For most of us Saginaw was an oasis away from home each summer that had lighted basketball courts, sprawling baseball diamonds, a glistening swimming pool, and, of course, the airy atmosphere of The Dell for entertainment.
But back in it’s more humble beginnings Hill Court shown above looked like something Naismith would recognize. Sand surface and a wooden backboard on a telephone pole…only thing missing is the peach basket.
The Dell was an open air theater but it had a wooden stage originally. That was until Herbie Cohen fell through the floor during one of the early productions. This photo was visiting day in the 1940’s. The Mess Hall, Dairy Bar, and Kitchen stand promontory on the hill above….but where are all the pine tree?
First founded in 1927 by Morris Edelson, Meyer Heiman, and Lou Sherr, Saginaw attracted Jewish kids from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington to experience the “Outdoor Life” of camping under the stars. And the accommodations were modest!
As you can see in this newpaper ad from 1933 the nine-week tuition was a mere $185, which was a fortune in those days, and it included “Horseback Riding, Fencing, Archery, and Claywork”.
As the camp evolved through the war years the breadth of activities grew with it as did the sophistication of marketing the camp offering. By 1949 they had this slick brochure to help sell parents on all the developmental benefits Saginaw could offer for their kids. It includes bios of the three owners-Meyer Heiman, Lou Sherr, and Morris Edelson-as well as photos of camp activities of the period, including farming…….yes farming!!
As things progressed it is clear that stage productions became an important part of the mix. Lots of emphasis was put on costumes and scenery to enhance the theatrical experience.
How about this for musical cutting age offerings in 1949….make your own 45 record. Apparently, well ahead of “The Voice”, a budding young singing star could but their own recording and bring it home to share with the parental talent scouts.
In these early years there were Camper Progress Reports that were filled out by the counselors for each of his campers and sent home to Mom and Dad with a cover letter regarding their kid’s summer experience. These report cards compared July and August information on General Health, Social Personality, Athletics, Camping, Swimming, Arts and Crafts, Music/Dramatics/Camp Fires, and Special Activities.
As accurate as these evaluations were, I have it on authority of the camper involved that this cover letter was prone to positive exaggeration since he admittedly was one of the more problematic kids in his bunk that summer. Good news is he was in the “Excellent” range in all Athletic sub-categories.
Here is a real artifact for you…the Official League Scorebook for the Cardinals in the Hill softball leagues in 1953. It contains the full detail of all the Cards league games that year including their 8 to 2 win over the Braves. They scored 5 runs in the 4th inning when Abrams walked to lead off followed by Levin’s double and Nachman’s single to score 2 runs followed by Rose’s double and a homer by Weinberg to blow the game open.
In their 9 to 3 win over the Phillies they shook up the batting order moving Levin into clean up and Rose to the 5th spot in the order….it worked in that the 2 to 5 hitters in the line-up accounted for 8 runs in the game.
There is even an account of an August 23rd game between the Nats and the All-Stars who got the better of this affair with a six-run 4th inning sending 10 guys to the plate with an array of singles and an opportune error to keep the inning alive. The final was All Stars 6 and Nats 1.
Through the 1950’s the camp facilities continued to evolve to meet the needs of the growing census of campers and the expanding program offerings. In 1952 Saniford Hall came on line with a stage, production lighting, performance acoustics, and an all purpose floor for indoor sporting activities. It had it all……except the air conditioning.
As the 1950’s came to a close the hamish camping tradition of Saginaw was established through lasting friendships discovered and fostered in this Garden Spot of Pennsylvania. The next 60 years would bring lots of change but much, much more of the same to their children and grandchildren who would follow in their footsteps.