Shady Trails 2014 Reunion Speech by David Field

My name is Dave Field. And I am from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was on the camp staff from 1964 to 1973 as Intern in the Neophyte Cabin, Major in the Wolverines and Cave, Assistant Director and Director from 1970 to 1973. I was fortunate enough to have been on the staff when Mr. Clancy was still the director. The impact the camp and Mr. Clancy had on me and my life are beyond my ability to express in this (hopefully) brief Round Robin. No, it won't be just a minute long, but won't take all night either. Joanne has to get home to her kittens and pump.

At the end of the summer my intern year I heard that Mr. Clancy had wrap-up interviews with staff the last few days of the season. I also heard that that was the time when Clancy invited you back if. . .

Several of the counselors and interns had their talks with Mr. C before me. Only a few said they had been invited back. I wanted to be one of those more desperately than I had wanted anything in my life to that point. The interview went well. Mr. Clancy and I joked and laughed about things that had happened that summer, like at the dinner at the country club during staff orientation when he and I had each taken a large helping of corned beef and Mrs. Clancy said, "Finally someone who likes ox tongue as much John does." We also talked about what I had learned here and what my plans were.

He had challenged me to drink my coffee black during orientation week. He said I'd never go back to the ton of sugar and gallon of cream I used when summer started if I went the whole summer drinking it black. . At one point in the interview he excused himself. When he came back he had two cups of coffee, a sugar bowl, and a pitcher of cream. He put them down on his desk before me, took his coffee and sat behind the desk, smiling. "Well?" he said. At first I didn't want to disappoint this man whom had become my idol. I thought I'd just choke the black coffee down as I had all summer and tell him I had learned to love it. But then I thought no and shoveled spoonsful of sugar into the cup followed by glugs of cream. Raised the cup and said, "Sorry" and took a sip.

Mr. Clancy laughed loudly. Then he said, "Well, Mr. Field, looks like you'll have to come back for a few more summers to learn how to take it black."

Later that day I was in the kitchen. Ruthie came up to me and said something like, "Talked to John. He said you were his first coffee challenge failure in a long time." Seems he did that to someone almost every summer. I asked "Was he upset?" Ruthie replied "Hell no. He likes it when someone stands his ground."

I often wondered-would I have gotten that invitation to return to camp if I had just drunk the black coffee thinking I was making him happy.

John N. Clancy was born in Traverse City. At age four John used to ride with the milkman on his rounds, a man he liked and enjoyed being with. One day as the milk truck stopped to pick him up the Milkman yelled, "Hurry-up, you little stuttering son-of-a-bitch." It was at that point he learned he was a stutterer.

His stuttering plagued him all through his school years, his time at Notre Dame (I wonder if he ever became a true Blue fan) and his job as an accountant. Finally after years of trying to overcome the problem he eventually discovered that the key to overcoming stuttering lay in becoming self-confident, understanding that stuttering didn't need to stand in your way or determine who you were, what you were or what you wanted to be. He wanted to help others understand these principals. He got the idea that a setting where if those who stuttered could get away from the environments that were reinforcing negative perceptions of oneself and learn these principals, the way would be opened to fluent speech.

Clancy opened Shady Trails in 1932 with that philosophy in mind on a site just north of where we are tonight. Over the years that site has been used as Indian Beach camp for girls, Timber Shores RV resort and now, I understand is slated for development as a subdivision.

The first year four campers were enrolled. The second year six campers, then fifteen. All activities took place in and around an old hotel and several cabins.

The program grew steadily. After fifteen years the comp had outgrown its capacity so Mr. Clancy put everything he owned into buying this property and building the new camp. It opened in 1947 with 84 campers from 23 states and a staff of 34.

After only two years, Mr. Clancy realized, however, he would not be able to go it alone. In order to grow and prosper the camp needed a stable source of financial and institutional support. Faculty from the University of Michigan had been involved for some years. It was a treasure trove of experience for young clinicians. He turned to his affiliation with the U of M. Through the Kresge Foundation the camp was purchased and gifted to the university. Mr. Clancy was to remain as director. He earned an M.S. degree in speech pathology from the university. He was appointed assistant director of the speech clinic at the U of M.

The Clancy Philosophy was the backbone of Shady Trails. I can still remember him saying in his opening orientation speech, "You will, for the summer, give up all personal prerogative for the good of the group." Most of us sitting before him had little idea of what that meant. We were soon to find out.

For Clancy it all revolved around the campers and their achievement of the goals of self-confidence, and improved self-image; his keys to overcoming speech problems. He expected his staff to adopt this attitude. The staff had to understand and buy into this if they were to fully appreciate the opportunity that being a part of Shady Trails offered. If you did you were in for a wonderful summer. If not it meant you were in for the summer from hell. If you bought in you could hold up under the burden of being totally responsible for these kids who were entrusted to you by their parents for 8 weeks 24 hours a day. Speech staff soon came to understand you weren't off duty at the end of your therapy session. Counselors learned you were there to do more than just play with the kids. They were therapists as well, reinforcing what was taught in speech classes. If you did buy in you could stand living in the Hen House with 19 other women and only two bathrooms. If you did you could manage with one half day off each week and one out night which began at ten P M and where you often spent half the time at the Laundry-Mat with no excuses for being late for breakfast the next morning. If you did buy in you were in for a possibly life changing experience and the satisfaction of knowing you had helped a lot of kids to a better life. And if you were a camper and bought in. . . you would have an experience that could totally change everything for you.

The entire day at camp was designed to further Clancy's vision. Every waking hour (and for staff there were many of those and few of the other kind, known as sleep. I remember once sitting on the patio "enjoying" a cup of coffee with Ruth Curtis who was critiquing my therapy session. Clancy came out and sat with us. I said I didn't know how I would have time to do all I had to do, He smiled and said, "What are you doing between midnight and the morning bell." ) Every waking everything that was done, was done with one purpose success of the program in the lives of the campers. Anything that interfered with that was not done or (if you knew Clancy) was not even suggested.

Mr. Clancy believed the dining room was the heart of the camp program. Ruth Curtis, long time staff member from the days of the old camp, was on the staff in 1964 as Clinical supervisor. She and I became friends. I leaned heavily on her during my first years as director. I visited her often at her home in Gross Pointe. She told me she came to Clancy and said, "John you have a golden opportunity here. Use these three mealtimes as therapy sessions." With her urging and help Clancy designed the dining room program.

Campers and staff ate together family style with two staff members and four to six campers at each table, with the goal of teaching the boys and young men manners and table etiquette. It also gave them the opportunity to engage in conversations to put into practice the skills they were acquiring in speech classes.

Table groupings were rotated so campers had the opportunity to get to know and interact with as many people as possible. As an aside interns and counselors trembled with fear at the thought of being placed at Miss Curtis' table.

After the tables were cleared by the seagulls, Mr. Clancy would rise from his chair and in his booming voice would ask: ARE THERE ANY ANNOUNCEMENTS. Then one by one campers would raise their hands and announce anything from name and hometown, to speech changes they were trying to achieve to the famous THE WATER IN THE BAY IS (COLD TODAY.) Or in the some cases inadvertent revelations of embarrassment to certain staff. TODAY AT SLEEPING BEAR MR. FIELD AND MISS MAHALINCON WERE BURIED. . . IN THE SAME HOLE. OR MR FIELD IS IN HIS PAJAMAS. Or my all time favorite, Mr. Field went to the barber and the barber asked why he had come.

The announcements and Round Robins after the evening meal were devoted to overcoming the fear of speaking and demonstrating, to the camp family, changes in speech patterns that were occurring through the summer. Weekly Mifflers, given here in the dining room, first by staff and then campers were another opportunity for demonstrating speech change, learning how to work cooperatively, and building confidence as well as having a good time. As a child his parents had sent him go Brogue School in Detroit. He had returned home fluent but the gains he made there were lost soon after. Clancy recognized from this experience that changes that were brought about at camp needed to be carried over into the outside world.

He built into the program trips out of camp where the campers could test their new found skills with those who may not be as sympathetic as the camp family. These trips afforded the campers the opportunity to make speech contacts and grow in the confidence that they could go out from camp and be successful. At times, Dr. Bloomer's sister, Marie Hartwig would bring groups of girls from Interlochen Academy for the Arts to camp. It was a highly anticipated event in both the Cave and the U Club. Campers in those cabins would give tours of the camp and invite the young ladies to be guests at the noon or evening meal.

The sports skills program was an integral part of each camper's day. Clancy believed a healthy body and the confidence participation in sports brought were important in building the sense of confidence and healthy self-image that would ultimately lead to changes in speech behavior. But despite the hard work and long hours we found time to have fun, play tricks on each other, make lasting friendships all while being part of something that was more important than ourselves. For many it was a life changing experience.

Dave Prins was on the camp staff from 1960 to 1969. He followed Clancy as director. Dave, of all of us here, knew him best. Here is some of what he wrote about Mr. Clancy and the camp in his book Going Home. "Camp is a large family, mainly of new members, and assembled overnight. All those personalities; all those needs and wants; all those aspirations-thrown together. In the blink of an eye it could bring out the best and worst in people. How would it work? How could it work? Clancy knew. He was the father, all five feet six of him. And he ruled like a benevolent monarch.

Clancy did it, and this is important, with good will, good judgment and good humor (Clancy loved to laugh.) He liked people-found merit when it was there to be found. He was direct-practiced the art of plain talk. He was fair-knew better than to play favorites. He accepted bad news-didn't shoot the messenger. He used his temper-didn't lose it. And Clancy was, as Dean Acheson said of Truman, "free of the greatest vice in a leader, his ego never came between him and his job."

Clancy trusted his instincts, too. In emergencies, as well as the day-to-day, his responses were quick and correct. He didn't need to consult program notes or a script-the blueprint was in his mind. It was amazing to watch."

By the early sixties, Clancy and his wife Grace, who had served as Camp Mother since its inception were in poor health. They retired following the 1964 camp season. Dr. David Prins was named director. He served for five years following Mr. Clancy's retirement. He ran the camp in the spirit of it's founder. I was on the staff under his directorship during that time and was amazed at how he was able to keep the spirt of Shady Trails intact. For me it seemed as if Clancy was still among us.

Toward the middle of the summer of 1969 Dave called me into his office and told me of his decision to retire at the end of the season. I came as a shock as I had had no indication he was even thinking about it. I asked who was to be the next director. He smiled and said he had recommended me to Dr. Bloomer, the head of the U of M Speech Clinic and he had accepted his recommendation. I was overwhelmed. I told him I didn't know if I could do it. Dave assured me that I could.

I was humbled and honored to have followed Dave Prins as director of Clancy's Shady Trails and carry on the Clancy tradition. It was not always easy. I was young, in my twenties, I hadn't finished my Ph.d. In the absence of Prins and Clancy pressure from the University to make changes in the Shady Trails program was often heavy and always persistent. While some of the suggested changes were reasonable, I did my best to preserve Mr. Clancy's vision that all things were done for the benefit of the campers, and nothing was done to detract from that. I was always asking myself, as Dr. Prins, advised me, What would Clancy do?

Mr. Clancy had established self-sacrifice as the bedrock for the camp's welfare. Personal and family life came second. Clancy had always done it that way. Both Dave and I followed in those footsteps -both of us had come to believe it was crucial to the camps success.

But my family was growing, it was becoming harder for Kate and the kids to give up our home each summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day despite the idyllic life of a cottage on Grand Traverse Bay. While at camp Kate served as Camp Mother and bore the brunt of caring for the kids as I (as were Clancy and Prins before me) was "father" to the campers and staff. A job that took me away from my family most of every day.

Dr. Prins said he had dreaded telling Mr. Clancy when he had decided that for the sake of his family he needed to leave camp. He said Clancy accepted his decision graciously. I hoped Dave and Mr. Clancy would accept my decision as well.

With my departure from Shady Trails the direct line of succession from John Clancy was at an end. The direction the camp would take after that, only time would tell.


added with permission August 27, 2014