Who amongst us went to summer camp as a kid?
And I'm not talking about computer camp, or basketball camp, or math camp, or fat camp, or Chinese camp, or anything like that. I'm talking about plain old fashioned summer camp. That magical place where you went swimming, rode horses, fell out of canoes, slept under the stars in a sleeping bag with your head under a rock, made yards of lanyards, ate bad food, got sick (the girl who sat next to me at dinner one night got sick and threw up in my
plate), developed crushes on the counselors, got caught in panty raids or sneaking into the boys/girls tent, sat around the campfire, toasting marshmallows and singing folk songs, played Spin the Bottle (I did
), and breathed fresh, clean mountain air. For two weeks every August, between 1971 and 1974, I went to a Jewish camp in the San Bernadino mountains. We did almost everything described above, including being forced to eat bad food. I think the hamburgers were McDonald's rejects. One girl in my tent was so disgusted after a while that she nailed her hamburger to the wall next to our table. Since it was a Jewish camp, the food was kosher (but not necessarily Good), the counselors kept stressing Unity to us - we were a Family (well, we're still working on that!) and after all these decades, I still know cold the Hamotzee grace we had to sing before each meal, including the "alternate lyrics":
Hamotzee lechem min haaretz
We give thanks to God for bread
Our voices join in happy chorus
As our prayer is humbly said.
Baruch atah adonai
Eleheynu melech ha-alom
Hamotzee lechem with cooked carrots
I still have the camp songbook.
I was lucky that my brother and sister went to camp before me, so I was able to use their sleeping bags and footlocker. My brother went to camp in the early 1960's, so he'd remember this:
This was a VERY big hit in 1963.
ARTIST: Allan Sherman
TITLE: Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)
Lyrics and Chords
[Music from Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" from La Gioconda]
Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining
/ G - D - / D7 - G - / F#7 - Bm - / D A D7 - /
I went hiking with Joe Spivey
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner
/ " / " / B7 - C - / G D7 G - /
All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses
Now I don't want this should scare ya'
But my bunkmate has malaria
You remember Jeffery Hardy
They're about to organize a searching party
Take me home, oh Muddah, Faddah
Take me home, I hate Grenada
Don't leave me out in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear
/ Gm - Cm - / / Gm - Bb - / Eb - D7 - /
Take me home, I promise I will
Not make noise, or mess the house with
Other boys, oh please don't make me stay
I've been here one whole day
Dearest Fadduh, Darling Muddah
How's my precious little bruddah
Let me come home if you miss me
I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me
Wait a minute, it's stopped hailing
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing
Playing baseball, gee that's bettah
Muddah, Faddah kindly disregard this letter
Those of us who are fans of The Simpsons will likely remember the episode "Kamp Krusty" in which Bart and Lisa are sent off with excitement to a summer camp suppoedly run by Krusty the Clown - only to discover the camp is nothing more than an excuse for slave labor. Lisa writes a letter home (I wrote a lot of letters home, and was pleased when I got letters in return from my mom, and my sister, and even my brother).
"Dear Mom and Dad, I no longer fear Hell, because I've been to Kamp Krusty. Our nature hikes have become grim death marches. Our Arts and Crafts Center is, in actuality, a Dickensian workhouse. Bart makes it through the days relying on his unwavering belief that Krusty the Clown will come through. But I am far more pessimistic. I am not sure if letter will reach you as our lines of communication have been cut. Now, the effort of writing has made me lightheaded, so I close by saying, SAVE US! SAVE US NOW!"
And when Marge reads the letter, she tells Homer "They complain now, but when we go to pick them up, they won't want to come home!"