Linda and I bought Apple Hill from a woman in New York who’d just had enough of the camping business, a desire that was somewhat difficult to understand at the time. She had bought the camp from Guy Murchie and had run it successfully for several years, and we now looked forward to doing something similar, although we were to last only three years as a camp. Those may have been the roughest three years of my life, and led to an understanding of why the previous owner had decided to quit.
Had I had only the camp to worry about, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. However, I was also teaching five classes a day with 35 students in each class, and the combination of the two jobs, camp director of a place several hundred miles north of home and English teacher was somewhat more difficult than I had anticipated. As long as I was just teaching, all was fine. But the camp business began in December of each year, with recruitment of campers and staff, and didn’t end until September, when camp was over, and I could revert to just teaching mode. During those years, each day began at about 6 AM, and didn’t end until midnight, and all waking hours were consumed by work. That is not to say that it wasn’t fun. It was tremendously enjoyable at times, but it required the labor of Hercules, and I was no Hercules. I was someone whose idea of fun extended to reading and playing chess, and not to have time for either of those activities was difficult.
Recruiting campers was not all that hard. Parents and their offspring seemed to like us and were willing enough to give us and Apple Hill a chance. Most of our campers came from the New York metropolitan area, a large area extending from the far reaches of Long Island to wilds of Connecticut and New Jersey, and this required considerable traveling evenings and weekends with our little portable slide show of which I was inordinately proud as an example of the application high tech to marketing in those days. Recruiting staff was also necessary, and this required considerable judgment. Linda was great at selecting staff, and I was quite lousy at it, as there are very few people on the planet I am not ready to accept and think capable of doing whatever was necessary, obviously not a wise attitude when hiring a staff to work with kids. The people we hired as cooks, counselors, and camp nurse, were uniformly wonderful. Their talents and hard work, as well as their ability to work with children, made each of them memorable in the minds of the children at camp.
As mentioned before, the camp was beautiful, but this beauty hid an evil physical plant. The cabins, the swimming pool, the house, even its school bus, were all evil, hated us, and were an endless source of trouble. The range of problems they created was infinite, never ending, and required skills I didn’t have, although I believed then that with the right book (mostly Popular Mechanics, 12 Volumes), all difficulties could be overcome. Many of these problems could be dealt with easily by an illiterate handyman, whom we did hire, but who regrettably had other responsibilities in town, some ten miles away. So, I was left largely on my own to deal with the small disasters as they came up, and they usually started coming up in the Spring, in the ancient, beautiful but evil house