Childhood Memories Friday: 4-H Camp

Childhood Memories Friday

Life divides us in many ways: those who like coffee, and those who don’t. Those who enjoy sports, and those who don’t. Those who like camp — and those who don’t. I’ll let this memory unfold, but if you know me very well, you’re probably already sensing where I fall for this divide.

As a child, I attended 4-H camp. It was held at Camp Pyoca, which I see is still around, although the buildings shown in the photos look significantly improved over those of my childhood attendance, probably around 1975.

4-H camp lasted 3 1/2 days, I believe, but in my memory, it seems more like 3 1/2 weeks, or even 3 1/2 months. As I prepared to head to camp the first time, I remember my dad saying, “The days I spent at camp were the best days of my life.” My friends, this just reinforces what I’ve said in the first paragraph.

I arrived at 4-H camp and entered the primitive cabin that was to serve as my home base for the next few days. It was hot, humid, and of course there was no AC. I gingerly approached a bunk bed in the corner, and lay my sleeping bag out over the musty mattress on the bottom bunk, stained with who-knows-what. I was soon to learn that I should have chosen the top bunk, because whenever a girl headed up there, rust from the springs would rain down onto me.

As each new girl entered the cabin, some of the other girls would excitedly shriek and jump up and down. They discussed Shaun Cassidy, swimming, and the heifer/steer/sow they were planning to enter at the fair. I could relate to none of this, and since none of the girls in the cabin appeared to enjoy reading, The New Mickey Mouse Club, or piano, I remained in my corner.

Camp consisted of lots of time swimming. I was never a swimmer, and have never really enjoyed water activities of any kind, so this wasn’t high on my fun list. The first day, our swimming abilities were tested. I failed this, and so I watched while the swimmers  swam back and forth, out to a dock several yards from the shore. Meanwhile, the other rejects and I cavorted with a beachball in a few feet of water. This wasn’t high entertainment for me, but we weren’t allowed back to the cabins, so I stayed.

We also had craft time. I don’t remember what we made, but being the mid-’70s, I’m betting on some (very) simple macrame, or perhaps something involving popsicle sticks. Camp directors had learned that you could keep kids busy for quite a while making God’s eyes with a couple of popsicle sticks and some yarn donations.

In the evenings. we gathered in the big room we also ate in. There were strange competitions (one of those strange bits of trivia that has stuck with me is that I had the third-longest toes in the camp), and line dancing. The dancing I actually enjoyed. I had a bit of rhythm (hello, piano lessons!), and the dancing was straight-forward enough that I could get it. I remember one dance being called the “Amos Moses.” The internet is so awesome — I type it into google, and voila, 4-Her’s are still doing it:

At night, we gathered around a campfire. One night, we saw a movie called The Boarded Window, which scared me to death. Again, thanks, internet:

This movie must have been made prior to the 1978 date listed on YouTube, as I’m sure I went to camp earlier than that. Also, I’m not sure how we watched a movie in 1975 around a campfire??? Memories are tricky things. I do remember a very creepy walk back to the cabin after watching that.

For the final half day at camp, each cabin was to present a skit. I still remember ours was to this song — definitely not PC-enough for these times:

A chief and a squaw in a little canoe, with the moon shinin’ all around

And as they paddled to and fro, you couldn’t even hear a sound.

So they talked and they talked til the moon grew dim,

He said, “You better kiss me or get out and swim.”

So what ya gonna do, in a little canoe,

With the moon shinin’ all a-

Squaw paddlin’ all a-

Chief swimmin’ all around.

Our skit must have had an Indian theme, as we also sang “Cherokee People.” I remember one of the bossy/leader girls in the cabin singing the verses to this as a solo, and the whole thing seemed a little over-the-top and embarrassing. I mean, come on — a white girl singing, “Though I wear a shirt and tie, I’m still part red man deep inside.” (come to think of it, maybe this would fit right in, in 2016!)

After this dramatic rendition, camp ended. I attended a few times, definitely more out of my sense of 4-H duty than from enjoyment, and I most certainly would not call camp some of the best times of my life — but there you go: camp memories.

Did you attend camp? Did you enjoy it?



8 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: 4-H Camp

  1. Ha! This camp reflection certainly brought back memories, and not good ones! I totally agree with your conclusion about either being a camp person or not, Susan. I attended Girl Scout camp exactly once, and I think I have luckily repressed most of the memories. One thing I do remember (and I haven’t thought about this in many years) is coming back to the platform tent where we slept and finding my mattress was missing. I was told it had been thrown in the cow pasture, but after allowing for some moments of distress, it was revealed to be hidden in the tent under another mattress. Such fun capers–not.

    To be fair, there was another type of camp I attended several times that was very fun–family Bible camp. Families (mostly ministers and their families) took over the camp at the end of the season each year, stayed in very nice cabins as family units, and had morning chapel, crafts, community meals, evening vespers, volleyball games, and so on. The comfort of family seemed to make all the difference.

  2. I did leather crafts….a bracelet with my name stamped on the leather!!!! I remember watching the creepy movie in the dining hall. I would rate my Camp Pyoca at a 3.5 out of 10.☺️

  3. I went to Santa Claus Church Camp once. It is a Methodist church campgrounds. I got homesick and could not wait for it to end! I still have a post card I wrote home telling my folks to bring a certain song for me to play on the piano for talent night. They brought it! We painted some plaster of Paris figures. I remember I bought two extra unpainted ones for Elaine & Mary Ellen to paint when I returned home. One day at camp a girl friend and I were walking the grounds. We passed two camp leaders. One said something totally off the wall bad. My friend said to me, “Did you hear her say . . . ?”
    I KNEW the person said those words but I told my friend I did not think she heard her correctly. Why I was defending the leader I do not know!
    So remember, little ears ARE listening!
    Santa Claus Campground also had BIG OLD buildings that families stayed in at summer time. At night they had an open air building that you could come to for revival type meetings. Daddy, Mother, and we three girls went most every summer to the revival meetings. We often picked up an older lady from our Methodist Church and took her along – Mrs. Lesko. I know I am totally spelling her name wrong. . . I do have a photograph of one of the big dorm type buildings.
    I’ll bet you Santa Claus Campground has kids there paddling water and learning God’s word June 3, 2016.

  4. “A boy and a girl in a little canoe”–that’s how we sang it at Scout Camp. I hated sleep over camp. Day camp was fine, but I still don’t like being away from home overnight and I hate group activities. I feel you pain even now!!! Good post.

  5. As far as I can remember, I only attended 4-H camp once, and since all of my closest girlfriends were there it wasn’t too bad. Our 4-H club went to Camp Mack near Milford, IN. I love to swim so that part was OK, but like you I am not big on craft projects or camp skits! I still remember the smell of all of the bleach that was put in the dishwater to kill the germs. No automatic dishwashers in those days, so we had to take turns doing the dishes after meals. UGH! That is a chore that I never did enjoy very much.

    My best camping years were Church Camp on Lake Wawasee in Northern IN at Syracuse. The entire YF (Youth Fellowship) from our church would go each year during the teenage years and stay together in one big cabin that would hold 15 kids and 3 cooks. Different mothers would go along each year to do the family-style home cooked meals. My Mother only went once, since she had to work at Wolf & Dessauer Dept. Store in Huntington after my Dad died in 1951. We had maybe 2 church services per day, one in the AM and the other in the evenings. We sang lots of neat choruses and met other campers from both Ft. Wayne and Huntington churches of the same denomination, so it was way neater than 4-H Camp ever was. It was nice to rethink those days once again at my ripe old age.:)

  6. Really enjoyed hearing about your camping experiences. Jim grade school, I was in 4H, Girl Scouts, and band but the only camps were day camps. The summer before my senior year in high school, three other majorettes and I went to twirling camp for a week at Butler University. We lived in a dorm and had a great time. Learned a lot also. But I was 17 by then! Loved being on the campus.

  7. I went to camp one time and absolutely hated it. I was so homesick I was miserable, even though my sister was there with me. I could not tell you one thing I did there but I can tell you this: If a child of mine said he/she didn’t want to go to camp, I would NEVER force or even encourage him/her to do so. Of all the weeks of my youth, my time at that camp had to be one of the most miserable.

  8. I attended 4-H camp near LaGrange one year, and have great memories. I remember learning how to bandage an injured hand, and when we came back from the session, everybody thought I really had hurt my hand! We went to church camp at Lake James Christian Assembly every year because it was close to where we lived, and I worked there one summer. Good memories.

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