Column: With summer camp food, there was no fooling girls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2001

A friend of mine, who lives near St.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

A friend of mine, who lives near St. Louis, had a birthday Sunday. She’s six months younger than I and our friendship dates back to our first day at school. So I telephoned her Monday to congratulate her on her special day and to indulge myself in remembering with someone who could remember with me.

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We talked of many things, her parents, mine. She was a member of the Camp Fire Girls Group of which my mother was a leader. On a visit to Mary Liz, I remember her telling her husband, &uot;Mrs. Cruikshank was the toughest leader in the city and there were lines of girls trying to get into her group.&uot;

When we talked Monday, Mary said, &uot;We were no angels, but she never lectured. Was she that way with you, too, at home?&uot;

&uot;She used to take a curtain stick to me now and then,&uot; I said. &uot;She never raised her voice and she never lectured.&uot;

After our conversation ended I found myself thinking of how most of the leaders and teachers and other adults rarely conversed without lecturing.

The camp where most of the Nebraska Camp Fire Girls spent a week in June was on the Blue River near Crete, Neb.

I wasn’t a Camp Fire Girl the first time I went there with the Camp Fire Girls, but three of my older friends were. I longed to be old enough to be one of them.

Hearing my three friends discuss what they had to take with them to the camp and what they would be doing when they got there threw me into a state of mind not serious enough to be called clinical depression, but a sort of a moult.

Fortunately for me my three Camp Fire friends took up the case with their leader. A friend of my mother, she telephoned to say that while I was still too young to join the group, if my parents were willing to pay the camp fee she’d be willing for me to join in the week of camping.

I loved the camp. I shared my joy in it with my friends my own age when I came home. Camp Fire leaders were few and far between. All of my friends liked my mother. We thought she might consent to be our guardian.

We approached her one by one, two by two, and finally in a group of eight, the required number for a new group. She looked at us with dull loathing, sighed twice and consented.

My mother was an outdoors woman in the sense that she swam daily in the summer time and spent hours in her garden.

She regarded going forth to sleep in a cabin, standing in line with a tray for your meals and pumping water to drink, when you could be home enjoying your creature comforts, a form of insanity.

On top of which the food at the camp was undeniably bad. Everyone complained about it and the leader of the camp, who led devotions every morning, lectured endlessly about how we should all be thankful for the good food we were getting. &uot;I wonder if you girls realize that our cooks have come from some of the finest hotels in Lincoln. Have been given time off just to cook for you lucky campers.&uot;

She also said that while it was possible we might find ourselves feeling a little hungry at times that wasn’t because we weren’t getting enough food. It was the result of the fresh air and exercise we were getting that we didn’t get at home.

I remember toward the end of the week, my mother carrying her tray over and sitting on a bench overlooking the river to eat her rather sparse breakfast. A group of other leaders joined her.

They were gung ho campers. They were saying things like, &uot;I listen to no complaints about food from my girls.&uot; &uot;I tell my girls that we have excellent food. They should be thankful.&uot;

My mother didn’t say anything. Several members of her group were within hearing distance, but I don’t think she realized. Presently one of the leaders, perhaps, a little uncomfortable in face at my mother’s silence, asked her, &uot;Don’t you tell your girls that we have good satisfying food?&uot;

My mother stared down gloomily at the crumbs from her breakfast. &uot;I’d not be wasting my time on it,&uot; she said. &uot;The girls in my cabin are extremely intelligent.&uot;