Bob Miraldi tells us about his summers at camp in the 1930s

It’s always a delightful surprise when we become re-acquainted with friends we were unaware of.

That’s what happened when Bob Miraldi called the camp office, asking if he could visit the camp, see what it was like now, and tell us about his memories from the late 1930s.

Director of Development Susan Daily, Development Assistant David Kleiner, and Board Member Mike Spangler spent a beautiful spring morning riding around the camps properties in the golf cart, hearing Bob reminsice about being a young boy at “Farm Camp” 75 years ago.

Here are some of his memories:

My Memories of Farm Camp

(from an old coot with a long term memory, but not a short one)
March 12, 2016

Background – Getrude and Valdo Miraldi had (rented) the large bungalow (our house on the map) until 1940 or 41. I was born in ’29 and was there every summer, but I don’t know when they started. Mom, my two sisters, Gloria and Lolo, and I spent all of every summer there until 1940 or ’41. The best and happiest summers of my life.

My mom (Gertrude) worked in the camp kitchen some summers. I remember her complaining that Mr. Kane, the camp manager, insisted that the butter be served cold so the kids would have trouble spreading it and would take less.

Most of the regular kids, the ones who stayed the summer, called Mr. Kane “Killer Kane” because he was the disciplinarian. He was really quite nice, but you know kids.

The farmer was Joe Perosa. I don’t know his wife’s name (probably Mrs. Perosa). They had five kids, teen to infant, Richard, Claude, Clara, Peter, and Johnny, the baby. A wonderful family — friendly and kind in every way. Clara was a good play pal and she was usually a valued part of our play group. Peter, the fourth youngest, we called “seeky”. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

When the corn was ripe, Richard and Claude would stand up on Rte 63 and sell fresh corn. Sometimes  I would join them. I loved to hear the cars go by with their engine sound a high whine as the cars approached, then dropped in octave as they went past. I know why, now, but  I didn’t then.

Young Bob and his family

Young Bob and his family

There was a morning swim time before lunch and one in the afternoon.

Sometimes, Jerry, the main counselor for all the time I was there, would mow the lawn between the long house and the big house. We kids liked to follow the path made by the push mower in the tall grass. Jerry knew it was fun for us, so he would make random mowing passes and get down to serious mowing only after we lost interest. I don’t know Jerry’s last name, but he was a gem !

Another counselor was a black fellow name Eddie Ficklin. He liked my sister. I can no longer hear bird songs – one of the privileges of old age, but I joyfully remember being awakened in the morning by the birds singing. What a nice way to wake up.

Next to the “spring house” was an old willow tree which had blown down when it was younger. lt continued to grow, however, but more or less horizontally. lt was a favorite place for kids to “climb” the tree simply by walking along it’s horizontal trunk.

lf you followed the path through the “big woods” to it’s end, there was another swing set. The swings were hung from straight metal rods, each about a foot long and joined lengthwise with eyes in the rods. This arrangement made it possible to swing w a a a y High, and if you were really brave you could sail off the swing at it’s apex and go sailing way out.

At this location there was also a large oak tree with large limbs. The Perosa boys had tied a thick rope to one of the branches to serve as a nice rope swing. Also good for jumping off. But you had to be sure to hang on above the knots in the rope or it would be hard to hang on.

I joined the Boy Scouts in 1942, and remained in scouting until 1952. ln the late 1940s l asked Mr. Kane if some of our scout troop members could camp there occasionally. He happily agreed and we had many fun weekends of camping. We slept in the old log cabin (is it still there?). Once, to repay the kindness several of us installed a new “roll” roof.

I still think of Farm Camp frequently. I often dream of swimming in the lake – not in the “swim area”, but from the shore of the “big woods” – and in my dreams, the bottom is never muddy!

When I sent my memory drawing of Farm Camp to my sister, Lolo, who now lives in Phoenix, AZ, she added some of her recollections. Her ruminations follow; her response is dated December, 2001.

I have included a lot of stuff’ for you. Much of it may seem insignificant now so you can use or discard at your pleasure. Permission is hereby granted for you to use whatever you want (written and pictures) for whatever purpose benefits The College Settlement effort.

Here are the memories of Bob’s sister, Lolo:

Farm Camp memories of Lolette Miraldi (written in 2001)

Now, about Farm Camp. I really have a triple advantage on you, Bob. First, I am older and perhaps remember things you didn’t know. Second, I lucked out and have all the photos of that time. Third, Gloria and I went to Farm Camp a few years before she died. It is surprising how small things got once I grew up! I will try to enlarge on things according to your notes, okay?

Expand to read more

I remember the pig that bit the glass. I don’t remember what happened to LL, but I would have guessed it was killed. I don’t remember a separate place for little pigs, or the tomato patch. I was more of a fruit eater than a tomato eater. I would like to enlarge your barn. Coming from the pig pen first there were the two big wagons on which we played Buck Rogers. Next was the storage for the bales of hay, with loose hay on the floor.

We made Richard Peroso shimmy out along the roof beam to move the pully over to where the bales were stacked. Once the rope was threaded and knotted, Claude got on the rope on the floor and I got on the other end from the top of the stack of bales — with delight I went down and Claude came up. The only thing was that I let go when I reached the floor and he came hurtling down. We also had one of the counselors (I don’t remember who) help us move the bales to make tunnels that we could go through.

The horses were stabled in the adjoining room, and we would take the oats and feed them, a definite NO-NO. That was supposed to be a special treat for special occasions. There was a space after the barn and then the long house. There were bunks in the rooms and at the end of the row a raised portion and underneath a meeting room where we put on plays. I think the counselors maybe slept in that raised portion. I don’t remember a separate building further down for the horses. I am amazed that you recall their names! The building you show as the tool shed was the corn crib. They have since built another house between ours and the one behind ours. I loved the back porch,/bedroom with it’s tin roof. It was a delightful sound when it rained. There were 6 windows along the back and 3 at each end. To the right was my bed along the windows and Gloria’s bed next to the wall. A small aisle was between them. Mom’s double bed was at the other end of the room. I don’t remember where you slept but I picture it in the other room. The last summer when we were there without Mom, Gloria would make up a schedule of jobs, especially dishes.

One of us (you or me?) would put the dirty ones in the oven and do them the next day. We also had cheese in a wooden crate and ate grilled cheese sandwiches every day. There was a trap door at the end of the kitchen which covered steps that led to the next apartment where the DeMeo’s lived. Once when your turtle was lost, we found it under the steps.

The steps up to the kitchen were flanked on each side, to the left was the bathroom and to the right’ was the porch. I have a picture of Sandy sitting on something on the porch. The other thing I remember was the dirt-floor root cellar underneath our part where we stored our milk and other food to cool. Once Mom sent Gloria down to get two quarts of milk. As she was coming up a rat grabbed her ankle. She screamed and clutched the milk harder. The rat ran, and she refused to ever go down there again.

I remember at the end of the chicken coop houses (that’s what they were called), just beyond Cramer’s place was a most delicious Stayman-Winesap apple tree. It didn’t ripen fully until later in September, but I didn’t care, I ate them green. Do you remember when there was an epidemic of some sort and school didn’t start until October? (Boy, did I eat those apples then.) It got so cold that Mom would tuck us in bed so tightly that we couldn’t move. One morning I woke up on the floor with the mattress on’ top of me. That’s what I call good wrapping.

The lane is no longer accessible, entrance is from Witmer Road. There was a pear tree half-way down the lane on Mr. Robert’s side of the road. I hit it frequently. I went down for the mail every day (the Last year when I was 14). It was 1/2 mile long. When Mom was still coming out, we would walk down the lane on Saturday night, to wait for Dad to come from McKean Street. One night a car saw us and stopped, and backed up to investigate. When Mom saw that it was backing up, she pulled us into the bushes. I sat in poison ivy ila naa the worst case of poison in my whole life. No one else got it.

Take a quick left to the tennis courts and apple orchard and the Maypole. They used to wrap one of the ropes around all of the other ropes and when the other people started to run around the pole the guy on the top rope would go flying high in the opposite direction. Continuing on down, when Glor and I went, Mr. Thompson was still there.

Now to go through your numbers. Everything is okay from 1 to 6.

7. I too climbed that tree. Once when I was up there Allen took his bow and arrow and shot at me. I had to climb and dodge to avoid getting hit. When Mom found out she said she would kill me if I fell down. I could not understand how she could take my broken body and kill me! We called that “an arrow escape.”

11. There was a tree by the springhouse whose trunk grew parallel to the ground. One could walk on it all the way until it branched up. Beneath is was a small stream in which grew spearmint. The water from the springhouse formed a small pool before it went over a stone spillway (about 4 feet high) into the lake. There was a tree beside the pond that had a rope tied to it on which we would swing out over the water and let go, dropping into the pond. It was not deep. Once someone threw a broken bottle into the pond and I don’t remember whose foot got cut, but that was the end of that.

13. I agree about the muddy bottom. Once I swam the lake 4 times. I wouldn’t go beyond the dock because that water was too shallow.

18. I don’t remember the pool at the end of the lake water. One year the lake was fuIl of leaches. That was horrible! There were 2 diving boards and once when I went out on one, Allen came behind me and Jumped up and down and made me fall off. Another time, a lady lost her engagement ring in the water and Allen went down and found it. I think he became a doctor. He was not kind like his cousin Kenny Seitz. Once when he had gotten a bee-bee gun, he started practicing with it and shot Richard in the bottom.

21. The big hole was on the other side of the log cabin. You didn’t finish what you were writing about Clara. What was it?

28. Deep into the little woods was a hollow tree. I have read somewhere that in Bible days they would put a prophet inside a hollow tree to saw him asunder. Ugh!

I remember that on really hot nights we would spread blankets on the grass in front of the house and sleep outside. I loved looking up at the stars and wondering what was out there.

 

In late June, we received this note from Bob:

Susan,
Thank you for the Summer Camp announcement and for the great write-up of my visit. Fun to re-live it!
Thank you, too, for the opportunity to cross off a very important item on my “bucket list.” So many wonderful memories were reawakened. It was almost like being a child again.
You, Mike and David made the visit much more than just a “walk through.” Thank all of you so much.
Bob