The Legend of Mona Greenfield

The Legend of Mona Greenfield

The following article details my approach to this re-telling the legend of Mona, from a thoughtful introspective examination of this piece of lore through actual recorded production.

 

 


 

 

 

DID I BREAK A TABOO?

At the start of The Stoney Lake Reflections Project, I had a few things that were “must haves” if I were to devote a podcast to YMCA Storer Camps.  Naturally, the first few items on list regarded guests.  However one item stood out as it was a musing to record the Legend of Mona.

 

 

 

As an Anthropology enthusiast, (BA Anthropology), ever since my notion of telling the Mona story, I struggled with the idea of what it means to record this particular tale. Anthropologically,  the legend was always an ‘oral tradition’ an important component of any culture’s history and Storer’s was no different.  But now I was thinking of moving the legend to ‘oral history’, if I were to commit the tale to some piece of media. I asked myself, was I somehow committing some sort of offense? Was I sharing a secret story?  Would I ruin the story for future campers?

Well, the short answer, after much deliberation, and some investigation, is NO.  As I shared with Mary Mennel, I wrote the following after I edited her recorded performance of the story:

“As an alum and a fan of the spoken word, I have mixed feelings making the story so formal and gussied up. However, in light of possibly losing the tradition, since by and large the tale isn’t really told anymore (I’ve heard this from campers and most staff) I think our modern spin will help perpetuate the story.  At the very least this version provides a reference for current staff.  After all it is the story and the telling that matters, not so much the package it is presented in.”

I’m hoping after you hear this creative execution of the Mona Legend, you will agree with my statement above.  And if you don’t like this execution, that’s fine.  Different storytellers have different styles and I can live with that.  I attempted to treat the source material with reverence, but adding some contemporary effects to enhance the ‘theater of the mind’.  In fact, the daytime nature noises are actual recordings I made at Storer this past May with a specialized boom mic and digital recorder.

 

Hear the Cranes and the Geese in the recording? How about the general nature sounds…recorded at camp to give some authenticity

 

Although this is a modern take on an old tale, I do NOT expect counselors to whip out their iPhone and play the MP3 file for their cabin and let that suffice as telling the story.  I’m hoping to inspire the present day staff to embrace the power of a great story well told.  I hope they use the recording as a reference point, not the definitive version of Mona.  And as for Alumni and friends of YMCA Storer Camps, this provides you with a touchstone with camp, and something fun to listen to.

I’m not going to lose much sleep over recording the story.  I have yet to wake up bound in seaweed.  But of course, we’ll see what happens when I spend the night in the Hocking cabin during the 100th.  If you don’t see me on June 30th, please have Clark make his way over to Mona’s to untie me.

 

 

PERSPECTIVE ON TRADITIONS

I know that traditions, including oral traditions, all evolve, change, and adapt in some ways.  Evolving permutations occur through time and the re-telling.  Some details are dropped, some are just forgotten or new angles are presented depending on the audience. I know there are several versions of this story, and through the years some have told it better than others. Also, it has been told all around camp, not just at the foundation of Mona’s former house (wait, I guess it is still hers).  The location at Mona’s only gave the story gravitas, but I also know the mosquitos there are the biggest in camp.  So if the story didn’t give you goose bumps, the bug bites would take their place.  I remember fondly some great renditions being shared at Emerson Barn replete with squeaking bats to add to the ambiance.   So the story moved onto a certain point…but at a certain time there’s a break in the chain and the tradition risks fading into obscurity.

 

 

IS MONA ALIVE?

I’m not here to rabble-rouse or to complain about how they don’t do things like they did  ‘in my day’, which were ‘the golden days’ which you wouldn’t understand. According to my inquiries, it is my understanding that the legend is not told anymore.  This is not by policy or edict, but I believe borne from the fact that the chain has been broken.  This is not an indictment and not a cause for panic or protest. If indeed the tale of Mona Greenfield is no longer being told, we can at least provide some printed record (and by extension this recording) for staff to pick up this oral tradition and share the story with a new generation of children, provided it is still relevant, which I argue, the legend is highly relevant, more so than ever.

In today’s society children need hope and positivity.  If the many contemporary accounts about children’s anxiety levels are true, kids and their parents seem more apprehensive, unsure, and insecure than any other preceding era.  The causes go beyond ‘traditional’ adolescent challenges, which are too numerous to list here, but just think of a few issues poking at today’s child: school safety, bullying, peer pressure, and general narcissism prevalent in today’s popular culture, all magnified by living lives through screens, further skewing reality and perception.

 

 

GHOST STORIES ARE UPSETTING

And while I speak of children, so many of us recall fondly hearing this story in our youth.  Remember, it is not a ghost story, but a story of a spirit.  I use spirit not as in ‘ghosts, goblins or ghouls’ I use it in the sense of something that embodies positive attributes and values found at YMCA Storer Camps.

noun

plural noun: spirits

  1. The nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.

Yes, I can hear some say, “but in today’s environment telling ghost stories or scary stories maybe upsetting to children” (or their insecure parents).  Yes, I said that, right there. The latter does not help the former.  But again, the refrain should be: THIS ISN’T A GHOST STORY.  It’s a story about a woman who loves nature and children, and ideas of respect and honesty.  In the version presented here, you will find the story ends with a positive message.  It certainly pales in comparison to what many parents let their kids watch on any screen or what video games they play in the living room.  Mona is certainly less scary than the Disney Haunted Tales record I listened to as a kid. Furthermore, to quote Joseph Campbell, world-renowned expert in mythology, religion, and culture “We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”  I submit that Mona’s story achieves Campbell’s ideal as well as providing the comfort of an unseen friend who watches over us, loves children, protects nature and represents positive virtues.  As Mary Mennel says in her performance, “Sometimes, back home in the city, they’re many Monas that are helping us watch and preserve those things that are important to us”.  Mona, we thank you for this.

 

 

MONA 2018

During my inaugural interviews with Mary Mennel in August 2017, I asked her about recording the Mona story for a future podcast episode.  In my mind, it was hard to separate the Legend of Mona from Mary’s superb story-telling abilities.  There are great stories and great storytellers and this, in my opinion, was a perfect combination.  It was the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of oral traditions. So I had my casting set.  Now, what about a script?  I wasn’t sure if anyone had a copy of the story, so we didn’t have to start from scratch.  I did not necessarily want to throw out the idea willy-nilly in a Facebook post, for there are so many variations out there.  Creatively, I played it close to the vest.

As luck would have it, Mary had a written copy of a version she performed at Storer Day in 1995.  Someone at that event had the presence of mind to record her words as she performed the tale to the enthralled audience before her!  I’m so grateful for someone preserving that piece of history.  So, Mary sent me the copy and I read it so intently.  It is a thorough re-telling and included parts I had forgotten.  At once it was 1984 and I was there at Mona’s with Mary telling the story.  OK, I said, now what?  She was busy transitioning from the 577 foundation, so the timing was not ideal for her to record.  Unfortunately, our schedules never synced until this May.  Mary dutifully sat down and recorded from the 1995 script.  Her performance was worth the wait.  It isn’t easy recording such things, especially when you are not used to doing so.  But Mary, as you can imagine, nailed it.

 

 

23-MINUTE STORY 14 HOURS EDIT

Now, Mary Mennel perfomed the recording and she told it well.  She was unaware what exactly I was going to do with her performance.  Let’s just say I ‘enhanced it’ for ‘theater of the mind’ providing a modern creative take an old tale well told. I’m very appreciative she didn’t put any restrictions on her performance or what I could or couldn’t do with it.   I was extremely careful in my selections as with such material a fumble becomes a tragedy.

To make sure I was on the right track, I consulted with three key people.  The first consultant was my wife, Executive Producer of the Stoney Lake Reflections Project.  She is my sounding board for a great many things and this project is no exception.  She was in Seattle for the week and I think was appreciative of the break from her work in oncology clinical research.  She took some good notes, provided some feedback, and also commented that she understood what the fuss was all about since it was the first time she heard the story.  She liked it.  Secondly, I consulted the Emerson Maniac (Wm. Gabehart) as we both have a passion for A/V editing and creative projects using technology.  He too provided some insights with some minor suggested tweaks.  As an alum,  he appreciated my restraint and understood my creative dilemmas as I approached the source material.  He’s a big fan of radio drama and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Lastly, I checked back with the performance artist herself, Mary Mennel.  I suspected she might be surprised with what I did with her performance.  She was gracious with her accepting my take.  She too provided feedback on some sound cues, etc.  But her first impression was that ‘You really had fun with this’.  Indeed I did.  But I wanted to also do the story and her performance justice.

 

 

How Appropriate: “100 Years of Campfire Stories”

Like so much of the Stoney Lake Reflections Project, it is a labor of love.  In fact, I stayed up all night editing for 12 hours straight with a few breaks.  Creative types out there can appreciate this trait, my wife prefers regular hours.  I was in performance mode after being out of commission for days with a cold I caught on my last SLR trip to S. Carolina and Storer.  During my first edits, I was in contact with Mary, as it was 7:30AM her time and she inquired about when I slept, noting that I’m on Pacific time.  The last time she told me to go to bed was 33 years ago when I was as an Explorer.

 


 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Betsy Partoyan
    Jun 13, 2018

    I haven’t even listened to Mary’s telling yet but am SO glad I read your reflections on this experience, Dustin! We are so lucky to have your creative expertise and with such an intentional approach. I cannot wait to listen!!

    • King Stoney
      Jun 14, 2018

      Geez! I hope it doesn’t disappoint. I love analyzing social and cultural themes and Storer’s oral traditions (stories and songs) are such an important part of Storer’s cultural history.

  2. Suzanne Juergens Swank
    Jun 14, 2018

    Thanks for that story. I had never heard the original story of Mona. I can remember the tale told by counselors if you went out on the lake after dark without a counselor Mona would get you.

    • King Stoney
      Jun 14, 2018

      Thanks for sharing! So fun to hear all the permutations and creative offshoots of this tale. I alsways used the story to answer why we didn’t tell ghost stories! ;). Depending on the audience, I’d modify it. CITs usually got my spooky take without the Mother Nature chapter. Thanks again!

  3. Lyn Warwick
    Jun 14, 2018

    I can’t wait to listen. The other story I used to tell was The Eyes, which was a Ranch thing and I think also the Frontier. I hear Glen King used to tell a mean vesion, though I learned mine from Gina Whitehead.

    Thank you for your labor of love!

    Lyn Warwick

    • King Stoney
      Jun 14, 2018

      I will ask Glen or Gina if we can also record Green Eyes, which is indeed a Frontier and Ranch tradition.

  4. Anonymous
    Jun 16, 2018

    Dustin – when doooooooo you sleep?

    • King Stoney
      Jun 24, 2018

      That’s a great question!

  5. Heath Kelly
    May 13, 2019

    This is so great! Our Phoebe was sharing camp stories with Mo & I this evening (including one about a ‘Bullshark’ that apparently now lives in Stoney Lake) and we realized that neither her nor Max (who is now an Outbacker) had ever heard the tale of Mona. As Mo and I fumbled through it with very different versions, we were glad to find this definitive take! We even dimmed the lights and lit a candle for lack of a proper campfire. Thanks Mary & Dustin!

  6. Eric
    Aug 6, 2019

    I heard this story at camp storer more than 30 years ago… such a great creepy tale… scared the hell out of me back then

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Community

  • Eric

Email Blog Subscription

Enter email address to subscribe

Countdown!

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

Blog Stats

  • 5,534 hits