Saturday, July 2, 2022

Burning Down A Place But Not The Memories

This past week, the main building at Camp Airy burned down
The good news: no one was hurt, it was the only building that was harmed, and the camp season is continuing.  Every start of every summer, the camp director would tell everyone not to let any of the faucets keep dripping after they are done with the sinks because it would empty the water tower.  Well, it turns out that was not mere rhetoric, as they had to bring up water from the pool and the pond.  There are temp facilities being set up, and a variety of entities have lent a hand so that the kids, counselors, and staff can eat. So, the summer and the camp will go on.

I spent the best ten summers of my life there, first as a camper and then as a counselor.  Every year, I spent 44 weeks looking forward to the eight.  I felt far more alive and myself at that place than at my middle school or high school.  The White House--the building that burned down--was mainly the dining hall, but also held offices and the counselor's evening clubhouse.  

What do I remember about that dining hall?  

  • every breakfast, the counselors would have to employ different systems to distribute the small boxes of sweet cereals fairly.  
  • the summer of turbot.  I don't know the details, but we ended up having a lot of fried fish one summer, I guess due to a contract gone awry or something.
  • the summers where the entire camp would chant a particular counselor's name anytime a serving tray of dishes fell.  He always turned bright red, which made it so much more fun.  
  • the time, Ed, the Director for my entire time there, a terrific man but also could be scary, went to the mic to yell at the campers for being too loud, saying that the volume was reaching the roof.  I was a smartass (yeah, it goes way back) and looked at the ceiling, and in his omniscience, Ed said, yeah, go ahead, look at the ceiling.... That scared me so much. 
  • my girlfriend, who is now Mrs. Spew, visited me when I was a counselor and ate at the table with my bunk of 12-13 11-12 year olds.  I showed her and them a fave trick of putting a spoon on my nose and keeping it there sans hands.  The  kids wanted to do it, so I told them to dip their spoons in the tomato sauce (must have been a spaghetti night) and then put the spoon along their noses so that the bowl of the spoon rests between one's eyes.  As a result, they all quickly had red circles on their foreheads.  I am sure counselors played other tricks on me at the White House's tables, but I don't remember them.  
  • the steps of the place were used for orientation pics for first year counselors.  As a rare camper who had spent entire summers rather than four week sessions, I knew about a particular tradition--that at the end of the photo session, more experienced counselors on the roof would upend garbage cans full of water onto the rookies.  As this picture shows, I was strategically positioned to be under the overhand and in the front.  Jon, my best camp pal, was ready to sprint. 
    I wonder where they will stage this picture next year... I am hoping that the replacement is built quickly as Airy's 100th anniversary is two years away.  

 The news of the fire has brought together much of the old gang, telling stories.  It breaks my heart that the building burned, but I find solace in those stories and in the news of the help that is being sent up the mountain.  I am glad that these boys (and the girls down the road at Camp Louise) will keep doing this special camp thing.

No comments: