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What Summer Camps Looked Like in the 1950s and 1960s

Camp Kveller

Camp Kveller is back! The third photo essay in our summer camp nostalgia series is here. First, we took you back in time to the early twentieth century, when bunks were just tents, and then we saw photos from the 1930s and 1940s. And now, we turn to the 1950s and 1960s.

Midcentury America was a big time for Jewish camps. As Riv-Ellen Prell wrote in Jewish Summer Camping and Civil Rights, at the end of World War II, “a new type of educational camping, denominational camps, developed that was closely linked to larger structural changes in American Jewish life. The Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative movements sought to bring children into year-round Jewish education and experience through their summer camps.”

Even though there was a shift to focus on Jewish identity and education, camp still remained camp. There’s dancing, canoeing, swimming in the lake, and even — yikes! — young boys learning  to shoot guns.

Enjoy the retro photos, below!

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Girls Caneoing, Trails End Camp, midcentury

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Dining hall, Surprise Lake Camp, 1950s

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Swimming session at Buddy Ring Board, Center Day Camp, 1950 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Camps Airy & Louise, midcentury

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Paddling on dock, Trails End Camp, midcentury

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Camp Modin, 1950s [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, 1950

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Camps Airy & Louise, midcentury

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Camp Modin, 1950s [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Camp Fire Girls, Camp Hitinowa, 1953 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Eight young girls and their counselor, Center Day Camp, 1953 or 1954 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Group learning, Camp Ramah in California, 1955

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Campers learning Israeli folk dances, Surprise Lake Camp, 1960

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Eight girls with their counselor, Beverly Loeb, Center Day Camp, 1960 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Swimming in the lake, Camp Ramah in the Poconos, early 1960s

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Rifle Range, Camp Chickawah, 1962 [campchickawah.com]

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Canoeing, Center Day Camp, 1968 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Canoeing, Center Day Camp, 1968 [Documenting Maine Jewry]

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Camp Eisner, 1960s

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Camp Eisner, 1960s

Thank you to all the helpful contacts at the various camps: Casey Miller at Trails End Camp, Nancy Scheff of Camp Ramah, Kip Miller at Surprise Lake Camp, Jeff Grant at Camp Chickawah, Jeff Goldscher at Camps Airy & Louise, Louis Bordman and Alison Simpson at Eisner Camp, and Jessica Lantos of Documenting Maine Jewry for their help.

Camp Kveller

Camp Kveller is our series dedicated to all things summer camp.

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