Letters from Camp 2

The curve in the road is Eagle Bay.  You will miss the sign, “Big Moose Lake- 5 Miles” , if you drive the posted thirty miles an hour.  Take the turn to the left, go two winding miles, and you are at Moss Lake, where the Girls’ Camp used to be; families from all over the world would send their daughters to camp for the summer for horsemanship.  A group of Cuban girls came each summer with the intention to learn English as well.  The names were well-known,  Roosevelts sent their granddaughter, Ryder,  from recognized families.

We had arrived in America in 1947, and my Mother had opened her School of Ballet in Cincinnati with great success, but realized the climate in summer was not healthy for athletes.  Her advanced student, Suzanne Waltz, sugested she talk to her uncle.  He owned this camp in the Adirondacks.  How could ballet and horses ever mix?

Dr. George Longstaff hired only professionals to teach: tennis, archery, swimming, sailing, canoeing, fencing, riflery, and ballet; schedules similar to a school plan, with each activity once a day, some only twice a week.  When the summer turned out to be rainy, there would be a lot of ballet classes, and always a recital at the end.  Three camps, one for ages 6 to 9, 10 to 12, and 13 through 17.  In the oldest group, Lodge, business courses such as typing were also offered.  English as a foreign language was offered to any students as needed.  As soon as my Mother heard of this environment, and the Doctor heard of my Mother’s background, it was sure she would go to teach the next summer.  The big issue was the two little children, Tyll and I.  He insisted we could just live in a small cottage on the lake.  We would have a nanny from Cincinnati, and eat with the younger campers(Junior).  Fencing coach, Eddie Lucia, had two small children and they were also living on site.

That year we took the train from Union Terminal(yes, now the Museum) and rode it all the way to Big Moose.  The station is now a restaurant, where you get the tastiest fries.  The Doctor picked us up at night with a woody camp car  and drove us a few miles to camp.  That first year Mom had a rough time.  We were not used to dining room eating, and Mom said, “Never again!  I need my own place for the children!”  She decided to return and rent a place in Inlet or Eagle Bay and somehow get to camp.  After all, it is only 2 miles back and forth.

One summer we rented a place at Hartnett’s Cabins on route 28, and Mom  bought a Doodlebug to drive back and forth to camp, a small scooter with tiny wheels and a foot rest.

Another summer we rented the upstairs of a garage, stairs along the side, with an icebox on the bottom landing, and the iceman came once a week. The Doctor decided he could not have his famous clients visit and see  my Mother scoot around on her Doodlebug, so she needed to learn to drive, and gave her lessons in his woody.  He would tell her to beep warnings as she rounded the curves, and practiced driving backwards(rumor has it that woody was stuck in reverse…). She bought her first car, a green 2 door Plymouth coupe and got her driver’s license here in New York the same summer.  Tyll and I felt like royalty driving around in a car, after being shuffled back and forth on the front of a Doodlebug along the bumpy mountain roads.

Mom was at Moss Lake Camp for years, and enjoyed the Adirondacks every summer.  She bought the West Avenue lots as soon as she could, building a summer house for us, and when she added on, she started bringing students to teach.  Soon she was having ballet weeks, ballet camps and expanding her house into two houses, a ballet deck and a studio.

But that all came after the end of Moss Lake and the Indians’ Siege of Moss Lake.

(To be Conti)