Just this week, a group of us were invited to go back to camp – it was WONDERFUL, seeing old friends, old places, and just plain reminiscing. But….
What the heck happened to camp?
I understand safety – we were all kids once, and campers, and then staff. Maybe we didn’t practice what we preached all the time; maybe we took chances on occasion. Shoot, some of us were at camp the same year of the Girl Scout murders in Oklahoma and we didn’t panic then – we just all wore whistles, just in case. They were never needed, and weren’t used after the summer of ’77.
I understand, too, that “things were different” and “everything changes.” I’m sure what we in the 70s and 80s experienced was a bit different than what camp was like in the 30s and 40s. For instance, we had bug spray, they probably did not. (Although after the summer of ’72 when I accidentally sprayed it in my mouth, I pretty much stopped using it!)
Back then, they probably didn’t ride bikes around camp either, or have the Green Machine or the Gators…but then, the camp is almost three times the size now. And while I don’t know of all the changes, I’m wondering if you still have horse shows and regattas and all-camp activities like scavenger hunts and talent shows? And what’s with the unit songs that hardly anyone seems to know exist, let alone the words or the melodies? And since when did “Green Trees” become the camp song, to replace “Cedar Trees?” I mean, c’mon, it’s not Camp Greenledge after all!
But this is really bothering me – and many others as well:
This is not camp. You don’t have electricity for everything at camp; you sure as heck don’t provide air conditioning. A fancy barn is just fine and dandy, for a professional horse farm or at the racetrack. Buffet dining? When kids today barely have family dinners and way too many never do learn basic table manners…I also heard rumors about “specially prepared meals” – seriously? Okay, fine, a lot of kids have allergies but sheesh – we just had to make do with whatever we were served!
Oh, and before I forget, what in the world were you thinking when you created that Harry Potter unit?? Okay, wait, that deserves MORE question marks and a few exclamation points:????!!!! Now I feel better. A little.
See, here’s the deal, this is what camp is truly about:
Camp is about nature. It’s about roughing it, about waking up to a sunrise, or going to sleep while listening to the whippoorwills. It’s not about the whir of a fan or air conditioning…it’s not about having shingles on the tent roof, it’s listening to raindrops fall on the canvas.
Camp is learning skills to handle the natural environment, like woodcarving and knife safety, firebuilding, archery, Indian lore, knot-tying, setting up a campsite, using a compass, and so many other things – not reading a popular fiction series and doing…well, whatever it is Muggles do when they’re “learning” whatever it is they’re learning.
Camp is about tradition – sure, things change and sometimes for the better. But a Girl Scout who learns a song at camp can connect with all the other Scouts who learned that same song, whether they were campers or staff in 1930 or 2010. Like the Girl Scout Promise – surely that hasn’t changed!
And mostly, camp is about friendships. I’m still friends with folks I met at camp almost 30 years ago! We bonded over things like rainstorms and flooded round-up tents – in which we slept for overnights, on the ground instead of on cots; we bonded over things like a long creek-walk, after which we scrubbed down with special soap and STILL ended up covered in poison ivy. We fell off bikes together, got stomped on by horses or thrown off altogether; we bonded over ER visits and hopping in the dining halls and taking a buddy to go fill the kerosene lanterns. Heck, we even have fond memories of latrines and falling out of hammocks and roofless showers!
I guess the point is that things don’t have to be comfortable, things don’t have to be like “home.” Because, after all, camp is supposed to be different, it’s supposed to be out in the woods somewhere, it’s not supposed to be like every other so-called camp – like for soccer or dance or whatever. It’s supposed to be about nature and self-sufficiency and friendship – and tradition.
And, of course, Girl Scouts. Take a look at “today’s” programming decisions. No, girls aren’t necessarily interested in the same things that they were 30 years ago – but a lot of those things offered then are still skills that these girls will someday need. We can look back and laugh at some of those badges, like Cooking and Sewing and a host of others that may seem outdated – but think about this: most girls will still need to know how to cook at some point in their lives, and even how to sew.
Don’t get me wrong, the new activities are great – but let’s not lose focus on the basic premise of Scouting. Straight from GSUSA’s website: “She [Juliette Low] believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. With the goal of bringing girls out of isolated home environments and into community service and the open air, Girl Scouts hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars, and studied first aid.”
And I think that the basics are what seem to be lost.
It’s supposed to be camp, not a vacation to Disney Camp.