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Jewish Light: Memories of Camp White Cloud
Memories of Camp White Cloud
PUBLISHED MARCH 13, 2023
St. Louisans who grew up in University City from the 1950s to the mid-1980s have vivid memories of Hamburger Heaven, Pete’s Hobby Shop and a trio of movie theaters (the Beverly, the Varsity and the Tivoli). They also shared a rite of passage during the spring of sixth grade in elementary school: Camp White Cloud. The experience was for many kids their first sleepaway camp. For Baby Boomers, it was also an opportunity to broaden their circle of friends. A group of Jewish U. City alumni who attended White Cloud recently shared their memories of camp.
Debbie Levin Dalin, 70: “The thing I remember about my camp experience is that I never received any mail. My mom thought my dad was writing me and vice versa.”
Ellen Kisslinger: 72: “It was our first experience of independence. We didn’t have our parents telling us what to do.”
Sandy Kaplan, 79: “What I remember is meeting different people. I went to Pershing School, and I remember that we went to camp with Flynn Park School. They always put two different schools together. It was nice to meet new people and have some new faces and people to talk to, new experiences. We were isolated in elementary school and to meet a whole new group to meet new kids, that was smart.”
Bob Braun, 70: “I went to Delmar-Harvard Elementary School. I know for sure University Forest was with us. And it was weird because we were meeting new kids. I already knew some of the U. Forest kids from Hebrew school.”
Cheryl Martin, 70: “It was really, really fun and great because we got to go with people we would eventually be at Brittany with. We were at Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School, so I made friends with people who I got to see again in junior high.”
Camp White Cloud was located within Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Mo., 60 miles northwest of St. Louis. The concept for the camp was created 65 years ago by Helen Manley, then the director of physical education for University City schools. The weeklong camp was offered to all students, who paid $20, the cost of the bus trip. When the program began, students had the opportunity to choose a name and they picked Camp White Cloud.
Terry Berg, 70: “There were four groups in Camp White Cloud. The boys’ groups were Big Bow and Tomahawk and the girls were Hiawatha and Pocahontas.”
Ellen Kisslinger: “I still have my ‘Totem Tales.’ It shows I was in Pocahontas, cabin #7, club #11 and table #6.”
Bob Braun: “There were Indian signs all over the place. And during the activities, somebody dressed up like an Indian. On one of the final nights, and they did a song called ‘WAH-TAH-HO-TAH-HO.’”
The U. City elementary school’s physical education teachers doubled as camp directors. The school nurse was on hand to take care of cuts and scrapes. The St. Louis Park and Playground Association provided specialists to teach conservation, nature and native handicrafts. Students were also expected to cook and clean up for themselves.
Bob Braun: “A couple of weeks before camp, we would practice how you eat in the mess hall, where you have to scrape up all the food that was left over because it got donated to a farm for pig slop.”
Sandy Kaplan: “I went to camp with Bob Sharff, who is in the St. Louis community. I run into him all the time, and we joke about scraping the plates together.”
Ellen Kisslinger: “Remember those little Kellogg’s cardboard cereal boxes that you slit down the middle and they opened up with a wax paper liner? All the kids wanted the Cocoa Krispies. They were the coveted cereal. I had first choice because of where I was positioned at the table, so I got the Cocoa Krispies. I remember thinking they were terrible. There’s probably some kind of moral lesson there.”
Culturally, U. City schools in the ‘60s and ‘70s had a substantial Jewish enrollment. There was also a secular group of young men known as “hoods.” The term was U. City slang for boys who dressed in all black, wore leather jackets and had slicked-back hair. Think Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli or Danny Zuko in “Grease.” Hanley Junior High’s nickname (given by Brittany Junior High students) was the “Hanley Hoods.”
Bob Braun: “I remember odd things. I remember we had a hood in our bunk named Larry.”
Ellen Kisslinger: “The hoods had this bad boy image. You would never go out with one but there was something really intriguing about them.”
Seniors at U. City High School served as Camp White Cloud counselors. Many were former campers.
Terry Berg: “Our counselor was a guy named John. He was in high school. When you’re 11 years old, everybody who’s five years older than you seemed ancient. They were more like adults.”
Pam Kisslinger, 70: “My best memory of White Cloud was being a counselor. I think it was great that they offered up that experience to us high school kids.”
Sandy Kaplan: “I remember being a counselor and how much fun it was, sharing the meals with new people. It was like it was a week away from school that was a gift. It was like a real treat to be able to go be a counselor at White Cloud.
Pam Kisslinger: “I had a mad crush on one of the counselors who told me I had beautiful blue eyes.”
Bob Braun: “One of the counselors I remember was a foreign exchange student, who was on the swimming team at U. City High. His name was Hugo. He was a disciplinarian and the kids hated him. I think he was from Argentina and he would not tolerate any foolishness from the kids. Whoever had Hugo had to be a very disciplined bunk.”
The Park and Playground Association of St. Louis provided specialists to offer instruction at White Cloud. They included a conservationist, a naturalist, and a native handicrafts teacher. Daytime activities for campers included crafts, wildlife, hiking, forestry, fishing and archery.
Dennis Brodsky, 70: “When we were shooting arrows during archery, I actually got five bulls-eyes. My friends said they didn’t count since nobody saw them and I didn’t qualify for a prize. So I shot four more bulls-eyes when I was with a counselor and they were all noted.”
Cheryl Martin: “If you shot a bullseye, you were awarded a red feather. I happened to be scared to death of snakes and I shot an arrow that was a random shot and hit a snake. They debated whether or not to give me an honorary red feather.”
Evening activities included astronomy, a campfire, singalongs, skits and awarding of banners for the best cabin.
Cheryl Martin: “One night during the skit, we did a takeoff on ‘Cinderella’ and I was cast as Cindy Relish.”
Ellen Kisslinger: “Every night they gave a banner for to a cabin, maybe it had to do with the tidiness of the cabin. We got a B banner the first night and an A banner the second night.”
Dayle Norber, 70: “We had a Camp White Cloud song:”
Just knock three times, and whisper low
Quick let me in I gotta go,
Then turn on your flashlight and you will know,
You’re in Winona Latrine. . . not so clean!
Where all you see are paper towels,
And insects crawling up the walls,
Too bad for anyone who falls!
You’re in Winona Latrine!