Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Friday, January 26, 2007


Camp Hawthorne: A Long Story

When I was around 9 years old, I went to a camp called Camp Hawthorne. It was on a lake in Missouri called Lake of the Ozarks. I think it took 4 or 5 hours to drive there from home. The campers all gathered one Sunday at a place called the YMHA, and we got on a bus to go to camp. We each brought a big canvas bag. In it we had clothing, a bathing suit, a blanket, a towel, a toothbrush, and other things we needed for two or three weeks at camp.

The camp had quite a lot of buildings. Four “villages” had log cabins with bunk beds and other camp beds where the campers and their councilors slept. The log cabins didn’t have electricity, so it was very dark in them at night. Each camper had a flashlight and some extra batteries. We usually went to bed pretty early. That way we wouldn’t have to walk around in the dark very much. But on some special nights we went to campfires or other activities and came back in the dark.

The village where my friends and I were staying was called “Bluebird.” It was for younger girls. The other villages were for older girls, older boys, and younger boys. In our village, we often saw the campers from the other village. They had to walk down the path through our village and past our cabins to the waterfront. Everyone went to the waterfront for swimming lessons, canoeing, and other water activities.

Each village also had a building with latrines and sinks. Latrines are toilets that don’t flush. They have a hole dug in the ground underneath the seat. They are very stinky. Next to the latrines were the sinks, which had only cold water. Each cabin had to take a turn cleaning the sinks and stinky latrines. We all hated that. At night you only had a flashlight to see by, which was very scary. This was the worst thing about the camp.

In the center of the camp was the mess hall. It did have electric lights. In the mess-hall kitchen the cooks and their helpers, called kitchen boys, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Next to the kitchen was a big dining room with many tables. Each one had places for 8 people. When we came in and sat down at the table, one camper would sit in a special place at the table. She would be responsible for going up to a window into the kitchen to get some of the food, like baskets of bread and pitchers of milk or “bug juice.” Bug juice was the camp name for Kool Aid. Many things had a special camp name. I didn’t like the food or the bug juice very much, and often just ate bread.

Some campers at each meal would be selected to help the kitchen boys clean up. We had one song about cleaning up. It went “Don’t put paper in the garbage can ’cause it makes more work for the garbage man.” Another thing we would sing while we were eating could be “Mabel, Mabel, sweet and able, keep your elbows off the table. This is not a horse’s stable, but a first-class dining table.” Some things never change: Alice sang this to me recently. Of course we sang it whenever we saw someone’s elbows on the table.

At the end of each meal a camp leader would stand up and lead all the staff and campers in singing camp songs. My cousin Myrtle had gone to this camp many times, and had once even been a Councilor in Training. Before I went to camp she had typed out the words to many songs so that I would be able to sing them. I felt very good about knowing the songs. The songs I remember best are “Hey Lolly Lolly Lolly,” “Alouette, Gentille Alouette,” and “Rock a my soul in the bosom of Abraham.” On Friday night we had special songs and candle lighting for the Jewish Sabbath, as it was a Jewish camp. For birthdays we sang “Happy Birthday” – and in fact, my birthday was during camp.

Every day after breakfast, each camper planned what to do in the morning, and the girls or boys from each cabin chose a group activity for the afternoon. I liked to go to the nature study room, which was in a building across from the mess hall. Some snakes lived in an aquarium in the nature study room. We could also choose swimming and waterfront activities like canoeing, crafts like making bracelets out of some plastic stuff, and maybe some others. Once our cabin group took an overnight camping trip in canoes across the lake, and slept outside. We cooked our own campfire dinner including s’mores.

The other girls in my cabin were named Dorothy, Carolyn, Candy, and Linda. Dorothy was my good friend from school. Linda and Candy also went to the same elementary school that I went to, and Carolyn knew some of us before camp too. We were all pretty good friends when we were at camp. Sometimes we stayed up when we should have been asleep and Dorothy made up stories about Princess LindaCandyCarolynMae. In the early afternoon we took a rest. We could sleep, read, or write letters to our mothers and fathers. We weren’t supposed to talk, but I think we sometimes cheated.

Our councilor was named Heidi. Councilors didn’t use their own names, but they had special camp names. The waterfront councilor was named Frosty or Frankie or something, and I think she was Myrtle’s cousin. Myrtle's camp name was "Monkey." The nature councilor was named Peggy.

One other person who was at this camp was a boy in the young boy’s village. I never talked to any boys then, so I didn’t actually know him, but his name was Lenny. We met again when we were older, and you know the rest of that story.

I did not go to Camp Hawthorn until I was a teenager. I went two years as a camper, and one year as a counselor in training for the entire summer. I think it was my cousin Ruthie Mae who was the counselor you mentioned. I don't remember teaching you all of the songs. One year, when I was still a camper, cousins Bip and Marcia and their cousin Lois, also went. Marcia was so home sick and I tried to comfort her, but Aunt Sadie had to come take her home.
Those were wonderful years and, I am sorry that my children did not get to experience Camp Hawthorn.
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