Book captures the memoriesCamp Nebagamon for Boys has been nestled on the shores of Lake Nebagamon for more than 80 years. A new book by long-time camp directors Bernard “Nardie” and Sally Lorber Stein shines a camper’s flashlight onto decades of triumphs, trials and camaraderie at the site.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Camp Nebagamon for Boys has been nestled on the shores of Lake Nebagamon for more than 80 years. A new book by long-time camp directors Bernard “Nardie” and Sally Lorber Stein shines a camper’s flashlight onto decades of triumphs, trials and camaraderie at the site.
“Keeping the Fires Burning, A History and Memoir of Camp Nebagamon,” will be released next week, beginning with a book signing and talk by the authors at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium.
Anecdotes spice every one of the 30 chapters – from the invention of Chief A. K. Agikamik and the day the air riflery shack was painted pink to the introduction of the first female camp doctor and the two years campers found “gold” washed up on the waterfont. Friendships fill every page, with many names making frequent appearances – Frank Sachs, John Horvath and Bud Herzog, to name a few. Whether you know the difference between a “cruiser day” and a “lazy day” or not, the book has something to offer.
“I think it’s great,” said the couple’s daughter, Jane Stein Kerr. “They have lots of great stories to tell.”
The idea for a book had been brewing for years, ever since the Steins sold the camp and retired as directors in 1990. As they were driving around Lake Superior that year, they turned to each other and said “We have to write a book,” Sally said. Their children – Jane, Ted and Jessie – also prodded them to put their historical knowledge down on paper.
Eighteen years later, the couple completed their 344-page memoir, filled with hundreds of pictures and thousands of memories. Sally grew up at the camp, which her parents Janet and Muggs Lorber founded in 1929. She married Nardie in the camp’s Big House living room in 1955. They began helping run the camp, taking over as directors in 1960. Through the years, they raised two families – their own children and an extended camp dynasty that today stretches around the globe. Three of their grandsons have been campers at Nebagamon, and two grandchildren currently work on the camp staff.
The book has been both chore and blessing.
“The greatest joy to me was getting a hopefully accurate picture of this institution over time and its impact,” Nardie said. “A validation of what we did … how many people it touched.”
Sally said the best part of writing the book was committing those memories to paper. It is, she said, like a “final parenthesis” on their decades of camp life.
In the process, they interviewed numerous former campers, counselors and staff. Sometimes, the answers were surprising. Often, they were heartfelt. Usually, they were long.
“They went on and on,” Nardie joked.
“We had to do a lot of editing,” Sally agreed.
But her favorite testimonial came after the book was printed. Bob Elisberg, a camper in the 1960s, told her she was his role model for what women can do. The Steins were co-directors from the get-go.
“I was the first person who taught him that a woman could be in charge,” Sally said. “And that a man and a woman could be equal partners.”
The book outlines the programs, from long “Big Trip” canoe trips to campouts and council fire gatherings. It also chronicles efforts to desegregate the camp, the growing role of women and the introduction of technology. Camp Nebagamon fell into the computer age gradually, starting with a single Radio Shack TRS-80.
The Steins were instrumental in getting camp’s 8,000 documents and more than 20,000 photos digitized and said this was invaluable in writing the book, which includes 300 of the pictures.
While Sally used the computer to type her chapters and conduct e-mail interviews, Nardie wrote his out longhand, than dictated them for transcription. The two kept their 53-year marriage strong by separating the workload.
“We were very careful not to edit each other’s chapters,” during the writing process, Sally said.
When they started directing the camp at the ages of 29 and 26, respectively, Nardie and Sally had a team of veteran staff helping them.
“They wanted us to succeed,” Sally said.
In the same way, a camp alumnus helped them navigate the publishing process.
“He was invaluable,” Nardie said. “He wanted to book to be good.”
When they sold the camp, the couple, who live in Lake Nebagamon in the summer and St. Louis, Mo., in the winter, made a new life for themselves. The two have been involved in St. Louis civic commissions, helped introduce a farmer’s market and library to Lake Nebagamon, read to youth in schools, worked on political campaigns and traveled throughout the world visiting members of the camp family, in particular their children and seven grandchildren.
Everywhere they go, they hear from alumni. These “voices from the past” can be heard in their new book.
The Steins said they would like readers to get a sense of the camp’s history and its impact on the alumni – the men and women around the world who sing camp songs to their children at night and pass on the values they learned on the shores of Lake Nebagamon.
The book will be available for purchase at the Imogene McGrath Memorial Library. For more information about the camp, now owned by Adam Kaplan and Stephanie Hanson, or the book, go to www.campnebagamon.com