By #15328 JD Boyle
I remember the first time I stepped foot at Camp Dudley, my father, Dave Boyle, #8928, brought me to reunion in the summer of 1990. All I knew about camp was we were blessed to have been a part of it for generations and there was a building named after my great-great-grandfather. Being a city kid from Cleveland, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my mind, I knew I shouldn’t expect too much grandeur, so I pictured this nice, modest six story building like you would find in commercial areas in suburbs across America. After the 10-hour drive, when my father said, “We are here,” and I looked over at Witherbee Hall, my perceptions were shattered and my experiences surpassed it. Since this first reunion, I have attended well over 20 reunions including the last 18 straight.
Arriving at that first reunion, I quickly realized I knew nothing about camp. I assumed that as my father hadn’t been back to campus for over 25 years, he must not know anyone other than Willie Schmidt, who would come to our town once a year and always had a special enduring nickname just for me, “Kid”. Quickly, my perceptions were wrong again as my father was greeting and being greeted by name from strangers at distances where reading nametags was impossible. The weekend continued and so did the names just out of his memory.
As an adult, I have cherished getting to spend time with and know leaders I looked up to as a camper like Scotty Sly, Don Schmidt, Ted Smith, Ed O’Hara, and Jay Wells to name a few. I’ve been able to bond with the men that were their leaders (Warren Fuller, Mac Thayer, Bear, and Rich Maxwell). I even got to play golf with Rollie Stichway one year in the George Nelson Memorial Golf Tournament. If anyone has been able to spend an hour with that man you know how special of a time that can be. Today, I am blessed to get to spend time with former campers (David Fitzpatrick, Shane Canning, Matt McElroy, and Darryl Smalls) and see them as full-grown adults.
As a father, reunion has become even more special to me. I brought my daughter, Ainsley, up for the first time at six months of age. Davo even went out of his way to accommodate us by purchasing a pack and play, so we didn’t need to travel with one (talk about the Other Fellow First). Now, I see my daughter run around all over campus with the kids of campers and leaders that attended camp with me. She does archery, arts & crafts, boating, and swimming at Swim Point (rules are still rules). No matter how many more reunions we go to, how many more kids we have, or how old we get, I will never forget holding my daughter in my arms as she fell asleep during hymn sing.
The point of this article isn’t just to tell you about my memories at reunion, but to invite you and your family to come and make some of your own. If you are worried about you or your family not knowing someone at reunion, don’t be. The remarkable thing about Camp Dudley is as things have changed, things stay the same. I guarantee you will find someone saying your name from a distance way too far to be reading a nametag, and if by some strange reason you don’t know anyone when you get there, you will have several more friends when you leave.