I bumped into Mark the other day and he told me that you had just put Elliot on the bus headed to the north woods utopia otherwise known as North Star Camp for Boys. Knowing full well how it feels as a parent watching those buses pull away and as a youngster taking his first big step getting on that bus, I thought I’d share some words of encouragement—for what they’re worth.
My first bus ride to North Star left from the Cross Roads shopping center in 1972. The bus was a Keeshin bus and it smelled. They all do. Back then, North Star was an 8 week camp and when that bus pulled away, I was scared, I missed my Mom and Dad, and the enthusiasm that had built leading up to that first trip to Hayward seemed to evaporate and a sense of anxiety and a tinge of nausea took its place. Every single kid—to differing degrees—feels this. Having said that, the only tears that were shed that summer in 1972 was 8 weeks later, the night before I and the rest of my campmates were to get on that Keeshin bus again, but this time for the ride home.
I repeated that trip for 10 successive summers; 6 as a camper and 4 as a counselor. Both of my younger brothers were North Star men. My son Max, who is now nearly 20, started at the age of 9 and Andy Shlensky was his counselor in J-1. I remember putting Max on that bus and wanted desperately to go with him. I have 3 nephews who go to North Star and one of them, Sam is in Elliot’s cabin. Sam is a good and caring boy and I hope Elliot and he will become good friends.
North Star, as you may know, started in 1945 and the traditions and philosophy that were given birth by the founders—Lou and Renee Rosenblum—live on today. The friends I made back then are still friends of mine and I would do (and have done) anything for them and they feel the same way towards me. The friendships that were forged in my north woods utopia share unique characteristics that differ from friendships developed elsewhere. At North Star, Elliot will learn to appreciate teamwork rather than just “winning”. Screaming cheers of “WE ATE FIRST” will be louder than those of “WE WON”. He will learn to become self-sufficient. He will learn to work with others. He will come to appreciate that while competing in sports is fun, the underlying value of competition is not whether you win but HOW you win—in the spirit of good sportsmanship and fair play; lessons that seem to be lost in the daily competition that young people contend with today. Elliot will learn the crafts of camping and will come to appreciate the natural beauty that exists outside of the metropolis of his home surroundings. He will learn to love the sun setting over Clear Lake at the Council Ring and late at night in his cabin in the Junior Village on the other side of camp the echoing calls of loons as they land on Little Spider Lake will confirm the existence of a Deity because nothing so simple, yet so perfect and peaceful could ever simply appear in nature without one.
So when both you and Mark have moments of worry during these next four weeks, I hope you will be encouraged and comforted in knowing that the traditions of North Star—Pow Wow day; U.N. day; the Green and White marathon; Cruiser day; Request night; Camper-Counselor day; and all camp Sing Alongs will contribute to a formative and special experience for Elliot this summer and hopefully in future summers. I hope you will reach out to me if you have any worries, questions or concerns. In the meantime, I leave you with the words of our camp song, Forest Green; a song that Elliot will sing at every campfire and pretty much sums up what that North Star is all about.
Forest Green by rushing stream;
Helps to fill each campers dream;
Helps to soothe me while I roam;
‘Bout my North Star home.
Moonlight glistening ‘cross the lake;
Sunset colors that will make;
Sweet words in a lovely poem;
‘Bout my North Star home.
Play by day;
And then at night;
By campfire light.
Campers, counselors we have met;
Faithful friends we won’t forget;
We’ll remember all we’ve known;
‘Bout our North Star home.
Much love, Chuck.
I had to share this note. It was sent from a North Star alumni and former camp parent to friends of his who sent their son to North Star for the first time this summer.