Camp Day--The True History

By Mark Cohn

The camp property was discovered by C.D. Kepner, a leader of the Newton Y. A wealthy Newton man, Frank A. Day, had bequeathed money to the Y to fund a camp. Mr. Kepner traveled all over New England to find the perfect location (The Kepner family had a long association with the camp, including Bill, a Midget Unit Head in the 1940s and Bob and Steve, campers in the 1970s). The site where camp is located was once home of the Quabog Indian Tribe. The tribe named Lake Quacumquasitt, which means Great White Goose in the Quabog language. The original camp property was purchased from the Bedell family, which owned the farmhouse.

Originally, the camp property was 1/3 its present size. The dining hall was built before the camp existed--at various times it was a roller skating rink and dance hall. In the early 1900s, a steamboat brought picnickers to the camp property. In its first summer, there were just six campers. The area around the farmhouse and Midget Field was not purchased until after WWII. The first Camp Director was William McPherson. Clyde Hess became director in 1921 and in his 17 years as Director, the camp began to grow. In 1927 the camp divided into Junior and Senior Units. The Midgets were not established until 1935. In 1928, electricity was brought in for the first time. In 1931 the dining hall was screened in. The first cabins were built in that same year; before that all campers lived in tents.

In the 1930s, horseback riding was an important part of the camp program. Sailboats and canoes were added in the late 30s. In 1938, the camp was hit by the Great New England Hurricane. Flooding caused water to rise to the second level of the boathouse and the camp was severely damaged. During this era, the waterfront did not have an H dock, but it did have a slide and high diving board.

Crafts was an important part of the program and was located in what is now the "Country Club" building next to the Senior Miller Court. The camp newspaper, called the Daylight even in the 30s, was published once a week. For a time in the late 30s, there was a Ranger Division, for boys 16-18. They spent most of their time camping out. In 1940, tuition was $12 per week. The camp song, written by Edward Campbell to the tune of "Cornell," is the same as it is now. In 1941, CW Johnson, who had been Assistant Director for many years, replaced Hess.

Then, in 1945, the Doc Simmons era began. Doc served as Director for the next twenty years. While Doc was Director, camp experienced its greatest growth and was regularly full with 180 campers and a long waiting list. For a while, it was nearly impossible for a new camper to be admitted unless a relative had gone to camp. During much of this period, "Coach" Fisher was the Junior Unit Head and Reggie Smith was the Waterfront Director. He was succeeded by Warren Bechtold. Ed Poskitt and Forbes Keith were unit heads during part of this period and Harry Pickering was the crafts director for 15 years. Vinnie Morotto was the sailing and music head for more than 10 years.

Dick McKnight replaced Coach as Junior Unit head, and when he married Sonya, she became the nature instructor. In the late 40s, the Midget and Junior cabins were built in their current locations. For a time, the Junior Unit was divided into Junior A and B; the two groups went to activities separately. There were no CITs until 1966, but "relief counselors" lived in the Motel and filled in on days off. The plaque race began in 1947 and except for a brief time in the late 70s has continued to this day. The Director's cottage was built in the late 50s, and the Midget Unit HQs and what is now the Junior Unit HQs (It used to be the home of the Waterfront Director) were built in 1952. In 1961,the Midget bowl, which had been dirt, was paved over. When Doc passed away, Ed Poskitt became Camp Director. Harry Pickering served as Assistant Director in 1968 and 1969. In 1970, the Y decided that its staff should fill the Director's position. In the next decade, Joe White, Vin Goglia, Paul Mercer, Jack Haston and John Donovan would each briefly fill the director's position. During this same period, enrollment plummeted, dropping to as few as 50-60 campers at some points. During this period, Ned Morse (Midget), George Albro (Junior), Harry Blaisdell (Midget and Senior) and myself were some of the longer serving unit heads.

In 1979, however, Dick and Sonya became directors, built the camp back up to where it stands today, and the rest, as they say, is history. I was at camp from 1966-1976 and 1979-1981, including three years as Midget Unit Head and a couple as Program Director, so someone else will have to write the rest of the history from 1982 onward.