“Conscientious and sincere” Leonard Cohen’s 1950 Camp Sunshine Counselor Evaluation

Leonard Cohen playing for my mom & uncle, early 1950s, at my great grandmother’s summer camp. From: noahbloom

Leonard Cohen – Camp Counselor

Leonard Cohen was a counselor at Camp Sunshine at Lac Masson, outside of Ste. Marguerite, Quebec in 1950 and 1951.1 These excerpts from Huh, That’s Cool: Leonard Cohen and Sunshine Camp by ) offer evaluations of the future singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, & icon as camp counselor, but the entire article is a worthwhile read.

Among the camp reports for Summer 1950 and 1951, there are references first to a “Leonard Cohen, CIT” (counsellor in training) and then to a “Leonard Cohen, Junior Counsellor.” The first report, from 1950, is quite favourable …

Despite young in years very mature in many ways. Needs more training and skills. Watch for traces of scepticism. Suggest rehire with training and supervision and winter experience. Had full counsellor responsibility which he took seriously. Conscientious and sincere.2

The report for the “Leonard Cohen, Junior Counsellor,” referred to in the text as “Len” [Len!) is also favourable., though Cohen apparently had a rough start to the summer. The camp director noted that Cohen seemed to be reluctant to return as a counsellor, and initially seemed “completely disinterested in the activities and tended to lead the counsellors along a similar path.” But after a consultation, Cohen’s attitude improved remarkably. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

He proved himself very original in many endeavours which his bunk undertook and made ample use of his imagination. His interests were many and varied. He often led the camp in sing song, and made good use of his guitar as an accompanist. A good knowledge of camp crafts was very useful in pioneering and overnight hikes. He also served as assistant to Peter Starke at the waterfront, and directed the Counsellors show.

This impressive list of achievements did not cause him to become swellheaded. He was on excellent terms with the rest of the staff and did much to undermine the efforts of a few members of the staff who tended to exert influence in the wrong direction.

Though young in years Len has shown himself to be quite mature. His interests and activities are not frivolous, but tend to be associated with the finer aspects of our culture. He is an intelligent boy who can fully understand the responsibilities of a bunk counsellor. He was very often entrusted with tasks above the bunk counsellor level, and carried these out in a satisfactory manner.3

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Jun 1, 2016.
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  1. He was also a camp counselor elsewhere for at least the 1957 session. []
  2. Sunshine Camp Staff Evaluation, page 4, August 1950, Volume 13 File 7, MG 28 V86 Jewish Family Services – Baron de Hirsch Institute, Library and Archives Canada. []
  3. Sunshine Camp Report to Camp Committee, pages 33-34, August 1 1951, Volume 13 File 8, MG 28 V86 Jewish Family Services – Baron de Hirsch Institute, Library and Archives Canada. []

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