What Michael Rowles taught me about Spaghetti

What Michael Rowles taught me about Spaghetti

Sometimes life-lessons spring from the most unexpected places.  And those lessons are recalled as randomly as they first appeared.  Or sometimes an object triggers the memory.  In this case, spaghetti.  Without fail, when I think of cooking pasta, I quickly recall the many spaghetti dinners cooked while taking campers to hills 1 & 2 for an overnight.  In concert with that culinary memory, I remember what I learned from Michael Rowles when preparing this meal.


As much as I liked the ubiquitous (and obligatory) foil-dinners, during the 90s, a new meal tradition was born with the advent of the spaghetti dinner.  This ‘new’ meal simplified things greatly.  The roll of foil, carrots, onions, potatoes, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper were replaced by one food-service bag of tomato sauce (it resembled a large bag blood), dried parmesan cheese, a bag of dried pasta, one ‘man with beard’ tool, and two pots.  The roll of brown paper towels (same ones used in the bathroom dispensers) was still used.

The overnights became rote, as we did a dry run during staff training.  Then every session, we would repeat this tradition of leaving North Center, canoeing across the lake (much as our camp forefathers did) for dinner and sleep.  For the Long-termers, this was a dry run getting the campers used to pitching camp, as they would do on their way to Mackinac Island.  Typically, Two cabins would stop by the Venture Out building, double-check the manifest, ensuring all supplies were in order, including tents, food, cooking utensils, sundries, and a first aid kit.  Next stop, the path leading out of South Center, past the climbing tree, then hills one & two.  Hill one had a pump, and the fire circle there was used for cooking for both groups.  Hill 2 did not have a pump, but was more open for great nighttime stargazing.  Both campsites provided an ‘out of camp’ experience for the campers as they were no longer in a cabin or going to a dining hall to eat, but ‘out in the wilds’.  As an adult, it’s a pretty controlled environment.  As a camper, it was something unique with a sense of adventure.



Arriving at the campsite, groups were assigned different duties.  There was a group formed to erect tents and a group in charge of the fire (wood gathering) and a group assigned meal prep.  With the new spaghetti menu, things were streamlined versus the prep needed for foil dinners.  It may seem trivial, but it did make a big difference for the counselors.  Getting through prep was much faster and getting to dinner was faster as well.  Diners didn’t have to herd a dozen foil packets around hot coals, fight about whose dinner is whose, or accidently dumping someone’s meal (no more hot grease packet flipping!).  And hungry campers no longer had to navigate through burnt hamburger, charred onions, raw carrots and potatoes. Or more like, counselors didn’t have to forgo their own perfectly cooked foil dinner for a camper’s whose contents were partially sacrificed to the fire gods.

Spaghetti dinners utilized the same hot coals to boil water.  Beyond that, the meal only required a ‘Man with Beard’ potholder to move the pot. Recipe: Boil water, dump pasta in said boiling water, and warm up sauce. Voila, a hearty dinner, Grazie!  Despite how easy this meal was, I was making things hard for myself.  Little did I know, things could be easier, until Michael shared a little piece of wisdom.


As I was his JC, I referred my self as the ‘stable boy’.  And if you knew Michael, he impishly enjoyed calling me that.  He delighted in calling out, “Oh, Stable Boy” in the same tone as a prince would call for his fiddler’s three.  The term was used in jest of course, but was just part of our dynamic and ongoing repartee.  In my naiveté, I proceeded to sully a second pot, filling it with cold sauce in preparation to some fire warming.  Quickly, Michael shook his head and said something like ‘Oh, Stable Boy’ in mock exasperation.  I of course wondered what I was doing wrong as this is how I’ve always done the spaghetti dinners.  As the pasta was cooking, I’d warm up the sauce, what’s the big deal?  Well, he pointed out what we call today, a life-hack.  He pointed out to me what I was doing was fine just as long as I like cleaning two pots back at the VO room the next morning.  I was still puzzled. I always did it ‘This Way’.  He forced me to think about it.  It wasn’t a matter of a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’, but there was a smarter way.  This magic moment was born from a mundane task. He shared with me a different perspective on doing things. (You mean my way isn’t always right?)  It was a good lesson in perspective and being able to creatively problem solve.


Jeannie K / Dustin S

Even if its as mundane as making a pasta dinner for campers.  Use one pot, not two (even though we were issued two pots).  Now this lesson does not go in the record books as a major epiphany or even a true game-changer.  But I learned to be open to other people’s way of doing things.  Damn if he wasn’t right.  Boil the water, add pasta, when cooked, drain water, add cold sauce to hot noodles, voila- a one pot feast ready to be served.  It also limited pedantic requests for varying degrees of sauce…everyone was served the same amount.  In fact, I don’t recall complaints of ‘this has too much’ sauce or requests for less. And the next time we did an overnight and had pasta, I was always glad I only had one pot to clean early the next morning, not two.  In subsequent years with different teams, I passed along the Rowles Method of preparing this overnight feast, and without exception, everyone had that ‘oh, duh’ moment of how silly it was to use a second pot.

You maybe thinking ‘that’s not a big deal’ and it is not. However, as I get older, I’ve learned to appreciate the small things more and more.  And to this day, I share this story on perspective.  In daily life, we often get caught in our own rote duties, not taking a moment to stop and think things through and ask, is there a better way to do X, Y or Z.  Or do we only focus on doing A, B, C because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  My small epiphany is offered as food for thought.


Note: This isn’t the only thing I learned from Michael!  He was an amazing person and taught me so much.  I’m sad he’s no longer here to share in the laughter years later, but I know he lives in the people who remember him fondly.  He’ll be looking down at the 100th celebrations and we’ll take a moment to remember him.

Crowdfunding – Donor Challenge for Matching Gift!

Crowdfunding – Donor Challenge for Matching Gift!

I have a crowdfunding update and it’s


I’ve been contacted by a donor who says that if donations I get on gofundme.com or through PayPal get to $1,200, this donor WILL MATCH THOSE FUNDS.  And if we go over $1,200, they’ll donate money to camp as well!

We’re at $730 and we need to get to $1,200.  With $1,200 matching funds on the line, I know we can do this in a week!

Summary: Go from $730 to $1,200 in donations, donor will donate $1,200Anything over $1,200 Donor will make a donation to Camp! 

GOAL DEADLINE: Raise $470 in a week.   







This Week’s Question!

This Week’s Question!

This Week’s Question is a new feature, one that we hope you take adavantage of!

We want to hear from you and all it takes is a call…from you!  Leave a message in sixty seconds or less, answering the question.  Your replies will be shared in a future episode or on-line.


This Week’s Question:

“Your Favorite Place at Camp and Why”

Call and leave a message in sixty seconds: 858-367-7298

I’ll share your comments in an upcoming episode!

And you can call any time…this number does not disturb me and goes straight to voicemail!



Episode: 07 Clark Ewing

Download Episode!

Stoney Lake Reflections Show Notes

Episode: 07 Clark Ewing

What I have to say:

I visited with Clark and Marilyn in August of 2017. Jenni Lane made all the arrangements for this interview to happen and for that I am grateful. The Ewings invited me into their abode in Saline, Michigan for an afternoon of great reflections.

For starters, Clark hasn’t changed a bit! As an interviewer I was on the edge of my seat as I listened to his reflections. At once I was a camper again, waiting to be entertained…and I was also that young staffer who absorbed any crumbs of wisdom from this camp giant (or is it oracle?). As an adult, I sat there in awe. It is impossible to separate the history of camp and this couple, without one, you would not have the other. This fact cannot be overstated and is not up to debate.

I’ll wait to publish more insights on my meeting with Clark & Marilyn in a devoted blog article.  But for now, I’ll let Clark tell his story in his own words. Enjoy.


Show Notes:

  • How Clark got started in 1939 as a camper
  • 1942 First on Staff as Assistant Cook (at 15 years old!)
  • Doc Miller as mentor
  • What camp was like when he was a camper & staff
  • 1946-48: Apache Cabin & Being Water Front Director
  • Teaching kids afflicted with polio how to swim
  • 1946 Clark Married Marilyn
  • How influential Marilyn was in making the decision to make it a career at Camp Storer
  • Doc Miller asks Clark to take some travel trips off camp property (inspiration for what became Venture Out)
  • Check Chapter 17 of YMCA Storer Camps – The Living legacy of Doc    Miller for the ill-fated trip of ’52 Abitibi River
  • How Clark became Full Time Summer/Executive Director
  • What made 1956-1958 the most influential years at camp
  • Sacrifices made to join Camp as Full Time Executive Director
  • Clark details the expansion of land and facilities (see Chapter 13 for full details)
  • Bringing in Greg McKee and Mary Mennel to run the show
  • ‘YMCA Camp Storer’ to ‘YMCA Storer Camps’
  • Dining at Camp
  • Families at Camp including a staff child who intimidated Clark
  • Clark’s approach to enforcing curfew
  • Hijinks at Camp
  • Who would play Clark Ewing in a Clark Ewing Movie? Click Here
  • The power of song in his youth through to today?
  • Secret to longevity: Thinking like a kid & The Power of Love






A Story in Progress


Clark Ewing Middle Row, 2nd from Left

Clark & Marilyn Hall of Fame Documents:

Scannable Document on Mar 27, 2018 at 1_57_26 AM


Stoney Lake Reflections Project

New Feature: 858-367-7298



Call and leave a message in sixty seconds: Your Favorite Place at Camp and Why


‘Stoney Lake Reflections’ Sing-out- Performed by Singer/Songwriter Cori Strell:

Intsagram: @coristrellmusic

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/cori-strell



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cori-Strell-Music-1174158396011014/


Stoney Lake Reflections is a trademark of Dustin Smith. All other trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. http://www.stoneylakereflections.com ©2018 Dustin Smith; All Rights reserved





SLR Project – Crowdfunding Campaign

We’re opening this project up to crowd-funding to help defray the costs of this multi-media production.  This is a 100% volunteer effort and every contrubution helps.   This is an ambitious project (more than a podcast) with big goals…read on!


The goal with Stoney Lake Reflections  is to celebrate our common Storer bonds in real-time, utilizing technology to unite several generations, cherish old relationships and make new ones, while celebrating the past, the present, and the future of YMCA Storer Camps.

Stoney Lake Reflections is an independently produced appreciation of great times as a camper, staff and alumnus with a lifelong passion for YMCA Storer Camps.

Stoney Lake Reflections is a multi-media project:

Podcast interviewing guests from Storer’s past and present

Website devoted to interesting stories and insights about YMCA
Storer Camps

Archive investigation,  preservation, curation  &  protection of
assets while increasing usability of this unique and  historic

It must be noted, that Stoney Lake Reflections is solely produced by me, Dustin Smith.  There are many contributors to the project, including some AMAZING guests, but this operation is totally dependent on donations from people like you.  While the YMCA of Toledo and YMCA Storer Camps have been very open to this endeavor and gracious with their hospitality (i.e. free lodging at camp) and resources, they are not financially involved in funding the podcast or website.  As an independent volunteer project, I will not be shy in asking for your financial support.

Please don’t misconstrue my requests for donations, as I don’t affix a price on my love and affection for Storer.

Also, I do not intend to compete with camp with any of their fundraising goals.  But I do ask the community to consider donating to this cause, if you feel that alumni and friends benefit from this pursuit.   I am grateful for any type of financial support.

How your crowd funding support helps:

–  The first priority is to defray annual costs for website
and media  hosting and development is $650 (first
year;  $400 2nd Year)

– Incremental capital expenditures also come to approximately $65

-(Donor just gifted an Epson Scanner valued at $210)

– Upgrade Audio Software $350  Now $199 (thanks to donated software!)

– Future Multi-media production work (including 4k filming!) is forecasted at $900 (This is after getting
some equipment donated) Filming & Editing Hours donated.

– Future protection of Archive assetts (digitization of the most fragile originals + conversion of old film & video)   estimated $1,500

–  Travel Expenses (I’ve donated over $2,075 thus far)

More financial details can be found here



√ Preserve Originals
√ Protect Originals
√ Increase Usability of assetts (online)

Money raised over $6,000 on gofundme will be deposited in earmarked account to demonstrate interest in pursuing in-depth archive preservation and eventual expanison of archive preservation activities.  If you are interested in reviewing the in depth proposal, email me!

The preservation & protection of the archives have been discussed throughout Storer’s history with varying degrees of attention to the collection through the years.  Money raised in this effort will demonstrate interest in further funding and the communities interest in preserving the archives.

The more I raise over the ambitious goal of $6,000, the greater chance of harvesting matching funds and demonstrating community interest in this endeavor.

At 100 years, I believe it is important to pursue, in earnest, the archives ultimate preservation & protection of assets while increasing usability of this unique and historic collection.

Future plans would include preserved and protected originals for all to enjoy…in your laptops, tablets, smart devices…and ready for future technological platforms.

√ I would love to make a statement with a down payment for future archival work!

If you have comments or questions, please contact me at Stoney Lake Reflections .

If you would rather make a donation off of this platform, please contact me via email .

Thanks for your consideration.


GoFundMe Stoney Lake Reflections




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Storer's 100th CelebrationJune 30, 2018
The big day is here.

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