The Beginning-1927 to the 1950’s

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.

Dell Wooden Stage

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?

Visiting Day

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!

1930s Tents Before Bunks
Early 1930’s: The original Tunks….bunks made out of tents…that’s roughing it
1930s Peeps Mom Rita Psaki Tent
1930’s: Rita Psaki (front row left), Peep Hayman’s mother, posing with her bunkmates in front of their tented summer home
1930s Beatrice Psaki Horse Riding
Rita’s sister Beatrice at the horseback riding ring on upper field in the 1930’s…there is nothing but rolling farmland for miles!
Girls Camp 1935
1935 Girls Campus…the lack of trees and the farmland backdrop is pure Pennsylvania dairy country
Girls campers 1931
1931: “Midget Division”….had a roof over their heads….
1933 Junior Girls
1933: Now called “Junior Girls” in their formal whites….
Boys Camp Early Years
Boys Camp in the early 1930’s
Al Porter
1932: Al Porter was a counselor
Bernard Porter
1932: Al’s brother Bernard Porter was a camper in those early years
1935 Mess Hall
1935: The Mess Hall set up and ready to serve
1939 Chefs
1939: The chef’s prepare a delectable dinner…..”dietary laws observed”

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”.

Ad trolling for campers appeared in a Jewish newspaper in 1933
Rose and Morry Edelson Tribute
A great tribute document to founders Rose and Morry Edelson given to them on their 60th Wedding Anniversary speaks to their vision in helping create and nurture the Camp Saginaw experience for many generations of campers
An affidavit to the Camp's Longevity-David Habe's 1937 freshman character award
An affidavit to the Camp’s longevity-David Haber’s 1937 freshman character award

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!!

1949 Saginaw Yearbook 1949 Title Page Photo

(Click to see the full glory of this 1949 Saginaw Yearbook)

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.

Girls Lodge-Play
Girls Lodge in the 40’s:  Pirates and skaliwags…and much much more
1940s Play
Not sure of the role but this dress has pure satin flair
1940 Play in the Dell
Looks like the Constitutional Convention was held in the Dell
1940 Play In Dell 2
Founding Fathers and Mothers were present as well
1940s Play with ThroneJPG
A royal production that could have been a precursor to Mr. and Miss Saginaw
Band Practice
Orchestra practice…obviously not the stage uniforms

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.

1949 Joe Gimbel Records
1949: A little “God Bless America” and “My Country Tis of Thee” to impress the judges
Camp Staff 1952
Staff picture from the early 1950’s…founders Meyer and Rose Heiman in the front row!

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.

1948: Bunk picture
1948: Inter-Junior Camp bunk picture…..simple but smart uniforms

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.


(Click to see a Camp Saginaw Progress Record from 1951)

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.


(Click to see detail of the Cards softball exploits in 1953)

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.

Saniford Hall Basketball
1950’s:  Saniford Hall became the resident home for Big Shows, Color War Songfests, Friday Night Services, and so much more.

(Click to see the 1952 Saniford Hall Dedication Program)

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.

Rose and Meyer Heyman 1959
Late 1950’s Meyer and Rose Heiman are all smiles as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of Camp Saginaw.

3 thoughts on “The Beginning-1927 to the 1950’s

  1. Before “my time” it so nostalgic. My. Friend Annette Barnett was Morrie Edelsons niece & she went to camp when they had tents


  2. The photo of tents is actually Inter Row. The word “tunk ” derives from combining “bunk” with “tent”. Tents on platforms. The name stuck even after cabins replaced the tents.


  3. Hello,
    Bernard Porter (born 1921) camper from the first day camp opened it’s doors.
    In the above picture he is 11 (1932). He was one of the first campers and my Uncle Al Porter (born 1911) the first counsler picture 1932.
    Saginaw shaped my father’s life. He loved horses and encouraged me to do the same. He loved being a team player and encouraged me to do the same. He never gave up and encouraged me to do the same.
    He was a true role model.
    He spoke of Saginaw quite often retelling little camp stories.
    Dad was an athlete exibitting the skills learned in camp. He was an excellent boxer (which they taught in camp in the early years), football player and volleyball player.
    My Uncle Albert Porter (counsler) was a star athlete!
    thank you Saginaw for instilling these qualities in children throughout the years.


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