The History of Camp Wa-Klo
Although the name “Wa-Klo” sounds as if it is some magical Native American word, “Wa-Klo” is actually the meshing of the last names of the camp’s founders: Miss WAtkinson and Miss KLOberg.
Ethel Kloberg, after operating one of the first day camps in the USA around 1927 and working in several other residential camps, decided to find a camp she could call her very own. Olive Watkinson and Miss Kloberg wanted a site completely picturesque with room to grow and expand. They searched in Vermont, Maine, New York, and were headed to Concord, New Hampshire to look at a possible property when a snowstorm hit. Olive and Ethel were stranded in Peterborough, New Hampshire and had to spend the night there. Both saw a “Mr. Bishop’s Real Estate Sign” when eating in a diner and decided to contact him. Mr. Bishop thought that he might have a property that might work for a summer’s girl camp, so he took Olive and Ethel to a summer home on Thorndike Pond in a horse drawn sled. As soon as Olive and Ethel saw the site, Wa-Klo was born. They knew that this summer home, soon to be renamed “Sleepy Hollow”, was the beginning of their dream.
Miss Watkinson was a Physical Education teacher and married to a Merchant Marine. She and her husband had a son, Billy. During World War II, Wa-Klo became a co-ed camp for a brief period of time. In the 1940’s, with the war ended, Miss Watkinson decided to leave camp after her husband retired from the Merchant Marines. By the 1950’s, Wa-Klo had once again become an all girl’s camp.
Miss Kloberg understood the need for young women to be exposed to many experiences in order to decide where one’s true talents are, for through her own life ventures her career decision was made. Ethel grew up on Long Island, she was enrolled in Wellesley College with plans to become a lawyer, and after her high school graduation she decided to spend a summer at a camp. While working as a summer counselor, she told her parents that she no longer wanted to go to Wellesley but to Boston University’s Sargent College to major in Physical Education. Miss Kloberg was one of the first women to major in this field. Miss Kloberg worked at Baldwin High School on Long Island as a physical education teacher, eventually became Dean of the high school, and before retiring in 1979, she served as assistant to the district superintendent in charge of physical education and athletics.
While working in Baldwin High School, Miss Kloberg hired Marie Jensen as a physical education teacher and eventually coaxed her to work a summer with her at Wa-Klo. Marie Jensen received her physical education degree and masters at New York University and began working at Wa-Klo in the early 50’s. Marie Jensen was a visionary and was able to see how camp should grow. Land around Wa-Klo was bought, buildings added, and the Wa-Klo we know today was developed. When Miss Kloberg passed away in 1995, she left the camp to Miss Jensen, who continued to improve camp with a state-of-the-art dining room, new cabins, a huge gymnasium, and countless other improvements. During Miss Jensen’s tenure as owner/director of Wa-Klo, Dr. Virginia Maurer decided to visit camp to see the changes and additions before sending her daughters there. “Ginny” was a camper in the 1950’s when Marie Jensen was just starting as a counselor. In fact, Marie was one of Ginny’s activity counselors. While Ginny’s daughters, Kim and Tammy, attended camp, Ginny would come up on weekends to assist with any medical needs in the infirmary and work with the maintenance staff to take care of the physical plant. Miss Jensen unexpectedly died during the summer of 2005 leaving Wa-Klo to Ginny to carry on the precious traditions.
Virginia E. Maurer is a prominent breast cancer surgeon on Long Island and is the founder of the Maurer Foundation for breast health education with programs for the pre-teen, teens, community and corporate world. Ginny attended Queen’s University in Canada for medical school. Dr. Maurer has continued to accomplish Miss Jensen’s vision with the expansion of the riding stables, a renovated Cracker Barrel, and building a brand new cabin “Out There.” She began an organic gardening class and is developing the environmental stewardship program. She loves being a part of a camp that was so special to her while growing up and continuing the legacy with her daughters.
Camp Wa-Klo is lucky to have only 4 major owners since its founding in 1938. All women knew each other very well and the traditions that have made Wa-Klo Wa-Klo, such as council fire, reflections, uniforms, Christmas/Hanukah, Parents’ weekend, song and tribe formation, final banquet, awards, standards, and the list goes on are still continued today. Although the traditions remain, additions and adjustments have been implemented to reflect societal changes. Wa-Klo is steeped in tradition, rich in history, and relevant for all girls today.