Looking through old photos brightens our day – even more now

Missing the daily pleasures of pre-quarantine life, pandemic-induced nostalgia and isolation have compelled many of us to find old photos and reflect on experiences with family and friends that transport us back months or years to normal times.

Rutgers-Camden researcher Andrew Abeyta says that one way that people can deal with these fears is “…to tap into the power of nostalgia – a sentimental or wistful longing for the past – which can have profound psychological benefits during periods of confusion or uncertainty. Nostalgia, he argues, can go a long way in helping to restore a sense of meaning in life.”

So forgive us for perhaps indulging in nostalgia even more than what may be typical for a historical society.

Camp Lenape waterfront, Aug1964

While looking through old scrapbooks, Harlan Radford recently re-discovered this black and white Polaroid photo taken in AUG. 1964, which shows the Burlington County Boy Scout Camp Lenape waterfront in Medford, New Jersey.  He writes:

The activity going on in this photo suggests that a couple of Boy Scouts were working on their Rowing Merit Badge and one of the requirements is to purposely swamp a rowboat (see far right of photo) and demonstrate what to do to save oneself if capsized.  

The aluminum rowboat shown here has built-in flotation compartments and will not sink; however, Scouts were taught to stay with the boat until help or rescue arrives.  Note the all-important “buddy board” with buddy tags shown in the lower-left corner of this image. Every swimmer entering the water was required to have a buddy and they were to look out for one another. Their name tags would be placed next to one another or paired together on the buddy board showing what Scouts were paired and whether they were swimming in the clearly marked non-swimmer, beginner, or swimmer areas.

Swimmers had to stay with your buddy and remain in the area that they were allowed to be in based on their swimming ability. Every ten to fifteen minutes a whistle would be blown and Scouts would have to quickly get with their buddy and raise their hands to be counted.  This way there was a periodic accounting procedure to do a headcount and make sure all swimmers are safe.  When all are accounted for, a whistle is blown again and swimmers resume their water activity.  

During regularly scheduled large group swimming sessions, trained Life Guards were stationed at various places along the dock or on the beach with long bamboo poles (see one such white pole being held by a Scout in this photo) to aid and assist a swimmer in need.  Rescues were to be carried out with safety for all including the rescuer or put another way – one only goes into the water to save someone as a very last resort.  Therefore it was important to extend the pole or toss a ring-buoy on a rope to the victim and then proceed to pull them to safety. Safety was always paramount when it came to all water-related activities such as boating, canoeing, and swimming.

The unearthing of this long-lost photo no doubt transported the former Boy Scout and Camp Aquatic Director back several decades. I can only imagine the wistful smile that this discovery brought to his face since we are miles distant.

What takes you back, Gentle Reader, and helps you to cope with the present distressing and uncertain situation? – JMc

Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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