With the postponement of the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo this summer, many of us are wondering just how we’re going to get by without our biennial dose of international competition, intrigue, and sportsmanship. Sure, the TV networks will probably be filled with all kinds of stories and footage from Olympics past, but the summer’s just not going to be the same no matter how you try to spin it.
Well, as many of you old timers will recall, Camp Jewell used to have its own Olympics every summer and it was a HUGE deal. No doubt some of you still have a collection of CJ trophies and ribbons that bring back great memories and pride. (There’s nothing like 2nd place in the 220 yd dash at age 11!) So, we thought it would be fun to share some history about the great CJ Olympics.
Let the games begin!
The Camp Jewell Olympic Games, started in 1961 under the leadership of camp Director Charles “Mr. Chuck” Hastings, were considered by most to be the highlight of summer programming. This
was evident by the fact that third session – the only session in which Olympics were held, filled up almost immediately. It wasn’t just the competitive events they enjoyed, it was the pageantry, the smell of the blanks firing in the starting guns, the Olympic records being challenged and broken, and the solemn opening and closing ceremonies that celebrated achievement and sportsmanship.
According to the official 1973 Olympic Games Information Booklet, prepared by Peter B. Dowling, Director of Athletics, “the original purpose of the Camp Jewell Olympics was to stimulate enthusiasm and clean competition in the fifth and sixth weeks of camp, thereby alleviating the traditional sixth week ‘staff slump.’ This can be accomplished by involving campers in the competition and stressing the Olympian attitude and the importance of good sportsmanship. All campers must participate in at least one event. This event does not have to be athletic in nature, there will be contests in cabin inspection, crafts, table decorations, flag making, and others. This year we are making Camp Jewell Olympic History. Girls (in their first summer at Jewell) are adding a new and refreshing dimension which is bringing about much change. Remember, any cabin in any unit can win the games. Good luck!”
One summer I was chosen to run in the Torch Relay that marked the official start of the Olympic games. We were dropped off at 1/4-mile intervals along the road between Winsted and camp to wait for our moment of glory. After what seemed like hours out there all alone, I finally caught glimpse of the Olympic flame coming towards me. Rising from the center of a small cluster of runners was the hallowed torch – a tin can nailed awkwardly onto an old baseball bat. A feeling of pride overwhelmed me as I grasped the wooden handle and sped ahead, even as I dodged bits of oily rag that spewed from the can. My feet hardly touched the ground as I dashed my 1/4 mile and passed the torch to the next runner. Later, with the entire camp watching, the last and oldest runner carried the torch onto the field to light the Olympic flame and we all stood in awe as the flames leapt into the evening sky. The games had begun.
Jay Stearns (Camper and Staffer 1967-1977)