I have written about summer camp but not specifically about horseback riding.  It was sensational.  Each morning the bus picked me up on West 83rd Street and took me to the “wilds” of Yonkers in the Silver Birch Ranch Day Camp.  The “wilds” being high on a hill above the Tuckahoe Road exit number 6 on the NYS thruway.

Being a West Side kid I knew about the riders in Central Park and the Claremont Stables.  But Silver Birch was different.

The corral wasn’t very big.  It was on two levels, well sort of, with a little trail up some not so big rocks that led from the lower to the upper flat area.  The lower area was where you would typically find the horses tied up to the wooden post and rail fence and Jerry, the riding counselor, perched.

We all wore cowboy boots, those of us who helped out.  The campers were encouraged to wear at least hard sole shoes.  We wore western snap button shirts and jeans, just like Jerry.  His girlfriend was Gail, the best looking counselor in the camp, of course.

We taught campers how to bridle and saddle the horses.  We were a small operation. We let them ride around the flat upper part of the corral and then we taught them how to brush down the animals.

The older kids got to go out on the trails that left the upper camp area which surrounded the upper corral.  This was mostly a walking ride with Jerry in the front and one of us, the counselors-in-training (CIT), bringing up the rear.  For the better riders the trail ride included an area where they were encouraged to run their horses.

Credit Colin Lloyd on Unsplash.com

And then there was the time the horse fell on me.  While Jerry sat on the fence around the upper part of the corral I took one of the horses to ride in loops.  Forgetting that the animal was slightly lame on the left I was making left turns until….over we went.  I got untangled as the horse got back on his hooves and Jerry looked down at me and said, “Is the horse all right?”

Sally and Milt, who owned the camp, used to tell us about the time when they rode on the NYS Thruway while it was a dirt route under construction to become the highway we all know.

They were great folks.  Sally was a nurse.  She seemed to be the person running the day to day operation.  Milt, if I recall correctly was a doctor.  We didn’t see him every day.  They had  a daughter, Garth Allison, who was several years younger than me.  She had a crush on me and I thought she was very pretty and I was very flattered.  They had a gorgeous Irish Setter named Maverick.  He was friends with us all.

Sally gathered the CITs together in the office one day and we talked about pimples.  She was very firm in her belief that most if not all of us had skin which was adversely impacted by milk.  I stopped drinking milk and stopped getting any pimples.

I stayed with family on the camp grounds for to weeks one summer while my parents were away.  My mother was in Europe with her best friend, Florence, and dad was in California working.  It was fun being with Sally and Milt, Garth and Maverick.

In my last year as a CIT, I had visions of Jerry moving on and me taking over.  Instead, sadly, Sally and Milt sold the camp to a developer.  Now when you look up from the Thruway around the Tuckahoe Road exit you see houses.  What a loss!  I really loved it there in the wilds of Yonkers.

6 thoughts on “Riding

  1. Our summers together at Silver Birch (for me, ’62-’65) were among the greatest of my life. I don’t remember much about the horses, frankly. My memories are of singing Beatles songs to impress the girls–one in particular. Unfortunately, she lived in another state and only came to NY for the summers to stay with some relative, so when I went off to college, that was that. I haven’t lived in the East for over 50 years. but I had occasion to be back some years ago and drove up to Tuckahoe Rd. My heart broke when I saw that what used to be the baseball field was a parking lot for an indoor tennis facility. The areas for horses are now areas for houses. Nothing left but memories, but I’m grateful that yours are so much more intact than mine. Keep ’em coming. And if you ever come across any photos, please post or send.


  2. Since you say you see houses today, it partially answers my question, viz., was this on the east or west side of the Thruway. My first thought was that this is now the site of the Stew Leonard’s/Home Depot complex, but that’s on the west side. On the east side, up on the bluff, many years after Stew Leonard’s, in a shameful political betrayal of the community/county, that extensive housing and shopping complex (I’m not recalling the name of it) was authorized to be constructed. I went there once, to join Connie Mitchell & her husband for lunch at an actually nice restaurant. But still the whole place was/is a stain on the environment. Maybe this isn’t the exact location of where this camp was, but it gotta be very close. (Ah, I now see your friend Jon’s comment, pointing to the back/side of that tennis place. I don’t know how many times I used to drive by there, never knew that’s where the camp was; the area always had housing as you say, from the later point in time when I knew it.)

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  3. After leaving the Bronx in 1967, we moved to Yonkers up near North Broadway. I know the area you wrote about very well. At the bottom of the hill on Tuckahoe Road, there were two hotels. One was called the Carvel Hotel where Tom Carvel trained new franchisees. I also worked at a day camp in Yonkers called Creative Day Camp. Our most famous campers were the children of Mets’ great, Art Shamsky. And I also have Yonkers horseback riding history. There was a riding facility off of Fort Hill Road. Thanks for the memories!


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