James F. Emery (emoinnm@comcast.net)


My name is Jim Emery. I was a camper, as the subject line indicates, in the late 50's and early 60's. I, as have others, apparently, stumbled upon this site when doing a search on "Shady Trails". Before reminiscing some, I'd like to thank you for being, by design or default, a repository for these memories.

My first year got off to an inauspicious start as I came down with the mumps just before leaving for camp and I was two weeks late arriving. I have read Howard Hodges' letter in this compendium, if I may call it that. If he was in the Park Avenue in 1955 and a Wolverine in 1962, then we were first cabin mates and then camp mates; although I cannot picture him. Looking at some names from those years' rosters, some faces do come into view. I do remember "Mr. Benson," probably Robert Benson of Detroit, as my Major therapist in the Park Avenue.

After the first year when my parents were very hesitant to send me, from the Chicago area, to camp, it was always my mother who was the motivation behind my attendance. The contest over my attendance in 1962 was, if not epic, at least pronounced!

In reading the previously posted memories I find a great deal that is congruent with what I remember. The cabin's names, the Round Robin 1 minute speeches in the dining room, the Mifflers, the Variety Shows, the Sunday Morning Assembly, the bell, the calisthenics ( in our P.J.s at 6:50 in the morning, 7:30 on Sundays!). I remember the informal competition between cabins in the older divisions, often encouraged, subtly or not so subtly, by the counselors. Another component or feature of camp life was the Ambassador Club. These were the lessons in table manners and manners in general which we were expected to use. A separate but somewhat related activity was something called Open Forum. These were cabin meetings held to discuss any issues germane to that cabin. As part of this component of camp life we were introduced to Robert's Rules of Order. At least, for the older cabins these were taught to us so that our Open Forum meetings were conducted with reasonable order and presented another opportunity to use what we were learning. Even though I later learned that we never dug into Robert's Rules very far, to this day when in a meeting I usually still know more about how to run the meeting than anyone else in the room; although that may be more of a comment on the kinds of meetings I have attended rather than any claim of competence with Mr. Robert's rules.

The second year I was in the Roost as a nine year old. My major therapist was a very petite woman whose name escapes me. Whenever she wanted to impress upon one of her charges something of importance, she sat us down so she could look us in the eye! A couple of guys and I in the cabin were put in charge of raising, lowering and correctly folding the flag. For the 60 days or so camp was in session 58 came off without a hitch and two were disasters! The flag was raised on a chain and the chain was tied off on a two pronged cleat on the flagpole. One day one of the prongs snapped off, rust, probably, so we had to improvise a different way to secure the chain so the flag didn't lower itself. One day it didn't hold so coming back from breakfast someone discovered the flag on the ground. Oh Jeez #1. The second time we got called on the carpet we had no one to blame but ourselves. We got the flag up just fine but none of us noticed that it was upside down! But someone else did. Oh Jeez #2.

The Sunday Morning Assemblies were very nondenominational and were led once by each of the cabins. I do remember the Catholic kids being awakened early on Sunday to attend Mass at the Clancy's cabin. The presiding priests were always guests at Sunday breakfast, but I don't remember if they were announced as guests during announcements afterwards. Normally, any person who was a guest at the camp was always introduced during announcements after their first meal. The entire dining room would then sing, "We welcome you to Shady Trails, we're mighty glad you're here . . " Sing-a-longs were held a couple of times a week after the evening meal. There was always a staff member who would play the piano and another staff member would lead the singing. Apparently, it was something of a coup to be selected for that activity. There was a group of songs, (were there hand-outs?) that could be requested or directed. Inevitably, someone would stand and say, or shout, "The Victors"! A majority of the room would stand, the pianist would pound the keys, "Boom ba-ba-boom boom, wham wham wham wham, "Hail to the victors valiant, Hail to the conquering heroes, Hail, Hail to Michigan . . ." With due deference to Mrs. Clancy, possibly the second most sung song might have been, "My Wild Irish Rose."

I moved up to the Neophyte's cabin my third year. The campers in that cabin were responsible for ringing the bell during the day. (One of the kitchen staff would ring it to wake us up.) A few minutes before the scheduled ringing, a counselor of therapist would look at their watch and tell the particular camper to go ring the bell. Later on, apparently, with more residents in the immediate area, the scheduled ringing of the bell ceased.

I was then a Neophyte once more, then twice a Wolverine, a year off and then my final year was as a Caveman.

In either my year in the Roost or my first year in the Neophytes one of my cabin mates was from Frankfurt, MI, one of the places we went then for our "field trips" and speech assignments. Normally, we would be given a modest sum from our camp account and expected to use ordering in a restaurant as an additional speech assignment. That year, however, we had a sit down meal in the hotel in town that this guy's parents owned. I still remember the fried chicken with all the trimmings. Nothing ever topped that!

During my years we routinely had two of these speech assignment trips, a full day to Frankfurt and a half day to Sleeping Bear sand dunes. After repeatedly puffing up and then ripping down one of the dunes we always went to D. H. Day state park for a cookout. We weren't the only people there, of course, so speech assignments were part of the trip. On the grounds was one of those playground merry-go-rounds that could be made to spin. You learned quickly to hang on for dear life as some of those guys could really get that thing going. As far as I know, no one ever got hurt on it, but I'm not sure how.

Several other facets of life at Shady Trails existed during my years, that may not have survived the passage of time, have been mentioned by other writers here. At every table in the dining room a camper was chosen to be the "host." Each camper in turn acted as host for a day as the responsibility revolved around the table. When everyone appeared to have finished eating, Mr. Clancy would ring the chimes, the Assistant Director would stand and proclaim quite distinctly, " Will the HOSTS please clear the tables." It was then the job of the hosts to collect the tableware and take it to the two big pass-throughs into the kitchen. The younger kids who were chosen to circulate around the dining room after meals with the trash cans to collect the trash were called "Sea Gulls." This started after I was in the junior division so I was never a Sea Gull. Periodically, they did, indeed, have to stand on one leg on their chair, flap their arms like wings and call like a sea gull. There might have been applause afterward, but I'm not sure.

I remember the food as being quite good. I never had any problem accommodating the "three bite rule." Except for Spinach! If you didn't like something, you only had to eat three bites of it. Outside of noon mail call (a one-handed catch of a sailing letter was a prized accomplishment) possibly the most anticipated event was the clinking of silverware against glasses, Mr. Clancy sounding his chimes and one of the campers from that table standing and announcing, "This table has an extra desert." From all over the dining room a chorus of, "May I be excused?" arose. At some tables the adult head of the table would simply point or nod at the, usually preselected, camper and say, "You're excused!" These campers converged on the satiated table and a major "One, two three Whang-Ho" would ensue. In a flurry, the number of fingers thrown would be totaled and the staff member would count off pointing at each camper in turn until the total was reached. Whomever was the camper indicated when the last number was reached got the desert. Back at his table a second "Whang-Ho" followed and some lucky person (staff were not excluded) got the desert.

Once during the season was a night of dancing with both staff and campers. As there were no female campers when I was there, the female staff members had no trouble getting partners. For my first year or two it was ballroom dancing, but just as I was learning how to actually dance, it was changed to square dancing. Shoot! (Though it was probably a good thing.)

Mifflers were short plays given by each cabin. They were held in the dining room and one of the older cabins would change the room from a dining table arrangement to theater seating and return it.

Each Wednesday night a movie was shown and, again, one cabin was responsible for setting up for the movie and restoring the dining room arrangement.

Doctors of Brainless Surgery and the Drama aka D.B.S. & D. was the honorary degree given to the the therapists and counselors when they passed what amounted to an initiation during the first week or so. Because we were never asked to do anything the staff wouldn't do, in terms of speaking, if we had to give a round robin speech in front of the whole dining room, they had to also. As we had to put on a miffler, so did they. So, at some point in their careers, all of these folks who could list bachelor, master and Ph.D degrees could also claim D.B S. & D. It is, however, unclear how many of them actually listed this in their curriculum vitae.

Beta Sigma Chi was the honorary fraternity of campers who made, and maintained, significant improvement in their speech while at camp. Nominated by their major therapists, each camper was voted on by their peers already in the fraternity. Most nominees made it in, some did not. One could be nominated again. I was elected as a member but one year got kicked out for missing a second meeting. I was re-nominated and re-elected, but to say it was embarrassing as hell is an understatement. It was not something I wanted to ever repeat under any circumstances!

Sports and physical fitness were a major part of camp life. The two younger cabins had their own competitions while the four (when I was there) older cabins were divided up into teams and competed in four sports; softball, volleyball, basketball and racquet sports (tennis, badminton and paddle ball.) These were referred to as the "Bush Leagues."

Swimming and swimming lessons were big parts of sports. One year I achieved both the "Swimmer" and "Jr. Lifesaver" levels of competence. I now think the Jr. Lifesaver award was a stretch but I earned the Lifesaver award the following year so it didn't really matter. The "buddy system" was in force. Two blasts on the whistle meant, "Find your buddy. RIGHT NOW!"

Tournaments in different sports and activities were held within individual cabins where individual campers would vie for top honors. I was ping-pong champion of my cabin one year. While most of the campers were pretty good athletes, some terrific, the cerebral palsy campers were at a disadvantage; although I remember a couple who were pretty good at chess. The counselors could be pretty creative when it came to including everybody in the cabin tournaments. I particularly remember the "Invitational Oar Throwing Tournament" held one year. Initially at the awards ceremony ribbons were handed out, but that practice stopped after a year or two; cost cutting maybe?

Another competition was the boat races. By cabin, the campers were divided up into groups of five, which fit perfectly into the camp's rowboats; four rowing and one working the tiller. One or two practice sessions were held then the races were run during morning or afternoon recreational periods. The only race I remember was the one year when one of the other boat's tiller man never got the hang of pulling the handle of the tiller right to go left, and vice versa. He managed to pin his boat against ours taking us both out of the running.

Toward the end of each season there was held a ceremony called the Marine Incineratino. Initiated by Wm. Bilto, the man whose name graced the plaque by the athletic field, this was a tradition of long standing at Shady Trails by the time I got there. The fire on the water consisted of a large raft of driftwood collected from the shore of the bay and assembled by the U. Club and their counselors. Held after sundown, it lasted for several hours. Some campers and staff rowed out to and circled the raft but most stayed on shore. A convocation, a philosophy of the camp, an address by the director and interludes of recorded music (one year an LP I brought of The 1812 Overture was used) were used to set the mood and convey the themes and purposes of the camp. For some it was a time of reflection, of who we were, what we'd done and what was coming. For others it was just a time to watch the fire on the water. At the appropriate time, two male staff members lit torches and jogged from either end of the camp then to the end of the pier. They then swam out to the raft holding the torches above water and then set the raft on fire. From the boats it was easy to see the two points of light converging on the pier and then moving in unison to the raft. Compared to today's pyrotechnic displays, this was a very modest feat, but being a part of it still had meaning.

The Cavemen usually disassembled the raft in the days following but the year I was a Caveman we didn't have to do it. I don't know why.

By cabin, the campers were divided up into two groups. After the "Group" therapy session in the morning, one half would stay for small group sessions and the other group would go to "Sports Skills." The groups were reversed in the afternoon. The large group sessions would focus on, as my fading Table of Contents page from 1962 says, "Knowing and Understanding Yourself." The small group sessions were mostly used to practice the techniques presented. There were also individual sessions with your Major therapist. Those could be about anything that affected you, your speech, the effort you put into improving your speech, your very presence at camp.

We were expected to use what we were learning not just in therapy sessions but at meals, "announcements", any organized activity, when talking to any staff member, on Wednesday and Sunday excursions away from camp and certainly on the "speech assignment" trips. In 1962 the routine formal speech therapy sessions totaled 17 hours 15 minutes per week and that did not include any of the time outside the formal therapy sessions. While this is not as extensive as some later fluency therapy I have heard of, for that time it was more extensive than anything else around.

The therapy when I was there was definitely not "fluency shaping". Fluency, in and of itself, was not a goal; control was. Although presented differently for different ages of the campers, the fundamental philosophy was that what was being taught were tools and techniques that would help any speaker. This has turned out to be exactly the case for all but the most specific techniques for dysfluency. As they were referred to then, "slow speech, phrasing, blending, vowel prolongation, (voice) projection and vocal support/breathing" were the techniques first presented to the campers. For those of us who stuttered, "light contact, bouncing, relaxation, voluntary stuttering and cancellation" were tools that were offered later during the summer.

Success while at camp was pretty good for most campers. Afterward, as is seen in previous comments, maintaining that success, that improved ability to speak, could be elusive. I had my ups and downs. It wasn't until I went to college and left my hometown surroundings that I began to maintain more consistent control over my speech. I went into Communicative Disorders, was a public school speech therapist for five years at the bachelor's level, went back for an MA and then spent 23 years as an Audiologist. I was an officer or committee chair for multiple terms in my state professional association and, among other things, was involved in youth athletics including coaching and being the director of an annual soccer tournament for five years.

One subject that was discussed on occasion was the differences between being handicapped vs. impaired. Speech & language problems, hearing loss, cerebral palsy are all impairments. But how much of a handicap need they be, really. Of all my memories of Shady Trails one stands out as the most evocative of the spirit of being at camp. In the last week or so of the 1962 season a visitor was hosted at camp. There was nothing unusual in that; visitors were hosted off and on all during the session. (I was a day visitor in 1972.) I believe that this particular man was connected to the University of Michigan is some way, but even if he was not he was some kind of "Big Wig." He stayed for a couple of days and after breakfast on his last morning he rose to speak to the dining room. He said that he had enjoyed his stay there, perhaps he wished could stay longer but he was particularly pleased that such a placed as Shady Trails existed for, ". . . these poor handicapped kids." Some people said that he was drooling slightly as he spoke, but I couldn't see it from where I sat. Mrs. Clancy thanked him for his comments and dismissed the dining room.

At lunch, just after we had said grace and sat down, Clancy rang his chimes, the hubbub subsided and from the entrance to the staff office one of the U Clubers emerged. Obviously from the props box (for mifflers etc.) he had on a pair of dark glasses, a beat up fedora, was carrying one of those shallow boxes or trays that was held into the waist and had a strap from the outer corners up around his neck and was hobbling with a cane.

"Help for the handicapped, help for the handicapped" he cried.

A standing ovation burst from his audience. Handicapped !? Like hell we were handicapped!


added November 15, 2009
updated October 15, 2015