Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's in a name (?) and memories...from Camp.

Have you a nickname perchance?
I had a nickname given to me at the Church Camp that I attended before I was a teen..."FROU FROU"...I was a city girl....need I say more?
I attended summer camp on a Lake for several years as a camper and then later in my early teens as a leader.

It was such an adventure...we lived very simply, and there was a lot of "team building", we slept in cabins with 8-10 "strangers" in bunk beds, we had to agree on our cabin name and make and post the sign out front, ...the walls were wood...rustic, no central heating...none! I slept in layers.
A solitary bare light bulb hung from the ceiling...we were advised to bring our own torches /flashlights to read by and to walk to the latrine in the dark of night....shadows and trees moving with the breeze, and strange noises outside...the buzzing of bugs and the hum of the countryside....I ran there and back my heart pounding in my chest.
It was scary, there were spiders, and one night on an outdoor sleep out a cougar was seen nearby and we were all woken up and herded into the main hall, terrified and screaming...some crying for their mothers!
We woke up every morning to a knock on the door by a leader bearing a bowl full of orange quarters at about 6:30! We then were marched across a field to a communal latrine...there was no hot water! Showering happened, but we did it as fast as possible!
You had to be at the mess hall at the appointed time or go hungry, oversleeping was not tolerated!

Sing songs around the campfire with strumming guitars, and Bible readings were on the menu of course, but that was not my main reason for going. It was a chance to experience life away from the safety of home....an adventure, some independence.
There was a Tuck Shop...it was a kind of store where we could purchase treats or craft items...and we were only permitted to spend a certain amount per day...something like $3...if memory serves.

I learned to paddle a canoe, row a boat, to sail a Sabot, swim and dive, to get splashed in the eyes and not cry, to build a fire, make a bed, weave, and wait my turn....there were about 300 girls in the mess hall...all ravenous after a busy day on the water. We ate what they served no complaining, it was dinner, eat or go hungry. We sat at long tables and passed the bowls of food around...girl to girl...and after the meal we had a spatula to scrape the food scraps off the plates into a bucket.
(I thought that this was pretty cool but when I suggested to my Mom that we do this at home she blanched!)

When I was a leader I knew the scraping was done to minimize the work of the "dishwashers" in the kitchen...there were very few people on the payroll, most volunteered...this was before dishwashers were installed!
As a leader I had responsibilties...for my girls...if they snuck out at night and tried to meet the boys camp on the opposite side of the Lake my head would be on the block....some girls even smoked cigarettes...Export A's ....the tough girls from the other side of town had these....I had to turn a blind eye to this...wimp that I was, I knew my match.
I was the early bird delivering the orange quarters...I was the one who cut the oranges, I administered first aid, applied band aids, hugged them when they were homesick and encouraged them when they were scared.
It seems like such a long time ago...almost another life in fact, a former me.

I recently saw an ad in the paper advertising the same Summer Camp, it's been over 40 years and still it's going strong!

I can only wonder what it's like to attend today and if the girls who go experience the same kind of cameraderie that I did...are they as naive and wet behind the ears as I was back then...not bloody likely!


  1. I was wondering what you did that was awful to be punished in such a way but then it sounds like you enjoyed it!

    I was cleaning the pool yesterday and told my husband how much I love not camping lol!

  2. hi leslie,

    what a great story. growing up my nickname was "slim" and i hated it. how funny! my husband still calls me that sometimes and now take it as a compliment!


  3. My daughters go to sleepaway camp next week--their third year--and are so excited to go!

  4. Suburban princess-I did like it! Funny how memories are so vivid around certain events of our lives.

    Janet-slim now that's a nickname I would never have been given!

    Miss Cavendish-It is nice that they can go together and so great that they are thrilled to be going again!