“Major” Frank Blauvelt spent 21 years at Camp Agawam. He had boundless energy, a wry sense of humor and a booming voice. He could be very intimidating, especially to 9 year olds in the first pool! While at Agawam, he was Dave Mason’s right-hand man as Program Director for many years, while heavily involved as a teacher and civic leader during the offseason.
What years were you at Agawam?
I ran the waterfront from 1962 – 1970, then was program Director from 1971-1984. I think that’s right.
How did you find out about Camp?
Through Great Oaks Camp in Otisfield, Maine. I started there as a camper when I was 10, and then moved on to the staff. I got married to Chris who was the camp nurse. But Great Oaks didn’t have a spot that worked for the two of us, so I went looking for a camp to work at during the summertime. Of course I knew about Agawam because we had athletic events at Agawam.
How was it working at Agawam after Great Oaks?
Well, things didn’t go too smoothly during my first summer. I didn’t initiate doing the little things, like fixing a fence. But my experience at Great Oaks was that you told someone about it and the maintenance crew would fix it. Obviously different from the way Dave ran things! So once I explained that to Dave, he let me come back for a second year. And did all the little things from then on.
What did you do during the rest of the year, when not at Agawam.
I was a teacher. We lived in Morristown, NJ and I taught Physical Education and 6th Grade in Willburn-Short Hills. Before we bought our house in Otisfield in ‘69, I spent one winter teaching in Sebago and commuting back to NJ on the weekends. We moved up here, and I became a head teacher. That’s actually a Vice Principal, but the title meant I didn’t count against the administrative restrictions.
And while still teaching, I organized the Otisfield Volunteer Fire Department. When no one stepped up to be the Chief, I found myself in that position for about 8-9 years. And then I organized the Rescue Squad and did that for 20 years. I retired from teaching in the late 1980s. After Agawam, I worked at Camp Arcadia through the late 90s. I’ve been retired now for quite some time but am still busy in town. I enjoy spending time with my son Buddy and his daughter when they come east.
What do your recall of the Tornado in 1974?
Dave and I were in the office and saw the storm coming in from DJC next door. We knew it was a big one, so we sent everyone back to their cabins. We watched it from the office porch. Once it had gone through – it was pretty fast – we checked to make sure everyone was safe. Dave started at one end of camp, and I at the other, we met in the middle. Initially there was one person we didn’t find—Jimmy Mason! We found him pretty quickly- he had gone to the Shop. Luckily, although there were a number of cabins that had been damaged, all of the people were safe.
Camp was a horrendous mess. Dave’s decision was that camp had to go on, but we also had to clean it up. First period of every day was camp clean-up for the rest of the summer. Dave ran camp, Ap (Dave’s brother) was in charge of clean up, and Sandy Mason (Ap’s son) worked full days, every day, for the entire summer. I never heard one negative word from Dave about that storm, but it shook us pretty good.
You were Program Director when the Main Idea began in 1971…..
Originally, the Main Idea was designed to bring boys from mostly urban areas, like Portland, out into camp. Dave asked me if I knew any individuals who would be able to recommend youngsters to come from Portland. His goal was to offer that week of camp to someone who would never have a chance to go to camp. Gradually, I think our contacts in Portland dropped the ball. I don’t know if the paperwork we required was too much, but it became more for youngsters from the local school districts. As I was teaching in the area, Dave asked me to recommend 2 boys. I always recommended 4-5!
I could see the impact that Main idea had on the boys who were in my school. Come springtime, they couldn’t wait for it to start. And even after they were too old to attend, they still talked about their time at camp. Those couple of weeks over a few years Agawam made a big difference for these boys. There were some who were headed down a bad path and Main Idea really helped them. And all of the youngsters consider Agawam to be “their camp”, and they’d look out for it during the off season.
You and Dave worked together for a long time, do you have a particular memory that stands out?
I remember how Dave treated me and my family when my daughter Karen had her accident while at Duke. He checked with me every day to see how she was progressing; he let me go down to visit her right after it happened. Dave was constantly thinking of others rather than himself; of what he could do to make something better for someone else. He was absolutely amazing; I couldn’t have asked for anyone better.
Other thoughts about Dave as the Director?
He had a great sense of humor, but it was very subtle. And I could be slow at times, too. A while after he’d make a comment, I’d think, “Oh, that’s what meant!” and see the really funny part of it. Of course, when things were not humorous, the subtle way he would change that behavior was amazing.
Dave always did his share. After the tornado, when we were picking up rocks on Aps Field, Dave was right there with us. He was the leader of the group, but also a part of the group.
Dave was definitely the one person who impacted how I lived my life. If he was unhappy with something at camp, or with an individual, the way he dealt with that situation was the way I hoped I dealt with it in the classroom. I tried to do it the same way that he would. I learned more about dealing with people, especially youngsters, from him and the way he did it than I did with all of my “formal” education. He was really a second father, guiding the way I lived my life.