“The following boys DO NOT have care packages in today’s mail,” I remarked with sarcasm one day, pointing to some campers right in front of me. “All the rest of you, DO.” Everybody understood my angst, the community having come to the realization that the candy shipment issue had reached the tipping point.
Years ago, I saw this day coming. A gleaming, new, white van bearing the words “Federal Express” pulled onto the property. I was right there and quizzically asked the driver what this company was all about. Quite a commotion ensued as a large gang assembled and soon surrounded camper, Ryan, holding a modest sized parcel which had been driven all the way from Burlington, Vermont – 150 miles away. He tore open the envelope and there, staring all of us straight in the eye, was – drum roll, please – a single package of Fruit Roll-Ups!
“Ah for the days when children worked in coal mines, and life was a beautiful thing.” These are not my words, but those of an old-time industrialist of a long bypassed era. But, it was not that long ago when children were not subjected to constant coddling by over-clinging parents. Since this blog is dedicated to candy shipments from home, exclusively, I won’t wander from the topic. Yet, there was a time when packages of any food-related ilk were completely verboten at camps, all of them. Try sending edibles to a child and they were unceremoniously shipped back home, COD.
Naturally, some parents attempted, even then, to subvert the rules. One camp director friend, he of persuasion far more strict than I will ever be, regaled me in a couple near-success stories by zealous moms and dads. One parent helped his son completely fill his fishing rod tube with candy. Another allowed a boy to squirrel away some goodies in the bottom of his sleeping bag. “Elementary seizures, for us,” remarked my buddy. Did anyone ever successfully buck the system, I had to know? “Yes, once,” he admitted. “A pious parent sent his son off to camp with a Bible, the inside of which was hollowed out to allow for several rolls of life-saver candies,” he offered with a shrug.
Now, for some personal stories: In the days of my camp youth, everyone’s most treasured possession was a light blue card, about the size of a credit card, which had a ring of 5’s around its circumference. This was our “Camp Norway Canteen Card,” as it was labeled, and was good for one 5 cent punch no more than two times per week. “During good behavior,” I might add, as our candy cards, as we called them, were clever disciplinarian devices as well. “Hand over your candy card” was a sentence worse than the electric chair!
So, we learned to live without too many sweets at camp. Truth be known, as I grew into counselor status, I, too, learned to use the lure of sweets to impose order, if not my will, on the campers in my charge. “There is a McDonald’s at the top of this mountain,” I ‘d tell complaining hikers. “Oops, wrong summit,” I would eventually admit, adding, “I think McD’s is on the peak we are climbing tomorrow.” Cruel, maybe, but boys soon caught on to the humor, stopped griping, and learned to relish the camaraderie.
Sometimes, too, games involving sweets were of absolutely no purpose other than to tease the kids, not a bad idea in any age. The “Infamous Wipfler Cookie Raffle” comes to mind. So, what to do with one last remaining dessert cookie at a round table with nine people? “Place your right elbow directly on the edge of the table, and grasp your right earlobe with thumb and forefinger,” I ordered as the cookie was positioned in the exact geometric center of the proceedings. “One, two, three – GO” was the command, and, if you must know, I can never remember a cookie surviving the ensuing wrestling match!
Now, what about watermelon rinds, the title of this blog? On camp overnights, nothing gave us counselors more secret pleasure than quietly collecting all the toss-aways, cutting them into small pieces, and placing them in a bucket. “Hey, kids, want some of the candy we confiscated from so-and-so,” we would holler? Then we would toss the rinds into the night air! With sweets being such a rarity at camp, we could enjoy telling this story over and over again.
BLOG NOW SERIOUS: Yes, I am trying to make this essay entertaining. But, seriously folks, a lot can be said for today’s care package blitzkrieg being over the top, indeed way too much of a good thing. Today at Kingswood, campers still get tons more of sweets than we ever did as kids. Desserts at dinner are common and plentiful. Birthdays are celebrated with ice cream and cake “FOR ALL”, as Nick Farrar would say. The head inspector invites nearly all cabins to her weekly ice cream party, doling out huge portions to those kids whose cabins attained good grades. The boys, knowing this, do, indeed, clean up in the mornings. Trips go out to Fat Bob’s ice cream stand all the time, honoring both winning teams and good Samaritans. Money is handed out at places like the Fourth of July parade, the North Haverhill Fair, and the Whale’s Tale Water Park. It is not spent on souvenirs!
With all of the above securely in hand, basically guaranteed, boys go for the jugular, pulling on your heartstrings and playing to your parental sensitivities: “Dear mom and dad: Everybody in my cabin has five care packages. Please send me…..”
BLOG NOW SEMI-SERIOUS: Hey, this can be the first “circular blog” ever recorded. Go back to the beginning and keep re-reading this blog until it totally sets in that both camp and its parents need to make some changes in care package procedures.
BLOG NOW VERY SERIOUS: The best idea I have heard so far is that we limit the number and size of foodstuff shipments to boys. The new policy is addressed in detail via the General Information Packet, due to go into the mail this week. I will post the specifics in a separate blog later this week. Be looking for it and be prepared to follow its advice!