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?