Camp Pt. 3

One of the things that have gotten me thinking about summer camp lately (besides seeing kids running wild) is the reemergence of Wet Hot American Summer. When I watched the First Day of Camp miniseries much of it was familiar. Part of that was the inclusion of Camp Tigerclaw across the lake. When I went to Camp Shohola we had our own rival camp across the lake. Since we were on Lake Greeley, the camp was appropriately (and maybe unoriginally) named Camp Greeley. They were our rivals. I recently found a letter I mailed to my mother about competing against them in sports. Of all things, I was made part of the baseball team and, according to my letter, we demolished them 12 – 1. They were also one part of my sailing team’s competitors. They were within sight across the thinnest part of the lake (where both camps were situated) and I often wondered what their camp was like. We had a negative opinion of them but that was a camp tradition so I am not sure what they were actually like.

Camp Shohola was also where I cemented my passion for geeky, nerdy, and artsy pursuits. When you first got to camp, you got to sign up for activities based on what was offered and the spots available. The limitations also kept kids from strictly doing arts and crafts or only doing land sports and suffering heat stroke. However, there was a building at camp called the Comm-Tech building which became my desired destination for most activities. It was where I sent some of my first emails when that was still a novelty. I took photography classes which mostly consisted of me wandering around the camp with a camera and taking pictures. Then I had to return to the darkroom where I would develop them by hand Ghostbusters 2-Style. While I was there, it was probably when channels like MTV were at their highest point in terms of both popularity and quality. I teamed up with a couple people to film and edit music videos. We mostly made They Might Be Giants videos but, in a departure for me, I made a video with a Marilyn Manson fan who shaved his own eyebrows off.

I spent a lot of time in that building. I felt a kinship with the misfits that were also drawn there. I took circuitry classes where I learned to solder and how to follow instructs to create little kits. I created little devices that I can barely remember. I do remember creating a little sound modulator that you could shift in pitch to make interesting yet annoying sounds. I also created a strobe light at some point. I never became very adept at designing or repairing anything but soldering circuits together were pretty fun. There was also just a lot of time that I spent hanging around the building, seeing what was new in tech. I learned a lot about my future passions by sitting around and talking about music, movies, and the emerging Internet. Of course, then I would go back into the sunshine, usually thinking about returning later.

The Comm-Tech building was so-called because it was both technology and communications. The communications part was mainly a radio station with an FM station called WCSR or Camp Shohola Radio. There was also an AM station but few people messed with it. The radio station had regularly scheduled shows where people could call in and make requests. I loved listening to the radio station and I hung around the building a lot so it was almost inevitable that I would make a connection. A friend of mine had a regular radio station and I would assist him. I would pull albums off the shelf while he talked to people on the phone and sometimes I would help screen calls for him. Eventually, I took tests and got my own radio license. I rode solo on exactly one show in which I went mad with power and played whatever I wanted including liberal use of an actual record player. Eventually, my enthusiasm was rewarded and I became a regular co-host of a news show where I read stories off of the AP wire. It was a lot of pressure to be on the radio but I felt really important doing it even if people might have been tuning out instead of listening to the news.

Finally, we had something in Camp Shohola called Color Wars, a summer-long competition between two halves of the camp. The camp was divided into a Green Team and a White Team which normally did not impact day to day operations. When events came up, the two sides were very competitive. In my years at Camp Shohola, I ended up on both teams at different times. The cool thing was that the types of competition actually varied. The two teams played each other in games like soccer and baseball but there were plenty of other events to tap into non-athletic skills. I competed on the trivia team at least one year, using my sponge-like memory to come up with obscure facts and bits of information. There was also a camp-wide scavenger hunt where clues were broadcast on the radio station and you had to figure out who or what you were looking for to earn points.

My favorite event was an epic relay race that went back and forth across the entire camp. This was no ordinary relay race, though. Each leg of the race was an individual event where some task had to be completed before the next camper could compete in their event. I loved participating in this because the team leaders were good at figuring out people’s strengths and weaknesses and finding a good event for them to compete in. I cannot remember all the wacky things I had to do but I do remember two of them. The first was that I had to set an entire table as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, I had gotten really good at carrying mugs on my fingers without dropping them. I had become really good at setting the table at that point. The other was because I had been taking golf lessons all summer. I had to hit a golf ball from the outfield and hit home plate and I completed that task way before the other team did, earning a lot of pats on the back.

Well, summer is almost done so I think I will pack away camp stories for now. Maybe I will do this again next year.

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