Our work at Lone Oak Campsites continued to keep us busy during the month but we had time to visit and sightsee but first......
Our favorite themed weekend at Lone Oak was the weekend when they celebrated Christmas in August. Judging by the amount of campers coming in that weekend, it’s one of the most popular. Soon after the campers arrived, several of them started decorating their rigs and campsites, some of which were serious contenders for the holiday light-decorating contest. It was amazing to see how much work went into some of these decorations that were only on display for a few days. The judges had a difficult time deciding the winners.
Another popular activity during this weekend was the ‘snow’ that appeared on Saturday. Local firemen came in that afternoon with three of their pumper trucks, got water from a nearby pond, mixed it with dish washing soap and sprayed a tarp-covered hill with ‘snow’. Kids of all ages lined up and when the whistle blew, they took flying leaps to slip and slide down the hill. For the grand finale and after a two-minute warning, the firemen then turned one of the water guns on the crowds who enjoyed the snowfall, especially because it was a warm day. It was a hoot to watch.
Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance the following morning, giving out gifts from the gazebo. When parents checked into the campground earlier during the weekend, they dropped off wrapped and labeled gifts for their children, which then found their way to the North Pole for Santa to distribute that Sunday morning. It was magical to watch the faces on children and adults. Ed, head of security, played Santa, and his wife Mary Jane, head of housekeeping, was Mrs. Claus. They were so natural and so believable.
Later in the month, the owners and the rest of the management team hosted a team member (employee) party, thanking all for their work during the season. Most of the departments were closed so all could enjoy the evening. After a wonderful catered dinner of BBQ ribs, chicken, and all the fixings, and steamed clams (where else but in New England!), Barry (one of the owners) narrated a slide presentation of the summer so far, which included park improvements made this year, as well as pictures of all the team members at their various work stations. Each department was then recognized, a group photo taken, and coffee mugs stating Summer of 2006 were given to each team member. One of our Workampers, Rick, then roasted some of the Workampers, reciting lyrics describing memorable events. We heard about Poop on the Roof, the Stolen Golf Cart, the Can Man, and even Larry made the list (our truck snagged a chain off a post while e entered the campground through a road not normally opened.) We all had a good laugh hearing these stories again.
One of the perks given to Workampers is a coupon book—one coupon is equal to the cost of the daily entrance fee. During the month, we gave that book a good workout. Brian and Bonnie came up for a visit one afternoon as did Bruce and Dani (Larry’s brothers and their wives.) His cousin Lisa and her son Josh also paid us a visit.
Some of the places we visited during the month:
The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, is located on the banks of the Hudson River. West Point, as it is commonly called, is the oldest continuously occupied military installation in America. Since 1802, it has produced graduates who have contributed to America’s growth and security in peace and war. The first class in 1802 consisted of two cadets; today’s enrollment numbers nearly 4,000 men and women from every state as well as several foreign countries.
West Point offers a 47-month program that combines academic, military and physical education. Upon graduation, cadets are commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty. West Point commissions approximately 900 new officers annually.
Because of Larry’s retired military status, we were able to freely tour the grounds. Visitors without government access start their tour at the Visitors Center, and then board buses that take you onto the installation with several stops. We basically followed the same route as the buses but were able to linger longer at some of the stops.
Our first destination, located by the Visitors Center, is the West Point Museum, housing what may possibly be the largest and oldest diversified public collection of militaria in the Western Hemisphere. Among the collections located on three levels are nearly all aspects of military history, the history of West Point and the United States Military Academy, the evolution of warfare, and the development of the American Armed forces. There is a lot to see – you can easily spend a day just looking at the exhibits in the museum. What stopped us in our tracks was seeing a group of Japanese tourists posing in front of an atomic bomb of the type dropped on Nagasaki.
Upon entering the installation, we found our way to the Cadet Chapel, which has dominated the West Point landscape for over a hundred years. Part Gothic and part military battlements, the chapel was completed in 1910 using granite quarried at West Point – it seems to grow from the hillside. The Willet Stained Glass Company of Philadelphia created the stained glass windows located throughout the chapel. The 192 windows along each side of the chapel are gifts in honor of every graduating class since 1802, with the last window given by the Class of 1976. Incredibly, the Willet Company charged the same price for each class window from 1920 until 1976 - $300!
The Chapel organ was originally purchased in 1911 and has been extensively enlarged over the years. When first installed, it contained 2,406 pipes. Today it contains approximately 23,500 pipes—the smallest the size of a stubby pencil, the largest 32 feet long and over 30 inches in diameter. It has become the largest church organ in the world. The console surrounds the organist on three sides and has hundreds of keys and pedals. It would have been fabulous to hear the organ playing.
Located elsewhere on the grounds is the Old Cadet Chapel, considerably smaller but filled with a sense of history. If we recall correctly, this chapel was going to be destroyed upon construction of the newer one. Someone suggested using it as a chapel in the West Point Cemetery, where it now can be found. The cemetery overlooks the Hudson River and served as a burial ground for Revolutionary soldiers and early West Point inhabitants before it was designated as a military cemetery in 1817. On the back wall of the chapel is a plaque listing famous people buried there, both civilian and military, including Major General George Armstrong Custer. Naturally, we set out in search of his grave and soon found it. What an eerie feeling to be standing at his grave – a wow moment.
We spent some time walking around a large grassy area called “The Plain” where several monuments are located around the perimeter. We saw monuments for Patton, Eisenhower, Washington, Macarthur, and others. The Plain is also near the overlook that has a million dollar view of the Hudson River and a giant length of chain. A sign nearby explained that the chain was originally used to block the harbor below. The plan was to raise the chain at night to secure the harbor, lower it during the daytime to allow authorized river traffic to pass. The chain was soon abandoned – it was much too heavy for its floating support docks.
Back in nearby Kent, Connecticut, we visited the Sloane-Stanley Museum. Eric Sloane (painter of skies) was a prolific artist, author and illustrator of over 30 books and an avid collector of Americana. The Connecticut-based Stanley Works (Stanley Tools) gifted the building in which his tool collection is located. The collection is not only interesting to see but hearing the comments from visitors that are familiar with the tools is an education in itself. The Kent Iron Furnace is on the museum property. This furnace began production of pig iron in 1826 and continued for almost 70 years. The Gothic arches, part of the remaining granite blast furnace, are something to see.
With a blink of the eye, August was gone – we leave next month for points west and south!
Next on our itinerary: visit with family in central New York; Van Wert, Ohio, where we serve as Coffee Chairs for the Escapees Fall Escapade; visit with friends in Branson, Missouri; head towards Mountain View, Arkansas, for most of October.