Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fifth Grade Camp

After following a very, very long road, I was so excited to see this sign.

Old Dining Hall- home to our epic food fight.

The new dining hall- they hope to get funding to refurbish the original.

The stage where we performed our skits.

Where we sat around the campfire- so much smaller than I remember.

My Cabin.  The un-lucky #13.

As I dropped Haley off at school this morning, I couldn't help but notice the throngs of fifth graders huddled around the flagpole, with their sleeping bags at their feet. There was an obvious excitement in the air, but if you looked hard enough, you could also see the nervous tension beneath their little smiles. They were finally getting to go off to fifth grade camp, just as they had watched all of the other "big kids" do in the years before. The fact that it was thirty-two degrees outside likely did not phase them; but it definitely got me to thinking: how exciting that adventure was! First time away from home for more than a day or two. All of your friends are with you. The idea of "roughing it" for a week, meaning that Mom or Dad wasn't going to be there to bug you about taking a stupid shower.

I remember the morning we all squeezed into the auditorium. We brought our sleeping bags, a pillow, and a small duffle bag with all of the necessities (and likely not enough clean underwear). Ah, the taste of independence! Our mothers kissed us goodbye, swearing they didn't know what they'd do without us for five days; when in retrospect, it was probably the beginning of an ever-so-needed vacation for each of them. We all wore our handmade Camp Loma Mar sweatshirts, and sat excitedly next to our partner on those smelly and humid yellow buses. We stopped in the East Bay for a sack lunch, and marveled at the goofy Junipero Serra statue. Before finally arriving at camp, we got to run around Bean Hollow Beach in Pescadero (at least I think that was the beach after driving past it today).

I recall bits and pieces of that week. I was in cabin 13, which I was told was very bad luck. Someone had been killed in there before! Rumors spread about so-and-so, who wet their bed on the first night there. We sang Kumbaya around the campfire, and performed little skits with our cabin mates. We fell in love for the first time, with the dreamy Matt Fisher...remember him ladies?!? He couldn't have been more than sixteen years old, but at the time, he was a real man! We foraged for banana slugs, and ate handmade "hobo-bundles," (potatoes, carrots, and who knows what else)- wrapped in tin foil and cooked over the fire. We started a food fight in the dining hall.... and it was totally worth it. We visited the little store where we could buy granola bars, candy and postcards...if our parents were generous enough to send us with cash. The most awkward portion of camp......wait for it.......shower time. Oh, dread! We, ten year old girls, actually put on our swimsuits to go take showers. God forbid we see each other naked!!! The camp counselors had shed their girlish modesty years before, and all of us little prepubescent girls must have been quite the site: staring, with jaws dropped, at the real, live boobs. (I had already gotten my first training-bra at this point, but let's be honest, it was only because my mom felt bad for me).

All of these memories, hiding somewhere in the back of my mind for the last twenty years; set free as I dropped of my daughter at school today. I had an open schedule for the afternoon, and decided to drive up the coast with my camera. I found Camp Loma Mar, only thirty miles North; and as I walked along the dirt path toward the camp, it was pretty surreal. The old dining hall was still there, although closed. Cabin thirteen was the first cabin on the right, and I could see little sleeping bags through the rectangular windows. I walked through some of the old trees at Memorial Park, and I sat down for a minute on the wooden benches that surrounded the fire pit. It was so tiny! I remember it being so much larger! Little voices screamed with excitement in the background, and it made me think of all of my friends, many of whom I'm still friends with today; and how twenty years has gone by so very quickly. Haley will be going to fifth grade camp in four years....what a trip!

A silly little rant, I know; but it was pretty fun to relive such a fun memory from my childhood in such a tangible way. I have a suggestion for all of you class reunion planners....I say we get together up in the redwoods. Forget Bud's! Let's bring our tents, our Kumba-ya's, and make some hobo-bundles. Maybe even a case of Natty-Lights, just for old times sake. Agreed?

What do you remember from your fifth grade camp? Something you'd rather forget? Let's hear it! :)


  1. I definitely remember Matt Fisher ;) I loved the trip to the ocean and hiking through the woods. I wish I had pictures. It was such a fun experience!

  2. Was it just me that had a memorable shower experience? I talked to Robyn yesterday about all of this, and she said she doesn't remember feeling like that :) Maybe I was just overly modest at that age.

  3. I hope I sent you with money and I recall not wanting you to grow up, so I'm sure you were in need of that training bra we bought at Children's Corner in Davis! LOVE this walk down memory lane!

  4. Mama, of course you sent me with money :) I wasn't in need of that bra, but all of my friends had one, so I got one :) One more walk down memory lane: while bra shopping in the training section, a friend of yours approached with her son (who was about my age). There we stood, training bra hanging from the hanger, everyone staring at it, and then at me. Mortified. <3

  5. Sherida, I do remember feeling very self conscious at "shower time". By that time, I already had boobs (probably a B or C cup)and I have ALWAYS been self conscious about my boobs :( At that age it was embarrassing to have a big chest and I would have rather had NO chest at all. I wore a bathing suit too when it was time to shower. I also remember how sweet it was that my mom put little notes in my bag for me to read while away at camp :) She still does things like that for me!

  6. Sherida - I loved reading your story! I am a long-time Y camper myself, and now the Executive Director of YMCA Camping Services. Its so great to hear about camp's lasting impact! Did you know Camp Loma Mar is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this summer? We are collecting contact info from our alumni to create a directory. If you're interested, feel free to visit the Events page on our website. There's also a place to sign up for our e-newsletter on our Home page if you want to receive info on what's going on at camp. Family Camps, Anniversary celebration, summer camp, there's always something fun in the works. And if that reunion you mentioned comes together, we rent camp out as well! Some other good news - the girls bathrooms now have shower stalls! I was a Y camper too, and those group showers were something else! And no more ghost stories, the world is scary enough. :) Thanks for sharing your memories! We hope to see you at a camp event in the near future!

  7. Thank you so much for your comment, Bria! This post got a lot of feedback outside of this site... it was really fun to read everyone's collective memories. I LOVE the idea of renting the camp! Perhaps you could send me info with pricing and availability?

    Thanks again, and I am so glad to hear you enjoyed reading it :)