16 May 2011

Childhood Recollections of Camp Kinder Ring in Carbon Canyon

In a comment to an earlier post on this blog about Camp Kinder Ring, a Jewish youth camp run by the Workmen's Circle of Los Angeles at what is now the horse ranch on the northeast corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road in Chino Hills, Leslie Frierman Grunditz excitedly noted that her father, Leonard, had attended the camp for several summers as a child. 

When she came in from out of town in February to visit her father, Leslie was able to secure a written account of some of his recollections.  Finally and belatedly, the Chronicle is happy to be able to offer those reminiscences in a post, just as they were sent.  Here is Mr. Frierman's account:

Childhood of memories: Carbon Canyon Kinder Camp
as told by Leonard D.A. Frierman

Leonard was born in Los Angeles on January 23, 1925. His parents, Russian immigrants, were both very active in the Workman’s Circle and in Socialist discussion groups. His mother, Rebecca, played in the Working Man’s Circle Mandolin Orchestra. In the late 1930’s Leonard and his older brother, Jay, began attending Kinder Camp in Carbon Canyon and continued going there every summer until the beginnings of WWII. Besides attending summer camp, Jay and Leonard often followed their parents to meetings for labor and social organizations that were sponsored at Carbon Canyon throughout the year.

Here are some of Leonard’s memories from his days at Carbon Canyon, as he related them to me in February of 2011.

 Leaving Los Angeles, the road would take you through mixed farm country. Passing through the town of Chino on the way was always considered dicey. This was because Chino was know as “Ticket City”, a place that made it’s money by giving tickets to those traveling through.

As the road climbed up to Carbon Canyon, there was a Roadhouse that served booze, had steam baths, and poker. Leonard remembers that the mother of a friend of his (Bud Novack) liked to gamble there, but didn’t trust banks. So, she would bring a purse full of money with her and bring her loaded purse into the steam room with her when she took her bath.

 Continuing up the road, it would eventually turn to dirt. Then you crossed a bridge over a stream and entered into the Working Man’s Circle property. You would drive past a cement swimming pool, which he remembers as having a huge filter system.

Reaching the top of the hill, you came to a large wooden building which housed an auditorium and offices. Past that, was the dining hall building, and then you came to the campers cabins. Behind the cabins ran a little creek, which was mostly dry, and the kids would hang out together there. They also like to hang out in a grove of large oak trees that lay past the dry creek. Past the oak grove was a gully and then a little wooden shack where the ladies would cook and serve potato latkes. Leonard remembers killing a rattlesnake out in this area, and described how there were lots of very large garter snakes. He said the girls would take the live garter snakes and drape them across their shoulders like feather boas.

 Up on the hillside were private cabins, which people built for themselves. There was no electricity to these buildings, all accept for one, a cabin owned by a friend to Leonard’s parents, John Uptaker. He was a handy guy, who sold used small mining equipment. The cabin consisted of a large room and kitchen and one bedroom. There was an outhouse, no bathroom. On the roof of Mr. Uptaker’s cabin were 3 windmill generators. These were connected to wet cell batteries in the basement, and this provided him with electricity for the cabin!

Summer camp sessions for kids lasted 3 to 4 weeks. Leonard has very fond memories of the camp activities and clearly remembers the daily routine. Breakfast was followed by Yiddish lessons, Jewish music, and then political discussion (Much centered around socialism with a clear anti communist bent). The kids would also put on shows. There were nature walks and afternoon pool time, and of course, campfires at night.

 The camp director, Mr. Laser, was nicknamed Mr. Loiser by the kids (which is Yiddish for loser)! They actually liked him very much, but thought the rhyme was funny to say.

On weekends, parents would come for visits during the day. Special activities were scheduled and there were family picnics. The Working Mans Circle Mandolin Orchestra would sometimes perform and there was Eastern European entertainment. Parents would have political meetings and the kids were welcome. There were guest speakers who talked about politics, history, and Jewish culture. An actor from Hollywood, Paul Muni, would come and read from the works of Shalom Aleichem (this was before Leonard’s time at camp). Guest actors and singers would come on weekends to perform Jewish cultural works. The Farm Worker’s Union would also make an appearance. Everyone argued politics. Everyone participated. Everyone ate latkes.

People tend to think that, because Chino Hills is a recently-incorporated city, it somehow lacks history, which cannot be further from the truth.  Although residents, visitors and passersby might notice the horse ranch and some of the old camp buildings sitting off Carbon Canyon Road, few undoubtedly know of the interesting history of Camp Kinder Ring, which existed for about thirty years from the late 1920s to the late 1950s.  Mr. Frierman's recollections help preserve a little of that story.

The accompanying photos are courtesy of the Workmen's Circle Arbeter Ring office in Los Angeles and were copied in Summer 2008 from an album of images photographed at Camp Kinder Ring in the 1940s or 1950s.  Clicking on any of them will open a window with a larger view.


Anonymous said...

Guess not much has changed over the course of time... Chino still tries to collect revenue from passing travelers. One being myself as I commute around the prison on kimball past the preserve into eastvale. They like to hide in the parking lots of buisnesses with their radar guns. But I know where they sit so when I make the turn off of chino-prado onto kimball, I set the cruise control for 50 (legal speed limit)and enjoy the ride.

Kelly said...

It's so interesting to hear & see pictures of this. I will have to show this to Leonard Grenier who owns the stable where a lot of the photos were took. The huge pool filters are still here in the back. They are lying on their sides as they are still filled with the gravel that helped filter the pool water.

prs said...

Hello Kelly, thanks for the comment and please let Mr. Grenier know. There are a few more unposted images obtained from the Workmen's Circle Arbeter Ring in LA in 2008. There's a lot of history at that site that hadn't been documented before. If Mr. Grenier has anything of interest, it'd be great to add to the blog.

Photo Gal From Cal said...

Wow! I have so many fabulous memories of Camp Kinder Ring between 1947 and about 1954. My siblings and I returned every summer------usually for ten weeks. I'd love to hear from some of the "kids" who were there at the time. Names I recall are Jeff Lewis, Jeannie Levitan, Larry Schwartz, Larry Wien, Judy Bunyan, Nancy Wedge, Esa Ashdown, Billy Isakowitz, and more.

The area, dining facility, pavilion, and cabins were quite rustic, but worked so well for all of us. We swam twice a day, took hikes, rode horse, had typical camp activities, all camp group games, campfires, and sneaked away to Ichabod Crane, which was nearby.

Other memories include "field trips" to Pomona for a swim competition, visiting a JCA camp, Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. Kids had a lot more freedom at the time.

The experience is one I remember fondly.


prs said...

Hi Sharon, if you are interested in putting some of your memories of Camp Kinder Ring down, we could develop a post for it and have a way of capturing more of the history of this little-known part of Carbon Canyon's past. Let me know if that interests you. Thanks for leaving the comment.

Robert P said...

Recently went to the Workman Homestead Museum (City of Industry) for a tour by the very nice, assistant director. I asked him if the Workman Circle - Camp Kinder Ring had anything to do with the Workman family. Not only did he correct me on that but it turns out, he lives near the old Camp Kinder Ring and turned me on to this blog.
The only memories I have of going to C.K.R., in the late 40's, are pretty sketchy since I was about 7 at the time. First time away from home. It was all a little scarry at first. I remember my folks coming up on the weekends for a picnic. I must have been there for maybe 3 weeks. I remember hiking and seeing movies at night. Also having to make my own bed in the morning (never had to do that before!). I figured out how to lie perfectly still at night and just slip out in the AM without messing up the bed and, hence, never having to actually "make" the bed the whole time I was there. I was always getting into trouble by waking up in the morning and talking to the other kids. Unfortunatly my counselor was a late riser and would make me stand outside in the cold until he got up. I also got into trouble on movie night: since our cabin was all 7-year-olds, we never got to see the end of the movie because it went past our bed-time. I got so enthralled in the movie, however, that I didn't hear the counselor call for us to return to the cabin. Got to see the whole movie and make my own way back to the cabin in the dark. Trouble again. I also remember getting clobbered by a bigger guy during the boxing lessons. Here it is 65 years later and I'm still getting in trouble and still getting clobbered. Funny how camp sets the stage for life ;-)

prs said...

Hi Robert P, thanks very much for your comments on and recollections of Camp Kinder Ring. Sounds like your experiences echo that of millions of other kids away at camp--something that was more common, certainly, then than now!

Somerset Wedding Gal said...

Fantastic post, what an interesting insight into the camp! And these really are marvellous photos!