“Camaraderie, reminiscing and seeing old friends. It’s a warm feeling.” Ralph Santosuosso first came to camp in 1953, and as an old-timer he has been coming to Parsonsfield ever since. He came to camp that first summer because he heard from all his friends at the West End House Boy’s Club in Boston how much fun it was and how great the facilities were. Ralph was a 2-week camper for each of his 5 years as a camper because the camp was so popular, they could only take “West End” kids for 2 weeks at a time. In those days, there were about 100 campers at a time, 50 from the Club and 50 from elsewhere. Ralph enjoyed his time so much that he stayed on as a counselor for 5 more years and has looked forward to coming back every summer since.
Some camp traditions have not changed much from the 1950s. “Wash up, breakfast, cleanup, activities, general swim, lunch, rest period, activities, dinner, activity, cake and milk.” The biggest difference is the variety of activities, as Ralph noted, “There is way more to do today than there was then.”
“We were exhausted at night,” said Ralph. “We went swimming, did all the sports. They kept us busy.” Ralph enjoyed the cooking and worshipped cake and milk. “We used to make bets during the day, and on some days I’d come back to the cabin with 3 extra pieces of cake.”
In those days, West End House Camp was not as selective about who was allowed to attend. As Ralph said, “We had kids who went to Harvard and kids who ended up at Cedar Junction (prison), that’s the truth.” Ralph always wanted to stay the last 2 weeks, because that’s when Color War was. He was very proud of his 2-0 Color War record, beating his good friends Roger Jackman and Jerry Feld. One of Ralph’s favorite counselors, Sid Boorstein, bragged about how Ralph was a key guy on the winning Color War team he coached. What could be a better compliment than that? Counselors Benny Brenner and Mark Kaplan were also some of his favorites.
Athletically, West End was dominant back then. “We played Cody or Robin Hood in Basketball and won by 40 in each game.” One of Ralph’s favorite stories was during a 15-under Baseball game vs Camp Marist. The legendary former camp director, Jack Burnes, said to Ralph “hit one for the House,” as Ralph approached the plate with the bases loaded. Ralph hit a solid hit to right field and the right fielder for Marist lost the ball in the high grass and could not find it. With thanks to a poor mowing job, Ralph hit an unorthodox grand slam, but more importantly he “hit one for the House.”
At the age of 79 years old, Ralph’s passion for camp is clear in his tone of voice when he reminisces. He was very happy to keep the tradition alive sending all 3 of his sons (Ralph Jr., Joe, and Michael) to West End House Camp, and even his granddaughter in recent years to the Girl’s Camp. Michael and his dad are one of the very few father-son Color War high senior captain combinations. Given Ralph’s incredible love, commitment, and loyalty to the camp over the past 50 plus years, I think it’s safe to say he has spent his entire life “hitting one for the House.” Thank you, Ralph Santosuosso for “Remembering” with me and continuing to be “one of the boys.”