Dear Family and Friends:
“The waves roll out and the waves roll in.” Bob Gibson sang it and I’ve been thinking about it lately. You old folk music fans out there may well remember the late, great Chicago folk singer Bob Gibson. His voice rings clear in my memory and this sea chanty speaks to me.
Last week I attended the retirement luncheon for Susan Dill. Susan just completed her 37th year as Secretary/Registrar at our beloved Goldman Union Camp Institute. She wondered into my office in January, 1978 looking for a job. I was desperate to find help. In those days Union Camp Institute (that was our name back then) was a two person operation; Director and Secretary. My secretary had retired leaving me on my own to run the office, recruit campers etc. I needed help, badly. Susan had never been a secretary before and I had hardly been a camp director. She began that January and we worked side-by-side for the next 34 years. We grew into the jobs together.
1978 was a time pre-computer when we actually dictated, typed, proofed, re-typed with carbon paper and finally mailed letters. It was a time consuming process but one that demanded attention to language, punctuation, spelling etc. Mass mailings went out after stamping each envelope with an addressograph metal plate, each with the name and address of a family on the mailing list. It often took two or three days to stamp the envelopes, stuff them with letters run off on the mimeograph machine and then stamp each in the post office’s electric postage machine which sat out in the outer office (we had to take that machine in to the post office each month to deposit funds into it so it could stamp postage onto envelopes). In this time of emails and blogs, can you imagine that it could take a week to send a mailing to a few hundred families? What about packing and shipping several thousand camp brochures to the synagogues in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas? We did it all, sometimes hoodwinking family members to come in and help stuff envelopes or pack up brochures.
Susan quickly became much more than a secretary. She was my sounding board for ideas and programs. She has the ability to react just as any mother might to a new policy or program. If Susan frowned at an idea (I had plenty of them and she frowned many, many times) I immediately knew that parents around the region would as well. In those days camp was small, simple and broke. We squeezed every dollar and stretched every budget line. We made it work. Together we built Union Camp Institute into the Myron S. Goldman Union Camp Institute. Susan was the voice of reason and confidence on our end of the phone. She helped calm countless worried, Jewish parents who had dropped children off at camp and received their first “homesick-come-and-get-me” letter. She was a friend and mom to countless staff people over the years.
We also became part of each other’s families. We celebrated together and even did some mourning together. When I retired Susan spearheaded a great retirement party for me. I was very grateful. When Susan retired all I could do was go up to Indianapolis, declare October 1st Susan Dill Day and say thank you for all she has done for me, for us, and for our camp. Not much in comparison, but heartfelt.
So eras come and eras go. Susan marks the end of the pioneer spirit of Union camping. She served with great dedication and love. And it didn’t hurt that she had a great sense of humor to boot. We often talk about making the world a better place. Few have done as much as Susan, in her quiet way, to make that a reality. Decades of campers and staff are better for having worked with, learned from, and laughed with Susan Dill.
Man, the waves certainly do roll out, but thankfully they also roll in. G.U.C.I. rolls on. From strength to strength.
That’s the way I see it,