Camp Ataloa

Camp Ataloa

Camp Ataloa: I was 12, soon to be 13, and going in to 8th grade the first year I went to Camp Ataloa, a Baptist camp in Ocean Park, Maine. Campers were required to wear uniforms – white middy blouses with green ties and green shorts. I suppose we wore sneakers, but I don’t remember that for sure. I loved the anticipation and preparation: shopping for the uniforms, having my Aunt Dot sew labels in all my clothes, knowing it was a big deal to be going away from home (Aunt Florine’s didn’t really count.) for the first time.

The setting was perfect: canvas-sided tents on wood platforms in a clearing surrounded by pine trees, the ocean just blocks away. There were eight of us to a cabin, sleeping in four bunks. I chose a lower one. I really liked my counselor , and got along well with my cabin-mates. I knew two other girls from church, but they were in different cabins.

What I have remembered most through the years are all the camp songs which I enjoyed. I’ve taught them to pupils, sung them to myself when trying to stay awake on a long drive. I loved Bible study and also the evening campfires. Probably there were crafts, but I don’t remember them or sports. I didn’t mind the pool swimming lessons until the day I couldn’t make myself take the jump that would lead to my intermediate certificate. We went to swim in the ocean several afternoons, which was a real treat, and one evening we sat on the beach and witnessed Aurora Borealis.

Being an only child, I wasn’t all that comfortable about dressing and undressing around the other seven girls in my tent. But I think all of us kept our backs turned and maneuvered modestly. It’s where I learned to slip off a bra while still wearing my blouse. Unfortunately peer suggestion got me to shave my legs for the first time which I probably could have put off for years, having blond hair. I don’t remember taking showers, though I must have, and I can only think that I disliked them because we always took baths at home.

As I recall, we came to the dining hall as a cabin, and if a group came late to a meal, the rest of us would sing , “You’re always behind, just like an old cow’s tale. When Gabriel calls on judgment day, you’ll be the one to hear him say, “You’re always behind just like an old cow’s tale.” We sang grace as a round: “For health and strength and daily food, we give Thee thanks, O Lord.”  Sometime during the meal, one group would start, “We are table number one, where is number two…” And so on. As you can tell, if there was singing I loved it. As a picky eater, though, I didn’t really like the food, but fortunately there was always white bread and peanut butter available on the table. Strange to say, I never had peanut butter at home. And how about the time the whole camp got sick from the Sunday turkey dinner which followed a church service in a wonderful tabernacle in the pines?

But I was homesick, a feeling whichhas plagued me through life. I looked forward to mail, and my family and friends were good about writing letters, but I still wondered what was going on at home. What was happening in the neighborhood? Were my parents okay? I had the mistaken feeling that if I were there, everything would be all right. If I were not there, maybe something bad would happen. I missed my cat. Actually, I missed my Teddy bear even more.

But looking back through the years, I can honestly say that camp was a huge learning experience and mostly a pleasant memory.

© Dorothy C. Judd

Next post: Thursday, August 8th

 

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About twofelines

What to say? I love my family and friends. I also love kids, cats, and books. Oh, and potato chips and Cheez-its. I am a retired teacher who still loves to be in the classroom, so now I am a substitute teacher.
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6 Responses to Camp Ataloa

  1. Ann says:

    I adored camp, as a camper and then as a junior counselor (we were called TGs, for Trusted Girls..) It was the Luther Gulick Camps, South Casco Maine. The boys’ camp was Timanous, the little girls’ camp was Little Wohelo, and for teens, Sebago Wohelo. I was 12 1/2 the first summer, and ‘majored’ in the mornings in drama. It was so magical, I can’t tell you. My sister stayed on as a counselor for quite a few years, in charge of the silversmithing and jewelry cabin, which led to her career as a Master Craftsman, then a school librarian. She’s now a sculptor, in bronzes. Swimming in icy Lake Sebago (it’s how we showered those years, early in the morning, skinny dipping.) For me, being naked in front of others was very hard, but I liked feeling clean even more. I still remember the freedom of climbing back up on the dock, wet, to soap up and shampoo – then jumping in to swim the soap off, our bodies squeaking with the clean, soft water. Camp now has showers of course. (The environment.) Some buildings had electricity, but as campers and counselors we used flashlights for 8 weeks. No radios. I loved it! The Luther Gulick Camps were begun by Timanous and Hiatini, their Native American names; they had founded the Campfire Girls. The songs and weekly council fires were wonderful. People came from all over to see council fires, and our end of the summer water sports day when all the canoes and Tech dinghies were pulled by Halsey in his motorboat, around our area of Lake Sebago and Frye Island, became famous and were featured one year in National Geographic. I could go on and on, but camp summers gave me peace and calm, a grounding, self-worth, and confidence. Being away for 8 weeks each summer helped us so much.

  2. Ann, what wonderful, specific memories. You describe it so well, I feel like I was there!Thanks for sharing.

    • Ann says:

      Dorothy, if it weren’t for your wonderful blogs, I wouldn’t be writing much any longer. Your memories pull my own out of the air! We’re the same age, and had some similar experiences, and our university in common, but our lives were very different! Thank you. 🙂

  3. Carol D'Agostino says:

    The only summer camps I attended were Girl Scout or Brownie Camps not far from home. I wasn’t anxious to leave home. So I missed out on this experience. Seems you are glad you went.

  4. Connie Jackson says:

    Hi. What a joy to read about your camping experience. I too went there for several years but maybe after you as we had buildings vs canvas tents. My memories also revolved around that pool and having to jump off a tower to graduate. The stinging in my nose is hard to forget. .We also had vespers in the woods and was awaken to ma butler each morning for flag raising. Food..hmmm we had the same chants and lots of some concoction we called “bug juice”. We also could chose classes to attend like comparative religions….as well as arts and crafts. I did take a drawing one. Uniforms were a white button short sleeve with a round collar and blue shirts. White sneakers but no tie. Also our embroidered patch we received was pinned on the left side. Now I had a real crush on one of the lifeguards but he ended marrying my counselor who also was the daughter of my church pastor. Oh well….lol. I have take my husband back and they made a lot of changes but I really wanted him to see the pool. It was filled inm in 1975 which kind of made me sad as it was so unique. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. CJ

    • twofelines says:

      Connie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment. It sounds like Camp Ataloa made some updates since my time there (July 1952 and 1953), but I imagine the excellent spirit was still there. I like the idea of classes as well as Arts and Crafts, maybe because A and C was never my strength.
      Happy New Year to you.

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