The Young Man at Camp

Note that this letter also appears on the Pok-O-MacCready Alumni website.

Summers at Camp create great memories and develop special bonds that can last a lifetime. I spent 50 summers at Pok-O and one of those special people was Paul DeVries. We first met in 1958 in senior section. Paul quickly became one of those “good friends” – solid, consistent, someone you could trust and count on. He had a great sense of humor and was patient with others; a trait that later would make him a great counselor. In January I received a call from Paul's son, Chris. Sadly Paul had succumbed to a second bout with cancer. Previously he had fought off the disease and had been given a clean bill of health. Unfortunately it returned and this time took his life. Paul was a loyal member of the “Camp Family” and will be missed by everyone who spent time with him.

"The Making of a Friendship"

The summer of 1960 was historically known for the completion and dedication of Robinson Hall. The old cedar log kitchen and dining facility were torn down and replaced by what, for several years, was the largest “A Frame” structure in the Adirondacks. The original fireplace was preserved and the new dining area and attached kitchen were built around the structure.

A lesser known fact was the completion of the current Advanced Section Lodge by that year's group of ADV campers. The members of that section were to impact Camp for many years. Our Headmaster was Skip McCann who the previous year had been instrumental in developing the initial “Advanced Section” concept with Jack Swan. Skip made sure there was a balance of skills instruction, experience working with the younger campers, and a challenging tripping program. Of the ten campers who attended that summer, nine were to become counselors, six were to have children attend camp, and three of those children would be headmasters of the section.

The first advanced section

I entered the Advanced Section that summer for my first experience in the counselor training program. Paul DeVries, Jim Kobak and Eric Smith were the sixteen year old returnees participating in their second year in the section. During the summer we shared many memorable experiences: the Camp’s first climb of the Seward Range, Poko's first trip to the St. Regis canoe area, and the completion of the construction of the lodge.

The previous summer the section had lived in large Army tents erected on a wooden platform. The pre-camp staff had started the rough cedar log framing and the workmen on the dining hall had taken the old metal roof and installed it on the lodge. As we got off the train in early July we were handed tarps and told we would be sleeping under them in the woods until the building was completed. For the next two weeks Paul and the rest of us cut and hauled the cedars to complete the framing, nailed and stained the novelty siding and hung the windows and door. Eric Smith ran the all electrical wiring under the supervision of Colonel Swan (you’ll be happy to know it was subsequently replaced by a licensed electrician.)

During the five day St. Regis canoe trip Paul and I were paired together in the same canoe. Paul was tall and quite strong giving us an advantage in completing the many portages with our canoe and gear. Meeting challenges and adversity for eight weeks forges strong bonds and creates lasting memories. Paul went on to become a counselor and we remained friends through the years.

Paul attended Yale along with another member of the section, Mark Gibson. Later our sons all attended camp and we met each Parent’s Day. We watched our boys develop friendships and share many of the same experiences that had impacted our lives.

As the years passed we remained in contact and shared our memories at subsequent Camp reunions. Naturally, with each retelling, the packs and canoes became heavier and the portages and hikes became more challenging. We had been in touch last spring and Paul was looking forward to this summer's 110th Reunion. This past September he called and announced that he and his sister would be coming up to visit and wondered if I could meet with them to tour the Camp. We spent a great day together, had dinner, and promised to renew the conversation this August. Paul will be missed, but many great memories will remain.