The problem with being a camp counsellor is assuming you know how to do it.
It’s the summer of 69, and I just finished my first year of university. Last summer, I was a local camp counsellor, so hey, I know the ropes. This summer’s job is camp counsellor for boys from the slums of New York City. The camp is 14 miles from the August Woodstock concert.
While all the kids are boys, the counsellors are both men and women. The women have the young campers. We’ve been warned that these kids are hard.
Now, I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, so I’m worldly. I mean, in our high school, we had tough guys we called “hoods.” They even smoked in the boys’ bathrooms.
We arrive two days before the campers. The lush, green forest feels like home. The first evening meal is hot dogs, baked beans and hot chocolate. I indulge my love of hot chocolate with two mugs, which I just learned were laced with Ex-lax. At least I’m off to a regular start.
It’s the first day of camp. I sit on a boulder and eagerly await our young campers. A yellow school bus pulls up. This blond-haired cherub steps out and bellows, “Jesus Christ. Look at all the fuckin’ sand. God damn. When the hell are we going to eat? Shit, am I hungry.”
My jaw hits the ground. Even our hoods never spoke like that.
The boys in my house are 10-12 years old. Our first order of business is to write a postcard home to say they arrived safely. Many cards are addressed to Miss Sally or Miss Jane. With the ink drying, it’s time to establish the pecking order. One boy says to another, “So, what does your mother do?”
“Oh, she’s a hooker.”
“How much does she charge for a blow job?”
It takes ten minutes to establish whose mothers charge the most. Those boys are the leaders.
It’s time for lunch, so we’re off to the mess hall. I hear we’re having hot dogs, baked beans and hot chocolate. Hmmm.
A natural daily pattern of eat, play, swim and sleep develops. July 21 is the exception when everyone huddles around a 19 inch black and white TV in the Mess Hall to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
Toward the end of the summer, a few counsellors ask me if I want to go with them to a local festival called Woodstock. It doesn’t look like much fun, so I decline. They leave in a van filled with camping gear, to return muddy, in shorts and shoes, everything else lost. See, I was right to pass on going.
At the end of the summer, I return home. You know how Valley girls use “like” as a filler word? At camp, we also developed filler word habits. When my family and I sit down for supper, it was interesting to see the expressions on their faces when I casually ask if someone could PLEASE pass the fuckin’ salt.
(True story of mine. Written for a George Brown College playwriting class)