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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Girl Scout Summer Camp

By Johna Ferguson

I remember my mother helping me pack for my two weeks at camp. We had a list of necessary items to bring:

• Flashlight
• Whistle
• 2 bath towels, 2 wash clothes
• Sleeping bag and pillow
• Pen, stamps, envelopes, paper for writing home
• Mosquito repellent
• Bar of soap and dish
• Metal wash basin
• Tooth brush, paste, metal cup
• The usual clothing needed for 2 weeks.

She tucked in a book for me to read and several large candy bars to share with my roommates.

We met at our school and took a bus to camp, a two-hour’s ride away. It was my first adventure away from my family for such a long visit. I was glad my neighbor was also going for there would be many girls from others schools in the city.

When we arrived at camp, situated on a lovely small lake, there were over 150 strange faces all looking a little scared. My friend and I tightly held hands hoping we wouldn’t be separated.

A counselor divided us into age groups and then divided those age groups into cabin groups, six girls to a cabin. Luckily, my friend and I were placed in the same cabin. We picked up our sleeping bags and suitcases and trudged off to find our cabin, Forest #3, somewhere in the surrounding woods.

But what a shock, it wasn’t a cabin; it had no walls, just a roof. There was a central cupboard with shelves for our suitcases and then from that in stair-step fashion, three bunks on each side.

A college girl introduced herself as our counselor. She and five other counselors lived in a cabin just barely visible through the woods. If we had any problems, we could go there for help.

Like typical girls, we said there would be no problems and we chose our bunks and introduced ourselves to each other. We had finished sixth grade, so we were 11 or 12 years old. There was a sheet of jobs we must perform plus a list of activities we must participate in. A bugle would wake us at 7AM with “revelry” and “taps” to announce bedtime at 9PM.

The jobs were assigned for two girls to do daily. One job was to sweep our wooden cabin floor and rake the trail to the main hall. Another was to carry four small buckets of water from the main hall for us to use brushing teeth and washing faces as there was no running water. The third job was the worst, putting lime down into the outhouse toilets to make them smell better. Thankfully, the jobs rotated daily.

But the activities were the most fun. We ate breakfast at big long tables in a huge meeting hall and rinsed our dishes in buckets of water. I guess no one thought of passing on swine flu.

Then we had craft classes of all kinds. We were going to put on the play Pocahontas at the end of the two weeks, so we made decorations and costumes for that. We also made lariats for our whistles which we were to wear at all times.

After lunch we rested and then went swimming. We learned how to paddle a canoe, sail or row a boat. Then shower time in sun-warmed water and time to read or write letters.

After dinner we had story hour and best were the scary ones. We walked using flashlights, hand-in-hand, frightened through the pitch black woods to our cabin, found our nighties and snuggled into bed.

Those fun-filled days passed quickly but I did have a catastrophe on the final day.

Our parents came see our play performance and to drive us home. I had been chosen to be Pocahontas. In the last scene, I was to stand in the bow of the long canoe and look for a good place for John Smith to land. I put my hand up like a shield against the sun and the canoe tipped and I fell overboard.

Oh, what a terrible ending. I was so embarrassed, but my parents were glad that I was such a good swimmer, costume and all. That certainly ended my debut for an acting career but it was one very memorable childhood vacation I can’t forget.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great scene setting..and I bet everyone remembered that last scene much more than any prior or upcoming production of Pocahantas..talk about Spencer Tracy's advice to all new actors, learn your lines and don't bump into the furniture..what ever happened to your best friend at the time? Lucky me, I have been able to keep two early childhood friends as a constant, even if we only send cards during the year..a benefit of staying in your hometown forever and ever...thanks..

Johna, I embarrassed myself by freezing up in a skit where I was supposed to imitate a counselor who was distinctive enough that it should have been easy! My one and only camp experience, and the end of my acting career!

Loved your story. It reminded me of my years at
4-H Camp. I loved them but I am most amazed at your memory. Oh my - you remember all the details! I remember just bits and pieces and an overall feeling. I'm impressed.

That was a cute story- and well written. It reminded me of some of my camp experiences - and tipping over in a rowboat as an adult.

I too enjoyed your story and the memories it brought back. I also was a little boy who had never been away from home. I cried the first two days, but they wouldn't take me home. I cried the last day because they said I had to go home.

Hi Johna,

Late getting here but glad I got here in time to read your fun story...

I enjoyed it.

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