Camping Out in Willsboro Bay

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Camp 1970s

For most people, summer camp means children packing up a trunk and a knapsack and heading off for their own adventure while the parents had a few weeks of freedom.  For my family, “camp” has had a completely different connotation: It was a summer place on a lake. Before my mother Frances Cohen passed away, she recorded many family stories.  This is one of them.  Ironically, today, May 22, Jay and Leslie will be heading up for their summer at their new “camp”  on the same spot as the original purchased by my parents 48 years ago. Jay and Leslie’s new place is absolutely beautiful, but the most beautiful part is the sunset, the same view my parents enjoyed for so many years.  Marilyn Cohen Shapiro

September 17, 2009, was a very bittersweet day for me.  That was the day the Cohen family camp on beautiful Lake Champlain was demolished. Personally it was a difficult day for me to realize that there was a huge pile of logs where our cottage was, where we had spend forty summers.  The cottage is gone, but all the wonderful memories will linger on. The good news is that it is going to be replaced with a beautiful new, modern cottage.

Let’s start from the beginning. Many of our relatives had camps on lakes in Northern New York and Vermont, and we enjoyed visiting them. We hoped that one day we would have one of our own.

In July 1966 we were told that a person we knew had a camp for sale in Willsboro, a very small town on Lake Champlain only 30 minutes from Keeseville.  That evening Bill and I went to see the camp.  The camp was very rustic, just a very large building made of logs that consisted of one big room. Two parts were sectioned off with thin wall boards for the two bedrooms. The wallboards did not reach the ceiling, so there was no privacy.  A large bar with benches for ten people separated the kitchen from the dining and living areas. The small bathroom was the only room that was completely enclosed. Bill asked me what I thought. I looked out on the lake. Just then the sun was setting. The view was magnificent. I said, “Buy it!” Bill was so surprised as I was the one who always said, “I’ll think it over.” By August 1966, we were proud owners of a camp on Lake Champlain.

A few weeks later we received the following letter from relatives downstate in Westchester County made us smile:

Dear Fran and Bill, Good luck on buying a camp.  But we are worried about you Fran. With a large family and working full time, we hope it won’t be too much for you.  Is it a boys’ camp or a girls’ camp?Love, Hilda and Morris

I guess Hilda was right.  I looked up the word “camp” in the dictionary, which defined a “camp” as a temporary place for children out of the city.

Although the camp needed lots of repairs and wasn’t my dream cottage, it was one of the smartest moves that Bill and I ever made.  The property was reasonable and we could afford it.  As our family grew, so did the camp. In 1968, we built on a large family room with huge windows facing the lake. Over the years we entertained lots of company and hosted lots of parties. All our children and our eight grandchildren enjoyed the camp for many, many years.

When Bill and I reached our eighties, we found it was too difficult to keep up the cottage and put it up for sale. We were so happy when our son Jay and his wife Leslie offered to buy it as it would still be in the family.

Ten years have passed. Jay and Leslie are now grandparents. Jay recently retired, and Leslie will join him soon. They plan on spending much more time in Willsboro.  So they are replacing the old camp with a beautiful new one. They are so excited and can’t wait until it is built.  The structure may be new, but the sunset will be the same.  May they enjoy many happy years in their new home on the lake.

 

 

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