Robert Kaplan, a Timberlake camper in the 1950s, sent us this look back on camp and his love of the songs. Sit down and join us on a trip down memory lane.

For me, it all began at the start of Summer 1950 when my parents brought me (age 10), my older brother, Kenneth, and my younger sister, Carol to a bus depot in New York City for the drive to Vermont.  At least in my memory, it has never ended.  For the next seven years as a camper and as a counselor I thoroughly enjoyed summers as I camped, hiked, and canoed in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.  It is now 70 years later. Here is a glimpse into my time at Timberlake.

There are many, many wonderful memories from my time at camp, making it impossible to focus on any one memory being more significant than another.  I think it important to remember the context of my first year. WWII had ended five years prior, the Korean War had just begun, and fear of nuclear warfare was pervasive. Here I was at a farm and wilderness camp owned and operated by the peace-loving, Quaker, and pacifist Webb Family.  Camp was a preserve completely separate and apart from whatever turmoil there was in the world.

In recalling that first year, I remember most those evenings spent around a fire singing songs or performing skits.  Those evenings were led by Dave Williams, the Sr. Counselor for the Eyrie Cabin, playing the guitar.  The Ash Grove – a Welsh folk song – was my favorite:

The ash grove, how graceful, how plainly ‘tis speaking;

                        The wind through it playing has language for me,

                        When over its branches the sunlight is breaking,

                        A host of kind faces is gazing on me.

                        A host of kind faces is gazing on me.

                        The friends of my childhood again are before me;

                        Each step wakes a memory as freely I roam.

                        With soft whispers laden the leaves rustle o’er me;

                        The ash grove, the ash grove again is my home.

Each evening spent around the campfire concluded with us all standing in concentric circles holding each other by the hand and singing the first verse of taps:

Day is done,

                        Gone the sun,

                        From the hills, from the lake, from the skies.

                        All is well,

                        Safely rest,

                        God is nigh.

There was great joy in singing together.

Not everything was so serious.  There was a lot of lightheartedness. I remember going to Ken’s Lodge to massage large plastic bags of white oleomargarine so as to burst a small bag of yellowish food coloring making the bags’ contents look like butter.

Ken was everywhere seemingly all of the time.  As soon as the wake-up bell was rung, he would be calling from a small open field near my cabin, Catamount, for us and others to all venture forth in the brisk morning air for a round of calisthenics.  Mid-morning, he would be with us in the fields as we tended to our gardens.  Later in the day, you could see and hear him driving from one camp to another in his Marmon touring car honking and waving as he went by.  He shared meals with us and led us in saying Grace.  In the evening, you would find him visiting us at an overnight campsite to which we had hiked.  He was marvelous in his energy and enthusiasm.  He seemed to know each and every one of us by name.

How did I ever come to be put upon a bus bound for Plymouth, VT in June 1950? No one now alive remembers.  I don’t recall ever asking.  Whatever the reason, I am glad I made that trip and each of the next six annual treks.

Best regards,


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