In the fall of 1991 I embarked on the second phase of my journey, travelling through the vast country of USA, full of excitement and ambition to experience as many opportunities, meet as many people and to capture all the beauty for a lifetime of memories.
It was a simple plan. To travel to Camp Jewell YMCA to collect my older brother, Mo Barton, who had been working there for the summer and to continue our travels the very next day in our small but reliable vehicle and head across the great land of America to Seattle.
On my arrival at Camp Jewell YMCA, I was met by a sea of friendly faces and made to feel very welcome. It was extremely gratifying to have seen the surroundings that Mo had been working at for a long period of time, to have met the “camp family’’ that Mo had established and understand why Mo had embodied the camp life.
After a staff game of Frisbee Golf and meal of Sloppy Joes, I was convinced to reschedule our travel plans and to remain at Camp Jewell YMCA for a couple of days to enable Mo to assist at the upcoming Day Camp and supporting programs.
Well, to cut a long story short. Mo and I both worked during the fall, working alongside such greats as Peter “Jonesy” Jones, Ethna, Paul, Shannon, Lydia (Latvia), and many more.
Whilst Mo and I did eventually hit the road 8 weeks later, the camp fire of Camp Jewell drew us both back before too long. With my new love interest Allan (Al Bruce) that I had met in Canada in tow, I arrived back at Camp in the spring of 1992 to work the season and upcoming summer.
Al and I spent the spring performing maintenance duties alongside other great comrades from around the world such as Trina (Australian), Jonesy (Australian), Dick, Tom, Matt (New Zealand) and others. We had a great time, working hard during the day, having a lot of laughs at night and we spent our weekends travelling around the countryside of Connecticut.
Spring very quickly rolled in to summer and both Al and I had our dedicated roles. I worked under the leadership of Ethna at Seniors Village as a councillor, whilst Al was appointed as Director of Transport (DOT). We had a great team of councillors at Seniors Village: Carrie, Gus, Copeland and Allan and we worked like a winning team, leading the campers on hiking, biking, canoeing and climbing trips whilst having fun and creating memories together. To this day, I am often heard screaming out the Seniors chant “your left, your left, your left, right, left….”, so much so, that my three children can quote the whole chant word for word!!
Similarly, Al was enjoying his summer as Director of Transport. He was travelling the countryside, transporting councillors and campers to various sites for trips. He was the master of playing tricks on councillors, but also was the brunt of gags played on him. He fondly recalls the honour of taking trippers on a biking trip to Cape Cod with fellow councillor Lawrie. By day one he had realised very quickly that Mo and Jonesy had retaliated and removed all of his underwear from his backpack, leaving him biking for two weeks in an uncomfortable position. He talks about it to this day and reminds Mo often to watch his back!!!!
Both Al and I continued working at Camp Jewell during the fall. I led teams of groups that came back to camp for their annual pilgrimage through activities such as archery, arts and crafts, leather work, hiking, high ropes, zip line and many others. Al utilised his plumbing skills and worked in the Maintenance Department, and alongside his partner in crime, Jonesy, they helped to build the covered bridge and the extension on the then ranch camp cabin.
The summer of 1992 was full of fun, and an experience that has lasted a lifetime for both Al and I. With a spring, summer and fall season behind us, sadly we had to leave Camp Jewell and return to Australia. We married in April of 1994, had three children (13, 17 and 19) and have revisited Camp Jewell three times since.
In 1995 Al and I returned to camp for Mo and Becky’s wedding, bringing more Barton family members. It was a pleasure to bring my parents to Camp Jewell and to show them around so they could appreciate all the stories of camp we had shared with them.
In 2008 we made the pilgrimage back to Camp Jewell YMCA with our three children in tow so they could experience camp and to visit the backyard of their cousins, Max and Kyle. In that same year, our family grew with the introduction of a puppy we all fondly named “Jewells” to commemorate our trip.
This year, Al and I celebrated 20 years of marriage and in July, we returned to Camp Jewell YMCA with our family to visit Mo, Becky, Max and Kyle but also to revisit Camp Jewell. On this occasion, with the children as young adults themselves, our visit was enough for them to be enticed to come back to Camp Jewell as councillors in the future. Daniel (19 years) is hoping to travel in 2016 after he has completed his University studies and work at Camp Jewell, Mitch (17 years) is also hopeful of being a camp counselor in the future and Carina (13 years) was very grateful of the opportunity to be a camper for 2 days and 2 nights during our recent visit. Carina was embraced in Utopian Village and experienced the joys of camp. All of our children now understand why Al and I always refer to Camp Jewell with so much fondness.
Both Al and I now fully understand and appreciate the term “a lifetime of memories” as it is 22 years since we arrived at camp, with a backpack full of ambition and adventure. We recall our time at Camp like it was yesterday. Camp Jewell YMCA was the beginning of Al and my relationship as we made memories together, experiencing the outdoors of the Berkshires, meeting, councillors, campers, program group members, Nature’s Classroom and Camp Jewell staff.
Thanks Camp Jewell for opening up your arms to welcome a young, ambitious Australian couple 22 years ago, and still opening up your arms to the extended Bruce family in 2014. See you again soon!!