Through the 1970s and into the mid-80s, every Thursday was Trip Day at Camp Echo Lake. Camp was much smaller back then, so each group got a trip on Thursdays instead of regular programming. The best and worst part (depending on your point of view) was that the trip was a surprise. The groups never found out exactly where they were headed until Morry announced the destinations at morning lineup. Some of the favorite destinations for campers included: Lake George Beach, kayaking on the Schroon River, hiking Crane Mountain and a day at the camp water skiing site at Diamond Point on Lake George. Other destinations often times elicited collective groans when they were announced (a day at the Warren County Fish Hatchery or summiting Hackensack Mountain).
After morning lineup, it was off to get ready for the day with a stop by the dining hall to pick up the “famous” Echo Lake box lunch prepared by the kitchen staff under the direction of Jimmy Slade. Box lunches were always the same: loaves of white bread, salami, mustard, and of course, peanut butter and jelly. The boxes also contained Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies, fruit that was somewhat squished from being at the bottom of the box and fruit-flavored sugar water commonly known as “bug juice.” Lunch was always more successful if the kitchen staff remembered to include utensils (which wasn’t always the case).
One of the perks of being Girls Head Counselor was that every Thursday I got to go on the best trips of all – Saratoga: the Peerless Pool, the New York City Ballet and the ultimate Morry Stein cookout dinner!
The spacious, clear and warm pool at Saratoga was a big hit with campers and staff alike. We happily spent the post-lunch hours relaxing by the water.
Morry always bought excellent seats for the ballet. Without a doubt, the New York City Ballet is among the world’s finest, a fact that was often times lost on many of the campers who read Archie comics, fidgeted, whispered and made 60 bathroom trips before the third act of Swan Lake! The staff maintained order, served as porters on the “bathroom express,” and occasionally placated serious ballet patrons who were aghast at their misfortune of having chosen the matinee over the evening performance.
The highlight of every Thursday trip was the famous Morry Stein Cookout! We walked the same path through the woods each week to find Morry (wearing his white apron) hard at work on a truly memorable feast. Actually, with a couple exceptions it was more or less the same cookout dinner that was occurring simultaneously at camp, but Morry being Morry…it was special beyond compare!
While the staff played with the campers, I helped Morry prepare the burgers, hotdogs and salads. He also brought an incredible fruit salad for dessert, specially made for the occasion: watermelon, grapes, peaches, orange slices, and much, much more. He loved this special cookout because it gave him the chance to interact with every one of the campers and counselors away from the camp environment. I don’t recall Morry ever missing a Thursday under any circumstance, but knowing him as I did, I’m sure that it meant as much to him as it did to us.
Each Thursday, as the evening wore on, the camp bus would arrive. The campers and staff would load onto the bus for the trip back, as I stayed behind with Morry to clean up and load all of the supplies into his Ford Bronco. I always looked forward to those trips up the Northway. Sometimes we would talk about the goings-on at camp; sometimes we would just chat. Any amount of time I was able to spend with Morry was time well-spent! And best of all, I could look forward to doing it all over again on the next Trip Day!