Alumni Memories

After so many years, we were still able to collect what many people remembered about their time at Northrop. The memories are so varied and personal, each one impressed by different experiences.

Some found Northrop as an escape, some treasured the magic of nature and the outdoors, some were inspired with an appreciation and knowledge about nature, and for some Northrop shaped their career choices.

We are starting with the earliest camper we could contact and would share their thoughts with us..

-- Joan Menkin Gerver (camper, 1936 and 1938). Dr. Gerver is a retired psychologist living in New York  Wherever I am, I can recognize a plant if it grew on Mt. Washington... I remember Northrop with the original farmhouse ... no electricity, polishing the glass globes of kerosene lanterns, chopping wood for the stove (what marvelous pies we ate), making terraria, pressing plant specimens in old catalogs, sleeping with all our clothes on, including gloves, because the August nights were so cold... It has been suggested that the camp be enlarged, so that more children could attend each year. But ... it is that very smallness that makes Northrop so special -- one large family, rather than just another institution... There is still a certain magic on the mountain at Northrop; the spirit of those who founded and loved the camp still permeates the air, so that youngsters who stay for a summer amid Northrop's fields and forests cannot help but be imbued with the gift of wonder.

--- Robert E. Schwartz (camper, 1937). Mr. Schwartz graduated from the Columbia school of Architecture in 1950, and in the following decades did architectural renderings in watercolor for most of the major buildings built in New York. He spends summers in Martha's Vineyard and winters in Conn.   I remember my month at Camp Northrop with fondness and appreciation and as a very special experience... Jerry Metzner [one of the conunselors] had a good voice and loved to sing. It was my introduction to "Clementine" and all those songs that we sang around camp fires and on the hikes to Mt. Everett. For parents' weekend,... Metzner produced an abbreviated version of H.M.S. Pinafore. He was the captain and all the campers had some part... I was not very tall so they dressed me in a skirt and shawl to be Buttercup. I can still sing the part and of course I became a lifelong G and S devotee. I did grow up to be six feet...

-- Rose Geoghan (camper, 1938). Ms. Geoghan worked for Montgomery Ward. She died in 1983. Those were, without question, the happiest days of my childhood. ...I was 15 years old and had never been away from home before. My communion with nature...had been a quick glance at the greenery as I ran to the playground... After those first four weeks at Northrop a whole new world opened for me. For now, the green things that grow around me as I walk a country road or stroll through the park are still, after thirty years, familiar friends to be admired and enjoyed and preserved and to be greeted warmly by name. I thought , in 1938, that I owed this [experience] to only four people... the directors and... the counselors. It wasn't until some time later that I learned how many people gave of their money, time and energy to... make it possible for city kids like me to have this wonderful experience, to know that there is a beautiful world beyond the concrete caves we call home, that there is a... breath of air that you cannot see or smell because there is no grit or smoke or smog in it, that the night sky is deep black, not red, and filled as far as the eye can see with great shining stars that are not obscured by the reflection of neon lights.

--- Sasha Menkin Milgram (camper, 1942). Before her retirement, Mrs. Milgram was a social worker who worked with Holocaust victims. She lives in New York. The first time I ever slept in a tent was as a camper at Northrop. When it rained it was very cozy. At times a gentle Irish setter, that belonged to a farmer down the road, would enter my tent to keep dry. Although he sometimes smelled bad when when he was wet, and in the small tent the odor was overpowering, neither I nor my cousin, who shared the tent with me, tried to get rid of the dog. Neither of us had ever had a pet dog before.

--- John Tiffany (camper, 1943) So many memories!  Learning to use Gray's Manual.  Skinning, cooking and eating a rattlesnake (very tough!) and having the cook throw the pan through the window.  Opening a trail down to the brook and making plaster casts of animal tracks.  Leading a group of boys to S. Egremont for ice cream and hearing of the bombing of Hiroshima.

--- Harvey J. Gardner (camper 1943 and 1946).  Dr. Gardner is an audiologist and speech pathologist in Huntington, NY. I was at Northrop twice, at ages 11 and 14. My brother and sister also were campers there. I remember my sister Cory saying, "I'm so glad we're poor so we could go to Northrop!" My parents were separated and my mother worked full time. I needed the summers to be mended. Counselors blended their love for us with their love for nature to provide an irresistable source of nourishment. They taught us to see, appreciate, love and incorporate every living thing. I learned that the rain, wind, stars and moon were part of me too. My Northrop experience has served as a source of strength, joy and comfort each day of my life. The woods still call to me . . .

--- Gary Cane (camper, 1952). Dr. Cane runs the Hillsdale Animal Clinic, a few miles from Northrop. Can you imagine what it was like for me to spend a month there, a kid from Brooklyn who had never been out of the city? I came home with a pet snake in a cardboard box... I credit choosing veterinary medicine as a career directly with [my] Camp Northrop experience.

--- Hubert Ling (camper, 1954 and 1956, Aide 1958). Dr. Ling is a botanist and microbiologist living in New Jersey. Each camper had a nature project for the summer. My first project was on useful wild plants and my second . . . was on identifying wild flowers. These projects extended into a lifelong hobby and career. I am now a plant propagator for the New Jersey Native Plant Society; there are currently two species of endangered plants on my window sill . . . Dr. Grace Petersen was the very dedicated nature director during my camp days. She . . . was a hard lady to stump but I did give her a hard time when I asked the names of some of the smaller mosses, various flies, and non-sporulating slime molds. Other than that she seemed to know just about all the kinds of plants, animals, minerals, and stars. . . Dr. Petersen was the first person to show me a slime mold . . . She mentioned that this blobby giant amoeba we saw in the woods would move and that we could detect movement if we were to put a stick or some other marker on the log where it was migrating and come back several hours later (slime molds crawl about one inch in two hours). Later in college I found that one of my biology teachers, Dr. O.R. Collins, did his research on slime molds. Since my curiosity was already aroused, I carried out undergraduate research with Dr. Collins, got out a series of publications, a Master's in botany, and a Ph.D. in microbial genetics . . .

--- David Norris (camper, 1954). Dr. Norris has a Ph.D. in English and Comparitive Literature from Columbia University. He is now a management consultant living in the Black Forest area of Germany. Northrop Camp was my first contact with the experience of Nature larger than one can have with an empty lot between two buildings in New York City. It's unlikely I would have had that experience otherwise during my childhood. Theoretically, of course, I knew that food came out of the ground. But it was not until I pulled up my very first radish from my garden row at Northrop that I realized that vegetables didn't grow in cellophane wrap.

--- Judith Dick Kellman (camper, 1957). Dr. Kellman is a primary care physician living in Berkeley, Ca. My warmest, deepest memories are of Doc Pete [Dr. Grace Petersen], our nature counselor/ leader/ mentor. She was wonderful!! She inspired my interests in biology, and this led directly to my college major (biochemical sciences) and then medicine. Under her guidance, I skinned a rattlesnake (dead!), grew vegetables, learned about lichens and ferns and fungi, and learned even more about life. She was warm, caring, and peaceful --- in harmony with life. We picked and ate blueberries, with metal buckets and cups. The routine was, "One for me, one for Northrop," as we ate and picked. Sometimes it became, "Three for me, to heck with Northrop!" but not really! As an aide, I stood in the kitchen and reconstituted the government surplus powdered milk with a hand beater (no Cuisinarts!). The boys who were aides would come through the kitchen and kid me with choruses of "Moo! Moo! Moo!"... It was a no-frills camp --- despite the Waldorf and the Ritz [the wash house and the outhouse] --- but the lack of amenities didn't matter.

--- Jonette Toutloff Stabbert (camper, 1957).  Ms. Stabbert is a writer/designer/artist now living in the Netherlands. My summer at Northrop Camp was probably the highpoint of my childhood.  In my neighborhood, the kids considered me a freak because I knew so much about nature and used to study grasshoppers (an unlikely obsession for a young girl in the fifties). At Northrop, I felt like I found my home planet.

Half the stay was in a tent (I roomed with Sherry and don't remember who else) and half the time indoors (I think I roomed with Judy Dick and don't remember who else).  One time it rained heavily and all these little chipmunks joined us in the tent.  One night, there was a terrible racket.  Doc Pete analyzed the 'crime scene' the next day and was able to determine that a hawk and a raccoon (if memory serves me right) had been fighting.

I remember hating having to wash and shower with FREEZING water, and the time we all went swimming but had to leave the pool because there was a snake lying at the bottom.  We actually swam naked [once], but I can't remember why.  One girl made such a fuss that she was excused.  [Judy Lukin recalls that this happened on the last day of camp, after the girls had packed all their gear.]

We had a really nice assistant counselor -- a slightly older boy named Julio Morales. There was a girl assistant counselor too, but I don't recall her name. I still remember our hike to Bash Bish Falls and a county fair in one of the towns. For our nature project, a local wealthy woman visited the camp and looked at everyone's presentations. I think she owned much of the land on the mountain and her name was . . . Cornelia Vandersmissen Intemann.

After that summer, I joined the weekend outings that Doc Pete organized on Staten Island.  Oh, how I loved those!  I remember getting along well with one of the boys whose name was Sidney Bush.  He always made the same joke when Doc Pete would ask us if we could identify leaves.  He always said, "It's a Sidney Bush". I received a very kind note from Doc Pete's sister informing me of her death, which I think she said was due to pneumonia.  I will never forget Doc Pete! She had a great influence on me and taught me so much.

--- Jo-Ann “Dodo” Christian (camper, 1959 and 1961) In the course of human life, memories ebb and flow, often slithering silently through neuronal gaps into some unfathomable chasm, never to be recalled.  Others sear their way across our minds like flaming meteors, burning tracks that mark our lives forever.

I came to Northrop in 1959, returning in 1961 as camper, 1962 as aide.  For a frightened child from what we would now call a “dysfunctional family” but which to me was simply hell, Northrop was bliss.  It was a sanctuary that offered nourishment to every soul, and the deep love of nature and creation’s wholeness that was fostered in those three short summers has enlightened me all my life. 

Susan Argutto, we must have sat in the rec hall together the night that Nome read “Hurt Hawks” and we wept with the sheer pain and glory of Robinson Jeffers’ words. 

What strong memories still survive-- Doc Pete—caring, intelligent, sensitive to the needs of each child, possessed of an apparently limitless knowledge of the natural world. --Birdie Kallman—a sharp-witted grandmotherly figure who could be gruffly irascible one moment and chortling like a child the next. --Mollie and Karl Ruden--stalwart figures of common sense and practicality. --Mrs. Foster—red-faced, white-aproned, purveyor of bounteous meals—I still remember her laughing with delight as she called Lanny “barefoot boy with cheek” and then made sure we knew she was paraphrasing Robert Frost. --Nome Perry—how could one person simultaneously encapsulate such beauty, fragility and toughness? 

For all too many children, “camp” is a fleeting experience of summer fun.  For many of us who were privileged to attend Alice Rich Northrop Memorial Camp, it was the inspiration of a lifetime.

--- Susan Argutto (camper, 1961). Ms. Argutto is a reading specialist living in New Jersey. Northrop was a place where I learned who I was and what I valued. It was the first place where being a girl who was smart and in love with nature was "okay". In fact, here, there were 19 other girls who were also smart, not ashamed of or embarrassed by it and in love with nature too. Camp was the first place that I felt safe in sharing my secret love of poetry, reading and writing. Our counselor, Nome (Margaret H. Perry), read us poetry around the campfires and quoted poetry when we saw something magnificent, like a spider spinning a web. This was my introduction to Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Phyllis McGinley and Robinson Jeffers. I'll never forget hearing "Hurt Hawks" for the first time and weeping... That image has stayed with me for 36 years... I later became an English teacher with a passion for American poetry.

--- Enilda Lozada (camper, 1961). Considered a brilliant student, Ms. Lozada suffered a devastating brain aneurysm in 1963, but after years of superhuman effort, she recovered enough to graduate from Brandeis University. She now works for the Head Injury Foundation and lives in New York.  When I attended Northrop, [there was] an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that ... Nome [Perry] liked to quote...
Nothing that ever flew,
Nor the lark, nor you,
Can die as others do.
[We who] attended Northrop learned to fly, on [our] own God-given wings, and we truly felt we were going to make a difference in life.

--- Maria Puoti Bellman (camper, 1973). Ms. Bellman lives in New Jersey and writes advertising copy for Campbell Soup. Being a camper at Northrop was a wonderful experience. The setting was beautiful, the programs were mind-opening, and the people were great! There was real comraderie and a true spirit of teamwork in an atmosphere that made learning about science and nature so much fun. I still show my kids what wintergreen looks like and how to find salamanders under rocks, which I learned from my camp days! I learned to dive and swim several new strokes at camp. I fondly recall packing a bedroll and hiking about two miles to camp outside for a night. It was a terrific growth experience that I'll never forget! (And it's the first time I ever ate s'mores. Yum!)

--- Anthony Torres (camper, 1978). After being named a finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in high school, Mr. Torres attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University. He lives in Nagoya City, Japan, and heads an internet marketing company,  I still feel great pain when I think about the fire... I was relieved to learn that the library was spared... You have no idea what those books meant to me during rainy afternoons. [They] started my interest in rare book collecting. Perhaps...the greatest impression left in me at Northrop was the night sky view from Sunset Rock. I still dream about it.

--- Edith Gonzalez – Scollard (nee Coleman) (camper, 1979) Being at Northrop for a month pulled me out of a troubling situation at home and gave me a strong sense of self and confidence by providing a wonderful place to explore - science, nature, peace and quiet - and time to think. All of my memories of Northrop blend together like an impressionist painting because I broke my glasses the day before I left home and just managed without them until I returned to the city. I still have sketches I made of my counselor's cabins (Posey and Anna Lise). If anyone has any photos from that month I'd love to see them!

---Veronica Adamson (camper, 1985).  Ms. Adamson is an acoustical engineer living in San Francisco. I don't know if I have ever fully expressed ... what Northrop Camp has meant to [me]. The camp saved me from the brunt of one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. At a time when my family was essentially homeless and living with relatives, I was able to step out of that situation and begin focusing on nature and on what I could become. Before going to camp, I was sort of shy about my interest in science, but through studying nature with Suzy I discovered it wasn't just for boys.

Not only did my confidence in my own scientific ability grow, but because I later returned as a counselor-aide, and then nature counselor, I began to see that I was a pretty good leader too. It is clear to me that a large part of the confidence that got me through my Bachelor's in mechanical engineering and Master's in structural engineering at Stanford, was instilled at Northrop.

My heart is in pain for the students that are missing their chances to grow while the camp is closed. We must get the camp back in operation as soon as we can."

--- Charlotte Lee (camper, 1987). Ms. Lee is a recent graduate of the School of Business at SUNY-Buffalo. She lives in New York and works for Bloomberg L.P.  Living at Northrop Camp for a month taught me a lot about nature and friendship... The night sky at Northrop is beautiful. It was there that I saw my first shooting stars.

--- Keli Christopher (camper, 1989). Ms. Christopher is studying veterinary medicine at Talladega College in Alabama. I remember when we were told not to put food in our cabins, and I did. The following morning I found a raccoon in my cabin eating my candy. I named my raccoon Charlie, and every day I left candy in front of my cabin for him.


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