Higley Hill Summer Camp

Often, with their parents in jail and facing abuse and ostracism at school and in their neighborhoods, the children of the Old Left needed to get away, preferably to the country in the summer; they needed shelter and unconditional love, and this was provided by Manny and Grace Granich.  That neither of them had much experience working with children made no difference.  They provided a summer home in which American ideals of tolerance, the virtue of physical labor and inclusiveness were lived. However, Grace had little tolerance for competitive games, fancy makeup, smoking or “wild” music. For Linda, this was a blessed shelter, as indeed it was for most of the children who attended Higley.  Of course, as in all summer camps, some kids were not overly happy.  One of the stories in the camp was that among these was Bobby Fisher, of chess fame, who temporarily ran away.  But on the whole, Higley Hill was a haven.

So, it was no surprise that as young adults, Paula (who as a child had spent her summers at Higley Hill) and her husband, Billy Gerson (whose father was a writer and editor at the “Daily Worker,” and had been New York City’s last Communist councilman) were picked by Grace and Manny when they retired to be camp directors.  Billy and Paula continued the traditions that had been established. Linda and I helped, although I had absolutely no experience with summer camping or the “lefty” atmosphere of the place.

Paula and Billy were wonderful with kids.  Paula was great at organizing a rich cultural program and Billy was absolutely a Pied Piper.  He was a shambling figure, not particularly tall, without hips, and as a result, keeping his pants from falling was a real and constant concern.  Kids gravitated towards him and loved him.

Linda was a ball of organizing energy.  She did whatever was required and in addition, every summer had the children put on a production of a musical which she organized and directed.  Sometimes this was a classic, such as “The Pirates of Penzance” and sometimes a musical of more recent vintage, such as “The Three Penny Opera.”  These productions were wonderful, as the children themselves were a remarkable lot, and when parents came up to visit their offspring in mid-summer, they were often surprised by their talented children.

I was “head counselor”, which meant I supervised the staff and organized endless prison ball games.  I also led three day hikes on the Long Trail, a Vermont section of the Appalachian Trail.  Some of these hikes were made interesting by rain, and on one of them, during the night, the local porcupines ate all the stitching on our backpacks.

At the end of one summer, however, Manny and Grace decided that they wanted to sell Higley Hill.  Now Paula and Billy had to decide whether they wanted to continue running Higley elsewhere, which meant buying another property and getting it ready for the following season, or giving up on running a camp.  Decisions never came easily to Paula and Billy, and at the time both of them were working on Ph.D.’s at Columbia (she in art history, he in physics), and time passed.  Linda and I decided that if Paula and Billy didn’t want to run Higley any longer, we would continue doing so, but this meant they had to decide one way or another, and they really couldn’t make up their minds, and time was passing.

 

About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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42 Responses to Higley Hill Summer Camp

  1. Rick Jones says:

    The Daily Worker ?

  2. AlexLevy says:

    The newspaper of the Communist Party in New York City (possibly in the US). I just assumed everyone knew that. Not mentioned in the post is the fact that Grace Granich had in an earlier incarnation been secretary to Earl Browder, the President of the Communist Party of the US.
    Alex

  3. Amy Polenberg says:

    Is this the same Manny who ate live clams on the beach?

  4. AlexLevy says:

    Don’t know, Amy. His name was actually Max, but he was called Manny. I will have to ask Linda and Paula. They knew him better than I did.
    Alex

  5. Amy Polenberg says:

    It has been officially confirmed! -the Manny at Higley Hill was he same Manny as the one who ate the live clam on the beach…

  6. AlexLevy says:

    Live and learn! I had no idea, but it sounds like him.
    Alex

  7. Some years ago Boone Schirmer and I took down Many Granich’s memoirs. Manny was too old to work them into an autobiography but the transcripts of his memoirs are in the Tamiment Library at NYU under the heading, I think, “granich files” or “archive”. They also include the beginning of a biography by Grace, cut off apparently by her death in an auto accident. A bio of Manny or, better, of Manny and Grace is long overdue and would make for a very doable Ph.D. or… Manny took part in the the Soviet industrialization effort in th early 30’s, Grace was then working in the Comintern, — and both later went to China a few years later to publish and English language “Voice of China”, urging students to oppose the KMT’s policy of non-resistance to Japanese aggression. I believe there is a nearly complete file of Voice of China at the Tamiment or findable with their aid.
    A note; Manny is often the leading figure in joint accounts of their life and work but Grace was sub rosa a leading figure in the US CP leadership from its beginning until their ‘retirement’. Uniquely she was trusted by all factions of the party throughout and by Moscow. I hadn’t the expertise to do further work on her or Manny’s bios but there is an, so far as I know, still untold major piece of scholarshiop to be done – especially on Grace. John McD

    • Alex Levy says:

      John,
      I will pass your e-mail on to my wife, Linda (nee Lieber) who is expert on Grace and Manny, and loved them very much. I’ve also written you an e-mail response, but I won’t send that out until I run it by Linda.
      Alex

    • Reuben Granich says:

      Great site! Thanks for putting it together.

      Grace and Manny were my great aunt and uncle.

      After Manny died much of his memorabilia and other effects was lost to my family including his house on Cape Cod (the house and other effects went to his last partner who he lived with for the last 7-8 years(?)–Manny died in Mexico after living with my father in Oregon for a while). We heard that some campers also visited the house and reportedly took things about the camp and Manny’s life.

      Lots of it was donated to the Tamiment library. Unfortunately, the library is standing by copyright laws and is not allowing anyone without copyright to make copies of the materials (including us I imagine). This includes the transcripts of interviews that Manny and Grace gave to people interested in documenting their life. Manny’s brother Mike Gold has had two biographers but sadly neither has completed their work. This is compromising the ability of a third professor who appears to be interested in writing Mike Gold’s biography.

      The Library has suggested I consult a lawyer about it all but I doubt I will although it is odd that they would not question provenance of the family photos and memorabilia for the donation but would stand firm on the law about something as silly as copyright. I think that they should have contacted the family before accepting donations of family photos. Manny and Grace are probably laughing in communist workers heaven and I suppose if they believed more in the capitalist system they would have paid more attention to what would happen to their house and memories after they died.

      Anyway, just wanted to put this out there–of course Higley Hill was a unique place and I can understand how valuable the mementos and other materials are to the campers.

      If you do have photos or memorabilia of my family please consider giving them back to us if you are no longer going to hold onto them–at the very least give us a shot at making copies before they are lost forever to a library on the other side of the country.

      Keep up the wonderful work on this site–I will pass it on to my Uncle Nick and my father Carl who were campers and counselors there…

      Thanks
      Reuben Granich

  8. There is definately a lot to learn about this issue. I like all the points you made.

  9. This is so fascinating. I got started on tracking this when I decided to get a copy of Red Diaper Babies to try to make more sense of what growing up was like than I could at the time. That was last week. I was immediately drawn to the chapter by Dr. Mary Louise Patterson who was Mary Lou Patterson at the time I was at Higley Hill, which was only one year because I started out in the oldest group. She was in my “bunk” in the attic of the main house and even by the time the book was written had gone on to lead a very interesting life. Even though I did not intend this, today reminds me of the day that I did meet Pete Seeger when he came to Higley Hill. I was never especially close to Grace but Manny was totally accessible. My summer there, the summer of one or may two hurricanes, was truly wonderful. My sister, 4 years younger, was able to go to Higley Hill for several more years. I would love to find out what happened to people and blown away to hear that there is an archive!

    • AlexLevy says:

      Dear Phyllis,
      Apologies for answering your note on my Blog so late, but somehow I missed your comment. Today, while cleaning up the spam I came across your message, and here I am. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Your comment about the relative accessibility of Grace and Manny is probably on the money, although Grace was also quite remarkable. As to Mary Lou Patterson, we came together for several years at the celebration of Elizabth Catlett Mora’s birthday, when my wife and I and I drove Mary Lou home, because for some weird reason it always rained at the end of those celebrations. Elizabeth Catlett died several years ago , and so I haven’t seen Mary Lou recently. If you want to throw some names into the hopper, I can see what I can come up with. My sister-in-law (as well as my wife) Paula Gerson (then Lieber) was also a camper during those early years, and you might know her. Good to hear from you.
      Alex

  10. Steve Freedman says:

    I believe I was the youngest (5 years old in 1952) to ever attend Higley Hill. It was not easy for me to be away from home for 8 or 9 weeks, but I had vowed not to spend another summer alone in NYC. I went for four years until we moved to the mid-west.
    My sharpest recollections involve Manny teaching the kids to use a .22 rifle, the power tools in the barn and his comforting me one night in his rocking chair when I couldn’t sleep. The smell of home made apple jack was heavy.
    I was, as far as I know, I was the only one exempt from the rule of having to eat everything on your plate. After having been in China during the famines, wasting food was intolerable for them. Since my once, very slowly, consumed cooked spinach ended on the floor, I was exempted from the “must eat it” rule.

  11. Tim Brown says:

    I guess my brother Steve was younger, but I remember your older brother Kenny well. I wonder where he is now. That camp was a great place for me as a kid. the rifle, the power tools, my uneaten squash out the bunk window, all so similar. Last i heard from my mother (long gone) you were an EMT in CA, Kenny making pottery in Michigan.

  12. Tim Brown says:

    And I remember a Billy Levy at Higley Hill-relative, perhaps?

  13. Alex says:

    Gretings, Tim!
    I met Billy Levy a couple of times, but he is no relative. He is a photographer, and I imagine you can contact him by Googling Builder Levy.
    Alex

  14. Theda Ruth Wiles Zawaiza says:

    Hi Alex, Wow! I have such fond memories of Higley Hill Camp. It defined who I am as a human being. I was 5 my first year and attended for 9 years (apple hill, too) Coming from inner city Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, I loved the quiet, nature and wide open spaces. Daily town hall meetings, labor songs, musicals for the folks in town, Wilmington 4th of July fireworks. Going square dancing in Battleboro. Manny and Grace were so kind. Bill was the most compassionate man I’d ever known and Paula was the most committed. I missed the campers reunion that Melissa pulled together years ago. There was Alice, the nurse and my BFF, her daughter, Kim with the longest black hair.

    I was so happy about the opening of Apple Hill Camp with you and Linda in Keene, NH, after HHC. It was very beautiful country where the Higley Hill spirit lived on and morphed into something new and different and fun.

    “Hail, hail the gang’s all here and you’re welcomed to Higley Hill!”
    Theda Ruth Wiles, camper 1959 – 1967

    • Deidre C Powe says:

      Hi Alex and Theda!!!
      How are you and Linda? It has been sometime since I have connected with anyone from my Camp days, Higley Hill and Apple Hill.
      I wonder if Melissa is planning another camp reunion. That would be awesome!!
      Miss those summers.
      Deidre (Dee Dee) C. Powe

    • Steven R. Nyburg says:

      I know that this was posted over two years ago but your statement “It defined who I am as a human being” resonated so strongly with me.
      I too have always thought that that summer, over 56 years ago did the same thing to me.
      I’ve often told people that that was the most important time in my life.
      My brother and I only went to Higley Hill for one summer, and I was only seven years old.

  15. June Levine says:

    I was the first (

  16. June Levine says:

    I was the first (and only) counselor) at Higley Hill its first summer of operation in 1947. I took care of five children, a girl of 5 or 6, , her brother who was about ten, another ten year old boy, a girl of maybe 11, , and a boy of 13, possibly Peter Hall. I was there the entire summer, with one half day off when my father came up from NY for a visit.

    I had previously be a camper at Wo-Chi-Ca and went back there as a waitress the following two summers (“48 and “49), then Kinderland part of 1950. I married and moved to California in 1956. Years of FBI harassment. I have a couple of pictures from 47 and would hear from anyone who has more. My campers were all children of southern raadicals.

    Does anyone remember me? June Levine

  17. RIVA GUREWITZ ROSENFIELD says:

    Hi Alex, I am a friend of Linda and Paula from HHC days. I too donated my ephemera from camp days to the Tamimint Collection. All of us should do that so as to make info available to scholars. In the library busts of Lenin and Trotsky smile at one another from the shelves. I put my Kinderland and Wo-Chi-Ca yearboods FOIA files etc in that big red attic on the 12th floor of Bobst.

  18. I just found the websites regarding Higley Hill Camp and would love to see the photos, etc. Just need some tips. I was only there the summer of 1953, a city kid from Boston.It was the best summer of my life. I loved the place and it greatly benefited every aspect of my life. Whatever help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. By the way, I do recall having a girlfriend there named Lenore Gurewitz. Any relation? How is she? I went to a reunion in 1957 and that was my last contact.

    • riva says:

      Hi Maahty!

      I remember you from camp as a great baseball player and a cute kid with a pronounced Boston accent for which we teased you. I am Lenore’s(Slinky) older sister. She’s probably back from Paris now and lives in Atlanta. Like all of us she’s had a few trips around the world so to speak. The photos are in the great red attic at NYU called Tamiment Collection.

      • Thanks for getting back to me. I have great memories of my summer(1953 I think) there. It reinforced my upbringing in a liberal Boston family and it was nonstop fun. My father was a lawyer who, among other things, defended people before the ilk of Senator McCarthy and his House of UnAmerican Activities. I am also a lawyer who has devoted my practice protecting people.
        I think that I saw Lenore when I went to a reunion in NY in 1957. We simply said hello. I hope she is well. We have all been around the world.
        When I first got to the camp I was petrified, knew nobody and spoke “funny” due to my accent. The teasing helped a lot. It opened doors that may never never have been opened. My parents had signed me up for a month, but I was having such a good time they let me stay for the summer.
        Through the years I have gone to the camp and looked around.
        Sad, but I still have the memories. I know that I have a scrapbook somewhere in my house that I will dig out.
        Please stay in touch. Also, give me directions to access the photos,etc.
        Marty. I still have the accent.

        or three other couples actuall got “married” at the camp.

  19. RIVA ROSENFIELD (NEE GUREWITZ) says:

    TO MARTY AND OTHERS INTERESTED IN RED DIAPER AND LEFTY EPHEMERA ONE CAN ACCESS OR DONATE YOUR PHOTOS AND THE LIKE TO THE NYU LIBRARY’S TAMAMINT COLLECTION. FOR THOSE ON THE EAST COAST THAT IS PROBABLY MOST CONVENIENT. OTHER UNIVERSITIES LIKE STANFORD, UCLA, ETC, ALSO HAVE SIMILAR COLLECTIONS FOR RESEARCH AND BROWSING.

    RR.

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  28. I went to Higley Hill in the mid 1950’s for two years. I remember my counselor, a Black man, died that summer and I was so sad. They said he died in a bicycle accident. I have some old home movies of HHC, including Manny cutting watermelon and various dances, and me swimming the “swimming hole” (which was full when it rained) near my bunk. I was the youngest camper. I remember playing ping pong and losing in the contest to Eric Foner, who was a lot older than I was. Although was good for a :”peanut” I think that was what they called us. I remember Pete Seeger coming, playing his banjo, chopping a log and all the kids running after the chips of wood and asking him to sign them, although I had no idea why. I had no idea he was famous. You can reach me at 617 645 0226. I am still in touch with Laura Foner, a few years older than I am, who also lives here in Boston.

  29. Philip Boepple says:

    It was about fifty six years ago when I went to Higgily Hill camp, I was a five year old boy. I still have rather vivid and serene memories about it. I think it was a pretty place with interesting people. I still remember one name, it was the name of a staff member, Godfrey Abba I think it was. Good folks there. I lived in Bennington at the time I went to the camp for four weeks. There also was a pretty girl, really strong, we spent some time together and her name was Leslie. I wish I could find some pictures of the camp and the grounds it was on! Love. Philip Boepple
    P.S. I now live in Springfield Missouri, semi retired and 61.

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