Summer Camp Pt. 2

(Oops this was supposed to post weeks ago.  Pretend I posted it before Part 3. Happy Labor Day!)

The other major summer camp I went to was Camp Shohola up in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The camp is situated on Lake Greeley and down the road a couple miles from actual Shohola, Pennsylvania which always confused me a little bit also for reasons I will get to in a minute. This was my first taste of real independence. Mom and Dad and my brothers were all a four-hour drive away and none of my other relatives were any closer. It was my first shot at being out there ‘on my own’ and I jumped into it with wild abandon. Not that I hated my folks at all but I guess I needed a little bit of space. I was given the option to go to summer camp for four weeks or eight weeks and I chose eight. I know my mother was astonished but my folks agreed. I was off to the wilds of Pennsylvania near the New York border.

When I arrived, the grounds seemed so big and they were. They were huge. While we were not far from the road, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I was introduced to my cabin. That was a big adjustment. It was the first time that I had shared a room with other people aside from motel and hotel rooms on family vacations. It helped that our cabin banded together pretty quickly. I was such a good kid but it was cool to hang out with a bunch of tricksters and jokesters. It definitely added new elements to my young personality to be able to break the rules and test the boundaries. I have fond memories of all of us lying awake in our bunk beds late into the night. Our bunk counselor usually went over to the staff lounge or elsewhere until later in the night which was the norm. There were assigned patrols that watched the cabins to make sure we did not get too out of control. We definitely drew the ire of the patrol now and then. I especially remember pulling out my camera and flipping on the bright flash and just setting it off in pitch blackness to blind my bunkmates.

The food was delicious. I remember looking forward to meals a lot because there was always plenty of food and the cooks were dead set on making each meal delicious. They knew they were catering to over a hundred boys of various ages and they never got into exotic territories. Meals were always a flurry of passing of platters and pouring of drinks as we all devoured meals like sharks. For each meal, there were assigned ‘biddies’ which meant that you had to go to the dining hall early and set your assigned table. It taught me that setting the table was not really that hard and not the arduous chore that I thought it might be. Plus, I learned how to carry eight mugs at once. Every Sunday we got ice cream at the end of lunch and if your bunk had won that week’s cleanliness award, you got two scoops instead of one. It was a much sought after prize. We also had a weekly visit to the canteen where we were alotted one soda and one candy bar. I often traded my candy bar for another soda.

From early on I was way into waterfront activities. I have always loved to be in or near the water. I guess that goes hand in hand with growing up in a city like Baltimore. I was never a big fan of structured swimming because I find laps tedious and exhausting. Instead, I loved to sail. Our camp had little two-person Sunfish sailboats. A friend of mine and I worked really well together in those boats and we actually won quite a few races that first year of camp. Of course, in order to sail I had to do an enormous amount of laps without touching the H dock to prove that if the boat went down, I could still swim back to camp. I hated it so much but in the end, it was worth it and I completed the test each year so I could sail, canoe and raft.

Yes, I said raft. The camp was very good at getting us out on trips every so often. They organized trips that you could sign up for so you could escape the routine now and then. I went rafting on the Yough<>, I went hiking at High Point State Park (in Jersey), I went to musicals, I went to ballgames and so many more things. That is not to say that I did not love a lot of the activities actually on camp grounds. Camp Shohola was the first place I ever fired a gun in Riflery, learning to respect the power of firearms. It is also where I happily fired bow and arrows and learned that I was pretty good at it. I may not have gotten jazzed over stuff like soccer but I loved the geekier sports. I even got to do horseriding regularly and I really enjoyed it. It was scary at first but I felt powerful and tall for the first time in my life on the back of a horse.

On rainy days, we were chased inside to a big barn of a building with a movie screen and plenty of floor space to sit on. I do not remember them ever showing us any movies in that place, though. I remember them showing a lot of sports highlight movies, I suppose as an effort to continue the sports mindset despite the rain. I remember them showing a lot of compilations of football (soccer) goals. The volume was turned low as most of the commentary was in Spanish anyway (which I was studying at the time). Impressive soccer goals are really fun to watch but I remember seeing those videos enough that I got bored. As long as we stayed calm, we were allowed to talk amongst ourselves. So I would find somebody I knew and we would just hangout and have a chill time. It was a little boring but sometimes it is good to be bored.

I have a lot more to say about Shohola so tune in next Monday for the end of Summer Camp for the year. (Just in time for school to start!)

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