For you G.U.C.I. people, it is Spring again and camp is coming. Now our son Jeremy is the Director of the place we all love so much. Jeremy's wife Melisa is so involved in the success of G.U.C.I. as well. Earl's fern is growing and thriving in our backyard. Can it get better than this? I don't think so. Well, read my blog about Michael and Steph's wedding. That's pretty terrific too.
Well it is Spring. Camp's around the corner. That brings a smile to everyone; those who will be at G.U.C.I. and those who have been there in the past.
Dear Family and Friends:
It's Spring; when an older man's fancy turns to....well, summer camp. I can't help it. It's three years since I retired but camp is still in my head, heart and even my dreams. I guess it is understandable when you think that I spent all or part of fifty-six summers in camp; various camps. I was a camper for ten years, a staff member and Assistant Director at Olin-Sang-Ruby in Wisconsin for ten, and Director of the Myron S. Goldman Union Camp Institute (G.U.C.I.) for thirty-six. As I often say, "That's a lot of macaroni and cheese."
As springtime rolls around, a camp director's life-pace quickens. It's not just the anticipation of the coming summer with all of its challenges and victories, it also has to do with getting camp ready in the narrow time frame that comes between the melting snow, the spring rains, and camp's opening day. The pace of life starts to feel like driving the pace car at the Indy 500 (it's a pace lap, but everyone knows what is soon to follow). I guess it is a natural part of my internal clock because, even though I'm no longer involved in the stress of it all, and the excitement of it all, I still feel it at this time of the year.
Allow me to interject at this particular juncture in time (thank you Broadway Danny Rose), that I am extremely proud of the fact that the Klotz family is still very present at G.U.C.I. Our son Jeremy is the chair of the camp board, and our granddaughter Zoe is a regular (of course nothing is regular about her, but...) four-week camper.
But I have another springtime reminder of camp, Earl Beeler's fern. Sounds crazy, no? Not as crazy as a fiddler on the roof; but almost. Earl was the long-time caretaker of Union Camp Institute and then the Myron S. Goldman Union Camp Institute (one and the same). He worked for the camp for just under forty years. Camp's old timers knew him as Uncle Earl. He was certainly Uncle Earl to our kids, Jeremy and Michael. I was fortunate to work with him for his last ten years at camp and in life. I learned so much from Earl I'd be hard pressed to recount all the life lessons he taught me. Stories still linger at camp about Earl's farm, now the camp's Midurah, fire circle; Earls' pigs, and his many talents. I worked with Earl during the week and usually visited him on weekends (often with Jeremy and Michael). There was always something interesting happening at his place. He drove an 1954 big, old, black Buick. He had another exactly the same parked in the barn that he used for parts. There was nothing Earl couldn't do with motors. He fixed Danny Gottlieb's car (temporarily) by shoving a quarter into the electrical system. He devised a wood splitting system that ran on conveyor belts attached to the jacked-up back axle of his tractor. He built an elaborate barbecue with rotating spit out of the old Hobart dishwasher we replaced. I could go on and on.
One spring day Early walked me out to the side of his house where he showed me a long row of ferns. He asked if I wanted any and I took a few home. Juca planted them on the side of our home in Indianapolis where they grew and spread. When we moved to Bloomington we took one with us and planted it in the back yard. It didn't do very well. Juca is the one with the green digits around here and she decided to move the fern to a different spot. Now Earl's fern is back in all of its glory. We look for it each spring. Maybe that's one of the reasons camp is present in my mind, especially now.
I think about Earl a lot. He was very quotable. He'd just throw out a line that would stay with you forever. Once, walking through the woods at camp where he knew every kind of tree and how it could be used, I noted that it was too bad that one had died and fallen over. Earl said, "Us old trees got to move over and make way for the young ones coming up." Ain't it the truth. Thanks Earl.
Now one last thought. For years I spoke with families about the benefits of a session at G.U.C.I. It's not just hype. Camp may be the best present anyone can give a child. If yours is not yet signed up for this summer, there may still be time. Call G.U.C.I.'s Director, Jeremy Klotz and get your kid to camp. The number is 317-873-3361. Look at the camp's website, it's all true. Like the man from the Men's Warehouse says on TV, "I guarantee it." And I know that if Uncle Earl heard your child singing in the dining hall with all the others, he'd have a great big smile on his face, toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth.
That's the way I see it.
Earl Beeler Earl's Fern