Camps exhibit elicited memories

Executive Director Brian Thomas welcomes members to the Preview Party June 6.
Executive Director Brian Thomas welcomes members to the Preview Party June 6.

 

Camps Exhibit Elicited Memories

Visitors enjoyed show

Memories of summer camp are forged in the relationships made between campers and the Kent Historical Society realizes the importance of those bonds and celebrated summer with its 2015 exhibit, “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer.” The exhibit was honored with an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of History Organizations.

Many of those visiting that summer left comments in our guest book. Here is a sampling of the comments shared by various people:

“Wow; Fabulous; Wonderful; Loved it! Great Exhibit; Neat! Very evocative! Great Show; Unique and special place; Splendid work; Fabulous restoration! Terrific! Lovely presentation; Enjoyed all so much; Very interesting, well done; Great job! This was the best!”

“An incredible exhibit about the history of camping. The values of summer camp from long ago still ring true today!”

Some of our volunteer docents even get shout outs: “Linda was great!”

“Wow; Fabulous; Wonderful; Loved it! Great Exhibit; Neat! Very evocative! Great Show; Unique and special place; Splendid work; Fabulous restoration! Terrific! Lovely presentation; Enjoyed all so much; Very interesting, well done; Great job! This was the best!”

When you visit the Seven Hearths Museum, please take the time to sign the guest book and please leave a comment. It helps us when we are applying for grants and we like to know what appeals to people in the various exhibits.

We welcomed upper level members June 6 for a party to preview the exhibit. Victor Fink, former owner of Club Getaway and Camp Leonard-Leonore, shared some of his experiences and his thoughts about the importance of camp to so many children.

“For so many adults, their camp experience in Kent was a peak-like experience. It is where they learned to live away from home and they learned sportsmanship and athletics,” Fink said. He added that many don’t realize how many camps operated here. “Kent was kind of the camp capital.”

Images of some of our first guests enjoying the exhibit

We also hosted 75 alumni campers from Camp Kent and Camp Kenico June 13 to celebrate camp reunions and the public opening of the exhibit.

Dari Silverman was one of the organizers of the Camp Kent reunion. She was very pleased to be a part of the society’s exhibit.

“The exhibit was fantastic. It was well thought out and insightfully displayed,” Silverman said. “For me being there and seeing some old friends that I hadn’t seen in over 50 years was the highlight of the day. We fell back into the friendships that we had established all of those years ago in seconds.”

The exhibit covers the entire range of Kent’s camps from children’s residential camps to adult retreats. Some were for relief workers, such as Near East Camps in Kent Hollow. Three camps are still active and the independent schools regularly host camps for portions of the summer.

Other camps have hosted reunions this summer and made a visit to the exhibit part of the festivities. Camp Francis welcomed former campers and staff July 25 with a reunion at Seven Hearths and a gathering and a walk at the camp. Geer Mountain Camp alumni visited July 26 and sang camp songs in the museum. Camp Po-ne-mah has plans for Aug. 14-16.

This look into Kent’s camping legacy provides a vivid picture of the changing meaning of childhood and recreation, and will resonate with everyone who sojourned in Kent. However, even those who didn’t camp here will recognize many familiar items that were common to the camp experience.

For some of these campers, summer camp proved to be among the warmest and most significant of their lives. In fact, time spent camping in Kent’s woods has led many people to seek out Kent as adults. A number of current residents came to Kent because they remembered the enchanted place where they spent their summer.

At the same time, many longtime Kent residents had little direct experience of the camps in their midst, and one goal of the exhibit is to help them appreciate what actually went on there.

One of the exhibit rooms features the influential adults who were so important to the operations of these camps. Ky Anderson, who taught horseback riding at several camps, is profiled, along with Eugene “Rusty” O’Meara who operated Camp Po-ne-mah after Billie Williams, and Lloyd Albin, who owned and operated Kenmont-Kenwood for many years. All three have been able to see the exhibit and were touched by the displays in their honor.

The Society is grateful to the Exhibition Sponsors: Kent School, The Marvelwood School, South Kent School, Victor Fink in memory of Camp Leonard-Leonore, Nicholas/Tobin Insurance, Union Savings Bank, Bain Real Estate, Ira Goldspiel and William Pitt/Sotheby’s International Realty, as well as Barry Labendz and David Birnbaum of Kent Falls Brewing Company.