This is the time of the year that when we were kids the subject of summer camps became topics of discussion during our daily bus rides to and from North Bangor Union Free School, the four room bastion of education where we were destined to spend the first eight years of our educational journey.
Today there are tons of theme camps: Space camp, baseball camp, soccer camp, music camp, survival camp and so on and so on. When I was a young one, there were no “theme” camps. Camps came in three flavors, Boy Scout camp, 4H camp and Church camp. Our family’s camp of choice was Camp Overlook, a 4H camp located in the mountains near where we lived. It filled the bill perfectly, it was nearby, cheap and would accept members of our family.
I think Camp Overlook had been at one time an impressive private home. The main building housed the dining hall and kitchen. The basement held the camp store — for two weeks our only supply of excess sugar and red dye no. 4. The camp store was where you also were able to purchase the official camp uniform, a T-shirt with the words “Camp Overlook” printed above the 4H emblem.
The boy’s cabins were on the path to the beach, my favorite was “Little Moose.: I think in a former life it had been a small barn. It contained nothing but bunk beds. The bathroom and wash up area was outside and shared with the other boy’s cabin “Big Moose.”
The first year of camp was the hardest, being a “tenderfoot” is never fun anyway. I remember being cool though. After the counselors had pried me off my father’s leg, allowing him to escape, I calmed right down — actually I was afraid of making too much noise and attracting the bears I knew were lurking behind every tree.
We were taken to “Little Moose” and told to strip down, put on our bathing suits and report to the beach for our swimming test. Being a little shy, I pulled my suit on over my underwear and followed the others who looked like they knew where they were going. The lake was pretty and there was a long dock going out into the water and a raft anchored about 50 feet from the end of the dock. We were told that if we could swim to the raft and back, we could swim in the deep water area, if we couldn’t, it was the minnow pool for us.
In spite of the fact that I had the drag of my soggy jockeys to contend with, I managed to pass and camp started to look better. Back to the cabin to change and off to lunch. We had to sing a few dumb songs before they brought out the chow, which wasn’t bad. They called the Kool-aid “Bug Juice” which I thought was great. The kid sitting next to me seemed like a good guy and by the time the cookies were served, we were buddies. He didn’t even poke fun at the wet spot on the back of my shorts as we left the hall (I had left my soggy jockeys on when we had changed before lunch). He was in “Little Moose” also. We had some free time and he moved his bedding over to my bunk and even let me have the top. Mom had packed me some cookies, we shared them — geeze, camp was great, I didn’t ever want to go home.
It’s been a long time since camp and my shorts are long since dry but thoughts of “Little Moose” and the lessons I learned about life there sometimes flicker through my memory.
I hope this year’s campers come home with the same kind of good memories to smile about when they get to be my age.
Thought for the week — Don’t you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There’s one marked Brightness, but it doesn’t work. — Gallagher
Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.
Reach Dick Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.