From Trading Post & Camper’s Lounge to Administration Building to Staff Lounge
By Pati Egan
One of the oldest original structures at Camp Ondessonk is the building pictured above. The date it was constructed is not mentioned in the 50th Anniversary Book, but I assume it was very early in Camp’s history. What you would call this building depends on when you were active at Camp. Since most people are familiar with it being called the Administration Building, that’s the general term I’ll use in this article.
As with most building projects at Camp, a group of volunteers began this building that housed the Trading Post, Camper’s Lounge, and, perhaps, a Staff Lounge. Very little history of the original plan for the building is available. Due to the size of the building, it seems logical that other uses were in the works.
This photo, from the early to mid-1960s, shows girls’ staff on the porch and the steps. The steps would eventually be rebuilt to be twice as wide as the original stairway.
Pictured above is the Camper’s Lounge in the original building. This stayed the Camper’s Lounge until at least the late 1980s. It would be used for Sunday Check in and Saturday Check Out. Two-week units would also use it for a few evening activities. It was also used for camper activities during inclement weather. As Camp grew, its use as a Camper’s Lounge was not practical. It held glass cases with artifacts found around Camp, and the original Trading Post occupied one corner at the rear of the building.
When the Trading Post was built in the late 1960s, this building became formally known as the Administration Building. It held a Program Office – used as the summer camp office. The original building’s boards are horizontal, but if you look closely at this picture, you’ll notice that the boards by the sign are vertical. This is an addition to the original structure and ran the length of the building along the back. The addition originally housed a sleeping area, a place for mail to be sorted, and a soda room. An area known as the GQ (Gentleman’s Quarters) was housed from the porch to the new addition. By the 1980s this area became the Program Director’s office, and the Personnel Director’s office and apartment.
The Program Director’s office located in the front of the building.
The Personnel Director’s office was in the back. Check out the three rotary phones on the desk. The white phone was a Camp intercom phone that linked Fournie Lodge, the kitchen, infirmary, and, in theory, Durbin’s barn – that never worked out!
The lifeblood of the Camp was the Office! The Office Manager (one person) was responsible for blowing the bugles (taped, and I can’t find proof of this but I recall the album was Louis Armstrong doing bugle calls), answering the phone, sorting camper mail, and anything else that needed done. The office was one of the few air-conditioned places at Camp. This made it very popular with very hot staff.
The very small camp office.
On Sundays, the Administration Building took on a life of its own! There were no pre-selected units. Campers would get a number when entering Camp and then wait in front of the building for a welcome from the director and introductions of the Unit Leaders. Everything was done at registration – paying your fee, buying “credit cards” (later known as Barter Bucks), and buying your unit shirt. The numbers enabled parents to get a good idea how long they had to wait to register their camper and, if they chose, to enjoy a delicious smorgasbord for a small fee in the Dining Hall. It was chaotic and hectic. Thank goodness for the way check-in is done now! Parents would arrive at 7:00 a.m. to ensure that their camper would get the unit they wanted.
Sunday madness! Campers being welcomed by then Camp Director Gene Canavan.
Introduction of Unit Leaders by Claire Hatch.
Eventually, the Administration Building became the Staff Lounge and various offices for Lodge and staff functions. Plumbing was added along with air conditioning.
The bugle calls are now automated, and the Office Manager no longer is dependent on an alarm clock to get the Camp up on time and being where they need to be throughout the day.
There are still the memories of campers buying craft supplies and a cool drink on a hot day. Memories of staff having the time of their lives in the original staff lounge and the remodeled staff lounge – of begging anyone for a quarter (soda was cheaper then) to get a cold drink after a long day – staff memories of playing guitars on the porch and bonding in a way that is uniquely Camp Ondessonk. It is a building rich in memories and tradition. It can also be quite breathtaking when walking up the hill from LaLande late at night and seeing its lights shining as a welcome beacon to remind you that you are home.
Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s history.
Click here to visit Camp Ondessonk Wikipedia page.