Keeping the Magic Alive: It’s a Family Affair

by Bill McMahon, Co-Director

Moosilauke is many things: it is one of the oldest boy’s camp in the U.S.; it is the home away from home for about 140 boys and 50 staff from around the country and world each summer; and it is also the epitome of a multi-generational family business.

As you probably know, Moosilauke was founded in 1904.  Moose Miller bought the place in 1938 and ran it until his son Port and his wife Heide began managing it in the late 1960s.  Sabina, Port and Heide’s oldest daughter, and I took over the day-to-day running of the camp in the late 1980s, and as you will see later in this blog, there is a huge crew of the extended Miller clan (Millers/McMahons/Hales) also helping to run the place.

Although Port has passed the torch in terms of the daily operations, he is still very much an active participant in the daily life at Moose.  On any given day you can find the soon to be 77 year old teaching sculling classes, taking kids on explorations of the lake in his Zodiac boat, or leading a trail maintenance expedition on the Appalachian Trail.  And on weekends he is the main attraction at our campfire where his stories still rival megaplex blockbusters in terms of sheer entertainment value.

More importantly, Port’s presence is felt in how we run the camp.  Almost all the things that make Moosilauke special can be traced back to his practices, philosophy and personality – in particular, the origins of our key philosophies around positive risk taking and giving kids real responsibility and opportunities for achievement and self-esteem.  The enthusiastic and fun nature of our peer culture also derives directly from Port’s personality.  Like Tom Sawyer and the fence, Port’s infectious enthusiasm has always been the model relative to how to make things like swimming in a cold lake or hiking in the rain a joyous activity. Port is also the one who continually reminds us to keep things fresh and fun, and not to get stuck in tradition for traditions sake.  Whether it is prodding us to buy new equipment like stand-up paddle boards or to have a pig roast in place of a traditional meal, Port is the model for creative thinking.  And finally, Port has instilled in all of us the notion that camp should be a magical place where boys can suspend their worries about being cool or doing well in school and just revel in being boys.  There is no better example of this magic in action than our upcoming snipe hunt which Port will personally lead.  (Stay tuned for pictures and a detailed recounting.)

And of course Port’s wife Heide has been a major force in keeping Moose organized, safe, and profitable over the years.  She has been the one for the last few decades who has managed all our business and insurance affairs, and also was official camp mom for years before Sabina took over.

Moosilauke is blessed to have a number of Millers/McMahons/Hales helping to carry Port’s vision into the future.  Kenny, Sabina’s brother and Port and Heide’s oldest son, has been our Associate Director for many moons.  Among other things, Kenny hires the staff,and oversees our athletic and Counselor-in-Training (C.I.T.) programs.  Ingrid, Kenny and Sabina’s sister, helps run our office and business operations along with coordinating our website and social media.  Quinn, Sabina and my oldest son, is the director of our lacrosse program and a cabin area supervisor.  Colin, our middle son, is the head of our kayaking program. Preston, Kenny’s oldest son, helps run our baseball program along with being a residential life head.  Jake, Kenny’s other son, is the co-director of the waterfront and is also a cabin area supervisor.  Ingrid’s oldest son, Sam, is now a junior counselor and teaches baseball.  And there are two other members of the clan Griffin, Sabina and Bill’s youngest, and Curtis, Ingrid’s youngest, who are still campers.

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