When Sidney “Sid” Boorstein was asked what he learned most from camp, he stated “We learned how to get along with all kinds of people.” Sid Boorstein first came to camp in 1945 as an 8 year old, even though the cutoff was 10. He was the son of legendary West Ender, Morris “Lucky” Boorstein, so naturally he was going to camp even before he was eligible.
Lucky grew up in the West End as an active and athletic teenager, who was good at Basketball and Baseball. He was friendly with other legends such as George Kane and Barney Yanofsky. But, Sid’s experience at West End House Camp did not start so well, despite his lineage.
“There was no running water, we lived in tents with hardwood floors.” The bathroom, which everyone called “the Country Club,” was on the other side of camp. As an 8 year old, the idea of waking up in the middle of the night, to walk across camp, to the Country Club was terrifying. “Sometimes I just went outside of the tent.” But, one time, Sid’s counselor was so mad at him for not walking to the Country Club that he dumped young Sid and all of his belongings into Long Pond. Sid did not go back to camp again for 7 years.
He went to Camp Alton, but then in 1953 decided to come back to West End when he was 15. Gottlieb was set up for 15 year olds that summer and it was filled with alumni kids, with Mark and Eddie Kaplan, Jerry Feld, Jimmy Meirick and others in what Sid described as a “pseudo camper year.” Then Sid finished his studies at Tabor Academy and enrolled at Cornell University. Sid was a counselor for 3 summers, while in college, from 1955-1957.
Being a counselor was labor intensive. Sid remembered that he and Jerry Feld would spend the week before the campers arrived setting up the H-Dock. The H-Dock was not a permanent structure back then. So, there were wooden sections on the bottom, with metal clamps and L-shaped posts in the ground attached to cinder blocks. The cinder blocks stayed there all winter and would inevitably shift in the water over the brutal Maine winter. So the next year, they would have to adjust the cinder blocks and reset the H-Dock. “We all ended up with colds”, as they would spend the entire day in the water. “That was not fun.”
Sid clearly loved the sports. They had some really good athletes on the staff including Jerry, Alan Skvirsky and Eldy Moore, who was a 6-6 Basketball player. The boys would play intercamp sports vs. other camps and usually win. They played Baseball in town against a team from Cornish. Jerry Feld was always the pitcher and Sid always played catcher.
As for the food, of course Sid remembered Chef Halliburton’s tuna fish and fries. He enjoyed the Saturday night hot dogs with beans. Then of course, at the end of the evening, he would enjoy cake and milk, then read some stories to his campers. The counselors would then go to the Rec Hall and play evening Basketball (in modern times called Staff hoops or Stoops). Then they would end the evenings by jumping into the lake.
Sid remembered nights off with his crew of friends such as Mark and Eddie Kaplan, Skippy Skvirsky, Jerry and Eldy. They would go do either “Double O” (Old Orchard beach) or go to Portland. Sid, always the responsible one, was the driver. “By the end of the summer, my car was in such bad shape that we would roll into camp and (because the brakes weren’t working) would steer the car into the tree near the administration building to get it to stop.” Times were very different. “The things we did then, we never would do now.” Sid admitted that he personally washed campers’ mouths out with soap if they swore. He also got a kick out of (current board member) Henry Barr admitting recently that he was terrified of Sid when Henry was a 10 year old camper.
Sid coached Color War for 3 years and in 1955 Ralph Santosuosso was his captain one year on white. “Fight White Fight.” Sid recalled using the anthem from “Silent Night” and using the “West Point military marching song.” Color War always came down to song night back then. When Sid was at Camp Alton, their entire summer was Color War. Teams would gain points all summer for things like cleaning. Sid tried to bring that “entire summer Color War” concept to West End. “I tried to extend Color War a few days and I lost that argument.” The events of Color War were nearly the same as today with the same sports, swim and track meets and tugs.
Sid remembered one of the saddest events that ever happened in the West End community. Charlie Meirick and his son Jimmy were the epitome of West End. Jimmy was a bunkmate of Sid’s in Gottlieb 1953. He went to Tabor Academy, then Dartmouth College. Sadly, Jimmy died in a car accident in 1959 on the way home from college. This event still makes Sid sad today. “Jimmy had so much potential.”
Feeling he needed the experience, Sid joined the army in 1957 doing his basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He learned to be a cryptographer (trying to crack codes from enemy countries). Then he moved on to Fort Riley, Kansas, then to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. When he got out of the army, he transferred from Cornell to Brandeis College. However, he was recalled to the army for 3 more months as his expertise was needed during the Cold War. After graduating Brandeis, Sid went to Boston College Law School. However, since his new wife Beverly was also a lawyer, Sid wanted to work for his father. So, he went back to Cornell to take a few courses, over a couple of summers and started working for Lucky’s trucking business, H and L Motors, in Charleston. “H and L” started with 1 truck and ended up with 40 or so. With Lucky’s friend Mike LoPresti, they got into Logan Airport and opened up a successful Deli.
Inheriting his father’s passion, Sid became heavily involved in the West End House club. In the late 40s, the city of Boston destroyed a fabulous community (the old West End). The club had to move. Some of the alumni moved to close towns like Somerville and Malden, others moved to wealthier towns like Newton. The alumni of 1000 or so men were determined to bring the club back and had the money and spirit to do so. After a year of research, Sidney and others decided Allston was the perfect place, as it had a mixed population, similar to what it was like in the West End. At first they just had a street office on Brighton Ave. However, Judge Norman Weinberg was able to get the mayor and the city to give a parcel of land near Ringer Park, which is where the club is still located today.
Sid gives credit to 2 of the all time greats, Jack Burnes and more recently, Bill Margolin.
“Billy was always kind hearted, sympathetic. Young kids were away from home and Billy was a father/grandfather figure.”
The camp needed a kinder flavor and Billy was just that. Sid remembered Jack Burnes in a similar way. “Bill was a lot like him, like a grandfather figure, like a god. Jack was bright and articulate. Some of the kids were rough back then.”
According to Sid, the “Tradition” is what makes West End a special and unique community. Following in Lucky’s footsteps, who was President of the alumni association from 1968-1969, Sid joined the board of directors and became President for a few years from 1974-1976. This was after he helped establish the new club in Allston. Sid and his friends would play Volleyball on Wednesday nights at the new club.. It was a great mix of the old West End Italian group and the suburban guys. The alumni were even more involved in the day to day business of camp back then. Joe Kaplan, Mike Cataldo and the other members of the camp committee basically ran the camp.
Living in the Boston area, Sid has so many camp contacts. He currently lives in Hampton Place, behind Wegmans in Chestnut Hill. He sees many of the West End shirts made by Joe Messina around town.
“When I mention West End to people, everyone knows people who are West Enders.”
Sid’s grandchildren also attended camp (Weinger and Mayhew brothers). Being “One of the Boys” has always been special to Sid. “It means you are a group of kids who come together at camp and because you live together, you have to get along and you become very close. 10 boys living together, getting along, it’s a bonding relationship.” Sid believes the only comparable experience was the army, but camp is different. “These are younger kids with idiosyncrasies.
Showing his lifelong commitment to West End, Sid led the “Centennial Committee” that threw an incredible event commemorating the 100th year of the camp, at Gillette Stadium, in 2008.
Thank you, Sid Boorstein for “Remembering” West End House Camp with me. We could use some help during setup week puting in the sailing dock, if you are interested.