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Camp Man - 1944 (Bob Levy)

In the summer of 1943 I went to Boy Scout Camp, Camp Man, one of five camps, one for each of the boroughs, in a huge wooded, lake-filled area southeast of Narrowsburg, the Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camps. To get to scout camp we rode for hours in big old buses (similar to the one in “It-Happened One Night”), with one stop at the Red Apple Rest. The first trip I went with others from my troop, and in all the excitement I left my sleeping bag on the bus. When I went back to get it, it was gone. All sorts of other luggage had been piled by the side of the bus, but not mine. Fortunately I had a couple of blankets in my foot locker, and my friends loaned me some of theirs. The foot locker had come up by Railway Express. In that two weeks I learned to swim, and how to paddle a canoe. I also learned the disadvantages of pit privies, and the advantages of throwing up bad food, rather than letting it get into your digestive tract. They fed us something which was bad, and I threw it up. Most of the others suffered with acute diarrhea for several days. There was always some one getting up from wherever we were, the dining hall, the craft center, or the council fire, and withdrawing rapidly but as circumspectly as possible. Then there’d be the thunder of hoof-beats off towards the privy. At one point things were so bad, there was a waiting line for a seat. It was a six or eight holer, so I also learned that one couldn’t be discretely private about bodily functions.

The following year I went for four weeks, the first two without anyone I knew. I had a better time those two weeks than the following two, because then I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, rather than having to consider what the others wanted to do. Also, as I was a second-year camper, the scoutmaster of our unit gave me a job as a waiter. I had to wait on table every meal, but I never had to pull KP and clean up or set the tables. I also got to eat before all the others, so things were really hot, and plentiful. Eating with the statf also made me more recognizable to them, so when the cooks had a night off, and the units had to cook for themselves, I managed to be invited to share the waterfront staffs surplus of food and also get a canoe after the hours when they were normally available. That year I went on a fourteen-mile hike, a requirement for First Class, the first day of which almost killed me; the first six miles were all uphill, then the last mile was downhill. The second day was much easier, one mile uphill, and six miles downhill. We also went on an overnight to a place where there were two leantos. The one to which we were assigned wasn’t finished, the floor was still just a pile of rocks. So we climbed up and slept on the roof. The only thing wrong with that was that we kept sliding down in our sleep, waking up when our feet and knees were hanging over the edge, and having to squirm back up in our blankets. All the time dreading that we’d roll, right off the roof. No one did, fortunately. The last two weeks in August 1944, the unit I was in was "taken over" by a troop whose leaders had come with them. Although there were enough empty beds so that I could have stayed there, the leaders felt that I would be an "odd spot" in the set-up; doing my own things, waiting on tables (which I had done during the previous 2-week period) and not being part of the group activities. I could understand that, and was moved to the unit in Central where other boys from the troop were. I hadn't really wanted to join them. I remembered how I had been "forced" to run after them, and had consequently sprained my ankle, and lost my sleeping bag. Plus mostly "having" to do things that they wanted to do, rather than that I wanted to do. I was right, those two weeks weren't as enjoyable as the earlier two weeks. The Central unit had 8-man tents, whereas Whipenquok had four man tents, so there was a greater likelihood that someone would want to stay awake and talk, or fool-around. And the boy who was our Patrol Leader back in the city felt that he should decide what we'd do. If you sense a strong gripe on that, you're correct. I didn't stay in the troop for long after that. I think that two weeks of camp cost about twenty-two dollars, and that included the bus fare to camp. How they got the gasoline I don’t know, I guess that bus companies were allocated enough so they could stay in business. I have no idea how the camp got their food. I have no recollection of having to send in ration stamps, nor were we asked for any while we were at camp. But the food wasn’t bad, either in quality or quantity.

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