Meet a THC Legend – Bruce Beck!
In the winter of 1964, my parents Doris and Felix, and their best friends Buddy and Joan Dollinger, were looking for a new camp for the kids and met with Bill Heft — and the rest as they say, is history!
My older brother Jeff, who idolized Hal Frank but didn’t see eye to eye with Ed Michael as Head Counselors, was the “Ah Bey” man at THC! My younger brother Steve was considered the best tennis player in Tyler Hill history. Well, to be honest, Betsy Gottlieb was really the best. Steve was also a very good hoopster. He once struck out eighteen batters in a six inning hardball game as a Junior, and I got to watch the last two innings. I hope Steve knows I once scored 40 points in a basketball game in just two quarters — and later that day was honored to deliver Grace in the Mess Hall at lunchtime.
I loved everything about Tyler Hill, except Friday Night Services, nature and golf. Funny, golf is my passion now. Back then, the golf course was in awful condition and snakes were ever-present. My heart would pound at inter-camp games. It also pounded at socials when I tried and sometimes succeeded in getting kissed behind the Social Hall. Singing patriotic songs overlooking Wayne Hall on July 4th was special. Chanting the alma mater on the last night of camp was emotional. Yes, we used to burn down the numbers of a specific camp year – such as 1969. We would sit by the waterfront and watch the memories of a joyous summer fade before our very eyes.
Still, nothing was like Color War! “Cicchillo for General; Ask not what the Blue team can do for you but what you can do for the Blue Team; Find The Hatchet; Burn Down The Rope,” these are phrases I can still hear in my head 38 years after my last bus ride home. I was Blue to the core – Blue Colonials, Blue Circus, Blue New York. I still know every March by heart! How about Blue Hawaii, one of the best Marches ever – “Hear the Blue… Hear the Blue… Hear the Blue Hawaiian Drums!”
My favorite event was the Apache Relay. I even announced it one year over the loud speaker at the Boys HCO. I usually shot the 15 free throws at Senior Court. You had to make 15 before you handed it off to a guy who then had to sweep the volleyball with a broom to the waterfront. I once knocked down 15 in a row. But I also once blew the Rope Burning Event as a Counselor. I was a Lieutenant General in Color War that year — and ran off to find a large branch to elevate towards the rope. I wasted too much time looking for the right piece. When I came back to the rope, we had already lost. I cried. It was not the first or last time I broke down. That is because camp was about passion and emotion.
And I was passionate about finding The Hatchet. No one was as good as Paul Harnick, but one year I helped figure out where the hatchet was hidden. That’s because the clues were conflicting and puzzling. It seemed as though the hatchet was being moved from spot to spot. I finally figured out that the hatchet was on the run. It was taped to the bottom of a “moving truck!” It was Alan Arbuse’s camp truck. Arbuse was the maintenance, fix-it, canoe trips, “do it all man” at THC. What compelling theatre it was when I raced down to the line-up area at the flagpole, having secured victory in the Hatchet Hunt.
Memories still linger from Tyler Hill — wonderful memories 40 years later. The place was magical. It was idyllic. It was in a sense a Fantasyland. Those 56 days vanished as quickly as you could say, “Hail to the Camp, Tyler Hill!” Most of the place was beautiful! I say that because we hated to touch the bottom of the Beginner’s End of the crib at the lake.
Bowling at Cochecton Lanes was a blast. Visits to Ghost Town and The Wayne County Fair were unique. Monday Night Watermelon league was intense. Canoe trips were quite an experience. By the way, Camp Wayne had great open-face roast beef sandwiches and french fries when they hosted the Wayne County Tennis Tournament. And the Tyler Hill – Damascus Basketball Game was the stuff of which legends are made. Actually, THE GOO is a legend. Bob Gewirtz converted a Jeff Greenman pass at the buzzer to shock Coach Brad Norton (of Bluebird Bus Fame) and Damascus by one point and keep THC undefeated in a rivalry that makes Michigan and Ohio State look like child’s play.
All of these memories are nice; the stories, the songs, the games, the bunks – but it all pales in comparison to the people who made Tyler Hill amazing. The friendships made and the relationships that ensue, last a lifetime. I know, because I count Shelly Schneider, Paul Harnick and Larry Laveman among my favorite people on the planet. Shelly taught me life lessons that I still value today. I was honored to host his 75th Birthday Roast just two years ago.
But when I think of Tyler Hill, I remember my bunk mates growing up: Mark Needle, Joel Switsky, Michael Ganz and Steven Friedman. I loved being a counselor and had some fantastic campers including Steven “Shoeney” Schoenfeld, Andrew Blumstein and Doug “Jughead” Becker.
I remember the legends – Sy and Selma Sundick, Ben Puro, Howie Pike, Artie Sunshine, Alan Arbuse, Gary Kasten, Lance Taragano, Roy Greenman, Jeff Greenman (the best athlete in THC history) and Nina Greenman, Richie “Chubs” Schaffer, The Kornsteins, Gabe Smith, Brenda Tinges, Abby Zweibel, Hal Frank, Ed Michael, Alan Leibowitz, Sy Sokol, Mark Shale, Steve and Karen Frank, Irv and Izzy Goldstein, Denny Tave, Bob Cicchillo, Chick Tayer, Herman Pingle, Jimmy and Teri Mintzer, Joe Bernstein, Marty Bernstein, Alan Steinberg, Marian Heft, Jimmy Bongino, Stu Wittner, Joel Singer, Jack Drutman, Al Goldman, Betty Weisenthal, John Zucker, Hy Marcus, Bob Cohen, Chester Blank, Sonny The Baker, Jimmy The Salad Man, Bill and Lillian Goodsmith, Milt Friedman, Eddie Cohen, Lee Heller, Eddie Diller, Jeremy Sage, Gladys — and many others.
Camp Tyler Hill’s history is defined by people. It’s greatness etched in the souls of so many individuals who taught me about leadership, friendship, sportsmanship, preparation, determination and life. Those years may be gone but the memories are still vivid. And the lessons learned will serve me well all the days of my life. Thanks Tyler Hill. Thanks Bill Heft. You have built an indelible legacy that no one can ever take away!
Here are a few fun tidbits about Bruce, and what he is up to now!
Name: Bruce Beck
From: Livingston, NJ
Home now: Scarsdale, NY
Wife: Janet (Married 33 years)
College: Ithaca College
Children: Jonathan – Vice President at JP Morgan Chase in New York City; Michael- Student at Cardozo Law in New York City
Dog: Madison – 10 month labradoodle
Hobbies: Golf 7 handicap (no career hole in ones – semi-finalist in 2013 Fenway Golf Club – Club Championship); Travel; Working out; Co-founder of Bruce Beck-Ian Eagle Sports Broadcasting Camp (12th year)
Occupation: Lead Sports Anchor WNBC-TV in New York; 17th year at station; 9 time New York Emmy Award Winner; 6 time New York State Sportscaster of the Year
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite song: Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who); Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Billy Joel); Jungleland (Bruce Springsteen)
Favorite Quote: Receiving is nice…Giving is nicer…Giving Back is Nicest of All (Bruce Beck); There is no I in team (John Wooden)
Favorite Book: Pat Riley – The Winner Within