At Camp With Bob Dylan

By | Mar 01, 2017
Arts & Culture

‘Singing and Playing His Guitar and Not Participating in Most Organized Camp Activities’


I read with interest the article about Bob Dylan AKA Robert Zimmerman (“The Unauthorized Spiritual Biography,” August 2005) especially the part about his experiences at Herzl camp. In the summer of 1957, I was a camp counselor at Herzl. On the first day, we welcomed the campers who arrived almost exclusively by bus or car. An unusual event was the arrival of several campers on two motorcycles from Hibbing, Minnesota. One of the motorcycle campers was Robert Zimmerman, guitar slung over his shoulder, and as I recollect, the other was Louis Kemp, who wrote a recent article in Moment about his celebrity Seder with Marlon Brando. Already known as a rebel, rumor had it that Robert Zimmerman had received his motorcycle as a parental gift for agreeing to attend Herzl camp!

Robert, joined occasionally by a few other campers, spent most of his time singing and playing his guitar and not participating in most organized camp activities. According to my recollection it was especially hard to get him to participate in athletics. Despite being a teenager and camp rebel, he was an intelligent and friendly kid who was well-liked by his fellow campers and counselors. He remained friendly with my brother David, who also attended camp that summer, and occasionally through the years, stopped in at his bookstore, The Hungry Mind, on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. My enduring memory of Bob Dylan from that summer is of a young man sitting on the roof of one of the cabins, strumming on a guitar and singing loudly with his characteristic high-pitched nasal twang.

Joel Unowsky
Gaithersburg, MD

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