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Summer Camp Chronicles: The Peep Hole

October 19, 2010

I worked at a summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina for six summers throughout high school and college. To say I was a camp kid would be an understatement. I was going to camp the first summer I was old enough and working at camp the first summer I was old enough. When I’m bored or can’t sleep, I sometimes plan out a new summer camp. This combines three of my loves: planning, organizing and camp.

Working at a camp is an experience like nothing else. You’re with the same people 24/7 and they see you at your best and worst (physically and emotionally). It takes a matter of days or weeks at camp to become as close to someone as it usually takes months or years in the “real world.” I’m still friends with several of the people I met while at camp and a few of them are still some of my closest friends. The kind of friends you can see after a few years and go right back to feeling like you were never apart.

Pioneer campers from a different summer.

I was 16 the first summer I worked at TVR and spent most of the summer on work staff, cutting grass and doing light construction. I loved it. I can still show you where I did plaster work in the kitchen and you will marvel at the smoothness and precision.

Most people who come to work at camp want to be a counselor right away. It’s actually something that can cause drama. Unfortunately, people see work assignments in a hierarchy. Usually work staff and kitchen are at the bottom of the hierarchy and if you’re put on these assignments for more than a week or two people can take it personally. Everyone wanted to be a counselor and being a counselor to the high schoolers was at the top of the hierarchy.

Allow me to toot my own horn and tell you that I was told I was put on work staff because the maintenance director kept asking for me. I can work with the best of them, apparently. And I have a sparkling and humble personality. What more could you ask for?

Pioneer rodeo a couple of years later.

Near the end of the summer I was assigned to be a counselor to the youngest campers, those going into the third to fifth grades. We called them the Pioneers and their program was separate from the middle and high schoolers. Basically, you’re babysitting these kids all day, every day. But you’re doing it with friends and the kids are usually well-behaved, so it’s all good.

What made this interesting is that there were five counselors, three girls and two boys, and I’m pretty sure none of us had ever been a counselor. And they had entrusted us with the lives of 15 girls and an indeterminate amount of boys (I can’t remember now…we knew at the time). Things were different back then and the director of Pioneers had other jobs as well, so we didn’t have a leader who was with us all day to help guide us. So we winged it and shuffled the kids around from activity to activity and into meetings and whatnot. We were constantly counting in order to make sure we hadn’t lost a kid in the woods. The number 15 is permanently ingrained in my memory as the magical number that means we were safe and a bear hadn’t eaten anyone. The guys were a little less paranoid than us girls.

The facilities have greatly improved at TVR during the last few years, but at the time we had to use an outhouse bathroom. It was a cinder block building with a wall in the middle dividing the boys and the girls. I won’t try to paint a pretty picture: these bathrooms were not pleasant. We’re talking about being in a constant state of wet and mildewy, with spiders and bugs and very little hot water. I feel like I need to take a shower just thinking about how unpleasant these bathrooms were.

Near the end of the week we heard a commotion from a few girls and asked what was going on. We were informed that they had heard a few boys talking about a peep hole.

Remember that wall dividing the boy’s and girl’s bathrooms? Yeah. Apparently it didn’t quite make the fortress of solitude we were hoping for. The boys had found a peep hole into the girl’s bathroom and had been using it for their own private shows.

So the boys learned a lot more than just the words to the Shark Song that week. By the next year, bathrooms had been built in each of the cabins and the outhouse was converted into storage.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010 12:36 pm

    bahahaha – that’s so funny – and so awful.

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