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Home Free

As you know from recent columns, summer was a terrific time for most of us kids in the ‘50’s, but for me the icing on the summertime cake was sleep-away camp. I started going when I was nine, first to 4-H Camp, held at Shakamak State Park in Jasonville, Indiana. I already knew I liked 4-H, where the H’s stood for head, heart, hands and health. From it, I learned to bake and sew, even winning a few ribbons at the county fair.

But much as I liked 4-H meetings, camp dwelt in the stratosphere for desirability, right up there with being chosen as a cheerleader or being picked for classroom monitor, neither of which happened. At camp, we’d swim every afternoon in the big natural lake, paddle out to the dock, dive off and swim some more. The idea of swimming past minnows made me feel like another, bigger fish.

two young girls standing by car

Other days we’d do crafts. I learned to braid a less-than-perfect lanyard in the green and white high school colors, which I wore around my neck every day. We glued collages and did messy finger-painting. The picture shows me and my grade school friend, Mary Ella, arriving at camp. Neither of us were dressed for hardy play, but we thought we looked terrific.

girls sitting on bags

By the time I was eleven, I moved up to Camp Columbus, outside of Columbus, Indiana. Ready for more time away from home, I opted for a two-week stay. My neighborhood pal, Susie, the girl who couldn’t stay away from home overnight, decided she’d go too. I was skeptical about her stay and I was right. After only one night, she had the counselor call her mom to come get her. My mom called the office to ask if I wanted to come home too. My reply: “Heck no! I’m having too much fun!” The second photo shows us sitting on our clothing bags, waiting to be assigned cabins.

Each cabin held 10 girls, along with two counselors. They were college-age girls whom we admired and tried to copy every chance we got. While there, I learned to row a boat, refined my lanyard skills, and wove a wicker basket. At night, we sat around campfires and sang songs like Kumbaya and Jacob’s Ladder. Sometimes we even sang in rounds, which I thought especially pretty. 

One day they held a big toe length competition with prizes. I entered my second toe and won! They told me that meant I’d be the boss of my family. I wish they’d told my husband. Those camp days are fond memories, where plenty of us Old Schoolers got to experience life outside our nests.   


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