Curious what Tawonga was like in 1929? Today’s post is a historical spotlight on 93 year-old Tawonga alumna, Ruth Gottstein – independent feminist publisher and activist.
Last month, Gottstein sat down with her son, Adam, and provided a heart-felt glimpse into her experiences at Tawonga during the 1920s.
Gottstein was born and raised in San Francisco. Her father was a muralist with the Works Progress Administration, whose work can still be seen today at Coit Tower. In 1929, Tawonga was located in Tahoe on the Truckee River (camp didn’t move to it’s current Yosemite location until 1964). Gottstein remembers travelling for an entire day to reach camp – first by boat from the San Francisco Ferry Building, then by train from the East Bay, and finally by bus. Today’s three-hour bus trip doesn’t seem so bad compared to that journey!
Gottstein had not previously met her fellow campers, who like her were from middle class Jewish families. Together, they swam and bathed in the icy waters of the Truckee River.
Gottstein reflects: “I vividly remember the campfires and the camp doctor. His name was Dr. Goldman and he was Diane Feinstein’s father (Feinstein is also an alum). He told us wonderful stories as we sat around listening to him and singing Camp Tawonga songs.”
Almost 90 years later, she recalls and sings a favorite camp song to her son, “Tawonga Will Shine Tonight”:
When the sun goes down the moon comes up, Tawonga will shine.
With tears welling in her eyes, Gottstein continues in song, sharing lyrics from another favorite:
Each campfire lights anew, the joy of friendships true. The times we’ve spent together will last the whole year through.
How gratifying to know that the heart of Tawonga endures in music, nature, and friendship.
Gottstein went on from her camper experience to become an outspoken leftist activist. She raised three children with her husband in the Haight-Ashbury and continued to work tirelessly on civil rights campaigns.
In the mid 1970s, she founded Volcano Press, a small progressive publishing house, printing groundbreaking works on domestic violence, family abuse and women’s health. Volcano now runs out of a historic brewery in Gold Country’s Amador County, led by Gottstein’s son. The family continues its commitment as a publisher to the field of family violence and prevention.
Gottstein has remained committed to family issues in Amador County, and has served on the local domestic violence council and the commission on aging.
We are proud to honor Ruth Gottstein, an activist and visionary defending the rights of others and embodying the Camp Tawonga value of Tikkun Olam, as one of our truly amazing alumni!
Learn more about Tawonga’s early history here. Know an amazing Tawonga alum story – camper or staff – that simply must be shared? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will follow up. If you’re an alum, reconnect with Tawonga and share your story!