Published January 3, 2020
Imagine two counselors running, and one says to the other, “Hey, can we stop for a snack?” “Sure!” is the reply, then both counselors sit down, take off their shoes and begin chomping on their toenails. The first counselor exclaims, “This sure tastes good, but it could use some salt!” at which point the second produces a shaker.
Not Saturday Night Live, but hilariously funny to the younger crowd. . . and me, a twenty-something first year F&W counselor who had led a relatively staid life up until that point. Here were adults modeling that it was okay to be zany.
One of those actors, Martyne, was already a fixture by the time I started at Indian Brook in the early 80’s. She had first arrived as a camper, then returned as a counselor, making the waterfront her home. With her friend MaryAnn (with whom she also taught at Mill River Union High School in Wallingford), Martyne worked hard teaching swimming, offering afternoon waterfront activities like the canoe instruction she became known for, and then guarding general swim at 4:15. She and MaryAnn would then finish their day shift by jumping in that same water they had been on all day, swimming at their own slow pace to Snobar, chattering all the way!
At some point, after dozens of years, Martyne’s children aged out, she retired from her teaching job in Wallingford, moved with her husband to Park City, Utah and took a break from her work at F&W. But summers on the lake beckoned her back, and so she returned, bringing her grandchildren with her this time. Seemingly, she came back for the same reasons campers do…to meet herself again…to learn, play, connect and have fun.
As the “camp mom,” Martyne took on quietly orienting new generations of IB campers and counselors. When my daughter began working as a counselor at IB, Martyne went up to her and playfully said, “I think I know your mom. She and I used to be wild back in the day. I bet you want to know what we did, but I am not going to tell you,” and she walked away. For staff who had never been to F&W, she took a gentler approach, ensuring they had bedding, sharing her sunscreen, explaining IB culture. Somehow, despite her long experience at camp, Martyne seemed to know just the right ways to help others experiencing camp for the first time.
To say she had fun at her job is an understatement. Each year, when campers did their tippy tests, Martyne would laugh uproariously when they hit the water. She would make a “loon call” to get the attention of her waterfront apprentice “loonies” (her term of endearment for them) out on the lake. And on canoe adventures with more experienced girls, Martyne would be the first to begin the water fights. While she continually strove to do her job better, she also never took herself too seriously. This summer in a pre-camp canoe training with many younger staff, Martyne inadvertently tipped the boat causing a first-year staff person to plunge into the cold river with her. She owned the mishap, perhaps modeling for folks that camp is an okay place for anyone to make mistakes.
But in addition to being goofy (2019 First Session folks won’t forget her wearing her bra on her head for the “First Day on Earth” Banquet), Martyne is known for her patient swim and canoe instruction. She never forced kids into the water, but she taught them skills so that it became a safe and fun place for them. She believed that all kids should learn to swim and canoe, and she worked tirelessly to make that happen. Literally, generations of girls learned from her. They love her for it—showering her with appreciation gifts of paddles, life jackets other self-created works of camp art.
When I walk the road by the Plymouth Camps, there is one tree, a little taller than the rest that catches my eye and seems to draw my attention. By doing so, it serves to encourage me to see the beauty of all the trees on the ridge. While she would never want this type of attention bestowed on her, Martyne’s presence at IB for all these years has had a similar impact on the camp and on us. She makes every year her best year. We are definitely richer for having learned, played and traveled with her.
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