Under the category of “mischievous madness” the Hill counselors created an annual rite back in the mid-1960’s of having invitation-only Hill Parties. This was a themed affair which required full dress-up for an evening of food and drink and some very unusual team games and competitions.
In the inimitable words of Mickey Rothstein, the dean of Hill Parties, this is how they went down.
Invitations were carefully prepared by hand, no Hallmark card would do. The women would receive their invitations at one of the meals delivered by the headwaiter, a Hillman. In front of those assembled at their table, they received their official invite from the men of distinction who resided on the Hill. Imagine the envy and gossip that this inspired.
Camp Saginaw was a caste system and to paraphrase George Orwell, “All men are created equal, except that some men are more equal than others”. We were the aristocracy of Saginaw.
Hill Parties had themes and the theme that was often repeated was the Mafia Olympics. Party goers were encouraged to dress as gangsters or Damon Runyon characters. Herb Cohen’s loud ties came in handy for this occasion.
There were skits and songs to prepare the assembled masses for the theme of the party. Here are the lyrics of the Mafia Anthem, sung to That’s Amore, authored by head bosses Herbie Cohen and Mickey Rothstein. The Mafia Pledge of Allegiance is here as well.
We were divided into teams, named after storied gangsters like Al Capone, and Willie Sutton. The Capone’s and the Suttons would then compete in a series of games.
One game that I can recall was the “breaking into the safe relay”. Teams would line up and at a signal each member would run to a chair that had a combination lock sitting on it along with the left/right combination. They had to unlock it, show it to the monitor and then lock it. With that they ran back to the next person in line, touched that person and the same process was repeated until everyone had completed the opening and closing of the lock. The team that did this first was the winner.
Imagine the giggles, the humiliation as we struggled with the coordination and speed requirements necessary for victory. Other original games were played, all within the Mafia theme and points based on performance were awarded and a victorious team was declared.
We often catered the party with comfort food, like hoagies from the sub shop in Oxford. Participant had pre-ordered their favorite delights so no one was disappointed. For sure Herr’s BBQ’s were served as a side. As you can imagine the pungent odor of onions permeated Girl’s Lodge.
The Party Favors:
The invited guests who attended were given a party favor, a keepsake, something reminiscent of the theme of the party. It could be a simple toy, always a very cheap item, which suggested something about the spending habits of Hillmen.
At the appointed hour, the party had to end, so we could return to our sanctuaries. Couples would walk to some neutral area and bid each other goodbye. We did not have cellphone cameras then, so it is impossible to know what those goodbyes entailed.
When the Hillman returned to their sacred sight, they reconvened in the Hill Pagoda. Conversation was very self congratulatory and we gossiped in categories labeled as Choice Bits and Juice. What the women said on their return to their Saginaw families, I do not know. Maybe one of the ladies who attended some of these memorable evenings could provide their recollections of that exalted tradition known as the Hill Party.
In later years other themes were introduced. It took on a kinder and gentler touch in 1969.
Maybe times were just more juvenile by the 1970s.
Moving back to it’s corrupt roots in 1973.
For those who had the privilege to attend, the Hill Parties were always a summer highlight. Smiles all around a good time was had by all!