If a picture is worth a thousand words, then THANKS FOR THE PINES: A Celebration of Camp Nebagamon—the 176-page coffee table book unveiled at the 90th Reunion—contains the equivalent of about 1.1 million words. There may be no better way to celebrate Nebagamon’s 77 acres than through more than 1,100 remarkable photos dating back to, well, 1929.
How do you encapsulate nine decades? Brad Herzog, the book’s creator, had a plan. First, he categorized various aspects of Nebagamon—faces and places, directors and decades, villages and cabins, projects and events. So there are spreads on Muggs and Janet, the 1970s, the Axeman Village, the Rec Hall, Paul Bunyan, orienteering, fishing, canoeing, Chef’s Cap, cookouts, and caretakers—not to mention food, friends, fun, and family camp. Then, over the course of many months, Brad poured through 90 years of online photo archives and selected some of the most resonant reminders.
The result: a truly beautiful 90th anniversary book, which is now available for purchase at our website. It’s a perfect gift for anyone who might wish to adorn their coffee table with a paean to one of their favorite places.
There are words in the book, too—some two-dozen lyrical little essays about iconic aspects of camp from equally iconic voices. So Eric Kramer muses on wilderness tripping, Frank Sachs on the Project Board, Andy Mack on favorite places, Sally Stein on Sunday Services, Steph Hanson on Council Fires, Roger Wallenstein on all-camp competitions, Alex Gordon on Loggers, Larry Cartwright on CNOC, Ken Kanter on songs, etc.
But mostly, the book is a compilation of images—fantastic photos that combine to form a narrative of Nebagamon. You’ll be tempted to page through and try to find yourself in one of the pictures, but that wasn’t the point. The goal was to celebrate the wonder of a place where you found yourself years ago.
A stroll through the hundreds of photos shows camp’s evolution through the years. Stop on the spread about rowing, for instance, and you’ll see that the project once featured a version of paddle boats. Look closely at some Sunday photos, and you’ll notice that in camp’s earliest years the Council Fire Ring was essentially a theater-in-the-round. There are photos of the old Boathouse in 1933, the camp fire brigade in 1946, square dancing at the social in 1955, covered wagon trips, the Waterfront cabana, Cruiser Day bag lunches, and canvas tents that once constituted the Lumberjack Village.
But you’ll also discover how much camp hasn’t changed at all. The photos of the Swamper Village in 1935, the Artshop in 1941 and the town of Lake Nebagamon in 1961 look like they could have been snapped a half-century later. Sometimes, a series of images tell this story—the A.K. Agikamik dance hasn’t changed, the HITS Brothers have had the same repertoire for decades, and campers still make the same straining faces during the tug-of-war competition. Oh, and the horns have been blowing for mealtime since at least 1941.
Some of the more jaw-dropping photos get the full-page treatment. A row of campers hiking through a rain-drenched forest. Splashes and smiles as G-swimmers rush into the lake. A post-Quetico celebration of 9th graders. A full moon shining beyond the sailboats. A sermonette collage. And, as the book’s final photo, a stunning view of a starry sky.
But sometimes the little things can be equally captivating and rather enlightening. Is that a cigar in the mouth of a tennis-playing staff member in 1935? A boxing match in 1945? A chalkboard, in 1959, where the Upper Diamond scoreboard now stands? The actual presentation of the Survival Big Trip poncho in 1964? Camp’s version of the Village People at the 1979 Follies? A toga on the Paul Bunyan statue in 1986? And, in 2004 at the all-camp birthday, four village directors holding cakes depicting… their four faces?
I was tempted here to discuss my favorite photos from the book, whether that’s defined by the quality, the characters, or the remembrance sparked by a decades-old image. But it’s just impossible to choose the best of the best. And maybe that describes our memories, too.