Interview with Bev Kingsley


Interview with Bev Kingsley


Bev Kingsley remembers her time as both a camper and a camp counselor at Hobby Hill Camp. She talks about how charming Billy Flint was, describes the support and friendship the girls shared, and mentions trips to the auction in Newfane village, the Grouts' pond and boathouse, and driving from Schenedtady to Vermont.


March 25, 2021


Erica Walch

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Erica Walch [00:00:02] This is Erica Walch and I'm interviewing Bev Kingsley and we're talking over zoom. Today is March 24, 2021.

Bev Kingsley [00:00:12] OK, thank you.

Erica Walch [00:00:13] So I understand from your friend Phylli that you were a camp counselor at Camp Hobby HIll.

Bev Kingsley [00:00:22] Yes.

Erica Walch [00:00:23] What year was.

Bev Kingsley [00:00:24] Hobby Hill is about four miles up a dirt road from the town of Newfane.

Erica Walch [00:00:30] And what led you to be a camp counselor there?

Bev Kingsley [00:00:35] Well, I had been to camp there before, and Miss Flint was very charming and very charismatic and a lot of people enjoyed her and she also taught dancing in Schenectady. So that's where she recruited most of her campers from at that time.

Bev Kingsley [00:00:53] I was there probably in the early 50s.

Erica Walch [00:00:58] How many years were you there as a camper before you became a counselor?

Bev Kingsley [00:01:03] I was there, I think, two years before I became a counselor and..over the winter, when I was not there, they dug that pond next to the big house. So that the kids would have a place to go swimming.

Bev Kingsley [00:01:21] It's kind of a muddy pond.

Erica Walch [00:01:24] Did you swim in it?

Bev Kingsley [00:01:26] Yes, I did.

Bev Kingsley [00:01:29] And so did all the kids. Now, the only place other than Grout's - , which was about a half a mile down the dirt road from Hobby Hill, and that's where we went to have our more advanced water safety instructors courses.

Erica Walch [00:01:46] How deep was the little pond?

Bev Kingsley [00:01:49] Well, it was probably about six feet deep at the deepest part, but it was really nominally only four or five feet deep. So you could wade in and you could swim around in it, but it wasn't too dangerous.

Erica Walch [00:02:05] That's good to know that answers a big question for me. I've never gone in it.

Bev Kingsley [00:02:10] Oh, well, it was kind of muddy, unfortunately, and Grout's Pond wasn't very clear either. I think it had a lot of dirt from the Vermont hillside in it.

Erica Walch [00:02:22] So what were your days like when you were here as a camper before you became a counselor?

Bev Kingsley [00:02:28] Well, in the morning we had breakfast and then there was an extension that had been put on the big house and we would all go in there and have breakfast. And it was so cold in the morning that you got your underwear in bed with you to get it warmed up before you put it on.The cabins had wood up about four feet, three or four feet. And then it was screened from there. And then there were shutters on the outside, but they were never closed.

Erica Walch [00:03:02] What time of year was this that it was so cold?

Bev Kingsley [00:03:04] July and August.

Erica Walch [00:03:08] And would it warm up during the day?

Bev Kingsley [00:03:11] Yes, it did.

Erica Walch [00:03:13] One time a woman stopped by here and she was in her nineties and she said that she had gone to camp here for many years ago. And one of the things that she remembered was how cold it was. And she would wear all of her clothes to bed just like layer upon layer of all of her clothing just to stay warm at night.

Bev Kingsley [00:03:37] Oh, I didn't feel that it was that cold, but we got used to it after a while and it was a communal bathroom that was partway down the hill. It was up the hill from from the big house. The big house must have had electricity because the cook was able to cook on the stove there.

Erica Walch [00:04:00] Was there electricity in the cabins when you were a camper here?

Bev Kingsley [00:04:06] No. In the morning, when we all went t o the same thing, we had like creative writing or sketching in the morning, and then we had lunch in the big house and Virginia Wentz was the cook and she was majoring in large scale cooking at Cornell.

Erica Walch [00:04:29] And did the the cook live here?

Bev Kingsley [00:04:32] Yes. Yes.

Erica Walch [00:04:35] And was she in the big house?,.

Bev Kingsley [00:04:37] Yes.

Bev Kingsley [00:04:38] No, she doesn't live in the big house that I remember, but Miss Flint lived in the l ittle stone house off to the right as you're facing the front of the big house. Well, Miss Flint had a friend who came up and lived there, too, and her name was Buelah Haggedorn. And in the evening after dinner in the big house and sing songs and take turns performing, you know, little skits and things like that. And I did not like riding, so I learned to teach archery and I taught swimming.

Erica Walch [00:05:13] Where did the archery take place?

Bev Kingsley [00:05:16] Down in the moin -- m-o-i-n. And I didn't know of anybody else who had gone to hear to Hobby Hill until one day I was at Lake George and we were down on the dock in the afternoon and I said something about the moin had just been mowed. And she said the moin. And I said, yes. And she said, You must have gone to Hobby Hill. And I said, yes. And she said, So did I. And she was a little older than I was.

Bev Kingsley [00:05:47] The big farmhouse had a big dining room across the back. It probably wasn't one single room while you looked at it, but when we were there, it was one single room. I know a couple of horses and one of the horses was Calumet Direct, I think that means that's the farm that it came from. I think it came from the Direct farm and its name was Calumet. I didn't like horses very much, so I taught archery.

Erica Walch [00:06:20] There were two horses here when you were here?

Bev Kingsley [00:06:22] Yes. How many horses are there now?

Erica Walch [00:06:27] Zero.

Bev Kingsley [00:06:29] Oh, there was no barn there, I think the horses came during the day and they went back some place at night.

Erica Walch [00:06:38] Interesting. Which cabin did you stay in?

Bev Kingsley [00:06:44] Well, when I first went there as a camper, I stayed way up on the hill behind. If you're looking if you're standing, looking at the front of the house, it's behind the big house. Oh, a good ways up the hill. And it was a little bit to the left. And on the way up the hill was there was an outhouse where we all went to the bathroom and washed our faces and brush our teeth.

Bev Kingsley [00:07:08] But I don't think we had showers.

Erica Walch [00:07:12] There's a shower house here, but I don't know when it was built.

Erica Walch [00:07:21] It was definitely for the camp.

Erica Walch [00:07:22] It's got the camp, it had about seven seven holes to go to the bathroom. It was really an outhouse.

Erica Walch [00:07:31] Yeah, there's the outhouse and separately the shower house.

Bev Kingsley [00:07:35] Yeah, OK. All right. Then there was a path down to the big house.

Bev Kingsley [00:07:42] We had a lot of fun learning songs and singing hymns and things like that.

Erica Walch [00:07:49] How many girls were here as campers when you were here? I think they were probably 50 girls. What did Phyllis say?

Erica Walch [00:07:58] She said about that.

Bev Kingsley [00:08:01] Yeah, and then right after I became a counselor, Phyllis, I think I think we were in the same cabin and we were across the road toward the stone wall and down toward the moine , but just barely across the road. We were only about 20 feet off the road. And that was a dirt road, and I never went down that road all the way, but if you went all the way down to following that dirt road, you would come to another Vermont road that was paved and.. um.. I think that was Dover.

Bev Kingsley [00:08:42] I went back there many years later and I bought a book at the used bookstore that was called Picturesque America, edited by William Cullen Bryant.

Erica Walch [00:08:51] So what would you do on your days off?

Bev Kingsley [00:08:55] Well, Phyllis and I had a boyfriend that came home from Schenectady, and partway up there was a there was a big reservoir, I think it was a wonderful reservoir or something, and it was a bridge that went across it and we would wash our hair and get ready, and that night we would go out to a square dance at some local bar and I don't remember where it was. It probably wasn't very far away because we couldn't all fit, we couldn't all fit in the car. So some of us had to lie in the trunk.

Erica Walch [00:09:33] Whose car was that?

Bev Kingsley [00:09:35] I don't know who it was, gray, and it had a great big trunk. I think it was like a business coupe.

Erica Walch [00:09:44] And was that the camp or was that one of the girls cars?

Bev Kingsley [00:09:48] No, it was the boyfriend's car.

Erica Walch [00:09:51] So when you were here as as a counselor and you had a day off, would you walk into the village?

Bev Kingsley [00:10:02] No, seems to me.. I don't know what we did. It was the big highlight of the week to go to the auction in front of the church. They the y auction it off all sorts of things.

Erica Walch [00:10:14] Like what?

Bev Kingsley [00:10:16] Oh, of material, vases, you know, the stuff that you have around your house.

Erica Walch [00:10:23] Who would buy it?

Bev Kingsley [00:10:25] All the people that were the summer residents that were staying around their. There will be a sizable crowd, probably 35 or 40 people at the auction. I don't think we ever went to that Inn, the Newfane Inn with a big porch all the way around. We probably were considered kind of lowly people who didn't have enough money to go to the city, and because we didn't have very much money with us and I think we also were pretty expensive. I think they were mostly for the tourists going for. Yeah, and then just up the road a little ways, oh ..three hundred yards, the Gardners from Schenectady. Their name was Gardner. And Mr. Gardner has been the head the wrestling champion of the world. And he would require that the boys could stay at the house, but they had to work for him for a half of a day.

Bev Kingsley [00:11:28] Before they could, you know, stay overnight at his house, it was a beautiful log house with and it was a nice stream going by, but I don't remember that it wasn't dammed up. We didn't go swimming in that stream, it wasn't deep enough, there were a lot of beautiful trees up there and I bet it is beautiful in the fall. You just writing about the history of the town of Newfane?

Erica Walch [00:11:59] Well, we're not writing anything. We're just doing these interviews and getting the audio files together.

Erica Walch [00:12:07] How many children do you have?

Bev Kingsley [00:12:09] I have three boys, Larry, B&B and Andy. And he has been my caregiver here in western Colorado after I was at Harvard, hell, I graduated from Not Terrors High School in Schenectady, and then I went to the University of Rochester and graduated from there in 1959.

Erica Walch [00:12:30] And is the reason that you stopped being a counselor at Hobby Hill because you just aged out and you were going to college?

Bev Kingsley [00:12:39] Yes, just about kind of you know, I was, too, because you feel a great responsibility for taking care of all those kids, you know, and the Freihofers who were from Schenectady were there. You know the Freihofer's Bakery?

Erica Walch [00:12:59] Yes, yeah, did you ever come up to Hobby Hill in the winter to go skiing or anything when you were a kid?

Bev Kingsley [00:13:08] No, because I didn't know how to ski then, but I have since learned.

Erica Walch [00:13:13] And did you ever come up to Hobby Hill in the winter just to see what it was all about?

Bev Kingsley [00:13:17] No, but I came here afterward in the summer to my oldest son.

Bev Kingsley [00:13:22] Larry brought me back there so that I could see Hickory orHobby Hill. And there was some a man was living in the house, we were walking around the outside of the house and he said, well, there's a big envelope with some things from from Hobby Hill. And he gave me a couple of stickers and something else. I can't remember what. And I had those on my trunk that I brought up with me. I had all my clothes in it.

Erica Walch [00:13:53] Oh, that's so nice.

Bev Kingsley [00:13:56] Yes.

Bev Kingsley [00:13:58] Are there many people living around there now?

Speaker [00:14:01] No.

Bev Kingsley [00:14:04] I have a feeling that when the Kingsley's first came to this country from England, they came up to Vermont, but I don't know if it was so that the area or not.

Erica Walch [00:14:16] So when you were camp campers here, did you have to wear uniforms or anything?

Bev Kingsley [00:14:21] No,.

Erica Walch [00:14:23] Because I've seen some little HH patches. Would you get a patch or a badge?

Bev Kingsley [00:14:31] Yes, we had patches sticky wax on them. You put those on your trunk usually. And then I had a little thing that said, this is Hobbyville. And I had a little plastic horse that rock like a.. like a... It was made of plastic? It was just a little nick nack and I, I still have that in my house in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Erica Walch [00:15:01] Oh, that's so nice.

Bev Kingsley [00:15:04] I have very fond memories of the time at Hobby Hill.

Erica Walch [00:15:09] It sounds like it was such a special time for so many girls.

Bev Kingsley [00:15:13] It was it was very nice.

Erica Walch [00:15:17] I've seen that the motto that Billy Billy had for the camp at one point was "every girl a leader".

Bev Kingsley [00:15:28] I think they tried to develop that theme to make every girl a leader,.

Erica Walch [00:15:34] Did you feel like you were made to be a leader when you were here?

Bev Kingsley [00:15:37] Yes, I did.

Erica Walch [00:15:40] In what ways?

Bev Kingsley [00:15:41] Well, in leading songs are doing little skits are doing something like that for evening programs, and I think all the girls there felt like that, that each girl was made to feel that she was worthwhile.

Bev Kingsley [00:15:55] There were no real minorities representative represented.

Erica Walch [00:16:01] What do you mean by that?

Bev Kingsley [00:16:03] There weren't any Blacks and Hispanics and there weren't any Chinese that I remember.

Erica Walch [00:16:09] And the girls mostly came from Schenectady.

Bev Kingsley [00:16:12] Yes, that's correct.

Erica Walch [00:16:15] And were the and the people that worked here to, as you said, that the cook was. Not not a local person, did any local people work here when you were here?

Bev Kingsley [00:16:27] Well, the cook who was from Cornell, where she she worked there and I don't know whether she lived in the big house or what. And there was a man who came in over to mow the moin, and I think it was called that because Miss Flint was....

Bev Kingsley [00:16:52] she namee it the moin and I think that where she came from, I think she came from Sweden.

Erica Walch [00:16:58] Do you remember the name of the man who did the mowing?

Bev Kingsley [00:17:01] No, I do not. I don't think I got mowed very often, maybe once a month.

Bev Kingsley [00:17:08] Miss Flint had a station wagon that had wood on the sides.

Erica Walch [00:17:14] Did she she still had that in the 1950s.

Bev Kingsley [00:17:18] Yes.

Erica Walch [00:17:20] Somebody just gave me a photo of that of her in the car, handing out mail from the post office to give it to the girls.

Bev Kingsley [00:17:29] Yeah, I know that sounds right. I don't think we didn't have mail every day, but we had mail, you know, maybe twice a week.

Erica Walch [00:17:40] So would she drive the girls down to the to the auction in her station wagon or would you walk?

Bev Kingsley [00:17:49] She would drive a station wagon. I think.

Erica Walch [00:17:53] And what day was the action on?

Bev Kingsley [00:17:56] Saturday?

Erica Walch [00:17:57] Did she ever take, like a horse and buggy?

Bev Kingsley [00:18:02] No, there were no buggies there at that time, When she started the camp, there may have been buggies there, but I don't know where they kept the buggies.

Erica Walch [00:18:15] Do you remember in the big house upstairs from the big dining area, what that room was used for?

Bev Kingsley [00:18:26] No, it was only a one story addition on the side, it was the dining room.

Erica Walch [00:18:33] Upstairs from the kitchen.

Bev Kingsley [00:18:36] I think in the cook may have lived up there someplace,.

Erica Walch [00:18:40] OK

Erica Walch [00:18:43] And did you guys ever go to the to the attic of the camp, of the attic, of the big house?

Bev Kingsley [00:18:50] No, we did not. That was kind of considered, you know, not very, very gracious. Not very um... We were not invited up there.

Erica Walch [00:19:02] There were a bunch of beds up there when I moved in. So I wondered if some of the campers stayed up there.

Bev Kingsley [00:19:11] Not that I know of. Not that Iremember. I don't remember anyone saying up there. Maybe it was kind of a place, if you were, you know, not well for some, you went there and stayed, but I don't remember it.

Erica Walch [00:19:25] Yeah.

Erica Walch [00:19:28] Did any of the girls ever get homesick being here as campers?

Bev Kingsley [00:19:33] Oh, yes, everybody tried to make them feel better.

Erica Walch [00:19:37] It seems like such a supportive, special, wonderful place.

Bev Kingsley [00:19:42] It was it was very nice. Everybody was very cheerful and try to support everybody else. I mean, from from teaching swimming to teaching archery, and we used to have a tennis court and I know tennis court there now,.

Erica Walch [00:19:58] Where was the tennis court?

Bev Kingsley [00:20:00] No, we didn't have a tennis court.

Erica Walch [00:20:02] Oh, no.

Erica Walch [00:20:04] And I don't remember where they were riding. I only rode once or twice, and they had English saddles.

Erica Walch [00:20:13] Did your folks ever come and visit you when you were here?

Bev Kingsley [00:20:18] They came up, they brought me up, and then I came to get me. And I think it was probably a pretty long time, pretty long time, and probably took them most of the day to get up there. Now, it probably takes only two or three hours when it probably took you down. I think they came in the afternoon and I don't remember that they stayed for a meal,.

Erica Walch [00:20:41] Did anyone's parents ever come to visit them during the course of being here?

Bev Kingsley [00:20:47] Not that I remember, I think that the. I think that there was ..oh you could stay for one month or two was the idea was if you stayed for two months, you've got over you've got over being homesick. And because the girls were a lot of fun and, you know, we all played together.

Erica Walch [00:21:08] And so you're still in touch with Phyllis?

Bev Kingsley [00:21:11] Yes, there was a paper book that was published and I think it had hymns in it and had maybe some poetry and other songs. At the end of. At the end of a month or two months, I can't remember which it was, I got an award. It was called the Joyce King Award. And it was always such a long time ago, and I believe that she died, I think she was handicapped, but I don't remember how and I think she died after she had been to camp there. But everybody would think they would not discriminate against her just because she was handicapped is so bad that there was never a better place to swim there.

Bev Kingsley [00:22:05] I think we got special permission to use Grout's Pond for the life saving and water safety instructors course.

Erica Walch [00:22:13] Grouts.. did you did you meet any of the Grouts when you were here?

Bev Kingsley [00:22:17] No, I did not know the girls. And I have a feeling that they only came there for a little bit of the summer. I wonder if they didn't come up from New York or something like that. You know, in those days, it was a long, long trip, was probably a five or six hour trip, at least from New York, from New York City. I never met any of the Grouts.I think they had quite a fancy boathouse, as I remember, with a deck on top of it.

Erica Walch [00:22:47] Do you have any other memories of Hobby Hill that you want to share?

Bev Kingsley [00:22:52] Well. oh, I wish I had liked horses better at the time, but I just didn't. Yeah, it seemed like you either liked horses or you didn't. You know, I mean. Little girls were very fond of horses or else they didn't like them at all.


Beverly Kingsley


Erica Walch


Over zoom





Erica Walch, “Interview with Bev Kingsley,” Newfane/Brookline Community Memory, accessed April 13, 2024,