Summer is fast approaching, meaning modern children will be busier than ever with activities galore. It’s mind boggling to try and appreciate all the things in store for today’s kids.
It wasn’t always like that.
Boomers look back and remember that when school let out, if you didn’t play Little League baseball, you were sentenced to a summer of Scrabble, Clue and Monopoly games. Unless, however, you were fortunate enough to go to a summer camp – a church camp, a 4H camp or maybe even a real camp. I once went to a real camp.
It was the summer after second grade. My friend Billy Richmond was going on a return trip to Camp Lake Pocahontas in the mountains of western Virginia and I begged Mom and Dad to let me go, too.
Billy’s dad was a doctor and my dad was an FBI agent, so there was an income disparity between families. Bernie Sanders would have gone ballistic, but even I recognized that after 12 years of college and medical school, a doctor was entitled to something above minimum wage. Our family budget was a little tight, yet somehow my folks found a way to spring for the camp fees, but they said I could only go for two weeks of what was a six-week camp. Besides the money, they were also concerned that I might get homesick. I had never been away from my family more than a day or two.
Arriving in camp on a warm June afternoon, I had forgotten about home by the first night.
We got to sleep on Army cots in real log cabins, but we had to make our beds so that when a counselor dropped a coin during inspection, it would bounce off the taut blankets. I learned that summer how to make a bed and tuck in “hospital corners’. Our days started early with reveille, followed by terrific breakfasts of French Toast, scrambled eggs and bacon, then we were off to swim and canoe in the Holston River. We also played tennis, softball, volleyball and badminton. We rode horses and shot .22 rifles at the range. We fished for smallmouth bass and sent arrows hurling toward straw targets. We had spirited games of horseshoes and made billfolds and lanyards at the craft cabin.
In the evening, we gathered round a bonfire and sang songs. Sometimes, the counselors would spin ghosts stories. We roasted marshmallows and made S’mores. I was in little-boy heaven. When two weeks had past, I begged for another two weeks and ended up staying full term.
The next summer, I started playing baseball and never went to a “real camp” again. Today, many years later, I can recall the names of many fellow campers and counselors and look back on all those wonderful memories associated with those six weeks. For Boomers fortunate enough to go, summer camp was a great experience