Uncle Barry Brait
Today, Uncle Barry is best known as an accomplished Philadelphia area producer, director, actor, casting director and dancer, but there is more to this versatile man.
Uncle Barry is a pre-baby boomer; figure that out. He grew up on the 6000 block of North 13th Street ("one of the nicest streets in the world") and was graduated in Central High's 218 Class. Five years later, he became Temple University's first graduate of the School of Communications and Theatre (Summa Cum Laude).
Now the good stuff. Uncle Barry began his SGF career in 1962 as a Dining Room Boy (but don't ever call him "boy" now) under Uncle Mel Drukin. He was hired through SGF Board member Abe Katinsky who was his sister's best friend's father, who suggested Barry to Uncle Mel. The following year he was promoted to Ridge Counselor and Lake Guy. Finally, Uncle Barry hit the big top as the SGF Swim Instructor from 1964 through 1967, all as preparation for his ensuing military career. Uncle Barry recalls that "I got $500 as my top pay (no tips at the camp!!) in my last year as The Pool Guy and Swim Instructor." Of course, $500 wasn't too shabby when gasoline cost 31.9 cents a gallon. Don't believe it? Click here.
From 1967-69, Uncle Barry dodged bullets at the US Army Pictorial Center, Long Island City, Astoria, Queens, New York. He married his college girlfriend Ellyn Kessler in 1968 while he was stationed at the Army Pictorial Center, and unmarried her 10 years later. Barry has two children - Julianne and Zachary - ages 39 and 34 respectively. Hard to believe the kids' ages since Uncle Barry has avoided middle-age spread.
For the past 40 years or so, Uncle Barry has been a notable presence in the Philadelphia theater scene as an producer, director, actor, casting director and dancer. Also, he may be seen on the big screen (wearing his trademark villainous sneer) in the Denzel Washington film "Fallen."
In his back story life, after the military, Uncle Barry studied Directing at Temple, then acquired an Associates degree in Accounting (reality sets in). Beginning in 1979, Uncle Barry worked in the Philadelphia Water Department's Finance Division for 24 years. He's now retired and, presumably, enjoying his days even more. Hopefully, we'll see more of him.
Uncle Barry was surprised to be enshrined in the Counselor Hall of Fame. He modestly said, "I nominate O'Neal Goldberg for the same honor -- he was just soooo inspirational for me for Soz, for Boozie, for so many of us as to his skill his ability to be a leader, psychologist, counselor and friend to campers and counselors. He was just the best to the campers."
Uncle Barry wrote "It is amazing that such a simple thing as two [or] three weeks can bind people, what 40, 50, 60 years ago?!!!! Amazing !!! And we all shared in this singular experience and no matter what age you presently are it binds you to someone of diferent generations!"
Another Uncle Barry recollection from the 1980's - 20 years after those great '60s: "I am standing in the bleachers [at a ball game] waiting on someone and a voice rings out 'Uncle Barry?' There's only me and this [African American] gent standing there and he has his little son with him. He introduces himself as one of the Kitchen Staff, then turns to his son and says 'This is Uncle Barry!!!!! From the wrestling match!' Ye God!!!"
And... "and Wally Loeb!!!!! [ed. note, Uncle Barry's fee is based on the number of exclamation points] Geez, camp would never have survived without Wally Loeb. He was the mostest dedicated to camp - counselor Ridge, Assistant to Mark Davis, and then he became like a Director's assistant??? But he was always there and did without comment or complaint!!! He deserves real mention!! A gentle and sweet soul."
And what do they say about Uncle Barry?
"I was delighted to publically honor Uncle Barry Brait who not only taught me how to stay afloat in the pool but also guided me and so many kids to excel in all areas."
"To this day as a school administrator and camp director (27yrs), I attempt to model myself after Barry, O'Neal Goldberg and Big Max."
"I want to take this moment to personally and publicly thank all of the fantastic counselors and staff men that showed me the way. Without their mentoring and modeling of roles I would not have succeeded as a counselor myself. So here goes... to Boozie, Lemon, Soz, Barry Brait, Slim (I was in your bunk), Lou Nise, Mike Epstein, Wally Loeb, Hoff (I was in your bunk too), Shorty, O'Neal, Walt Myers, Skins, Les Pearlstein, Mel Drukin, Marv Weber, John Flanagan and a thousand I can't remember I thank you all. Thanks for showing up in my life and the lives of countless of thousands of underprivileged boys just like me. You've blessed my life and given all of us new board members the stuff it takes to give back the SGF experience to another generation of SGF'ers....Bless you and Thank You!!"
"My earliest camp experience was when each cabin put on a play. I was 8 years old and in Comanchee with Uncle Barry Brait in 1962. We won for best play for Cinderalla."
"I would like to thank Barry Brait who taught me how to swim. Swimming is a passion of mine and I never thought I would learn how to swim. He was very patient with me and skilled in making me overcome my fear of deep water."
The Many Faces of Uncle Barry Brait