The “Summer Experience”


One of the staple events of the summer season in this country used to be the experience of the “summer camp”. Kids in, let’s call it, “more affluent circumstances” might go to fancy private summer camps with wonderful-sounding Indian names and take French lessons and ballroom dancing, but for most of us around here, it was seven to ten days at a church camp with no air conditioning and World War II army bunks or maybe a couple of weeks camping with the Boy Scouts. Looking back on it, we probably now understand that summer camps were good for us in building self-reliance and forming rugged character. This is a widely accepted notion, but summer camps also provided a well-deserved benefit for another large group of society. That group would be our parents. Did you ever notice how supportive and encouraging your parents were when you asked them if you could go, and then if they would pay the registration fee for summer camp? “Well, of course dear, we can manage that, and you might need some new sneakers and blue jeans too.” It was almost scary how easy that was! “Let’s go talk to your father, right now”. It was like the bus was already out in the street with the motor running, but it was okay, your parents needed a break too. Now they had a whole week to themselves to actually talk to each other again and watch TV without you and your brothers or sisters fighting over the channels. When you got back home, they always acted like you had been off on some grand adventure, and so what if you had to move all the Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller albums out of Hi-Fi cabinet and bring your Beatles and Elvis 45s back in. That was the least you could do to promote family unity. For most of us, I think the camp experience usually stands out in our memory because, in the final analysis, it was an important marker in our growing-up years. We learned things and met new people and most importantly, we found out more about ourselves. In a gentle but effective way, it was a test, and I think it’s too bad that all the kids coming along now days are not offered that “summer camp” test before the impersonal world we now know sweeps them up and hurries them along to the future. Whether it’s a week or two weeks or maybe just one day, a little part of a “summer camp” experience can make a big change and create some lasting memories in any life.