Following is a short history of Tally-Ho Music Camp (and how we all ended up in Geneseo in the summer of 2006). It is included in the 2006 Reunion booklet. The original text was written by Rachel Tuttle Penn, TH-flute 1959-1965 and extra photographs were added for online edition.
(Many, many thanks to Doug Bradley, Dave Daniels, Fred Young, Hank and Sue Schmitt, Carolyn Torrance Bush, Eddie Gates, and all of you who shared your memories, for providing information for this history.)
This reunion began as Hank Schmitt’s inspired gift for his wife, Sue. In 2005 he was planning a surprise party with half a dozen Tally-Ho alumni, meeting at the Schmitt’s California home for Sue’s birthday. But, as often happens when people who share an enthusiasm plan to get together, their idea took off and became something extraordinary.
Which is exactly what happened in 1948 when Fred and Dorotha Bradley decided to start a music camp. After a lengthy search for just the right place, they bought the old Ward homestead, with its vintage 1816 white house and the wagon shed that became our mess hall. The coach house we called the barn could hold three of the stagecoaches that once stopped on the way from Canandaigua to Buffalo in the 1870’s. In 1948 there was still an old Tally-Ho coach on the property, which gave the camp its name and distinctive logo. The coach went to a collector, but its image remained on our clothing, and on the familiar sign near the highway. The Bradleys didn’t know at the time that their new home already had ties to music in the area; musicians from 27 brass bands once camped on the front lawn for a band competition held at the homestead in 1870.
Everyone had to work quickly to ready the property for the 1948 camp season. The last shingles were being nailed to the bathhouse roof on the Saturday before camp opened. That building, which later became the girls’ bathhouse, was first partitioned into two separate areas for everyone’s use. The boys lived in the barn loft that summer, the girls in the house.
There are 33 campers in the official 1948 photograph (a copy is included in the Newspaper Articles portion of this website section below). That first summer, the band played five Sunday afternoon concerts on the driveway in front of the barn, a fitting echo of that long-ago band competition on the front lawn. Dr. Ralph Guenther, then head of the music department at Texas Christian University, was the first conductor at Tally-Ho. The last conductor of the 1948 season was Guy Fraser Harrison, conductor of the Rochester Civic Orchestra, who was also one of the carpenters working to get the camp ready to open. Below he is shown joking around with percussion instructor William Long. Also below, the 1948 faculty is shown gathered on the backyard patio; a young Doug Bradley is on the lap of one of the instructors, with his parents seated to the far right.
If you look through the pictures displayed elsewhere in this website you will notice the absence of string players in Tally-Ho’s early years. The band was by itself until 1952, when Joseph Henry led both the new orchestra and the chorus. David Fetler (below, right) conducted both groups in 1953 and 1954, and Joseph Henry (below, left) returned to the job in both 1955 and 1960 (he’ll make it back to the reunion, too!).
A program of different weekly orchestra conductors began in 1956, a season also marked by the arrival of Robert Wadsworth, who took over the camp chorus. Bob, his wife, Ruth, and their children, Becky and Johnny, became an important part of life at Tally-Ho. Mrs. W led the snack bar crew and was the advisor for the “Tally-Ho Echoes” newsletter started in 1958.
A camp tradition was broken in 1960, when the August 7th Sunday concert opened with the orchestra for the first time. That change became a tradition, continuing through to the conclusion of the Camp’s final season in 1965 – see BONUSmusic recordings
The band shell was ready for the summer of 1949 (and subsequently enlarged and given a permanent roof several years later). The counselors built the big boys’ dorm in the spring of that year, and Fred Young, a 1948 camp veteran, remembers the oak lumber made hard work of nailing the boards together. With the completion of the new boys’ dorm, the girls moved out of the house and into the barn loft. The little boys’ and girls’ dorms, and the boys’ bathhouse went up in 1955, and the big girls’ dorm around 1958, after which the barn loft became a rehearsal room. Those of us who slept in those dorms will remember the sound of rain on the metal roofs. Following are a collection of pictures taken at various times of some of the buildings around Camp.
The snack bar was in the house for the first couple of summers, until Dr. Fred Fennell and a crew of camp volunteers built the free-standing snack bar (Doug and Mrs. B are shown above). Dr. Fennell is more often remembered for the Tally-Ho March, which he dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, and premiered at the August 5th concert in 1951 with a band of 46 musicians.
From 1950 to 1953, Dorothea Kingsley and Agnes McGory (left, above), veterans of the Honeoye school system, did the cooking. They were followed by Ina Torrance and Naomi Gilbert (right, above), who were in the kitchen until camp closed.
In later years, Mrs. Torrance would say she was sure she and Mrs. Gilbert were in trouble the first time they heard the campers repeatedly chanting “We want the cooks!”, and they were pleasantly surprised when they emerged from the kitchen to that clatter… to see everyone standing and applauding. They shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, a music camp runs on more than rehearsals; it’s difficult to imagine Tally-Ho without peanut butter, hot cinnamon toast and Sunday lunch. Mrs. Torrance’s daughter, Carolyn, remembers how pleased her mother was when campers and faculty would stop in at the kitchen to chat in the early afternoons. Of course, nobody was allowed in the kitchen when she and Mrs. Gilbert were cooking. Mr. Gilbert was the camp handyman. He kept the grounds in good shape, and helped with the Wednesday picnics. Mr. Gilbert also maintained the tractor, which every guy at camp wanted to drive (in Tally-Ho’s early days they also strived for assignments to drive an old Ford pickup truck).
The mess hall was more than a place for meals, during which the staff sat up on a stage, with campers and counselors happily jammed together at tables of eight places (reunion attendees gasped at “how small” the floor space of the mess hall was — everyone remembered it as being bigger; no comments, please about whether the attendees themselves had gotten bigger!). The weekly dances were held there, with Mr. W on stage playing his amplified viola.
We had our Sunday services there, too. After services everyone waited outside in our Sunday-best dress, impatient for the tables to be reset so we could have a terrific lunch. (In the color picture below, note Bill Bradley’s MG-roadster parked at the upper-left; wow, how the boys used to ogle his sportscar.)
The Thursday evening recitals were always held in the mess hall. When the ever-popular John Thomas (below), the flute instructor, “volunteered” his students for one of these programs, he drove home in a sweetly perfumed car.
Then there was the camp show. Doug Bradley describes a memorable skit featuring Dave Cowley as Martha Whittemore, the cello teacher, breaking three of the six strings on her viola da gamba during a 1958 recital appearance when “it wasn’t a night for strings.” Miss Whittemore was in the audience at that show, laughing with everyone else. This event was such a highlight that two former-campers have come up with 50 year-old pictures of that epic event (see below). Wow! What a “blond beauty” Dave was! Doug remembers being responsible for installing the network of spotlights in the mess hall rafters: #10 food cans with light bulbs inside.
A legendary season at Tally-Ho Music Camp was 1958, still referred to by former-campers from that era as the “Moldau Summer”. That label was inspired by the kids applying a musical theme (Smetena’s stirring and haunting symphonic poem about the river that flows through Prague) to the substantial effect that torrential rains had at Camp that year. (Recent informal attempts to obtain local rainfall data for that July were unsuccessful; however, former-campers from that era with clear memories report the deluge was somewhere between 2 inches and 2 feet.)
The aftermath of a series of very heavy downpours left Tally-Ho with a mud-quagmire so severe and extensive that the boys literally “dug into” thick muck and helped create several long trenches into which drainage pipes were laid. Local farmers were employed to help with the digging, and TH’s guest conductors discovered that their contracts somehow contained small invisible print requiring them to also don hip boots and wield pickaxes and shovels alongside the guys. The orchestra did its part to help (at least psychologically) by devoting one rehearsal to sight-reading the composer’s great work (although it wasn’t performed at a Sunday-evening concert). The “Moldau Summer” was immortalized in a well-described summary of all that transpired, written by Ginny Nelson for that season’s official end-of-camp “Echoes” newspaper. Her article appears below, as do a series of marvelous pictures (taken by Gail during the episode and re-discovered among family photograph archives almost 50 years later).
Not counting the boys who enjoyed being assigned chores that allowed them to legally play in the mud during the “Moldau Summer”, organized sports activity was always an important part of daily life at Tally-Ho Music Camp, right from the start of Camp in 1948. There was no opportunity for campers to swim at the camp during the opening season, so counselors drove campers to nearby lakes in Mr. B’s car.
To remedy this situation, in 1949 or 1950, clever engineering created a swimming area in Hemlock Creek across the road from the House. Fred Young reports that everyone enjoyed swimming there, in spite of the muddy water (although some girls from those seasons recall, not-so-fondly, sometimes finding leeches swimming alongside them at the swimming hole).
The construction of a swimming pool on the camp grounds provided entertainment during the summer of 1955, as for many subsequent summers once the pool opened the next season, so did horseplay and water ballets. The tennis courts were laid down in 1958. In addition to capture the flag, alumni softball, basketball, badminton, tug-of-war, highly-competitive daily ping-pong tournaments and band versus orchestra volleyball games, there occasionally were, of course, camp-wide pillow fights.
Among the most popular events were the Monday evening softball games with local farmers, who brought their families along to cheer for them. Eddie Gates played from 1958 to 1960 and remembers, “Occasionally their fans would get a little boisterous but our terrific cheerleaders and fans would drown them out, and always right on pitch.” Eddie was the player/coach in 1960, with Mrs. B. as his honorary assistant coach, and Eddie says they always followed her suggestions for changes in the lineup.
The Roger Minor Memorial was dedicated in 1956 to honor the young trombonist who was the first Tally-Ho camper to pass away, in a tragic truck accident while working to earn tuition. The little hillside building (shown below, with Mrs. B. posing nearby) functioned as a teaching studio for, among others, Emory Remington, the revered Eastman School of Music faculty member who taught trombone at Tally-Ho for many years.
After Mr. Bradley’s untimely death in 1957, Bob Wadsworth became camp manager as well as chorus director.
A new band shell was ready for the summer of 1963. Some of us who watched the old shell come down took home initialed tiles from the old walls.
The new shell (below) had large doors that slid away to open the stage for viewing; when open, side-stage production areas remained hidden from audience view. The new Tally-Ho “theatre” was a far cry from the canvas-roofed bandshell of ’48. The vocal program also started that summer, with Howard Tappan leading the production of the first of three annual musicals, “Down in the Valley.” That was followed by “The Boyfriend,” in 1964 and by “The Lowland Sea” in 1965.
The last camp season was 1965, although for a time there must have been some plans for a ’66 season, evidenced by one former-camper locating a long-saved (and rare!) copy of a 1966 Camp Brochure.
There were many small camp reunions before this one. It became a tradition for Rochester-area campers, and others who could make the trip, to meet each year around the Christmas holiday season at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Brighton, New York. Canon Cowdery was the father of campers Mick and Sally Cowdery Spencer. Sally says her parents’ friendship with the Bradleys made the church a natural place for the reunions, which were held in the downstairs hall. The wooden chairs we used in the band shell were from St. Thomas’ Church.
Today, the swimming pool and all the camp buildings are gone; only the mess hall, the small garage (which served many-and-various purposes throughout TH’s 18 seasons; initially and for many years thereafter it was the conductor’s cabin) and the 1816 house (both shown below) remain, since the barn burned in 1978. But there is definitely more to this story, which begins again in 2005 and has a lot to say about hard work, and an intangible but necessary network of good will, which the Bradleys had also found among the musicians and teachers that made Tally-Ho possible so many years ago.
As Hank and Sue contacted friends for their little reunion, each friend suggested someone else who should be included. So they took a deep breath and decided to go for an “All-Years Reunion.” They started with just a roster from 1956, the summer the Schmitts met at Tally-Ho. They hoped for a reunion of 25 former campers, and they called each successful contact a “bullseye.” But as the circle of “found” former campers slowly widened, they were delighted to receive a surprise from Doug Bradley, who sent them an email saying only, “Watch your doorstep.” What appeared on their doorstep was a box filled with 13 years of completed camp applications. The search was on in earnest! From the Eastman School of Music Alumni list, alumni associations at Rochester-area and other high schools, and Internet search engines, the Schmitts gathered information, and along the way found more enthusiastic people willing to use their skills to locate more campers. Their home became a hub of organized confusion and excitement. By Spring of 2006, the number of campers contacted topped 300. Hank and Sue’s gracious thanks to all of those who spent time on this wonderful project are in the front of the reunion booklet. Special Thanks go to Super-Search-Sleuth Bob, not a former-camper who lives in Austin, TX — a wonderful guy and long-ago graduate of John Marshall HS in Rochester, who offered to help (and Wow!, did he ever produce some unbelievable leads!) after learning, via a needle-in-a-haystack round-about way, about the efforts to find former Tally-Ho campers.
So, thanks to the Bradleys, and the Schmitts, we are here in Geneseo in the summer of 2006 to celebrate old friends and the music we all made together. It seems appropriate to close this short history with one of Mrs. B’s annual post-camp “day-after” letters (this ’62 letter is by now a bit faded, but reading it will make you smile… no matter when you went to Tally-Ho) that was mailed to the by-then-returned-home campers. Nobody could say it better.
As the 2006 All-Years Reunion approaches, some folks may think her ’64 letter (which is REALLY faded) had a more classic closing. It almost makes one wonder, could she perhaps have presciently been looking W-A-Y a-h-e-a-d into the future, like 2006?
See you at the reunion.
With every good wish for you,
and all the rest of us “leftovers”