Living Tradition

Flag Ceremony, Camp Hantesa ~ Boone, Iowa, c. 1955

I suspect each of us has experienced the ability of a song to transport us back in time to a particularly memorable place or experience. The driving beat of John Stewart’s “Gold” will do it for me, as will Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark,” Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” or The Sweet Talks’ Afro-Funk gem, “Akumpaye.”

But more than songs enliven memory. When an especially sharp, clear rendition of reveille caught my attention at work one recent morning, I turned to find its source. A group of teenagers from that week’s sailing camp had gathered around the yacht club’s flagpole. With reveille concluded, the national anthem began, and hands went to hearts as they watched the American flag being raised.

I rarely think of my days as a Camp Fire Girl, but the morning flag ceremony at our summer camp was remarkably similar. As shown in the photo above, it has a bit of an odd look about it; perhaps those who designed it intended our raised hands to substitute for a traditional military salute. In any event, we treasured both reveille and taps. Bookending our days, they became part of a tradition binding generations of campers to one another, to the camp, and to their country.

Between the sailing camp kids and thoughts of my own camping days, I couldn’t help remembering another pair of campers I once encountered in a local grocery store.

Poor planning had led me to the store at the worst possible time — 6 p.m. — but before heading home I needed to pick up milk, lettuce, and the Ritz crackers I’d promised my mother. By the time I reached the checkout line, I’d thown in some celery and carrots; bananas; English muffins; two pounds of Peet’s French Roast; pear yogurt; and a pint of key lime gelato for good measure.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten the Ritz crackers, and I couldn’t leave without them. The woman ahead of me had done some heavy shopping, and two teen-aged girls with her still were unloading items onto the conveyor belt. “Excuse me,” I said to the checker. “I forgot something. I’ll be right back.” “No problem,” she said, glancing at the woman’s still-full cart. “You’ve got time.”

Crackers in hand, I returned with time to spare. The checker, still busy with the group ahead of me, was grinning. “Well,” I thought. “She’s a pleasant one.”

Turning to add the crackers to my small pile of purchases, I stopped. Unloaded helter-skelter from the cart, they’d somehow been disciplined. Bananas marched in a tidy row, flanked on either side by carrots and celery. The yogurts had been stacked like a pyramid of cheerleaders. The pounds of coffee, lined up in parallel, were bridged by the English muffins, with the gelato suspended on the bridge.

It was quite an arrangement: neat, tidy, and clever. Looking up, I discovered the checker, the woman, and the two girls grinning at me. “It looks like the grocery fairy’s been here,” I said. At that, the girls dissolved into giggles and the checker laughed, saying, “That’s what they hoped you’d think.”

None of us could stop laughing. I laughed at the sight of my neatly arranged groceries, while the girls laughed with delight at their own cleverness. “Do you always do things like this?” I asked. They admitted it was the first time they’d rearranged groceries, but only because they’d never thought of it. “We like to play tricks on people,” one said. “Not mean tricks. Nice tricks. Surprises. It’s fun.”

As the woman paid for their purchases, I said, “Most girls your age would be texting or updating their Facebook status, not playing games with people’s groceries.” “We don’t text as much as we used to,” the taller girl said. “We went to camp last year, and they didn’t let us have smart phones or anything, and we kind of got used to it. We had a lot of fun and I guess we’ve never, like, gotten back in the habit. We still text and stuff, but we look around more, too.”

If my experience with them was any indication, they not only look around more, they see more. I suspect the rules at their camp were meant to help open them to the world, and it seems they succeeded marvelously well.

I never asked for their camp’s name or location, but in my mind it lives on as Camp Retro: an oasis of halcyon days and limpid nights; a refuge for complete sentences and proper spelling; a place of creativity, wonder, and joy.

A modern incarnation of Camp Retro still exists out on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River near Hunt, Texas. The town itself dates to 1912, when Alvie Joy bought some land from his friend Bob Hunt and named the town after him. A store and post office were built at the junction of the Guadalupe’s North and South forks, leading a pair of earlier settlements — Japonica on the North and Pebble on the South — to fade away, while Hunt prospered.

Given the  beauty of the surrounding countryside, it wasn’t long before summer camps, resorts, and vacation homes began to be established among the ranches that fronted the river.

Guadalupe river crossing west of Hunt, Texas

One of those camps, Waldemar, has been operating since 1926. Connie Reeves, a woman I featured in a piece titled “Cowgirl Up!” taught riding at Waldemar for 67 years, introducing her basic philosophy – Always saddle your own horse – to more than 30,000 girls.

Beyond the variety of activities at Waldemar — the archery and kayaking, the drama and crafts, the emphasis on teamwork and personal development — a deeper exploration of the rules and regulations reveals some remarkable requirements for girls attending the camp.

For example, each girl receives points for good table manners, and the guidelines are distinctly retro. Among other things, the Waldemar girl of 2018:

•  is prompt to meals.
•  helps with the passing of plates (using two hands) and is always attentive and responsive to the requests and needs of others
•  maintains good posture and does not put her elbows on the table
•  waits until the hostess begins eating to begin her meal
•  uses her silverware correctly
•  participates in conversation but does not monopolize it. She makes an effort to be interesting and pleasant and includes all table companions, conversing only with those at her table
•  uses “please” and “thank you” when requesting and receiving food
•  remains at the table and is patient until all have finished their meal and the hostess excuses the group
•  has a positive attitude about trying new foods

And so on. The Waldemar girls might as well be sitting at my grandmother’s table. The rules are the same.

Photo from an early Camp Waldemar brochure

Even more remarkable are Camp Guidelines for Parents related to email and other electronic communication. While the sending and receiving of letters is encouraged, email contact is limited. Only parents and grandparents are allowed to email campers, and the guidelines clearly state that emails “are filtered for g-rated language and content. Those deemed inappropriate will not be delivered to campers.”

A two-hour block of cabin time is set aside each afternoon for campers to write letters, read, or play quiet games, but, as is made clear in a section of the guidelines called “Get Unplugged,” they won’t be surfing the web or sending selfies to friends. The rules are made explicitly clear before anyone dives into the Waldemar experience.


Enjoying the experience of Waldemar means spending time with friends, staying involved in all that camp has to offer, and unplugging from the world.
Campers are NOT allowed to bring any electronics that have internet capabilities [such as laptop computers, iPads, cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, gameboys, Playstation portables, iPods or mp3 players with photo/video or slideshow capabilities].
The iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano (7th or 8th Generation), Kindle, or other E-Readers are acceptable. Electronics will be turned in to the office if they do not abide by the rules.

Given today’s society, the rules may seem harsh, but  the camp knows what it’s about.

For four weeks Campers can live without these devices and luxury items. Trust us when we say that there is so much going on at camp they will adjust beautifully. We all can use a respite from TVs, phones and beauty products for a short while.

Indeed we can. The enduring legacy of Camp Waldemar is that its values, its traditions, and the seriousness with which it commits itself to the well-being and development of its campers are reflected in the lives of the girls who spend time there.

In truth, the joys and benefits of Camp Waldemar are available even to those unable to participate in its camping programs. Regardless of our age, our gender, our available time or financial status, any of us can turn off a cell phone or unplug the tv. Any of us can write a letter instead of sending an email or text. Any of us can begin saying “please” and “thank you” at the dinner table, or anywhere else in life, for that matter.

Certainly there are those who object to such discipline: people who experience even self-imposed restriction as an end to freedom rather than as its beginning. There’s no question that their numbers are increasing. Aggressive in traffic, continually venting frustrations with slow shoppers or awkward checkers, obsessively tied to their devices and unspeakably nasty on social media, they’re an annoyance at best, and a curse at worst.

Old-fashioned as I am — an apparently obsolescing relic of another time — I’ll take the unplugged, giggling, grocery-arranging girls and their camping friends every time. The camp traditions may be retro, but they help to shape girls who are remarkably smart, personable, gracious, and fun.

Meeting a challenge at Waldemar

Comments always are welcome.


108 thoughts on “Living Tradition

  1. Wow, who knew there was such a place?! This sounds like an ideal four-week “respite” for too-plugged-in teens and their harried parents, Linda. We had similar rules back when I went to camp as a kid, but I had no idea there was a place still using them. In fact, I don’t even recall the camps that Domer attended being quite so “strict” with the kids. But you know, it didn’t hurt our generation, and I imagine it can only help today’s kids (as evidenced by the cute trick your grocery-friends pulled on you!)

    1. The trick, of course, is to transfer what’s learned at camp to home and school once the campers return. It amuses me to ponder the possibility that some families might begin eating together again — or even carrying on conversations! — thanks to their children’s experience. We usually think of parents trying to impose change, but it’s intriguing to imagine campers inviting parents to adopt some of the new routines that were developed in camp.

      Four weeks certainly is long enough for new habits to be established. It would be interesting to know if Waldemar’s done any follow-up studies to see if some of those changes endure.

    1. One of the first things I noticed about Texas — especially rural Texas — is how polite people are. I wasn’t accustomed to ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir,’ or having a man tip his hat to me. That kind of graciousness is lovely, and it pleases me when I discover it tucked into a little corner of life.

      Of course, there are families who are raising their children in the same way. When a friend’s eight-year-old grandson came to visit one day, he solemnly shook my hand as they prepared to leave, and said, “It’s very nice that you allowed us to visit you. I enjoyed it.” I nearly died of pleasure and surprise.

    1. They’re lucky, yes — but not only because they have that time away. I suspect most are learning some transferable skills that will help them navigate a world intent on distracting them. We can do the same — particularly in cases where the distraction is a choice and not an inevitability.

  2. Our daughter went to camp for six summers. It was an uplifting experience for her and taught her that being part of a team means sharing and helping. Phones etc were left at home. She loved it.

    1. It’s great that she had that opportunity. As an only child, I found being part of a team a bit of a challenge at first, especially since camp differs from school in some significant ways. But I warmed up to it, and enjoyed it in the end, just as your daughter did. I always hated to leave, and I’ll bet she did, too.

  3. I wish they had summer camps for adults. I had similar Camp Fire camp experiences—horses, water, hiking, team work and flags. I don’t remember table manners being a big thing, though, and everyone back then was using landlines so writing post cards was encouraged and available for free. Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane.

    1. Maybe that should be your next project: designing a “camp week” for your group. Even given the constraints that come with age, like physical limitations, it could be a lot of fun. You could be the arts and crafts person. Go to the dollar store, pick up some of those eight-color watercolor trays, and have at it.

      Your comment brought to mind some friends’ experience with Elderhostel. I looked it up, and see they’ve changed their name now to Road Scholar, but the intent’s the same. It always sounded like camp-for-adults to me.

      We didn’t have horses, but we had plenty of hiking, and overnight campouts in the woods. Learning to build a fire, and to cook in a Dutch oven, was the best thing ever. And while songs can take me back to my past, so can the phase “short-sheeting.”

        1. Practiced, it is. In fact, there are instructional videos on YouTube, just in case you don’t remember exactly how to do it. For some reason, that amuses me and encourages me, all at once.

  4. Dear Obsolescing Relic –
    I really enjoyed this post, well-written and makes excellent sense. I’ve worked with small town and city kids, and have found myself thinking that a stint at a camp, or on a farm, would do a lot of them, a lot of good. Learn how to strike up a conversation, how to make other kids feel welcome, detox from electronics and video games, explore and learn how to amuse yourselves, maybe some basic carpentry and which end of a hammer is which, maybe even learn some basic food prep, etc., relying on yourself and working as part of a group. Sincerely, RPT
    P.S. I know what you mean about being transported by music. It’s the closest thing to a sci-fi time machine and kind of magical.

    1. Dear RPT ~
      Your proposal makes perfect sense. Once upon a time, all those things you describe happened in the home as a matter of course, and sometimes even in the schools. But we’re in a different world now, and a little Remedial Living 101 (no credit for practicum) wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
      Any society that allows frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in its grocery stores could stand a refresher on food prep, that’s for sure.

      Helping kids learn how to amuse themselves is important, too. When I was young, any of us who dared to say “I’m bored” to a parent got a predictable response: “Go find something to do.” So we did.

      There’s a radio host in Houston who agrees with you about the importance of being able to introduce yourself, make eye contact, and engage in conversation. He’s raising his two boys to be able to do those things, and he adds one more expectation. When he and his wife have guests, the boys often are invited to tell a story to the group. It doesn’t have to be a big story: even a minute will do. But they’re learning to speak in front of others without fear — another important skill for anyone who doesn’t intend to spend an entire life playing video games.

      Kindest regards ~

      1. Dear O.R. – Replying to your favor of the 31st instant, with reference to Frozen PB& J. How did I not think of this! That sounds great. But I’ll make my own.
        I like the idea of inviting kids to tell a story, or relate an anecdote, as an introduction to public speaking. We had a great primary school, and the principal had everyone take turns in running Morning Program – reading announcements, the cafeteria menu, leading the pledge. The little kids would start by just holding the flag, etc. and work their way up, to announcements on the P.A.
        We always heard about the grandparents’ generation, when they actually put the kids in a sailor suit, called them into the front parlor, and had them recite “The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck” etc. and that’s fine, but it seems like having them create their own material is better.
        Yr. Ob’t Sr’v’nt, Rbt.

    1. It occurs to me that your little ones have their own version of camp when they come to visit you. Your explorations of the world, and gentle shaping of their behavior, are real gifts to them. If “going to camp” is in their futures, I suspect they’ll feel right at home when they get there.

  5. “Pebble” I get. In contrast, a bit of searching turned up nothing about why someone chose the name Japonica for a town near the Guadalupe River in Texas.

    Hunt used to be home to replicas of Stonehenge and statues from Easter Island. They’ve now gotten moved to Ingram, about seven miles away:

    Along with the prohibitions at Waldemar, I’d like to see one on “like” and another on vocal fry.

    1. Here’s a hypothesis about “Japonica.” In the entry for Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) on the Texas Invasive Species Institute page, it says that the plant was introduced to North America in the early 1800s, and spread from New England to the Ohio Valley. Perhaps some settlers on the Guadalupe were homesick, and named the town for a pretty plant “back home.”

      There’s a town called Iowa Colony in Brazoria County, and there were towns named Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio Colony respectively in Matagorda County. All were established at about the same time as Japonica, when groups like the Immigration Land Company in Des Moines were encouraging settlement in Texas. It’s not inconceivable that those people would have known the plant.

      I really was tickled when Stonehenge was moved over to Ingram. For one thing, it seems to have increased traffic to the Hill Country Arts Foundation. If we can work it out, I’m taking a friend to a play there for her birthday this fall.

      I’ve never heard the phase “vocal fry,” but I recognized the sound immediately. And, yes: it is as annoying as the breathy, high, Valley girl voice that can make a 45 year old woman sound like a ditz. (While we’re getting rid of “like,” can we send “So…” along with it?)

      1. As far as I’m concerned, you can get rid of that, along with “you know,” I mean,” “sort of,” and “kind of.”

        Vocal fry has become an epidemic. Several articles I’ve read reference a study apparently finding that two-thirds of college-age women now speak like that. The phenomenon has been spreading up into the speech of older women, too. Some guys also do it. In fact the worst case I’ve observed was a guy who did it not just at the ends of sentences and phrases but everywhere; he spoke only that way.

        You’ve come up with a plausible speculation about Japonica. I wonder, though, if settlers with that motivation wouldn’t rather have named the place with a regular English word: Honeysuckle. Even so, somebody obviously knew and chose to use the Latinate word.

        1. Re: japonica — perhaps choosing that word over “honeysuckle” was the linguistic equivalent of a woman carting her cherished bone china dinnerware out into the Wilds of Wherever.

  6. How I longed to go to Girl Scout camp when I was young, but my Mother couldn’t afford the cost for even an overnight, or weekend, but especially a week or two. I did relish what they called a Day Camp where we spent the day along a nearby creek with all sorts of outdoor type activities Mother Nature offered, then returned to our homes. All those retro rules you listed Mother routinely taught at home every meal so they became automatic, second nature.

    I think in our digital age with all our devices it’s wise to “aid” (with rules, if needed) our children in experiencing periods of disconnecting in everyday life, just not in a special camping or other time away from home. Glad the occasion caused your grocery store girls to react as they did and hope the effects last.

    1. We had day camps in our town, too, and they were great fun. There wasn’t any charge, so all of our friends from school could come. We didn’t have the kind of nature activities you enjoyed, but we hiked around the neighborhood, did craft projects, and generally had a good time.

      Like you, I learned my table manners at home. People didn’t eat in restaurants very often when I was growing up, but being allowed to go to a restaurant for the first time was a very big deal, and dependent on being able to behave appropriately.

      Yesterday, I happened across an article that made some nearly unbelievable claims about the amount of time people spend consuming media these days. (Isn’t “consuming media” an interesting phrase?) If they’re even half right, your suggestion that disconnecting needs to be a regular practice is even more on point.

  7. Many people if not most would benefit from camps like you described, Linda. Camping with our children is what we did whenever the opportunity arose. They were good times. The camping involved fire making and cooking on them. Most time other family members joined in with their children. They were the best of times.

    1. I never had the experience of camping with my family, since my mother was less than enthusiastic about anything involving dirt, bugs, or things that might be bumping around in the night. I think it would have been wonderful, as it surely was for you. I remember you mentioning those experiences several times in passing, so the memories obviously remain fresh. Competence breeds confidence, and there are a lot of competencies to be learned at a campsite: making a fire and cooking on it successfully are only two.

    1. You’re welcome, Tom. I’m glad you took pleasure in the post.

      Parrots are wonderful, and a congenial, pleasant parrot’s even better. It sounds like you have a real gem, there. Of course, I suspect she’s been taught her manners by a real gentleman.

  8. Aside from the temptation to comment on the Rules of Disengagement at Camp Waldemar, I’d rather react to that momentous occasion at the grocery store when you found your groceries rearranged. Never have I heard of any prank that was so adorable.

    1. That prank was one for the ages: no question. Every time I think of it, I smile, and it’s been some years since it happened. It’s a reminder that good humor still exists: untouched by spite, nastiness, or sarcasm. And hooray for that mother, for not saying, “Now, you kids stop that!”

  9. Wish we had those camps here in Australia. To my (outdated) knowledge now, the only ‘camps’ you’ll find are Brownies, Girl Guides, Scouts & camping experiences provided by private schools.

    We had 2 ‘camps’ in High School though, one in the alpine regions at 1st form (about age 12) and one at 4th form (age about 15) in Central Australia. I wasn’t allowed to go, as our family were “too poor” and supposedly couldn’t afford them, but my older brother went and I remember being highly resentful at this inequality.

    I don’t remember any conversation over the dinner table as a child or teenager, as you had to eat your dinner and not speak. If you put your elbows on the table or spoke (especially with food in your mouth) you were smacked over the hands, or yelled at. In fact, I only remember being told what to do, or not do, in my childhood. I was never asked to share, or, could I help with ‘xyz’. I was only told to do it (or would feel the leather dog collar whipped about my legs). My 92 year old Father only asked me last year if I remember the time he ‘thrashed the daylights out of me’, but I didn’t/don’t – I guess my childhood memories are locked away in a dark region of my brain never to be revisited.

    I wonder if we had those ‘summer camps’ which you write about, Linda, whether I would have participated, or been too scared to speak/join in.

    1. I wonder if there was an assumption at the time that the sort of camps your brother went to weren’t suitable for girls. Or perhaps that was your parents’ assumption. I know my mother wasn’t particularly keen on certain tendencies I had — tree climbing, trestle walking, mud-pie making — but my dad was a great counterbalance, and usually ran interference for me.

      Our experiences at the dinner table certainly were different. I’ve had friends who were raised in a “children should be seen and not heard” environment, and it’s always been hard for me to imagine. There was neighborhood gossip and “what did you do in school today” talk at our dinnertable, but we always talked about what had been in the newspaper that day, too. Dad read the Des Moines Register before going to work, and by the time we sat down for dinner, he expected me to have read at least a portion of it, so we could talk about whatever was happening.

      I was terribly shy in some ways as a child, and it was hard for me to initiate things, or even to join in. That’s one reason camp was so good for me. I had to join in, and I found it was rather like swimming. Once I finally dove in, it wasn’t so bad.

  10. It has been a great pleasure reading of your visit to the grocery, and your description of Camp Waldemar. I suppose I’m a bit like your grandmother, and to make things easier all around, my children passed the rules on to my grandchildren (even though they don’t apply to their own homes). And when grandchildren come to visit, they turn off their smart phones before they come in. Sometimes they remember just after they come in, and I see them as they turn off their connection to the world. There are quite a few of them, in all ages from young children to adults, and they always sit around the table with me and we have interesting conversations. Fortunately, they seem quite willing to make the sacrifice for the sake of a visit.

    1. Every summer during my childhood, I spent at least a couple of weeks with my grandparents, We saw them quite often because they lived only thirty miles away, but those summertime visits when I got to go by myself were special. I could do whatever I pleased during those visits, but what I pleased was mostly reading and doing whatever it was that Grandma and her friends were doing: shelling peas, embroidering tea towels, weeding the flower beds and gardens.

      I’d love to have two weeks with them now. I have so many questions I’d ask: questions that never occurred to me until the past couple of decades: what was it like for Grandpa in the coal mines? Why did he forbid his boys to work the mines? Why did they never speak of my uncle, who was killed in the Pacific during WWII? What was it like when the Klan was roaming their town, burning crosses on lawns? (Actually, I know a bit about that now, but haven’t quite found a good way into a fascinating tale.)

      The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is one of the best in the world, I think. I’m glad you’re so blessed.

  11. A post near and dear to my heart! I went to my own “Waldemarian” camp, and I sent my children to their relatives, all in the mountains of western North Carolina. They all were, and still are, traditional camps where we participated in old-fashioned outdoor activities and were expected to be polite and engaged with each other. At our camps, there are no team sports, no competitions, no electronics, and no fancy digs. No packages from home, but plenty of time to read and write letters or just lie in the grass and look up at the sky. My boys even learned to relish singing every day after breakfast while their friends at home were playing with Game Boys and X-Boxes!

    We were trusted. We used sharp tools and built hot fires, jumped on wobbly river rocks and held back skittish horses. We learned to be confident by becoming capable: we cleaned our own cabins and bathrooms, belayed our fellow campers on rocky climbs, sailed boats on a choppy lake, and mucked out the horse stalls if we wanted to ride. To this day I love the smell of mildew as it was the sweet aroma of my cabin for 4-8 weeks every summer. Ahhh, I could reminisce forever, but I will stop now and just say how much I enjoyed reading about these wonderful young girls and the place that helped in some small way to make them so!

    1. I love “Waldemarian.” It’s so perfectly descriptive — although it may take some time for me to get “Waldemarian the Librarian” out of my mind.

      I smiled when you mentioned your boys’ enjoyment of the singing. That’s one detail of my own camp I’d forgotten; it usually happened in the afternoon, perhaps right after lunch, or in the evening around the campfire. I do remember many of those songs: “White Coral Bells,” “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” and such. The rounds were the most fun. In fact, back in the post-Ike period, I came across a neighborhood group slinging shingles and drywall while singing, “Throw, throw, throw your trash wildly to the street” as a round. Some actually were smiling.

      Your comment that you “learned to be confident by becoming capable” is at the heart of what’s lacking for so many children today. Wanting to protect kids from all failure and any injury doesn’t help to prepare them for life, and there’s nothing like taking on a challenge, and meeting it, to instill pride.

      I’m so glad that both you and your kids had such great experiences, and I enjoyed reading about them. Being able to camp in the mountains is the proverbial cherry on top.

  12. In a school district near Chicago, the elementary students in perhaps 4th grade each went through a week of courtesy and manners education. I see nothing at all wrong with that. I would also add some lessons in money management, making eye-contact in conversation, and how to be a good parent.

    1. I think that school had the right idea, and your suggestions for additions to the curriculum are perfect. Perhaps while we’re teaching how to make eye contact, we could add how to shake hands.

      You’ve brought back memories of the social dancing classes that were part of the phys ed program in grade school, and of the great “exchange” that took place in high school. Girls took home ec and the boys took shop; it was the early ’60s, after all. But during a two week period near the end of the semester, the home ec students taught the boys how to make their way around the kitchens to produce a dinner, and the boys introduced the girls to tool safety and basic woodworking. It was great.

  13. There’s an element of life at camp that’s linked to the ‘outdoors’, something that’s definitely more healthy and unfortunately less considered these days as an alternative for entertainment. It’s simply not the thing to do, which is such a shame. Instead, an ‘outdoor’ activity means going to a mall or driving a car… After reading this post I’m convinced young people may not know the difference anymore.

    I really liked Steve’s comment about ‘vocal fry’. I knew it existed but didn’t know there was a video explaining all the details. I think it’s a phenomena affecting young women’s speech. It would be interesting to do a follow-up study to find out whether it continues into late adulthood or whether it’s transient.

    1. I didn’t know the term ‘vocal fry’ until Steve mentioned it, but I recognized it immediately when I heard it in the video. I find it annoying in the extreme. I do wonder whether those who have it as part of their speech patterns are aware of it. I suppose it’s like the Valley Girl voice of some years ago. When it began to spread, it was like a contagion. I wonder if it’s a matter of unconscious imitation, or if girls actually make an effort to learn to speak that way.

      It amuses me no end to contemplate what the instructors at my summer speech and drama workshops would have thought of it. We spent weeks learning how to project our voices, how to speak clearly, and how to eliminate distracting oddities from our speech patterns.

      Those workshops were a kind of camp, too, since we were away from home, living in university dorms and roaming the campus. But ‘real’ camps to me always imply the outdoors. It does seem to me that increasing numbers of people experience nature as a source of anxiety, and weather as either an annoyance or a threat. It’s a shame, but I’m glad that movements like those that espouse ‘free range children’ are pushing back.

      1. The ‘Valley Girl” voice continues, I’m afraid to say. I think it could be an unconscious imitation. My theory is that it may serve as some sort of ‘crutch’ to avoid having to speak in a more cultured way. Many young people, for whatever reason, either don’t read enough or are undecided about what they want to do, so this kind of speech could be the result of indecision, uncertainty, or procrastination. Furthermore, technology, as useful as it may be, seems to have contributed to young people alienating themselves further from real life into some sort of ‘cocoon-like’ place in society where they can get away from it and still be accepted by their peers. Of course, all this crumbles when they have to face the real world.

        I hope going to camp makes a comeback, although the competition with technology may be too much. Just think of notions like ‘virtual reality’, and how computerized the world of communications is. Many people who have learned all the social media outlets in existence may not find the outdoors appealing simply because they are able to have a similar ‘camp’ experience with the computer, not just in a ‘virtual’ way but socially speaking. In our time, camp could provide us opportunities to meet people and be useful. Now there is no need to actually meet anyone because it’s done through social media, and you don’t know if you’re actually useful if you’ve met most people on a computer.

  14. You brought back memories of my days as a Girl Scout. The year before I was old enough to go to camp, someone donated land to the Girl Scouts to build a camp. My first year at camp was the first year of the camp. The dining hall was not yet completed and the trays we got our food on were military surplus. We had tent platforms so we were not camping on the ground, where there were snakes, lizards and other such critters, and we slept on military surplus cots. We had to bring our own sleeping bags. I still vividly remember lying under the tent at nap time during the heat of the day with both front and back flaps tied back so the afternoon breeze would come through, listening to the hoo-hoo-hooing of the mourning doves. I still have the pocket knife I used then — although I have long since lost the braided plastic lanyard I made to hang it around my neck. I think one of the counselors did the bugle for reveille and taps, although we used to sing a song to the tune of “Taps” as our last “campfire” song before we all went to our respective tents to go to bed.

    “Day is done; Gone the sun
    From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
    All is well, safely rest; God is nigh.”

    1. Now run along home
      Jump into bed,
      Say your prayers
      And cover your head.

      The very same thing
      I say to you,
      You dream of me
      And I’ll dream of you.

      Our troup always sang that “Taps” music with those lyrics after each of our regular meetings, followed by those words above.

    2. We sang that song, too. It was beautiful and peaceful, and a perfect way to end the day. Our camps were similar, although yours was a bit more basic. We had metal bed frames and actual cabins, but the walls were mostly screen, for ventilation, and there were canvas covers to roll down in case of rain.

      I remember making that braided plastic lanyard, although the knife’s long gone. What I do have are a few of the letters I wrote to my parents. They’re great fun to read: bulletins from a very distant past.

      Your mention of snakes and lizards makes me wonder if your camp was in the Panhandle. That would have been quite an experience all on its own, although, when I looked up your area camps, I found every one of them appealing. It amused me to see camp directors with nicknames like Pookey Bear and Speedo, too.

      1. Our Girl Scout Camp was only basic because that was the first year it was open. It got more elaborate and established as time went on and there was money to improve it. Camp Rio Blanco, is still going and is near a little town called Crosbyton.

        1. Those early years still had to be pretty wonderful. I looked at some photos of Rio Blanco, and I must say — given its location, I’d be more than happy to make do with a lean-to and a bedroll. It’s such gorgeous country.

  15. Yes we need more traditions like the summer camp you wrote about. If only parents enforced the same rules at home. It is great to read about youngsters that actually live not being glued to their cell phones. I see adults that can’t put their phoned down as they carry on a full conversation in the grocery store.

    I believe that camp is good for kids that need something outside of their home; structure, socialization and to learn to follow rules, among other things. Great post, Linda.

    1. I’ve finally realized that many of the people who sit…and sit…and sit when a traffic light changes from red to green are looking at their phones rather than paying attention to traffic. My pharmacy has posted this sign: “Please step away from the counter to finish your conversation. Then, we will be happy to assist you.”

      Camp’s good for all the reasons you mentioned, and it’s also good just to get kids away from home for a time. Especially with today’s over-protective parents, it’s the only way some kids can get a little breathing room. I don’t know this, but I suspect one reason so many camps limit contact between campers and parents is to help deal with parental anxieties over what their kids might be up to.

  16. Morning reveille, flag raising, beaming teenagers, table manners, letter writing – as you have pointed out these are “living” traditions. You pull my heart strings.

    1. Of course, the traditions live only because of the people who give them life. I’m so grateful to those who devote time and energy to keeping these traditions alive.

  17. I didn’t go to camp. Summer camps are not really part of NZ culture, although school camps during school time are now very much part of the NZ education system. Instead of camp, I went to boarding school for 5 years where we lived by most of the Camp Waldemar guidelines. One difference; conversation was not permitted at the dining table. If you wanted the salt or sauce, you had to wait for someone at the table to notice your need and say “Would you like some salt? Or may I pass you the sauce?” I have often wondered about the great US summer camp tradition. Your post finally prompted me to investigate. It’s a fascinating story.”In 1986, the American Camping Association celebrated its 125th year by replicating the walk of Gunn and his students to Milford and holding a camp on the town’s Gulf Beach for 1,500 campers from around the world. In 2011, on the organization’s 150th anniversary, it officially recognized the organized camping movement in the United States as having begun in 1861 with Mr. Gunn’s camps in Milford.” Oh, I loved the grocery story. That’s a much nicer trick than short-sheeting.

    1. I suppose having to wait for gravy or salt had some rationale — perhaps trying to sensitize campers to the needs of those around them — but it still seems rather odd to me. I’ve been trying to remember where I heard of similar rules being enforced, and it was in stories from convent life. I confess I’d not be happy if my potatoes got cold while I was waiting for someone to notice that I needed more gravy.

      I’d never imagined that camping had any formal origins, and I’ve never heard or read of the American Camping Association. Camps simply were ‘there’ and varied as could be: church camps, sports camps, Scout camps, art camps. Some were related to the outdoors, while others provided a time away for focusing on specific interests. Mr. Gunn certainly started something. This page provides more detail about familiar camping gear and practices, and it even notes that s’mores began in 1927. Do New Zealanders enjoy s’mores? I certainly hope so!

      1. A great link, Linda. It was interesting to see how much the army influenced camping eg tents and Coleman equipment. Of s’mores; I don’t know how popular they are in New Zealand but some people do make them. I didn’t know they began in 1927.

  18. We should have more of these camps and a drive for more Camp Fire Girls (my own mother was one). I know they still exist, but we rarely hear about them anymore. Good wholesome fun for kids growing up. My son loved his camp days!

    1. Well, there aren’t any Camp Fire Girls any more. They’ve become a group that includes both boys and girls, and changed their name to Camp Fire. I think it was a terrible move, but I’m one who believes there need to be all-girl and all-boy groups. That’s probably an unbearably retro opinion, but there you are.

      My mother was a leader of my Bluebird troop, and I think she enjoyed it as much as I did. But she never was involved in anything that might have involved camping — that wasn’t her thing.

  19. I loved Girl Scout camp. My girls went to Heart of the Hills, also near Hunt. It was a beautiful camp and run like Waldemar. On Sunday they had to wear all white and had a service on the river. I think I loved the camp more than my girls and I was ready to be a counselor. All in all, it was a very good experience for them.

    1. I’ve heard good things about Heart of the Hills, though I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. When it was founded, one of the directors had ties to Waldemar, and I think another had either camped or worked at Camp Mystic, so some of the best traditions were part of your girls’ camp from the beginning.

      Over the years, I had the opportunity to take part in retreats at Mo-Ranch, up on the North Fork. It’s a retreat center run by the Presbyterians, like Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Even a long weekend there gives a taste of how wonderful the camps must be. I can understand that urge to be a counselor.

  20. I so thoroughly enjoyed your post today. I wasn’t a Camp Fire Girl or Girl Scout but my own two girls were scouts and I was fortunate enough to be a co-leader once and go to camp with them. Every young person should have the experience of going to camp. It’s not just the camaraderie and the songs that they take away, but the down-right good manners, courtesy, and respect that so few seem to be lacking today. Those grocery arranging girls were great examples of how teen years should be spent, not staring at a cell phone. Oh, and by the way, you had me in your grocery tale at ‘key lime gelato.’ Yum, yum. ;-)

    1. Thanks so much — I’m glad you enjoyed the story. If you had as much fun working with your girls’ scout troops as my mother had working with us, you had a very good time indeed.

      As for “going to camp,” it was more than just the time away. We were responsible for earning a portion of the money needed for our fees, so the whole year had fund-raising projects scattered through it. And once we came home, there always was a program where we shared what we’d learned, and told about the experiences we’d had. It was like a kindergartner’s show-and-tell, writ large, and it was great fun.

      It’s easy to criticize the kids for their attachment to their various devices, but it’s a fact that kids mimic the adults they see around them. Some years ago, there was a New Yorker magazine cover that showed parents and kids trick-or-treating: the kids running to the front doors, while the parents stayed behind, hunched over their screens. If more parents set a few limits, like the camps do, it surely would be better for the children and teens.

      Do you have Talenti gelato in your area? If you do, it’s their key lime that I never can pass up.

      1. Yes, I do agree that the cell phone addiction isn’t just the kids; adults of all ages can’t seem to tear themselves away from their cells. I just keep thinking about all the wondrous things in life they’re missing with their eyes and attention glued to those screens. :-( We don’t have Talenti gelato here. If I ever do see it, I’ll be sure to scoop up the key lime!

  21. For example, each girl receives points for good table manners, and the guidelines are distinctly retro.

    That is how social capital is built. Sadly, we have been spending it faster than we are building it – especially with social media.

    1. That’s a good analogy. For whatever reason, it brought to mind Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, which took its title from Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming.” After even the briefest of forays into the wilds of social media, it’s hard not to think of that poem’s first lines:

      Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      Ain’t it the truth?

      1. Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart

        Every once in a while, a novel comes along that blows you away. This was one of them.

        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.

        And yes, ain’t it the truth.

    1. They are thriving, Terry. To my knowledge, not a single one of the traditional hill country camps has closed, and camps of various sorts are springing up around the state. I’m sure it’s the same in other parts of the country. The kinds of common sense and competence they help to instill don’t often make the front pages of the papers — or go viral on the internet, which I suppose is today’s “front page” — but the value is there: for the kids, and, indirectly, for us.

  22. What a fun post. I find we share something else: I was a Campfire Leader and worked for Campfire for many years. I don’t see any sign of girls in the program today. We used to do the cookie sale each year, but the Girl Scouts seem to have taken that over. I did not belong to either group as a child, but volunteered as a leader when my eldest daughter went into second grade. I kept a group all through high school. Today a former member of my group lives around the corner.

    1. We sold candy rather than cookies, but we were determined little salesgirls. Unlike today’s Girl Scouts, we didn’t set up shop in public spaces like grocery stores, but went door to door. That may say as much as anything about changes in society. Our parents didn’t go with us; we just loaded up our bikes with cartons of candy and set out, confident that the worst thing that could happen to us is that someone would refuse to buy.

      One of the things that intrigues me about your posts is how often they reveal the solid, neighborly life underneath all the images we have of California. Just like your monthly gathering, the fact that one of your “girls” still lives near you is delightful. It reminds me of the small towns in my area. During the tourist season, the population swells, the traffic is terrible, and the frantic edge of urban life sets in. But in the winter? The communities underlying all that seasonal chaos can be seen, and enjoyed.

  23. Oh, lovely! I did not have a girl’s camp as a kid: my family had what I now call “Shacks on a lake”, in Ontario. My maternal grandparents started there and two of the cabins are from the 1930s and 1940s. We have to shoo the mice out. We still use propane stoves, no electricity, and sleep in tents because the cabins really are not mosquito free. No television and mostly no phone. I am going this summer for the first time in three years. We made doll furniture and helped shingle cabins as we got older. The tent my sister and I shared still doesn’t leak because we were taught strict care of it. We used to use candles that my uncle dipped in the winter, but the fire risk is high this year, so the aladdin lamps and candles are replaced….. wonderful post, thank you.

    1. Your shacks on a lake sound wonderful. I’m glad you’ll have the opportunity for another visit this year. If mice are the only critters you have to shoo out, that’s a real plus, but the best part is that you still can go back, even though you’re all grown up.

      I’m especially intrigued by the candles that your uncle dipped. I’m not sure I’ve ever known of anyone who did that. We made candles at Christmas time when I was a kid, but they were decorative: made in milk cartons and such. They were pretty, but didn’t give as much light as your uncle’s would have. We used Coleman lanterns at the hill country cabin I enjoyed for so many years. Now, there are LED solar/battery lanterns that provide much more light, but for a country cabin, I prefer something that doesn’t fight the darkness quite so effectively.

      Learning to care for possessions is another of those life lessons we could use more of. Your leakless tent’s a treasure: a symbol of the best kind of conservation. Are the shingles you laid still on the cabins? or have they been replaced again? I suspect they’ve been replaced, but that doesn’t matter. You’ve still got those memories and skills.

    1. Camp Waldemar would accept you in a minute, as a camper or a counselor. When I found the old photos of Camp Hantesa, I thought of you and Jim, since one of our expeditions while I was at camp was to Ledges State Park. I’m sure I remember you posting about a day hike there.

      Isn’t it funny that unplugging is so easy, and yet so hard for so many people? A worthy convenience can become a curse over time; the truth is, we rarely notice it happening.

      1. When Jim and I travel, we are usually only partly plugged in. :) When we did the barge cruise in Scotland 2 years ago, there was no wi-fi available, almost no phone service, and we didn’t have phones with us anyway. It was shockingly easy to spend the week without internet or phone service. Yes, we went to Ledges a couple of years ago. It was a pretty park but we’ve enjoyed others closer at least as well. ALSO I looked up rules for marking reveille, retreat, and taps. On military bases they differ somewhat depending on the schedule of the base, and how they display the flag. Was interesting. Sorry I didn’t keep the link.

  24. You surely suspected that I’d cherish the ‘check-out line’ story! I still cherish that other check-out story from years ago. How great it must be to be either in front or behind you in the check-out line!

    Nice evolution of this story to show how some sensitive people/organizations are nudging today’s youth to disengage from the digital world – or to find a balance.

    Down here the digital age stretches its fingers into the poorest of homes, where the status symbol is a phone, complete with selfie-ops to share w/the network. One ‘side effect’ of the earthquake, in my opinion, is an increased impatience that I witness most when driving. Many areas are still under demolition and renovation. Dead-end roads, detours and short tempers make driving the cities a not-so-pretty task!

    That final image reminded me of my own camp experience, when I felt I’d almost drown before finishing a choreographed group swimming performance! Camp is always a good choice, and even the ‘worst’ experience has valuable lessons! Are you one of those well-scrubbed gals in the opening image?

    1. Finding a balance always is key. There’s a new study out that says U.S. adults spend 12 hours each day consuming media. How that could be possible I’m not sure, but the amount of time spent surely is increasing. From what I’ve seen, the three to five hours on social media being reported in some quarters seems reasonable, given the number of people who are walking around glued to their screens.

      As for the children, more and more educators and psychologists are warning about the effects of too-early exposure to digital devices. One of the oddest (or least-expected) effects is that teachers are getting new students who can’t hold pencils. By the time they hit kindergarten or first grade, they’ve become so used to touchscreens, their fine motor skills haven’t developed, and drawing or printing are impossible for them.

      No, I’m not in that photo. The “Indian Camp” was for the oldest girls. I still was a Bluebird, living in my little cabin with about ten girls or so, making punched tin lanterns and braiding lanyards. We were sort of in awe of the big girls, but the truth is we just wanted to live in those teepees.

  25. First off, I have to tell you how reassuring it is that I am not alone in heading into a store, doing my shopping, then realizing at the end (if I’m lucky, it’s while I’m still in the store) I’d forgotten the key thing I’d come to buy. I also enjoyed this telling detail: “refuge for complete sentences and proper spelling.” I have many friends who can’t comprehend why I have my cell phone turned off a good bit of the time. They think somehow it’s a bad habit of which I must be cured. So I suppose, like you, I am obsolescing—and I have to say I’m happy to be in such a state, at least when it comes to electronic equipment.

    1. You’re not alone: not by a long shot. And you’re right that remembering that forgotten item while still in the store is among life’s little blessings. My biggest problem is heading off to work without the [fill in the blank] that I absolutely had to take with me, usually because I’m distracting myself with my own thoughts.

      The biggest problem I have with tech just now is that nearly everyone is texting. Calling a customer to ask a question is iffy; they clearly prefer texts. Given that I’m running around with a flip phone and one of those keyboards that has three or four letters per key, it’s a good thing I rarely have questions. Unlike you, I never turn my phone off — but I’ve been known to leave it resting on my desk, and only check it when I get home. My friends and regular customers know the routine, and those that don’t just leave a message. It works — but primarily because of the nature of my work and involvements.

  26. There need to be more Camp Waldemar type experiences for today’s societal experiences. It blows my mind to see people sitting together communicating electronically instead of looking at each other.

    There are a host of things that bring memories to mind. What strikes me as oddest are smells. Certain odors remind me of experiences long forgotten otherwise.

    1. It wasn’t so long ago I saw exactly what you describe: a group of about ten people, including children, sitting at a restaurant table totally engrossed in their phones. The kids probably were playing games; who knows what the adults were doing. No one spoke a word to anyone else at the table, and when the food arrived, not everyone put down their p hone.

      You started me thinking about which odors evoke memories for me, and one of the oddest “sets” of smells is smoke. Some recalls burning leaves in autumn, but there’s a certain smoke that recalls Liberia. I don’t come across it often, but when I do, it’s unmistakable. There’s that “certain smell” in an old building with wooden floors, too. I suspect it recalls that red powder they used to use to clean the floors in my grade school.

      1. Although I’ve never witnessed it…I’d actually have to go out at night for dinner…I hear that some people date like that. Can’t imagine it. Any time I had a date my eyes were on my partner the whole time…well, unless the date was a mistake.

        Certain food odors remind me of dishes my mother would make when we were children. Unfortunately, any time this subject comes up I remember the smell of death. It’s something you never forget and, in the first case of it, the person was, well, it was quite unpleasant and I’ll never lose that. I like your memory of burning leaves or the smell of the ocean. Some sounds remind me of things that are not there but sound similar. And the smell of old wood in an abandoned building…that too.

          1. As with most things sensory, there is a masking effect. I’d expect the smell of salt air to overwhelm anything else, but I guess one gets used to it over time. Of course, if there is a barbecue pit going on shore that would change things.

  27. I lasted less than a year in the Camp Fire Girls. asked my mother if I had to go. later with my daughter I co-lead her Girl Scout troop and we went camping but she only went to Girl Scout Camp one year. my camp years were at Camp Longhorn in west Texas on Inks Lake. I went 4 years over a 5 year span but being the loner I was and am, I never really fit in. I remember taking riflery (22s), fencing, crafts, and of course swimming, and canoeing and sailing (which I loved because it was a solitary activity in a Sunfish and I was good at it). oddly, those are the only specific things I remember. the camp had a merit and demerit system. every morning each camper started out with five pins and if your behavior wasn’t up to par any of the counselors could demand a pin from you, a demerit. and of course if you were pleasant and helpful and friendly, you got pins, merits. it was all tallied up at the end of the day and if you got too many demerits you got a little ‘counseling’ session about your behavior. I’ll leave it to your imagination which I usually had more of.

    1. I’d never heard of Inks Lake until this past week, when I read about a wildfire near there. It’s out now, but it grew to about 500 acres. I don’t think any structures were destroyed.

      Your experience with Camp Fire Girls reminds me of my very short time in Rainbow Girls. I loved the white Dotted Swiss dress my mother made for my initiation, but I just couldn’t take all of the rituals that were involved. In the end, I refused to go back, and wore the dress to Sunday School.

      My sense of things is that the Waldemar system of “points” was based on very specific guidelines. For example, elbows either are or are not on the table. If counselors were free to make subjective judgments about who had to give up a pin, that could get messy. In any event, I’m sure your counseling sessions weren’t too traumatic.

  28. Well, you’re bringing back the memories here! My mother was a Campfire Girl, but when I was of age, it was Girl Scouts, because that’s what was available. Also the mid 50’s, in NY state, near Syracuse. It was a good experience. I loved the story of the girls at the grocery store – their imaginations are awake! Yea!
    I also was thinking of a wilderness experience my son went on as a teen. After a few weeks in the wild (southern Utah) where they had to pull loaded carts of their supplies, start fires with sticks and spend at least a day completely alone, these kids were really transformed. One of the things I loved the most was seeing the girls without makeup. That was the best!
    (Those meal rules were what I grew up with too, but am sorry to say I did not pass them along to my son – his loss, my mistake).

    1. I didn’t mention it specifically in the post, but makeup and beauty products (however those are defined) aren’t part of life at Waldemar, either. Of course, with no ability to take selfies, and no boys around, the rationale for spending hours and hours on appearance begins to dissipate.

      That wilderness experience sounds wonderful. The requirement that each teen spend a day completely alone is especially interesting. Learning to tolerate, and then to appreciate, solitude, is important for so many reasons. Southern Utah’s a place I’ve been, and I can appreciate what a challenge that must have been for them, despite the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

  29. Thanks for these recollections and the images of civility that they present. In our syllabi these days, we have a line about expecting basic civility of one another in the classroom, including being on time, respect for difference of opinion, etc. It seems odd to have to state the obvious, but the odd student needs to be called to account now and then. As I child I was taught never to leave a meal without thanking the host and asking to be excused. We practiced the same with our children. My hope is that this did not become a mere routine, but mirrored starting a meal with grace. Bookends of grace and thanks shape the meal, and hopefully our life.

    1. Asking to be excused from the table was part of our family’s routine, too. Especially at holidays, adults tended to linger on…and on…and as long as we asked, no one objected to us taking our leave.

      It seems to me that in a very real sense manners, politeness, and civil gestures are the grace notes of life: the little things that do, in fact, mean a lot. My mother used this song as a teaching tool, and I’ve never forgotten it. We used to play a game where we’d try to find one “little thing” to do each day, and when I open the door at the post office for someone with a parcel, or tell a checker at the store that her earrings are pretty, I’m still playing the game.

  30. Stopping by from Debbie’s to see what you’re up to. This was a lovely post. I went to camp once as a kid, long before there were such things as cell phones. I hated most things about camp except the archery and crafts. I was a lonely kid I guess. But now, as an adult, I can see the benefits of attending a camp like the one you describe. I can also see the advantages of letting go of social media, the phone, email etc for 4 weeks even here at home. Though I don’t know if I could do it.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Dawn. I recognized your photo immediately, and was delighted to discover that you’re another “Michigander.” I’ve come to know several people from the state, not to mention the good people at American Spoon Foods. There’s not enough time or money to visit every place in the country I’d like to see, but Michigan’s near the top — such beautiful country.

      I had to smile at your grocery store tale. It reminded me of my Roy Rogers lunchbox, and the Dale Evans thermos that was tucked inside. It’s long gone, but I surely was proud of it.

      I’m almost entirely detached from social media. I still follow some people on Twitter — and especially weather related sites. But I’m ambivalent even about that. I used it to publicize my posts here, but recently I deleted all of those tweets. Whether I’ll re-engage, I don’t know, especially since my blogs are enough to keep me occupied.

      I’m looking forward to browsing around your site, too. Those pretty pink flowers you posted photos of, and the report of your time at the Pigeon River campground, both intrigued me. It looks like we have some similar interests.

  31. I really enjoyed this, from start to finish, I played a couple of those songs too, loved the beat!
    I pity kids now, we didn’t have these social media challenges, we just took ourselves out and stayed out until we heard our parents hollering for us. It is a different world now, those of us who grew up without the internet may cope without it. My daughter admits that she has to check her phone every ten minutes, it is business related, but still…..
    I suspect the phone/internet/social media situation will only get worse. Soon, I’m sure, we’ll all just have a chip in our wrist that contacts us to everything. xxx

  32. My siblings and I were not allowed to join clubs nor could we enroll in camps. It cost money, therefore it was not allowed. But we did learn to be courteous and polite, and had many of the same rules at home that you cite in “good table manners and guidelines”.

    Times are different now, with so much technology and saturation of social media. I still tend to navigate away from that, finding pleasure in nature and doing so much outdoors. Even what I do indoors can be viewed as quite simplistic – not having so many gadgets that supposedly “simplify” life. It doesn’t simplify my life – it makes for more steps and chaos. I think sometimes gadgets are marketed well, but commonsense-wise it does not make sense.

    I find it refreshing that camps like this still exist. I’d love to do something like that here but on a survival in nature type program. I find a lack of information about foraging for plants, basic tent camping and survival skills, and observation and educating about various mammals, birds, reptiles and insect populations when meeting most kids. These things I learned as a kid at home, growing up on a farm. Unless they’re taught in schools or kids have an opportunity to go to camp, they may never have this tremendous experience or exposure to life where there is a connection of planet earth and inner-spirit.

    1. Wants and needs are quite different things. Sometimes I don’t want what the gizmo-makers tell me I need, and sometimes it’s clear to me that I don’t need what they tell me I should want. It sounds like you have some of the same tendencies, and I think those tendencies are healthy. I don’t mind if others have smart phones or smart speakers, but I still can make coffee, tell time, play music, and find answers to questions without them, so…

      You’re absolutely right that today’s kids and youth are increasingly detached from nature — and they don’t have many practical skills, survival or otherwise. One reason that’s a problem is that they don’t have a good grasp of cause and effect: that behavior has consequences. Be careless with a saw, and your hand may suffer. Forget what’s in the oven while playing video games, and supper may be ruined. And so on. Beyond that, they’re being taught in more ways than I can count to be afraid: not only of other people, but of the natural world. Listen to the weather forecasters on tv. You’d think what we used to call a thunderstorm is apocalypse now. Back in the day (as we old fogeys say), we knew enough to come in out of the rain, and we certainly knew not to drive into flooded roadways.

      A saying I’ve come to appreciate is “competence breeds confidence.” Learn a skill, and the world opens up a little more — as you so well know.

    1. Exactly. However wonderful the virtual world may be, the physical world still has a lot to offer. There’s nothing quite like having to build a fire in a rain-soaked woods, or provision for a week-long hike. Doing it in the company of others, and doing it more or less successfully, teaches lessons that will last a lifetime. Besides, in the real world, even the failures have their lessons to teach.

  33. This may be one of the best posts I’ve ever read, one that so mirrors my thoughts about life, summer, technology. I love those girls in the store. Love them. One can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing someone looking down at their phone. Even at restaurants at lunch or dinner. Even when they aren’t alone! RIck has observed (and I regret to say I agree with him) that black pick-up trucks and black SUVs drive more aggressively than any other vehicle or color in the overall. (We count them on the road — such is our conversation…) And you’d better get out of their way!

    My cousin and I were talking about how when we were kids at the lake before the invention of all this tech stuff, we played. We hung out in the swamp with our frogs and tadpoles, we built sand castles and swam and read books and played board games and cards. Most of all, we interacted. I’d kill to have a kid of mine go to Camp Waldemar. In fact, I’d be delighted to send half the adults I know.

    1. When it comes to driving, the most annoying new behavior is the propensity of people to sit…and sit…and sit… at stoplights after they’ve turned green. There’s no question what they’re doing. They’re checking their phones while they wait for the light to change. A police officer I know says that it used to be that extremely slow drivers were assumed to have been drinking. Today? The assumption is that they’re trying to text and drive at the same time.

      I’ve never associated black vehicles with aggressive driving, but there’s no question that there’s a direct relationship between how high a truck is jacked up and how fast it’s driven. There’s probably someone’s master thesis hidden away in that relationship.

      Your memories of childhood summers are much like mine. The good news is that we can live at Camp Waldemar year around if we choose: at least, metaphorically. And, of course, your postcards from the lake are proof that sometimes we can have the actual experience.

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