1987: 40 Thoughts in 40 Days

If there is one experience that I think EVERY child should have, it's the experience of going away to summer camp.  One week away from parents, one week of weird and strange food, one week of making new friends that you won't be able to stop talking about when the week is over, one week of incredible memories!

For me, my first summer camp experience was at Lake James near Angola, Indiana - and in 1987, I was in Sr. High week with my brother where I had been "welcomed into the fold" by his camp buddies.  Yeah, that was fun.  Going to camp with your older brother and ending up with FIVE older brothers looking out for you by the end of the week.  Thanks guys.  Really.  But I was hoping to actually TALK to that guy....over there...by the picnic table...never mind, he's gone now.

So, anyways...summer camp at Lake James:

Memorial Hall at LJCA - www.ljca.org 
  • Two main buildings - Memorial Hall faced you as you drove in, and what was simply referred to as "the chapel"...because that's what it was used for.  It didn't look like a church, but more like a community center, or a "Morton Building".
  • The Girls' Dorms - One was located near Memorial Hall - Dorm 1 - a girl's dorm.  NOBODY wanted to be in Dorm 1.  Why?  Because the other girl's dorm - Dorm 7 - was back in the woods...near the boys' dorm.  Enough said. 
  • The Boys' Dorms - yes, also located back in that wooded area - but the rules stated that no boys were allowed on the trail that led directly to the coveted Dorm 7 to get to their own dorm, and they would have to take the other trail.  Their dorms were a little longer and had a brick wall in the center splitting the building into two.  Apparently one year, the girls population was higher, and they actually had to put us on one side of a boys' dorm...what?  We were all good boys and girls that year!  I promise!
  • Every morning (unless it was raining) we would meet around the flag pole in the middle of camp doing the pledge thing, the "heads, shoulders, knees, & toes" thing...just getting us awake...then we'd move into breakfast.
  • The days were filled with "team meetings" where we got together with everyone on the team we'd been assigned to with our team leaders...learning something, memorizing Bible verses, planning whatever for the week's talent show...it was a learning opportunity during these times.
  • Interesting tidbit - swimming in (duh!) LAKE James...which just so happened to be the same lake as where my grandparents lived and worked at Pokagon State Park, just on the opposite side.  There was also a house.  On an island.  In the middle of the lake.  Kinda cool.
  • Evenings involved putting on our "Sunday best" before going into dinner, immediately followed by an evening chapel service, and then it was a race back to the dorms to prepare for whatever had been scheduled for that evening...a scavenger hunt, beach party, nighttime hide & seek (our counselors would hide, we'd seek them out), and then, at the end of the night, we'd head down to the beach....
  • Maybe, just maybe I would have gotten a note slipped to me during the day...by a boy...you know, that cute one...from over by the picnic tables...and he'd ask me to sit with him that night at campfire...and do what?  It was a Christian camp for pete's sake.  What did you think we were going to do??
  • Roaring bonfire...sing a few songs, listen to a brief "What have we learned today?" message, final announcements for the day and updates for the next day's activities.  
  • Favorite Memory:  (BESIDES the cute boy?)  All of the campers sitting on the beach around the campfire and we would get really, REALLY quiet at night.  Completely silent.  Not a word.  Just waiting.  Anticipating what was coming next.   All of a sudden, whoever was speaking that night would yell out sharply, "ATTITUDE CHECK!"  That was our cue to yell back "Praise The Lord!"  and then an immediate and complete silence.....as we would listen for the echo from across the lake.  Okay, so maybe it was a "had to be there" moment.
This video was done years after my time at LJCA was over, but he managed to capture it all quite well. If you can sit through a white boy's rap anyway.