In 1915, three brothers from a New York City family decided to open a summer camp for boys, each bringing a special set of skills to the venture. One brother, George Mason, had worked for several years in the US Forest Service, had graduated from Yale, and loved the outdoors. A second brother, Lou Mason, was a teacher and lawyer, who had strong organizational skills and business acumen. The third brother, Dr. Gabriel Mason, was a principal in the New York City school system, an active member of the community, and knew a lot of families with young boys who might be looking for a place to send them to get out of the hot and illness-ridden city for the summer.
After looking at about fifty sites throughout August of 1915, they chose a beautiful spot on Center Lake in Becket, Massachusetts, deep in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. From the start, Greylock was to be a place of high ideals and distinction. Dr. Mason had taken a course at Columbia University by the influential educator, Dr. Felix Adler, the founder of the Ethical Culture Society. His teachings of supporting one another in becoming better people and on doing good in the world became a focus at Greylock. Dr. Mason wrote: “When in 1915, the building of Camp Greylock was begun, it was to realize an ideal that I had long cherished–to build a summer home for growing boys, where under the most favorable environment, character training as well as physical and mental development should constitute a trinity of labor and love. Here then was to be a place where youngsters were to be taught to become self-reliant, self-respecting and self-controlled; where they were to develop their bodies thru athletic activities; develop their minds through daily study; but above all to learn by inspirational example and practical guidance the lessons of perseverance, of unselfishness, and of consideration for others.”
Throughout the winter of 1915-1916, George and a crew of local workers transformed what had been a wooded lot with only a footpath to the lake into a summer camp. During that period, they built the senior quad which would have 13 tents that summer, a dining hall, and a social hall, as well as a baseball field, basketball and tennis courts, a track, toilet and shower facilities, and brought electricity into camp. Camping at the time was a new venture and they knew of only a handful of other camps, so they had few models from whom to copy. Meanwhile, Lou and “Doc” were busy in New York City gathering a group of trailblazers to be the first group of Greylockers. On Saturday July 1, 1916 a group of 85 campers and 20 staff gathered in Grand Central Station, learned a brand new camp song, and boarded a train for the old Becket station. By late that afternoon, they stood on the lower quad and participated in the first camp activity – a swim in the lake.
Greylock flourished in those early years, as the camp grew rapidly and more than doubled in size. A theatre was built for the summer of 1917. A Junior side was added two years later. Over a period of years in the late 1920’s, the tents were replaced by cabins. Camp weathered the Great Depression. During World War II, Greylock struggled to fill staff positions and mourned the loss of five alumni in battle. Greylock proved to be an innovator in the camping world and its most prominent contribution came in August of 1917 when Greylock had the first color contest in camping, Red & Grey.
After the death of Lou Mason in 1946, George and “Doc” decided that the responsibilities of camp management called for younger blood. After founding Greylock and running it for thirty-three summers, they sold the camp to Randy Rosenbaum following the 1948 summer. Randy’s pedigree as a Greylocker could not have been better: he was a former Red & Grey Captain, best all-around camper, swim instructor, and head counselor. Prior to purchasing the camp, he had worked in the FBI. Recognizing the complexities of running a large organization for boys, Randy brought an old campmate in as his partner prior to the summer of 1950. With Randy, Bert Margolis would play a major role in shaping and building the modern Greylock.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Greylock changed to fit the changing world. Camp grew in size. New cabins on the upper quad were built, junior side was divided into hill and lake camps, and fields that were previously on the other side of Route 8 were relocated to their present positions in the heart of the campus. The instructional clinic system, where boys would be taught everything from fundamental to advanced skills in sports, was another major innovation in the late 1950’s and was soon copied throughout the camping industry. Bert and Randy also held on to many of the cherished Greylock traditions that went back to their early days at camp – hiking to the top of Mount Greylock, Big Shows, campfires, singing the camp songs, and afternoons spent swimming in the lake. Bert took a great interest in the field of child psychology and brought a lot of innovations from his education in that field into practical use at camp. Greylock was one of the first camps to have a mandatory counselor orientation period prior to the arrival of the campers, so that staff could be properly trained, understand the principles of decency, virtue, and fair play that were at the heart of the Greylock experience, and learn about the children they would be working with. Each week, Bert would speak to the campus at assemblies to try and impart lessons of understanding and effort. In the early 1960’s, long-time head counselor Irv Schwartz was added to the directorate.
Under the leadership of Bert, Randy, and Irv, Greylock flourished in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Camp continued to grow in size, facility, and its influence in the lives of the campers. In 1973, the Dining Hall burned to the ground and was replaced by a state-of-the-art new facility in the middle of campus. 1973 also proved to be Randy’s final summer, as he retired after running Greylock for 26 summers. Irv Schwartz became ill prior to the summer of 1987 and passed away that fall. Bert, then in his seventies, continued to run camp with the help of a strong supporting cast that would become the next generation of Greylock directors. He stayed on at Greylock through the summer of 1997, a remarkable run of 57 summers as a camper, counselor, and director.
Michael Marcus, the camp’s long-time waterfront director, and Lukas Horn, the camp’s head counselor and former waterfront director, bought the camp in 1994. They immediately started improving the facility. In their first few years running the camp, a new in-line hockey rink, three new outdoor basketball courts, and a new 100 yard Football field were added. In the next few years, cabin and bathroom renovations were the focus. The largest indoor Field House in camping, 22,000 square feet, was the next major project. Through it all, though, Greylock continues to aspire to the simple goals of our founders – to make Greylock a safe place where children bridge the gap from boyhood to manhood and are taught the value of sportsmanship, effort, and consideration for others.