Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · A Century of Happy Campers
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A Century of Happy Campers

Ross Boissoneau - April 21st, 2014  
For 100 years, girls have camped among the hardwoods and clusters of cabins on the eastern shore of Lake Arbutus.

As the Camp Arbutus centennial approaches this summer, the Northern Express sat down with camp director Amanda Macaluso, who talked about everything that makes the camp special – the way it brings kids back year after year, how some families send new campers with each generation, and the pull the camp has had on her throughout her adult life.

Macaluso, who is from Australia, has been coming to northern Michigan since she was 22. She met her husband at camp when they were both counselors and met at a laundromat on a day off. Now both of their daughters have attended the camp.

Camp Arbutus has been a girls’ summer camp since 1914. For many of those years it was owned and run by Grace MacDonald, who sold it to the YMCA in the 1990s.

Camp Arbutus’s brother camp, the YMCA boy’s Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, is also celebrating an anniversary this summer – its 110th. Camp Hayo-Went-Ha has the distinction of being the oldest YMCA at the same location in the world.

For Camp Arbutus alumni, there will be a celebration weekend this summer July 11-13, with a huge banquet for alumni of both camps at Arbutus on July 12.

NORTHERN EXPRESS: You’re a long way from Australia. How did you end up as the camp director here?

AMANDA MACALUSO: It was luck, I think. And hard work, now that I’m here. I was young. I was 22. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. I had experiences in working with children, and I just wanted to get out of town, I guess.

So I applied to Camp America, which is an organization that we still use that helps recruit international staff. I got accepted at Hayo- Went-Ha and I did one year, which was my plan. And then I went on and worked in Europe. And I was going to do all these fun things in my early 20s, which I did.

But I kept coming back to camp year after year. It’s such an amazing place. We have a lot of staff that return year after year. Our camp return rate is about 65 percent, and a lot of our staff have been campers themselves.

Now I’m a green card resident, a permanent resident of the U.S. My husband actually works for me in the summer. He’s a teacher in Elk Rapids and he’s our bus driver in the summer. And I have my two own little campers, as well, who just love camp.

EXPRESS: Who comes to Camp Arbutus?

MACALUSO: We have such a fun camp community. Our campers come from all over Michigan; all over the Midwest. We have a huge group of families that come up from Cincinnati and the northern suburbs of Chicago.

We have campers from Texas. Kids fly in from California, Boston … just all over.

We also have, which is very fun, campers from international destinations. We have kids from Spain coming this year. Campers from Mexico. I just met with these three people this morning and they’re working for an organization in China, and they want to send some campers from China this year. So just kids from all over, which is great.

And our staff are from all over as well. [There are] Americans, but I’ve got staffers from the U.K., Australia, Cypress [and] Poland. There’s one coming in from the Ukraine.

We’ve had international camp staff for as long as I can remember, and even before me, the boys’ camp has had international staff, I think since the 30s. It’s a focus. It’s what we want.

EXPRESS: What about kids from northern Michigan? Do they come to camp? I bet a lot of people who are from around here think we’re already living pretty close to nature. We’re already Up North.

MACALUSO: I do hear that a lot. You know, “Why would I go?” I think some of our attraction is that we are up north, so downstate, Cincinnati, Chicago say, “Let’s go Up North and go to camp.”

But I think you’re right. A lot of our local campers are like, this is my backyard, I can go to Lake Michigan and swim. What I tell them is a camp environment is a little different. You’re going to meet people from all over the U.S. and all over the world, you’re going to get to know them, you’re going to have friends from all over the world, and it’s just a different environment. You do it as a cabin community.

Whereas local kids maybe do it with their families, with their friends from school. We’re more involved and I think more intentional in our experiences up here at camp.

EXPRESS: For somebody who didn’t go to camp as a kid who has camp-age kids, how do you sell them that it’s a worthwhile experience?

MACALUSO: That’s our hardest thing. Ninety percent of our campers have heard about our camp through word of mouth, and that includes their parents, who could be alumni. And that’s an easy sell.

For new families, camp is a place to allow your camper to be independent, to learn how to be involved in a cabin community and be part of a team. When they’re out on the trail, they only have each other. Eight campers and two staff is a cabin unit. And we drop them off at Sleeping Bear Dunes for three days. They have to work together and have to learn to get along and have to make sure they’re doing everything that’s needed. They don’t have a support system or parents to do that for them. So we’re really encouraging them to be responsible.

And I love the fact that we are unplugged.

We have no electricity in their cabins. So there is nowhere to plug in their phones. Actually there are no phones, no iPads and all the things they have now, which promotes that old-fashioned communication. You have to sit and talk to your friends. You get to know your friends. You have deeper relationships with them because you aren’t distracted and plugged in.

EXPRESS: What are your best memories from your years at camp?

MACALUSO: I love the fact that we’re “wilderness adventure.” And maybe it’s from a girls’ camp point of view, but I think the boys’ camp will say the same: Our wilderness adventures are tough. They’re challenging, but they are appropriately challenging for the group.

We don’t send our fifth graders hiking a hundred miles. But we do send our eighth graders. And the first year I was here, I hiked Isle Royale with seven awesome kids and a co-counselor.

It was hard. It was challenging. We had to figure things out and we just learned so much about each other. And we were challenged but we came back with such an achievement. You know, 100 miles – that’s a lot of hiking. Isle Royal is an absolute amazing, beautiful area of the world.

We have this great thing. When that bus drives in that driveway, those kids have been gone and they’ve hiked for two weeks and they’re dirty and tough and fit and excited to be back at camp. We make announcements, and when that bus drives in, there’s between 50 and 100 people cheering and getting excited for them to come back from their trip.

And it’s just so neat to see them get off the bus, and they’re so happy with themselves and they’re so excited to have come back after a great experience. I love it because I remember so vividly. I mean, I went 22 years ago. And now to watch these kids come back.

EXPRESS: Tell me about the history project you’re working on for the centennial.

MACALUSO: We actually have an alumna. Her name is Hadley. She’s a journalist. She started here when she was probably nine. She did every camp program and was on staff. She actually was the assistant director here as well. She’s gone on and done lots of great things and is in California working as a journalist.

When this 100th anniversary project was coming up we thought we should write a book. It’s fascinating to think that girls have been doing this for 100 years. So we touched base with her; I had a very generous donation to help us pay for it. We’re using a publisher here in Traverse City and we’re doing a lot of research.

I’ve dug up photos from all over the place. There’s a lady who, I think she’s in her 90s, Edna Sergeant, who was one of the first families involved. I went and saw her and she gave me a whole box full of photos.

Hadley has interviewed some alumni from different generations, as far back as she can. We have actually found a fourth-generation camper. And I knew that. But once we sort of looked into it a little more and we did interviews, she’s in seventh grade. Her mom and two aunts came here. Her grandma came here. And the great-grandma came here, and was also the program director, met her husband, and got married here. And we found a photo of their wedding in this building that we’re preserving just right now. So we’ve got this great history just with that one family.

 
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