It’s always pleasing to think back on my years with Camp Alleghany. And it’s funny the kinds of memories that come to mind.
Some of my memories of Alleghany past that I’m sure others will appreciate include:
- When a “CA” (a large letter C with an A inside of it) was mowed into the grass below the observatory, which was below Vesper Hill.
- The Junior Crafts Lodge and that peaceful feeling of sitting on the porch overlooking the river.
- Uncle Bill – most any interaction with Uncle Bill was special but in particular going star gazing with him after Taps.
- Taps and all other bugle calls played by a person, one being my dear counselor Libby Cherrington in 1965.
- The agony of having to eat everything served with only one of them being a “no thank you” portion.
- Worse — having to drink at least half a glass of juice each morning, including our weekly prune juice which, according to Cooper, was to “keep us regular.”
- Ghost stories told by Emma Sue while on an overnight at Pancake (she would somehow string up aluminum pans without us seeing her do it and then rattle them during her tales).
- How incredibly cold the Greenbrier was at 10 a.m. – swimming was required of everyone so the sturdy older campers had the frigid early classes.
- All day-long play days with Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca.
- The required Sunday “ice cream letter” written to your parents.
- Reading train or bus letters from friends on your way home.
- An honest-to-goodness one hour Sunday church service.
- Singing 24/7 — on key with harmonies to everything!
Riding, foaling, hunting
But what about the days of riding?
Riding was the only activity with an extra cost and was scheduled either MWF or T/THS. You took another class as a minor on the off days.
Ruthalia Keim (Keimy) from Cleveland was Head of Riding when I first came to Camp Alleghany in 1964. The barn was above the cottage as it was for all my camper and counselor years (64-75).
I remember using the ring by the barn when I was young but don’t know if they rode through camp then to the ring down past swimming. But what we did once we quit using that upper ring was ride the horses though camp for the 10 a.m. class.
The 4:15 class would ride them back to the barn. That was always an adventure because the horses knew it was feeding time and the feisty ones always wanted to take off, and often did, with or without their rider.
I was Head of Riding in 1975 and I can still hear Cooper yelling “Beth Rothmann, don’t let your horses poop in my camp!” I think they were the only living things at Alleghany which routinely defied his orders.
We had great horses that we rented from Greenbrier Military Academy (now the site of the Osteopathic School). The military school closed in 1975 and Cooper bought the horses – Brandy, Tom Collins (TC), Dacquiri, Tidal Wave (TW), Doctor and others whose colorful names I’ve now forgotten.
We’d rent horses from elsewhere as well. A favorite was Ebony, owned by barn hand Lloyd. When I was Head, Ebony foaled while at camp. It was so magical seeing mother and son down in the pasture.
But that poor baby horse. Lloyd said the campers could name him and they came up with Beth, Jr! So we called him BJ for short.
By then riding was quite popular so we had five periods a day, with Hunt Team practice on Sundays. I’m not sure when the Hunt Team started but it might have been under Jean Zeigler who was a fabulous head for three or four years in the 70s.
We also had a fence course out in the field – a brick wall, coup, and others probably up to three or three and a half feet high – not bad for camp horses!
There was nothing better than doing that course in the beauty of camp’s mountains.
The Poison Ivy Bowl
The Poison Ivy Bowl was a hit from the start. I think it began in either ’68 or ’69, with two teams — the Copperheads and the Rattlesnakes.
We took it all very seriously, with high pageantry. If I remember correctly, Junior Camp did a parade earlier in the day, Senior Camp played touch football, and the counselors were the cheerleaders or the escorts for the Green Team “queens.” The guys all dressed up for the occasion, with the crowning moment when one of the guys was named the Poison Ivy Queen. They, and the counselors, who were their escorts, all rode in the back up a truck for their grand entrance for the crowning.
The entire day was a blast and everyone was always into it — in part, of course, because of the boys, but also because everyone was involved in some way.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?
What I haven’t mentioned is what of Alleghany remains the same.
The friendships, love and total joy of being in as near a perfect place there is hasn’t altered or gone out of style.
The barge crossing the river, the beautiful mountains, the laughter, the noise of activity, the quiet at night, blues and whites, rain on the tent flaps, campfires and Vespers, Blues and Grays, and the feeling of belonging seem to only grow more meaningful with each generation of campers who get to experience them.
It’s these timeless moments of life at camp that only get more vivid over the years. When we can no longer spend our summers there, that’s when we reflect and remember our years in Camelot and know that those days had a sure hand in shaping us into who we are today.
–Beth Rothmann Rusnak, Camp and Staff Alum, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*Left to right in the photo are: Queen Pem Moncure, Delaware Clark, Sally Ryland Duane, Jeff Eagle, Sandy Janes Kelbey, Chris Foster, Betsy McAlister Groves, Dave Hennenberg, Boomba Pitt, Danny Potter (nephew of Buzz Aldrin, ala “Oh the day was July 20, Buzz Aldrin hit the moon. And he said to us, there’s a camp for you moon goons …), Weezie Vincent Wiltshire, Cooper.