Exhibit showcases forgotten photos from Beacon summer camp
A Village Voice ad lured an aspiring photographer named Michael Raab from New York City to Beacon during the summer of 1966.
More than five decades later, a story in The Highlands Current brought him back.
Raab shot 35 mm film that summer while working as a counselor for a camp organized by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at its South Avenue property. The images will be the focus of an exhibit that opens Saturday (Feb. 10) at the Howland Public Library in Beacon.
It is accompanied by a videotaped interview with Raab and Sandy Moneymaker, the widow of the late Rev. Thomas Moneymaker, St. Andrew’s former rector and a community organizer. It was Thomas Moneymaker who in July 1966 placed the Village Voice ad seeking people to work “in a racially-torn city” for $20 a week plus room and board.
Raab, a supporter of the civil rights movement who traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1963 for the March on Washington, saw the camp as an opportunity to “be more of a participant” and decided to take a break from working as an assistant in a commercial photography studio.
The children in his black-and-white photos were mostly residents of Beacon’s West End, a predominantly Black community whose homes and businesses were erased by Urban Renewal in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
“What is so significant to me, and what I see in these pictures, is a sense of community,” said Raab. “That really touched me.”
The history of that summer had been packed away and forgotten by Raab, who forged a career as a commercial photographer and then in real estate. Those memories stirred in May 2023 when he and his wife booked a three-day trip to Beacon after reading about the city’s evolution.
Raab said he searched Google for information on Thomas Moneymaker and discovered Always Present, Never Seen, a 2022 series by The Current on the history of Black people in the Highlands. The series included an interview with Sandy Moneymaker about the integration of St. Andrew’s and her husband’s concerns about the impact of Urban Renewal on Beacon’s Black residents.
Raab emailed the newspaper about his summer in the city, which led to a meeting with Diane Lapis, a trustee of the Beacon Historical Society. Lapis set up a meeting between Raab and Sandy Moneymaker, and that “touched off again all these memories,” he said.
“Diane spurred me to go back and look and see if I had any pictures from then,” said Raab. “I was shocked when I found them.”
During his sojourn at the summer camp, Raab and another volunteer from New York City slept on mattresses in a small cottage on St. Andrew’s property. They ate inside Moneymaker’s residence. Most memorable, he said, were the experiences with the kids, which he captured with a Nikon camera during breaks.
There were activities like basketball and an overnight trip to a campground owned by the Episcopal Diocese in Bear Mountain Park. The trip had one “scary” moment, however, when someone yelled the N-word from a car that passed the children as they walked at night along a road inside the park, he said.
One of the photos that strikes him the most, said Raab, shows four campers interacting with each other as they sit on a bench. Another child stands beside them.
“They’re all being together, being with each other — that sense of belonging somewhere,” he said. “I got a lot out of that summer.”
Beacon’s West End Story: Summer of 1966 opens in the Howland Public Library’s Community Room with an artist’s reception on Feb. 10, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and continues through March 3. The library is located at 313 Main St.
Behind The Story
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