When I was old enough and Mom started attending college, I spent six or eight weeks every summer going to camp. I always spent two weeks at Camp Carew, which was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, and then another four or six weeks at SIU’s summer camp for kids. Both were on Little Grassy Lake about 20 miles from home, but when you were there it seemed like you were a million miles away.
We slept in tent cabins with communal bathrooms and sometimes we peed in the woods. It was very exciting. We went canoeing, rowing, hiking and swimming and learned archery, crafts, shooting and survival skills. We ate all our meals in the big old dining hall and the food was delicious – or at least we thought it was. In the evenings there were big campfires and everyone sat around singing songs like Kumbaya or silly rounds like Kookaburra.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.
Merry, merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be.
It was a really fun way to spend the summer and I was always sorry to see it end. I wasn’t one of those kids who missed being home.
My friend Libby lived close by. There were two ways to get to her house; either the long way using the streets, or the shortcut through the little vale between our houses. At first the shortcut seemed really scary. There was a tiny little path and it was usually overgrown with weeds and bushes. There were snakes everywhere in Southern Illinois, including three poisonous kinds – rattlers, copperheads and water moccasins. I hated snakes, so I would run as fast as I could through the shortcut to her house. When it was getting dark, I took the long way home. It probably added three or four more minutes to the trip. (It was a very small town)
For some reason, there was a breeze down in the little vale. When the breeze was strong enough, I used to jump into it and pretend I was flying. Being tall and skinny, I was fairly lightweight and could ride the wind forever, although in reality it was probably only a second or two. I thought I could fly, so undeterred I just kept jumping.
Our elementary school was a typical 2 story brick building with a big central hall and stairway. There were 4 classrooms on each floor – first and second grade on the first floor and third and fourth grade on the second floor. Because of the baby boomers, they put an addition on the school that included 2 large classrooms - one for kindergarten and one for fifth grade. The auditorium/basketball court (which doubled as the lunchroom) was also in the addition.
In elementary school I was a fairly good student although today they would probably diagnose attention deficit disorder because I was often bored and restless. I had one teacher in particular I really liked, Mrs. McLain. I thought she was wonderful and always wanted to do the best for her. I used to gather up bunches of wildflowers – or flowers from my Mom’s beds or the neighbor’s beds – and leave them anonymously on her doorstep. Everyone was within easy walking distance in our town.
In third grade I was having trouble seeing and they diagnosed me with a lazy right eye. That meant glasses and weekly sessions at the eye doctor looking into machines that made funny patterns purported to make my eye more energetic. The doctor thought that may have been why I was always walking into things like poles and trees. I had lots of goose eggs on my forehead. I personally always thought it was because I simply wasn’t paying attention.
I had a great memory and learning by rote was popular then, so anything requiring memorization – like the times tables – was easy. Square dancing was big in our area and callers were always needed. I quickly learned the songs and steps and became a first class caller. My favorite dance was to the tune of “Honeycomb”.
My Mom and Dad were very social people. Dad was usually either working or playing golf. Mom was a full time homemaker. When I started Kindergarten, she returned to school to get her college degree. When she wasn’t at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, 21 miles away, she spent her free time either playing golf or playing bridge with her friends. Our family had dinner together almost every night and when my parents weren’t home we always had a housekeeper to look after us. We weren’t rich but we didn’t lack for anything and we were well cared for.
PS. Thanks Church Lady for the award.