Hello Kawaga Family,
It’s hard to believe that – yet again – another summer has somehow flown by. As we enjoy our last hours on the Shores together, I want to soak it all in, spending as much time as possible with your boys.
So, tomorrow I’ll write the final “Ty’s Take” of the season, after the boys have left camp. But, for now, I want to share something with you that’s particularly poignant and provides great context for you as to how Kawaga’s culture has been shaped.
July 11th marked the 50th anniversary of the “Passing of the Torch” ceremony. That was the date in 1968 when Lou Ehrenreich, then Kawaga’s Director/Owner and son of Founder Doc E, said goodbye to camp after 54 years.
David Zazove (“Zaz” to you Alumni) was a 12-year-old camper that summer. As he told me, it was a night that neither he, nor anybody else in attendance, will ever forget. He visited us on the Shores this summer and was kind enough to accept Lauren’s and my invitation to recall the events of that night for the Kawaga Nation during the evening of the actual anniversary date. The boys and the staff were captivated by the story, reflecting our culture of appreciation and pride in camp’s rich history.
I asked Zaz to put into writing some of the words he spoke that night. I can’t imagine a more appropriate story to share with you on the final night of our 104th season, as we “reach into the future but never forget the past.”
PS Check out the photo below of Zaz and Lou both wearing the Kawaga50 t-shirt!
The drumbeat began shortly after the evening meal. It was unusual because there was no powwow scheduled for that night. Activities just sort of stopped on Diamond One and the tennis courts. A voice came over the PA system and announced that there was to be a special council that night, instructing the entire Kawaga Nation to proceed immediately to the Council Ring.
As we quietly made our way up the hill, nobody had any idea what was in store for us — not even the oldest of the old timers had ever seen or heard anything like it before. After we were assembled, Lou, as Chief of the Kawaga Nation, entered the Council Ring, dressed in authentic Native-American regalia, including a full-length eagle headdress.
With torch in hand, he led us in singing “Round the Campfire” and other Kawaga songs. He gave a brief history of camp, including the early days with his father as Director and spoke about how Kawaga was much more than just a camp. Then he said, “God blessed me with two wonderful daughters — though I was not fortunate enough to have a son, which of itself has complicated the problem of carrying on all that Kawaga has stood for.” He then warmly introduced Associate Director Ron Silverstein as Kawaga’s next Director, and passed him the “Perpetual Torch of Kawaga.”
Lou led us in the singing of “Peace I Ask of Thee O’ River,” which carried a special significance that night. As we all know, 1968 was one of the most tumultuous years in our nation’s history. A bloody and unpopular war was raging in Vietnam, and Kawaga was not immune. Counselors were eligible to be drafted and sent off to war, while others had just returned from Vietnam, where more than 16,000 Americans died in 1968 alone. In April of that year, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, sparking riots throughout the country. About one-third of the campers and staff at the time were from the Detroit area and that summer, while they were at camp, downtown Detroit was literally being burned to the ground.
In June of ‘68, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death on the campaign trail in Los Angeles. In late August, just weeks after camp ended, thousands of young, anti-war protestors gathered in Grant Park in downtown Chicago across the street from the Democratic National Convention. They clashed violently with police, and Mayor Richard J. Daley famously gave a speech when he authorized the Chicago Police Department to “Shoot to Kill.”
On July 11thof that year, all that mattered at Camp Kawaga was that we were witnessing a very proud man say goodbye to the one thing that had literally defined his entire life. He was also saying goodbye to the one thing that had defined his father’s life. I’ve always assumed that 1968’s “Passing of the Torch” was the second such ceremony, with Kawaga Founder Bernard Ehrenreich (Doc E) having passed the torch to his son Lou in 1940. To those of us who were present that night in 1968, the Council Ring will always be hallowed ground.
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I was pleased to learn that Ty had planned a ceremony this summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Passing of the Torch,” and I was thrilled to be asked to speak. The campers were completely engaged, clearly showing how much Kawaga’s heritage matters to them. Afterwards, I attended a tapping ceremony on Diamond One for the first time in more than 40 years. As I gazed at the beautiful sky above, I remember thinking how proud Lou would be if he were looking down, to see that everything that was so important to him, especially teaching boys to be fine young men, was still being carried on at his beloved Camp Kawaga.
– David Zazove “Eagle Claw”