My experiences as a camp counselor in New Jersey were very valuable to me. It was there that I learned all kinds of life skills. I had lived a very sheltered life from ten to eighteen years of age. The only place I had traveled to was a college in Oklahoma. It was a Christian college. I had no car and rarely left the campus.
When I traveled on a bus to Port Authority in New York City, I was truly on my own and totally free. It was strange to taste freedom after all those years. From New York City, I traveled by car to a Camp in the Kittatinny Mountains of New Jersey. It was nestled in a forest by a lake. My luggage was lost on the way. I was dressed in a dress and shoes not suitable for hiking in the woods. The camp staff took me to a storage room and outfitted me in slacks, shirts, poncho, and sturdy hiking shoes. I was given a “ditty bag” made of canvas to carry only the essentials: a big pocket knife, a compass, a tin cup, and a pen. I left my own belongings in a storage box. From there, I was taken to the lodge to meet the Director and the other counselors for orientation. We were assigned to small camps and for two weeks, we lived as the campers would live, close to nature with the bare essentials. We slept in tepees, round-tos, covered wagons, and lean-tos.
I was assigned to the small camp of Awanasa and lived in a tepee for three months. I slept in a single bed covered with several army blankets, a pillow, sheets, and a mosquito net that hung down over my bed. I would discover the nights were cold and the mosquitos plentiful when dusk fell. I shared the tepee with other counselors. I drank from a tin cup I carried in my “ditty bag.” Drinking water was stored in a large tin can that had a hole drilled in the side of it, close to the bottom. A whittled stick was pushed in the hole. When I wanted a drink, I went and pulled the stick in and a stream of water dribbled out. It was called a “dribble can.” If I needed to go to the bathroom, I used a latrine. It was a small wooden structure with a door. Inside was a wooden seat with a hole in it. The first night was spent around a campfire. I was taught how to identify the sounds of animals in the forest, what the names of the stars were, and how to orient oneself if lost in the woods. I learned campfire songs I would later teach to the campers when they arrived. They were positive, inspirational songs. I went to sleep hearing the birds settle down for the night. The sounds of the locusts and frogs filled the air. (To be continued in Part Two.)