|June 14, 1934||Solair Recreation League begins with 3 active members, 12 prospects.|
|1935||First location on 35 acre farm, total of 21 paid members and 55 visitors.|
|1936||Second location on 40 acre farm.|
|May 2, 1937||Deed to present location drawn up.|
|Oct, 1952||Laurel Ridge Inc. becomes the corporation name, 30 shares of stock issued.|
|1957||102 Shares of stock issued.|
|1959||Beach enlarged by hand.|
|1963||Sand spread on beach, pond drained and dredged.|
|July 4, 1977||Lightning strikes the "Old Lodge" and burns to ground, later Round House built at site.|
|1985||Round House (Arent Pavilion) erected.|
|1987||First lawn mower race.|
|1995||Heated Outdoor Swimming Pool|
|2002||Community Center complete adjacent to the pool, first Dance held in May.|
|2009||Solar panels installed to heat the pool.|
|2011||New main entrance and gate installed.|
|2012||Pool deck expanded.|
|2013||Handicap access expanded. New well put into service. Solair chapter of Women in Nude Recreation established.|
|2014||Beach reconstructed with significant added sand.|
|2015||Tennis courts resurfaced. Four pickleball courts established.|
Taken from SOLAIRAMA, published by Pat in 1957
The promotion of the Solair Recreation League began on June 14, 1934, with three individuals in active participation and ten or twelve prospects who had been contacted through the I.N.C.A small, but beautiful campsite was located within a week and it was on this where the few outings of the first season were held. This place could have been purchased for only $150, but before sufficient enthusiasm could be raised to produce this amount of cash, the property was purchased by another party, so the group was left to search elsewhere for a playground. The first season, there were only three paid members, but in all, twelve adults and one child attended the outings. The receipts for the first season were $30.00 with expenditures of $20.92.
The following spring, 1935, the group set out early and on July 20, after driving hundreds of miles in search of a camp, they secured a small farm of thirty-five acres. This they leased for the remainder of the season, only as temporary quarters, for it had no satisfactory facilities for bathing. At this camp, the first organization was formed with the election of officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. However, the President lasted but three weeks and then resigned the office and disappeared. The managerial work of the club then fell onto the Secretary and Treasurer. During the 1935 season, the paid membership mounted to twenty-one, but in all the season fifty-five adults visited the camp. The receipts for the season were one hundred eighty-five dollars with expenditures of eighty-seven dollars and nineteen cents.
Again, in the spring of 1936, the search for a camp-site was on and many miles were covered before a place was secured which seemed suited for the purpose. This was a forty-acre corner of a large farm which included a beautiful lake. In some respects, this place was ideal, but in other ways not so desirable, especially in its lack of privacy. It was not a place which could be continued with any degree of certainty. At this camp, the paid membership was raised to twenty-four, but there was a total of sixty-four adults and three children who visited camp that season. The visitors were mostly prospects, but due to unsettled condition as to the camp, the members did not succeed in enlisting many. The receipts for 1936 were one hundred ninety dollars and expenditures were one hundred seventy two dollars and fifty-nine cents.
As spring of 1937 rolled around, the group found itself again without a playground and so decided to make an effort to purchase a permanent camp, if a suitable place could be found. Their efforts were soon rewarded in finding the present camp site. This finding was reported to the group at a meeting in Worcester on April 10, 1937. So impressed were those present with the description given by Mr. Charles Alexander, Treasurer, that a committee was created to proceed with negotiations for the purchase. A survey of the property was made on May 2, 1937, from which a map was drawn and sent to all members of the club and to desirable prospects, along with a circular letter giving full description of the property and its possibilities. The response seemed to warrant going ahead with the purchase. By May 11, when the deed was drawn up, there were sufficient funds in the hands of the treasurer to meet all requirements. Each member and prospect had also received the proposed financing plan and all its details.
At the onset, it was planned to finance the new camp by selling shares and paying dividends. A co-op camp was intended and Solair members were asked to contribute. (On the first land payment of $1,000, $500 was raised and $500 was borrowed.) The place was to be called Laurel Ridge. The people who paid into these early beginnings were called Laurel Ridge Associates, as well as Class A members of Solair. They automatically became owners of Laurel Ridge. Those who did not contribute became tenants of Laurel Ridge and Class B members of Solair.
All newcomers were received as Class B members of Solair Recreation League and were not considered for Class A membership, or Laurel Ridge Associate membership until they had been in camp long enough to be judged congenial and truly interested in the camp. The Laurel Ridge Associates worked long and hard through the years to clear and build up the camp. They gave of their time and money, over and above their annual dues. Laurel Ridge Associates landlords made no personal gains. They loved the place, believed in the movement and wished for other congenial persons to join with them and, in time, to help make a truly co-op camp whereby the tenant and the landlord basis could be dropped as speedily as possible.
In October of 1952, the subscribers certified, “that we do hereby associate ourselves as a body politic and corporate under the statute laws of the State of Connecticut; and that the name of the corporation is LAUREL RIDGE INC.” and with these words, the management of Solair as we know it today, five years later, was born. Who were these people who saw the advancement of Solair under this new arrangement? The incorporators were three men, tried and true – Irvin, Bill (our present director) and Stephan.
The amount of capital stock, authorized, and subscribed for at the outset was thirty shares of Common Stock having a value of fifty dollars each and for all of which there was paid the full amount of sixteen hundred dollars – six hundred in cash and one thousand in property.
The first corps of officers included Al as President; Archie, Vice-President; Lydia, Secretary; Bill S., Treasurer; Jud, Assistant Treasurer; and the members of the first Board to serve the corporation were Al, Bill and Jud.
It is significant to look back on these humble beginnings and to realize that at this year’s (1957) annual meeting, there were one hundred and two shares of capital stock outstanding. In five years, the investment of the eleven original subscribers has more than tripled.
The buying of stock was not compulsory until April, 1960. In 1957 and 1958 Ken W. sold considerable stock to raise money for the installation of electricity in camp. Some members did work for the camp and took their pay in stock. Others bought a share when they wanted a light pole installed to bring electricity to their lot. At a special Stockholders meeting held April 24, 1960, it was voted that every membership couple or single must subscribe to one share of stock. At the same meeting, the By-laws were changed with nine directors now necessary. This was later amended to seven directors as it now stands. May 1, 1960 the corporation became a non-profit tax-exempt one. In September, 1965, it was voted that each adult member must hold a share of stock. At the 1966 culmannual Stockholders meeting, it was voted to reduce the value of each share from $50 to $10 – the other $40 from each share reverting to camp improvement use as ‘initiation fee.’ $10 for stock and current dues upon joining.
Before this plan was adopted, several times members were assessed yearly sums for specific improvements, as the dredging of the pond, etc. One way or another money has to be raised. So much for business, now on to more interesting, pleasant subjects.
To give you a bit of pre-Solair history of this location, for those who are interested, this whole area and much beyond was once a logging community. Down in the woods beyond are numerous cellar holes where were once the homes of loggers and their families, a schoolhouse also. Our pond, dam and the sluiceway where our waterfall is, are all that remains of the saw mill. The road into camp and the unkept ones that wander off into the woods were once logging roads. I’ve been told that after the Civil War, the Ide family was granted over a thousand acres for logging purposes. The original purchase of this land for the camp was made from a descendant. Sam Ide, and I expect the property the camp has acquired since was also part of this Ide Family grant.
I’d like to relate to you the story of Florence’s first visit to view this area and the first year in camp as she told it to me. It was in the early spring that she and her husband, Willard, accompanied “Charles Alexander” to this place he had located. The road was visible but grown up and MUDDY. They drove in a distance. Florence’s car got deeply mired and Alexander had quite a job getting it out. From that point they walked and came to the remains of the bridge (near the gate). All that was left was one stringer across the spring-high, dark and COLD-looking water. The other stringer and flooring had long ago collapsed into the water. With Alexander holding one hand and Willard the other, she slowly inched her way across the slippery stringer. When they came to where the culvert now divides the pond and lagoon, that bridge was gone so they walked down the side of the lagoon to the dam and crossed over by way of a tree trunk lying across the sluiceway. This was their way of entrance and exit from camp the first year. When they began to stroll around the area where the Lodge now stands, the somewhat level area in back and over to where Al and Rita’s cabin, Mary and Jim’s trailer, etc., are and admire the beauty of the trees and laurel, Florence said, “THIS IS THE PLACE.” As she spoke of the beauty which was enhanced by big snowflakes falling on the firs before they left, several times mentioning the Laurel and how careful they were to preserve it as they built, one got a vivid picture of how much this all meant to her. It was to be the culmination of a dream.
After the group purchased the land, the entrance bridge was built first. Then Capt. Greene, the caretaker, built a small cabin for his use. This still stands as the front portion of John and Laura’s cabin. At first, members came just for the day or slept in their cards but as soon as they could, they built a large tent platform, acquired an Army mess tent and that became the camp dormitory, sleeping twelve to fifteen people. As nearly as I can ascertain, it stood where Mary and Jim’s trailer and the road to Alan and Joyce’s cabin is now. Florence said she went to the Salvation Army and anywhere she could find cots and toted them in her car. She used her own sheets and slips, begged old blankets from family and friends, which she covered with all sorts of material. She remarked that some were funny to look at but they were clean, whole and kept people warm. And so, they slept the first year.
Up at the Lodge area, she hired a man to take out several trees at a cost of $32 and another to build the Community fireplace that still stands in back of the Lodge – Cost $30. I’m not just sure whether this was done the first year or after the Lodge was built, but it was in the early days.
So much for business and the physical aspects of the camp – let us turn to People. Without the people it wouldn’t amount to much. I’ll try to give you a brief story about our long-standing members and a few interesting things that have happened here.
Florence joined Solair at one of the earlier camps. She is still with us as an honorary member. Only the members who have been here for some years know her as she has not attended for some time. When I visited her at her home, I tried to persuade her to come for the 30th year party, but she thought her health was such that she could neither stand it or enjoy it. She is eighty-four years old, so it is understandable, but I was disappointed.
Al J. told me he, too, joined in 1936, but there is little record of him in the years prior to 1946. From 1942 to 1946, the war years, the camp was dormant. Al and his son were in Maine. Alexander and Capt. Greene and others had moved away, too. Some members began to write to Al, asking him to come back to camp and open it, I suppose as caretaker or manager or maybe just an interested member. I forgot to ask. But, anyway, from then on he seemed to be the one who took the active interest in the camp welfare. Some time after then his name was put on the deeds, which had always been in Florence’s name, and remained so until the camp incorporated and they were put in the name of Laurel Ridge, Inc.
Orrell is not a member here now and is still a nudist also, he is the earliest to attend a camp of any of the early group. For that reason I am telling you about him. He first went to a camp in New York in 1932 and joined Solair in one of the early years. It was he who took Florence and Willard to the camp in 1936. He stayed with Solair until two or three years ago when he joined Hampton Pond. Orrell told me of two incidents of interest in two early camps. At one, a single man on a trial visit, tossed a match after lighting a cigarette. It landed on dry grass and away the blaze spread. They barely had time to get to their cars where their clothes were. Needless to say, that ended outings in that location. Another time a group, not Solair, had rented a spot at a pond on the Connecticut – Rhode Island border and were enjoying themselves when in strolled a Rhode Island State Policeman. They were on the Connecticut side, cars in Rhode Island. He hauled them all into court, they were able to square themselves but it scared most so they wouldn’t go back. That ended that group.
These three are the only ones of the early group as far as we know. After the camp reopened in ’46, a few new members began to join. Al thought there were about 20 or 22 at first. Bill and Thora S. joined in ’49. Bill has always been active, serving as Treasurer and President. He has also been the builder of many cabins and buildings. It was through Bill that the camp gained its “Four Generation Family.” After Thora died and before he married Louise, he brought her into camp. When she returned home, she said, “Where do you think I’ve been today?” and told her family. To make a long story short, she joined in 1956. Her brother Bob and Ella, also Bob and Louise’s parents. Robert and Alice joined in ’57. In ’58 Bob and Ella’s daughter, Jan and Richie became members and their children as they arrived. So, we have the four generations.
Lucy and Willard are another pair of ‘40ers. Willard served as President and until recent years, was active here. Now they spend more time at camps in Florida in the winter. During the growing season, they are busy with gardens and fruit trees, so seldom get out here. Their cabin, built in 1950, has recently been sold to Bob and Irene.
Ann (Chaplain Bill) has been a long time member, joining as a child in 1947. Bill came in 1954. In between, during the summer season, he was at Sunny Rest as Chaplain and in a children’s camp in connection with that camp. He and Ann were married in ’59 and in the next year they brought the children’s camp here, but in time that petered out. At this time I am going to insert a story about Solair Chapel that should have been in before but I didn’t get the data in time.
Since Chaplain Bill has been here he has conducted services on Sundays during the summer months – sometimes in the Canteen, later in the open where the Chapel now stands. He had been offered a site at the other end of camp but walking on rough paths was difficult for some members so the Directors at that time offered the present site. Four or five years ago a platform was given, another purchased by the Directors and set up. These were painted by voluntary help to preserve them. At first services were held on them in the open air. Later a large Army wall storage tent was erected on the platform so services could be held regardless of inclement weather. Several pews that had been used in a church rebuilding program were added next.
During this time offerings had been accumulating and along with some special gifts, it made it possible to start the Chapel building. Bill is doing most of the work. He had had help – one member strengthening the roof and putting on the roof shingles, another wiring the building and donating the lights. There have been innumerable gifts of money, materials and furnishings, the last being a Magnus Chord Organ. Perhaps the dearest to our hearts is the Terry B. Memorial alter and Panel, fashioned by the loving hands of Bill in memory of one of our teenagers who left this life while visiting camp last summer. Another gift is to become a part of this memorial soon.
This building is incomplete, maybe not beautiful but the part it is playing in the life of the camp is important. We have had our first memorial service there. We have had our first wedding there when Marge and Vic were reunited, both happening in 1966. These were both heartwarming experiences but the weekly attendance, the desire to give, to help, to serve are the most heartwarming of all and the most important.
According to a membership list brought to me by Ann, kept by her mother, Lydia, when she was secretary in 1950, dot and Irv, also Frank and Peggy were members then, maybe earlier. My records don’t show the dates of their joining. At least we know they have been with us for seventeen years, quite a stretch.
Archie joined in 1952. He is a quiet, single, not here often until he retired in ’66. Then as he was about more people began to ask him if he were a new member, much to his amusement.Stephan K., also quiet, and only a Sunday visitor is an old-timer, having joined in 1951. He was one of the three incorporators when we became Laurel Ridge, Inc. instead of Associates.
Ann and Leonard have been members since 1953, Len serving as Treasurer for several years. Ann prepared and served meals at the Lodge and later at the Canteen. Leonard furnished me with a list of members belonging at that time, 43 in all.
Red and Doris joined the next year, ’54. They are the only ones joining that year who are still with us.
After that there are quite a group having belonged as follows:
8 – for 11 years 18 – for 8 years
16 – for 10 years 16 – for 7 years
9 – for 9 years 18 – for 6 years
You can see from this that while we have a coming and going of members, we keep many familiar faces with us and some of those who have been with us up to five years will, in all probability, become “Old Timers.”
This is my story. It is not professional. I never professed to be a writer, nor am I a typist. My only idea was to give interested people a picture of what has gone into making Solair what it is today and maybe entertain you a bit. May it stand as a testimonial to the hundreds of people who with their money, work, and pleasant ways have made this the happy place we all love.
When the group first came in 1937 and for several years after the beach area was marsh – sedge grass and bogs, bushes and trees to the water’s edge and beyond. In 1938 a bridge was built between the pond and lagoon with a little dock for boarding a boat. The timid people did their bathing by standing on the dock and sprinkling each other with a watering can. A few hardy ones dunked down into the water but the pond was too full of leeches and snakes for the tastes of most. So bathing was not an important part of life at camp for some time. During the period before a small area had been cleared to the pond, Al had cleared out the brook below the point where the little Red house (now Brown) of Fox Hollow Lane now stands. He carried in sand in a wheelbarrow and made a bathing area for the children.
Florence gave Al J. credit for most of the clearing of the beach, pulling out the sedge grass first. Al told me how he gradually made a path in back of the marsh and bushes to a spot near where the dock is now where they could approach the water over a board. He made the path by stopping at San Souci’s sand pit each time he came into camp, filling his pick-up truck and backing in to dump and spread the sand. After each trip he could back farther until he had a path to a little cleared area. That was the beginning of swimming. Then he, with help from members, began cutting trees and uprooting brush, enlarging the open area. In a letter from Willard (Lucy) he speaks of many weekends of working on the beach in such a manner. Al told of several ways they tried to get rid of the mud and muck at different times. Once it was trying to use a hand scoop, attaching it to his tractor pulling it on to the shore. Afterwards they had to carry the muck away as it smelled so. UGH! Another reference in Doris’ diary, Sept. 1959, tells of Dick, Scotty and Al enlarging the beach and carrying away the muck. Maybe this was the same time Al referred to, maybe a continuation.
Each time after clearing on shore or in the water, there were the trips to the sand bank for sand to fill with. So over the years, the sunning and swimming area was enlarged – all by hard, manual and often unpleasant work. Finally, in late 1956, machinery was brought in to dig a hole twenty feel around and ten feet deep so one could dive from the float without striking bottom. At the time the beach was considerably enlarged. Al stayed here to superintend the job until completion, Dec. 8, 1956.
In 1960 a culvert was put in with one outlet pipe, this being closed to raise the level of the pond. At the same time quite a bit of work was done in repairing the dam. Up to this time two bridges had been built, the first was washed away over into the lagoon or brook as I believe it was then.
In 1963, during the fall, machinery was brought in to take out that culvert, the pond was completely drained, the road bed dug down and two larger pipes put in, one over the other. In the spring, before the pond was filled again, the beach area was dredged from the culvert way around a bend, sixty feet out and eight to ten feet deep. Sand was spread along the shore and the lower pipe covered to let the spring rains fill the pond. The dam was also extensively repaired at this time. The height of the pond is now controlled by boards in the sluiceway. Many loads of white sand were spread on the beach. The next year the pond was lowered some and plastic was spread along the shore from the water level out and covered with sand to keep the oozy, clay soil of the pond bottom from working up through the sand. All these efforts over many years have changed a marshy pond to a pleasant beach and sunning area.
After Al J. got the beach cleared somewhat, he began to work back clearing the new recreational area and parking lot. This was the same story of cleaning out brush, felling trees and removing stumps, large boulders, etc., filling holes and then smoothing some parts at first by dragging an old bed spring around. He had help, but the bulk of the work was done by Al J. with crowbar, shovel and wheelbarrow, the same process as was used for the early developed roads. In 1956 a contractor was hired to bring in much fill for the parking lot – which made Pat in her Solairama remark about “the new look in the parking lot.” Thereby hangs the tale of the camp gaining new members – not right away, though. Norman (Bernice) was the driver of a truck hauling fill and he “fell” for the camp. He really FELL – not only in love with the place – also into the drink, truck and all! He was crossing the bridge between the pond and lagoon and over he, in his truck, went into the water on the lagoon side. Fortunately, there wasn’t as much water there as there is now. It was some years later before he persuaded Bernice to come to camp.
This section of camp has seen many changes since the first clearing started: the canteen, then the steambath in ’62, the teenage building in ’65, Bill L. spent one whole summer chipping out rock to make the drive from one level to the other near the steambath, more and more fill, etc. Now in ’67, we are enlarging the area for a new volleyball court, putting in shuffle board courts and other recreations. It is a story of constant change and improvement.
As with the parking – recreational area, so with the roads. At first a road to the lodge and adjoining area was enough, but after World War II, when the camp was re-opened after being inactive for about four years, there began to be a spreading out. The first few buildings except for Capt. Green’s and the Lodge which were pre-war, were built in the immediate area. The ones now owned by Al and Rita, Len and Ann, and Arnold and Vera are of early post-war vintage, also Al J’s. that one was the first individually owned, built by Florence’s son for a man named Atwood, later owned by Ann’s (Chaplain Bill) parents, then by Al. At about the same time Roger, then President of the club, built Al and Rita’s on a Tent Platform brought over from about where George and Mary’s cabin now is. Later Roger let it fall in disrepair and Al J. fixed it up for a camp rental. The other two were built for the camp and were rented also. Some time along the “Duplex” was built for rental by the camp, also. Then in ’50 Willard and Lucy started their cabin and in ’52 Bill S. built his. This started a scattering and also improvements of roads by the hand method mentioned before. Where there was a continual wet spot, flat rocks were laid in and covered with fill, and always the process of filling pot holes. In ’56, when Fernglades closed, we had a sudden influx of about thirty members from there that led to more sites and more roads. Also, according to Red, at that time he was building and talking and persuading others as to the joy of having a cabin. So in the fall of ’57 and ’58 having run out of sites on this level, trees were cut and a road bull-dozed out on the lower level, now called Fox Hollow Drive. Bob and Ella were the first to take residence there in their trailer now used by their daughter, Jan and family. Again in ’63 roads were cut through Whippoorwill Drive, etc. The cabins and tenting sites keep increasing, soon it will mean more cutting of trees and bull-dozing of roads to open more sites.
In ’59 four of the early cabins that were camp-owned were sold to individuals. In’57 the split-level with four small rooms had been built for weekend rentals. After acquiring and converting Eddie (Ivah’s) cabin and steambath building, the camp made both the duplex and split-level into seasonal rentals. At the present time the camp-owned buildings are: the Lodge, Canteen, steambath, Teenage Pavilion, two tool sheds, the Duplex, Split level and two Motel buildings and four toilet buildings. Oh, yes, I must add, two out-buildings for emergencies!!
The steambath idea was first brought into camp when Eddie (Ivah) opened one on the hill in May, 1958 – to which he later added the Dressing room. It was heated by a stove, serviced from the inside, with a tank of boiling water to make more steam. That meant, in the winter when it had its greatest use, bringing in several five gallon cans of water to fill the tank and provide water to douse the hot seats and the people, a popular practice. It was only the pranksters who ran to the pond or rolled in the snow. It was fun to watch them when they got going. At first Eddie was allowed to charge a small fee of which the camp had a percentage, but that practice was discontinued when it was learned that by charging, it left him liable for State inspections. Donations were then in order. In 1960 there began to be suggestions from some to have a camp-owned steambath near the beach. With that in mind, donations were asked for, camp help was enlisted and in 1962, in November, in time for the winter season, our present one was completed. The steambath and shower part was of plain cement construction and that winter it was discovered that blocks that stood in the cold all week did not readily heat up for the weekend. So the next fall insulation and siding were put on the inside of the steamroom and all went well until one wintry Sunday night after most had gone home, fire was discovered between the rafters, etc. Extensive damage was done, but before spring, all had been repaired, this time with fire-proof materials. The shower room had also been tiled and looked so nice. We thought we were all set but we hadn’t counted on the steambath becoming so popular during the summer months and the whole place getting such extensive use. Today it is far from attractive – it can’t stand up to the use and abuse it gets.
I nearly forgot to tell the story of the Teenage Pavilion. In 1965 we had a large active group who liked to get together, play their kind of noisy music, and dance. That didn’t set well with some of the older people who wanted to play cards and talk, the Canteen being the only center for both. So the young folks go together and raised the money by having games of chance during social times, bake sales, etc. They had a few money gifts by way of encouragement and help from parents and friends in the actual building. They also had gifts of lights, benches and tables and a record player but they maintain their own building, make their own rules and showing themselves as responsible members and an asset to the camp in helping around on various jobs. This year they have planted two Rhododendron bushes near their Pavilion in memory of their lost friend, Terry.
To carry on where Rachel left off, I’ll go back a little. In the late 50’s – early 60’s, while Leonard of Ann was treasurer, he used to check all the number plates on the cars to make sure all had registered in his office. Another thing that happened in those days was people used to cover their number plates so no one knew where they were from. In those days nudism was hush hush!
While Al Jones was still in charge of this camp, everyone adults and children – had to be in their tents or cabins by 11 p.m. with curtains drawn. He also would not allow anyone to have a clothesline, and he would not permit the wild cutting down of trees.
As Rachel mentioned about the two barrels on the roof of the Canteen for use, there was a hose that came from the roof that the water ran through into a lattice-work shower stall with two nozzles, barely big enough for two people to stand in. It was located near where the children’s Jungle gym is today. Then a few years later the showers were installed in the building with the sauna in back of the Canteen.
One couple who were not mentioned earlier, but joined in 1955, were Dave and Mary and their 3 little blonde daughters. The girls grew up here in the summers and now in ’87 have come back with their children to visit. Mary and Dave are the couple who have been members of the camp the longest. Herbie is next. He joined in 1952. From there on people began coming and joining more and more.
Preacher Bill (Chaplain), who also joined in 1954, held Sunday services in the hand-built chapel for those who wished to attend. It was nondenominational. Preacher Bill also had a comical side to him and during the late 60’s – 70’s he’d do a skit in our talent shows of a “Lady Taking a Bath.” It was hilarious.
In the 50’s, when the pond was drained, all the trees and roots in it were dragged out by a “human chain” of men.
In 1956 the lagoon was drained and Herbie and Al Jones and other members put rocks along the sides to keep the banks from washing away, and a plank was put across smaller banks towards our waterfall to help control the depth of the water in the pond.
Between the ‘50’s – 60’s “before civilization grew” at Solair, nature was a sight to behold. We all saw animals of many varieties. Raccoons roaming freely at night for food (still do) and tipping over garbage cans. Deer drinking from the pond by moonlight, wildcats screeching in the woods, red and silver foxes (barking like dogs, only not as loud) at night, as well as an old all-white skunk and a Johnny skunk leaving their perfume around camp, reminding us we were invading their territory.
One experience some of us will remember about a raccoon was the time Carroll S. found a coon that had been injured. Carroll made a cage for it and nursed it back to health and then let it go. The raccoon had only one eye.
As we have been growing, people have come and gone. Mostly they came and stayed for quite a few years. Then because of job changes or family problems some leave.
We have made many changes – improvements in the camp over the years. In 1960 the teen club was formed. They called themselves “Neetagers,” using the letters in teenagers. Edie became the Teen Advisor from 1960 – 1975. During that time there were 20 teens. One rule out of 15 they kept was no one under 12-3/4 years of age could enter the teen pavilion. That was strictly for teens. They had earned enough money to build the pavilion by having cake sales, game day with a kissing booth, and they sure enjoyed it. One of the initiation things the new teen members had to do on one Sunday every summer was take part in the Teen Service. The Chapel was always overflowing on that Sunday. They also had their own dances, games, and even served afternoon tea to their parents. That was the only time parents were allowed in their club house other than Edie and Art, and once in a while Captain Ed of Doris. He was the one who would take them water skiing at Webster Lake. Half went on a Saturday afternoon, the other half on Sunday, with a couple of parents going along. The teens helped to do things about the camp when asked. They also went once a year to dinner and miniature golf – using their own money. They earned enough money so that they had $500 in their camp bank account by 1974. – The older group went by themselves to the Woodstock Fair each year, and the younger ones went with whomever had a couple of station wagons for them to pile into.
One of the Church Services they did, Edie had the 5-12 year old youngsters take part. They learned “Jesus Loves Me,” and after everyone was seated, they marched in singing it. All they wore around their shoulders was a medium size white towel with a navy blue bow. It was very impressive and adorable. One of the Sermons the teens did, Preacher Bill taped and used it at the school where he taught.
When Edie retired as Teen Advisor, after 15 years, they surprised her with a party. They had for her a large cake with a little rocking chair on it, and a beautiful plaque which says on-it:
EDITH – TEEN MOTHER – 1960 – 1975
TO ONE WHO GAVE SO MUCH AND ASKED SO LITTLE
OUR LOVE AND RESPECT
TEENS OF SOLAIR
This is something I will always cherish. The teens dwindled down after that with parents moving away, just leaving camp, or the teens not wanting to come any more. We’ve had different advisors since then doing a good job with the teens. We have about 6 or 7 teens now, but with the growth of family into the camp again the younger generations of children should bring – the number of teens up once more in the next few years. The teens, mostly the boys, nude, used to go up to the sand pit, and jump from the top of it, where Dan and Isabel’s trailer is, down into the rough sand and roll the rest of the way down. Great Fun!
Another thing that happened many years in a row – once every summer – at a back edge of camp (Laurel Ridge, Inc. property) the Enduro motorcycle race went through. Well, some of the teens and some adults would go and rearrange the trail, then they’d hide in the trees or bushes and when the cyclist would see the nude bodies jump out at them they’d wipe out. No one was ever hurt, but a photographer for a motorcycle magazine caught one picture and it was printed in the magazine. You could pick out 2 or 3 of our teens and a couple of the adults. Needless to say, the following year there were a lot more bike riders in the race.
In the early 60’s there were wooden flat wide benches built for people to sun themselves on. Then we all gave $5.00 per person and bought some nice sand for the beach.
As the camp grew, it was great to see the change from one light in the small canteen and a few kerosene lanterns along the main road to electricity all over the camp, plus pumping water from the well by the canteen. When you became a member after that and received your camp site, you had to buy an electric light pole at $45 (now it’s over $300), so you’d have electric power on your site.
From the 60’s on there were many bonfires, cook-outs, sing-a-long and marshmallow roasts on the left side of the beach, near where the jungle gym now stands. We also had many pot luck suppers.
Carroll S. used to paint cute animals on the tiny tots’ backs with washable paints. They would then parade around afterwards and each child received a prize of a tootsie pop or candy bar.
Then there were the mud baths, the children, mostly teens, would cover themselves with the mud clay from the bottom of the pond. They would let it dry on them and parade around like zombies.
From the 60’s – 80’s we had snoopers at different times. They’d be sitting on top of our big rock, or sneaking in by the road. A bunch of teen snoopers were caught and the directors threatened to undress them all and make them stay. They were really scared and swore they’d never come back and they didn’t. Others were seen on the rock and someone yelled “Snoopers on the rock!.” Our gun club responded and one shot was fired into the sky. Needless to say the snoopers never came back.
There is a small airport nearby and every so often we’d have a plane fly low over camp, so low you could see the people in it, so we just waved and it went away.
We have had many delicious dinners over the years put on by our different members. They all have been great and the entertainment very interesting. This is what makes our camp, all the volunteer help and ideas. It’s great.
One of those impressive dinners was Len and Jan’s Hawaiian Luau with the catamaran coming across the lake in the dark with its Tiki lamps lit on it as well as the Hawaiian music, and dry ice making the fog coming across. The men in their Hawaiian shirts and the ladies in grass skirts and leis running to the shore to help them bring the food onto the beach which was in coolers on the catamaran. A real good time was had by all.
During the 70’s we started having Talent Shows every year, as well as the skit Carroll nd Margie used to do called “Mabel and Harry’s first day at a nudist camp.” They were Great.Margie S. emceed the talent shows for about 6 years, then when Margie stopped coming to camp, Edie did them for 10 years. They lasted about 1-1/2 hours. They were a lot of work, but so much fun for everyone in and out of them.
Margie was also a comedian, a song writer, and played the accordion fantastically. Bob Supernon and son Bobby had a bank and played some of the music for the shows, as well as for dances held in the canteen.As time went on, many beautiful cabins have been built in camp. The oldest one is Frank and Fuzy’s (now owned by Hug). It’s by the parking lot, near the tennis court. It has the colored lights on it at night.Back to nature again, around the camp you can see many wild flowers, lady slippers, and plenty of Laurel, as well as blueberry bushes and raspberry bushes, plus all the beautiful trees and shrubs and birds.
There is always an election time in September each year with healthy competition for different directors and plenty of rumors pro and con, but after the election is over everyone accepts the outcome and everyone settles down and the camp works together again. We also have camp managers as well as the seven directors. We have many committees. There is the Finance Committee, the Recreation Committee, the Membership Committee, the Tennis Club, the Beautification Committee, the Long Range Planning Committee, the Construction and Maintenance Committee, and maybe a few more I can’t think of. We also have a gun club.
The Lodge, in which Hazel and Alfred lived before moving to California, was struck by lightning in 1977 and burnt to the ground. It also used to house the little camp library in the back, and it was run by Ann of Preacher Bill. The Lodge stood just about where the new round building is today. The chapel was situated – further back.
In the 70’s the tots’ building was built. For the conventions it was turned into a refreshment stand for the camp, then in the late 80’s it was turned back to the tots. It’s located near the tennis court.
In 1979 we had the ESA Convention and in 1982 the ASA Convention. We had about 1,000 people attend these, and both conventions were handled very well. The members worked very hard before, during, and after the conventions. Cooperation was great. Again thanks to all who pitched in and helped so much.
One entertainment was nude sky divers floating down and landing on our raft. There were both men and women. A helicopter landed on the water near Dave and Mary’s. Another was John of Pauline firing his small cannon on the beach.In the late 70’s a solarium was built on the beach mostly for winter sunny days. Also, in the winter they used to plow the snow off the ice with a piece of plywood attached to an Austin Mini Minor Car. Leicester of Nancy and others used to use the sauna – then break the ice in the pond and jump in. BRR!
Another thing Leicester would do was wake up in the morning and give a couple of good Tarzan yells and wake up the late sleepers.Frank of Fuzy had a Tarzan call, train whistle, siren, and a voga horn on their car, so everyone knew when they arrived or left camp. Blueberries were a delicacy in those days. The children would pick enough, take them to Doris of Red, who would bake blueberry muffins for the children. These beat Betty Crocker by a long shot.
Red of Doris gave all the children on the beach Saturday and Sunday a tootsie pop. He’d come to the beach with a big bucket full of pops. In no time he looked like the pied piper walking around.Adults used to row across the lake and look for blueberries. They’d stand in the boating holding onto a branch while balancing themselves and while trying to pick the berries would get a good sunburn.
As time has gone by, more cabins have been built. More roads made. We first had the lower road called Fox Hollow Drive. We now have the lower, lower road called Pine Needle Creek Road, as well as Beaver Lane, where most of the large trailers are. These were mostly all updated in 1987-88, so now it’s called “Beaver Estates.”
In 1984 the pond was drained once again and a new culvert was put in under the supervision of Norman of Flo.
The biggest project that was started in 1985 has been the round building, the Arent Pavilion. It is beautiful with its new coat of juniper blue paint and white trim (1988) and it has in it on the first floor, bathrooms, showers, electric sauna, dressing room, and hot tub. Upstairs there is a large recreation hall and more bathrooms. It has added a lot to our camp. Milan of Erna was the “Super in charge” while the building was being built. The building was Milan’s idea. They have had many functions upstairs in the building such as game nights and dances, and socials. Square dancing was part of our fun way back when Bob Shield’s Dad was the caller. Now we have it again with Barbara and Howard doing the calling.
In 1987 lawn mowing races began with Ed of Billie in charge. They have many different style mowers to use. Some real old.During the early pioneering days we had an embarrassing incident which can now be told since so much time has passed.We had been challenged by a large nudist lawn mowing racing club and in our enthusiasm forgot to pick up gas for our racing mower. We found an old mower in what we thought was a trash pile, and it had plenty of gas, so we “borrowed” some. To our surprise – that mower was their racer, and we had to tell them we had depleted their tank. To keep from being arrested – thrown out, etc., we had to agree to cleaning up and tuning their mower before the race. Although their racer was now in excellent shape, their team wasn’t and we easily defeated them.We have never been defeated. We are the undisputed champions and because of our sparkling performance, have been unchallenged for the last two years. We enjoy racing among ourselves and keep in tip-top condition.
On June 18, 1988, a doe – female deer – swam across the pond from the rock, stood by Billy and MaryAnn’s car for a few minutes before she took off. Then on June 21st, 1988, a scarlet tanager landed on the beach about two yards from where we were sitting, stayed for a while, then flew off. About 3 weeks before that, some members saw a wild cat sitting up on the big rock at dusk. This spring we’ve had 2 sets of Canada Geese. Each set had 4 goslings. They stayed until the little ones’ wings were strong enough to fly away. Once again we are seeing wild life around here. Now one set of the geese are back.
Since June we’ve had a barbecue, square dance, pot lucks, Tennis Tournament, Volley Ball, President’s Bavarian dinner with German Band, old camp movies, young kids’ camp-out on beach, parades, Mexican dinner by the teens and their parents, hay ride, Christmas in July, Carribean Festival with a steel band and Hungarian dinner plus Las Vegas Night, New England boiled dinner, prime rib dinner and entertainment, the talent show, and some dances. We will probably have a few more good dinners by our members. So you see, everyone has something to do, thanks to our entertainment director and her committee.
Through the years, Volley Ball was the big thing at Solair, now Tennis is the big thing. Volley Ball is still played, but not in competition with other camps as yet. Many, many trophies were won by our Solair Volley Ball Travel Team over the years. Tennis is real great here now and the court is busy most every day. This brings the history of Solair up to date as of the year 1988.
Now to continue our history from 1988 on…
The Saturday night of Labor Day weekend 1988, we had a delicious dinner of Prime Rib and all the fixings, topped off with apple pie ala mode. Afterwards there was an eight piece band for dancing, then at 11:00 p.m. we had a fireworks spectacular for about 15 minutes. The dinner and dance were held inside a very large circus tent. This all was set up and done by Ron and Jackie and their committee.
On Sunday we had our annual meeting, which only lasted 2 hours. Real short!! This was also held inside the tent due to the rain. After the meeting, Mildred and Walter had their open house in the big tent.An item I came across the other day, which I thought would be of some interest, was while talking to Susan Morissette, she said that the Articles of Incorporation for Solair in 1953 were done by her Uncle, Raymond T. Wheaton, Jr. Susan has been a full member here for two years.
One more thing about the bulletin board, I hope you all have noticed the stalls in back of it built as a place where the children can park their bicycles.With Bob Fagerquist as official camp photographer and Edie as camp historian, we have been working together getting pictures and film – the old and the new.
In October, 1988, Bob put all the cabins, buildings, and trailers in camp on film. Arthur and I went over them, and wrote down whom each one belonged to. There are a total of 123 now in the camp in 1988.
On October 8th, 1988, there was a Halloween party with a DJ held in the Arent Pavilion. About 40 attended. On October 22nd was the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Both of these programs were enjoyed by all that attended. This dinner closed the year for dinners.
We had a moderate growth of membership in 1989.
Roger and Herbie and many other workers put many hours on finishing the new gate during the summer of 1989.The town and state board of health permitted members to install holding tanks and other seasonal septic systems. A glider and some beach chairs were donated by Billy and Maryann.
We had a volley ball Tournament in September as well as tennis and horse shoes.
At our annual meeting, Tom Bosselait was elected President. Bob Browning, our President for the past two years, decided not to run. Welcome Tom.
Plans for the expansion of the Canteen are in progress. Solair Associates were offered a winter package for $75.00 per person or couple. This allowed them to come from October through March 1st.There were many dinners and entertainment during this summer (1989). In October we had our annual Thanksgiving dinner by Fred and also the Halloween party.
This was Rich and Bobbie’s first year as camp managers. The Arent Pavilion was completed in 1989. Charlie F. built a new and beautiful raft for the pond. The camp also purchased a computer for the office, a new truck and sander, and a new well was put in at the new office location. In 1990 things were going good once again. There were sleep-overs, pot luck dinners, other dinners, dances, auctions, etc.
The camp was a winter wonderland in January. February was the Be My Valentine weekend, and in March was a St. Patrick’s party. In April the survey of out boundaries was on its way to being completed. April is the month we have the beautification weekend. Everyone that is in camp helps clean it up after the winter months.
The beach was on its way to becoming a bigger and more beautiful area.
Some of the activities this year were, kids planting flowers, ice cream eating contest, President and Past President’s dinner, pot luck, bingo on the beach, cribbage tournament, also nude weekend tennis tournament, sand castle building, hayrides and square dancing, kids camping out on the beach, then our annual carnival for everyone. Paint T-shirts, treasure hunt, many nice dinners, dances, and a wine and cheese party.
One important item we all were asked to do was as follows:
Put can and bottles (soda) with 5 cent on them in a container by the canteen. Put glass jars and bottles (sorted by color) in containers near the dumpster. Mild and water plastic jugs in another container, cardboard (corrugated only) put into a box in the shed, also newspapers. Cans have to have labels taken off and be clean with tops removed.
Camp is growing in 1990. We have 219 full members and 97 associates.
We also have a nice library in back of the office with books for all ages. It’s an on your honor library. You take a book and when you are finished, you bring it back. More books are always welcome. This library was started by Millie and Roz, and they are the ones who keep it in order.
In 1991 we started our fund raising for a new canteen and assembly building. There was an auction to start off the fund raising.
The gun club is still going strong. We have had many great dinners with live bands for dancing afterwards. The season ended with Len and Jan’s Viking dinner. The sight of the Viking ship coming across the pond with its dragon head throwing out flames was a sight to behold.
Throughout these years we also have had our annual talent show directed by Edie, with most of our teens and some adults being in it.
This year Bruce and his daughter Lynn are running the canteen on weekends. Up until now, for a few years, Dick and Marlene ran it. Another item we always have is food sales.
The summer of 1991 brought some guidelines for recreational vehicles/golf carts in camp. Such as Insurance, safety equipment, right to operate, and responsibility. There is also a leash law for dogs in camp that should be observed at all times. Every year the flowers around camp are more beautiful. Thanks to the floral committee that plants and takes care of them.
This year has been one of the best years at Solair. Many new sites have been opened. There has been plenty of fun and games, dinners and good entertainment. Our new canteen fund has risen considerably.
Memorial weekend 1992 started off with the Hungarian Goulash by Milan and Erna with a live band and dancing. Then, Sunday, the kids had T-shirt painting and we had a surprise auction.
Horse shoe tournament, volley ball, and tennis tournaments plus a fishing tournament, a food sale, Mexican dinner by Eric and Megan, picnics on the green, carnival, parade, a BBQ, Monte Carlo night, spaghetti party, Junior Fest, Pig Roast by Jack and Gail and Al and Debbie, craft fair, wine and cheese party, Octoberfest, Bobbie and Rich’s party, Thanksgiving dinner, and Halloween party were all events of this year.
This year Laurel Ridge was granted a $5000 interest free loan by ASA to be used for the construction of the Fox Hollow bathroom block. This grant is referred to as the Glen Miller Fund (not to be confused with the band leader).
The Master Plan Committee has been working, as usual, to develop a plan for the future growth and expansion of Laurel Ridge.
Emergency Buttons were placed in the following locations. Above the couch on the first floor in the Arent Pavilion. Push 3 times. On the beach – across the road on side of building #112. If fire department or ambulance is needed the pay phone on the 1st floor of the pavilion is toll free for 911. Emergency first aid supplies are available in the dressing room of the pavilion and in the camp office. Life hook, ring and a torpedo buoy are on a large pine tree on the beach. Fire extinguishers are in all camp buildings. Each site owner is required to have a hose attached to the camp water supply located in full view on each site.
For those that don’t know, it is great having our own actors here at camp. Lolly and Randy. Randy was in the play “The Foreigner” and was excellent and very funny.
Each year, Caroll puts on his show which is enjoyed by young and old alike.
Zo and Chris, two of our teens, went to the Superbowl for Volleyball at White Thorn, and enjoyed the friendly camp.
For the past two years we have had an annual craft fair. Everyone who wants a table pays $15.00. This money goes into the building fund. Each year the craft fair has grown. It’s a fun time.
At the annual meeting, it was voted to release new sites for an impact fee of $1000 to offset the future cost of new roads and toilet blocks. Also at this meeting, members voted to borrow up to $500,000 for 15 years to complete the projects proposed by the Master Plan Committee for a new canteen, swimming pool, tennis courts and volleyball courts.
The year ended with a New Years Eve party and dance by Tom and Judy.
In March of 1993, the Master Plan committee retained the firm of Johnson and Richter (J & R) of Avon, CT. This firm will help us develop and expedite our plans in the best way possible. A final plan could be ready for our Memorial Day informational meeting.
Also in March, there was a Nude Swim at the Hartford YMCA and a St. Paddy’s Day celebration. In April there was the little kids dance and the big kids dance, as well as Easter at Solair, and Bobbie and Rich’s annual open house.
Bruce and Lynn will serve you once again on weekends and holidays starting Saturday April 17th and will close September 26th. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
As usual, there are many activities planned for the summer.
The Solair lawnmower racing association is still going strong with Ed C. as captain.
Memorial weekend started off with a Gourmet pot luck dinner and dancing to the “Country Ramblers.”
This past winter was a real old fashioned one. Snow, snow, snow. Rich and Roger did a great job getting up most of the debris.
During the summer of 1993, the Fox Hollow bathrooms were finished, the new extension of Fox Hollow sites were completed and filled, and work on the sites for overnight campers near the Fox Hollow bathrooms was well underway. Future plans for the complex has progressed with the help of engineers, etc.
The volleyball tournament had a very good turn out as did the tennis tournament. On Sports Day, the Solair Teens won over Dyer Woods in volleyball.
We now have horse shoe pits and a badminton court near the Beaver toilets, thanks to Vern and Martha.
We’ve had pot luck dinners and a few others. Our Bavarian Dinner was a big success. This dinner was put on by Paul and Linda S. In July we had the annual kid’s dinner by Marlene and Dick and a ‘50’s dance. We’ve had a Casino Night, country pig roast by Jack and Gail and Al and Debbie (Luther stayed up all night keeping the fire burning), kids carnival, T-shirt painting and a Halloween party for children and later for adults.
Our annual meeting was held on the first Sunday in September and was preceded on Saturday night by a dinner put on by Erna, Milan, and Fred with a Dixieland band.
Megan of Walter was the aerobic exercise leader for ’93.The auction was a success. It was chaired by Patty and John with Billie C., Jan B., Dick S., and Bill K. helping to supervise it. The whole camp seemed to get into the idea of it. A quilt was put together by Aleta and Edie. 57 families were represented and 99 squares were sewed together to make the quilt. The high bidder was Gordon of Kathy.
The Talent Show was a huge success. Christiana did a great job coating the little kids. Gordon rounded up the adults for it, and Dick of Betty did a fabulous job as M.C. 1994 has begun with different things happening. Our Master Plan Committee has been busy as can be seen by the changes in the scenery about camp. Trees gone, rocks split and the site of the pool building started. The pool building foundation finally was put in in July. The Road into camp has taken quite a curve with a few detour and safety signs along the way.
The tennis courts have been done over and finished. The old volleyball courts have had a new pole and a lot of sand added to it as well as the big rocks removed. We had our annual 4th of July golf cart parade organized by M. J. and Leo. Each cart was decorated in red, white, and blue. The parade was led by Caroll S’s real old fire engine sporting cowgirls and clowns. It was fun and everyone, young and old, had a good time either taking part or just watching the parade.
The water fall beyond the pavilion is being restored and looks real nice already. When finished, the water fall project will have a memorial garden for those members who are no longer here and are in the big nudist camp in heaven. August 3rd – 7th is our 60th anniversary party. Many interesting things are planned for those days. Our Solair Sunletter has kept everyone up to date on all the activities.
This winter was one of the heaviest snow falls we have ever had. The good side was the fun skiing, the Solair Luge, the Bat Sled, skating, etc. The ones who came into camp during the winter for different functions enjoyed it very much.
See you around the Camp,