During one of our many snowfalls, while dreaming about summer, I started thinking about the summer camps I went to as a child.
Many of my friends enjoyed the higher end camps, where there were horses to ride, and archery, and tennis…fun stuff like that. I, on the other hand, went to the less expensive and closer-to-home camps, either church-run or Girl Scout-sponsored.
At first, I went to day camps, where we spent most of our time outdoors and participated in a variety of activities, including sitting around the campsite listening to readings from the Jack Tales or the Grandfather Tales.
I was probably eight or nine years old when I owned my first pocket knife, the Brownie Scout one-bladed folding version, now being sold on eBay as “vintage.” This knife, which I still own, went to camp with me every day.
At day camp we learned to cut down small saplings and lash them together to make an outdoor table between two trees and a bridge across the creek, thus demostrating our proficiency at tying knots–or not. This was long before the days when macrame was popular, but we learned to make bracelets and lanyards using a flat plastic cord we called “gimp.” If you’d like to relive these craft memories for yourself, you can find instructions and materials for sale at http://www.gimplace.com/.
And as I tied a scarf around my neck this morning, I was suddenly reminded of that Girl Scout axiom: “Right over left and left over right makes a knot neat, tidy and tight.” And guess what–it’s still true!
At summer camp I also learned my first cooking skills, albeit necessarily rudimentary, given the outdoor setting. We made old favorites like doughboys, campfire stew and s’mores, plus a few lesser-known recipes, like space capsules (fresh peach, halved and pitted with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter inside, wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals). If this all sounds good to you, check out some of these books from your Fontana Regional Library: Camp Cookery for small groups, Pocket Guide to cooking in the great outdoors, or the classic outdoor cooking secrets from 1910, Camp Cookery by Horace Kephart.
When I got to be a little older, maybe 12 or 13, I went to two week-long overnight camps: Camp Pisgah (Girl Scouts) and Camp Tekoa (Methodist). Here I learned of the many benefits of being away from home without parents. Snuggled in our sleeping bags in the dark, we told ghost stories and tried to gross each other out with dirty jokes as only 13-year-old girls can!
Then there were the sing-alongs, with the requisite folk songs, including the ever-popular “Kum Ba Ya”. I’m convinced that someday, when I won’t be able to remember my name, I’ll still remember all the words and tunes for the campfire songs.
Of all my camp experiences, I’d have to rank Camp Tekoa at the top. For a teenage girl, it had a special added attraction that Girl Scout camp didn’t–BOYS!