In the Fall 2013 issue of Machanenu Ramah (click here to read), Director Jacob Cytryn posed some questions about a map of camp drawn by camper Bill Agress in 1963 and Bill shares the great story behind the map.  In response to the newsletter, alumnus Jared Bryan (camper 1962-1965) wrote to us with some of his recollections of camp at that time.

In 1963 I was in Cabin 9 overlooking Cabin 4/5.  In 1962 that 4/5 location on the map was Cabin 5/6, and cabin ¾ was where 3/6 was on the 1963 map.  In 1962 I was in cabin 6, and it was my first year at Ramah. Unfortunately, in 1962 our cabin 5/6 burned to the ground shortly after Visitors’ Day.  So, in 1963 cabin 4/5 would have been a brand new building.  I really don’t know why the change was made to have cabins 4/5 in the new building and to move 6 to the other side of camp, but perhaps there was a 1963 cabin 6 camper or two who witnessed the fire in 1962, and it was decided to move their cabin to another location for 1963 while the traumatic memories of the fire were still so fresh in a young child’s mind.

For me, over 50 years later, I still vividly remember returning from softball practice with only the clothes on my back and my prized ball glove in hand to see my JC tossing a bucket of water on a fire in our utility closet area.  What followed cemented my love for Ramah.  The entire camp quickly formed two “bucket brigade” lines.  Some of the adults were attempting (in vain) to douse the fire, but most of the camp was frantically emptying the library of all its books in a line of campers and staff stretching all the way to the Bet Am.  By the time the volunteer fire department arrived and got their pumper truck pouring large quantities of lake water on the fire, there was really nothing left of cabin 5/6 except the twisted, melted metal of the bunk bed frames, but the library was saved from any significant collateral damage.  The next day a school bus took all the Cabin 5/6 campers and staff to a general store (I think it was in Iron Mountain, MI) where we were bought a pair or two of blue jeans, some underwear, socks, a pair of shoes, toiletries and maybe a few other items that I no longer recall.  We spent the rest of camp sleeping in borrowed sleeping bags on the porch floors of other cabins.  For me, the bad experiences didn’t end with the fire or “porch bunking” because I developed pneumonia and had to be sent home (flying for my first time, on a DC3 out of an area airport).  And yet, despite losing almost everything I treasured as a 13 year old, and getting sent home early with a debilitating illness, I still couldn’t wait to return the next year (and the next and next).

Both my children also attended Ramah Wisconsin, so I was blessed to come back several times as an adult too.  Even 40+ years later, I could not walk by that (mapped cabin 4/5) location without thinking of that fateful fire day back in 1962.