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Old 11-29-2003, 10:35 AM   #1
Norman Gross
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I've done it all

Just found out about this web site and it's great.
I may be one of the very few who has been a camper, a counselor, and a member of the Wel-Met board.I started at Wel-Met at it's last year at Lake Tioroti in Bear Mt and spent the next three years at Narrowsburg. Counselored from 1950 thru 53 and
bet John Gardner that he couldn't get a job at Wel-Met. He not only got a job but made more money than I did. After a stint in the army in 1955 I met John on the street and was told about the need for new young board members. He nominated me and I spent the next 18 years as a director until Wel-Met merged with Goddard Riverside community Center on the upper west side where Dan Siff and Howard Stein and I have been serving on that board since.
Love to hear from the people I counselored with in the early 50"s. It was some of the best times in my life
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Old 11-29-2003, 03:27 PM   #2
Michael Ohlstein
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It's great to hear from a 'lifer'.

Do you have any photographs from the 50's?
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Old 11-29-2003, 04:06 PM   #3
Norman Gross
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Now that I'm into it, I'll start searching
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Old 12-08-2003, 09:45 AM   #4
Scott
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Unhappy

Norman

Being a board member with both Howard and Dan, maybe you can shed some real light regarding the demise of camp. There were the stories that went around which reflected poorly on long term full time staff, that camp didn't keep up with the times and so on.

Can you also give some info on the sale of the sight at Barryville. It was quite upsetting going up and seeing nothing except the pavillion.

Thanks
Scott
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Old 12-08-2003, 12:39 PM   #5
Norman Gross
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Hi Scott..

A lot of things happened over the years forcing the Wel-Met board to accept the fact that the camping programs we were fostering were not as relevent as they were in previous years.
First, the middle class Jewish population (our main constituancy)was moving out of the city and into the burbs. The outdoors and outdoor programming were being experienced by the campers we were trying to cultivate. Our registration began to suffer and eventually we were forced to alter our camping concepts.
We also made what I consider an ill advised merger with the Child Study Association. It was done to help a vertually bankrupt
organization out of a real financial bind with the benifit to us of merging with a very prestigeous organization. This put a minor strain on our financial health but added to the other problems that were occuring
With the core constituancy continuing to wane and with our operating funds dwindling we decided that our camping base could no longer support the three campuses we had and put up the Barryville site (the last one acquired) for sale. (Remember Silver Lake and Narrowsburg were almost contiguous) It was eventually bought by a developer who dismembered the camp to build a summer vacation site. This helped for a while but as our operating expenses grew and operating income continued to go down, we had some serious choices to consider if we wanted to keep it going and avoid OUR bankruptcy. Should we abandon the social work methodology that we had from the beginning and develop a specialty camp or should we now seek a low income subsidized population? We chose the latter.. Unfortunately,the mixture of this group and our base middle class was an oil and water combo. We continued to lose our base as conflicts arose between groups.

TO BE CONTINUED

Last edited by Norman Gross; 12-08-2003 at 12:51 PM.
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Old 12-08-2003, 02:43 PM   #6
ArtBefartnickle
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Unhappy

Ah, so you are hitting on the School Camping program that brought down Barryville and then Narrowsburg. Well, you are right on. The marketing GURU's who had no idea who the constiuancy was for the camp killed the place. 70% of the camp was from Long Island. 70% was jewish. The camp had a tradition of brothers, sisters and cousins all going. My Brother and cousins from both sides of my parents family went. I worked there and so did my brother. It was a family affair. How many of you had a brother or sister who went?

And the three week trip was an introduction to the camp. If you liked it and your parents came up on visiting day and weren't offented by the William Tell overture, and saw it was a decent place to send their kids, Well, you got promoted to the six week trip. Just add to the mix 300 minority kids from the south bronx (pouring out of the dining hall) and that was all that was needed to those who left Brooklyn in the 50's. After a few years of that it killed Barryville. Then narrowsburg. It's truly a bunch of crap that it was some financial problem, it was one that was created. You should have stuck with what worked. It was quite simple. Relevence is something that never made a difference. Read Allan's comments, no pools no tennis who gave a rats ass! You should have sold Madison Avenue, stopped School Camping and marketed yourselves a little. Raised the price. Anyway, you were to top heavy with to many sociologist running the place.

I would have loved to have sent my kids to WM.

Also, not to leave the full blame with management but, I as well as many others, was a selfish person who was more interested in having a good time than providing a totally wholesome experience for some kids. It was the 70's and hormones that was driving that issue. better training and leadership would have helped. I've never been to Barryville but I understand that it was much more beautiful than narrowsburg. What a shame!

You can;t fulfill a social role if you don't exist. So much for Utopia. BTW, Dave Klienman, the AH, made the place difficult to work in. Many of us don't wish him well.
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Old 12-08-2003, 04:12 PM   #7
Norman Gross
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Just a quick answer to Art.

It's always easy to look back and disect the decisions that were made 20 years ago.
The groupwork approach as developed by professional social workers made the camp what is was. If you worked as a counselor you must have experienced the intense training that was usually absent from most other camping programs. This translated into a very fulfilling time for both campers and staff. I'm not a social worker but I certainly appreciate the methodology used to make our mutual happy experiences possible.
Contrary to what you think, children from affluent families from Long Island and other parts of the Metropolitan area were now choosing Weight Loss, Tennis,Soccer and specialty camps of all types and to keep our camps open to the small group of loyal followers was shear folly and not economicaly feasible.
Yes we considered selling Madison Avenue as well as many other
courses of action. Closing any of the camps was the last possible option after reviewing all of the others. Tough decisions had to and were made. I'm sorry you've felt this loss. I do too.
Norman
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Old 12-08-2003, 08:11 PM   #8
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Thumbs up

I hope everyone feels the passion and intensity that flows out of this exchange, and that both Art and Norman see it as a positive exchange of thoughts and ideas.

I think it’s very obvious from all the posts and number of alumni that have visited this site: Wel-Met was a special place, at a special time. I think, like everything, just because it’s special to one group of individuals, it isn’t automatically special to another. Wel-Met Camps lived a long time and touched many lives in many ways. But, by the same token, I can see a lot of reasons it wouldn't be a successful camp today. Most of us who went to Wel-Met in the sixties and early seventies were, in one way or another, of the counter-cultural bent and inclination. To most of us, going to Wel-Met was a badge of courage; not to mention, it was all that most of our parents could afford. Those ideals stopped being popular as we got older and moved on with our lives. How many of the Wel-Met campers from the early fifties sent their kids to Wel-Met in the mid seventies. The answer is obviously not enough.

It just wasn't the place to spend your summers when you were used to taking tennis lessons and going to Vail for Christmas vacation. If its demise was due to a mix of cultural backgrounds then what happened to the western trips? There weren't as many trips going out in 76 as in 70. Why? Because the popularity of the Wel-Met experience was being replaced. I don't think any marketing plan, short of rebuilding the whole camp and changing the programs, would have worked. Why did Teen Tours and Trails West succeed when Wel -Met failed? I think for much the same reason the schools in Long Island and New Jersey prospered when NYC public schools suffered. As Zimmy said so profoundly, "The Times They Are a Changin'". How would you feel about a Wel-Met with showers in the bunks, bus trips to the Pocanos, a pool, tennis courts, stables, menus in the dinning hall and color war? It would not have been the same camp and it might still be around.

For me, Wel -Met was all about the friendships I made and the experiences I shared year after year with the same group of young wanna-be hippies. If Spider, Evan and Bandel had stopped going, would I have gone back for the food or the great bunks? I don't think so.

So thanks, Norman, for being open to sharing more than most of us ever thought we would find out and let's get back to hangin' out with our friends.
I would love to know something about the history of the camp and it's surroundings. What was the story with Nellie and Dan LaBar? How did the locals of Eldred and Uland view us? I have some very early history that I received from the curator of the Ten-Mile River Scout museum. It only covers the early period pre-1937. If you start a history thread, I will add my small part and in true Wel-Met fashion there will be some added educational benefit.
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Old 12-08-2003, 08:59 PM   #9
Norman Gross
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Thanks, I think you clarified my feelings.

As to the Wel-Met history.....unfortunately most of the written records of Wel-Met have either been lost or misplaced.

But just to add to the record, after being wooed by a number of prospective partners, Wel-Met merged in 1987 with an agency that shared most of its values ... the Goddard Riverside Community Center on the upper westside of NY.

The Wel-Met that is around today has no affiliation with Goddard, although they claim to follow the original philosophy of the camp.
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Old 12-09-2003, 09:08 AM   #10
Scott
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Wow who knew that I would open up a flood of feelings. Wel Met was part of my life from the early 1960's to the very end of camp as we knew it. I went to camp in Barryville and then worked in all 3 divsions including Silver Lake during winter breaks. My long lasting friendships have endured. My wife can't stand another Wel Met story but thats what makes me the way iIam today. Wel Met molded me. It tought me things I wouldn't or couldn't have have learned anywhere else. It taught me to share, be part of a team, responsibility, to be on my own, and many other valuable life lessons. To see the demise of Wel Met in front of my eyes as it was happening was quite disheartening. To go back to Barryville and see nothing except the pavillion, the big rock at the lake and nothing else made me sick. To see Silver Lake looking like it was abondoned, and Narrowsburgh with a new crew of inhabitants and a pool and looking kind of rundown was sad.

Whether through poor business decsions, changing times, Wel Met continues to live in our hearts, minds and our daily lives. It's gone from existance but not gone from who we are.

Norman please continue your story and the history thread would be a great idea.
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Old 12-09-2003, 03:19 PM   #11
Norman Gross
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OK ..Here'sa continuation of the story as I remember it.

We sold our Barryville camp which kept us going for a while.....
all the time looking for ways to continue a quality operation.

Although we weren't affiliated with the "Y"s they were a continuing source of recommendations until they started to suffer
from the same lack of camping registrations. Referals dried up.

We invested in the winterization of Silver Lake as the "Eleanor Roosevelt Conference Center" with the hopes of attracting a new
program base. It's purpose was to cater to groups from schools, private and public agencies, etc. offering not only year-round accomodations but group dynamic guidance as well. This was fairly successful and fullfilling... helped... but didn't succeed in meeting our financial needs.

Let's not forget that although Wel-Met was a leader in the camping community, it grew in scope over the years to provide Teen Age Career Programs, and programs for ecology awareness, social work training, senior citizen camping and counseling among other things. And although continuing to be limited, these programs were not cost free, although we were able to get some funding from outside sources.

Added to this was the fact that the Board of Directors was mainly composed of middle class members who were deeply committed to and worked tirelessly for the Wel-Met ideals but did not have deep enough pockets to bail out the organization . (unlike many other well heeled boards of not-for-profit agencies)

Obviously, like any responsible board we cut staff and trimmed down as best we could but the time came when we finally realized that the camping experience that we advocated, one that had been enjoyed and loved by hundreds of former staff and campers,was terribly undersubscribed and was indeed coming to an end.

At about this time we sold our Narrowsburg campus with the hopes that we could still carry on programs at Silver Lake.

The realization that we still had a facility, albeit small, but now very few programs, brought us to seek a merger with another organization who shared the same vaues as we but who had an ongoing viable commitment to the New York community. Goddard Riverside fit the bill and a merger to place in 1987.

I'm sure I've left things out, but for the sake of brevity i've tried to touch on the highlights.

I share with all of you only the fondest of memories of Wel-Met and look foward to hearing from some of the staff 1950 to 53.

(TREVER BAIN, DON GEDELNUCK,RED LEVINE and the rest of you, you know who you are, where are you?)

Norman














Let's also remember that we were not the usual
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Old 01-09-2004, 07:48 PM   #12
Michael Ohlstein
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So Norman,

Now that the holiday season is behind us, have you had a chance to look for any of your old pictures?
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Old 01-10-2004, 11:08 AM   #13
Steve Alter
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It has been very interesting reading Norman's account for Wel-Mets closing.

And it made me sad, not just about the close of the camp, but about the loss of idealism.

The camp had its roots in socialism, and was infused with the vision of the 60's. That was part of what made it so unique.

Bringing poor people to camp was always Wel-Mets vision- except we were no longer the poor people. It was a natural decision to invite the inner city kids in- but sadly it did not work.

Like so many other aspects of life since the sixties, materialism and individualism have taken over.

It reminds me of the kibbutzim. I was fortunate to have spent 8 months as a volunteer on one in 70's. They were such special places with strong visions. But they have since fallen apart. Young people left for more individualistic, capitalistic journeys. Today, the ones that have not gone bankrupt exist in completely different forms.
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Old 01-10-2004, 05:11 PM   #14
donaldo
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Cool wel met memories

i attended wel met in narrowsburg for several years in the sixties and then worked as a waiter in silver lake..then i worked as a waiter in narrowsburg..what a glorious time it was to be young..i remember the campfires and the friendships and the experiences that will last a life time..the tac program and the relationships that deceloped..i stunmbled on to this website by accident and i am speechless as i reflect back on those wonderful days..my first real love.(so i thought) and the heartbreak after the return home to resume normal life and school....more later as i digest it all...don warshaw
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Old 01-21-2004, 12:07 AM   #15
mhymowitz
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Thanks for having a Wel-Met page on the web and this history thread.

It has been quite insightful to read thru these posts. I now understand why my counselors (Shelley Rosenzweig and Ira Kallem) were teaching us to sing Phil Ochs' Small Circle of Friends as nine year olds back in 1966. I didn't hear that song again until I was in college ten years later. It's amazing how music ties memories together. I heard that song again recently and it motivated me to seek out this site. (G-d bless Google!)

Allow me to add a small tidbit of knowledge to this site: The records that will answer many of the questions raised herein are to be found in the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library under Goddard-Riverside:

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/rare/guides/Goddard/

Click on Series I (Predecessor Organizations) and then Wel-Met Incomporated (Boxes 24-29). (How did we ever live without Google? <g>)


What was the exact location of the Barryville camp? What was the name of the lake? What is its current use? Is it still possible to visit the site?
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Old 01-21-2004, 12:09 PM   #16
dmkdmk
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where it's at

Dear M.:

Wel-Met Barryville was located on York Lake in Barryville. I'm ashamed to say that I have forgotten the names of the roads one uses to get there -- but I could certainly find my way there easily by the landmarks! The lake appears on any reasonably detailed map. I've not been there since 1990 -- by then most if not all of the camp buildings had been razed and the property was being subdivided for private homes. I shudder to think of what it must look like now.

cordially,
D.
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