LIFESTYLE Recent Posts Relationships  >  All My Bags Are Packed; I’m Ready to Go

All My Bags Are Packed; I’m Ready to Go

All My Bags Are Packed; I’m Ready to Go
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

By Jill Matlow

If you were from the tri-state area, you probably went ‘down the shore’; New Englanders went “to the beach”. But my summers were spent in the Pocono Mountains at overnight camp.

In the summer of 1970, there was a big black trunk next to our front door. Little did I know, in my naive 9 year old mind, that it was my camp trunk, filled with clothes and other necessities for one month away.

Were my parents insane?

My older sister Jody blazed the trail the summer before, so at least I would know one person at camp. And my mother’s childhood BFF was the camp nurse. With my pigtails and enthusiasm, I welcomed the adventure, not knowing what was around the corner.

Who knew that one summer at camp would eventually turn into ten summers? After my first summer there, I knew I had found a place I could call home.

Back in those days, my mother would sew name tags into all my articles of clothing. Weeks leading up to camp were spent frantically trying to get everything we needed on the list provided by camp: clothes, flashlights and batteries, “rainy day gear”, toiletries. There were no stores at camp so you really had to come prepared.

On arrival day, the cars would line up at the front gate waiting for it to open. It was customary to arrive at camp early to grab the best bed and shelf in the bunk.  After we unpacked and settled in, our camp counselors announced that we had to relinquish our candy (which we smuggled into camp) and unload it into a big empty trunk on the porch. The empty trunk was quickly filled up with tootsie rolls, pixie sticks, red licorice, smarties, candy necklaces, turkish taffy, red hots, double bubble gum, sugar babies, sweetarts, jawbreakers and countless other sugary treats.

(To this day, I’m convinced our counselors ate most of that candy. Fortunately, and to make up for this void, we got to order candy through ‘canteen’ twice a week  – “sharing” optional.)

The rustic bunks, situated in the woods, weren’t heated or air conditioned, so we were really “roughing it”.  The bunk walls were filled with signatures written with black markers from campers who lived there in past summers. Boys camp and girls camp were separated by a big field. Every morning, bright and early, we would be awakened by a morning radio show playing great music. Still tired from the night before, we would stroll to the mess hall for breakfast before returning to our bunks to clean them.

The work wheel, a highly sophisticated circular apparatus made of thick construction paper with a spinning arrow, listed the names of our bunkmates and all the undesirable cleaning duties. The worst was ‘dust pan’ which our fellow campers would yell every 5 minutes for us to clean up whatever they had swept into a pile.  If we were lucky, our name ended on “free” on the work wheel, and we had no cleaning duties to fulfill that day.

Days were filled with competitive sports, instructional swim (in an icy cold pool), archery, drama, volleyball/newcomb, arts & crafts, creek hikes (which no one ever enjoyed), and socials with the boys. Meals were served in the mess hall, where foods like ‘angel steaks’ took on a whole new meaning, as there was nothing ‘angelic’ about them.

We occasionally had “overnights”  where we would walk one mile with our sleeping bags (and thought we had walked ten). Spin the flashlight and kissing games ensued after we sat around the campfire and ate dinner.  And always s’mores for dessert.

Camp sessions ended with a few days of Color War, where the entire camp would break into 4 teams (red/blue/green/gold) and through competitive sports and song festivals, a winner was chosen. They had clever themes and ways to break Color War too.

It was also mandated that “no Color War was to be discussed in the bunk or mess hall”.

I was lucky to be a Color War General in 1979, the year I also became a counselor to a bunch of adorable 10 year olds in Girls Bunk #2 (the same bunk I started in as a camper in 1970). The theme of Color War that year was criminals from Batman and I was the Riddler for the Green Team.  We came in first place that year!

But what was really the most priceless thing about summer camp, were the lifelong friendships you formed. I’ve reconnected with so many of my camp friends through Facebook. My former camp counselor, Julie Gold, used to make my bunkmates and me cry in the Rec Hall when she played the piano so beautifully and sang her songs “The Joker” and “Eddie” (her first love).

She literally went from the Rec Hall to Radio City Music Hall, where she won a Grammy in 1991 for Song of the Year – “From a Distance”.

But the fame never changed her. As she said to me recently, “Jilly, you’ll always be my camper”.

The last night of camp was always the saddest. Lots of tears and saying goodbye to friends who you bonded with every summer during those formidable years.  We knew the school year would be endless before we saw most of our camp friends again, but we were joyful in knowing that we’d all be together again the following summer.

“Now the time has come to leave you, one more time, oh let me kiss you

Close your eyes and I’ll be on my way. Dream about the days to come

When I won’t have to leave alone, about the times that I won’t have to say

Oh, kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you’ll wait for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go …”

And off we’d go, from our friends’ tight hugs into our parents’ embraces, where on the long car ride home, we’d be sure to tell them about the greatest summer we ever had.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...