In 2014, we asked our Foley Alums to send us a story or a collection of memories from their days at Foley to help celebrate our 90th Summer. We wanted to compile some of their stories here, for our entire Foley Family to read.
Camp Foley Years Gone By
If you have a story, share it with us! We’d love to continue adding stories and memories from Camp Foley’s past. Just email us! Please be sure to include your name (maiden name included!), the years you attended camp and the capacity in which you attended (camper, counselor, etc.).
Richard Mahoney, 1938
“I only have fragments of memories of that year, i.e., Bob Christensen leading camp fire songs at the camp fire or in the mess hall, trying to get rid of my sinker, etc., washing up at the lake with a porcelain pan and a bar of soap. However, I do recall the day my father drove me to camp. … It was June 22, 1938, a hot summer evening. He parked the car out by the flag pole overlooking the lake. We sat in the car because the Joe Louis / Max Schmeling fight was on the radio. Schmeling was the hero of Nazi Germany. Joe Louis was a black kid from Detroit and supposedly no match for Schmeling. However, Joe Louis polished him off in the first round, to much singing and cheering at camp. I believe the car radio was the only way we were able to listen to the fight.”
(Richard’s brothers Geoffrey and Paul attended Foley, as did his children, Pat, Tim, Kevin and Kate. His grandchildren, Carolyn, Ian and Kyle are also Foley alumni.)
Dr. Patrick Hardy, 1945-48
Most of us arrived at camp with all of the recommended clothes. But if you had been at camp before, you knew that there would be only a mid-season opportunity to send clothes to the laundry. And having done that once, you knew the chances of ever seeing your clothes again were slim to none. So we never sent any clothes again, instead we wore what became known as the camp uniform. It consisted of a tee shirt, usually white, a swim suit, usually tan and a pair of moccasins. At Saturday’s afternoon bath, you wore your uniform into the water , soaped it up and then rinsed it off. After the swim you put your wet clothes up to dry and put on your dry second one. This is how you got through the summer with two swimsuits and two tee shirts. We were required to wear a Father Foley logo white tee shirt for Sunday lunch being careful not to soil it.
Early one evening in 1945, a US Navy Kingfisher, a moderate size float plane, buzzed the camp several times getting our attention and then proceeded to make a perfect landing in the lake. Taxing up to the crib, the pilot in naval flying gear then secured the aircraft to the dock. And as he came up the stairs, a young camper ran screaming down the stairs crying out, “Daddy, Daddy.” It turned out the pilot had just returned to the US from the South Pacific and hadn’t seen his son in a few years. Later that evening, the pilot took off to return to the Twin Cities.
Read Dr. Hardy’s entire submission here. (It’s really great!)
Dr. Bob McDavid, 1947-48 and 1952-53
“First, 1947, Bob Schmid consulted with the South Bend YMCA Aquatics Director (Cooper), who taught swimming at Notre Dame, on recommending a waterfront director for Foley Camp. “Coop” told him I was a very strong swimmer. That sold Bob. Bob assigned me to cabin Lehetepee. A small cabin with eight or ten campers, that made more time for my waterfront duties. I was assisted by Dr. Hector Hoenig, lifetime friend, with cabin duties. … 1948, my second summer at Camp Foley, one chore I’ll never forget was to roll over and over the portable diving tower from the beach out past the pier structure. The pier washed out repetedly during the summer storms only to be replaced.
Bob had a mid-camp regatta, swimming races, riflery, canoe, etc. This summer he thought a canoe joust would be fun for the campers who lined up on top of the bank overlooking the lake. Hectory Hoenig paddled the canoe and I was on the bow with the jousting club. Our opponents were Al Morris from Cincinnati, who paddled, and Mark Berens, a lifelong friend from Notre Dame and Minneapolis, with the jousting club. We won, or I would not be repeating this story. The campers were ecstatic some losing some winning.”
Matt Simon, 1947-50
“Starting in the late 1940’s, I attended Father Foley Camp for nine weeks each of three summers. The first five photos in your email bring back memories like me and my cabin mates in front of the Ishtakaba cabin, the archery near the rifle range and everyone had to box. I used to serve mass for Father Foley and he could say grace before meals faster than anyone on earth.
Maybe in 1950, I was one of a select few chosen to go on the first canoe trip to the Gunflint Trail, now known as the Boundary Waters. It was to be a five-day trip; we took the canvas canoes and the new aluminum canoe. The trip was lead by Bob Schmid, the camp director.
One day after establishing the main campsite, we took off for Canada, the highlight of the trip. Most of us helped to portage supplies and the heavy canvas canoes around a rapids. Two campers, Jack and Jim Revord, got permission to take the aluminum canoe down the rapids. Along the way they capsized with the bow and stern of the canoe caught on rocks as the river poured into the canoe. It took a long time to free the vessel but it was badly bent and leaked at the creases. We all paddled back to the main campsite. At the campsite Mr. Schmid had us get on our knees and pray the rosary thanking God no one was injured. We never made it to Canada.
Thank you Father Foley for creating a camp that helped me become who I am.”
Dr. Chuck Landman, Late 1940s and 1960
“The Schmid family had a large white rabbit as a pet for Bob and Vi’s small children. It was a typical domestic rabbit, enjoying the grass and clover in the fenced in yard in front of the director’s house. Getting lots of attention from family and campers as they went about their daily activities. By mid summer the rabbit had grown to a fairly good size.
Just prior to the Fourth of July celebration the rabbit was abducted. Probably just overnight and when it returned it was decked out in patriotic colors of red, white and blue. Someone, maybe some counselors or the CITs, used food dye to color the front third of the rabbit red and the back third blue. Shampooing the rabbit did not wash out the color. For the balance of the summer there was always a hint of red and blue on the rabbit’s coat as it went about its business.”
“Shortly after I sent this story off to you I started to have second thoughts about one aspect of the whole event. My recollection of how the rabbit was actually colored became questionable. Now I am not sure if the rabbit was red, white and blue front to back or was the dye applied to the right and left sides with a white stripe down the middle. I suspect that it would have been easier to dye the left side and legs red and the right side and legs blue. That way the rabbit was red, white and blue but more as stripes along the length of the body.
Perhaps this is a question you can pose to your readers who might have been at Camp Foley during this period. Do they recall this rabbit? Can they remember how the rabbit was dyed? You might have readers out there that were actually involved with the process.”
Jay Blanke, 1949-50
“It’s been almost 65 year now and the memories are still sweet. Topping them all would be meeting my wife as she arrived by boat with her family for Sunday Mass. (Those were the days when visitors attended Sunday Mass regularly.) Someone had to meet them at the dock, and my fellow counselors tell me I was rather ‘pushy’ in making sure I was the first to meet the boat carrying the cute, young girl.
But I digress, the memorable story concerns the opportunity to lead several of the older campers – I believe called CITs (counselors in training) on the first ever Father Foley canoe trip into Canada. Bob Schmid – camp director – was excited about buying a small bit of land near the end of the Gunflint Trail for Camp Foley camping. We had to drive from camp to Duluth and then follow the Gunflint Trail until its end near Canada where we rented canoes then paddled until we reached the Foley property. As one of the older counselors I had a car and was privileged to lead this first Canadian trip.
One thing we neglected to do in our planning was to check the calendar. The day of our arrival in Canada turned out to be a Holy Day of Obligation. Father Foley thought it was only right and proper for Catholic boys from Camp Foley to retrace their steps to Duluth to attend mass on a Holy Day, which we did.
The next morning we canoed to the Royal Mountie Canadian Headquarters and were impressed by the colorful uniforms. The Mounties suggested a new route back to our camp and gave us new maps. The was a good idea and gave us a new challenge. We didn’t realize how much of a challenge until it became apparent that much of what appeared to be open water on the map was swamp land requiring portages carrying the canoes. It took a little longer to get back but all’s well that ends well.
The water was so clear and so cold. At that time we were told that it was OK to simply dip your cup in the water and drink. All of us on the trip surivived so it must have been OK.”
(Jay’s son, Michael, and daughter, Anne, are alumni. Jay’s brother-in-law, Father Mike Arms, was also a counselor and now says Mass throughout our summer.)
Tom Braig, 1952-57
“I teach an English conversation class at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico to students learning English as a second language. In order to engage Serbu, a woman from Turkey, in conversation.
I said, “Serbu, would you like to tell me about your home in Ankara?”
When Serbu put her mind to thinking about her homeland, she became teary eyed.
Wanting to lighten up the moment, I said, “Serbu, it’s all right to be homesick. When I was in college, I worked at a boy’s camp in Minnesota. It was the first day of the camping season, and I noticed Louis (Kovitz – not sure of the spelling), an eight-year-old boy from St. Louis, sitting by himself with tears running down his cheeks.
I said, ‘Louis, are you thinking of home?’
He said that he was. I said, ‘Do you miss your mother?’
Louis said, ‘No.’
I said, ‘Do you miss your dad?’
Louis said, ‘No. I miss Wally.’
I said, ‘Is Wally your brother?’
Louis said, ‘No. Wally is my dog.’
I consider myself blessed to have known Father Foley, Bob and Vi Schmid and the wee Schmid children. May you continue your good work for years to come.”
(Tom provided the above photo. He is the counselor on the far right, and Louis is the 8-year-old boy sitting in the front row on the far left.)
Rick Mullin, 1956-58
“I was a camper at Camp Foley from 1956 – 1958, or so. I really can’t remember the exact years. I have many fond memories of my time there – the rifle range, the archery range, canoe trips, etc. Too many to recount here. But I will relate one memory that sticks out in my mind: the boxing tournament in which I participated, at least one of those years.
Entering the tournament, I was worried that I would eventually be matched against my cousin, Tom Finnegan, of whom I was deathly afraid. I thought he was the toughest kid I knew and I was worried he would beat me up in the ring. As it turned out, I don’t think I ever did fight him. During the one match I actually remember I was hit so hard on the jaw that I actually saw stars, just like they did in the cartoons. I remember thinking during the match, ‘Wow, you really do see stars when you get punched in the jaw.’ I also remember the crowd around the ring reacting to the punch. Even the other campers knew my opponent really tagged me. But he did not knock me down or out. I managed to keep on fighting. I may be putting a halo around my memory, or spinning it to my own liking, but I am pretty sure I won the fight by a decision. Fifty some years later I can’t swear I won, but that’s the way I remember it. I was pleased that I was able to win, even after taking a really square punch.
Perhaps all my memories of Camp Foley are like that: fifty years later they are all pretty good. I can’t think of anything bad.”
Bob McCormick, 1958-74
“My span as camper began as shy 8-year old in Micmac in 1958 with counselor, Tim Power, and ended as a “seen it all and done it all” counselor in 1974. I could have picked a wild raiding adventure of the Voyager houseboat or one of the many counselor escapades from the unihibited 60’s. Instead, I’ve decided to tell a personal tale which I hope will be received as a tribute to a very important place in my life and, in particular, to the Schmid family, who have given so much to so many there for over 60 years.
At age nine, it was a mixed experience for me to go to camp. I loved the beauty of the lakes and woods and all the activities that camp offered but I was bit of a worrier for a young boy. So, at times, some homesickness set in. My favorite activity was archery. I definitely was a novice when it came to accuracy, but I wanted to get better. The archery instructor that year came from an Iowa farm and was known as ‘Farmer Frank Reid.’ It was very important to me to get an award in archery that year. Maybe it was Junior Yeoman. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like it was going to happen after falling short of the required score during the final period of the final day of camp. Frank must have realized how important the award was because he told me to stay and keep trying for nearly an hour throughout free swim all the way up to the dinner bell. It was just Frank and me. He was encouraging me while constantly giving me tips on how to improve my shooting technique. After many flights of arrows, I (I should say ‘we’) did it. The experience was a big deal for me then, and, in some ways, is still a big deal for me now. This is the way things have always been at Camp Foley. People grow and share together and everyone benefits from it. Around the time I became a C.I.T., I began to realize that people like Frank Reid weren’t just helping others. They were experiencing great things themselves. This is the atmosphere that always pervades at Camp Foley. It is a very special place.
I share my story in loving memory of my wonderful and exuberant friend, Fred Stone.”
(Bob’s daughter, Anne, was a camper and counselor at Foley as well.)
Paul Hulseman, 1968-1970
“It was fun to return many years later with my own children to a place that remained the exact same as I remembered for Family Camp the summer before my two oldest sons went on their own. Mr. and Mrs. Schmid were gone, but Marie’s daughter Alli reminded me of Marie when she was that same age.
I celebrated my 8th birthday at Camp Foley. Eight was the minimum age, but with two older brothers attending I was able to be there while I was turning 8. On the very first day after the bus pulled in after a very long ride from the Minneapolis airport and we unpacked, all campers went to the lake for a swim test. Everyone jumped in and had to tread water for 10 minutes with their heads above water the entire time. I could swim like a fish, but treading water in a cold lake was a new experience and I failed that test. “Sinkers” had to wear a red ribbon around their necks at all times and could swim only in the enclosed area of the docks. They also needed a life vest whenever on a boat. Sometime in the second week I was retested and passed – no more red ribbon and I could swim out to the diving platform!
My favorite memories of Camp Foley are bug juice, canteen every day, mail delivery, and archery. Congrats to Camp Foley – keep on being great!”
(Eight of Paul’s children were campers as well: Colin, Patrick, Conor, Michael, Sea, Molly, Brendan and Delia.)
Bert (1966) and Sheila Christensen, 1976
“Foley has sooo many memories for me as a child and as a junior counselor and then married with Sheila. This story is about Sheila and my Summer of 1976. We were newlyweds and had a blast at camp. The cozy cabin we had just next to the Tekawitha cabin, so fun to know she is now known as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. We very much enjoyed our time, Sheila teaching tennis and my fun with campers on the rifle range and the water front. Especially the fun of counselor take down for the end of summer. The counselors and staff are always great and focused on team work. What a great reflection on [Marie] and [Bob and Vi]. Such a wonderful legacy and a gift to so many!”
Ann (Zeckser) Henkhaus, 1983-89
“I believe I attended camp from 1983 – 1989. To this day I carry with me the feeling of accomplishment that came with learning to shoot a gun and hit a target, learning to ski and then dropping a ski to slalom, learning to sail and then winning a regatta, learning to ride a horse and going on an overnight horseback trip, learning to canoe and going on a 3 day canoe trip.
I remember songs and campfires and skits. I loved gathering in the evenings for mail call (5 or more letters in a day called for a bucket of water over your head!), cabin inspection reports and ‘Where oh where oh where is Suzie?’ (a hidden red clothes pin). I even enjoyed waking everyday to the bugle call and going to calisthenics lead by a different cabin everyday. One year we had Christmas in July and another year was Camp Olympics. Rainy days were for movies or game days in the dining hall. I remember singing prayers before meals and the helping to clear the tables after meals as the items to be cleared were written on the chalkboard. (Moo juice was milk, bee poop was honey…) I remember Mass on Sundays at the chapel and soda bread afterward. From morning to night, there was never a dull moment at Camp Foley.
I am the second generation in my family to experience Camp Foley (my uncles attended when it was an all boys camp) and I love that my own children are experiencing these same things (a third generation of Foley campers!). The excitement, the feeling of accomplishment, the tradition and the enjoyment of the simpler things in life – friends, food, fun and the great outdoors. Thank you for continuing the wonderful world of camp and more specifically, Camp Foley. There is no better place on Earth! “
Cassie Jensen, 1997-2006
“One of my favorite memories from Camp Foley that I find myself telling often is about the time I was a CIT and all the CITs decided to take advanced canoeing together. None of us were particularly excellent at canoeing but we thought it would be fun to take an activity all together that would be challenging. We had to carry canoes by ourselves and canoe across the lake in windy conditions, practice canoe-canoe rescue, and overall do things we had never done before. We didn’t wind up getting the advanced canoeing award because the weather was never “bad enough” but it was still a lot of fun and I have a lot of stories to share with others whenever the subject of canoeing comes up. Who else can say they carried a canoe by themselves on their shoulders?
Another story: When I went of the Lake Superior Hiking Trip. It was such a great time and I got to know awesome campers and counselors. One of the best parts of it was the day we were actually hiking along Lake Superior. We jumped in the lake even though it was freezing. We then decided to sleep on the beach, wake up at 2am, and continue hiking to our next campsite. The night hiking was awesome and so was sleeping under the stars on the beach of Lake Superior! “
Kyle Stephenson, 2011
“When I came to camp in 2011, it was the first night and I didn’t know anyone and all of the counselors were together on Foley Green and I played ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ on my ukulele. That was the start to the best summer of my life! I had so many great memories that summer that I will never forget.
Another great memory I had was when two of the older campers tried to get the advanced canoeing award by canoeing solo across the lake and the winds were almost 30 mph with whitecaps about 3 ft high and the two girls tried their hardest, but after it was all said and done the girls had blown almost 2 miles east of their target and when we tried to tow the canoes back, they both ended up flipping over. I had to jump in the water with the campers to try to flip the canoes over in the worst conditions possible. We ended up not flipping them over and a good samaritan saw us out there and they brought their pontoon boat out and rescued us. When we finally got back to camp I was a half hour late for Paintball class.”
Karl Vanstrum, 2008-2014
“This summer of 2013 I grew into a more directive more responsible young man. Being in the C.I.T program was one of the best decisions I ever made since I loved being a big brother role model to my younger kids and giving them great advice. It’s heart warming and fulfilling that I touched their lives at Camp as they did for me. I really miss watching kids at rest period while trying to calm them down, I miss spending and doing activities with them, and Overall I miss eating with them at lunch. It’s great to know that all of my kids from 4th session 2013 said that they would miss me. I confess I cried when I realize that I wouldn’t see them for a long time or maybe never again. I want to thank Alli and Marie for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime and giving me one of the best summers of my life. Thanks for standing by me all these years. Best of wishes.”