Sunday, October 15, 2023

100 Summers of Fun and Community

 Last night, thanks to a nearby conference, I was able to go to the 100th Anniversary Gala of Camp Airy and Camp Louise in Baltimore.  Camp was a huge part of my child/teen-hood, as I lived 44 weeks each year for the eight weeks in the hills of rural Maryland.  With a crowd of 700 or so people, I had guessed I might bump into something like 20 people (3%) given that I was there for 11% of its history.  Well, I fell a bit short than that, but it didn't matter as some of the most important people in my time at camp were at the Gala.
The place has a heap of history


They had a video that addressed the fire
and how they are coming back from that
Two events cast a shadow.  First, during the summer of 2022, the camp's main building, its dining hall and offices, burnt down at the start of the summer session.  No one was hurt, and the community rallied to provide food and tents and other stuff so that the summer could and would go on.  So, this gala was partly a fundraiser for replacing the dining hall.  The insurance may have been good enough to cover the replacement of a 100 year old building but not to create a 21st century dining hall--ADA compliance, fire suppression systems (made me think of The Bear), and all the rest.  



I made the montage!  Didn't hurt that I am pals
with the ace archivist--Eric T
The second event was Gaza.  These are Jewish camps--lightly so as it only meant kosher meals, basic Friday night/Saturday morning services, Israeli counselors to join the other foreign counselors (British mostly), and such.  So, it came up during the speeches with an appropriate tone of sorrow rather than revenge or hate as well as concern for of the Israelis who had cycled through Airy and Louise, including campers last summer.  I do have fond memories of the Israeli counselors who crossed my path in my 11 years with those on the outdoor staff (hiking, climbing, etc) driving us to various sites to climb/hike/raft/camp/etc as Israelis didn't seem to understand what brakes were. 


Jon cleaned up better than I did. 
We were in the same bunks from when we were
13 to when we were 17 as CIT's. 
And as he noted last night, as the rare kids
staying all summer, we knew the place better
than damn near anyone else,
and with knowledge comes power.

There were some folks who mentioned concerns with safety as this time as 700 Jews might make a good target for revenge.  There were some cops at the front of the event.  I hadn't thought of violence aimed at this gala, and I thought this was a bit much, but I can't blame some folks for worrying.

In the past, I have discussed my ambivalence about my Jewish identity.  One reason why I never really got religion or understood its power for others is that the various temples/synagogues my family joined in the various we lived when I was growing up didn't provide a real sense of community.  On the other hand, these camps did that for me in a big way, and I may not have realized that before last night.  I felt a connection to everyone there, I loved camp because I felt like I belonged, it was a place where I excelled in most things and in those things where I didn't excel, I still had lots of fun and firsts (that would be romance).

Fun to see Tracy (c) and Jim (r) during the
Wacky Olympics, and, yes, I still have
that shirt.

Speaking of such stuff, I wanted to share this story and this book.  Nope, none of the ladies I pursued long ago attended the Gala, but I am not surprised.  More by happenstance than anything else, those girls that interested me way back were not those who were lifers at Louise.  

Anyhow, I only realized this weekend that this summer was the, gasp, 40th anniversary of my last summer as a camper--as a counselor in training.  I stuck around for three more years as a counselor.  And I think the last time I visited the place was in 2001 while moving myself and my dogs to Virginia for the year in the Pentagon.  It has been too long.  Time to start scheming to visit the place again...


It was great to see both the old friends and the rest of the lifers who fell in love with those special places up in the hills.  The gala had a theme -- camp is ....--and while they let folks fill it out themselves, they also did suggest something... making camp have something common with soylent green:

Reminds me of one of the songs burned into my heads.  During my era, they regularly sang a song that had the music from Charlie Brown.... Happiness is a summer at Airy ....   and indeed, it was and is.

No comments: