) 1947, I went to Bridgie with a request that I be allowed to stay in camp for a second two-week stay. I was seven at the time. We chatted for a while. Bridgie called my mom and it was done. My mom met the bus in NYC with a suitcase of clean clothes, and took a case with my laundry. It was a done deal … I was in heaven! I loved Bridgie.

Louise Pitone… I went to Camp Quidnunc as a camper for two years (Trails End '51 and Caravan '53) and worked there two years (in the Kitchen under Blanche and Muriel in '55 and as a Counselor in Trails End in '56). My sister was there one year in the Brownie Unit in '51 and my friend Phyllis was there with me most of those years. I remember Ellie Alf and all the words to all the songs she taught us. Bridgie (Margaret Lynch) was always the Camp Director and Flip (Jean Allen) was the Waterfront Director. I have pictures which I can share. I remember hikes to Bald Mountain, the Iron Mines and the Lemon Squeeze and a canoe portage trip across the three Kanawaukees. I remember the Scouts Owns, floating wishing boats on the lake, and spitting watermelon seeds from the big rock near the road. I was a Girl Scout in Brooklyn and a Mariner in a Sea Scout Troop in Gerritson Beach.

Lee adds … Bridgie, camp director, was a home economics teacher in a NYC school, therefore, her compulsiveness, which extended to digging the lint out of the cracks in the tent floors with your GS issue jack- knife. My first encounter with the liquid green soap, Fels Naptha, Pine Sol, Brillo. Also, she strove to achieve Quid’s AAAAA+++++ rating during Harriman State Park inspections.

The formidable cooks - Muriel, Sugarbush and Blanche worked under Bridgie in the NYC school system. What did they think of sleeping in tents?? They always wore flowered dresses and laced up black shoes with stout heels, just as my grandmother did. They were the one who banged each pot returned to the kitchen, looking for that small drop of water trapped in the handle. They also were very careful to ensure that during assembly line sandwich- making for hikes no one knocked the extra mayo off of the big spoon by banging it on the glass jar top (possibility of broken glass fragments getting into the mayo). You definitely wanted to keep on their good side.

Lennie… I'm Lennie (Kaufmann) Friedman. I'm new at this computer stuff, and it has taken me literally months to figure out how to do this. I was at Quidnunc from 1938 to 1945, and my sister, Barbara (Bobby) was there until 1950. We both stayed all summer all those years, and we both have long and pretty accurate memories. Both of us have stories and remembrances of people up the Wazoo. You mentioned Bridgie. Of course, I remember her. Her name was Margaret Lynch; her sister, Ethel was the camp director of Brady, and they lived together in an apartment in Jackson Heights. Once, I was in their apartment, though I can't remember why. Bridgie and Tommy (Annie Sue Waldrop) became the joint directors of Quidnunc after the death of Miss Ford (that's Constance Evangeline Ford, nicknamed Gay). Miss Ford's last year was 1940, the year I was in Neppie's. I got in trouble for cutting arts and crafts and Miss Ford sat me down on the back porch of the Cabin and told me that she was seriously considering sending me home. She didn't. I think my head counsellor, Dot Lyon, intervened. Bridgie became sole director in 1943 when Tommy joined the WAVES. Tommy left Shanty Wu (Shanty Wu was an Irish Terrier) behind her and Randy (Marjorie Holm) the head counselor of Caravan took him on. 1943 was my first year in Caravan.

There are three other people on the "do you remember list" that I knew very well. Joan (Jerri) Wachman was a camper with me for several years. She lived in Kew Gardens, and I haven't seen or heard from her since she left Quidnunc in ‘45 I think. I would dearly love to know where she is. Nancy Dunham was a prentie in 1943; her sister Jean was a counselor that year. They lived in Jackson Heights, and she went to Newtown High School, as I did. Maggie was Maggie Magenheimer, the youngest counselor of the three in Caravan in 1943. The three were Randy (Marjorie Holm), Stevie (Lorraine Stevenson), and Maggie. And Shanty Wu.

In Memoriam: Dot Marquette Lyon

Dot was everything a counselor should be. She was small, but tough and strong. She could make anything; she could fix anything, and she could out-work, out-hike, and out-paddle anyone on our three lakes. She wasn't soft or sentimental, but she knew her girls, and she cared. It was she who intervened when Miss Ford wanted to send me home (I had cut Arts and Crafts and had convinced Jerri to cut with me), but she gave me a talking-to that cut to the bone, left me in tears, but also with hope.

She was my head counselor in Sherwood Forest in 1939 and again in Neppie's Nook in 1942. She came back in 1944 (with her year-old son) to head the Prentie unit, but alas for me, I was still in Caravan. What I remember best were evenings in Sherwood. After supper, we 10-year-olds gathered in front of Dot's tent, and she read to us--all the Milne books and, a chapter a night, Bambi.

Olav Ha Shalom, Dot.


Ellie Alf 1959 -1966

Eleanor “Ellie” Alf stepped into the role of director in 1959, after Bridgie retired. Teaching art during the school year and directing Quid in the summer kept her busy. No stranger to Quidnunc, she was a camper in the 50’s, a counselor and Arts and Crafts director. You can be sure she knew the ins and outs of the camp and all its secrets. Over the years, Ellie made many friends, friendships to this day that are still intact. Women like Joan and Maureen Connelly, Hilda Witte, Glo Arrego, Joan Quigly, Doris Biggio, and Cathy Lennon, who passed away too soon, all worked together at camp. Can you imagine what an experience that was? They all loved camp and Ellie too! Speaking from experience, I looked forward to seeing that redheaded woman every summer. There was one year that Ellie wasn’t there. It was 1964 and some stranger was in Ellie’s place. This was the year that Ellie and her friends decided to go to Europe. How dare she have a life of her own?!! We wanted and expected her to be there, but nonetheless we had a new face for that summer. Her name was Ruth Healy and she brought her own staff with her. From what I’ve seen and heard, she wasn’t very personable and lacked Ellie’s qualities, but of course, she had big shoes to fill.

So, in 1965 Ellie was back and all was right in the world again. That was one great year! That year had great staff members in the office, the units and on the waterfront. My memories of camp are the sharpest for that year. It was also the first time I was able to attend camp for the whole month. Usually, I only went for the first two-week session in July. (Money was a big issue). This time I qualified for a campership and could go for the month. Ellie’s friends were back too. Maureen Joan, aka JC, Brownie the nurse and Hilda, who filled in when needed throughout the years.

Ellie’s reign began in 1959 and her last year was in 1966. When her friends look back at these years, they feel that Ellie had the early stages of Alzheimer’s. They could see something wasn’t the same with her. That might be the reason Ellie gave up her role as director and retired to a less stressful life. Unfortunately, she does have the disease and is living quietly in a nursing home on Long Island. Her artwork, spirit of fun and adventure live on in all of us who loved her. I wish I had more than one piece of her work, but there is one drawing which hits home when it comes to her sense of humor. And there’s one photo of hers that proves her love of Camp Quidnunc. It’s a picture of the infirmary covered in snow that she took and used as her Christmas card. Perfect!

My story about Ellie is from the second year I was at camp. In 1963, I was almost 11 years old and was in HAW. I came down with a sore throat and was sent to the nurse. It must have been pretty bad, (don’t remember the details), because I wound up needing a doctor's care. The doctor was in town, I think in Tuxedo; like I said the details are foggy, but Ellie was in charge of driving us to the office. There was another little girl with us, and off we went. Ellie was so kind and made the scary trip smooth and uneventful. She talked to us the whole way and asked us how we felt and how camp was going so far. I do remember her Cutlass and wanted one after that for a long time. Ellie always had a smile for us and we just loved her.

In Memoriam: Eleanor “Ellie” Alf

During the gathering, writing, and reflections in this collection, I am sorry to say there was a change in Ellie’s story. In January 2016, Ellie succumbed to the Alzheimer’s Disease she was suffering from and was taken home, hopefully to a beautiful, peaceful camp somewhere in Heaven. She had such an influential effect on so many people. Her humor, kindness, and talent were one of a kind. We miss you Ellie. Rest in Peace.

Smitty 1967

Mrs. Margaret K Smith, as she was addressed by most people, took over for one year as director. She was the definition of a Professional Girl Scout; after all, she was the head of the camp division at GSCGNY. Smitty, as she was called in camp, wasn’t a warm and fuzzy type like Ellie. She was tall, and older than previous directors. Maybe it was because of her position at the council, or just her beliefs, that made her stern with her staff. She was sort of a no-nonsense kind of leader. A couple of stories have been told about her way of dealing with misbehavior or speaking one’s mind. One story is about a young counselor who scheduled a hike to Bear Mountain. It was charted on the calendar and planned in plenty of time for all to see. She assumed that Smitty knew the trip was a one-way hike due to the distance, and that the girls would need a ride back. When the counselor called late in the afternoon for a ride home, she was chewed out by Smitty and was told to hike back because she wasn’t coming. Smitty eventually gave in and picked them up after the counselor said that they would be hiking back in the dark without flashlights or food. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with Smitty, and the counselor caught hell for it. Smitty basically called her an idiot, and she was on Smitty’s bad side for the rest of the summer.

Another tale is about the same counselor and a camper who cried all day long. It appeared that this poor girl was homesick, when actually her parents sent her to camp so they could go to Mexico for a quickie divorce. You could do that back then. Not knowing what to do about it, the young and naïve counselor went to the director for advice. The answer she got shocked her. She was told: “mind your own business”. In those years, that was said way too often. For the rest of the summer the counselor stayed away from Smitty. She was afraid that she would be sent home, receive a poor evaluation, and not be able to return the next year. Smitty was known for that. I guess she thought that her staff should be more like her, stoic and less involved personally. Camp shouldn’t be run like that, it should be a place of fun and feeling comfortable with the leaders, for staff and campers alike. If Smitty liked you, then I am sure you would have a much different opinion about the way she handled things. I was lucky that I wasn’t on staff then: I was only a camper. Campers didn’t have as much contact with the directors, unless you were a “mischievous kid”. In 1967 I was in the oldest unit, Trail’s End, and we were too busy on the waterfront to cause any real trouble. We also had to help the staff with the campers’ banquet that year. We got to pick the theme and helped with the decorations. That was quite an honor!


Madeline Paretti Wiliams (Perry)

In the beginning…….

Let me first say, I have never been a Girl Scout, not officially, that is. Never went to camp until 1967, at age 20. Oh, I wanted to be a Girl Scout. My mom tried to get me into a Brownie Troop when I was about 10, in 1957. But they were not taking any new members unless an adult female relative volunteered to be a Brownie Leader. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. My mother didn’t want any additional responsibilities. She was looking for a free evening, getting away from me for a few hours! Hah! Didn’t work. But 10 years later…

The Spring of 1967, I graduated from Hunter College, had a teaching job lined up for September, and decided to find an office job for the summer. The Temporary Agency asked me if I would like to work for the Girl Scout Headquarters in midtown Manhattan, very near the United Nations building. I was thrilled!

On my first day to report on the job, I arrived early, wanted to make a good impression. But I nearly got knocked off my feet by this rather tall, large and awkwardly clumsy woman who was not looking where she was going. I swore she was about six feet tall, large feet, walking forcefully with her upper body at least a foot ahead of the rest of her.

She never excused herself, and I almost made a nasty remark, but glad I bit my tongue, I needed to stay positive and focused on my job. I even took a different elevator to get away from her.

When I arrived at the Girl Scout Office, Mrs. Muriel Smith, AKA “Smitty”, greeted me and introduced me to all the ladies in the office. A very pleasant and congenial group.

Then she took me to the Director’s office. As soon as she opened the door, I nearly fell back. The lady that had knocked me off my feet was the Director of the Girl Scouts of America! I was somewhat in shock, and glad that I did not snap back at her earlier.

Smitty sensed we had met before, and asked “Do you two know each other?” I quickly responded “Yes, we bumped into each other earlier this morning”. The Director made a wide grin, and with that as my introduction to the Girl Scouts, I was welcomed with open arms.

The first few weeks were fun; I always enjoyed working in an office. I spent my days typing lists of campers’ names and addresses, sorting the mail, getting ready for items to be delivered to the post office. I really liked working there. And I guess they liked me too, because Smitty approached me with “How would you like to spend the summer at Girl Scout camp, in the Catskill Mountains?”. Huh? I had never been to camp; I knew nothing about it…at all! But they wanted me... I was a college graduate, I had a teaching certificate, I had experience working with young children, and was certified in first aid. I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I was always pretty adventurous, looking for a challenge, but the truth is, I was like a fish out of water. I didn’t even own a pair of jeans, or a sweatshirt, hardly wore t-shirts. I had just graduated from Hunter College Park Avenue campus, where you were not allowed to wear slacks. Jeans had not become chic yet, and only the students in the Art department were allowed to wear them, only on days when they were dealing with painting projects. I attended 4 years of college, in Manhattan, including summer classes, wearing stockings, heels and conservative dresses.

And that’s how I showed up for camp on my first day at Quidnunc. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so my mother had to drive me to camp, just like all the other campers. I wore a new pink polyester print dress, which I later referred to as my “Trisha Nixon” outfit: beige Maryjane shoes, pantyhose, hair all teased up, plenty of hair spray to keep the flip in place, gold jewelry, and manicured nails.

Smitty took one look at me, and asked if I had brought another outfit to change into. I had never seen Smitty in anything else but business attire, and now she was wearing green shorts, white socks, sneakers, Girl Scout shirt and a green tie. No one told me about appropriate dress attire for camp.

Let me back up. When I first agreed to leave the office job, Smitty’s description of my new position was not totally accurate….

She told me that I would be a Unit Leader, and I would supervise 3 counselors, and 30 campers, aged 9-11. She said I would spend a good deal of time making weekly schedules, writing reports and planning activities for the Sky Blue Unit. I asked if I would have a desk in an office.

Yes, there will be a desk and an office available to you. This was true. However, she neglected to tell me about the 30 other staff members who would also be using this space and sharing the typewriter.

Smitty was wise enough to provide me with an excellent staff: Tanya “TJ” Herzog, my tent mate from Chicago, Faye Hildenbrand, “Cricket”, and Shari Smith from Staten Island. They each had at least 10 years of camping experience, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them. I would have never survived the summer of 1967 without them. Thank you all!

Memories of Camp Directors

I was at Quidnunc in 1967-1968. Smitty was the camp director. She had a bear skin in her office. She shot that bear. She was some tough Girl Scout Camp Director.

Do you remember the tearful goodbyes on our last day? It was terrible leaving paradise.

Smitty berated us for this. She said you never knew what the future could hold. Perhaps we would meet our Quidnunc friends again someplace, sometime. She had had the experience of connecting with a Girl Scout in later years. We could, too. This was before the internet, which is a real game changer. Was she not just a good shot, but clairvoyant as well?

Leda Gottlieb

Ronnie 1968 - 1969

Oh the 60’s. What a decade, especially the last few years. Women’s Lib, the moon walk, Woodstock, the height of the war in Viet Nam, the “pill”, and the sexual revolution. Some of these issues carried over to camp in those years. Imagine overseeing a group of young, women campers and staff, and dealing with these issues. Well that’s what Ronnie Gelston did for those two years. Veronica “Ronnie” Gelston was a professional Girl Scout too. She worked for the GSCGNY for as many years as I can remember. When I was seven or eight years old, she and Dot Nelson were directors of High Rock Day Camp on Staten Island. They kept that role until the council sold the camp in the 60’s. As a professional, you were required to fill in whenever and wherever needed. We needed a director in 1968 so we got Ronnie. For two years Ronnie took over Quidnunc and had Beth Cruse as one of the assistants, and Ginger Johnson as one of the nurses. Ginger was friends with Ronnie for years. They worked together at High Rock. My mother was also good friends with them through Girl Scouting and High Rock.

I can’t tell you very much about what went on in camp in 1968 because I wasn’t there that year. I went to Round Up instead. Now, of course, I wish I had gone to camp, but at the time I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. In 1969 I came back to camp as a staff member, a kitchen aide or pot girl as we were sometimes called back then. I was sixteen and full of myself. Returning to camp was what I needed and wanted. Along with me were friends from 1967, Pixie (Jeanne Hogan), Debbie Wood and Michele Frisch (Shelly) - four experienced girls from Camp Q, and three new girls. This was going to be great. Why do I bring this up? Let’s just say that Ronnie had her hands full that year. Until you had been on staff, you never knew everything the director goes through. Problems arose in different areas. There were staff who couldn’t get along with each other, some who didn’t follow the rules, others who crossed boundaries, and those who were just unhappy. Maybe the walk on the moon had something to do with it. By the time intersession came, we lost these girls. Our little staff in the kitchen lost two girls, and we needed the help. Ronnie called my mom and asked her if she knew anybody that was willing to come and work in the kitchen. My mother found Diane Nappi and she came to work the rest of the summer. I think the other units did without replacements.

Here it is August 1969: yeah, you know what’s coming. The Woodstock Music Festival! We had three or four staff members who wanted to go on their time off. I don’t know if all made it to the concert, but only one returned to work at camp. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they just went home. These are just a few things that I know of that Ronnie had to deal with but I am sure there were more. All in all, she was friendly, fair, and approachable and she did a fine job. How many of us could put up with the same as well? Sex, drugs, and rock and roll had slipped into camp.

Ronnie retired in the 1980’s and moved into an apartment down the street from my mom’s house on Staten Island. She was widowed and didn’t need a house to maintain. Her daughter was married with children and lived in a neighborhood nearby. Ronnie volunteered at a local nursing home a few miles away, in fact it was on the opposite hillside from High Rock. She did this until she developed Alzheimer’s and was then admitted to the same home. Talk about coming full circle! She passed away in the 1990’s in the same place. This is the second director that we know of who was stricken with this disease.

My Ronnie Story. In 1969 I was a kitchen aide, working in the dining hall (the DH). This was the big time now, being a staff member and not a camper. There were some things we could do and get away with now at camp. Our responsibilities weren’t 24/7, as they were for the unit staff. We had free time during the day and night to find trouble. For the most part, though, we did behave. When we did cross those lines, it wasn’t so bad or dangerous, just not what was expected from us. At sixteen years old, at that time, you were not very worldly or sophisticated and were easily influenced by the older girls. At least that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it. In NY at that time you were legally allowed to drink at eighteen. There was a group of staff members that went out regularly to the local pub/pizzeria. Two of my tent mates were part of that group. Every time they went out, one particular girl came back drunk as a skunk. She had to be pushed up the hill to our unit and she wasn’t going quietly. I don’t know if any of the other girls got gassed like that, but once was enough. One time we, the younger girls, went out with them. They sat at a big table together which included girls our age, and we sat at another. They all were served drinks and when we tried to order drinks, we were asked for proof of age. Maybe it was because we were sitting away from them or maybe we just looked guilty. Laws have changed since then…

As you can see, we wanted to fit in, do what they were doing, know what they knew. Our eyes and ears were open all the time. Repeating comments is not a good way of pretending to have knowledge. I found that out the hard way. One day while making about three hundred bologna sandwiches for camp, Joan, the waterfront director, came by and checked out what we were making. She took one look at the meat and said “this meat is full of maggots”. Oh My Gosh, I needed to say something, and I did. When it got back to Ronnie, she called me in the office and told me I was wrong and didn’t know what I was talking about. Which was true. She then called my mom and said that she didn’t realize how immature I was. That hurt, but HELLO! I was sixteen and very naïve. I was mad at myself for repeating it and mad at Joan for saying that to us.

My second story about Ronnie begins one night in August of that year. Instead of five girls in our tent we now had four, more room to move around in. It was now Pixie, Michelle, (not Shelly), Diane and me. Pixie and I were the experienced campers and Diane and Michelle, well, were afraid of everything. Michelle was a very tall, slender, African-American girl and Diane was a short, compact, white girl; they were about as opposite as you can get, but they both had a set of lungs on them that could wake the dead. One night when the whole camp was either sleeping or settling down for the night, George the raccoon came to our tent for a visit. He walked right in and started rooting around the beds of Michele and Diane. They heard a noise and shone the flashlight on this poor creature causing him to get stuck in the tent flaps. We were allowed to keep the tent flaps down because we were staff. The harder he tried to free himself the more they screamed, until he finally escaped this crazy tent. Ronnie could hear the commotion all the way down inside the DD. She came out of the office and yelled up at the unit at ME! “But it’s not me”, I said, “it’s Diane and Michelle!” I thanked my two tent mates for getting me into trouble as they climbed off my bed.

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