One of the lake cabins, from an old camp postcard Making the CRC documentary

Bruce Butcher filming Ditte Frederiksen
(click to zoom out; return with "Back")
Bruce Butcher filming Ditte Frederiksen

Other photos relating to filming the documentary can be found on the following pages (return with your Back button):

              The singalong page
              Photos of camper interviews
              Bruce Butcher's Facebook CRC album (must be logged in to Facebook)

The remainder of this page tracks the history of the documentary.
Items are in chronological order, by posting date.

To go back to the Documentary home page, ← click here.

Table of Contents of this page (click on an item to jump down to that section)

06/25/12: Tammy's initial message
06/25/12: Contact information, photos or movies, and memorabilia
06/28/12: Announcement of a preliminary meeting
07/07/12: Report on the initial meeting with former campers
09/01/12: September 1, 2012 update on the CRC Documentary
10/28/12: October 28 singalong and get-together
08/22/13: The grand premiere and dinner

6/25/12: Tammy's initial message:

Here's a message to CRC alumni from Tammy Guzik Bliss, on June 25, 2012. It gives background information on how the project came about:

Hi Crusoe alumni,

I am writing to see if you would be interested in sharing your memories of your summers at Robinson Crusoe as part of a project to create a documentary about the camp.

Last October 22nd several of us had the good fortune to take a public walk that Bob Briere that led through the Camp Robinson Crusoe property. What a flood of memories came back to each of us as we walked past the sites where once stood the camp office, dining hall and main house, hill cabins, and junior cabins. As we approached the boating lake and the site of the arts and crafts building, many of us reminisced about Commandoes and Bust Up. Then it was on to the swimming lake and finally to Primitive. Along the way we saw the work that has been done by local volunteers to improve trails and to build bridges. We also saw the damage wrought by the tornado that came through in the spring of 2011 and how it miraculously missed Old Sturbridge Village.

As we shared our favorite camp experiences, we each remembered what a special place CRC had been and the important role it played in our lives. Near the end of the walk I spoke to both Bob Briere [Town of Sturbridge Historian] and Dave Barnacle, Chairman of the Sturbridge Conservation Committee, who participated in the walk, about the possibility of doing an oral history of the camp. Both expressed an interest in the project.

Recently to my delight Bob learned that the Town of Sturbridge had hired Bruce Butcher, an accomplished professional documentary film maker, who is the liaison between the Town of Sturbridge and the local TV cable station. In May Bob, Bruce [Briere] and I met for coffee at the Publick House to talk about creating a documentary of CRC. (Dave Barnacle got delayed at a Conservation Commission meeting and was not able to join us.)

Prior to our meeting, Bruce walked the former CRC property for the first time. He was delighted at the variety of plant life and wildlife on the property. He was eager to learn more about the Camp's history and expressed an interest in making a documentary about the history of the camp and the property. Bruce confirmed his interest in creating a documentary about Camp Robinson Crusoe. I agreed to contact Crusoe alumni to inform them about the film and to see who might want to participate.

Bob shared with Bruce the photos he has of the camp and the dozen informative newspaper articles that Josh wrote about the first decade of the camp that he wrote for the Southbridge Evening News after he retired. The two of them traveled to New York City to visit with Leslie Kandell, who shared the 16 mm films that her father had taken on visiting days during the late 1940s. Bruce will be able to incorporate some of the films into his documentary.

In March I had a chance to visit with Ditte Frederiksen McNeil, Josh's granddaughter, who lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She was very close to her grandparents and has all of their correspondence, camp photos and other memorabilia. From Ditte I was amazed to learn that Josh immigrated to New York when he was 11 from an impovished shtetl in Russia. He knew no English when he arrived and his total formal formal education was two years of elementary school. I had always assumed that Josh had been a graduate student in education who studied with John Dewey.

I recently read Josh's book Creative Camping, which describes his experiences running a youth labor camp in the 1920s. I was amazed at how fully Josh had developed and implemented his group-centered approach to running a camp prior to starting CRC.

If you would like to participate in the documentary, please email me, Bruce Butcher, and Bob Briere your contact information, including your phone number, email address, and address. Please include the years that you were a camper. If you were a counselor, please give us the years.

Let us know if can come to Sturbridge so that you could be interviewed on the camp property. Bob has offered to take any camp alumni on a tour of the camp. If you can't make the trip, let us know if you would like to be interviewed on the telephone.

Also let us know if you have any home movies of camp or memorabilia.


Tammy Guzik Bliss
Camper from 1948 - 1956, and tennis counselor 1959

6/25/12: Contact information, photos or movies, and memorabilia:

If you would like to participate in the documentary, have camp photos or memorabilia that could be used, or would just like to be kept informed of our progress, please send an e-mail message to Tammy Guzik Bliss. Please include:

1. Your contact information, including your phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address.

2. The years that you were a camper and/or a counselor.

3. Whether you can come to Sturbridge to be interviewed on the camp property. If you can't make the trip, let us know if you would like to be interviewed on the telephone.

4. Whether you have any home movies of camp, or camp memorabilia.

6/28/12: Announcement of a preliminary meeting:

A preliminary meeting has been planned with film maker Bruce Butcher and Sturbridge historian Bob Briere. Dave Barnacle, Chairman of the Sturbridge Conservation Committee, may also be able to attend.

The meeting will be held on Saturday, July 7 from 10 am - 2:30 pm in Sturbridge Town Hall, 308 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA. It's being organized by ex-camper Tammy Guzik Bliss, and other interested ex-campers are encouraged to attend. If you would like to attend, click here to send Tammy your e-mail address, and tell her you're interested in the July 7 meeting.

Tammy writes, "After an initial meeting, we will take a walk on the land we know as Camp Robinson Crusoe. Bruce will bring his camera and begin to record some interviews with the alumni who can be there. Bruce would like you to bring anything you have that is original to CRC: pictures, movies, and letters, as well arts and crafts made at CRC. Also please begin to think about how your experiences at CRC shaped your career and your life.

For those of you not able to make the meeting, please feel free to send me your ideas about what you would like to see included in the film. In the fall Josh's granddaughter Ditte McNeil expects to come to Sturbridge. Her brothers Lars and Erik may also be able to join her. At that time we hope we can gather a larger group of CRC alumni, who can share their memories with Bruce.

As of 6/29,the July 7th meeting will include Larry Krakauer and his wife Margret, Cynthia Fruchtman Pill, Judy Shapiro Yogman, Marilyn Finklea and me [Tammy Guzik Bliss]. Bob Handloff may be able to attend, but it's a long drive for him. Many other alumni are unavailable but very interested in the project. Please let me know if you can join us. Feel free to invite other alumni that you are in touch with."

Note: if you intend to join us in touring the land, wear appropriate walking shoes. Precautions against deer ticks are also suggested, such as insect repellent. Visitors are advised to check for these tiny ticks (pin-head sized) in the evening, as many of them carry Lyme Disease, which can be serious if not treated in a timely fashion.

Click here for a map of the CRC land, which is now called the Leadmine Mountain Conservation Land.

07/07/12: Report on the initial meeting with former campers:

An initial meeting with former campers interested in helping with the project was held on Saturday, July 7, in the Sturbridge Town Hall. In attendance were:

 Tammy Guzik Bliss, ex-camper, and the meeting organizer
Bruce Butcher, the film maker
Bob Briere, Sturbridge historian

Other ex-campers (alphabetically by last name):
Marilyn Bushman Finklea
Josh Hill, Bob Hill's son
Larry Krakauer, CRC webmaster
Margie Krakauer, Larry's wife (not an ex-camper)
Cynthia Fruchtman Pill
Linda Bland Sonnenblick
Emily Sonnenblick, Linda's daughter
Dan Weissman, also a documentary film maker
Judy Shapiro Yogman

Tammy briefly described how she got involved with the project, via a walk conducted by Bob Briere, who subsequently introduced her to the film maker Bruce Butcher. Bob, who lived near the camp when he was young, and knew Josh Lieberman, talked briefly about the history of the Town of Sturbridge's purchase of the land.

Film maker Bruce Butcher discussed some of his thoughts about the project, which could touch upon, among other things:

 Josh Lieberman's origin in a small Lithuanian shtetl, and how he came to the US.

How Josh and Leah founded the camp, and their legacy to the present day.

How the camp impacted so many lives, and how it differed from other camps of the day.

What's happening on the property today.

All the above events took place against a backdrop of that was happening in America and the world - the Great Depression, World War II, and the Polio epidemic.

Projects of this type tend to evolve and take shape as they are being developed. Bruce would like to interview as many former campers and counselors as possible. He'd also like to obtain:

  Original photographs, letters, newspaper articles, camp brochures, and so on.

Other CRC memorabilia of all types - banners, patches, and so on.

Still and motion pictures from the camp. Josh Lieberman's grand-children Josh Hill and Ditte Frederiksen McNeil have a substantial number of 16mm reels shot at the camp.

Music and sound effects

Original recordings from CRC

Copies of Josh's books, Creative Camping and Children's Nature.

Bruce can be contacted as follows:

 Bruce C. Butcher, Production Coordinator
Sturbridge Community Access Television
308 Main Street
Sturbridge, MA 01566

Tel: (508) 347-7267
Fax: (508) 347-5886

After the meeting ended, a subset of the group was treated to a walking tour of the grounds, conducted by Bob Briere.

Pictures of the meeting and walking tour

Click here, or on any of the pictures below, for a page with larger versions.
On that page, the participants in each picture are identified.

The meeting, photo 1  The meeting, photo 2

The meeting, photo 3

The walking tour

9/1/12: September 1, 2012 update on the CRC Documentary:

Film maker Bruce Butcher, with help from Town of Sturbridge historian Bob Briere, is making progress in creating a documentary about Camp Robinson Crusoe. Since our initial planning meeting on July 7th, Bruce has filmed a number of interviews with CRC alumni and has scheduled additional interviews with former campers and counselors, to be held during the next six weeks. Bob Briere is doing a great job helping Bruce with scheduling and logistics.

Bob discovered that the original CRC was located on Bailey's Island in Casco Bay in Maine when he struck up a conversation with Simon Ottenberg, who attended the camp that ran from 1929 - 1931. When their lease on the land in Maine was not renewed, Josh and Leah purchased the land in Sturbridge that all of us remember so well.

Bruce will be mailing a set of questions to alumni who do not live in the New York/New England area, since they are less likely to able to come to Sturbridge to be interviewed.

Ditte Frederiksen McNeil, granddaughter of Josh and Leah and daughter of Nancy and Nils, will be in Sturbridge in late October to provide Bruce with background information about Josh and Leah and other family members involved in running CRC. One or both of her brothers and a couple of her cousins will probably join her for part of the visit.

Bruce wants to close the film with a group of CRC alumni singing some of our favorite camp songs. To do this, we are planning a one day gathering of alumni in Sturbridge on Sunday, October 28th. We hope to attract 25 to 30 alumni to join us on that day. Tom Greenfield, Posie's grandson and Ditte's cousin, has agreed to bring his banjo and guitar and lead the singing.

If you are interested in participating in the October 28th gathering, please e-mail Tammy Guzik Bliss at

Bruce would like to schedule additional filmed interviews on Saturday, October 27th and Monday, October 29th with alumni who come for the gathering. Please email him at if you want schedule an interview or be sent a questionnaire.

Here's a schedule of the planned get-together:

CRC Alumni Gathering
Sunday, October 28, 2012

10:15 am:  Initial gathering of alumni at Sturbridge Town Hall.
        - Chance for everyone to meet and greet
        - Practice camp songs

12 noon:  Lunch at the Publick House
        - We have reserved a private dining room for our group.

2:00 pm:  Visit to Leadmine Mountain Conservation Land (former CRC property)
        - Walk through the CRC land. Bruce Butcher will film alumni as we reminisce
                about activities associated with particular places on the land.
        - Filming of the alumni singing camp songs.

10/28/12: October 28 singalong and get-together:

A camp singalong and filming opportunity was held on October 28, 2012, in the Sturbridge Town Hall. A short summary appears below, but click here, or on the photo below, for a more detailed report, with additional photos and additional information, including a list of participants.

October 28, 2012 get-together

The get-together was arranged by Tammy Guzik Bliss. Tammy introduced Ditte Frederiksen McNeil, Josh and Leah Lieberman's granddaughter, who grew up at the camp. Ditte spoke briefly. Sturbridge historian Bob Briere spoke next, reading a letter from Simon Ottenberg, who attended the camp in its early years on Bailey's Island in Maine. Josh and Leah ran the camp there in the summers of 1929 - 1931.

Filmmaker Bruce Butcher then spoke about his progress on the documentary. He is going through footage and starting on the script - there are many sides of the camp's story that could be told. Tom Greenfield then led the group in singing old camp songs, from a songbook he had earlier prepared and circulated by e-mail (click that link to see a copy, in Word format).

After some practice run-throughs, the group was filmed singing, possibly for footage to be used at the close of the documentary. The singing was done before lunch, instead of later in the day as originally scheduled, because the predicted arrival of Hurrican Sandy the next day caused some of the participants to have to leave earlier than expected. The group then retired to the Publick House for lunch, including large quantities of their famous sticky buns.

After the lunch, a group was led on a tour of the camp grounds.

8/22/13: The grand premiere and dinner:

The title of Bruce Butcher's documentary about Camp Robinson Crusoe is "Camp Robinson Crusoe, My Heart Will Always Here Belong". A grand premiere of the film, and a dinner, will be held on April 5, 2014, at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV).

The organizers need to know ASAP how many are likely to attend. To reserve the Wight Tavern for dinner, we must a guarantee a minimum of 80. The dinner will cost approximately $50 per person (including tax and gratuities).

Please e-mail Tammy Guzik Bliss immediately to let her know if you and any of your relatives or friends are likely to come for the movie and/or dinner. Tammy will pass this information on to Zelda Jacobson Schwartz, who is handling the reservations. Zelda will follow-up with those who respond to Tammy that they are likely to attend.

Please also contact any CRC alumni you know to encourage them to come. Log in to Facebook, visit the Camp Robinson Crusoe facebook page, and let your friends know you are coming. This will be a fabulous opportunity to see the film, connect with your CRC friends, and visit the camp property. The tentative schedule includes:

          The first public showing of the CRC film at the
              OSV Visitor Center Theater, Saturday afternoon

          Buffet dinner at Oliver Wight Tavern at OSV (Right next
              to the Visitor Center Theater), Saturday evening

          Walks through CRC grounds, Saturday and Sunday mornings

The information above was taken from a
posting on the CRC Facebook Group by Donna Lewis.

Additional events will be documented here as they occur.

Go back to the Documentary home page.
This page was last updated August 22, 2013