Joan and Morty Fortgang of Port Jefferson met at sleepaway camp when they were teens. Joan recalls their courtship.
I was 15 years old in the summer of 1953. School was out and, as had been my ritual for the previous nine summers, I was off to spend the next two months at Kee-Wah Camps in upstate Wingdale. I arrived with high hopes for yet another happy and fun-filled time -- little did I know that this summer would change my life.
On the first day of camp, my bunk mates and I headed to the mess hall where I saw this great-looking guy sitting on the steps. We started talking. His name was Morty, and he was going to be the waiter for our table.
I was really impressed, that is until he told me his last name was Fortgang. For some reason it sounded really funny to me. Later that night I rolled on my bed laughing when I told the girls about this really cute guy and his name. "I feel sorry for the girl who marries him and has to have Fortgang for a last name!"
Although it was against camp rules for employees to mix with campers, Morty and I somehow managed to spend lots of time together. By the end of summer, we knew we'd still be seeing each other when we got back home. He must have really liked me because I lived in Rego Park, Queens, and he lived in Yonkers. He had a car but couldn't drive in New York City because he wasn't 18. He had to travel to a subway station in Yonkers and take a two-hour train ride to get to my house. He did lots of studying and sleeping on the ride. The following summer we both went back to the camp as employees, he as a counselor and I as a counselor in training.
We were married on June 1, 1957. My parents joked that they sent me to camp to meet a rich boy and I came home with the help! Despite the normal marital bumps along the way, it's been 55 great years. I've even gotten used to my last name.
We live in Port Jefferson, where we raised our two terrific kids, who in return for raising them produced six absolutely fabulous grandchildren for us.
Morty retired in 2001 as engineering director for the Telephonics Corp. in Farmingdale. I retired in 2000 as a teaching assistant at Port Jefferson High School. Our lives are filled with travel, sailing, tennis and totally enjoying ourselves. Life is good!