Summer Camps in the Hazleton Area in the 1940’S 1950’s and 1960’s by Larry Ksanznak I recently heard a group of parents discuss the merits of the elite Summer Camps they would have their children attend during the summer months. It was not only the myriad of camps that caught my attention but the staggering costs per child to attend some of the more glamorous camps. There were camps for instruction in Adventure, Modern Dance, Academics, Social Networking, Drama, Basketball, Baseball, Football, Swimming, Soccer, Hunting and Fishing, Music and Art, Rock Climbing, Survival Skills, Physical Fitness, Cheerleading, Astronaut and Space Travel Training, Martial Arts, Forest Ecology, Nature Study, Camping, Tracking Animals, Gymnastics, Weight Watching and Slimnastics. All campers receive beautifully designed t-shirts, trophies, championship medals, a written personal performance assessment of each camper and a bag of personal favors to take home at the end of the session. Some of the camps are residency programs where campers stay overnight for either two weeks or even a month. The advertisements for the programs at the camps presents marketing at the highest level to attract the parents. A few highlights from camp brochures. “Camp specializes in providing your child with an adventurous, fun-filled, and life changing experience in a variety of themes.” Daily activities and special events that offer a full range of programs, both instructional and recreationl, creative and challenging. Find the perfect camp for your child to make new friends, learn new
skills, discover and grow physically, socially and emotionally.” Just as a side comment, the cost for one week at a special residential camp is $1,000 to $2,000 per week.” In the 1940’s, 1950’s and the 1960’s there were no summer camps for several reasons. First, parents were stretching each dollar just for survival. Second, there were chores to be done at home, newspaper routes, picking blueberries and picking coal that occupied the summer months. A truck would pick up teenage workers at City Hall every day to take them to pick vegetables on farms in surrounding areas. Our summer camps were just as adventurous as the most expensive ones of today. We spent our free time at the coal banks, walking the railroad tracks, swimming in the stripping, running under the fire company’s sprinkler system on very hot summer days and attending the neighborhood playgrounds. Our camp uniforms were not as stylist as those of today. The boys wore well used t-shirts, high top canvas sneakers, overalls and clodhopper shoes. Girls wore an old white shirt of their father, shorts or jeans rolled up to the knees and penny loafers. There were no trophies for Best Camper, Most Competitive, etc. or specially designed T-Shirts with fancy lettering to promote the Camp. On a warm summer morning about 8:00 a.m, groups of kids would meet at the beginning of the railroad tracks at the upper end of Hazle Park. We would have a coal bucket to pick huckleberries and a paper bag with a baloney and tomato sandwich for lunch.
• Fresh Turkey Sausage • Turkey Meatloaf • Fresh Ground Turkey • Fresh Turkey Tenderloins • Turkey Nuggets • Turkey Burgers • Turkey BBQ • Turkey Salad • Smoked Products • Frozen Chipsteaks • Dinners & Hot Foods (available at our Hometown location) • And So Much More!
36 • Panorama Community Magazine: Family
Every instructional and recreational activity would take place during the extended walk along the railroad tracks. There were a myriad of unique skills that included a keen sense of balancing, skipping, eye, hand and feet coordination, lateral movements, walking and running on the iron rails. There was always a highly competitive game to see who could walk the longest distance without your feet falling off the iron rail. We had contests to determine who could walk backward or skip the fastest on the iron rail. For more incentive, teams would be selected to perform jumping and running on the wooden frames between the rails. We would set up a tin can down the tracks and see who could hit the can with a stone from 20 yards away. There would be foot races down the center of the tracks to see who was the fastest for 50 and 100-yard races. The railroad “Summer Camp” started at the Broad Street entrance to Hazle Park and ended where the Top of 80’s is now located. There were countless activities and events along the trail. Jackie Walters was an expert in animal identification, catching snakes, and following animal tracks. We soon knew the track marks of rabbits, skunks, snakes, porcupines and deer. Eddie Warnet and Charlie Wersinger knew all the plants, shrubs and what poison ivy looked like when picking huckleberries. “GoGo” Ksanznak and Eddie Quinn were the best swimmers. They were the unofficial lifeguards when swimming in the abanded flooded stripping mine. They taught the younger kids how to swim and to attempt daredevil dives off protruding rocks at the top of the open mine pit. Teams were selected for swimming and diving contests. Bill Radzwich was one of the fastest runners in the group. He would beat every boy who dared to challenge him in a foot race up and down the railroad tracks. The four fastest kids in the area were Eddie Koloski, Jack Evancho, Yosh Mehalick and Charlie Podlesny. Jimmy Striney and Zach Taylor were the leaders in fishing. They had flair with their homemade fishing poles to catch a variety of fish in the streams in the area. They would sit quietly and with an inordinate amount of patience teach all the younger kids how to catch fish. Frankie Berge and Francis Quinn taught kids how to do back flip, squats, cartwheels and how to walk standing on your hands. Eddie Junay, Jim Helferty and Bobby Laschock were experts in finding the best spots to find huckleberries and wild mushrooms. All these