Monday morning, I was informed that one of the campers assigned to Pioneer-Primitive did not want to live such a rustic life, and wanted to switch to Buccaneer. I would be headed for Pioneer (the name was generally shortened). You probably don't have to guess at my reaction.
Meet the counselors: Bambi (eating pancakes- from a mess kit while sitting on the ground)
And Windy: my favorite that year. She was more serious about campcraft kinds of things.
Yes, I stayed at camp for two sessions- 4 weeks. Yes, we built that unit from nothing except a clearing and small pavilion. We did a ton of stuff. I have pictures of some of it. Practically the first thing (except pitching the tents, which was already done for the session where I was switched, so I missed that activity at that time) was to build a fire ring. That was tricky in this part of New York, because shale is not acceptable for fire-ring rocks. It will explode when it gets hot, so we had to find small glacial erratics in the woods which were usually some rounded metamorphic things. Eventually, we found enough, but maybe not all the first day. You can see them in one of the pictures below.
We also dug our own latrine. At first, it was just a hole with a lashed seat and a small bucket of lime. But eventually, we wove a partial screen of wattles for privacy.
We learned to lash, and to lash well. This is our unit tool rack.
We cooked ALL our own meals on an open fire, and rotated through various chores. Each day a team of two girls carried our food supplies from the lodge in Adirondack pack baskets. (I think this was done on the way back from swimming or boating lessons, rather than a separate trip.) It was about three-tenths of a mile from the unit to the lodge, so not extraordinarily far, but farther away than any other unit.
One of the most memorable activities, because it turned out to be one of great hilarity, was to roast whole chickens over the fire. This girl, Nancy, had a natural gift for comedy. As we were fixing the chicken on the spits (no, we did not kill, pluck and draw them, but they must at least have had packaging and the giblets inside to remove). Anyway, Nancy thought they looked like little headless people. She put napkin diapers on them and did improv dialogue with them. This was so far out of my realm of experience (and I think most of us felt the same way) that we were just a puddle of giggling girls. She named the four chickens George, Henry, Irving and Dennis. (You can see one of the pack baskets behind her.)
Despited bestowing them with names, we cooked them anyway. What an experience! This was real campfire cookery, not just mixing cans of soup with some hamburger. We had dug and lined the fire pit, built the spit and supports, fixed the chickens, built the fire and then had to tend it for hours to keep turning those birdies!
Finally, we were old enough to learn canoeing instead of rowboating. This included more than learning the various strokes, but tipping over on purpose. paddling a swamped canoe (they were canvas, so they would float), rescuing someone in the water without tipping, and races. I didn't want to overwhelm you with pictures, but one of the really fun whole-camp events was watching the counselors in a jousting competition. One counselor paddled while another stood on the gunwhales with a paddle, trying to knock a competitor off her canoe. Probably way too dangerous by today's standards, but we allowed more risk in our lives back then.
One of the best events of each session was the final campfire. All the campers convened in one location for a huge ceremonial fire (think large but controlled- not really a bonfire). There was some sort of program (each unit provided some part) and lots of singing. It usually lasted until after dark and included some kind of lighting ceremony, such as the launching of small boats with a candle or something. They always ended with three songs. The first was either "Linger," "Flicker," "Remember," or "Each Campfire Lights Anew." This was followed by "Anna Botsford Comstock," (you can follow the category link below to read more about her if you want) and the end was "Taps." Remembering these still can make me tear up.
If camp had been special to me before, this year it became the one place in the world where I could be myself and not only not be put down, but admired for knowing camp skills and not minding being dirty. I thrived. One of the lines of "Flicker" is "Love is for those who find it, I've found mine right here..." I had finally found where I belonged.
Stay tuned for part 3 of the 1960 camp story.
In other news: I did a little bit on every single one of my current projects today. Yeah, me! This includes reading what I think will be the last book that counts as research toward Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. It is SO written in teen-speak that it gives me a headache, but it's more pertinent than the last two, so hooray.
| See Buccaneer Unit