On hot summer afternoons, I often recall the cool, pleasant days at the girls’ camp I attended during the 1930s in Maine. Our camp was at the foot of Day Mountain, five miles from Temple and ten miles from Farmington. It was a beautiful location.
Day Mountain Camp had its own small lake – no heated swimming pool for us! The lake water was cool and refreshing.
Girls’ camp was in session for eight weeks, and most of us returned every year. We were loyal to our own camp; we never dreamed of attending another. I went there for seven consecutive summers, and I looked forward to it during the long winters spent at school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
August began with “Parents’ Weekend,” marking the halfway point of the summer season. Parents stayed overnight in town and had most of their meals at the camp. They witnessed competitions in horseback riding and tennis, along with the cooler activities down at the lake, where we had swimming and diving events, as well as boat races.
We decorated rowboats and canoes for a parade of “floats” depicting such themes as “The Old Woman Who Lived in A Shoe” and “Rub-A-Dub-Dub Three Men in A Tub.” Parents were called upon to judge the floats and award the prizes.
Day Mountain Girls’ Camp was without electricity and running water, and campers were required to drag heavy pails of water into their cabins from a pump a short distance away. Two girls shared a pail of clean water, pouring it into a wash basin as needed. A second pail was provided for the soapy water, and this pail had to be emptied before the counselors made their daily rounds for inspection. We washed our hair in the lake, using a bar of ordinary hand soap, preferably a brand that floated!
The counselors used the lake as a means of punishment, as well as an area of instruction and fun. For minor offenses, such as talking during rest hour, girls were required to pull weeds from the tennis courts for 20 minutes at a time. For more serious “crimes,” such as talking after Taps or standing up in a canoe, campers were punished by “Morning Dip for Three Days,” in which all who had been sentenced to “morning dip” were rounded up before breakfast and marched down to the lake. We wore bathrobes over our bathing suits, and we carried soap and a towel. Nobody did much swimming – the idea was to wash quickly and get it over with, as the water at that early morning hour was almost unbearably cold.
On hot summer days in the city, I become nostalgic thinking about Maine and those cool summers of my youth. And if it came to a choice right now, I would prefer to go in for a cold “morning dip” rather than have to weed that tennis court under the hot sun.
Read more reader-submitted summer memories in Memories of Summer Fun.