This summer, we celebrate Camp Riverbend’s 53rd season! Riverbend was founded way back in 1962. Harold Breene, our camp director then, and now, had worked at other camps, but was always dreaming of opening his own camp. He and his wife Marianne found a nice piece of land of 11 acres in Warren Township, just down the road from their house in Berkeley Heights.
Before it was Camp Riverbend, our property had been a small resort, with its own small pool and 9 hole golf course. The building that is now the boys and girls upper and lower locker rooms was once a dormitory, full of tiny bedrooms. If you look carefully in the upper girls lockers, you can still see the room numbers on some of the doorways!
The original pool had only deep water, and we needed a pool where younger campers could stand. So the Breenes dug one themselves! There was no filtration system, so the water had to be pumped out each evening and replaced with fresh water daily.
While Mr. Breene held the jobs of camp director and program director, Mrs. Breene was the head counselor for the second youngest camper group, in what’s now the nature lodge. The entire camp office (without computers, printers, fax machine or photocopiers, of course) occupied one desk in a corner of the Breene’s family room.
When it was time for a spaghetti lunch, Mrs. Breene and Teddy Napolitano, our long-time camp nurse, cooked all the food themselves in the house kitchen. One of our early specialty activities was riflery, which took place in a crawl space under where the auditorium now stands. Campers would lie on the ground and aim their rifles towards targets under the building.
During the very first week of camp in our very first year, the oldest boys and girls groups went into the woods, chopped down a tree and brought it back to use as the camp flagpole.
Much has changed at Riverbend, but the important things stay the same! We’ve always focused on creating a safe environment, where campers make friends, learn new skills and have fun!
Do you (or your parents or grandparents) have any great memories from the early days of Camp Riverbend? Please let us know–we’d love to hear them!!
116 Hillcrest Rd, Warren NJ, 07059