Discovering Grace: Grace and the Grimaldis at Camp, Part One: Camp Oneka

Discovering Grace: Grace and the Grimaldis at Camp, Part One: Camp Oneka

Camp Oneka Sign. Photograph by Louise Feder.

In our previous entry we talked about Grace’s time spent in Ocean City, New Jersey, during the summer as a child and her devotion to the family tradition later on as an adult. However, spending time at the family vacation house was not the only summer tradition Grace, along with a multitude of other Kelly women, were passionate about. Just like many other girls in the Philadelphia area, Grace spent a number of weeks during her summers at Camp Oneka. Before we go any further I have to admit, I also went to Camp Oneka for a number of years, so this entry may be one of the more personal pieces of writing I created for this blog; just like Grace Kelly I have a deep and abiding love for camp.

Camp Oneka is located on Fairview Lake in the Pocono Mountains and has been in existence since 1908, making it one of the oldest summer camps still in operation. It has always been exclusively for girls and is in almost every way a traditional summer camp. Campers sleep in cabins and tents, go hiking and swimming, put on plays, learn camp songs, wear uniforms for special occasions (red shorts, white shirt), and take part in a camp-wide, summer-long “color war” or “Red/White.” Red/White divides campers into two teams named for the colors in Camp Oneka’s logo, red and white, and pits the girls against each other in friendly competition. Once a camper is sorted onto a team she remains on that team for the rest of her time as a camper. Then, if that camper has sisters, daughters, nieces, or granddaughters who also attend Camp Oneka, they are immediately sorted onto that same team. These team allegiances are taken seriously and borne proudly by families for generations – the fact that Grace was on the white team has been a team claim to fame for years now.

The Kellys were a long term, multi-generational Oneka family. Margaret Majer attended in the 1920s and then sent her daughters, Peggy, Grace, and Lizanne, who later sent their daughters, Princesses Stephanie and Caroline included! Since the camp is small and located on a lake without a public beach, Oneka is very private and proved to be a treasured getaway from the public eye for the Kelly and Grimaldi campers. When at Oneka, these girls could take part in camp activities just like their peers, learning self sufficiency, independence, and bonding with other campers without any worry that they would be carefully watched by tourists or the press. According to Oneka alumna Ginny Jackson Gilroy in one of CampOneka’s anthologies of memories, she once overheard a young camper ask Princess Stephanie if she got special treatment as a princess to which Stephanie responded, “Not really…I have to eat my peas just like any other kid!”

Grace and her family have since become completely treasured as special alumni among current campers. Stories about the girls at camp have been passed down over generations of Oneka women. At nearly every campfire you will find someone talking about how John B. Kelly, Sr. flew over camp one summer to drop a pair of much needed socks down to Grace, or that Lizanne won the role of “Ponemah the Sun God” in the annual camp pageant through a series of rigorous tryouts, or how one alumna stole ice cream from the kitchen with the princesses, and that on certain occasions the princesses had to show photos of themselves at the palace in Monaco to visiting boy campers to prove that they actually were royalty and everyone was not just making up stories. Every time Madonna’s “Vogue” comes on at camp dances, everyone gleefully screams out “Grace Kelly!” at the appropriate time and I can, with serious embarrassment, remember being convinced to stay at camp by a bunk mate despite my homesickness because, “Grace Kelly would never desert Oneka and neither should you!”

Oneka is still in operation and has not changed much since Grace’s days as a camper. As it is still a vibrant and functional camp, if you’re planning on visiting please be sure to contact the camp directors before showing up – you don’t want to interrupt Red/White after all! If you’d like to visit or learn more about Camp Oneka be sure to take a look at the information listed below.

Many thanks to Barb and Dale Dohner, camp directors, as well as Becky Mackrell for their help with this entry.

Be sure to check in soon to learn about Grace Kelly’s relationship to another summer camp: Camp Tecumseh!

Can’t wait until October to see what the James A. Michener Art Museum has to offer? No problem! Visit our website at michenermuseum.org to see what we have on exhibit currently, learn about memberships, programs, upcoming events, and find our hours to schedule your next trip. We hope to see you soon.

 

-Louise Feder, Membership and Special Events Coordinator

 

Camp Oneka

325 Route 390

Tafton, PA18464

(570) 226-4049

info@oneka.com

oneka.com

16 Comments

  1. Sheila Goff September 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Very fun post, Louise! But I don’t think the young lady identified as Grace’s elder daughter is really Princess Caroline…

    • Louise Feder September 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sheila! You know it’s so funny — someone else mentioned that to me today too! Amazingly, it is labelled as Caroline and came with a whole set of other photos of Caroline and Stephanie. Archival mistake maybe? Oneka is old and there have been so many campers that it was bound to happen at least once! 🙂

    • Louise Feder September 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Okay, mystery solved! Although mistakenly labelled as Caroline, Oneka alumna Ginny Jackson Gilroy confirmed today, “The one with the tennis players is actually not Caroline. Caroline had long hair all her years at Oneka. I believe that is a picturee of Barb Nesbit.” So there we have it! To make up for that mistake I was looking through my scans from my trip out to Oneka last spring to get these pics and found a couple ones that for whatever reason I hadn’t included in the slideshow. Hope you like them (and hope their archival labels were correct!!!).

      • Sheila Goff September 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm - Reply

        Aww, Louise, the pictures you added of Princess Stephanie are too cute! Thank you for sharing them. But – here I go again, sorry! – I think the woman identified as Stephanie’s grandmother is more likely to be Grace’s younger sister, Lizanne Levine. And thank you Ginny Jackson Gilroy for confirming my suspicion about “Caroline”. ☺

        • Louise Feder September 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm - Reply

          No apology needed! Clarification is always appreciated, especially with the labels on these old photos — thanks for the heads up!

  2. ashley formeto September 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    Only one Grimaldi was involved in the ice cream heist. The other got away with wearing a white sweater on Sundays (RED was required by the rest of the camp), and they attended with their cousins from Philadelphia — killer athletes for the Whites — Liz and Meg (Jack’s kids), as well as cousin Grace. Very down-to-earth family. The Grimaldi parents, like the Kellys, were natural and wonderful, like everyone in the Oneka family! Fond memories. Caroline in “The King And I” – trodding the boards in the Lodge! And shoulder rides to Store Line, me on hers, a time for everything.

    • Louise Feder September 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Oh gosh, Caroline in the “Kind And I” — do you remember what role she played?

  3. Katie Friebus September 26, 2013 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Hey Louise! This article made me tear up! I take so much pride as you do in my time spent at the greatest camp in the world and on the beloved White Team! I plan to share this with all the Oneka girls I know. Great job! Hail to Camp Oneka!

    • Louise Feder September 30, 2013 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Katie! Thanks for your sweet note — I’m so glad you liked it. Side note, the bunk mate that pulled that Grace line to get me to stick it out through that bad bout of homesickness was your sister 🙂

  4. Carol Kehler October 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Louise ~ My husband and I were assistant directors under the Paulins, so we were there when Stephanie was a camper. I have tickets to come to the exhabit Thursday, October 31, at 10:00. Could you please email me and let me know of places in the area to have lunch. I would love to meet you while we are there ~ I always love meeting a Camp Oneka girl. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

    • Louise Feder October 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Carol, that’s so great — both that you were working at Oneka when Stephanie was a camper and that you’ll be coming to the exhibition. I will absolutely email you re: restaurants and meeting up!

  5. Elle Em October 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Gosh, those pictures are such treasures! I don’t think Grace ever had an awkward phase, did she? 🙂 I also find it rather serendipitous that the Camp Oneka colors are the same as those of the Monegasque flag!

    I’m having so much fun reading these entries! Thanks!

    -“Elle”

    • Louise Feder October 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      What a great observation about the colors, Elle! I had honestly never thought of that — how auspicious!

  6. Carol Kehler October 30, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Louise I am coming tomorrow with two friends to see the Grace Kelly Exhibition. I hope that I will get to meet you. We have tickets for 10:30 so I will see if you are around and not busy. As I said in my last note I always love meeting someone from Camp Oneka! I hope we can connect, even if it’s just to say “hi” and to sing “Hail Camp Oneka”. 🙂

  7. Sue Ann Baker January 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    I was a camp counselor when Caroline and her cousin attended camp in 1971. Can anyone please tell me the name of her blond cousin who was with her? I have the camp photograph, but obviously no names attached. Thanks.

  8. Meg Pohe Rose March 4, 2016 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I loved reading your blog and regret I did not know about the exhibit at the time. I also attended Camp Oneka. I was there during the summers of ’65-66, I think. Jack Kelley’s daughters and another friend were there when I was a camper. I asked one of them what it was like to visit the palace in Monaco. She replied, “No big deal. So my cousins are princesses.”

    There are a couple memories I have that I do not see mentioned here or on the Camp Oneka website.

    It seems to me that we always called the Dueblers “Henri and Dubie”. I’m not sure I ever knew their last name or that they were sisters!

    I remember visiting the Dueblers with my parents at their winter home during the months prior to my 1st summer at Oneka. I always thought it was a sort of interview. I wonder now if it was an opportunity for them to assess my readiness for 2 months at overnight camp. I turned 9 years old in April prior to my first summer at Camp Oneka. My parents sent me while they moved our home from outside Philadelphia to Bethlehem, PA. The following year, they were over seas during my summer at Oneka.

    Following dinner, we were often dismissed from the dining room by where we lived – all campers who live in Gladwyn may leave, all campers living in New York City, and so on. It was an exciting time because we all wanted to get out and get on with the evening activities!

    Thank you so much for reminding me of my time at Camp Oneka! I’ve enjoyed your blog and look forward to exploring the James A. Michener Art Museum. Although years apart, Mr Michener and I were both Swarthmore College alumni.

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