Monday, November 19, 2012

Camp Meridale, Mississippi - Summer 1929

Before you ASSUME anything, please be advised that the following pamphlet was NOT given to my parents in anticipation of me attending Camp Meridale.  That would necessitate having to change my blog title to:
I'm Not Old, I'm Mrs. Methuselah!

This little missive was stuck in an old book I recently got at an estate sale and it's just fascinating.  Meridian and Lauderdale Counties are sort of in the eastern middle of the state.  And guess what?  The camp is still in existence!  It was started in the 1920's by the Meridian Kiwanis and in 1938 was taken over by the Girl Scouts.  Flush toilets were installed in 1964, so for 40 years those little campers were going "ew ew ew" every time they had to use the outhouses.  In the middle of a Mississippi summer.  EWWWWWW!

Come a-running, girls!  Let's sing the Camp Meridale song!

Even in a camper pamphlet, back in the day they were soooo proper.  All the Trustees and the Governing Board members are addressed as Dr., Mr., Mrs or Miss.  The fortunately married women are, of course, identified by their husband's name.  The poor spinsters got their own name printed.  Sad.
There were several different groups scheduled for the summer camp session in 1929: the Lauderdale County girls, the Industrial girls, the Junior High School girls and the Senior High School girls.  Obviously the Industrial girls are the big lumbering females who couldn't spell to save their lives but they could plow a field better than most men!  It cost $6 per week to attend this camp.  At a reunion dinner they had in 2011, dinner alone was $50.

Do not bring valuable jewelry to camp because you might lose it.  Now they tell you not to bring it because your bunkmate will probably steal it and buy drugs.  And NO care packages from home for homesick campers!  You will eat our dietician-approved meals and can buy "certain amounts" (read: miniscule amounts) of healthy snacks at the canteen.  Fortunately Twinkies wouldn't be invented for another year so not being able to bring them to camp sort of didn't matter. 
Your camp costume will be either knickers or bloomers with shirts or blouses.  BAH HA HA HA!
And bring a dress with you for coming to and going from the camp and for Sunday worship service.
NOOOOOO overalls or long trousers unless you plan on wearing them as a "special costume" at parties.
Oh, and don't forget to bring your musical instruments and Victrola records so you can foxtrot the night away.

Activities To Be Offered:
Swimming (learn to swim, or if you already think you know how, we'll show you how to swim CORRECTLY!)
Nature Lore (learn the names of all the bugs who will bite you the entire time you're at Camp Meridale!)
Dramatics (don't forget to bring those trousers since one of you is going to have to pretend to be a--ugh!--boy.  Sort of reverse Shakespeare, I guess).
Dancing (oh gawd--INTERPRETATIVE DANCING!  Flitting about waving scarves and leaping into the air and then falling into a heap, gracefully.  We had a Modern Dance group at my high school in the 60's.  Same thing except minus the bloomers).
Arts and Crafts (interesting inclusions here: book-binding?  soap carving? blue-printing?  Sounds like what the Industrial girls already know how to do!)
Music (love love love the term "toy orchestra"!  But why "toy orchestra"?)
Sports (here again, the Industrial girls will shine)

Campers could also form a KODAK CLUB or publish a CAMP PAPER.  Because if you suck at sports, can't play a musical instrument, dance, swim, perform, hike or weave a basket, you can go to camp and join the camera club or volunteer at the camp paper, thereby announcing to the world that you're obviously one of the unpopular girls at school who wears glasses, won't have a date to ANY prom and has a raging case of juvenile acne.  You can, however, beat the pants off everybody academically.  Which means absolutely NOTHING when you're suffering through a week of being the camp nerd.

The Daily Schedule leaves little time for relaxation.  Up at 7am, do reveille, take a dip or play a round of tennis, raise the flag, have breakfast, get inspected (????), assemble, first period activities, second period activities--and all this before noon.  Then you meet in your shack for 40 minutes where you say mean nasty things about everyone in the other shacks, take a break for lunch (check your mail, buy some healthy snacks), rest for an hour, get back up for two wild hours of swimming and all that other stuff you did in the morning, have a little free time, lower the flag, and eat supper at 6pm.
Then you can do MORE morning activities minus the swimming, but get this: you can SOCIAL DANCE.  Something evil inside of me wants to say that the Industrial girls REALLY looked forward to this but I'm not going to say that, except I just did.  

Who wants to venture that the only girls attending the "special star talks" were the CAMP PAPER editor and the KODAK CLUB gang?  By 10:01pm I'm pretty sure the campers were already dead to the world.
AND THEN UP AND AT 'EM ON SUNDAY for an early morning hike and weiner roast.  Weiner roast? At 7:45am?  Gag.  When you get back, you are inspected (what are they looking for? Lice?) and go swim, then change into your Sunday frock and worship.  Then eat.  Then sleep.  Apparently family and friends are allowed to visit campers on Sundays for 3 hours wherein they spend that time trying to ignore the screaming and sobbing of little (or big) girls who don't want to stay there one minute longer.

After supper, more star talk and a "special" campfire.  Maybe this is when the interpretative dancers pretend they are moon maidens and get all hot and bothered with the dance they created, "Ode To The Woman In The Moon".
Then at 10pm everyone calms down and hits the hay.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles.  Our version of Camp Meridale was called Hollywoodland and it was (and still is) in the Hollywood Hills between that famous sign that that starlet jumped off of and killed herself and the Griffith Park Observatory (which I have personally visited since in the olden days we used to have school field trips.  You know, when school districts had money).

And I don't care who knows this:  I HATED camp.  There's no joy in struggling into a new bathing suit when you're a fat little kid and then seeing that everyone else in your bunkroom is half your size.  I felt like GODZILLA!  Even the fact that I was far and away the best lanyard-maker in camp history couldn't make up for my week-long fear of hearing the words "SWIM TIME".

Of course now they have camps SPECIFICALLY for fat kids so the stigma of being the biggest girl in your bunkroom is pretty much moot.

Woo hoo!  I'm counting down the days til THANKSMASS!!!!


  1. *Crosses going to camp Meridale off list*
    WHAT NO BOYS? GIRL ONLY?! pffft But I bet just like in ALL the movies there is a boys camp just across the lake right? I most certainly hope so.

    P.s. I totally agree about those 7 a.m. hot dogs? What were they trying to do? KILL PEOPLE?!

  2. LOL! I LOVE your mind, Christine!!

    What's the male equivalent for the 'Industrial Girls'? Never mind, I know! I remember we used to have 'alter boy' picnics that lasted a full day. And being all boys of course, when it came time to play the juke box, we boys were permitted to dance together!!! Yee-haa! It all felt perfectly normal to me...even back then before I knew anything!!

    Can't wait for your Thanksmass stories! Say hi to Mick for me and HAVE A BALL!!

    Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving Christine to you and yours.

  3. Ha Ha Ha!! This reminds me of an awesome movies I just watched called "Moonrise Kingdom" with Bruce Willis, and some other lesser known actors. It is hilarious, but the best part is the camp back in the early sixties!