From the Archives: Football’s Blairstown retreat

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Princeton football’s 1967 training camp at Blairstown. (George Peterson ’65/PAW Archives)

On Aug. 25, Princeton football kicked off practice for the 2010 season on campus, at the recently renovated Finney and Campbell fields. But previous generations of Tigers may remember a very different site for August workouts: Blairstown, N.J., near the Delaware Water Gap. The secluded retreat hosted football’s preseason practices from 1949 to 1972, when new coach Bob Casciola ’58 decided to work out on campus to accommodate a larger roster and provide indoor options on rainy days. In 1967, a few years before Blairstown’s final football camp, PAW featured the training locale in the photo essay reprinted below.

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From 1949 to 1972, Blairstown served as the football team’s secluded training retreat.

From PAW, Nov. 14, 1967

A Blairstown Portfolio

Photographed by George Peterson ’65

The Princeton Summer Camp is located three miles north of Blairstown, New Jersey, not far from the Delaware Water Gap. The Camp is owned by Princeton’s Student Christian Association and financed, independent of the University, by charity.

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Cabins accommodated 85 players. Meetings, like this one, were held outdoors.

The 165-acre site accommodates eight log cabins, a dining hall, a staff building, locker, training, and medical rooms, two full-sized practice fields, and a large lake. The camp is beautiful. Indeed it is startling to find such a "diamond in the rough" of New Jersey. A visitor might justifiably assume that he had been miraculously transported to the Adirondacks, so similar are the climate and topography. Head Coach Dick Colman and his staff are delighted with the camp and so are most of the players who appreciate the cool mornings and evenings. Were it not for the generosity of the Student Christian Association the team would most likely practice and live in Princeton. If the local humidity did not kill the boys, the pizzas and late movies would.

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Coaches in 1967 included Dick Colman (head coach), left, and Bill Whitton (offensive line).

During the summer, the camp is dedicated to the well being of underprivileged youth from  Metropolitan New York. The SCA loans the facilities to the football team for the fifteen days allotted for their preliminary training.

The players may grumble about Blairstown’s remoteness, but the coaches rejoice in it. Every available minute is devoted to conditioning, teaching new skills and plays, and deciding on personnel placement. Coach Colman has repeatedly emphasized that the outcome of the season is largely determined by the decisions he and his staff make regarding the positioning of personnel, and by the ability of his players to absorb fundamental skills.

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A scenic view of the lake at Blairstown.

Colman believes that the seemingly simple and oft-ignored fundamentals, blocking and tackling, can never be overemphasized. Well-disciplined men win championships, and Coach Colman’s record proves this point. Opposing coaches respect him for his ability to mold inexperienced players into competent football men and they regard Princeton as the most dangerous late-season opponent in the Ivy League, regardless of the team’s record at the time. Some of the credit should go to Blairstown.

One thought on “From the Archives: Football’s Blairstown retreat

  1. Max Siles

    I found this article from the archives by accident. It caught my attention immediately because just 5 days ago I attended, along with my wife, my daughter and 8 of her friends an annual activity that Princeton-Blairstown Center holds. Every year around this time on November, the Center has the Woodcutters weekend. This event draws people from all parts of the world; people who in one way or another has been touched positively by PBC (as we like to call it).
    PBC is a place that brings the best out in a human being. There is something magical about Princeton-Blairstown Center that embraces each and everyone of its visitors. PBC has helped countless of individuals from all walks of life to draw a better path in life, to inspire and encounter the powerful innate forces and act upon them.
    It must be the mixture of closeness to Mother Nature, the beautiful pristine lake, its rugged terrain, its comfortable true log cabins and the people who work so diligently at PBC what disarms its visitors of all inhibitions and arms them with the true self.
    On this past Friday night, my daughter and her 8 other friends arrived at around 10:00 pm. They were excited about Woodcutters, an opportunity to experience life in the rough, cutting and stocking wood to prepare the camp for the comming cold winter months. In a way they knew that they were extending a helping hand to underpriviledge kids from the inner cities who will come to experience the beauty of Nature and discover that they too are packed with greatness. It was 11:00 pm and all 9 teenagers were chatting and laughing while trying to sleep. At around midnight, I told them that they should go to sleep because the next day was going to be an early awakening. At 12:30pm the laughs and whisperings were not showing signs of slowing down. I wanted to go to sleep but could not do so with all the chatting in the cabin. I got out of the comfort of my sleeping bag, put on my shoes and starting shouting(as if I was a drill sargeant from the Army). They were startled, I was getting them out of bed past midnight, they could not believe it.
    The night was beautifully lit by a silver soft light from the big round moon. There was no need for flashlights. I took the teenagers to the football fields and in the middle of the night I invited them to close their eyes and listen to the sounds of the surroundings. Almost magically, the wind started to whisper in our ears, connecting our lives to the past and present of PBC. Those two magnificent football fields where in other times Princeton football players exherted the best in them, were now exherting the best in us 10.
    The night, sprinkled by the thousands of distant stars, also invited to talk about the wonders that our senses perceive. It was then when in the middle of the stargazing we were experiencing that one of Viviana’s friend, Laura, pointed her iPod to the sky. In amazement we all gathered around Laura to see that the power of technology was helping us in naming the different constellations on the firmament.
    We returned to the cabin at aroung 3:00am and everyone went to bed. Michael was the first to go to dreamland and his snoring was so loud that the rest of us were barely able to sleep, but that is another story.

    Reply

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