In recent months I have enjoyed writing my blog set in Brant Lake, but I never explained how I found my way to this rural hamlet nestled in the Adirondack Mountains. The story begins when I encountered two elderly men, white hair blowing in the breeze, standing by the side of the road. I was 12 years old.
My parents and I were driving on Route 8 along the shore of Brant Lake in search of a summer camp for me to attend. From the age of seven I had spent summers at a boys camp near Old Forge, snowmobile capital of the world. However, in the spring of 1950, the director fell ill and the camp closed. Frantically my family contacted camps. Idlewild, Cayuga, Androscoggin, typical Indian names for camps without a single Native American camper. Filled. Every camp was filled. So we drove 80 miles north of my home in Albany, New York to visit a final recommendation, Brant Lake Camp for Boys. And, in case you consider Brant a non-Indian name, I would note the real name of this Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant, was Thayendanga. As we approached the camp we spied two men wearing bathing suits and terry cloth robes crossing to the beach. My father stopped our brown Plymouth coupe with the canvas roof that became a convertible a week later when it blew off in a heavy windstorm. “Excuse me,” my father said to one gentleman. “Excuse me, we are looking for Brant Lake Camp. Could you give directions?” The man waved his towel towards a sign embedded in a stone gate. The sign read, “Brant Lake Camp.” My father asked the men, “Are you the owners?” For certainly the two appeared mature and the exact image of camp directors. The only response was a laugh that went on and on and on. “The owners? Hardly.” And, once again, they laughed and laughed. “But we can give you the owner’s phone number. He lives in New York City. Mr. Gerstenzang.”
Equipped with this information we returned to Albany and called Mr. Gerstenzang. “Sir,” my father explained, “we were visiting Brant Lake in search of your camp and met two distinguished men who we thought owned the camp. They said you were the director.” My father described them and Mr. Gerstenzang laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
Why was everyone laughing?
Mt. Gerstenzang replied:
“Those two men were Casper and Irving. They clean the toilets at camp in the summer and if you are searching for a good bookie to place your bets you can find them outside Madison Square Garden in winter.”
It was only a brief encounter with two men by the side of the road, a seemingly unimportant moment, but not a laughing matter, for I went to Brant Lake Camp, built a home on the lake, discovered a community of friends that gives warmth to my life, today, as in times past.
And now, I never underestimate what might seem to be an insignificant happening, for who knows where the path may lead.
Thank you, Casper and Irving—Brant Lake proved to be a good bet!