Outpourings of Memory and Emotion
In putting together “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer,” Curator Marge Smith was worried that we would not be able to collect enough material to fill an entire exhibit. But Board Member Melissa Cherniske connected with many camps’ alumni associations through social media, and discovered an energetic, active network of former campers and they supplied the KHS with an abundance of material.
Once these groups learned of the planned exhibit, they began making reunion plans tied to the exhibit. The largest contingent was from Camp Kent, with over sixty people attending on Saturday, June 13. It was standing room only on a hot day. The docents kept boxes of Kleenex in every room of Seven Hearths. Shrieking and yelling rang through the house, accompanied by tears of joy at reconnecting with childhood friends. Several of the attendees were couples who met at camp.
Campers and counselors from Kenico, Camp Francis, and Po-Ne-Mah also organized their reunions with the Historical Society over the summer.
Sunny Cohen attended Kenico, from 1965 to 1972, wrote in the guest book: “A million thank yous to all involved in putting this “Camps of Kent” exhibit together. The memories provoked by photos, and collected artifacts for a time that surpasses [all others] is truly a gift that you have given to me … and apparent love for the special place that these camps held in your town. We were welcomed then and continue to feel welcomed in this cherished tribute exhibit walking down memory lane together.”
Abigail Ceppos, who also attended Camp Kenico from 1966 to 1972, sent us a package early on that found its way into the exhibit. She wrote in the guest book: “Going to camp changed my life forever. Developing friendships (that have lasted over 50 years), in addition to skills and life experiences that have shaped my choices and path along the way. There’s so many memories that have been sparked again by visiting this phenomenal exhibit — intercamp activities, ‘community activities’ like going to sing to the seniors at Cour D’Alene, Olympics, Kent Falls day trips, and so much more. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”
Abby’s lines in the guest book actually contain an important historical clue confirming the location of Camp Cour d’Alene. It also revealed that it was a camp for older folks that was part of the entire system of Kent camps, not just a private house.
In all, there were five reunions and each group made the exhibit part of their festivities. Many came from great distances. Some were unwell, but they came anyway and brought spouses, children, and grandchildren. All five reunions glowed with the pleasure of reconnecting with the treasured past, and the Kent Historical Society helped brighten the joy.
On Saturday, September 19 at 11:00 a.m., at Seven Hearths, a “Curators’ Talk” will summarize the experience of mounting this exhibit.