Camp Walt Whitman Alum Stan Horowitz Reflects on Camp Then and Now
So you had an amazing time at Camp Walt Whitman as a kid, and now it’s time to send your child to sleepaway camp. Should he or she go to the same camp you went to?
To help you decide whether to carry on the tradition in your home, we’ve interviewed three alumni about their experiences. Our last in the series is Stan Hororwitz, who started spending summers at Camp Walt Whitman in 1981, a tradition he continued into the mid-90s as he transitioned from camper to counselor. (That’s him above during his first year, second row and second from the right, waving.)
One particularly memorable summer was his last year as a counselor, 1995, when he invited his then-girlfriend Rachel to join him in New Hampshire to see the camp and meet the friends that were like brothers to him. It became one of the many summers they would spend together: they are now husband and wife.
It also became one of the many summers they would spend visiting their children at Camp Walt Whitman. Once their first child Harris became old enough, having him follow in his father’s footsteps was a given, at least for Stan. His wife, who didn’t grow up going to camp, was less sure.
“She was not a summer camp person, and she certainly had no intention of sending Harris away for seven weeks,” said Stan.
So they compromised and started with Pioneer Camp, Walt Whitman’s one-week option for young, first-time campers. Unfortunately for his mom, Harris loved it as much as dad did.
“I remember picking him up, and he just couldn’t stop talking, he was so excited. He was on pure adrenaline mode, and we’re looking at each other, like, ‘Well, he’s happy, so that’s all that matters!’”
They dipped their toes deeper by sending their son to a short summer session, which sealed it: He was hooked. In fact, after Harris’ first full summer, he was actually a little upset to be home. “Rachel sought me out and said, ‘You didn’t tell me about this part.’” Stan reassured her: “That’s how you know he had an amazing summer! He missed it, he had just had that good a time.”
Their daughter Sarah is attending her first full summer at Camp Walt Whitman this year, too, and time will tell if she experiences the same natural high (and temporary let-down) as her brother.
Ultimately the most important thing is that his kids receive the same gift of lifelong friendship that camp brings. “There was certainly no doubt I was going to make the best effort to have them go, because not only did I have a great experience, it’s still an incredibly important part of my life.” On any given day, he might text about sports with an old camp friend, and when an old bunkmate visits New York, there’s a flurry of group emails to plan a dinner out together. After all these years, the pull of Walt Whitman’s orbit remains strong, and distinct from his children’s experiences. “For me, camp is all around.”