Summer life started when we finished school in late June. The vacation time seemed like it lasted most of the year. It was the season of making summer friends and stories to tell once school started again in the fall.
The excitement of the summer this year wasn’t camping in a tent. It was going to a summer camp for two weeks with other kids. I saw this as a time of child’s play, living outside and having fun. We arrived to find we would sleep in a bunkhouse shared with other boys.
We had mandatory activities, different everyday for boys and girls. We shared the lake with the girls though. The one day per week we all gathered together was Wednesday.
Wednesday was movie matinee day, and we received 15 cents to spend however we liked. It could be while at the movie or the local store after. Movies were fun, but cool things like balsa gliders and plastic jets, which you could launch with an elastic band attached to a hand-held stick, were in the store. A 15 cent toy, one for each child, was a special treat. No sharing required.
Balsa gliders required assembly, with a plastic piece that connected the wings before clipping onto the main body. You could slide the wings forward for long glides or back for fighter plane stunt mode, which was our preference. Even though they were gliders, we accompanied flights with jet sound effects. Made from balsa, they were fragile, so hitting hard in a nose dive often caused the wings to come off. A few of these deadly landings and the wings wouldn’t clip in anymore. Being balsa plane mechanics, we learned to cut away wounded parts and freshen up the wings so they would attach again. This repair breathed new life into ageing fighter planes. One week we chose the plastic jets. We soon learned to launch them up, or they quickly flew out of sight into bushes or trees, un-findable. We settled on the balsa planes, they came home after every flight.
The girls were there too, doing other activities, but we didn’t care, as they were girls. They were always entertaining at the nightly campfire, the first to lose their marshmallows to the flames. A lost marshmallow was always lamented with blood-curdling shrieks, like you’d expect in a horror movie – you couldn’t tell the difference?
Nighttime brought out the fears older boys used frequently and unsparingly to trigger the younger campers. Of course there was a green monster prowling the forest, especially after the lights went out. You could hear growls, groans, and other sound effects that the older kids had perfected, mimicking sounds of monsters from TV shows that we were too young to watch. Young kids just knew fear. That’s how summer camp was, only safe in daylight, and I never wanted to go home.
Two weeks at camp was an eternity, which had an ending too. Saying goodbye to newfound friends was a tearfull time. We had suffered, learned and endured a lot together in two weeks..
As it came to the final day, I was preparing myself to start grade two.