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Ten Mile River: Man on the Moon, Woodstock and the Big Cheese Rebellion of 1969 (Denis Sackett)

The summer of 1969 was one of the most memorable ones in TMR history.  For those of us who were at Ten Mile River that summer, we remember that Monday night in July, when Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon.  

Some Scoutmaster from a troop in Kunatah, where I was a Provisional camper, had a small black & white TV that he hooked up in the dining hall.  There were all sorts of wires and aluminum foil coming out of the set to try and get reception.  We gathered in the Kunatah Mess Hall that night to witness history.  We could hardly hear anything from the set, and the visual was even worse.  But we sat and waited as Uncle Walter Cronkite told us everything we needed to know.

The moment finally came, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the capsule, climbed down the ladder and made that ‘One small step for man…”. We went wild.  President John F Kennedy’s promise to us, to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, that he made in 1961, had come true.  The fact that everyone in that camp felt extra pride because it was an Eagle Scout was priceless. 

Just a few short weeks after Armstrong’s moon walk, another momentous, historical event took place, but not thousands of miles away, right on the borders of our camp as the crow flies….Woodstock!  For weeks we had been hearing about a big concert coming to White Lake.  It had been moved around from one Catskill town to another until some nearby farmer, opened up his acres for the show.  We heard all sorts of rumors of who would be there…Bob Dylan, Sha-Na-Na, The Who, Janis Joplin, Hendrix , maybe the Stones and more.  While not all of these acts showed up, many more did, as the most famous, and possibly most important rock concert of all time took place. 

Many Scouts, Scouters and Staff wanted to get to the show.  I heard that The Grateful Dead and Hendrix (whom I loved) would be there.  I had to go, even if for just a few hours.  The Camp was concerned that trespassers would try to get onto camp property to sleep out, or do un-scout like things on the reservation.  Staffmen were recruited to chain all the access roads and stand guard to turn around any ‘Hippies” trying to defile the camp.  Many of the staff, would then get excited about the concert and go off to see it themselves.  In fact, if you see the Woodstock Movie, you will even see a few glimpses of young men in Scout uniforms, with their long socks and tasseled garters in some of the crowd scenes.

For those back at camp, you were able to hear some of the music echoing thru the hills of Camp Keowa and Rondack.  However, before the moon landing, before Woodstock, there was yet another event that affected TMR and I was right in the middle of it; the CHEESE REBELLION!

As a provisional camper at Kunatah, we cooked all our own meals in our patrol campsites.  There were two provisional troops in Kunatah, Baden Powell & Dan Beard, at the time, each had about 80 boys.  The camp was able to get ‘surplus cheese’ from the Federal government that summer and there was a lot of surplus.

They were sending us bricks of cheese for every meal it seemed.  Being Kunatah was a kosher camp, and you cannot serve cheese with meat, they cut down on a lot of our usual meat meals and increased a lot of the dairy meals.  At first it was okay, but by the third week of camp, we had it up to our eyeballs with cheese.  Being this was the radical 60’s we decided to go on strike and protest the cheese.

The two provisional troops got together (and we never agreed on anything before this) to demonstrate against the cheese.  We made signs, created slogans, planned pin point actions on how to reach the Camp office with synchronized timing.  There we were, dozens and dozens of disgruntled cheese filled Scouts marching on the Kunatah office.  ‘No more cheese, no more cheese’, No cheese, no cheese, please, please, no cheese…”.  

Sarge Wells, the Kunatah Director came charging out of the office with half the staff.  They had never seen a demonstration of Scouts exercising their dietary rights before.  It worked. Sarge promised us to immediately change the menues, that while we still would have cheese, we would make fun with cheese.  Have cooking contest, experimental recipes and more.  The next day we had meat at both lunch and dinner.  My years at camp were very memorable, but no more memorable than 1969 at Kunatah, a year that stands out in history.


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