Summer camp is a great experience for kids. They get to learn about teamwork, hone their singing skills, learn about nature, eat charred food cooked in a “pie sham” immersed in a fire, and also fine-tune their skills in boating, swimming, archery and a variety of other activities. Summer camp is also a great way to teach kids independence, and a great way for parents to have at least one less kid around the house. What’s not to like?
We called these things “pie shams.” You could make sandwiches, pizza (bread with pepperoni, tomato sauce, cheese) and “pie,” which was bread and canned pie filling.
I attended summer camp in the years 1981, 1982 and 1983, staying at Camp ‘O Fair Winds – about 25 miles northeast of Flint – for two week sessions each of those summers. In addition to learning the basic “camp” skills, Girl Scout camp was also a great way to learn about the quirks of your own parents! And I learned that my mom was kinda…OCD about some things.
My mom really went to town when it came to putting my name on EVERY item I brought to camp – every single pair of underpants, every sock, every article of clothing. The other girls actually kind of made fun of me for this! That’s my mom for you, not leaving anything to chance! Even my toothbrush, toothbrush holder and soap dish had my name or initials engraved on them! The only thing that didn’t wind up coming home with me from my camp was my Donald Duck towel, which also had my name on it. This would forever remind the thieving bitch who stole it that the towel was MINE! I know, I know…maybe my towel wasn’t technically stolen, I could have left it somewhere. But it’s far more fun to think of some smug girl going home with an extra Donald Duck towel that didn’t belong to her and have her be forever cursed because it bore my name (bwa ha ha ha)!
My official Girl Scout knife is one of only two things still in existence I brought to camp that still bear my name. Unfortunately, I do not own the knife anymore, I gave it to my niece when she started out in Girl Scouts. I have asked my brother to photograph the knife and send it to me, but he hasn’t done that yet. So for now, here’s a pic of another Girl Scout knife…I will update this blog with that picture if he ever gets around to sending it.
The only “camp” item I still own that has my name on it (as inscribed by mom) is my duffel bag. When I used it for camp, it was used to transport my sleeping bag and other bulky items. I still use that bag for storing/transporting camping gear. These days it has a roll-up metal camping table in it. I guess you could say this is technically one of my oldest possessions!
My last name is written in all capital letters along the center seam. It’s faded, but you can still see it…Here’s a closer look:
This is actually a very nice bag, it has an inner flap for keeping your gear covered and protected from the elements. Since it’s survived since 1981, it’s obviously pretty durable, too! Thirty-seven years old, you say? Why you look hardly a day older than 25!
This bag was an essential piece of gear when my camping unit did an “overnight” trip. I used it to haul my sleeping bag and other overnight essentials, and strapped that over one shoulder to haul it to our overnight camping spot, which was actually kind of painful. I had to switch sides periodically, and neither side proved to be better than the other. No pain, no gain, right? The plan was for us to have a fire-cooked dinner (in “pie shams”) and sleep in pup tents. Overall, the experience didn’t rank among my favorite experiences at camp, but it actually helped sow the seeds for a future love of backpacking! I went on several backpacking trips in the mid 2000s, but instead of schlepping my gear inefficiently and painfully over one shoulder, I had a nice backpack – perfect for distributing the weight of my gear on my body.
Me along the North Country trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 2006. Yes there is an old rotted out car along the trail. The blue and white checked thing you see strapped to my pack is my “sit-upon” (rolled up). It’s a small rectangular pad (ideally encased in waterproof material) that one uses to “sit upon.” Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout! It still comes along on all of my camping/cabin adventures.
For these backpacking adventures, I also had plenty of lightweight gear, most of which I still use on camping trips today, whether they are “backpacking” trips or not! And I ALWAYS make sure to have a decent camping mattress. I have one that I can even bring on a backpacking trip – it’s inflatable and compresses to the size of a quart-sized Nalgene bottle. Still doesn’t offer up the comfort comparable to my bed, but it’s better than the hard ground. That first “overnight” experience I had sleeping on the cold, hard ground was also the last one! Whatever doesn’t kill you (or annoy you too much) will either make you stronger – or strengthen your resolve to do it more efficiently next time!