“Acceptance was important to a kid growing up, and self esteem. Camp was critical in my life.” Alan Skvirsky came to camp in 1945 at the unheard of age of 7. His father, Dr. Solomon Skvirsky, was the volunteer Camp Doctor. For many years, Doc Skvirsky provided all the medical reviews for the kids before they came to camp. Alan loved camp immediately and was a camper and counselor for 11 years.
Alan grew up in Brookline, MA. Almost immediately, he was given a couple of nicknames. First, he became known as “Skippy” mostly due to his peers not wanting to bother to figure out how to spell or say his last name, but also because Skippy Peanut Butter had become popular at the time. Having his father as the Camp Doctor, Alan was also known as the “Little Iodine Kid,” as the Doc was notorious for giving the same treatment, iodine, to any wound, regardless of its severity.
Skippy’s first memory of camp was going to the bathroom in the infamously and sarcastically named “Country Club.” He admitted having a tough time at first because his bunkmates thought his father would protect him. But Skippy earned respect quickly as a terrific athlete. In 1A, Skippy bunked with Jerry Feld, Mark and Eddie Kaplan, Allen Wayne and Sid Boorstein. They were all fortunate to go to camp for 7 weeks, unlike some of his friends like Ralph Santosuosso, who came from the West End for only a couple weeks a summer.
Skippy loved “All” the sports including Basketball, Baseball, and Volleyball. “Swimming wasn’t my favorite, but I did make Senior Lifesafer.” Skippy was the catcher on the camp’s baseball team. During a game vs. a team of local boys, he “used to harass the hitters and 1 guy smashed my face with his bat and swore at me.” The boys were a competitive group. Skippy joked “it was the Jewish boys vs. the Italian boys.” Jerry Feld typically did the pitching and Sid was a great swimmer, and “the Leppos were TOUGH!”
Color War was a special time for Skippy. However, during his last year as a camper, someone on “the White Team” was going to have to step up and box the biggest camper, Eldy Moore, who was on the Blue Team. “Nobody else would do it. I don’t remember if I got knocked out in 1 minute or 1 round.” Eldy Moore was 6’6″ and played basketball for Boston English, then Suffolk University. (Boxing hasn’t been a camp competition in 40+ years).
There were some moments Skippy thought were character building, but are way out of bounds in modern camp. “They would make us hold rocks in our hands in the middle of the night until the mosquitoes ate us.”
“I had some great counselors, they did a good job as role models. Louis Kane was our counselor and he was a good guy.” Skippy remembers the legend Jack Burnes. “He was very kind, mellow.” Joe Kaplan succeeded Jack Burnes as Camp Director and Skippy didn’t make it much longer as a counselor. “He fired me because I was playing heavy duty classical music in my cabin during rest period.”
One of his last years at camp, Skippy worked Old Timers’ Week. “It was the first year I got tips from Old Timers, I couldn’t believe I got so much money.” Skippy has made it to Old Timers’ Week about 6 times since, as he has lived in Washington, DC and New York City. “I went with Jerry Feld and Sid about 20 years ago, that was the last time.” Skippy has been to camp more recently though, as his grandson, Rafi, was a camper for many years and he came for the drive to drop him off.
Doc Skvirsky worked in public health for state employees. The family moved to Brookline in 1938. Skippy always found it odd that his dad would sometimes miss breakfast, the family’s favorite meal. He found out later in life that the Doc was called late at night to get drunken politicians out of the bars, before the media could see their condition. “He would get calls in the middle of the night to get the drunks out of the bars.” Skippy had an older sister who passed away, and his older brother, David, is 98 years old and lives in downtown Boston.
As a young adult, Skippy started his own consulting business in Washington, DC and retired at the age of 66. While in DC, he met his wife, Anexora, who is from South America. They have a vacation home in Ecuador. Skippy and Anexora raised 2 daughters, Karina and Salome. He was very proud to say that both are professors, Karina at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and Salome at the University of Chicago. He has 3 grandchildren, Salome’s children Rosa and Felix, and Karina’s son Rafi. Skippy said Felix (10 years old) is a terrific athlete and has hopes that he will attend camp someday. Skippy moved to New York to be closer to Karina and Rafi for 8 years, and he is now back in DC. Rafi is a star goalie for his school’s team and was a veteran camper at West End.
Skippy’s West End lineage extends even further. His nephew (sister’s son) Steve Katzen was a long time camper and counselor. Steve‘s son Michael was also a camper and counselor for many years. Both attend Old Timers’ Week each year.
West End House Camp was the perfect place for Skippy. “I was a rebel, but I was one of the boys, a tough competitor.” He earned respect from his peers and acquaintances on the field. “I wasn’t a rule follower. So the only thing that saved me was sports.” Alan “Skippy” Skvirsky just loved how camp was a good mix, “but not too fancy, it had an edge.” He knew it was inevitable that parents would want a safer experience for their kids, after his days at camp. “They didn’t want their kids to be in a row boat, blindfolded (like in the 40s).”
Skippy credits West End House Camp for teaching him how to get along with others. “We were from Brookline (Coolidge corner area), my father was a Doctor. At camp we had all kinds of kids and sports was my way to know them.” Thank you, Alan Skvirsky, for sharing how you “Became One of the Boys.” Alan credits camp for giving him self-esteem and providing acceptance. I bet agreeing to get in the ring with Eldy Moore helped earn him credit from his peers!