Camp Evergreen and the Value of Getting Back to Nature
In 1981, “Little” Jim Loscutoff convinced his wife, Debby, to leave California. The destination: Camp Evergreen, an Andover day camp opened in 1964 by his father. Last year, Jim’s daughter, Allie, convinced her husband to leave his native France where they’d been living for ten years to join them.
Jim was seven when camp started and was its first registered camper. His daughter, Allie, was at the same age when she started leading campfire songs. During those first days, he remembers his babysitter helping the family send out promotional materials signed by the camp’s larger-than-life founder, Jim Sr., a 6’5” famed former Celtics player who played in seven world championships during his nine-year career with the team.
That first year, they had one hundred campers, a huge success Jim largely attributes to his father’s name. As far as how camp was built, he says, “He was the brawn and my mother was the brains.” To set up in their coveted spot within Harold Parker State Forest, his mom pursued permits and negotiated with neighbors. She was also good with press releases. The physical labor included clearing trees for a makeshift baseball field, building a bathhouse, digging a pool, and setting up a simple tent as a nurse’s station. They’ve upgraded since, but strive to maintain as much of the old structure and charm as possible.
From the beginning, Camp Evergreen’s purpose has been to let kids be kids in a way that facilitates their naturally adventurous spirits. “We’re the real deal around here,” says Debby, the longtime official “Camp Mom.” Unlike many camps today, who have increased their focus on STEM education, Evergreen usually sticks to … sticks, for kid-made fishing poles. And the stars, in the night sky, or onstage for the Evergreen version of “The Voice.” And the woods, for hiking adventures that supersede video games — especially this past summer when the kids arrived already sick of being stuck at home staring at screens.
In 2020, Jim says it took a little longer to get kids out of their shells but he thoroughly enjoyed their exuberance once it surfaced. He’s a magician and a musician both — fitting for a camp director — and he loved playing guitar during the younger kids’ lunches; they got up and danced. At 64, he’s spending more time in the office than he might prefer, but as Allie takes on more administrative duties, he’ll be able to get out more. “Maybe I’ll get to be the fun guy,” he says. And there may soon be help from the fourth generation, says Jim in lively jest, “My grandson, who’s a little over one, he just can’t reach the gas pedals on the lawnmower yet.”
Allie is deeply proud of her family and the lives touched by their camp. Strangers are always telling her stories about her dad and late grandpa. But they’re not really strangers. Her own fond memories inspire her to preserve Evergreen’s community presence at its fullest. “When I was a kid, we did this Christmas parade,” she says. “We’d get all the kids from camp and decorate a truck. I want to do more like that.”
Allie looks forward to fostering the campers’ love of nature. To her, that’s both environmentally protective and child nurturing. “The point of camp,” she says, “is to have old school fun and get back to the essence of being a kid — the magic of it.”