Saginaw Awards

There was a simple summer camp rule that the powers that be at Saginaw fully embraced from the very beginning.

No camper goes home empty handed!

Mr. Peabody's Way-Back Machine brings this evidence of David Haber's award from 1937!
From Mr. Peabody’s Way-Back Machine-David Haber’s award from 1937

To that end the Saginaw Awards Banquets at the end of the year were like a supermarket sweep for every camper.  They were all going home with an armful of awards, certificates, cards, plaques, ribbons, and medals that they could hang on their bedroom walls and help convince their parents they got their money’s worth.

The most generic of the lot were the “Years at Saginaw” awards….the original participation trophies.  As you can see in the photo the plaque real estate was directly proportional to the number of years invested in the camper’s stay.


Back in the 1960’s Saginaw would hold off season “Reunions” at downtown hotels in Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia to maintain camper interest in the off season and introduce the camp to new prospects.  You could walk away with a full headress button like this one for simply showing up.


There were the kitchy felt activity patches that came in all sizes and shapes.  The small ones could be ironed to a garment if the kid was really proud of their commitment to volleyball or tennis.

1952 Asst Saginaw Award Patches


All disciplines were honored…even non-athletic activities like music, theater, nature, and services.


Here are a few more that you might scratch your head about.  Apparently it was not beyond the administration to honor camper Cleaning Habits, Indian Skills, or just General Achievement.

Assorted patches

In the same vein they gave out generic ribbons for all sorts of things….essentially participation ribbons for interest in the activity.  It could be arts and crafts, photography, or dance…just show up and enjoy the activity and you might land one of these.


They also came in the larger sizes for general athletic achievement….these were good catch-all basket fillers for athletes of all calibers.


For staged pursuits like swimming there were these official cards that designated your cumulative accomplishments over time.  Note that the back of each card specified the parameters for each level of accomplishment displayed on the front.  For swimming it was turtle, dolphin, and kingfish…..the amphibious characterization of levels is perfect.




Then there were more advanced pursuits for the ambitious like Junior Lifesaving, Senior Lifesaving, and Water Safety instructor.  These classes were often taught in the early morning when the water temperature in the pool was really chilly.


Canoeing was similar to swimming.  You knew what you needed to do each year to update our skills and reach the next level.  It was not required that you carry the cards with you….no one was going to stop you for impersonating an advanced canoeist when you were only an intermediate.



1962: Denny Berman canoeing on the raging waters of the Big Elk
1962: Working on the next certification on the raging waters of the Big Elk

There were even outdoors/scouting programs in which future naturalists could hone their skills.  I am guessing that advanced knot making was part of the drill.  The winner of these cool patches could not remember the criterion for each level but he ran the table getting all three of them.


Even a sport like Ping Pong (or table tennis for the real aficionados) had a high level of recognition.  Check out this certificate along with a lapel pin from the Harvard Table Tennis Association.  This has a real Ivy League feel to it…..they did not just hand these to anyone.


In all divisions there were serious competitions for supremacy in everything including Ping Pong and Horseshoes.


(Click to see the competition grids that determined the 1964 winners)

The hunter and gatherer field sports were things you did not do in your suburban neighborhood.  Archery was a favorite of the younger kids with William Tell ambitions.  Took some time to reach Junior Yoeman and you got the lapel medal to go with it.  The graphics make the certificate.


1961: Taking aim at the archery range behind Saniford Hall
1961: Taking aim at Junior Yoeman at the archery range behind Saniford Hall

Riflery was big business too at Saginaw-B-B Rifles for the young kids and 22’s as you matured.


How about this for marksmanship….46 out of 50!


The certificate was cool but the colorful patches and the two-piece medals were really what you were after here.  It could take weeks to move from Marksman to Pro-Marksman but persistence was what it was all about.


In 1963 the Kennedy Administration started the President’s Council of Physical Fitness Test that gave this award to any boy or girl who finished in the top 50th percentile of their age group in cumulative performance across (7) fitness events.  If you were a guy and could not do pull-ups you were not getting one of these puppies.


There were serious competitions on the Hill each summer in individual sports.  The Tennis Champion was determined with a format that rivaled the U.S. Open…..32 players head-to-head in a single elimination competition.

(Click to see the competition grid for the 1966 Hill Tennis Championship)

The annual Saginaw Invitational Track and Field Meet was special experience at camp, something we never would have done at home.  Field events like broad jumping, discus, javelin, hurdles, and relays required the honing of specific skill sets but the spoils were there if you excelled…….and many were measured in meters!



Color War was the single biggest event all summer and it was all about team spirit and comaraderie.  Often the kids created their own color war shirts with Rit red or blue dye and magic markers.  The camp would augmented those efforts with team buttons and patches for everyone to wear.


There were some things that deserved a shiny trophy such as the Basketball MVP on the Hill in 1973.  This is no Earl The Pearl Monroe pose.


These plaques and certificates were the mother lode.  These were few and far between, acknowledging high level accomplishment in a specific sport or the grand daddy of them all “All Around Camper” in your division.




When all else failed there were the Special Award Certificates that could be fabricated for just about anything.  Tournament Award to Joe Gimbel in 1955 for “Losing Every Tournament For The Last 2 years”, Hill Award to Lee Richmond as the Sweetest Girl in Camp in 1962 , citation to Brian Redman as lead in the camp’s big musical Guys and Dolls in 1967, Ferne learning to whisper, or simply general lampooning by your camper or counselor peers.

1955 Joe Gimbel Determination Award






Which gets us back to the purpose of all of these awards… build up your confidence, validate your camp experience, needle you when your ego got too big, or, when your parents saw the bulging manila folder containing all of these when you unpacked, simply to convince them how fulfilling your summer at Saginaw was spent chasing new and different pursuits.

Very effective marketing if you ask me.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s