Campy Summer Camp, Part I

Today’s post comes from Clyde of Mankato

I am surprised by how often summer camp appears in movies. As a result I wonder if summer camp is a more common experience than I realize. Of course, here in the Midwest it is tied to church camps. How common is it on the coasts, in the South, on the prairie? I don’t know.

My favorite movie summer camp is very campy indeed, Addams Family Values. What a delight Christina Ricci is as Wednesday. “You sent us to camp. They made us sing.” In one of Ron Howard’s first movies, The Courtship of Eddy’s Father, he plays a boy who is sent to camp, falls in love, and runs away, which covers a few cliches. I suppose we could include Dirty Dancing in that list of movies. I had a few friends at the University of Chicago who had Borscht Belt experiences.

One summer camp is tied into my life, Camp House, near Brimson. In my childhood it was owned by the D.M. & I.R. Railway Employees Association. I was sent there in about fourth or fifth grade. I remember it cost only $12 a week as a result of funding by the railroad. I did not like it. There is a picture of me with my mother on the Sunday visit. I am not going to share that photo. I do not look happy. You see, my mother told me that I was staying for a second week. Somehow half of the $12 was being paid by the railroad or Employees Association. I do not think my mother could turn down a bargain. My sister attended as a camper once or twice.

Oddly, I returned the summer before my senior year to work as an assistant to the maintenance man, my first job. About him and that experience I could tell a few tales. My sister was a counselor during the four weeks of girls camping that summer. It was special to have her there. We were very close back then. We had many late night talks. I was surprised then and am surprised now that my father released me from helping with the haying. I made up for it the next summer when he went to Michigan for work and I did the farm alone.

The winter after I worked there, the Employees Association was disbanded and the camp was sold. It became a Lutheran camp and still is. My children attended it two or three summers and loved it. My daughter has gone family camping there twice with her children. Three generations are thus tied to Camp House. For three years my daughter served on the board that oversees Camp House and other Lutheran camps.

A common sub-genre of movies is about camp counselors, often as gathering a few years later. I have only seen part of one of those movies. It struck no chord with me.

In the header photo, taken about 1955 by my mother, the building farthest the right on the lake is where I slept for ten weeks. Campy Summer Camp, Part II will reference that building.

Did you attend a summer camp, wish you had or wish you had not?

46 thoughts on “Campy Summer Camp, Part I”

  1. in 6th grade or so I went to St. John’s leadership camp. in the dorms with cold water showers it was a right of passage. we found a place to smoke cigarettes in the woods that turned out to be he place they knew to look because it was e same place the johnnies smoked cigarettes in the woods during the regular school year. it was fun stuff. my cousin Dan from Fargo joined me and we had a great time. made a friend or two but didn’t follow up all the way to St. Paul from Bloomington back in the day when the other side of town was truly the other side of town.
    went to day camp every year at the bus stop down the block where he camp guys taught fire building berry gathering tree Id and how to eat a s’more . between swimming lessons and day camp the summer was peppered with stuff to look forward to.
    never did the canoe kum by ya kind of camp. until I was 16 and did my own version in the Vw bus. enjoyed the heck out of that.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I attended several summers and I loved it…just a week…Camp Wa Shunga…a Lutheran camp near Junction City Kansas-a pretty rolling flint hills area with a calm river running through. Boating, hiking and swimming-a pool etc…and the ‘Kumbaya’ campfires. My best memory was having money for the canteen and purchasing a half pint of ice cream for 15cents to eat with a wooden spoon from the half carton…no desert to share with four other siblings! All of us kids went to this camp.
    Years later we sent our daughter there when my sister was a counselor…we lived in Colorado at the time…new name and slightly moved location To ma Shinga. She moved to the Kansas Ciy area about three years ago…both her teen daughter went to there in preparation to the National Youth Gathering in Detroit. Oldest granddaughter will be a counselor there this summer.
    So summer camp experience ..the same camp…continues in my family.

    Side note: We lived in Kansas following a 1955 move for my dad to be a Chaplain/Prof at Bethany College in Lindsborg (Little Sweden USA) He took that position promising he’d have Mom back in Minnesota in 5 years…they lived there, loving the community, ’til they died 2000.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I spent my childhood 6yr the HS in Lindsborg KS. Married lived near Wichita, Lindsborg, Salina, Lawrence KS…. then Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Phoenix, San Juan Capistrano CA and Denver. :-}

        Liked by 1 person

        1. For six years that part of KS was almost my hone away from home. Lindsborg was a place I drove through rapidly to get somewhere else. Did make it to Minneapolis KS but never to Mankato, KS.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Clyde it sounds as though you were traveling what we called old 81…the highway route n & s we’d take through Iowa +? to come up to MN….it went to Wichita and don’t know how far south…turnpike came. We still take 81 when headed that way…catch it off I 80.

          What were you doing in Kansas?


  3. Never did go to camp. Our fifth grade teacher wanted me to attend a science camp but we couldn’t afford the cost. It’s probably just as well I didn’t go. Who knows what diabolical weapons of mass destruction I’d have developed after beginning a science career? Humanity was spared.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. My folks sent me to Boy Scout camp when I was 13. I hated it, although I enjoyed making lanyards. I still grin when I read Billy Collins’ poem about lanyards.

    When I was 14 I had two deliriously happy weeks at the Larry Jo Dude Ranch in nearby Boone, IA. We got to ride horses every day. Riding my favorite horse, Margeurita, I won contests in a mini-rodeo.

    The most memorable moment (which I’ve described here before) was when we played hide and seek in woods south of camp. Riding a large, white, crippled horse, I hid so effectively that the camp owners called out the Boone cops to find me.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Never went to camp. Summer was a time to rejoice in solitude and safety, and to read to my heart’s content. Child me would have been appalled at the idea of spending yet more time in the company of my peers when she didn’t absolutely have to. Also, my parochial school forbade us from having anything to do with Scouting, since it was “ecumenical.” I assume the Lutheran Girl Pioneers had a camp, but by the time they showed up at my school I was beyond paying attention.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Probably the first “pop hit” that I memorized the words to.
        Anybody who can work “Ptomaine poisoning,” “alligators,” “poison ivy,” and “malaria” into humorous song lyrics is a musical genius. 😉


        Liked by 1 person

  6. One summer, when my mother was away from home helping her parents, I was sent to boy scout camp. I more or less had a good time there swimming, doing craft projects, bunking in a cabin, and eating in a big mess hall. That was the only time I went to a summer camp.


  7. When I was thirteen I spent one week camping – in tents – with my girl scout troupe on the island of Tåsinge. Loved every minute of it.

    It was a full day’s travel to get there – including two ferry rides – hauling all of our gear on our backs. Twelve girls around my age, led by two young women. It was a Catholic girl scout troupe, and I remember that one of the leaders was an aspiring nun. (She never made it. Fell in love with a Catholic priest, and he left the priesthood to marry her. Huge scandal.)

    We spent the days hiking in the woods, identifying trees and collecting edible plants. A morning and evening swim in the ocean – regardless of weather – was de rigueur – as was cooking all of our meals over a campfire. We sang, told jokes, played games and baked bread, the dough twisted around a stick held over the flames of the fire. Aaah, I can almost smell the smoke, hear the crackling fire and feel the warmth from the fire on my face. Kumbaya, indeed!

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I went to church camp at Lake Okoboji when I was maybe 14, and I remember very little beyond trying to get one girl to be my friend. The Head Guy, a minister, hoped we could “find God” some time during the week, and I remember trying my damnedest to find him/her in the water when we were out in the boat one day. We all loved him – he told wonderful stories at dinner, where he also led us in the hymn Let Us Break Bread Together. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that song is where I “found God” – I still can’t sing it with out tearing up, for whatever reason.

    Then there was Y-teen leadership camp a few years later, which was good in its own way, but I don’t remember much about that either.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I learned that song at summer camp and always loved it.
      However in a little church up here my Uncle & Aunt were sitting right behind me (and my folks) as we sang. When we began “…as I fall on my knees with my face …” she sang….”as I fall on my face…” Mom and I had a fit of the giggles and so did my Aunt ‘tho we did our best to contain ourselves ’til after the service.
      I can’t hear or sing that without thinking of my Aunt…now a fond memory…I smile…

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Morning–

    I went to day camp here in Rochester… maybe 5th or 6th grade?
    And then one week, one summer at ‘Good Earth Village’. It must have been church related.

    When our kids were in 5th grade they spent a few days at ‘Eagle Bluff’. I went with our son and Kelly went with our daughter. That was something too; a whole different experience as a dad sleeping in the dorm room with 7 other old snoring guys… must be like the proverbial ‘hunting shack’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am writing short stories about NE MN. It should have a story about the hunting shack experience (called deer camp in the UP) which so many of my compatriots were a part of, but not me. Have not been able to formulate a story, only in part because I was never a part of the experience.


      1. my grandpa was named jb
        jbs people came form around duluth
        he was a bricklayer with an attitude. wore a crisp shite shit a bow tie and a new stetson open raora every day to be the bricklayer forman. a little of his true joys was heading back up to the duluth area to go deer hunting. the machalovitch was the nae of his hunting shack. t burned down due to mice chewing on the farmers matches in the cupboard they figured. my dad said he went deer for about 10 years very successfully then he finally shot one. made him sick to his stomach and he never went deer hunting again. eventally the morality of killing for sport crossed over the line for geese and then ducks and pheasants too. my dads hunting stories with his fargo buddies (jb moved to fargo married and settled down) are among my favorite memories. they hung out together until the last men were left to remember the others.
        something about hunting stories for the making of a tale. good backbone to build from

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “a crisp shite shit a bow tie and a new stetson open raora,” one heck of an outfit! 🙂 Wish I knew what an open raora is.


    2. my kids went to eagle bluff too. heck of a place. we went in winter but the river was open to pick up science stuff from.
      what a great sopot
      i was the dad in the room but i dont snore.


  10. OT – Just a reminder. Tomorrow is the day that Krista needs help loading her U-Haul for her move to Northfield. Monday is when she needs help unloading and moving it into her new house. I have Krista’s contact information if you need it.


  11. My primary memory of summers growing up is the constant smell of varnish, sawdust, paint, and the whirring of a table saw or a sander. My parents didn’t stop remodeling until their 70s because their grown children also had houses in need of their skills. Enduring the heavy humidity and high temps in the middle of Iowa, along with these smells and sounds made for pretty miserable summers for me. The one thing we most looked forward to was an occasional visit to Carr’s Pool. I think it was the only body of water beneath the Minnesota border, but we loved these times. Back then, parents believed that their kids shouldn’t go swimming unless an hour had passed between a meal and jumping in the pool. Those were the longest hours of my life except for child labor.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I went to bible camp quite a few summers at Lake Shetak. Our son and daughter went to Badlands Ministries bible Camp in Medora a couple of summers as well as International Music Camp on the Canadian border.. Son also went to Farmers Union Camp on Lake Sakakawea, and Concordia German Camp. Daughter went to French and Italian camps.


  13. I went to day camp once. I did not enjoy it; I was just not cut out to be around so many other kids and doing prescribed activities.


  14. I went to Fanny Bailey Alcott Girl Scout camp near Eveleth at least two summers. One of summer I spent much of the time in the nurses office soaking my infected toes (from scraping them on the rocks on the bottom as I tried to learn to swim). I enjoyed talking with the nurse more than I did learning to swim.

    A group of us junior high friends went together, I don’t remember any of the kids I didn’t know, but do remember counselors. After years with a pony tail, I had my hair cut to look like my favorite. It also was the first time I saw someone shave their legs.

    I also went to day camp near home, was a counselor one year. When I moved back to the Cloquet area in 1974, I was at a lake sitting on the shore with a group of other women and children when one of the women astonished me by remembering me from day camp. It must have been twenty years before.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve never seen anyone mention Fanny Bailey Alcott camp until your April post. My Mom worked as a nurse there in the summer of 1940. Way before your experience, but it’s still nice to think about. Thanks for posting.


      1. I went to Camp Fanny Bailey Alcott on Half Moon Lake in 1954. At that time it was a Red Cross Safety First Aid Training Camp with both boys and girls in attendance segregated in different cabins. The training only lasted a week but was a lot of fun especially the evenings which had group entertainment (e.g. Singing popular songs etc…).


  15. The minister’ s daughter of course went to Bible Camp most summers until old enough to work, but of course, this was often not an opportunity to spend time away from parents (I cannot remember many times when I was on my own, but that’s another story).

    I do remeber vividly time spent at Spring Brook State Park where a group of Lutheran churches decided to create their own camp, and I date my love of CCC architecture to that time. I see one of those impossibly solidly built log cabins someplace and my heart just sings (Steve, I know your dad felt very differently about the CCC, but I have a deep affection for the work those men did in state parks).

    Also did Girl Scout day camp at Riverside Park near Coon Rapids, IA. Took the s&h there a couple summers ago and tgere iz a blog post in my head about that that will happen someday, but tiday is not that day.

    OT-tim, I have it on good authority there are morels in Carver County.

    also OT for those keeping up, s&h PR’d at 4:35 in the mile last night. I’d be remiss if I did not mention he won that race with his brain last night. Very proud I am.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good for s&h; he of strong mind in a swift body. Congrats, Lucas!

      Morels in Dakota County, too. In Ramsey County, stinging nettles are at their prime.


  16. The best I could do for summer camp was regular attendance at our approximately 6-week-long park program in St. Louis Park. A park leader (or two) was assigned to organize and instigate activities like lanyard making, tetherball, knox hockey (some called it knock hockey. I just called it amazingly fun for such a stupid game), softball, volleyball, chess, or whatever else she/he could find for us to do.

    The hours were something like 9-12 and 1-4, so we all ran home for lunch and usually came back at 1. Parents probably loved that they basically got free babysitting (Excuse me, daycare is the PC term these days, I guess).

    The highlight was the all-city playground picnic, when the 10 or 12 playground denizens convened for one day of competition to determine who had the best softball team or the best knox hockey player. As it so happens, I emerged as the reigning all-playground, citywide chess champion when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Talk about a hollow victory. I think I beat three other players, one of whom barely knew the moves. But still, it kept hundreds of kids off the streets and out of mischief.

    So yeah, that was it. I wasn’t even a Boy Scout or anything glamorous such as that.

    Chris in O-town


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.