I recently spent five days in the place I called home as a teenager – Ten Mile River Scout Camps. It was a phenomenal experience. I saw people I haven’t since the 80s.
We went to the remains of our favorite sites: Chappegat Hill, Kunatah, Picture Window, and Indian Cliffs. I can safely say for myself and the rest of the gang I was with, those sites will always be holy to us. Most of them are no longer operational. Being there flashed us back to our youth. That’s when the trails were teeming with scouts climbing the trail to Eagle.
While in camp, I spoke to current staff and campers. I relayed what we did. Bear in mind, this is when the whole world was not striving to be 100 percent politically correct. We were boys being boys. We wore our scout uniforms, Champion tee and sweatshirts, OP shorts, Gotchas, and other 80s fashion. We blasted Squeeze’s “Pulling Mussel’s from the Shell” out of our leantos. If we won our competitions, earned our merit badges we got to go to Carousel Park, Beach Lake, Pa. and ride go karts and dune buggies. We got to eat the “red sauce” in the now closed El Monaco’s, White Lake, N.Y.
We gave each other nicknames. They were based on how we looked, acted, and smelled. Some kids never showered. I’m sure that’s still the case. We roughed it. We threw each other out of canoes. No one ever got hurt. We all knew how to swim. In the middle of the night, we raided each other. We had food fights.
We had a five-seater tip pan latrine (the willy). Everyone sat down together to go. We played baseball in the willy. Scoring was based on what we produced… We took ice cold showers. That’s until we “housed” a hot water heater from an abandoned site. We ate gross camp food. Thankfully they still do.
Kids that misbehaved in the dining hall were “nuked”. They had to scrub the place after the meal or wash pots when we concluded our weekend BBQs. Some scouts spent all Saturday night at the willy’s sink scrubbing. As a camper and staff member, I dished out and suffered the punishment.
On our canoe trips, as we paddled down the Delaware River, we loaded up our canoes with dead fish. At different points, we bashed each other over the head with the fish. I still long for a dead fish fight.
While I was sitting in the new Keowa Dining Hall, I spoke about these memories with those around me. Their jaws dropped wide open. No one could believe me. Some were grossed out. I guess dead fish fights and old school willys don’t appeal to all. These days, the camp has flush toilets and traditional showers. I’ve heard their canoe trips are more traditional.
These days, the scouts have fun. Lots of fun. It is a little different. But it is their fun. They are creating memories. They are soaring to the rank of Eagle Scout. Whose memories are the best? That is in the eye of the beholder. One day, these scouts will come to alumni events and tell their stories to the young staff and scouts. I’m sure things will have changed during that course of time. How much? Time will tell.