Last weekend, my friend Deb delivered her beautiful daughter for a week at Summer Camp.  Summer Camp.  Oh, those words!!  I've been thinking about them all week and remembering -- even after 35+/- years, those summer camp memories still bring a smile (or a cringe).

It was a week-long YWCA camp in northern Minnesota and I went with my cousin during two summers, when I was 11 and 12.  I took the Greyhound bus, by myself, from my home in NE Wisconsin to hers in Duluth (lost my pillow on the very last trip) and from there, we were delivered to camp.  She was a year younger than me, but we weren't really close and didn't see each other much -- she always seemed to put on airs, anyway -- her dad was a doctor and her mom listened to opera and I think my uncle might have paid a part of my camp fee and she probably knew it.  They had a huge treehouse in their backyard that my uncle had built and it had three trees going right up through the floor and the roof -- it was awesome and it was there that I saw for myself how much trees -- big trees -- actually move in the wind -- even a very little wind.

Summer Camp!  I played a lot of just-for-fun tetherball -- I was pretty good at it and it's still a favorite game.  I took archery (which I loved), swimming (not-so-much but mandatory), made lanyards, sang camp songs, and ate in a giant mess hall.  My most favorite thing of all was horseback riding.  "My" horse, both years, was a palomino named Taffy.  We learned the very basics of grooming and how to saddle a horse, and I still remember giving Taffy a knee -- "Do it again," the counselor said, "harder!" -- so she'd expel any air she might be holding so the saddle could be cinched up tight.  I learned all about "posting" and how much it can hurt when you're not used to it.  Taffy was a good, sweet, and gentle horse -- unless she was tied up.  She'd raise holy hell and be in danger of injuring herself and others if tethered.  As I recall, she'd been rescued from an abusive owner who would tie her up and beat her, apparently, and with my maternal streak we were a pretty good match.

I won the camp-wide "Miss Ugly" contest one year.  My cabin mates did me up good -- teasing my long hair (I swear, I lost half in the combing-out afterwards), applying fake moles and blackening teeth, they rubbed my legs with toothpaste which caked and dried and looked rather like scales (I smelled so minty!), it might have been on my face and in my hair, too.  As I recall, someone sacrificed an entire tube of Crest.  For some reason, I'd brought my violin to camp and for the talent portion of the program, I sawed and hacked an "accompaniment" while I belted out a completely tuneless "Mary Had A Little Lamb" in probably much the same manner as Rosanne's famous Star-Spangled Banner -- except worse.

There was the time I drifted over to "the other side" of the dock during swimming time and brushed up against some reeds.  I picked up a huge leech -- honestly, the thing must have been three inches long on the side of my calf.  Um, I freaked out a little.  Someone -- one of the cooks, maybe -- came running from the mess hall with a big salt shaker.  Ew, it was all very gross with the smily-turned-shriveled and blood...

Ask anyone in my family...  I'm still mad at my cousin for throwing away my 16 Magazines.  During one of those summers, she thought I was spending too much of my free time ogling the likes of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones and Barry Williams (OMG, Barry's wearing "our" sweater in this photo -- I had this EXACT same sweater!), and reading about Dark Shadows, so she took 'em and tossed 'em.  Just like that.  (Airs... remember?)  Made my blood boil and it still does.  But it gets better...  I mean, worse.  Still miffed upon returning from camp, my aunt wondered why and when I told her that my cousin had taken and thrown away my magazines -- my personal property to which my cousin had absolutely no right, not to mention the whole making judgments about my chosen form of entertainment for my free time at camp -- my aunt frickin' backed her up.  Oh!  Don't get me started...

Yeah, so anyway.  I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world and I know how lucky I am to have gone.  I don't think any of my siblings ever had the chance.  So how about it?  Any camp memories to share?



I didn't get to go either and you make me feel rather envious that you did! You know what they say about 'you can pick your friends but not your family'...


I went to church camp every summer and I absolutely loved it. We sang and swam and made crafts and it was fabulous. Thanks for bringing back such awesome memories, Vicki.

Dianne in western WI

I went to camp with Camp Fire and 4-H and always just LOVED it. Remember Kool-aid in metal pitchers? Going to the canteen to buy candy? Archery, goofy camp songs, etc? Too fun You & I must be from the same era - Dark Shadows, Donny Osmond, etc!


I didn't get to go to real camp - but I did go with my Dad once (something I'll never forget) The Princess is off this week too - horse camp in the "wilds" of Minnesota for her 2nd year
Can't wait to hear her stories!


Oh thank you, Vicki! I can just imagine the stories she'll come home with - updated by a few years maybe! My friend checked in on them yesterday and all is well. Kathryn barely had time to visit; she's loving it!
e - I never went to camp until I was an RA at St. Cloud State!


I went to Girl Scount camp for a week once - don't know how old I was - ten maybe? And I cried the whole time I was so homesick.

We always went to day camp which was a lot of fun.

But nothing, absolutely NOTHING will compare to the summer I was a counselor at an overnight camp. Overnight camp is a whole other world - like fantasy land - and the friends you make at camp are like no other friends. I had just graduated from high school and was testing the waters, so to speak, to see if I could leave home for college come September. I was pretty homesick the first day or two until a friend I made told me that if I missed home I should just call! That was it. I've never been home for more than a few days since.


OMG! I got such a thrill at the mention of 16 Magazine! I had the 8 x 10's from that magazine taped all over my bedroom when I was 12 or 13. Mark Lindsey was my fave! Thanks for the memories, lol!


So, I'm definitely posting about camp right now! Thanks for the impetus.


My fondest camp memory is being the girl that lived...

I was a counselor taking kids on a hike and we came to an Indian burial ground. The kids jumped up and down on one of the graves which was filled with yellow jackets. I heard a buzzing that I never want to hear again and grabbed the kids and threw them as far as I could as swarms of bees stung me over and over.

I ran as the bees continued to sting and jumped in a creek where I promptly hit my head on a rock and passed out. I woke up in a small shack covered in mud feeling very, very out of it. The mud was the only thing this woman had to stop the swelling of the stings...of which they said I had 50 or so.

When I got back to camp they were telling stories about how I had died and it made me really appreciate being alive! :)


I went to Camp Hiwela, a Camp Fire Girl camp in Wisconsin for one week a summer for several summers. I was homesick at times but enjoyed the week away. I loved the songs we sang after dinner and I think we even watched one of the moon landings since it was so historic. The crafts part was fun, too. Wow, I haven't thought of camp in years! Thanks, Vicki!


You sure know how to stir my memories! My fave camp trick? To Saran wrap the toilets of course! If my cousin tossed my 16s, I'd be pissed too! While I loved drooling over Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz, I also drooled over John, Paul, (especially George), and Ringo on my brother's albums.


I'm sure there is more than one Y camp in Northern Minnesota (ya think?) but was your camp by any chance Camp Olson?
I went there for years and LOVED it -- much the same memories as yours, too many good ones to pick out one -- and in fact, recently discovered I can camp again as a Family Camper, so have introduced my daughters and husband to the joys of Y Camp!
Camp Olson is at the same latitude as Duluth, but in the middle of the state, on Little Boy Lake, so it made me wonder. Let me know!
While I was gone at camp one year, my cousins visited my house and my pesky boy cousins took my dusting powder and powdered it all over my bedroom walls. They were stealthy so no one found it till I got home. Grrrr.


I remember camp fondly too.The funny thing is I am from Duluth but, went to Y camp (YMCA) in Wisconsin at Lk.Nabagameon I cant remeber how to spell that... lol I left my Jean jacket there... as well as my initials in our cabin (shhhhh)


Aww, good memories. I went to Girl Scout camp for three years somewhere in the Ozarks of Missouri. Good times canoeing, water skiing, and horseback riding. Now my "baby" is at boy scout camp for ten days for the first time. I hope he has the time of his life and the memories forever. Thanks for letting me reminisce.

Melissa V.O.

Oh, camp! I hope my children can go to summer camp and feel transported out of this busy, crazy world we now live in.

I saw a program on my local Virginia PBS the other week on Wisconsin Summer Camps, from WI public television (of course). It was a wonderful documentary, I'll have to link to it when I post next.

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