As with any great and longstanding institution, Camp Menominee has a rich history and a heralded tradition. Follow Menominee’s path from its founding in 1928 to today, with Jason Feldgreber as current Owner and Director.
Nathan Wasserman was born on October 5, 1899 in Russia. He soon immigrated to the Chicago where he would meet Edna Greenberg, who was born there on December 4, 1901. The founders of Menominee were married on March 16, 1926. They gave birth to Alan Wasserman, camp’s second owner, on March 23, 1927.
Nate was a school teacher and coach at Parker and South Shore High Schools on the south side of Chicago. At South Shore Nate coached future NFL Hall of Fame Head Coach and Marv Levy. Marv mentioned Nate in his induction ceremony speech at Canton.
Nate and Edna started their camp careers as directors of Camp Wooster, which eventually became Camp Henry Horner. They fell in love with the industry and working with kids and decided to pursue camp ownership. Nate went into business with Al Schwartz in 1927 and opened a camp called Menominee in Three Lakes, Wisconsin.
It soon became apparent that the two strong leaders were better suited to run their own camps. So, Nate and Edna established their own Camp Menominee in Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 1928. Al Schwartz went on to found Camp Ojibwa.
Menominee opened up in the summer of 1928 with 25 boys primarily from the Chicago area. For decades campers took the train at night to camp getting off at Monico Junction before passenger service stopped going that far north in the ’60s. Motor coaches and planes became the travel modes of choice.
While Chicago has always been camp’s bread and butter, large camper groups over the years have made the trek north from places far and wide. Look at all the places around the world that Menominee represented as recently as 2015:
In the first few years the Wasserman extended family provided much of the campers’ care. Max Wasserman was instrumental in clearing the forest for the new camp’s athletic areas. He literally blew up trees to make room to play! Bert Greenberg, Edna’s brother, was there to help out as well. Lou Wasserman was one of the directors until he went off to fight in World War II. After the war, Lou and his wife Corrine started Shoreland Day Camp in Chicago. This became a great feeder program for Menominee. Edna’s presence was always felt at camp. Whether it be on the discipline end, with table manners or by adding that woman’s touch, she was very active in campers’ lives. The little pinch of the cheek she would give the young boys while saying goodnight to them became known as “Ednas”.
Menominee was quickly becoming one of the best boys camps in the country. The original cabins had no washrooms or electricity. When electrical power was finally added to the buildings, campers complained that they were not rustic enough. Nate’s classic response was “then don’t turn on the lights!” He must have been wearing a yellow shirt that day. Still, campers were equally as distressed when the power went off for the first time during a North Woods storm. With boys so far from home, Dr. Glickauf and Nurse Margaret Coleman helped provide the medical care. Epidemic scares from uncured diseases like polio were a constant concern. Campers were not allowed to leave camp on Visiting Weekend for fear of contracting a disease in town. Bill Cullen and Curt Melnick were among the early stalwarts on staff.
Despite the US involvement in World War II, the economy was improving after the Great Depression. Camp’s enrollment increased to the point where we needed a new site. At the same time, Nate and Edna were looking to expand and add a girls camp. The search finally settled in 1947 on Eagle River. The Wasserman’s started Camp Marimeta on Meta Lake and moved Menominee to the old Charles Comisky Estate on Sand Lake in Sugar Camp.
The “Old Roman” and owner of the Chicago White Sox, Comisky left behind the Green and White pillars outside the grounds. These were transplanted from the original Comisky Park! They are still the first view of camp you see as you drive up County Road D. The White Sox players visited the estate frequently and even did some training there.
After the move, Nate Wasserman and Curt Melnick started a second boys camp in the area called Camp Mohawk. The concept was that Mohawk would take 8 to 10 year old boys and then direct them and Menominee would have 11 to 15 year olds. That idea only lasted a few summers. After that Menominee began welcoming campers 8 to 15.
The new cabins at our new site were built based on Herman Hansen’s plans for Marimeta’s cabins. These new structures were added to the already existing buildings that became known as Wass’ Cabin (The Lodge) which was the Comisky house. Current cabins 16 & 17 (old 13 & 14) were transformed from a chicken coupe. The Rec Hall (now Wasserman Hall) used to be the Comisky Barn. The Infirmary (now Health Club) was an old guest house. In fact, when carpet was recently pulled up in the infirmary, old newspapers from 1921 with box scores that included the names of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were found.
Menominee became well known for its mature staff. This group was made up of teachers and coaches. Nate frequently utilized the Chicago Teacher’s College as a great source for potential staff. Some of the early era veteran counselors were Keith Comeaux, Jim Keenan, Charlie Siebert, Howie Stiehm, John Semasco, Wally Sitz, Lou Kowalcyz and Tom Jungck. Later young teachers like Don Walters, Al Lewis, Jim Wyeth, Ronnie Crabbe, Fred Dunleavy, Lloyd Lindquist, Bob Bender, Gerry Cody, Larry Priebe, and Leo Priebe became familiar faces to returning campers. Leo met his wife Bernie Gavelba at camp while she was the camp nurse.
Teachers appreciated the extra money earned at camp. They also got to save on summer expenses by residing in the beautiful North Woods, and enjoying the camp food served up in the Mess Hall. Victor Owen was the first long term camp cook, assisted by Ida Specht. They made the move with the camp from Rhinelander to Eagle River. Eventually Victor gave way to Curt Lucas as cook and Al Herrold the baker. The two would respond many times a summer to the cheer that went up from the appreciative camp, “Yea, Rah Rah: Great meal Curt and Al!” Curt would wave his butcher’s cleaver to acknowledge the cheers and would coax out the shy (and somewhat deaf) Al to take a bow.
Curt and Al were assisted by Doris Walkowski who Nate hired from Camp Woodland, our Sand Lake girls camp neighbor. When Curt and Al retired, Doris took over capping off her more than 30 year career in our kitchen teamed with Jeanne Petrowski for almost 20 of those years.
The Mess Hall will always be linked in the tale of Lurch. Lurch, a disgruntled kitchen worker, had been fired and was rumored coming back to camp to get his revenge. Counselors were armed with baseball bats, and word is that Jeff Schwartz was ready with a loaded pistol to protect Elaine Wass. Either way, Lurch did show up back at camp and was found scared out of his wits sitting on top of the walk-in freezer. Eventually, the Lurch tale would morph into the already existing Meatman story for future campers to enjoy being scared by. This was followed by a delicious Dina Mia pizza delivered out of the Mess Hall’s oven by the canoe paddle!
Camp’s initial program featured sports, trips, horseback riding, and a Green & White color war. Over the years, canoe and other trips down the Wisconsin River became summer highlights. Nate’s philosophy was to focus on summer sports which boys would not be able to participate in the city during the winter. So, very little football, basketball, and soccer were seen in the first half century. Our campers went to and to exotic sounding places like:
Campers were required to take instruction in swimming, tennis, and softball. Medal testing was done at the end of each season to see the improvement the boys had made. Eventually campers were eager for more activities. So camp started strong athletics programs like football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and roller blade hockey.
Early inter-camp competitions were done primarily with Camps Interlaken and Macabee. Eventually events were held against Ojibwa, Mohawk, Deerhorn (an Arnie Harris home run there plunked a horse outside their barn over the centerfield fence), Towering Pines, Timberlane, a traveling sports camp from Michigan named Sea Gull, trips for tennis tournaments at Nebagabon and North Star, and Little League baseball against teams from town like the Nelson Aces and Spees Spitfires.When Camp Interlaken was sold to the JCC in 1965, C.M. began a major competition against Camp Kawaga in Minocqua. Al Lewis, pipe in mouth and balls in hand, started the hardball program having coached baseball and future major leaguer Del Maxville in Granite City, Illinois. Al Lewis Field was named after him honoring Al’s long run at C.M. Bert Roundtree started the riflery program as a camp activity, which eventually became one of the campers’ favorite.
Where most camp’s have little field space, Menominee’s unique spacious layout allowed for many land activities including the Golf Course, one of the only camp golf courses in the country. Counselor 16″ softball games on the Senior Diamond were always well attended by the campers after lunch. The beautiful setting and top rate facility was always well looked after. Most notably by Mr. Hansen, Reubin Nitzel the legendary strongman, and all-time great camp character-caretaker, the very gifted Eugene Fleck, all took care of the camp as if it were their own.
The waterfront featured the ever-popular waterslide, Red Cross swimming lessons, waterskiing, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, water basketball, kayaking, row-boating, fishing, greased watermelon polo, and (until the ’80s) skinny dips on particularly warm evenings. The C.M. Regatta was a sailing race that ran during the ’80s and ’90s where upwards of ten camps would bring up to four sunfish sailboats and unleash them in a beautiful spectacle on Sand Lake.
When Al Wasserman returned from military service during the Korean War era, he married Elaine Sagner on December 5, 1953. They met while Al was in the Army.
Al immediately went to work for his dad (Edna by now was running Marimeta). Al originated a new intra-camp competition called British-American to help make the 4th of July that much more special for the boys. “Message to Garcia”, “Captain Duels”, and “the All-Camp Squirt Gun Fight” were events that utilized squirt guns with colored water and water balloons for great fun that generations of Menominee campers have looked forward to ever since. It was a major shock that of all days in the year, Alan passed away on the 4th of July, 2009. If there was one day at Camp that was Al’s, that was it!
Alan and Elaine’s son Steve Wasserman was a longtime Menominee camper and staff member and Susie Wasserman was a Marimeta veteran. “Campfires” were not just fires around the camp ground. They were also the evening program before taps. Commercial Night, Imitation Night, Monster Night, Spelling Bee, Miss Menominee, the Ball in the Cup, Admiral Puff, Talent Show, Five Year Night and many more allowed campers to show off their talents on stage. For several years musicals were spoofed such as “Fiddle on the Roof” (“A Counselor on His Bed” with the classic song to “Anatevka”: “Marimeta, Marimeta – under-sexed, over-fed, Marimeta) and “Damn Yankees” (“Damn Kawaga”).
Later co-ed plays would be done with Chippewa Ranch Camp going down on Hwy. O. Song Night saw each cabin make up its own cabin song. Singing has long been an integral part of our camp experience featuring for decades Jim “Buzz” Wyeth and Lloyd L. Lindquist (what’s the middle L stand for? Leander!) playing “the Menominee Medley” for the camp on piano. “Menominee, Menominee, Hail Our Colors, Hail to Menominee, Bright as a Sunburst, the ‘Wiffenpoof” Song,
At Menominee, Do You Hear the Voices Ring, Menominee for the Boys, Fill A Stein, and the Five Year Song” were sung throughout the season. Other tunes like “Titanic” and “Sammy Hall” were familiar refrains. “Grace” would be sung before dinner, and of course, Taps would be sung before everyone was dismissed to return to their cabins for “Taps in Fifteen Minutes”. Then the last bugle call would echo through the trees. Reveille repeated mercilessly on that scratched record would get us out of bed for First Call followed by Flag Raising, the flag raised and lowered by the day’s Cabin Inspection Winners. Cheers were done with the compulsory beginning “Yea, Rah Rah” to get everyone psyched-up for an upcoming competition, for a inter cabin challenge, or for the other team after a game. “Alvevo, Boom Chick A Boom, Aleph Bates, Boom-a-Lacka, Itsoo Rotsoo, Scadoo, I Said A Boomchickaboom, We Don’t Mess Around, Beat ’em in the Ground, Big Green Hands, Big Green Feet, We’ve Got Spirit, CM – CM, Go Green Wave” and many more would raise the roof in the Mess or Rec Halls.
Each year Green and White would start in a unique and surprising way. One year the camp was told that Dr. Strub’s wife had lost her diamond ring on the golf course and that after lunch we would all have to go out to look for it. When the camp assembled out on the golf course and began looking for the lost jewel, all of a sudden the roar of a small plane was heard overhead and Al was seen with the plane’s door open dropping tongue depressors on the camp with green and white streamers and the campers names attached. Although some of the sticks flew out onto Highway D, and all the way to Cooper’s Service Station, the quality of all Green and White beginnings would forever be compared to that one. The next summer they told the camp Mrs. Strub had REALLY lost her diamond ring this time. With a groan, the camp made its way down the Service Road out to the golf course again. This time little toy rings were placed all over the course with the campers’ names and teams on each.
Along with Dr. Strub, the Menominee medical staff has been an important part of the professionalism and well-being that has marked our time at Menominee. Dr. Kosterlitz, Dr. Shalowitz, Dr. Goldin, Dr. Scheinberg, Dr. Kohlenbrenner, Dr. Miller (who created the 4.5 mile Doc’s Run), Dr. Kraut, Dr. Kniaz, Dr. Sloan, nurses Elta Mantouf, Jane Lambert (husband Joe was a counselor), Irene Brandt and Carol Cornell were all names familiar to our guys who spent their formative years at “the Friendly Confines” of C.M.
Initially Menominee relied on college students, teachers, and coaches as counselors. Eventually former campers started graduating to the staff. One of the first campers (besides Alan) to become a counselor was Mickey Lyons. Mickey, who himself became a teacher and coach, enhanced the Green and White experience with the innovation of the All-Camp Sing which started in 1959.
The Sing would be followed the next day by the All-Camp Relay which encompassed every area of camp life from sports, to making beds, changing clothes, and making a fire to boil water. When a fifteen year old Senior Cabin member finished his camper career, he had the option of returning as “Waiter” as a 16 year old. Only after that could they become counselors. Other early former campers turned notable staff members were: Dick Adler, Jess Levine, Steve Wellner, Alan Kaplan, Fred Benjamin, and Steve Victor. “Waiters” ultimately gave way to a Counselor In Training program. C.I.T.s were additional help (or hindrance) to counselors in cabins, assisted at activities but were still able to compete against other camps.
One of the early C.I.T. groups that were known as “Purple” was comprised of such luminaries Steve Ehrlich, Bobby Sachs, Jeff Schwartz, Alan Zenoff, Bob Feldman, Terry Davis, and Donnie Bachrach. Eventually teacher salaries became such that a summer away at camp ceased to be so attractive. One of the last longtime counselors who taught and coached was Rhinelander’s own Dennis Kosloski who started at camp in 1969. And other than a hiatus in the early ’80s, he has been at C.M. every since. “Koz” took over running the waterfront from Don Walters. “Sea Daddy”, hailing from the Garden Spot of the universe-Oglesby, Illinois, was a fixture down at Sand Lake for decades. Don’s booming voice: “Revilous in the Swamp”, “Yellow in the front/brown in the back”, “Leave it alone boys, it’ll grow”, “One, two three-don’t forget your underwear”, “Grab you socks, grab your jocks,” “that must be jelly ’cause jam don’t shake like that”, and “It’s a cold one boys-fur-lined jocks” echo throughout camp to this day. 1969 was a big year at camp in many ways.
It was Al Lewis’ last year as a cabin counselor.The next year Al would become Menominee’s first non-owner/director since its early days. Al Wass’ feeling for years was that there were so many outstanding counselors who could have been assistant directors that to pull any of them out of the cabins would have been problematic. But by 1970 Al Lewis was one of the only remaining “old timers” and was promoted to “Al’s Condo” between the Staff Cabin and Reubin’s Shop. ’69 was also the year Glenn Klein commenced his Menominee career. Al Lewis’ co-counselor in the Senior Cabin 15 that year was a young man from Scotland named Ally Spowage, who along with countryman Stu Duncan, was Menominee’s first of scores of staff from overseas.
Other early “foreign” staff included Chick Carvell, who transformed the Golf Course from three to five holes and soccer instructor Shawn Short. These guys paved the way for other long-term staffers from other countries like Andy “Hippo” Owens (Wales), Ross Allen, David “Woody” Wood (England), Jeff Toombs (Canada), and Jens Haag (Sweden). After four years at camp, it would be 25 years until Ally would return to C.M. to receive his Five Year Jacket. All of Ally and his wife former Marimeta counselor Lyndsey’s four children have spent time on staff including Gavin and Gordon who was also a camper. 1969’s Senior Cabin with David Niedelman, Mike “Marge” Cohen, Gary Olshan, Rich Worsek, Barry Fryfield, Lew Klein and Robby Dann led C.M. to a huge Super Softball Sweep over Kawaga. Rich Worsek originated the twirling finger jump start to the camp cheer “Alvevo” that year, borrowing it from Cubs’ reliever Dick Selma who would get the Wrigley Field Bleacher Bums going with the gesture during that fateful season. Nothing burned “Joe Kawaga” in effigy better than a Robby Dann pre-competition bond fire. 69 divine degrees became the official desired morning temperature.
The Menominee/Kawaga tilt would gain intensity over the years–Mark Roth-K.S.T.B.G.D.-and go back and forth with each camp winning during certain eras with most notably a huge “Grand Slam” 48-6 fourth consecutive win in 1992. Mike Burg, Peter Burg, and Cliff Seidner who upgraded from Kawaga to Menominee, were especially favorite targets for the camp from Minocqua. But no domination was ever sweeter than the 16A Softball’s thirteen straight years of triumphs. Players like Billy Michlin, Kenny Stern, Jimmy Lazar, David Berzon, Al Levine, Stu Levey, Jimmy Klein, Dan “the Man” Kramer, Jamie Rosen, Willie Zimberoff, and Ross Auslander shined.
But pitching was the key. And Menominee has had a tradition of slow pitch blooper specialists that have performed brilliantly on the hill over the years, including Don Bachrach, Marge Cohen (son Jonathan a camper), Jeff Ruby, Jeff “Tiny” Silverman, Mike Levey, Gary Lazar (little Lazars Sam and Jack are following in dad’s footsteps), Jeff Gurevitz, Scott Bronstein, and Joe Klein (Glenn and Dawn’s firstborn). Playing the “Menominee Way” has always been at the heart of what the camp was always about. Regardless of victory or defeat, Al would always remind us that, “The sun will rise tomorrow.”
The Counselors got to show of their stuff in the annual Eagle River Slow Pitch Tournament starting in the early ’70s and continuing through the ’90s. Although the long ball was never our major strong-point, Lew Klein actually led the 1975 E.R. Tournament in Home Runs. Ray “Benda” Thomas is reputed to be the only Menominee man every to hit a clincher from the home plate on the Senior Diamond into the woods beyond Diamond 2. The Adamovich brothers were North Woods homegrown homerun hitters and led the feared Dr. K’s Chiefs town team, who even made trips from Eagle River to play our guys in exhibitions on the Senior Diamond. Speaking of Dr. K’s, the Clinic was just one of the staff’s favorite haunts over the years. Pitlik’s Sand Beach Resort was (and still is) so convenient just down the road from camp.
Watowsa Lodge was just across the bridge with its little grocery store, so nice for Cabin Sneak-outs. “Dead Man’s Curve” had to be navigated on Hwy. H en route to E. R. Town (although some navigated that turn and other North Woods roads better than others). More places counselors have frequented over the years were/are: Denoyer’s (where Five Year Night is held and where Mark “Denoyer” Naige entertained by playing the spoons as a kid and is now the owner), the Mint (best burger in town), the Twilight Inn, the Cloverland Barrel House (she’s a fine lady), the Header Inn (gut-bombs and spuds), Ken Clark’s Waukegan Inn, the Yacht Club, TIOTL, Gene and Rose Fleck’s Meadow Inn, the Village Tavern, the WholeFamDamily, Kathan Inn, the Boom Bay Bar, Weasel’s, the Frontier, the Thunderbird, Knocker’s, Country Flair, Wolf Pack Cafe, McGregor’s Blink Bonnie, Pasta Cottage, White Stag, Molgaard’s Indian Lodge, Spange’s, Geo’s, and Shooters.
Former campers as counselors were the predominant force on the staff throughout the late ’60s into the early ’80s. Guys like Sandy Cohen (who followed his mom Barb to Gaffney Drive and went on to own and direct Marimeta with his wife Terry and whose sons C.J. and Frankie attend Menominee), Jeff Crane, Steve Sider (son’s Mark and Jon were campers and counselors), Donnie Sider, Jerry Sider (Danny’s at camp), Mike Weiss, Mark Jacobs (Saul and Alex come from Toledo), Bob Jacobs, Jeff Glick, Jack and Bob (BK) Kaplan, Bob and Mike Gantz, Jeff (“Big Hor”) Horwich, Larry (“Lil Hor”) Horwich (camper Jordan ), Arnie Harris (Sammy a camper), Mike Karras, Spinner Forman, Mitch Roth, David Harris, Scott Wagman (son’s Alex and Eric), Todd Gordon, and Loren Blumenfeld kept up traditions good (and not so good) like putting first year campers on silence, running laps, Rag Man, the Midnight Raiders, Green Cripplers, Grungies, the Green Bench, the Burma Road, the Toothpaste Treatment, and the Meatman Story (Meatman’s Grave, of course, located right off Old Counselor’s Road), signing the Cement, picking for clean-up jobs, late night Cookie Quiz (Shelf-Shots,) and getting surprised in the middle of the night with Team Jerseys.
During the winter of 1976 longtime camper and counselor Jeff Schwartz came on as full-time director and in just one recruiting season filled the camp’s enrollment to its largest total to that date. In 1977 146 boys allowed for two new cabins to be built on the hill toward the lake, instituting a new number system for a couple of summers. Cabins were referred by both their old and new number. Jeff then saw the camp through its biggest challenge ever, “the sickness” an epidemic of micro-plasma pneumonia in 1978. The CDC from Atlanta was called in and the camp got kudos from them for how well the outbreak was handled. Half the camp was sent home in the third week to recuperate and then returned on Visiting Day. With the kids and staff that remained in camp, Glenn Klein and Peter Burg originated the intra-camp event Army-Navy, which later evolved into Sun & Wind which continues to this day. Counselors are on the teams with the kids. S & W features such fun all-camp activities like Creatively Acquire the Energy Source and All-Camp Bombardment.
Al Lewis retired after that season, too, and Steve Kanefsky spent his first summer at camp having been recruited by Jeff Schwartz. Jeff and Linda Schwartz’ sons Barry and David Schwartz would later be key members of Steve’s staff. In 1979 Bob Bender returned to camp to be co-director with Lloyd Lindquist. Bob was the director in ’80 but was ill at the beginning of the 1981 season and Al Lewis came out of retirement to lead the camp one more time. By 4th of July, Bob was feeling better, returned to camp, and then teamed with Glenn to co-direct the camp from 1981-83.
Glenn started at Menominee as a camper in 1969 following in the footsteps of his cousins Lew, Len and Stu Klein (son Jotham came to camp from their then home in Saudi Arabia). Lew came over to C.M. with Robby Dann (sons Zack and Kevin are veterans, too) from Camp Interlaken after it had been sold. Glenn’s dad Bob, uncles, and cousins had been to Interlaken, Ojibwa, and Kawaga as campers and counselors from the beginning of the 20th Century. Menominee would be the last stop for the Kleins. Glenn met Dawn Olson at school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Dawn’s first camp duty was as the nurse’s assistant in 1982. Glenn and Dawn got married at the camp during “Colorama” October 1, 1983.
While Mickey and Marilyn Lyons were the first couple to have a wedding reception at the camp, Glenn and Dawn’s was the first actual ceremony at camp held out by the Archery Range. It would not be the last, as then Assistant Director “H” Rothenberg married Libby there in May of 1996. At the end of this is past summer, Steve Kanefsky proposed to Bari Freed (whose brother Max is a former camper and now counselor) at home plate of the Senior Diamond. Another camp wedding is planned for Labor Day Weekend 2005! And Bobby and Fran Sachs renewed their vows in a ceremony for their 20th Anniversary on 3rd base of that same Senior Diamond during Post Camp in 1992. Speaking of anniversaries and the Sachs, they were instrumental along with other alumni like Fred Benjamin in Menominee’s first ever Alumni Reunion during the fall of 1979 in Chicago, commemorating C.M.’s 50th. That would not be the last one of those either. The 60th Reunion was held at camp prior to the season in 1988. Sixty five guys returned north for that event which spawned Fantasy Camp which is now the traditional precursor to the summer and will enjoy its 18th Anniversary in 2005.
Many guys like Joel Levin, Al Levine, David “Tiger” Levine, and David Behm have spent more years at FC than their other camp experiences. During the first Fantasy Camp, Jerry Sider’s wife Judy gave birth to their son Danny and the happy event was immediately relayed over the P.A. to everyone out at the Senior Diamond. As soon as the softball game was over Uncles Donnie and Steve went down and put down a deposit for Danny effective ten years later guaranteeing that Danny Sider would be the first and only first year camper with Canteen Number 1, which he was a decade later. Menominee’s 75th Anniversary was celebrated at Fantasy Camp in 2002 culminating with the traditional closing Banquet in the Mess Hall (with Baked Alaska for dessert, of course).
While Fantasy Camp has become one “bookend” to the summer, the other even older tradition is Post Camp. Families have been vacationing at C.M. after the regular seasons for nearly half a century. Many guys attending have literally seen their families grow up at Post Camp, some having been Menominee campers or counselors some not. Fred Benjamin, Steve Ehrlich, the Priebes, David Niedelman, Robby Dann, Paul Kohlenbrenner (sons Jeremy and Josh bleed green), Jimmy Ruby, Steve Sider, Jerry Sider, David Frisch (son Brandon’s at camp), Jimmy Frisch, Howie Friedman, and Bobby Friedman among many others made Post Camp part of their family’s summer traditions. Guys like Roger Feldman, Brad May, and Mark Schwartz, never having come to camp as kids, have spent decades at Post Camp and Fantasy Camp and sent their sons Jordan Feldman, Aaron May, and Matt Schwartz respectively to camp.
Glenn and Dawn Klein purchased Camp Menominee from the Wassermans in December of 1983 and had their first summer in 1984. While Bob Bender continued as Program Director and Koz as Waterfront Director, Glenn began to look to experienced counselors more and more to help run things by instituting an Associate Director concept. Each “A.D.” was in charge of the Junior, Intermediate, or Senior Division. Steve Klein, Zack Wagman, and Steve “Flea” Kleinberg were the first Associate Directors. While Canteen was always something campers looked forward to, “Kleino” and Zachary made “Zack’s Candy Store” an event. Canteen was moved from after lunch to after Twi-Light League as an early evening treat, as campers were invited to “come on down for a cold one or a sweet one.” “One, two, three – Rotate”, “I don’t see why not”, were added to “Tough break buddy guy”, “Are ya comin’?”, and “Beat Kawaga-Uh!” as often repeated phrases. The birthday song was transformed into a multi-motion/dance frenzy-“Happy Birthday to You-Whoo/Hail, Hail the Gangs All Here”.
Eric “EJ” Jurgensen became camp’s full-time administrator in the mid ’80s and lived year round at camp with Glenn and Dawn in their home across Hwy. D with their young sons Joe, Jake, and Judah (who were all born where Menominee was born in Rhinelander in 1986, 1987, and 1988 respectively. All three went through the ranks with little brother Isaac a current camper). The family atmosphere was prevalent as Hannah, Isaac, and Gracie were all born in the decade of the ’90s and began growing up at camp, too. “Phil A. Stein”, (“Philly”) became the entire camp family’s mascot as she roamed the “Friendly Confines” for fifteen years. Sometimes at night when she was out and about, Glenn would get on the P.A. and call, “Philly, come!” And sure enough, here would come the golden retriever down to the office. Counselor and Yale grad Greg Duhl immortalized Philly by re-writing the Yale Bulldog song, “Philly Woof”. Other past camp mascots included the Wass’ poodle “Lucky” and Robby Dann’s cat “Pussy Galore” who survived a broken leg at camp and convalesced in cabin 12 as Robby studied to be a veterinarian.
Greg was not the only non-former camper/counselor character. Milwaukee’s Tom Radke taught the younger guys Wisconsin tavern etiquette. Kentucky’s Mel Taylor became famous for his diet of mayflies, documented in a story about camp the Milwaukee Journal did about camp in the early ’80s. Dan Meintz was an imposing figure on the mound making like Kurt Rambis in his sports goggles. Tom “Shandog” Shannon began a string of new breed teachers-to-be primarily from University of Wisconsin system that made up the core of a great staff for nearly a decade. Eric “Legs” Burling, Michael “Booch” Butcher, Forest “Rodzilla” Rodd, Mike “Nellie” Nelson, “Pistol” Pete Larsen, and Dan “V.J.” Vander Jeugdt joined the U.K.’s Ross Allen, “Woody”, “Hippo”, and former campers turned A.D.’s Allen “Sal” Goodman, Steve “Kanefsk” Kanefsky, Marc “Beers” Beermann, Matt “Goody” Goodhart (whose dad Marc was a camper), and Brett “Boutros, Boutros” Goldman–all bled green with the best of ’em. The memory of Nate Wasserman, and what he built in the North Woods, was commemorated in several ways during the ’80s and ’90s. The Rec Hall became known as Wasserman Hall in honor of all the Wass’.
The Nate Wasserman Camp Fund, a not-for-profit organization, was formed to help send kids in need that normally would not have had the chance to go to camp. And the Nate Wasserman Award was started in 1988 going to “the Camper who Most Exemplifies the Menominee Way.” The award was accompanied with a plaque in the Lodge with all the winners’ names and that year’s “Nate” had his jersey retired and hanging in the Mess Hall. The first in a long line of the deserving winners was Matt Melamed (’88), followed by Lee Kotler (’89), Courtney Mann (’90), Eric Schneider (’91), Peter Glick (’92), Stewart Auslander (’93), Jon Japha (’94), Sim Darwick (’95), David Davidson (’96), Evan Harris (’97), Michael Weiner (’98), Jon Sider (’99), Matt Feinstein (’00), Joe Klein (’01), Scott Marcus (’01), David Ehrlich (’02), Andrew Bauer (’03), and Brett Greenspan (’04). The late ’80s saw more and more pressure brought to bear to offer shorter sessions for campers, as boys had always come for strictly eight weeks. Wanting to maintain the integrity of the longer-term experience, the eight week program was shortened to six weeks preceded by the two week Menominee Sports Camp, which did open up the Menominee experience to many kids who wouldn’t have considered two months.
One such boy was Mike Dunleavy, Jr. whose dad was the head coach of the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks during Mike’s camp career. “Junior” later graduated to the six week session for several years, tormenting camps like Ray Meyers Basketball Camp, Ojibwa, and of course Kawaga. Mike, Jr. went on to a stellar collegiate basketball career winning a National Championship and hitting five huge second half threes in that game for Duke University and now plays in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors. Mike is the only Menomineeman ever to play in a major professional sport. Former camper Jerry Markbreit was a lead NFL referee for decades. Other prominent Menominee alums include author Scott Turow (who sent his son Gabe to camp). The “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio sent his son Joe, Jr. Filmmaker and television producer Ed Zwick was a camper, as was the Chicago Sting’s Kenny Stern.
Documentary/film maker and musician Steven Karras popularized the “Elbow Walk” from the Flag Pole to the Mess Hall. Glenn’s cousin Zach Klein is an ABC television sports anchor in Orlando, Jordan Feldman is an actor in Hollywood, and Eric Leiderman is a writer for the Ellen Degeneres Television Show. Chicago Bulls head coach Phil Jackson sent his sons Charlie and Ben to the Menominee Basketball Camp which was founded by NCAA Division I Coach Jerry Wainwright which followed “Super Camp” and preceded Post Camp for more than a decade. In 1996 Menominee dedicated the competition versus Kawaga to Shabtai Nitschon, a counselor from Israel who had been seriously hurt in a car accident. Inspired by “Shabby’s” courage, all the guys wore Stars of David on their jerseys and went on to a big overall win which was a big morale-booster for the 23 year old Israeli and his family.
Glenn utilized his own broadcasting experience by transforming the new P.A. system into WMEN Radio, All Camp All Day, 4985 on your AM dial. The camp awoke not to just reveille but all genres of music. Collegiate fight songs and other tunes alerted everyone to a change of activities. “Here Comes the Sun” became the traditional opening song to each session. Campers produced their own radio shows and “Ask the Director” became a Sunday evening staple, hosted by the Senior Cabin representatives of the Camper Council whose weekly meetings would be supervised by the Counselor Committee. Counselors would report on their campers’ progress after taps by writing “Dailies”, keeping the directors more informed of the goings-on of the cabins. Campers enjoyed the new found freedom of being able to stay out with their parents over Visiting Weekend.
The “Penthouse” on the top of the Rec Hall and the old Staff Cabin were added as camper cabins as camp’s enrollment topped the 190 mark and the Chateaux next to the Kleins’ home “Idajo” across Hwy. D housed the support staff. New basketball courts, soccer and hardball fields, and the North Woods first-ever Roller Blade Hockey Rink were constructed. And the Decade Club was formed to recognize those campers and staff members who had been to camp for ten years or more. The Senior Diamond became known as the Bob Bender Senior Diamond in honor of Bob’s decades of service to camp and his intense competitive nature. The Bathhouse was renamed Koz’s House when Koz celebrated his 20th year at camp.
The Tennis Courts became known as the Jim Wyeth Courts for Buzz’s illustrious career coaching tennis to the boys. During this time Menominee became one of the first camps in the country to utilize video and the internet to promote the camp. Heretofore prospective campers and their parents had viewed the camp movie or slide show as they considered a future at C.M. Former camper, counselor, and A.D. Marc Beermann founded one of the first-ever internet camp companies, “Camp Channel” which hosts our site to this day and is now run by brother and former camper Eric Beermann.
There are many Menominee alums in camping in one way or another. Scott Bronstein is the owner of SportsCampFederation.com. Sandy Cohen and his wife Terry purchased Camp Marimeta from Alan and Elaine in the mid-80s, H. Rothenberg, who was full time Assistant Director from 1992-1997, and his wife Libby own Triple C Camp in Charlottesville, VA. And, of course, Steve Kanefsky is now owner/director of the camp we are all honoring.
Starting in 1978, Steve Kanefsky’s camp career has spanned all of Menominee’s eras. When Jeff Schwartz came to Irwin and Shari Kanefsky’s home in Wilmette to talk to them and the Malkus’ about camp, Nate was still coming to C.M. for the summer with his second wife Celma (Edna had passed away in 1971) and Al and Elaine were still the owners.
When Glenn and Dawn took over the reigns in the early ’80s, Steve became a key staff member, a dominating softball coach (just ask Kawaga) and eventually an Associate Director. Steve, joined by his brother Larry Kanefsky, was immediately a magnet for the camp coming to camp with friends like Mitch and Lee Malkus and Scott Silver. Having gone through the ranks as camper, CIT, counselor, and associate director and after having received his undergraduate and MBA degrees from the University of Colorado in Boulder, it was Steve’s dream to own and direct the camp.
Steve’s dream came true at the end of the ’97 season as he purchased Menominee from Glenn and Dawn. As the Kanefsky era began in 1998, many long-timers were still on board like Doris, Jeanne, and Terry Zmek (who eventually took over in the kitchen), Koz, and tennis pro Lee Libby. Steve’s good friend and C.M. veteran Marc Beermann returned as Assistant Director. After that David “Woody” Wood took over that role which he has fulfilled to the present day. Former camper, counselor, and gourmet chef Aaron May has cooked for camp for the last three summers, involved way beyond a typical camp cook in the affairs of camp by participating in things like coaching and competing with the counselor sports teams. After Gene Fleck, we stumbled upon Tom Fedderly as the camp’s director of maintenance, dispensing his unique wisdom, making sure “you guys” fly right, and keeping the world’s greatest drinking water flowing from “Gene’s Canteen Water” tap by the Megaphone Office.
The Menominee Alumni Association was formed in 2003 to help keep camp connected to those who have been before. And in 2004 Bob Bender came out of retirement to head the camp’s action-packed program. The most powerful storm ever to hit North Woods’ camps occurred during 1999, knocking out power for three days. It hadn’t been since the early days in Rhinelander that Menominee had been without electricity for so long. But in true Green and White fashion, the camp rose to the occasion weathering the outage in fine fashion.
Camp began to offer two four week sessions with more and more campers opting to stay for the entire eight weeks again, and a second week of Post Camp was added which quickly filled to capacity. The MCAA (Menominee Camper Athletic Association) Leagues highlight the first session. Championships are competed for in the MFL (Menominee Football League), MHL (Menominee Hockey League), MLS (Menominee League of Soccer), MBA (Menominee Basketball Association), and MLB (Menominee League of Baseball). Every camper participates in Twi-Light League in the second half with the Senior Division winning team immortalized on the Steve Ehrlich Trophy named after the “Duke of Earl” upon his 35th year with camp. Steve Kanefsky, as all winning captains do, took home the Trophy to Wilmette in 1982. The competition against Kawaga is as big as ever. In fact, this past summer C.M. celebrated our first overall win over the camp from Minocqua since 1996. This was in no small measure due to a Menominee 13 & Under Division Sweep at our place and perhaps the largest returning counselor staff in the camp’s history with only five new counselors!
Key staff members/former campers/A.D.s that have carried the Green and White proudly in the last few years included Ted Roth, Barry Schwartz, David Schwartz, Peter Ehrlich (who in the ’90s joined dad Steve and grandfather Mel as the first third generation camper), David Ehrlich (Jimmy’s son and the next third generation guy), Zack Dann, David Davidson, Matt Schwartz, Joe Klein, Scott Marcus, Mike Sweet and AJ Sweet. Sean Hennick, a five year counselor and fixture at Fantasy Camp, was recruited by Steve from their winter home in Scottsdale. Suburban Phoenix has also become a fertile market for campers, as more than 20 boys now come north from the land of the sun.
Menominee’s summer calendar is jam-packed with Big Ten Activities (the instruction “regular” activity program) and numerous competitions and socials with many area camps. Counselors compete, too. While socials back in the day where held strictly with then sister camp Marimeta, now Chippewa, Birch Knoll, and Agawak are frequent “dates” the guys look forward to. Marimeta still comes over for the big Fourth of July Fireworks display (“Great Show, Al!”) and dances are often provided by professional “party” companies who come north to introduce their services to the kids. A new tradition, “The Way”, was started. On Sunday nights a huge bond fire is constructed by the dog leg of the golf course. The campers and counselors make their way out in silent reverence. Steve, donning full Indian head-dress and the C.I.T.s greet the guys. Then the values and perspectives that comprise “the Menominee Way” are discussed. First-year campers and counselor receive Menominee Indian Arrowheads to signify their initiation into the Camp Menominee Nation.
Expansion and expenditures for new facilities, equipment, and construction have been a hallmark at the beginning of the 21st Century. Brand new tennis courts, basketball courts, three ski nautiques, a water tramp moored next to the raft on Sand Lake, a-state-of-the art 50′ Climbing Wall and Zip Slide are thoroughly enjoyed by the guys. In the first year of the Wall, Green and White commenced with all the guys called out there (near the new Al Lewis Field and Hockey Rink) in the dark of night and Steve tossing down their team jerseys from atop the huge structure. This past summer a spacious new Senior Cabin with showers was erected in the woods between the tennis courts and the counselor parking lot, right off the Gulley.
A park was placed in the cabin compound named “Klein Grove” with benches and eight trees planted to represent Glenn, Dawn, and their six children and to commemorate their fourteen years at the helm. Steve also built a home just down the path from the infirmary near the sand slide in west woods and is joined by a growing group of Menomineeites who love the North Woods so much they have homes there including: Zack Wagman and Glenn & Dawn on “the Dam Lake”, Sandy Cohen, Rich Worsek (son Michael’s also a camper), Dave and Don Gutterman in Eagle River, David, Jeff, and Jon Davidson in Arbor Vitae, and Mike and AJ Sweet (“the Sweet Retreat”) in Phelps. That house is where Steve was married to Bari Freed.
Steve met Bari through her brothers, Max and Jake Freed who were both long time Menominee campers. Steve and Bari were married in September 2005 with many of the CM Family in attendance. Bari’s love of dogs expanded the Kanefsky household family with two soft coated Weaton Terriers, “Sam and Millie”. But her greatest achievement is Bari and Steve’s beautiful daughter, Eva Marlie.
Camping in the Northwoods literally courses through Jason Feldgreber’s blood. His Grandmother, Elaine, attended Menominee’s then sister camp, Marimeta. Jason’s Mom, Bobbi, spent over a decade at Chippewa Ranch Camp and was even on Tom Adler’s first staff. Years later, Tom and Pamela Adler were on Jason’s first CM staff as Owner in 2015. Jason’s younger brother Ross was a 12 year Menominee veteran and his Dad Rob had been a stalwart at Fantasy Camp for many years well before his oldest son would take the lead of Green Nation.
Being the future Owner and Director of “The Best Camp in the Northwoods” was the furthest thing from Jason’s mind during the winter of 1997 but “bleeding Green” was his destiny. While he and his folks were visited by other camp directors, it was his Small Fry Basketball Coach, the 6’8” Howard “H” Rothenberg who made the biggest impact on Jason. “H” was also CM’s full-time Assistant Director and successfully wooed Jason to the place the ten year old would acquire some 18 years later.
Following his first season at “The Friendly Confines” in ‘97, when asked by his Mom how he enjoyed his time, Jason replied, “I never want to leave”. Jason was in Cabin 5 during his first summer at Menominee with international counselors Sweden’s Henrik Molmgren and Israel’s Ron Idan. Key staff from overseas would continue to play a vital role in Jason’s camp career including his CIT counselor and good friend Jeff Toombs (Canada). England’s Woody was there in Jason’s first summer as a camper…and his first summer as the Owner staying on as Menominee’s Assistant Director. There was one other person to be there for both of Jason’s firsts: Jason’s good friend Brian Bulgatz who was in Jason’s first cabin in 1997 and also came up to be on staff during 2015.
Jason was especially drawn to the former campers and returning leaders of camp each year. He was lucky enough to have counselors and coaches like Barry Schwartz, Teddy Roth, Peter Ehrlich, Sean Henick and others who helped him understand what it really meant to be a part of the Menominee Family and “bleed green”.
Like camp’s previous Owners/Directors Al Wass, Glenn and Steve, Jason came through the ranks on the Shores of Sand Lake. Seven years as a Camper and CIT were followed by five years as a Counselor including two years as an Associate Director. Among the highlights of his year’s on staff were lots of quality time coaching tennis on the Jim “Buzz” Wyeth Courts with Tennis Pro Lee Libby, being the counselor for the Senor Cabin in 2008 and 2009, and leading numerous teams to victory over other camps over the years including an 11C Softball game where he and co-coach Jeff Toombs played 36 players in a 15-5 win. In 2006 Jason took over as head of softball on the Bob Bender Senior Diamond, again following in the footsteps of Glenn and Steve. It culminated in four 16A victories over the years. However, his greatest athletic accomplishment would have to wait until his second summer as Owner/Director when Menominee won the overall competition with the camp from Minocqua for the first time in eight years 40-25 in “WIN16”!
In 2013, because of his over-arching desire to grow as a camping professional, Jason took a full-time position with Camp Lenox in Massachusetts as their Director of Operations. This was an invaluable experience for both the future Menominee Owner/Director and CM Campers. Jason was able to witness first-hand how one of the finest camps on the East Coast does things. However, it would the Midwest, and specifically the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where Jason would fulfill his dream “to never leave”. In January 2015, Jason purchased his boyhood summer camp, the summer camp of 90 plus memorable seasons for young men from around the world. Under Jason’s leadership, the CM Family continues as strong as ever. For the Love of Camp, Jason has dedicated himself to make sure that now and forever “The Boy you want your son to be comes home From Camp Menominee”.