Miss Bertie Crawford
CFE Summer Camp Cook 1955-1980
Miss Bertie was a Godsend. She ran the lunchroom at Oneco Elementary. And she cooked for summer camp for 25 years. That says it right there. If we ever build a new dining hall, it should be dedicated and named in her honor. She kept a scrapbook that the staff signed every year. Bud got to take a look at it a few years ago. It hasn't been long since she passed away.
Every week, at the first meal on Sunday night, we had spaghetti. Boy was it good too. All meals were served family style and each table had a waiter for each meal that rotated among the boys. The staff would eat at the tables on the ends, so you had a staff member at each table. Food was distributed through a large open window that doesn't exist anymore. Each waiter was to get the food as it was set at the window. Sweet tea was usually the first item, and boy was that good. After the meal, the waiter was required to stay after to clean up. Boys seemed to dislike being waiter because you had to get there about 1/2 hour early to set the table and about 1/2 hour afterwards, or more depending on how messy your troop/patrol was or how quickly and diligently you cleaned your area. After you were done, you had to stand there and wait to be dismissed by the dinning hall steward. Those guys took their job seriously. In fact, one is a judge here in town, Glibert Smith.
Stories that I personally have are several but these are my favorites. Every year when camp started there was always a big rat snake in the toilet of the cooks cabin bathroom. Miss Bertie would yell "WAYNE", calling for Mr. Gifford, the ranger, and you could hear her for a ways. He would proceed to get the snake out, and I seem to recall he hated snakes. But as any of us would do, he would do anything for Miss Bertie. As camp season proceeded and we heard her yell "WAYNE" from her cabin, we knew to run and get Mr. Gifford to get the snake out.
Another was when I was aquatics director and Ken Singletary was camp director. We were sitting in the camp office discussing something that I don't remember. Although I can vividly remember the incident, just not the subject. Anyway, Ken made a comment that stuck in my mind. He said, "what ever Miss Bertie wants, Miss Bertie gets. I don't run this camp she does. I'm just the camp director." What that pointed out to me was how important camp food service was (is) and how at camp school they taught us, "have good food and a good aquatics program and you will have a successful summer camp." And boy was the food good. I may have mentioned that and I like to think that my aquatics program was pretty good. So I think those summers of the late '70's, we had a good summer camp.
One morning I missed regular breakfast and was in the kitchen eating breakfast late. Miss Bertie always made sure if you missed a meal for whatever reason, you ate. As I was talking to her while she was busy in the kitchen and eating my breakfast, I mentioned how I loved fried okra and how my grandmother would always fix an entire serving bowl just for me. Couple of nights later the kitchen door opens during supper and out walks Miss Bertie with a bowl of fried okra and sets it down next to my plate. I stood up and gave her a hug and thanked her.
Another is with my friends and camp staff cohorts, Jeff Kosik and Sam Caruso. Sam's dad was lodge adviser when I came into the lodge and one of the best authorities on Native Americans. Sam was also a lodge chief and went on to be section secretary. Jeff was a vice chief and is now with Central Florida Council as a council VP.
Anyway, we would would raid the kitchen late, around midnight for a snack. The kitchen was always locked but we could get in because Sam was skinny. The cabinets where the pots were could be opened from the kitchen or the dinning hall. We would take the pots out and Sam would slip through the cabinet and open the doors from the inside. Then Jeff and I would put the pots back in the cabinet being careful to put them in the way we took them out, so not to arise suspicion. We would see what was in the refrigerator, usually making a sandwich with left over cold cuts or what ever was in there. Sometimes there was cake left over from supper, that sort of thing. We always made sure we cleaned up and put everything away. Making sure we would not get caught and really get in trouble.
One night, Jeff opens the refrigerator and says "hey guys look, we didn't have this for supper". It was a
pie and several small plates of food. We all three looked at each other and said at the same time, "Miss Bertie knows." We continued to find stuff the rest of the summer and never let on. Boy did we have some great midnight snacks. To this day we always talk about that when we get together. The only thing I regret is never really thanking her but I think she knew how much we enjoyed it. We always cleaned up and left the kitchen like we found it. I think that made it OK and I guess that was our way of saying thanks.
Talk to anyone and they we tell you how great the food was. And surely the commitment to cook for 25 years is unsurpassed in this day and age. I think it also shows how she loved the kids and the staff and would do anything for them. When she needed her way, she got it and nobody was going to complain. When she needed her way, we all knew it was the right thing to do too.
To this day, I have not had a summer camp meal that holds a candle to the food she prepared for us. Probably because she made her food with love.