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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Summer camp on Lake Teedyuskung

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  • LACKAWAXEN TWP. - During the '40s, '50s and '60s, owners of cottages on the shore of Lake Teedyuskung looked forward to the last Saturday of August. After darkness fell, many quietly rowed or canoed from their cabins to the center of the lake to silently watch children from Camp Elektor float candles on the water. It was the culmination of a farewell ceremony called Banquet Night, and campers were always well behaved, since we knew "the neighbors are watching."
       Elektor (Greek for "beaming sun") welcomed boys and girls to the shores of Teedyuskung each summer from 1935 until 1970. Its founder, Maude Clarke (1885-1971), was your grandmother's school marm -- a no-nonsense educator who nurtured the child in everyone she met. Soon after opening the camp, she became friends with neighbor Dan Beard, founding pioneer of the Boy Scouts of America. When he died in 1941, she purchased several of his cabins and many books from his camp library. Years later, in 1958, she also became friends with Mary and Harry Kiesendahl when they opened Woodloch Pines. Because of that friendship, the camp property was eventually sold to Woodloch, and is now the site of the Inn at Woodloch. The only trace of Elektor that remains is the pine grove near the road, where campers met each week for outdoor Sunday School. But I digress.
         Banquet Night, the final night of camp, was always shrouded in secrecy. Five days in advance, senior counselors closed the recreation hall and covered with windows with paper. Only a select few could enter. New campers were mystified, but nobody would reveal why load after load of pine boughs and oak branches were being dragged inside. Not far away, senior campers were slicing the long straight trunk of a felled birch tree like a loaf of French bread. When the magic night finally arrived, freshly scrubbed boys and girls who lined up to enter the recreation hall could hardly believe their eyes.
       Inside, the familiar old building was transformed into a forest glen. Walls covered with oak and fir boughs supported a ceiling of blue and gold crepe paper woven through a grid of chicken wire and lighted from above. Below, long tables spread with food formed a giant "E," and beside each plate lay a slice of birch wood bearing a camper's name, with a nail through the center which held a short sturdy candle.
        Junior counselors dressed in white served each camper a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings. After dessert dishes were cleared, Aunt Maude rose to give her farewell remarks. She always closed with the same instruction. "Never forget the meaning of Elektor. When you go home tomorrow, let your light shine like the sun." Then came the long-awaited signal. "And now boys and girls, please light your candles!"
    Page 2 of 2 -  Single file we walked the silent trail from the recreation hall down to the lake shore, shielding our tiny flames from the gentle evening breeze. At the end of the pier, we knelt down one-at-a-time and floated our candles on the still water, gently nudging them away from the dock. Then we joined hands in a traditional friendship circle to end the summer with a song. Neighbors in boats heard our youthful voices sing, "Candles afloat tonight, out on the lake. Symbols of love sincere, burning long and bright and clear."
       Our melody floated from shore to shore, while a hundred tiny candles flickered on a liquid mirror of reflected starlight. As the bugle sounded taps, another chapter of childhood closed forever.
        Those birch slabs usually drifted ashore during the night, and in the morning we all searched together until everyone found his piece. We took them home; saved them for Christmas, and then put a new candle on the old nail. In its glimmer we could see the tan faces of summer. But the slice of birch was more than a link to yesterday. It also pointed ahead, reminding us that eventually the snow would melt, trees would blossom, and Elektor would open again.
         Elektor is gone now. The woods are still. But on the last Saturday of August, if you visit the Inn at Woodloch and walk down to the shore after sunset, look closely at the stars reflected on the ebony water. You may see a few flickering candles of yesterday's youth, and hear Maude Clark's reminder to "let your light shine like the sun."
    Editor's Note: The writer, David Horn, attended Camp Elektor as a teenager. His first story on Camp Elektor, regarding the arrival of Hurricane Diane in 1955, appeared in the Wed. July 30th edition of The News Eagle. David Horn, who lives in North Carolina, may be contacted at horncs@gmail.com.

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