Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Sensations

Well, it's finally happened. The earth has passed through space and crossed the apparant path of the sun. In so doing we have crossed the imaginary point in space known as the summer solstice, thus signalling that the beginning of the hottest season of the year (for those us blessed to live in the Northern Hemisphere) is officially here. As any school child can tell you, summer is the best season. It's the season of extended recess and recreation. For those who can still slalom, it is a time for waterskiing. For those of who can't slalom, it's an opportunity to witness those who can. And for those who enjoy the outdoors, it a verdant time to commune with nature. Ah, summer. So many songs have been written about this wonderful time of year. From the insipid ("Summertime, Summertime" by the Jamies) to the introspective ("Summertime" by George and Ira Gershwin). When I was a youth, I eagerly looked forward to summer. It was my vacation away from my parents and a time for me to have real fun. Not that summer day camp wasn't okay. I enjoyed my time at the JCC, but then, fortuitously, I was asked to leave. It wasn't that I was a bad kid or one inclined to mischief. It's just that I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a catastrophe happened (and it frequently did), I usually wasn't far away and so took the blame for what I would consider minor infractions. The last straw was an apparent impromptu strip show, where several young toughs decided to teach me a lesson and threw me unclothed outside of the men's locker room to the disgust and dismay of the swimmers in the pool and on the deck a floor below. So, it was off to summer camp for me, a blissful place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina -- Camp Blue Star. I took to Blue Star as a pig takes to...uh, it is a Jewish camp, so let me rephrase that. I took to Blue Star like a rebbe takes to a yeshiva. I was in my element and I was able to experience the wonders of nature close up and personal. Nice. For seven years I went to Blue Star as a camper and each summer I spent eight glorious weeks in a cabin and enjoying the program they had set up there. We swam in an outdoor lake, not a pool. It took getting used to, but for me, water is water. I had no problem adapting. And as to campcraft, I was a regular wizard. I was the youngest Junior Instructor for campcraft that the camp had seen at that time. It is little wonder that Scouting seems to still be such a draw to me. Blue Star had some great programs including putting on theatrical productions of a very high caliber. I became a fixture there and several of the counselor fought over who got stuck with me. (Trust em, though, there were worse.) One of my former camp counselors, Macy Hart, left Blue Star around 1969 and became the first director of Camp Henry S. Jacobs in Utica, Mississippi. That's important to know because my son attended Jacobs 25 years later for several years. So, he got to know Macy well too. Another counselor, Jerry Himmelstein, became the Anti-Defamation League director in New Orleans, but he and his wife Linda left after Hurricane Katrina to live in New England, last I heard. The summer offered times for me to get to know the girls that attended the camp and I am thankful for those experiences too. I still have several friends I remember from Blue Star and a few from the New Orleans JCC Day Camp. My son treasures his past summers at Henry S. Jacobs and now his girlfriend is working for the summer guessed...the JCC Summer Day Camp. Small world, but isn't summer great?

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