camp wel met 2

This forested niche on the shores of a small lake in Sullivan County, New York, near Narrowsburg, is a place of fond memories for a lot of people. From 1935 until the end of the 20th century, this was a summer camp called Camp Wel-Met, which was a large camp for working-class families who couldn’t afford to send their kids to the posher, more expensive camps upstate and in New England. There were no fancy programs or equipment at this camp, but those who attended as children remember the experience for life–as evidenced by the nostalgia-soaked website for camp alums, which you can see here.

I’m doing this post, and doing it today, because it’s an important stop along the journey of two missing persons, Mitchel Weiser and Bonita Bickwit, who disappeared 40 years ago this week in one of the most baffling missing persons cases I’ve ever come across. I showcased Mitchel and Bonnie’s school in my Earth post yesterday. Bonnie, then age 15, worked at Camp Wel-Met. The two Brooklyn teenagers were headed to a huge outdoor rock festival, called Summer Jam. This place was their last stop before they began that journey.

We do know that Mitch made it to Camp Wel-Met, because he was definitely seen here eating breakfast with Bonnie on Friday morning, July 27, 1973, the day they disappeared. We also know they left the camp, intending to hitchhike to the festival. What happened to them after that remains a mystery.

This looks like a beautiful place and a perfect site for a summer camp. It was founded in 1935 by a Jewish philanthropic organization. The name stood for “Welfare Metropolitan.” Radio personality Howard Stern is among the now-famous people who went to Camp Wel-Met as a kid. After various mergers and organization changes, Camp Wel-Met doused its last campfire in 1997.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the Summer Jam Festival itself, and Friday, the anniversary of the Weiser/Bickwit disappearance, I’ll tell you everything I know about the case.

Update/Correction: 22 October 2013

This article was originally posted on July 25. Recently a commenter noted that the original site I identified for Camp Wel-Met was incorrect. I had it along the bend of the Delaware River, but the actual coordinates are about 7 miles away, at 41°35’05.25″ N, 74°54’40.85″ W. I have since corrected and updated the post. The picture at top shows the correct location. Thanks so much to “Cliff” for the correction.