The first year–1958–I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and like her, made the trip from Birmingham to the vicinity of Moody, Alabama. I was ten years old. If I’m remembering correctly, the bus let us off at the end of the windy paved road; we got into open bed trucks for the final miles of bumpy road into Camp Winnataska, where older boys carried our suitcases or trunks to our assigned cabins: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Navajo, Iroquois. Each cabin consisted of two screened wings lined with bunk beds.
My best friend, Bobby, went with me, but I think that was the time he got “home sick” and somebody came to take him home. He came back the next year, and by 1963, he was a Chico Camp leader like I was. Chico was the camp for the younger kids. It was isolated from the main campus, and had a separate director, pictured in the center of this picture, his son at the head of the line.
The next year, I was to be a leader at the main camp. The Chico director was, I think, by then, feeling the effects of the cancer that would take him away a year or two later. He asked me with no small sense of urgency to come back to Chico and be the activities and music leader. I really, really didn’t want to leave my peers for the pee-ers. But I did.
In 1965, I was on paid staff, a Blackfoot: one of ten high-school boys under the loose leadership of a college student, who it turns out, was the chief instigator of most of the mischief we got into. He also, I might add, begged to have me reinstated when I was caught basically holding hands with my departing girl acquaintance, though the very Baptist Reverend director who walked in on our good-byes in the ping-pong room of the Rec Center described us as “not exactly having intercourse!”
The moment was totally innocent and sweet. This overblown response (I was to be sent home) made it ugly and embarrassing, and was perhaps my first experience of being wrongly accused of crimes I did not commit. Our college student leader talked my way back into the fold for the remainder of the summer. The crimes I did commit went unpunished.
We had our own (squalid) cabin up in the woods. We were lifeguards (after passing the Senior Life saving tests), canoe guides, maintenance crew, horse riding supervisors (lead by the tall guy at the head of the line.) It was a cross between Outward Bound and Animal House.
We were there all summer, for boys camps, girls camps and church camps. Imagine: the girls camps were my favorite. There were, as I alluded to earlier, girl leaders: Dale, Nancy, Lucy and Robin. Oh my.
I hadn’t intended to wander this direction this morning, but there was the picture–the crystallized amber of memory in light and shadow–that transports the mind through time and space. Indulge an old duffer, won’t you?