Sunday, October 30, 2011

40 Somethings Support America

If you are in your 40’s, you should be piping mad at the state of our nation. While many other age groups are taking from the system; we’re the few that are giving.

Our parents and grandparents, 57 million of them strong, are sucking the life out of this country enjoying their retirements, their entitlement of social security benefits, and the privilege of Medicare. These retirees knowingly fund organizations that lobby for more, buying Congress, ignoring the fact that what they take for their end-of-life comfort does nothing to improve the nation that they will be leaving behind.

42 million 50-somethings are running America; ineptly controlling Congress and the White House. They are petrified to change current laws as their selfish, aging or dependent constituencies demand a continuation of the status quo. They like their cushy government jobs and the lifetime of entitlements that come with them. The current election rules and fundraising system stifles growth and is impeding progress. The 50-somethings, close to retirement themselves, have no incentive to change a system that they know is broken but that will provide them the same comfort as those who have come before them. The fox is watching the henhouse.

The 40 million or so 30-somethings are stuck in a survival circuit. With young children and upside-down mortgages, they have no choice but to deal with the current system. Their children are under educated in mediocre schools and they are too preoccupied surviving to involve themselves in working to change the system.

The 42 million up and coming generation of 20-somethings are on the streets, protesting, living in tents, ranting in 160 characters or less, undefined, unfocused, and undisciplined. They seem to have focused on complaining about their inability to earn, expecting that the government and banking system are there to take care of them. They have this terrible misunderstanding that their country should do for them rather than they need to do for their country.

The current crop of young children, 62 million and counting, is completely fixated on the scourge of technology, stimulated by avatars rather more so than interaction with human beings. They seem to find more satisfaction in reading someone’s status update than they do selflessly helping others. What a mess!

What is left are the 40-somethings, not a perfect group by any means, but some 43 million of us are working hard to raise families, maintain jobs, keep food on the table…and everyone’s looking to us, in our prime earning and saving years, to take the little that is left over and look after them instead of saving for our futures. What will be left for us? Adding insult to injury is that in addition to the 30 million Americans currently on welfare, we are also supporting 10-15 million undocumented illegal aliens who are sucking resources and not paying their taxes. Why can’t everyone just get real for a moment? This can’t go on forever! We are taking America for granted.
  1. Vote for candidates that are willing to sacrifice their political careers to vote for the American good.
  2. If you’re unemployed, it’s your job to find a job, not the government’s job to make a job for you.
  3. Welfare is not a lifestyle; education breaks the cycle, America must invest in education until it hurts.
  4. If you are cheating the IRS, you’re cheating the children, shame on you. Pay your taxes.
  5. If you’re taking social security and you don’t’ really need it, stop stealing from your children.
  6. Congress can’t be trusted to do what’s right for the Country when they’re owned by special interest groups.
  7. Most of the 30 million citizens on welfare need to be weaned off of welfare.
  8. Don’t resent paying more in taxes; resent people who pay no taxes at all.
  9. Butter over guns, every day. Fighting accomplishes nothing. Fewer wars. Spend more at home.
  10. Globalization is here to stay; we need to manufacture what we consume, not import it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wohelo Comet Trails - WCT Alumni Association

Dear Wohelo, Comet and Trails Alumni:

Within the last several days, you may have received an email from Capital Camps, the current owner of the property where Wohelo, Comet and Trails were located. After many years of trying to keep our alumni group under their operational umbrella, Capital Camps recently realized that our group was better suited to operate independently. This email from Linda Epstein (our defacto database and communications coordinator) is our first effort to create a true Wohelo, Comet and Trails alumni group, the WCT Alumni Association, operating as its own entity controlled solely by alumni. We are pleased to announce that both Morgan Levy and Harry Pure have expressed their complete and unwavering support for this effort.

David Pure and I are hoping that we together can garner the interest of WCT Alumni and achieve a few simple goals with the establishment of the WCT Alumni Association. Not in any order of importance, our goals are to:

a) hosting annual events on the old camp property whereas any alumni, their friends, and family can escape for long-weekend retreats and enjoy the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains;
b) setting up some form of communications website whereas alumni can reach out to and re-connect with other alumni;
c) promotion our camp experiences through the sale of camp logo outerwear;
d) posting of memorabilia electronically for all to see and reminisce; and
e) establishment of an endowment that can be used to sponsor needy children to attend summer camp in the honor of our camp founder, Bertha Berkowich Levy.

While it is our desire to have a retreat this Labor Day, unless we have an immediate outpouring of support for the Association from you, it is likely that our first organized retreat will be in 2009. In the interim, our first order of business is setting up the entity, the WCT Alumni Association. Sometime in the next two months, after we’ve had opportunity to communicate and get our email contact lists in order, we’ll have our first formal volunteer board meeting. At such time, the entity’s first board of directors will be installed which board will set the direction for the Association.

Right now, it is our goal to get as many alumni email addresses into Linda Epstein’s database as possible. It is important that we have ample representation of all of our alumni so we are seeking both male and female Alumni representatives in the following age categories:

70+, 60's, 50's, 40's, 30's & 20's

It is our intention to organize the WCT Alumni Association as a viable, self-sustaining group whose main purpose is to give all of us an excuse, either mentally or physically, to get away from the rush-rush-rush of everyday life and journey back to the relaxing, exciting, and social days of summer camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Please let Linda Epstein l.epstein@verizon.net know about changes or additions to our email database.

Please let David Pure dtpure@aol.com know about your interest in helping us set up a website.

Please let me know barney@danzansky.com if you are interested in filling one of the spots on our leadership board.


We hope that you will get involved and join us and look forward to seeing, speaking and reconnecting with all of you.

Best regards,

Barney Danzansky
Camp Comet 1976-1989
barney@danzansky.com

Friday, September 7, 2007

Camp Comet and Wohelo Reunion


September 4, 2007


Each summer for over a decade, Abbie and Barney Danzansky’s parents packed their camp trunks and shipped them from hot, humid, South Florida to cool, breezy Waynesboro, PA. There, they spent eight weeks camping high in the Blue Ridge Mountains alongside kids and counselors from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and their home state, Florida. In 1929, Bertha Berkowitz founded Camp Wohelo for Girls with the credo Work, Health and Love providing an environment for girls to develop physically and mentally through a program of music, drama, dancing, swimming and sports. In 1961, Bertha’s children and a family friend founded Camp Comet, a camp for boys offering a science program in addition to the activities offered for decades at Camp Wohelo. Comet Trails, a camp for boys in their teens, was subsequently founded to address the needs of adolescent males. In 1987, the owners sold the 284 acre property and all three camps to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Camps Wohelo, Comet and Comet Trails closed their familiar gates forever. Over the course of the past 20 years, Capital Camps, an affiliated organization of the Federation, made over $16M worth of improvements at the facility, leaving some structures, razing others and creating new buildings and fields in their places. Presently, Capital Camps provides “an informal Jewish education via a fun, meaningful and nurturing experience – with the long term goal of enhancing Jewish identity and therefore community vitality.” This past Labor Day weekend, the Capital Camps organization invited alumni from Wohelo, Comet and Comet Trails to visit, spend the weekend and enjoy the grounds that they had enjoyed decades before. For those that attended, “good times were had by all”. Things have changed; the alumni campers and counselors have matured, the facilities on the property have been improved and the general consensus was that camp has gotten better! The Danzanskys recorded their thoughts and observations of their weekend; alumni have enjoyed reading their descriptions.

CAMP WOHELO
Camp Wohelo stands as it did 20 years ago, frozen in time. The weather was perfect and how lucky we were to know that “The sun always shines at Camp Wohelo.” The dining hall burned down four years ago so the view from the front gate is of the Wohelo Lake and the skeleton of the incinerator. As you survey the land, you imagine shucking corn next to what was once the mess hall. As you walk by the office, you can’t help but sing, “YOU CAN TELL A GIRL FROM WOHELO.” Morgan and Isabelle’s desks remain in the jalousie-windowed offices near the old entry gate; the old intercom system remarkably in place with labels as they were; Cherokee, Iroquois, all the way to Hopi. For a moment, you hear Isabelle’s raspy voice over the PA system. The dining hall bell has long-ago stopped chiming. The bunk line along Old Route 16 or (Route 4 Box 20 depending on your year) remains complete with metal framed bunk beds and 4-drawer bureaus, the electricity and water cut to the bunks several years ago; only daddy-long legs and chipmunks occupy them now. The tennis racket and baton holders on the faces of the bunks stand ready to accept the belongings of campers as if they were arriving tomorrow. The signs telling you where you are have long gone, only the sign holders remain. Cherokee, Iroquois, Choctaw, Pawnee are some of the names that have vanished but you still know exactly where you are. The Wigwam and Commissary still overlook the lodge path to the Wohelo Lake and the thought of Wohelo fried chicken brings a smile to your face as you imagine the best meal served on visiting day while parents and kids sit outside the commissary eating and enjoying time together. Aunt Bertha’s rocking chair creeks in the attic of the Sioux house every evening just after sunset. You just can’t help to think of the spirit of Aunt Bertha behind the walls of the house as you walk thru it. The dressers remain the same and if you look closely, you can find your name etched somewhere on the walls. The Lodge remains; her duties have changed from housing teens and specialists to housing equipment and doing laundry. As you walk down the lodge steps you might recall them being covered with gymnastics mats, creating a slide which would mark the beginning of the Haunted House. Then, as you walk down the Lodge Path, you imagine Vaseline on the metal handle bars and wish someone was hiding in the bushes to yell “Boo!” or throw spaghetti at you. The theatre overlooking the tennis courts still has camp trunks in the back waiting for children of years past to dust them off and put costumes on and sing a tune from Annie or another revival Broadway show. The piano that pre-dated all of us, whose ivories filled the air with slightly off-tune sound, sits where she was last wheeled to, with only one key working. You press the key and it belts out a muted-tone and stays recessed, knowing full-well that it might be another 20 years until she is called for action once again. Walk past the theatre and down past the art bunk and stand at the top of the Hill, the myth of the body under the art bunk still haunts you as you pass. While the brush and trees are overgrown providing a shady canopy for the “hard” walk from the lake and pool, the Hill remains as “THE HILL.” It didn’t get any shorter even though our legs have grown longer. Uncle Marshall’s lake house with his canoes and row boats sit idle; Aunt Bertha’s memorial plaque faces the expanse of the lake, her tree died from unknown causes but her memory remains vivid in all of us. Only the fish and wildlife get to enjoy the lake; but the smell of the motors pulling skiers, although silenced many years ago, is vivid as you sit down next to the wishing well. Carol Short’s tennis courts look ready for play, while the pool with ice-cold fresh water pouring in is now a fenced-in grassy area. You walk up the hill to archery and laugh at the small field once used for Color War to challenge BLUE and WHITE in Track and Field. How we had the long jump, 50 yard dash, and relay all going on at the same time on this small field is mind boggling! But, as you walk through the beautiful grounds that still exist, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can’t help but sing a familiar tune from Team Week or a division cheer, Hunter, Brave, Warrior or Chief. The songs keep coming and happy times fill your thoughts. The memories will never go away. As the song goes, “TAKE US AS GIRLS AND TEACH US TO KNOW THE MEANING OF WOHELO,” it is now clear what the meaning of Wohelo is and after 20 years the impact is even greater.
COMET TRAILS
Gather your energies and walk to the old-wooden bridge crossing the Rocky Run from Wohelo to Comet and you find a slightly newer metal crossing, replaced before camp closed when flood waters ripped the old bridge from its foundations. Up on the left, only trees stand where Colonel Plaine delivered orders to “Fire at Will” or “Cease Fire” to countless campers and counselors over his dozens of years as riflery instructor. Walk past Crater Field, where Buttons and King were once laid to rest under a canopy of Maple and Pine trees and see Trails field on your left. Unchanged but for a modern-day bathroom, you might think that Color War in 1976 (Civil War re-enactment) might be scheduled as the afternoon activity. On the right, a team-building high ropes, rock climbing and adventure circuit lie waiting for its next group of challengers. After several more minutes of walking, you’ll find yourself at the base of the “Hill” to the Trails Lodge. You pass by the basketball courts on your left with backboards and rims in place, the nets long ago having fallen away. An overturned stone water fountain lays restfully adjacent to a now cracking cinder-block incinerator that hasn’t been lit in almost thirty years. The light fixtures that once illuminated the courts remain, but there is no need to replace the bulbs because the courts aren’t used by Muzzy or Corbs anymore. High Rock, Summit, the Ledge and Rocky Ridge are filled with cubbies, old mattresses and steel-framed, springy bunk-beds. The concrete floor of the gym where 400 campers and counselors wore dress-whites for the annual banquet still has scars from bug-juice, puck-marks and court markings for indoor basketball and hockey. The wood benches that once lined the arena for the All-Star Comet-Trails hockey games still show their original coat of paint; a white screen faintly reveals images of movies-past. You can almost hear the kitchen staff clanking dishes and preparing lasagna, yellow cake with frosting and chocolate pudding. A faint smell of skunk tickles your nose as you recall Sheba returning from a night of gallivanting around Trails, unlucky to have spooked a skunk as she searched for things to occupy her time as Tony put the camp to bed. You hear him yelling, “We need tomato and orange juice, a whole lot of it!” Walk towards Eagles Nest, peek into the windows and see four cabins and a huge recreational area. You can feel the pride of the campers once occupying this sacred place. The balcony no longer exists over looking the Theatre and Grove, the door from the Nest leads to nowhere. Walk up the road past the tennis courts towards Pear’s Corner and see the large rocks on the right hand side framing the old campground where the Cosmonauts would hike for an overnight. Imagine the Grove hosting Casino night, badminton, riflery, horse-shoes and later, the Outpost for overnight sojourns. You can hear the sounds of the crickets and birds, feel the bristle of the leaves of the trees, the occasional silence is overwhelming. The Theatre stands closed, unused and unoccupied for years. You start singing songs of productions by Richard Weinstock, recalling skits from both Comet Follies and Comet-a-Go-Go, all as though it were just yesterday. Your senses take you away to a place you haven’t been in decades. Just like Wohelo, the land, the roadways and the trails are the same, frozen in a time-warp.

COMET
You gather your feelings and your memories and you walk down what is left of the Trails path. The incline from the top of the roadway is steeper than you remember it. The make-shift stairs of stone that once were laid by campers have all but eroded. You grab the rope installed in the 80’s to help you down and feel the prickly nylon jut into your hands a reminder of the time that has elapsed since you last strolled towards Comet for a dip in the pool. Half way down though the woods you happen upon the rock that you always felt compelled to pee upon after an afternoon General swim at the Big Dipper. On your left, in what used to be a virgin forest between the path and Trails Field, now sits an aquatics center complete with water slides, diving board and oversized swimming pool. Lounges and umbrellas pepper the deck, a pavilion provides shelter from the afternoon heat. Continue your walk on the familiar trail and you find the Moon. Complete with a new patio deck and siding, the same concrete floor with non-working drains greets you. You hear Harry Pure warming up the crowd on the first day, “Shhhh, boom, hot stuff Oscar!” and “Camp is a platter of chocolates, there for your taking…all you have to do is try.” Luna I, II, III and IV have had a complete facelift. The area that housed the simulator that we all took spins in now houses overnight campers and staff, a row of new mountain bikes lines the edge of the Moon closest to Upper Field. The familiar chicken-wire fencing still reveals itself as you look at the new exterior skin of the Moon, a place that in 1969, all of Camp Comet sat to watch the moon walk. You recall how fearful you were as a camper to walk down the exterior stairs, in the unlikely event that John Cropsy was there to greet you. Walk out towards Upper Field, recall softball and Pioneering Day activities here. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the screams of campers entering Walk-in-the-Dark at the farthest most point, one flashlight in hand. When you look down towards the Big Dipper, all you see is a slightly overgrown field. The only remnant of years past is a concrete-filled tire from the tetherball court adjacent to the pool. Having been replaced by the new aquatics center, the Big Dipper has been extinguished, along with her horseflies, fresh water fill, and adjacent volleyball courts. Not even the foundations of the bath house; in the top ten of scariest places at camp after “walking the plank” at poison touch, remain. The Gemini bunk line and Galaxy are both green meadows, only the topography and lack of foliage reveal the fact that buildings once stood in these places. The parade grounds, the infirmary, the Sun, and the Cosmonaut and Astronaut bunk lines have been replaced with rustically-modern bunk houses replete with firm, wooden bunk-beds, cubbies, parquet-wood flooring and city water and sewer. While the flagpole and tar pebbles have left the parade grounds, the familiar walk from Mercury to the Moon remains as a reminder of days past. You think of Colonel Plaine barking orders to “Left Face, About Face, Parade Rest, Left Face (As you were, sir!)” and Color War lineups from smallest camper (Bruce Rosenberg) to largest Trails camper, T-Shirts, swim trunks and hard-soled shoes. It was hard to find the silhouette of the nature shack in the midst of the new development on the Comet campus. The directional signs to Comet and Trails were scrapped over 20 years ago when the camp turned over. Crater Field, the site for softball games, rocket launchings, flag football and Cosmonaut kickball, has now become the heart of Capital Camps. The infield houses a modern, air-conditioned kitchen and dining hall; the outfield a nursing center. The last bastions of Camp Comet still remaining are its tennis and basketball courts and the Planetarium. How fitting it is to see the foundations of the original planetarium and its replacement wood-framed version, harmoniously co-existing in the midst of $16M worth of site improvements on the Comet campus. Although the topography has changed, we could see the Shabbat candles flickering at the bottom of the hill as a counselor played Kumbya; we recalled rockets being launched on Visiting Day amongst hundreds of smiling parents; and we could feel the excitement as the Blue Team was practicing for Song Fest. Regardless of the buildings or the physical structures occupying Camp Comet, the spirit and the tradition of those that walked its paths will remain forever impressioned upon all of us who were fortunate enough to learn, grow and mature within its gates.
In many ways, camp has changed. In other ways, much has stayed the same. We have been blessed by Bertha Bertkowitz’s dream of Camp Wohelo and by the fortitude and wisdom of her children and their partners, Shirley Shor, Morgan Levy, Isabelle Rosenberg and Harry Pure. Abbie and I are so grateful to have had the opportunity to share and pass our early life experiences to our children at this year’s Labor Day retreat. We hiked, fished, swam, played tetherball and did the “Rocky Run Special”. We hope that you will choose to do the same with your spouses, significant others, and children at the next opportunity. “Friends, Friends, Friends, we will always be…”

Register for the WCT Alumni society by emailing your name, address and email address to either of the Danzanskys.

Barney Danzansky
Abbie Danzansky Kahan
561-445-1093