Did You Know…

A 125-year-old house has lots of secrets, particularly a house that has served countless purposes over the years—a family home, a summer living quarters, a camp office, a porch meeting place, a living room hangout, a kitchen project period, and on and on.

But if you want to learn something you didn’t know about the Big House, there’s no better person to turn to than Sally Lorber Stein, who spent her very first summer at camp (as a baby in 1934) sleeping in the house’s second-floor fireplace room… and sometimes napping in a makeshift arrangement placed on the roof of the porch, just outside the room.

So we asked Sally to reveal some information about the mansion on the hill, things only she might know. For instance…

The original furniture: Original Big House pieces (dating back more than a century) include the dining room table, the tall chairs around the table, the cabinet in the hallway near the front entrance, and the black easy chairs in the living room. The rolltop desk in the office, currently used by Adam Kaplan? Not original. The Steins bought it for about $20 in the 1960s… from a Finnish language newspaper in Superior.

The pocket doors: It’s likely that many don’t realize that there are three “pocket doors” installed in the Big House by the Weyerhaeuser—sliding doors that, with a press of a button and a pull of a handle, could open and close the space between… 1) the office and the hallway, 2) the living room and the hallway, and 3) the office and the dining room. Many alumni will remember the dining room was closed off to the office… and the hallway was open. Says Sally, “It took us years to realize we’d get more done if we closed the office off and people had to walk around to access it.”

Maggie’s Room: The second-floor room in the right corner (as you climb the main stairs) is currently used by Steph Hanson as an office. It used to be Maggie Rolfe’s bedroom. Sally’s grandmother (Janet Lorber’s mother) was a fixture at camp for most of its first three decades. If a button fell off a camper’s shirt or pants, he would visit Maggie, who would sew it back on. Then she would give the kid a treat—a peanut from a peanut dispenser. During the first summer when Maggie wasn’t there, the kids would come to Sally instead, so she offered a clinic on the Big House front steps… on how to sew on their own buttons.

The Queen of the Upstairs Linen Closet: That’s how Sally remembers Maggie, who used to count out all the linens for campers and counselors from other countries, bundle them up, and place them on the window seat as you walk up the stairs. These days, the window seat is often adorned with staff members patiently waiting for a paycheck.

The Nursery: The second-floor room right next to the bathroom has long been known as the Nursery. Why? Because a baby Weyerhaeuser was born in that room. Years later, after the property was reimagined as Camp Nebagamon, he came back to visit the room he’d been born in.

The laundry chute: Across from the second-floor bathroom is a laundry chute that runs down to the first-floor alcove outside the bathroom and then the basement. In the 1960s, a few girls — daughters of full-time staffers — figured out how to climb up and down the chute. There used to be a payphone in that first-floor alcove, and an occasional counselor would get a surprise interruption.

The Clawfoot tub: That second-floor bathroom originally featured a clawfoot tub, located where the current shower is. The old one now serves as a flower bed in the Lumberjack Village.

Calling the Commander in Chief: In the mid-‘70s, during the brief Gerald Ford Administration, a camp parent who was an attorney for the Warren Commission visited as a Trails Forward speaker. He received a call on the camp phone—from the president’s office. He was asked to call back a specific number, and he did so from that alcove payphone. Always enterprising and mischievous, Nardie Stein hid in the bathroom to overhear the call. According to Sally, all Nardie heard was a lot of… “Yes, Mr. President… No, Mr. President… Yes, Mr. President…”

The party line: During camp’s infancy in the ‘30s and ‘40s, there was only a party line phone (two rings for Camp Nebagamon—and much later, Larry Cartwright turned it into the original camp intercom system). The party line was operated by a Mrs. Christie, who was the local gas station owner’s wife… and who was known to listen in on the calls. Once, while Muggs Lorber was talking to someone, he interrupted himself and said, “Isn’t that right, Mrs. Christie.” She responded, “Yes.”