I originally wrote this for my friend’s daughter, Anya who was a bit nervous about going on camp. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to publish it before she left. She’s back now and the good news is, she had a great time. I still wanted to share my stories though, so here they are.
When I was 13 and dragged off to year 8 school orientation camp in the middle of nowhere south east of Perth, I had no idea that 18 years later I’d still be thinking about it, let alone the ones before it.
Time and strategic planning has managed to block out much of the horrendous 6am ‘physical jerks’ which I now suspect had less to do with encouraging us to exercise and more to do with some kind of evil retribution on the part of the poor teachers forced to supervise a bunch of rowdy, hormonal teenagers into the wee hours of the morning. But I do till have some good memories, thanks in part to my parents’ willingness to fund pretty much every film I shot under the age of 20.
The idea of camp is kind of scary. I remember so many questions and little fears. What if people made fun of me for something (like my teddy bear)… or worse, (what if they hid him)? Would I get picked on for my sleeping habits (I don’t know if I still do, but I used to sleep with my eyes open). Would I get homesick? Would the food be ok? Would the dreaded start of you-know-what happen? (thanks to Mum I had an enormous case full of things just in case *facepalm*).
And as I got older – would I get to sit next to/hold hands with/dance with/talk to/ go out with (enter cute boy’s name here) and for the love of God don’t let him see me in my pjs or bathers.
But for the most part, going on camp was fun, some more than others. The better ones I went on were the fellowship camps during the school holidays. Sometimes a few people from my school would also go on them but usually it was a mix of other girls from various churches and schools across Perth. The camps were usually held over the Easter weekend and mostly were for recreation and some Bible study (hardly devout, but yes I was a good little Christian girl once upon a time). We’d go on some great outings as well as have a fair bit of free time to explore, read, play. We weren’t allowed music and it was years before mobile phones but we had fun making crafts, catching tadpoles, rehearsing for the talent show and playing mini golf. I know it sounds really old fashioned for 1992/93 but it was actually fun!
The best bit about any of these camps was the tuckshop. All our spending money was held by the camp ‘Mum’ and we could do our ‘banking’ a couple of times a day. The shop always had oodles of 1c and 5c lollies so we’d go nuts. Traditionally, the last night of Easter camp was an official midnight snack night so we’d stock up on as much sugar as possible, as well as any eggs brought from home and the poor 15-16year old counsellors would have to deal with a heap of sugared up little kids for the rest of the night. Bwhahaha.
I’d say that the most exciting and adventerous camps I went on were the youth group ones when I was 13/14. Our group leaders were always a little out there which I guess is kind of important when you’re trying to keep teenagers interested in church. The camps weren’t very churchy at all though, just an awesome way to let off steam. Sadly they’d probably never happen these days though, what with all the public liability insurance and other restrictions.
Beau and Helena had a huge rural property full of horses and trail bikes and other cool stuff. At night-time we’d have a huge bonfire and play lantern stalk* before trying to get away with sneaking into each others tents. Alas, the adults were too switched on to that and the girls ended up having to sleep inside.
In the daylight hours we played chalk chase up on the horse trails, took turns riding the horses and took them swimming in the dam (bit gross actually), tearing around on the bikes (supervised), and watching Ren & Stimpy. To this day if I see Ren & Stimpy, I think of watching it on camp.
It might have only been a couple of weekends of my life, but they were good ones.
There was one school camp that will always make me smile and that’s the graduation camp we went on at the end of year 7 before we headed off to high school. There were the 30 or so kids I’d been to school with for 2 1/2 years as well as students from 3 other smaller classes at our sister schools, most of whom would be joining us at high school a few months later.
It was held at Fairbridge Farm, south of Perth. To be honest, so much time’s gone by since 1993 that I can only remember tiny, insignificant details, so it’s really nice that I still have some photos. Some of the random things I do remember-
The camp started with a trip to the Kalamunda water park. Perhaps aimed at wearing us all out so we slept through the bus trip. I managed to trip walking down a flight of stairs and knock myself out. My girlfriends admonished me because when I came to I didn’t let the gorgeous teenage lifeguard carry me to the first aid room. Haha. Luckily, me and my camera survived, and I was allowed to continue on to camp. Even luckier was I got to go down in a teacher’s car where they force fed me chocolate for an hour. Sure, I was bloody sore, but hey, free Crunchie bars!
I had my first Tootsie Roll and Tootsie pop. American sweets were rare in Western Australia in 1993. It was something out of The Babysitters Club books, so to find them in a tuckshop in the middle of the country was a big deal.
One of my mates stuck a Frij cooler bag on his head and did Marge Simpson impressions.
The canteen staff tried to compensate for not having cocoa pops cereal by throwing some cocoa powder in the Rice Bubble container. Their efforts were not appreciated.
Everyone creeped out everyone else with ghost sightings. Fairbridge Farm is supposedly haunted. I wouldn’t be surprised given its history. Plus, there’s a graveyard next to the chapel.
I tied my very, very long hair into a ponytail and hacked it off with a pair of nail scissors. My teachers were horrified and I don’t think Dad spoke to me for a week after I got home. We had a pretty strict no haircut policy in our house.
Some of us snuck into one of the dorms and tried to short sheet the ‘cool girls’ beds, but didn’t have any pins. Bit of a waste of time really. We did smear toothpaste all over their shower heads though. I suppose that didn’t do much either, but it made me feel a bit better about them all scowling in my waterpark photos. ;P
Anyway, I’ve probably rambled on enough, thanks so much for letting me share my memories with you! Why don’t you share yours with me in the comments?
Til next time,
*I never went to band camp – Come on, I could barely even play the recorder.
* Lantern stalk is a hide and seek game played in the dark. We were in a big paddock with a huge rock or tree stump in the middle. Everyone hides and their gol is to get back to the rock without being detected. If you’re caught in a torch beam then you’re out. Your goal is to be the last one left in the field. It’s a bit like capture the flag I guess.