Sing Along with Me – The Camp Experience

In the urban centers of America, there is the annual summer ritual for school children of Camp. Parents left with the notion, this almost free-floating anxiety, of children Home Alone for two to three months with no schedule is overwhelming and downright unacceptable.

So, someone in the great spirit of the American frontiersmen, created Camp, as a great learning and socializing adventure for all these wanderlust children. The urban elite would learn from the great outdoors, smell the pines, eat by campfire, and sing the summer songs of camp.

Those of us born in the urban jungle of Manhattan were then being shipped off to the tranquil, mosquito infested backwoods of New England for fun and sport.

There was only one problem for me: I hated camp. I hated competitive sports, I hated the heat, most of the kids, the embarrassment of undressing in front of hundreds of boys, I hated the discipline, I hated camp.

In fact, if I look at my ten to twelve years of camp with a huge squint to try and turn reality into nostalgia, I can’t remember one moment after my first year where I was happy, except for the day I was leaving to go home.

Holden Caulfield’s alienation from society had nothing on me. The only time I can remember thinking that this was at all valuable was in Lariat class, where we would twist plastic twine in colors to make Lariats for whistles I never needed.

When I was very young, seven years old, I was probably the only child left back in camp. I repeated my tinker year twice.

This is the week that children from all over America reunite with their families from their summer at camp. It was the week of the summer I liked best. Finally free from one burden before the onset of the next.

Camp was actually very important to my pictures. There was, after my first year at camp, a basic shift in me, a cataclysmic trauma which has continued to the very present. I am still living a post-traumatic syndrome that I first recognized in camp in the Summer of 1953.

Next Tuesday, instead of recollecting all the joys of summer, I will begin the story of my fall from grace. After the Summer of 1953, as the summer heat turned to the cool of autumn, I found my life radically changed. The Summer of 1952, the summer of joy and friendships was over, the harvest had passed, and I was not refreshed. Stay tuned.