The focus of the Glaeser's affection is Camp Speers-Eljabar, a Y.M.C.A. camp located in Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania just across the Delaware River from northwestern New Jersey that opened in 1948. Mr. Glaeser, 51, is a New Jersey state treasury agent. He provided some historical background about the camp.
"It was opened as the first integrated camp, accepting kids of all nationalities and colors," he said. "Even the Y.M.C.A. was somewhat segregated back then, but this camp was open to everybody from the beginning."
James Speers, one of the co-founders of the camp, was from Westfield, New Jersey, and many of the original campers came from towns near Westfield such as Madison, Clark and Morristown. But Mr. Glaeser remembered that a lot of kids came from Jersey City and Newark to attend one of the two-week summer sessions out of a total of four sessions when he attended and then worked as a counselor at the camp from 1963 to 1972.
His daughter Tara, 20, who is about to be a senior psychology major at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, has gone to Camp Speers-Eljabar for 11 years. She went six years as a camper, and has now worked for five years as a counselor. She noted that the diverse camp population trend has continued over the years.
"There are still a lot of kids that come out of Newark," she said. "A lot of kids come from Morristown. Morristown can be very wealthy, but not everyone who lives there is."
Both Glaesers note that the camp is the beneficiary of a lot of donations and endowments that allows many children who would not be able to afford to go to camp to be able to attend.
Camp activities and attitude
Once campers between the ages of 8 and 16 arrive, they soon dive into the activities that are common to any good summer camp: hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing and arts and crafts, among other activities. According to Tara Glaeser, a lot of the socioeconomic distinctions that mark our society fade away inside the camp's confines.
"When you go to camp, you're you," she said. "You're not judged by how much money your family makes, or what type of clothing you're wearing. People judge you for who you are. In the real world, people judge you for all kinds of things, especially in places like where we come from, which is just outside New York City. At camp, there is no comparison. I don't think I fell into certain traps that badly because I went to camp my entire life. There is no drama at camp."
Tara Glaser notes that her shift from camper to counselor in many ways paralleled the shift from childhood to adulthood.
"It's responsibility," she said. "You know how things are run, and now you are running them. You have to make sure that things are as perfect as it was when you were a camper. If it's not, then those kids are missing out on something that you had. A counselor can be the person that fixes the past ten years of a child's life in the two-week span that they are at camp. Kids come in with issues galore, and sometimes being away from home, they come out."
A father remembers
Arthur Glaeser notes that there are some changes from when he was a camper and counselor at Camp Speers-Eljabar, but not many.
"Camp hasn't changed, and the philosophy hasn't changed," he said, a philosophy that is based on the four core values of the Y.M.C.A.: honesty, respect, responsibility and caring. "The difference may be that kids have more needs today, and kids may expect a little more. Then again, they do a lot more for kids with special needs now. Me, I was just happy going up there for two weeks. Camp taught me a lot about different types of people. When I grew up in Secaucus, the farmers in the south end of town were Polish, the farmers in the north end were German, and the businessmen downtown were Italian. That was Secaucus, no more, no less. I remember watching the moon landing in the summer of '69 on the only little black and white TV we had up at camp, but I felt I was in a different world anyway."
Tara Glaeser is now getting ready to enter the real world with a whole new perspective on it that she got from her time at camp and from experiences that she shared with her father.
"I'm going into my senior year of college," she said. "My roommate in college is my best friend from camp since I was 12 years old. Our parents have seen us grow up through camp. I have friends from camp that I'll have a lifetime, and I have values I'll take with me throughout my life from camp. It's a second home, and it's a place that I can always go back to. No matter where you are in your life, they'll accept you. There's magic in the place."