Friday, September 9, 2011

Hilltop Camp

Shirley at Hilltop Camp, Spring Green, Wisconsin.  Circa 1951.

A good friend of Eloise Fritz, Shirley taught art at Hilltop both as a young woman, during summer and in between college semesters, and once during the early 1960's when Don was expanding his architectural practice.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Shirley Remembers

"I was a camp counselor at Hilltop Camp in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  Hilltop was run by another, former apprentice of Wright, Herbert Fritz and his wife, Eloise."

"That summer, I had a friend visiting from Canada, Muriel Hewitt, and we decided to tour Taliesin which was just down the road from Hilltop.  It was then that I first met Don Erickson."

“Eloise Fritz had two camp counselors at the time; me and Phyllis Silverman. Eloise loaned me the Hilltop pickup truck so that Muriel and I could go to Taliesin.”

“Once we arrived there, Muriel and I were ushered into the drafting room at Taliesin where we met our tour guide, a ‘cute, red headed man.’  His name was Don Erickson."

Don asked, “Where are you from?”

“(Eloise instructed me not to say that I was associated with Hilltop camp; the apprentices were not allowed to date.)”

Muriel said, “I am from Saskatchewan.”

I said, “I am a history professor from the province of Alberta.”

“The tour ended and we went back to Hilltop.”

“About a week later, Phyllis and I took the campers to the movies in Spring Green.  All the kids piled into the pick-up truck and we drove them into town.”

“After the movie, we went to retrieve the truck so that we could return to camp.  On the walk back, I saw Don and another apprentice.”

Don said, ‘What is this?  I thought that you were a history professor and would be back in Canada, by now!”

“I lied.”

“Okay, so you are working at Hilltop.”

“Yes, I am.”

“A few days later, Don drove into Hilltop and asked me for a date . . . Don Fairweather, another apprentice, asked Phyllis out, too.”

“That afternoon, Don drove Phyllis, Don Fairweather, and I – all packed into the front seat of a pick-up truck -- into Spring Green.  We bought steaks, salad fixings and beer at the grocery store and planned to have a cook-out on the beach along the Wisconsin River.  On the way to the beach, we turned off the road through a pasture onto a farmer’s dirt road.  There had been a storm and there was a huge hole in the road.”

“You’ll need to drive around it,” I said.

Don refused.  He drove forward and the truck became engulfed in the hole.

“What are we going to do?” Don wondered.

“We walked to a nearby farm house and knocked on the door.  It was early evening.  The farmer came out onto his front porch.  Don explained that we needed a tractor to pull the truck out of the hole.”

The farmer said, “No.  I know you boys at Taliesin and I’m not going to help you.”

Don and the others walked away but I stayed and spoke to the farmer.

I said, ‘I know how you feel.  My Dad has a farm, too, and these city people drive onto the beach and get stuck in the sand and Dad has to help pull them out.  Dad really resents it, so I understand.”

The farmer said, ‘Your Dad has a farm?’


The farmer replied, “Okay, I’ll help you.”

“Once the farmer used his tractor to pull the truck out of the hole, the four of us drove down to the beach, had our cook-out and drank the beer.  The two Don’s suggested we go skinny-dipping but we refused.”

“The boy’s went down the river and skinny-dipped.  When they went back to pack up the truck, we went skinny-dipping, too.”

Shirley was a born story-teller, and she liked telling the story about her first date with Don.  Shirley and Don not only had a passion for their profession in common, but both learned how to play classical pieces on the piano from the age of four, and were similarly passionate about music.  Shirley became Don’s first wife.  They were married for eighteen years and had three children together.

Pictured are Shirley and her best friend, Muriel Hewitt, at Hilltop Camp in Spring Green, Wisconsin.