To all alumni/ae of Camp Rising Sun:
It is 12:00 noon, August 23, 2016. The boys at Camp Rising Sun are gathered in a circle for Assembly. The Sachem of the Day calls for tent reports: Byzantium, Parthenon, Buck Palace, Kilimanjaro, Eggcrate, Chateau, Tepee, Hades, Noah's Ark, Wildcat's Den, Dark Horse, Valhalla, Middle Earth, Chomolungo, Macondo, Igloo. Then the welcoming song: "On the banks of the winding Sawkill, By the sound of the rushing falls..."
But I have to explain something. The Jonas Foundation no longer has enough money to make necessary repairs at the old Red Hook campsite on the banks of the Sawkill, or to operate two campsites simultaneously, at Red Hook for boys and at Clinton for girls. The Red Hook campsite has been closed at least temporarily, and boys and girls have both had their camps at what was formerly the campsite for girls only, at Clinton -- boys in July and girls in August in 2015, and girls in July and boys in August this year. So the Assembly that I attended was held on the formerly girls-only campsite at Clinton.
The boys brought over from Red Hook the tent signs for their tents and attached each of them to a tent platform at Clinton, so now on the Clinton tent hill, each tent has two names. I walked into Noah's Ark, which had been "Sator" during the girls' session, and found names that boys at Red Hook had written on the canvas walls in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 when that canvas had been used at Red Hook.
In 1931, a CRS counselor who had been previously employed at Camp Henry introduced the Camp Henry welcome song into CRS. And for many years after that, CRS campers welcomed visitors by singing "Camp Henry Welcomes You..." even though none of them had ever been to Camp Henry. The boys at Clinton in 2015 and 2016 have continued this CRS tradition of welcoming visitors to the "wrong" campsite, singing to them about a campsite on the banks of the Sawkill that none of them has ever seen.
Many things remain unchanged despite the boys' camp's new location. Campers still sing "Green Grow the Rushes O," "Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again," and "The White Dawn." In the Campers' Lounge, one can often find chess games in progress, someone playing the piano, and campers chatting. The old Thunderbird rug, once hung on the dining hall wall at Red Hook, is now hung on a wall at Clinton. And campers still say "how, how" to show approval of something and hold up two fingers to ask for silence.
The regular daily schedule is similar to what it was long ago, --- team work (once called squad work) after breakfast, project time (formerly called "Construction"), rest period after lunch, instructions, evening programs, several Assemblies during the day, and several free time periods. There have been many Instructions in 2016, some of them eagerly offered by campers. A random selection of topics: "Paper Making and the History of Paper," "Leadership in Sports,"Histoy of Paper," "Leadedrship in Sports, " "Israel-Palestine Conflict," "Introduction to the Ancient Land of Finland," "Art: What Is It?" and "Swimming 101."
The shortening of the camp season to four weeks has brought some changes. Catskill hiking trips are shorter than they once were. Camp operates on a 6-day week, with Formal Council every six days. Each day there are two Sachems of the Day. There are also sachems of new kinds -- an Instructions Sachem and a Projects Sachem each week, a Sachem of the Hike for each hiking group, a Vigils Sachem, and a Departure Sachem, who coordinates end-of Camp activities including arrangements for campers from distant places to stay in the New York area for a few post-camp days with host families.
But the shortening of the camp sessions does not change things as much as one might expect. because there has also been an enormous expansion of post-Camp activities. CRS alumni associations have been growing in number and size and are becoming more active. And, new modes of communication now make it possible for campers to remain in close contact with their campmates after they have returned home, in ways that could not have been imagined in Camp's earlier days. In October 2013, two months after the 2013 campers had returned home, a boy in Hawaii asked his campmates what courses they were taking in school. Within a few hours he had received responses from his friends in Finland, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Singapore, Japan. Barbados, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and California, and each of them could see what each of the others said. Thus, camp-like discussions can continue long after the in-Camp experience has ended. No one could have imagined anything like this when I was at Camp in the early 1950s.
Now, a few announcements. If you would like a copy of the 2016 version of the camp history that I wrote, entitled "Camp Rising Sun, 1929-2016," send an email message to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for it. If you came to Camp from a country other than the United States, and if you or your child or grandchild might like to return to the U.S. for college, write to me at that address and ask for my college letter. If this letter that you are reading now inspires you to make a financial donation to Camp, that would make me very happy. And as always I would be very happy to hear from you anyway!
Rick (Maurice Richter)