Reversing the Numbness

Friday, April 20, 2007

Camp Days

From the time I was in seventh grade to my final year of high school, I went to a church camp called Camp Luther with my buddy the Lutheran. I still find it hard to believe that the place existed.

It was held in the beautiful hills of Cowen, West Virginia, and in many ways it was like any other church camp. We had daily devotionals, sang "Pass it On" around camp fires, played four-square and basketball and softball, ate together in a cafeteria ... those things probably happened at every single church camp that has ever existed.

But, man ... there were some ways that it was very much different, at least once we were in high school and made it up to senior camp. For example:

Smoking? No problem. Anyone in senior camp, including campers, was allowed to smoke at will. Camp counselors would pick up cigarettes for the kids when they went into town. The barn that held our morning devotionals had a smoking section one year.

Making out? No problem. We had two dances during the week, one on Tuesday, and one on the last night, which I believe was Friday. During these dances, every year, I openly made out with whoever my girlfriend of the year was. (Classy!) The dances always ended with "Stairway to Heaven" (what else?), and one year I remember making out with Jannasue Owens for the entire duration of the song.

That same year, there were two girls to every guy in senior camp. This meant there would be a chance that some girls didn't have boys to dance with. How was this resolved? The camp administrators organized a simple game of flag-chase. Every boy attached two flags (think flag football) to their wastes, we all got out in a field with all of the girls, and at the whistle, everyone started running. Whichever two girls got your flags were your two dates to the Friday dance. I got very lucky and scored Jannasue Owens and her blonde friend, but it was Jannasue I ended up sharing that memorable last dance with.

Cussing? No problem. We could say whatever we wanted to say in camp. No swear word was off limits, even during religious discussions. I remember hearing counselors and pastors swearing. One year we had a skit night, and the raunchiness of the skits was astounding. One involved a remake of I Love Lucy that involved a live theme song touting a specific body part that was "so nice and juicy." One girl played Lucy, one guy played Ricky, and they used a can of whipped cream as a prop.

Simulated sexual acts by high-school kids? No problem.

This sounds far-fetched, but it's absolutely true, and I'm sure there was more crazy shit that I just can't think of right now. The place was just an anomaly. My pal Raoul Duke was there when he was younger, but he bailed before the good stuff happened. Still, he always heard the stories. I'm still great friends with my buddy the Lutheran's older brother, and he was there -- he can vouch for this.

I really don't know what their reasoning was for allowing, and sometimes encouraging, this sort of thing at a church camp, of all places, but I'd guess it had something to do with the belief that if they just let the kids actually be themselves, maybe they'd open up and learn something. I'm not the church-going type now, so I don't think that tactic worked, but one thing's for certain: as far as I was concerned, Camp Luther ruled, and going there was the single most highly anticipated event of the year for me.


Mom! Toilets blogged! said...

Errr Uhhh, can you get me directions to this wonderland you call Lutheran church camp?

getto said...

And then... this one year... at band camp...

Zee said...

Wow. I so totally missed out being raised Catholic (OK, it was softball, so go ahead, hit it out of the park.....)

Raoul Duke said...

ahh, Sleekpelt. once again reminding me of that wonderful place and the fact that I missed out on my senior years after going all 6 years before. What was I thinking?! Oh, and I do remember Jannasue, so that must have been before I left.

What a magical place that was. I remember being sad for weeks after I got home and wrote tons to all my camping buddies.
I am still the KING of FOUR SQUARE.


Raoul Duke said...

that pic is the hill from junior to intermediate camp if I am not mistaken.

SleekPelt said...

Queue up the soundtrack.

Mom: WV SR 119 South to Birch River, then head left and drive until you see the time warp to 1988. You can't miss it.

geto boy: I know of no flute incidents at Camp Luther, but there was a guy who spent an evening creating fireball projectiles with tampons and rubber bands. I don't know how he was doing it, exactly, but he was getting some air with those mothers.

zee: I only like to swing when the pitcher gives his all.

raoul: I still don't know what you were thinking when you stopped going to that place. And yes, I first met Jannasue when you were still there. She was my camp girlfriend for a couple of years.

It really was magical, but what's funny is that the magic only really existed there. There were several occasions where I met up with friends or girlfriends from there outside of camp, and it was never the same.

I specifically remember waxing you at four-square. I think you're right about the photo.

josh williams said...

WHo would have thought a hip Lutheran Church Camp?

Winters said...

Sounds like fun, Sleekpelt.

My brief experiences of camping excursions with youth organisations was very tame and dull in comparison.

Mom! Toilets blogged! said...

Heck Winters, my entire life seems tame and dull compaired to the church camp.

Where's the remote?


josh williams said...

Now that you are married and have a family it must be a relief not to have to use the "when I was in church camp" routine while picking up the babes.

SleekPelt said...

josh: It was an anomaly for sure.

winters: Tons of fun, mate.

mom: But I bet those years on Dead tour were pretty interesting.

josh: I always preferred the "Do you live around here often?" routine.

Mom! Toilets blogged! said...

Oh yea! I forgot all about all those Dead shows.

Thanks for the memories


Rob Zero said...

"Jannasue Owens"

Was he hot?

SleekPelt said...

Rob: I'll assume you accidentally left off the 's'; and I'll let Raoul Duke answer your question, as he's an unbiased source. (The answer is yes.)