Thursday, August 4, 2011

summer camp

My dad and a couple of stylish gals at Camp Don Bosco, late 1940s-early 1950s.

My parents sent me to summer camp in the mountains of Colorado when I was 12.  This was a somewhat traumatic experience for me.  It was the first time I was away from home for more than a night or two.

Recycled journal by StoriesDivinations on Etsy.

I was very homesick.  And when my parents sent me a box with my favorite stuffed animal in it, it made it worse!

1970s plaid-trimmed camp blouse, by simplicityisbliss on Etsy.

I did not know anyone at camp other than my sister, who was with the other nine-year-olds.  I was shy, gawky, and still somewhat tomboy-ish at age 12.  The other 12-year-old girls showed up at camp with lip gloss and hair dryers with which to blow dry their feathered 'dos.  They all seemed to know each other already.  And then I got my period.  It wasn't my first period, but I wasn't prepared for it.

Poison Ivy lip balm by ForStrangeWomen.

My grandmother, Edna, and my dad, camping in a teepee, 1940s.

There were horses at camp, but I seemed to be the single girl who did not harbor a fascination for these beasts.  I was terrified of falling off.  And if you're not already thinking "future sociopath," guess what camp activities I enjoyed and excelled at?  Yep.  Archery and rifle range.

Vintage Dinah Sheridan photo via Performing Arts / Artes EscĂ©nicas' Flickr stream.

But all my camping experiences were not miserable.  I had lots of fun times camping with my dad and friends in our Indian Princess/Trailmates groups.  (For those unfamiliar, this is a YMCA-sponsored father/daughter quality time program, a la the Girl Scouts.  Only lots more fun and with an unfortunate appropriation of Native American culture, though it looks like the Y is getting with the times and is now calling the program Adventure Guides and Princesses.)  Growing up in Colorado meant amazing camping opportunities in the world's most beautiful places, from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Sand Dunes. 

Cute little German cabins/cottages from MademoiselleChipotte.

After I moved to New York, camping trips meant escapes from the city with a large group of friends, sitting around the fire all night, drinking beer, and narrowly missing getting kicked out of the campsite for being too loud.  Oh, and there was also a spring break trip to New Orleans where we camped at a site within the city and heard gunshots.  This didn't phase us though.  We lived and went to school in the Bronx.

Vintage kerosene lantern, from calloohcallay.

Edna making camp coffee, 1950s.

I haven't camped since leaving New York, which is kind of odd, considering I live in Michigan--basically an outdoor wonderland.  The closest I've come is staying in a cabin at Legs Inn after a night of beer and Polish food!  And really, that's kind of my style of camping after all, I think.



  1. wow! super cool post! i love all the camp imagery and great finds too! the old photo of your father and relatives from the 40's are the sweetest;)

  2. I feel as if I've bonded with you after reading this. I was sent away to a camp one summer and low and behold my first aunt flow came to town. Cruel world.

  3. I love your camp post! I'm a camping fan myself but never had the opportunity growing up. Now I want to raise my son with all my husband's childhood experiences like camping, boy scouts and the like.

  4. aww, this is great. I went to girl scouts camp twice when I was little. (I wasn't a girl scout either, so who knows how I got in.) the first time I was soooo homesick, but the second time around was a little better.

    I also prefer cabin camping then tent camping, especially if there is running water.

  5. Really great post, I've always been intrigued by summer camps as it just isn't something we do in the UK...

  6. Awesome post! I love the story mixed in with photos. I LOVE camping, too, and miss Michigan dearly. Also, Leggs Inn ROCKS, especially the tree-lined one-lane drive to it.


  7. Oh, nice post.)) Love your blog!!!.))))))

    I need your help ... Soon I am flying to Greece and I will have a two-day shopping in Athens .. You were there ever? If yes, what places you advise?

  8. A great post - it reads like a story. I was totally drawn in! How neat that you have photos of your family camping. Proof that you come from hardy stock :)

  9. I never made it to sleep-away camp; Campfire day camp scarred me enough as it was. I am not and outdoor activity person. I love going for walks, but not really anything else and I hate being somewhere without a real bathroom! Cabins are about as close to camping as I get and that's really only a compromise with my Eagle Scout husband! I love vintage outdoor apparel, though.

  10. Loved this, you clever girl!

    I went to camp when I was 8, and loved it. That was because I was the youngest camper and the absolute pet of the place. To a little girl with a baby sister and toddler brother at home, it was a week of pure Heaven. I can't even remember the activities, and forget being homesick!

    Today, I've been known to say that my idea of roughing it is the Holiday Inn Express.


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