“I’m a lucky guy.” Gerald “Jerry” Feld first came to West End House Camp in 1948 following in the footsteps of his father Max, who came to camp in the 1920s and 1930s. Originally from the old West End, his father Max was a great athlete, but would often miss playing sports with his friends because his parents made him study the Jewish Torah. Because of this, Max Feld got the nickname of “Holy” Feld. “Holy” Feld was the past President of the Alumni Association from 1964-1965. Jerry’s mother, Anne, was at one time the President of the Women’s Auxiliary, an organization that supported ongoing activities of the club and the camp. In 1948, when young Jerry was old enough, he “had no choice” as to whether or not he wanted to come to camp. It was in his blood.
Jerry was a camper and counselor from 1948-1960. That first year, the new campers were responsible for setting up Movie Night in the old Mess Hall. They would typically watch silent, black and white movies such as Tarzan. As a new camper, Jerry was asked to “go get a bucket of steam” to power the movie projector. I asked him, “how do you get a bucket of steam?” Jerry said, “YOU DON’T.” It seems that Jerry and the other new campers were the recipient of a lighthearted joke. He was also asked to get Polka Dot Paint and was shown the “Country Club,” which was an ironic name for the bathroom. Jerry caught on quickly.
He loved sports such as Basketball, Baseball, Swimming and Volleyball. Fortunately, Jerry excelled in all of them and competed with his friends Ralph Santosuosso, Roger Jackman, Tony LoVuolo, Sid Boorstein, Mark Kaplan and Alan Skvirsky (son of the camp Physician). Jerry loved playing intercamp Basketball against rival camps Robin Hood and Cedar. West End had a great player in Eldy Moore, who was 6-6 and played for Boston English, then Suffolk University. “We had a great team with Eldy, Ralph, Tony, Alan and me.” Jerry loved Color War as well. As a camper, it was just blue vs. white, no names or themes. He was not a captain but was a head coach a couple times. It was a “FIERCE” competition. The sports back then included Boxing, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Swim, Track and a vicious full tackle game of Capture the Flag. “The team that won Capture the Flag was the team that “survived.” (disclaimer, there are NO tackle sports at camp anymore).
As for the food, Jerry loved Sunday lunch, Southern Fried Chicken, made by legendary camp chef, Ralph Haliburton. Of course, he also loved the Tuna Fish and Fries on Friday nights. “Ralph was an incredible cook.”
Jerry went to Brookline High School, then on to Bates College where he was a 4 yearletterman in baseball and basketball. He was selected as an “All Maine” and “All New England” basketball player. After graduating from Bates in June of 1960, he joined the Navy in lieu of being drafted into the Army. He attended Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, R.I and was commissioned an Ensign in December of 1960. After being assigned to the Amphibious Force Pacific Fleet and shipped to the West Coast, he volunteered for and was selected to Navy SEAL training in Coronado, CA. “The training lasted 6 months and was incredibly difficult. The instructors kept you cold, wet and exhausted. You wanted to die but they would not let you because if you were dead, they wouldn’t be able to inflict more pain on you.” Of the 123 men who started Navy SEAL training with Jerry, he was one of only 19 that made it to graduation. After graduation he was further trained as a parachutist at Fort Benning, Georgia. As a diver, demolition expert and parachutist he received triple hazardous duty pay.
In August, 1965, Jerry completed his SEAL duty and went on to Law School at Boston University. During summer break in 1966, he returned to camp as the most overqualified Waterfront Director of all time. During that summer, he was also the head coach of the White Wizards who lost a close one to the Blue Savages, led by high senior captain, Steve Dushan.
After completing Law School and passing the Massachusetts Bar examination, Jerry went on to practice law in downtown Boston as an Assistant District Attorney and then as a litigation specialist representing employees at the Department of Industrial Accidents. He is married to Phyllis (Belsky) and has a son, Jonah, and 3 grandchildren, Miles, Maisy and Elliott. Of course, he hopes that Miles and Elliott will attend camp. Jerry retired from his law practice in 2006 and moved to his home on Gloucester Harbor where he currently resides. He is also a “snow bird” heading to Delray Beach, FL each winter.
Like every camper at the time, Jerry revered Camp Director, Jack Burnes. “He was a gentleman who taught me to be a better person and a leader.” Jerry was also a counselor to current legend Billy Margolin in the late 1950’s and Jerry likes to think that some of his leadership qualities rubbed off on Billy. “Billy was an exceptional camper. If you could pick a kid to be in your bunk, it would be Billy.”
Why does Jerry still come to Old Timers’ Week every year? “I love this place, I grew up here.” Jerry has friends from all generations. He knows their parents and grandparents. “It’s a unique and incredible time every year I attend. Of my contemporaries like Sid Boorstein, Mark and Eddie Kaplan and Alan Skvirsky, all of our dads came here and also loved this place. Old Timers’ Week is the most unique reunion because it spans many generations. The question each year is not whether I go back, but on what day will I go back. The earlier, the better. It’s my second home.”
According to Jerry, West Enders “are members of a very close and special group.” When he thinks about what he learned from his years at camp, the words “Loyalty, Friendship, Competitiveness, Family” come to his mind. At camp, “I learned to give every activity my best shot.”
Thank you, Jerry Feld for “Remembering” West End House Camp with me. Jerry is a man that sees a goal and does not stop until he succeeds. There are only 2 known missions that Jerry Feld ever failed to accomplish. Securing a Bucket of Steam and some Polka Dot Paint as a West End rookie.