Kittatinny Camp’s Chuck Rait…

October 25, 2007 at 5:22 pm (Alameda, Kittatinny Camp)

… and I have exchanged emails…

Hi Ralph:

We live about an hour apart. I moved to California permanently in 1975. I first lived in Sacramento (1975-1980) then lived in San Francisco, Petaluma, and now live in the south part of Santa Rosa. The website is great and you even have a picture of the waiters from 1961 where I’m sitting on the right side of Milt Blatt. His son, Jerry, was my counselor and Mark Levin and I were always getting into trouble. I can close my eyes and picture almost the entire camp down to the smallest of details. My family started going there in the 1940s and my younger brother, Michael, was still going there in the early 1970s. Needless to say, we loved the place.

My younger sister, Iris, is still in touch with her friends from Bunk 16 and they will be meeting next year in the late spring or early summer for a reunion in New York.

Some camp ties never die. I’ve been friends with Jerry Solot since I was about 12 and we still see each other regularly even though he lives in Pittsburgh and I live out here.Dick Trout lives in Lancaster, PA, and I gave him a telephone call recently and he was greatly surprised. He is in his 70s and is still married to Marge. Nice guy. We had a wonderful conversation. I find it amazing that people are still so connected by a camp that ceased to exist so many years ago. Michael went up to camp several years ago and told me that the forest has taken over the place although he said the baseball field was still there and you could make out the outline of girls camp. I have a thousand memories of KCL and they were, without doubt, the greatest summers I’ve ever had. What a ton of laughs we had. How lucky we were to be there. I will try to find some old pictures to add to your site. Nice work.

Thanks for writing and letting me know about it.

Regards,

Chuck Rait, Ki, double t a, t i double n y 1953 to 1961 plus one summer.

Hi neighbor,

Your response is terrific. May I post your email to me on the blog? It’s perfect as is. Please let me know.

We’ve lived in the same places: San Francisco, Sacramento [I’ve eaten many a pizza at Zeldas], Santa Rosa, Sebastapool are both places I’ve lived and and/or worked in. Amazing!

You and Jerry Solot, whom I remember well, were a few years ahead of me. Two, if I remember correctly. Over the years, I’ve kept in touch with Craig Pearson, who’s had some health problems of late and, through this blog, the Berk Twins, Barbara Burton and others.

We need to have a mini reunion in California.

BTW, you confused the Blatts. An easy thing to do. Joel is whom you meant. If posting your thoughts turns out to be ok with you, I’ll edit… *I can’t wait to talk camp with you in person.*

Regards to your family.

RZT

Hi:

You’re right, I did swap Jerry for Joel Blatt – we would have had much more fun with Jerry. He wrote songs for Bette Midler. My sister, Iris, spoke with Bette many years ago about Jerry. Unfortunately, he died many years ago. I “helped” him write some color war songs and he was tremendously funny and creative.

You can certainly post my email and your editing would be appreciated. Every once in awhile when I lived in New York I would run into someone from Kittatinny. Out here, never. Yes, we have invisibly crossed paths out in California. I had a great time in Sacramento and did a good deal of white water rafting around there. Loved the fact that you could wear a t-shirt and flip flops for six months out of the year. Now it seems way too crowded.

Jerry and I were a few bunks ahead of you. We are both now 63– a fact that I have trouble believing.

Somewhat related to Craig, is a story I have about something that happened a few years ago. I was having a board meeting at a hotel in Phoenix. I was then the executive director of a nursing association and we were planning to have a large conference at this hotel the coming year, so they put my name on the VIP list. During the board meeting, someone from room service brings in a silver ice bucket in which there is a purple cloth napkin and a note. I didn’t order anything so was very curious as to what this was. I opened the note and it said: “If you are the brother of Iris and Toby Rait, I think I know you.” It was signed Helen Schwartz (who married Craig). I unfolded the napkin and start laughing. In the silver ice bucket was a beautiful borsch beet! Helen and I “went” together when I was 13 and I had the worst crush in the world for her. When she started going with Craig the next summer, I wanted to kill him. I couldn’t believe she would marry him, as his nickname was “hoagy nose” back in the day. Helen and I had a wonderful time over lunch that afternoon (she worked in the sales and services department of the hotel and that is how she saw my name). Only someone who went to Kittatinny would think of sending a raw beet as an introduction. But I knew immediately who it was and what it meant the second I saw the beet.

Man, the things you remember about those summers.

A mini reunion in California would be great if you could dig up some more Kittatinnyites living out here. Have you run into anyone from KLC out here? What brought you out to California in the first place and why did you leave loverly, nuke free Sebastopol for Alameda?

You can post any part of the emails I send you as I did manage to get over Helen dumping me for Craig (almost). :-)

Regards,

Chuck, Flaming Arrow 1953, Rait

Yes, Chuck, time goes very fast… I left Sebastapool to live in San Francisco when I was doing comedy in the mid 1980s. I lived on 4th and California, met my son’s mother, moved to the east bay and discovered the city of Alameda … a great place, as are the other places we both lived…

“Hoagy nose.” That makes me laugh. Great story…

I’d be delighted to put the two emails up on the blog. Please identify the names of your bunkmates in the “comments” on the blog. I’ll send you an email with a link when I get it up, as it were…

RZT

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12 Comments

  1. Dick Berk said,

    Ralph:
    It is good to see that Chuck is continuing to contribute to this blog. Interestingly, Jerry Solot is a frat brother of mine from Dickinson College (Phi Ep). The story with Helen is priceless but only shows that KLCers are everywhere. During some of my trips to the West Coast, mostly southern Ca. I represent the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and survey hospital cancer programs. I have probably been in your neck of the woods on a few occasions. While the trips are short, there is always room for a dinner and mini reunion at a local establishment.
    I am anxiously waiting to see which pictures Chuck can send to put up on this site. Nearly 50 years have passed since I last was a resident of KLC (1960) and as Chuck points out, nearly every part of the camp is etched sharply as well as the many trips and games participated in and the color wars “fought”.
    Keep this site going . There must be a way to reach the others who are in the Kittatinny Camp site found under Google.
    Dick Berk

  2. Ralph Zig Tyko said,

    Just let me know when you are coming out this way, Dick and we’ll have a mini-reunion. We’ll find a local “mess hall.”

    Dick’s brother, Bob Berk, sent me an Email this morning. With his permission, I’m posting it here.

    Zig,

    It will be interesting to see what pictures Chuck sends to you and are
    placed on your web site. I, too, visited KLC a number of years ago.[ I received directions from George Biron]. I wish I had a camera with me. The ball
    field was almost pristine (town folks use it) but the rest of the area
    HAS been overtaken by “nature” as all things are.
    The one thing I DO remember about the ball field is clearing the stones.
    We were almost finished, except for one small pebble. However, as we
    dug, the ground around it that “pebble” seemed to get larger and larger.
    Bottom line is that the “pebble” had to be carted away in a wheel
    barrow… approximately 1% of that boulder showed on the infield and it
    took a LOT of effort to remove it.
    Maybe it was the time distance, but, the long hill to the entrance –
    and it seemed to last forever was not as steep or as long as I remembered it.
    The trees made everything seem forest-like and one could not “see”
    what was there unless one had seen the original setting.

    I still do not know the names of others in the pictures – especially the one where I was the busboy in a bunk with Budd and Al. I can see all of the faces but the names elude my mind… to this day.

    Take care,

    Bob

  3. Chuck Rait said,

    Bob:

    The Kittatinny Hill WAS steeper and longer if you had just double timed it from Stokes
    State Forest. I don’t remember why, but several times after camping out at Stokes,
    we “marched” back as quickly as we could because……? The best thing was
    when we reached the top and headed to the artesian well for some of the
    the best water I’ve ever tasted.

    Chuck

  4. Bob Berk said,

    Chuck,

    I had forgotten about the artesian well and it WAS good regardless…anytime but especially when it was necessary.

    I guess the “fast march” occurred because it could be done…not for any other reason. THAT couldn’t happen today, with the same people.

    Bob

  5. Chuck Rait said,

    Going through some old family photographs recently sent to me by my sister Iris and found a few taken at KLC around 1960. You have to know the camp well because there are only small parts of a cabin showing, or the tennis courts, or the parking lot on visiting day. Remember the benches we used to put on the back of the truck with the open slats so we could sit on them as we went to another camp to play softball or basketball? If we ever hit anything, we all would have gone flying! Pre seat belt era.

    I will get as many photographs together as I can find and post them shortly.

    Chuck

  6. Ralph Zig Tyko said,

    I remember Jay K driving that truck, as if it were yesterday. Yes Chuck, although he was a terrific driver, we held on for dear life.
    We all look foward to your pictures!!!

  7. dick berk said,

    Chuck :
    That truck was the best – seeing everything from a higher perspective, without seat belts, etc. My favorite ride was not to a game or another camp but to the movies. The bus boys were at camp early, in order to get it ready (well, who do you think did it, Henry???). After a hard days work of scraping and painting we had a choice of where to go and we chose the movies…:And God Created Woman,” with Bridget Bardot!!! What excitement!!! Nowadays this X rating would probably be PG or adult. After all the build up and hoopla and Milt taking us, we all left before the movie was over – how many times can you watch her take off her shirt??? Without a plot or a storyline there was nothing but some nudity. And after a few times, there was nothing else, so we left… in the truck!!
    I’m glad there are some other photos present and will wait for them, hopefully named appropriately.

  8. Chuck Rait said,

    Jay was a quite a driver. He had a girlfriend named Cookie who was at another camp, I think it might have been Pine Forest. He was picking her for a date and was late. I can’t remember why I was with him, but he was driving like crazy on the back roads. He passed a car going up a steep hill and, as we reached the crest, there was another car barreling at us. Jay swerved right and the other car went off the road. Jay never looked back. I thought at that time my life was over. Those rides on the back of the camp truck were great.

    I was reading a book about Lincoln and the author was explaining how all the candidates for the 1860 election grew up in a time of westward expansion and unlimited optimism. I thought about the heyday of Kittatinny Camp in regards to the years it flourished, from 1946 to about 1960. These were extremely peaceful and prosperous years for the U.S. (I am not forgetting the Korean War). WW II was over, the soldiers came back to a highly industrialized U.S., the Depression was over and businesses were expanding and it was a perfect setting for camps like Kittatinny to take off. We saluted the flag each morning, “Bunk 32 all present and accounted for, Sir.,” we believed in doing our best, in conformity, in authority, and the camp had fairly rigid rules, which we followed (for the most part–the Layton Bar and Grill excluded). I was completely captivated by the camp, starting in 1953, but noticed a change in attitude in the campers as well as the counselors as we headed into the 60s.

    By the early 1960s, I was starting college. In 1962, I was a dishwasher (the big accomplishment of the year was throwing Jay in the bins after a spaghetti meal–if you knew Jay and the kitchen in 1962, you know this was no easy battle). I returned for one more year in 69, I believe, when I taught water skiing. The camp, as well as ourselves, were different. In the 50s, we were still wide-eyed kids who believed in the Cropsey monster and were thrilled when we went “camping” at the little lake (I was 9 and fell in trying to catch a bullfrog). We swam laps to earn a colored “fish” that we would sew on our bathing suits and were enchanted with the Flaming Arrow ceremony. In 1953, we had a boxing ring and fights were held, even with kids in the lower divisions. I don’t remember if they held fights after 1953, but I took a few good blows as a nine-year old. It was all great.

    Best wishes to all for a wonderful 2008.

    Chuck Rait

  9. Ralph Zig Tyko said,

    I, too, remember that boxing ring, but in later years. My opponent was Mike Foley. He and I were both from Queens, were longtime bunkmates [since bunk 20 on Pioneer Row] and had never had a disagreement before the fisticuffs were forced upon us…. Bob Smith awarding me that first “fish” and Aunt Jenny checking out my hitherto unexplored movements are two of my earliest camp memories.

  10. Bob Berk said,

    Going back to the truck:

    It was the FIRST vehicle that I drove, and, it was THE vehicle that impressed the importance of wearing a seat belt. In a pre-camp incident, I was a passenger in the front seat when the truck hit a bump. The truck went up-then-down but I stayed in the seat. If I was not wearing the belt I would have smashed my head on the ceilng of the cab – a ceiling without padding.

    A very impressive way to learn about safety, without getting hurt, that all the words of warning could not provide.

  11. gary kauffman said,

    the old camp truck…a 1951 chevy 1 and 1/2 ton stake bed truck….it ended up with a farmer in branchville area after the camp closed……how many remember the “lightless” rides driven by lee herman over the back roads to port jervis and newton??/….incidently, we all walked out of the bridget bardot movie at the theater just outside p.j…..it was a real dud….every other line was “i love you lets go to bed”….
    i went to try to buy the truck many years later…it was still in good shape but he wanted too much money…

  12. Mark S. Levin said,

    Gary my son-law works with your daughter.

    Jerry, Howie and I would like to get together with you soon.

    The Levin Boys

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