|that the camp prides itself on supervision and
that any mention of an unsupervised activity, like .a raid, would not go
over well with the parents. Parents are very sensitive, she explains, and
when the camp had a counselor who told the story of "The Cropsey Maniac"
very effectively, a whole bunk did not return the next summer. For these
reasons she would like to see the story before it appears in the paper.
Camp Ranger is indeed a reputable camp, now in its 46th summer, and it
has many second-generation campers. A predominantly Jewish camp with a
majority of its campers from Long Island, it has for directors a lawyer,
Turner, and a dentist Dr. Jerome Lorber. Every camper I spoke to suggested
that, I tell the world that Camp Ranger is the best there is.
But it's a rough time for camps, even good ones, what with the market
struggling as it is. Jack Schnitt, a 15-year-old office boy from Queens who
has watched his Bar Mitzvah profits fall with Dow Jones, explained that Camp
Ranger is one of very few in the area that is operating near capacity.
"Prices are rising faster than wages," explains Jack "A lot of my friends
couldn't go to camp this summer because their parents couldn't afford to
Compared to the way Mrs. Turner is scrutinizing me, Naomi has it
relatively easy. On learning that Naomi is from a proper background, Mrs.
Lorber has a nephew for her.
Property of the Athletic Department
Almost to a man, the senior boys love Jeff Ruskin.
He is their group leader and he is their coach. Last year, his teams
played nine games and this year, three. "I was undefeated in all nine,
including a 22-0 softball game," Jeff said. "This year I'm 3-0 against
But Camp Anawana, a heralded sports camp, is another story, and tomorrow
Jeff must. put his undefeated record on the line against Anawana in "A"
and "B" softball, basketball, and volleyball. To make things worse, it
is raining, forcing cancellation of the final practice session. "It
really hurts," Ruskin says. "The day before the game I like to go
through all the plays. I don't let the outfielders throw hard because
they can come up with sore arms.''
At 14 years old Jeff Ruskin's body began to change, and now, at 20, he
stands 6'0", 180 pounds, trim and well- disciplined. His hair is
conveniently short and most of his outfits are property of the athletic
department. At prep school he lettered in three sports. At college in
Illinois, where he will be a senior, he is sports editor of the school
paper, works for the sports information office, and ushers prospective
athletes around the campus. A physical education major, he will even
eventually teach and coach.
Through the years, Jeff has developed a philosophy about sports, a
philosophy that he shares with his boys. His motto, borrowed from
football emperor Vince Lombardi is, "Winning isn't everything, it's the
only thing." At a recent practice for the Anawana games, Jeff tells his
12-15 year olds, "If you can conceive of a loss, you can't win at all."
| "There are two types of underprivileged kids,"
he says. "There are the kids in the city who can't get out to play ball, and
there are the kids from the wealthy homes who don't know how to get out
there and bleed a little bit, to get sand in their eyes and keep playing. A
lot of these kids don't know what it is to be part of a team and abide by
the the rules."
If the, kids don't quite bleed, Jeff bleeds for them. Camp Anawana is a
power as camps go, and although he is worried, he doesn't let on. ("I just
tell my kids you meet your opponents, not their reputations.") Although the
Major League's All-Star Game is on television tonight, Jeff doesn't plan on
watching. "I like to get to bed early," he says. "The day of competition can
be a trying day. My adrenaline will be flowing tomorrow.''
The sun is creeping up over Camp Ranger. It is 7:30 AM, and a scratchy
record blares "reveille" through the speakers around the girls' camp.
The girls are half-awake now, and the voice that comes over the
loudspeakers finishes the job. "Up, up, up, it's a beautiful morning,"
sings Aunt Ruth.
Ruth Gottdiener has been nudging young girls out of their dreams for 26
years at Camp Ranger, an incredible record of longevity as head
counselors go. But that is the kind of dedicated person Aunt Ruth is.
The rest of the year, in Brooklyn, she is active in community affairs
and she works in a center for "older adults."
The years haven't compromised Ruth's enthusiasm for camp life. Her head,
topped with short, fading red hair, bobs when she speaks, her eyebrows
bounce, and her freckled arms punctuate her conversation. One game they
play at camp is trying to get Aunt Ruth to sit still.
It takes every bit of Ruth's enthusiasm and strength to keep her girls
interested in more than laughing with their girlfriends and flirting
with boyfriends. Although some of the older girls resent the way Ruth
tries to segregate them from their boyfriends, Aunt Ruth is undaunted.
"Some of these kids never saw a moon go down on a lake," Ruth says.
"This is exciting. Kids don't always see with their eyes and hear with
their ears. But sometimes they feel the poetry, sometimes they say, "I
never saw the sunset before."
Poetry plays an important part in Aunt Ruth's life, and in her cabin she
keeps a book entitled, "Inspirational Poetry for Camp and Youth Groups."
"What I find is that some of the talented girls don't share their
talent," Ruth says. "I have a special poem for them." Ruth jumps up and
returns with the book. She turns to a poem that begins,
"Suppose God charged us for the rain. Or put a price on a song-bird's
Ruth. remembers something and jumps up again, this time to grab the
microphone in her cabin. Her voice reverberates throughout the ring of
wooden bunks, and girls on the porches stop and turn their heads. "The
girls who are supposed to be in A. C. (arts and crafts) better be, they
better be," Ruth sings.
Although she scolds the girls -- for using bad language, for leaving dry
clothes on the line, for being selfish, for going on raids-the girls
from Camp Ranger remember Ruth fondly when they leave each summer.
"'She's got a good heart, I can say that for her," said 12-year-old
Robin Sperber as she sat on the floor of Bunk 12 surrounded by her
bunkmates. "If you need someone to cry to, you can always go to Aunt
Ruth," said Rita Schulman.
"In their minds, it's an important thing, so I make it an important
thing from a sore finger to a boyfriend," says Aunt Ruth. "Hopefully,
I'm a good influence. Hopefully, we do a good job. I'm not so stupid to
think we're SUCH an influence."
| Just then, the phone rings in the cabin and
Ruth is up again. She listens for a moment to the young voice on the other
end, and Aunt Ruth says, "I don't even understand you dear. Enunciate more
It is a daring night for a raid.
It is July 12, and tonight "The Cropsey Maniac" will add another chapter
to his legend. For the boys of Bunk 17, it is a grotesque coincidence.
They had scheduled their raid for each of the previous three nights, but
twice the invaders fell asleep and once it rained.
But if the younger kids are going to lose sleep over some legend, the
boys in Bunk 17 have better things to stay awake for. Their destination
is Bunk 14, on the girls' side of camp, and the important thing is to
get there without getting caught. Last summer it was a sloppy affair,
and Jeff Mutterperl was tripped up by the night watchman's dog. Jeff was
paddled next day at lineup, and while it didn't hurt, it isn't the kind
of thing you like to go through more times than you have to.
Now, they've learned from last year's mistakes and the raid is well
organized. This is a well-knit group of eight campers, and many of them
have been bunkmates in past summers. Mitchel Horowitz takes more than
his share of ribbing because of his ham radio interests, but otherwise
the group is constructive. Each week, they hold a "Schmuck-of-the-Week"
contest, with a primary held Wednesday night and the finals on Saturday
night. "It's supposed to help the person," explained Peter (Potatoes)
Morgenstern. "Nobody who ever won the primary ever won "schmuck." Last
week, Mutterperl won for his habit of hitting his friends at lineup and
he hasn't done it since.
With this degree of teamwork, the boys of Bunk 17 are confident. They
have a buddy system so that no one gets lost in case of trouble, and
each member of the group can reel-off the assumed name of a boy in Bunk
16 if the watchman makes a list to give to Julie, the head counselor and
wielder of the paddle.
As far as Mark (Meat) Morgenstern, Peter's twin brother, is concerned,
they'll be better off if they never make it inside the girls' cabin. If
they get inside, they'll have to talk to the girls, maybe even sit on
their beds, Besides, Meat will have to kiss the ugliest girl in the
bunk, a prize he earned by scoring the most strikes, seven, when the
group went bowling the other day.
This night the boys rush through their washing obligations, and they're
in pajamas and under the covers by 11 PM. Potatoes and Robert Herman are
on the first shift until midnight, then they wake Meat and Barry Marek.
Tonight, they are determined not to foul up, and at 1 AM, the eight boys
of Bunk 17 are lined up at the cabin door in warm and dark clothing,
whispering last minute instructions before filing into the night.
Their first attempt stops before they're even out of the bunk, when
someone sees the dark outline of the night watchman's car rolling slowly
in the distance. The boys scatter back under their blankets but at 1:05
AM, they are lined up again. This attempt is also short-lived, as one of
the counselors is spotted walking back into his bunk just after curfew.
Finally at 1:10 AM, the boys swing out of the bunk toward the baseball
field. The moon doesn't tell much tonight, so they chance walking across
the open field, quietly, in pairs.
Moving deliberately, the group circles around the canteen and across the
road to the ring of girls' cabins. The trip, usually a five-minute walk,
takes almost half an hour, and while there's no sign of "Cropsey," the
boys do encounter two skunks.
The boys creep toward Bunk 14. They are just about home safe, with the
lead pair already on the front porch, when the boys freeze at a sound.
An old voice cries an abrupt, "Hey," and the boys hear the sound of
automobile fires cracking over leaves and twigs moving toward them.