Gen Xers – You Probably Went to Camp If …

You Probably Went to Camp in The 80s If... (Nostalgia, Remember When, Generation X, 1980s, Sleepaway Camp)

Every summer, many of my Gen X cohorts and I, were carted off to sleepaway camps across the country. We packed our trunks, made sure we had as many flip up collar polo style shirts as possible and headed off for 2-8wks of re-wording pop songs, crushing on counselors with British accents, and dressing up as Madonna and Michael Jackson . This summer I’m going to back to camp, with my kids.

Let me restate that so that you can process it… My kids are going to Camp Lenox in Massachusetts and I’m freakin’ following them — because something is so very wrong with me… and so I can write about the camp experience from a mom’s POV (while I slowly go insane).

Sooo, while thinking about how I’ll survive camp the 2nd time around (as an adult who likes morning lattes and pillow top beds with box springs… and roads), I started to reminisce about what it was like the first time around.

Here it is: Hey Gen Xer, you were probably a camper if…

1.  If you can finish most of these songs:  Shave and a haircut… Everywhere we go-oh people wanna know-oh… John Jacob Jingle… Hello Muddah hello…

2.  If you understand the utter and complete joy of receiving a care package. I mean, equal to winning the lottery kinda joy. And hoped for booty like: Easy Cheese, Pop Rocks, Ring Pops, Dweebs (Nerd’s cousins), Whistle Pops, Wax Bottles, Dots… and the motherload – dry packets of Kool Aid, Jello or Fun Dip.

3. If you went to bed freaked out by some guy named Cropsy or whoever haunted cabin 13 or something that lives in the lake and steals little kids … which a grown up told you about around a campfire (with the sole purpose of scaring the crap out of you).

4.  If you understand that having Canteen Credit is the equivalent of having cigarettes in prison.

5. If you know the other meaning of canteen and you had an actual one. Not some BPA free suction release Camelback, I mean a hard rounded metal container with a cap and a strap.

6.  If shaving your legs was a group activity. I’m talkin’ on the  steps or porch of your bunk with a bucket of cold water (it didn’t stay hot long) a can of shaving cream and 4 or 5 other girls you shared said bucket with *gags* (maybe this is also true for women’s prison – haven’t been there yet, so I can’t say).

7.  If most of your summer jewelry was made of gimp or lanyard.

8. If you blew out fuses every Saturday night before socials drying your hair with your Conair Yellow Bird, your trusty diffuser for your perm or using your awesome Windmere crimping iron that only singed  your hair a tiny bit, so it was worth it.

9. If you can’t recall the smell of the singed hair but would recognize the aroma of your go to hair spray (feather finisher, perm scruncher or bang freezer) ie. Aussie Sprunch Spray, Paul Mitchell Freeze & Shine or Sebastian Spritz Forte’ or  good ol’ Aqua-Net.

10.  If dizzy izzies, suck and blow, the Pepsi challenge, jacks tournaments, an obstacle course, and a rope burn, were a given every summer.

11.  If you have a clear understanding of the 4 food groups: cereal, Popsicles, bug juice, and S’mores.

12. If you ever watched underwear run up a flagpole and prayed they weren’t yours.

13. If you know the tune and words to Reveille and Taps, yet you were never in the service.

14. If to this day the song, Leaving On a Jet Plane makes you cry.

15.  If you were initiated into some cult like group around a fire with chanting and maybe Indian terms or fake names …  and you were not at Waco.

16.  If people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up and you didn’t say President, you said, “color war captain.”

17.  If your mom had tons of those tiny woven pot holders that were too small (and frankly to holey) to ever actually hold a pot.

18.  If you tried to never touch the bottom of the lake because you were pretty certain there were things down there that could eat you. The bonfire stories and your recent Jaws viewing did not help.

19.  If you traveled with a hard-sided trunk that could fit a body. And you knew this because you had to see if you could fit in it before you let your mom pack your stuff.

20. If said stuff you packed included: flip up collar Izods/polo shirts, pleated shorts, striped rugbys, overalls, denim skirts/shorts that were acid washed, stone washed, or shredded and jeans that had to be pegged and tapered to sit atop your scrunchie EG socks and awesome velcro high-tops.

21.  If picking out stationary to take to camp was an actual event. I’m lookin’ at you Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and Precious Moments …

22.  If all your letters on said awesome stationary ended with K.I.T and they were S.W.A.K. and didn’t involve a single lol, ttyl, or lmao.

23.  If you mastered the 2 minute cold shower with your Kaboodles caddy in tow.

24. If your camp mixes trumped any ‘Best Of’ album and they had at least one from these artists: The Bangles, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Micheal Jackson, Foreigner, James Taylor …

25. If you felt your rendition of Like a Virgin and Madonna’s were identical except for the lion. Also, your version was titled Like a Bass Weejun, worn for the very first time and you were flat chested with braces, but they were close.

26. Finally, if you cried for days upon reentry to society as if you could not function without someone addressing you each morning at a flagpole.

How many of those made you nostalgic? What do you remember most?

Please Share with all your camp friends and read the note below!

I think I may have to back out of this summer gig. I jump when I see a spider… I’m screwed. However, you’re not… you can follow the Mom Goes to Camp Experiment on FACEBOOK

(Also, I need a hashtag like #WhatTheFuckWasIThinkingPleaseRescueMe – wait, that’s too long – how about #JennyFromTheBunk ?)
Here’s hoping I don’t break a wedge heel … or get eaten by a bear.
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49 thoughts on “Gen Xers – You Probably Went to Camp If …

  1. Sharon Greenthal

    First of all my brother went to Camp Lenox in the 70’s. The owner Monty Moss was a gym teacher at our elementary school.

    I went to camp in the mid-70’s and remember just about everything on your list. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!

      1. Jamee Keller

        Monty is still there!? I went to camp Lenox in the late 80’s early 90’s… I had the best summers there and would send my son there in a heartbeat!

  2. Lauren

    I never went away to camp, but my best friend used to go every summer and my mom & I would send her the BEST care packages!!

  3. Leah

    Seriously I think being a kid is what I miss most. If I could be an adult kid with no bills I would be happy to take that though! Sadly I am a kid with bills and no more camp trips to go on But…. my oldest son is going this year twice!!

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      Well then you have even more bills and one day he’ll read some post like this and call you and be like “thanks mom you were the best ever, I owe it all to you” So camp is clearly worth it.

  4. Chloe Jeffreys

    I didn’t go to summer camp, but I did go to drug rehab. Maybe if my parents had sent me to summer camp I wouldn’t have needed to go to drug rehab, but that’s another story. Drug rehab is probably a bit like prison, except…well, I can’t think of any exceptions, but I’m sure there must be some. Apparently I didn’t miss much at summer camp that I eventually didn’t get to experience in drug rehab. Except the lake. We didn’t have a lake. I’m sure there were reasons.

  5. Carrie

    Oh, man….what memories!

    I didn’t do camp EVERY summer…but a few. And those songs. UGH! Haven’t thought about them in ages!

    And now, Hello Muddah is stuck in my head thank you very much.


  6. S. David Ross

    Having been at Greenbrier and White Mountain shortly before you, I remember all of them. You forgot the Pugh was a person and not a smell.

    The boys’ bunks were a bit different than the girls’. We had “the ultimate sit-ups” and “rafter ball.” There also was the race to lower the flaps on the cabins as an afternoon thunder storm rolled into the mountains, even though it “never rains at Timber Ridge.”

  7. Felice

    Jenny! I’m going to camp with my kids too! You’re memories of camp are right on and had me giggling- Hope to hear more from you as the summer progresses- good luck:)

  8. Cindy perkins

    Hahaha. I went to Timber Ridge and I recognize a few faces in the picture 😉 Sending my kids there this summer. I remember it all!!!!

  9. Karen

    So funny. Remember most of these things and they seem totally “normal”.

    You aren’t crazy following your kids to camp. I have worked as an adult at an overnight camp for 3 summers, this summer will be my 4th. It is a lot of fun. The crappy beds, constant dirt and lack of lattes or in my case green smoothies is a bit of challenge, but you get into the rhythm of camp and eventually it doesn’t bother you (but you really appreciate those things and a good shower on your day off!). I am web photographer at a camp in Palmer, MA. I am the staff person that most of the parents love because if they are nice to me, I take lots of pictures of their kids and post them. 😉 Good luck this summer.

  10. Halley

    I am a mom that has returned to her old camp from the seventies and eighties. I am on my sixth summer this year. It does take getting used to leaving manicures, Starbucks, heels, and a comfy bed behind. ( and your husband) But let me tell you, it keeps you YOUNG! Watching my kids experience it first hand is great. Although my daughter might need therapy in a few years since I basically ignore her all summer since I am girls head counselor. Have a great time but if your job is anything like mine, don’t expect to sleep!

  11. hope seidel

    i could have been in that picture. the girl above you to the right was my CIT. cute article and long live Timber Ridge!
    -jennifer pollock

  12. Emily

    I just LOVE this post…yes to all of these memories! Not only did we group shave, but we did it in a group shower! We didn’t even think it was weird to not be able to shower privately! Cropsy…hilarious! I still remember one of my friends receiving a care package full of Bubble Yum – she was the envy of the whole camp. You are very brave to be going back to camp (counselor? camp nurse? mom stalker? Kidding!), but I bet it’s going to be an awesome time.:)

  13. Sherri

    LOVED this post and love your blog. I completely know all those songs, the caboodles, the trunk, and canteen credit = cigarettes in prison – so true. Learned to shave in the quintessential group shave… my brother just got married last weekend and his wife’s camp friends mentioned “shaving rock” in their speech at the rehersal dinner.
    I went to Crane Lake in West Stockbridge – we played Lenox in sports. I look forward to hearing about your adventures…. have fun!

  14. cherie

    I’ll have to pull out the Snoopy stationary to send you BDITWA again. What do you want me to send. Comics is what J likes, what do you want? Love ya

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  16. Erik Deckers

    Yes to 18 (I hated swimming in the lake for fear of the little-known but extremely dangerous Indiana fresh water shark), and most definitely to 26.

  17. amystery726

    1) Those songs were around LONG before gen-X (camper in late 50s and 60s). Same for 2-5. In fact, for most of the listed items, just change out a song name or a snack name or similar. Camp, throughout the generations that have gone, was much the same…same words, different melody 😀

  18. Linda

    I went to overnite camp in Maine in the mid-late50’s . Best time of my life! My grandkids now go to camp & we all know the same songs & cheers ( even tho they think theirs are brand new)

  19. Susie Herron klau

    Who remember being bug bait at night. The counselors hated OD so they tortured us.

  20. Rebecca

    You just brought back so many of my memories. I went to Camp Louise in the Thurmont MD and Camp Seafarer in NC, and to this day still remember Chinese Jump Rope, Chinese Jax, Regular Jax, friendship beads and friendship bracelets.

  21. Kim

    This was a great list and what great memories of my camp years. I am back experiencing camp a second time around too with my kids at my favorite place on earth Camp Schodack. It’s incredible having your kids love camp as much as you did and there is no place like camp!

    Wishing you all the best as you return to your camp this summer!

    We can’t wait here – all packs and ready to go!

    Camp forever in our hearts!

  22. Carrie

    Lanyards! Potholders! I loved all of that. My favorite was probably the girls vs. boys flashlight fights where you hoped to run into the cutest boy and get tagged by him. Thanks for the memories. LYLAS, Jenny. 🙂

  23. Rorybore

    I can so relate.
    And I am so so buying some Fun Dip tomorrow.
    I also express gratitude to the boys of summer camp for teaching me enough silly pranks so that I could later survive my first year in an university dorm. I was so winning.
    I blame adults just don’t understand as the reason I cannot go back to either camp, or my former dormitory.

  24. Allison Duncan

    This is so spot on. I went to camp in Northern Wisconsin until I was well into my 20’s and had graduated college. I would still go to camp if I could. My camp friends are still my very best friends. Camping people are a special sort, you only know this if you went to camp. We speak a weird language, sing funny songs and are generally the most easy going people. Camp changes you.

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  26. Drama Queen's Momma

    I LOVE this!! Some of my best tweenage memories are from summer church camp!! Totally shaved in a group in front of the cabins. Hoarded shaving cream cans for the end of the week showering of the boys cabins. We even went as far as dressing some (obviously love struck) boys in our dresses and makeup and parading them around the commons. Yea. Good old church camp. The place where memories are made. Kinda like band camp. Or so I’ve heard…

  27. Elisa

    How about the 3 day rule. If you hadn’t mailed a letter to the parents in 3 days, you wouldn’t get your mail/packages. That was the worst. I’ve actually seen books published about it. Letters like, ” Hi Dad. I’m fine. Love Jacob.” You know you wrote at least one of them!

  28. Parri Sontag (Her Royal Thighness)

    Oh my GOD Jenny, you NAILED this! (except I’m 10 years older and we played Billy Joel, Stairway to Heaven, Yes’ Roundabout). But man you took me back to the group shaving, Cropsy, the songs … what camp did you go to as a kid? Did you go to Lenox? I went to Camp Summit in the Catskills. Are you a fellow member of the tribe? Thank you so much for the few minutes of reminiscing. Dying to know how you’re pulling off going to camp. Are you head counselor or something? And nanny nanny boo boo … I was color war captain … go RED TEAM! And one year I got to do the rope burning, because I was a seasoned Girl Scout. Now I wish you and I would have ended the prom by making everyone put their arms around each other and sing “Friends, friends, friends, we will always be …”

  29. Carpool Goddess

    Great memories, Jenny! I didn’t like sleep-away-camp (but you’ve inspired me to repost my blog about it!) but I did love singing Boom Boom Ain’t It Great To Be Crazy. Remember that one?

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  33. Lyla G

    Oh wow, you had me at Aussie Sprunch Spray. I can smell that sticky grape purple bottle right now! If only I was wearing my Benetton rugby shirt…

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