October 26, 2011

Big Sister Night

I was pretty active in the Boy Scouts in my youth, as well as a good portion of my military career.  Every year I was involved in the ritual that is Boy Scout Summer Camp.  First as a camper for two (maybe three) years and then as a staff member for five.  Camp Wapello was practically in my back yard since I'm from Pulaski, IA.  I also worked up at Camp Mitigwa for three years.  Heck, I lived at Mitigwa for a while before and after the 1991 camping season while I was getting my head straight trying to figure out what to do.  There has been a lot of conflict between the supporters of both camps and my father, an old-time Scouter and Wapello staffer in '65 and '66, has been involved since the get go.

After my OA Induction
This story is from my Junior year and my second(?) year working both camps.  Many things are the same at both camps and a lot of things were different.  Both camps run week-long sessions that start on Sunday afternoon and end Saturday morning.  We have big campfires on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.  The first and last are the opening and closing campfires, while the Wednesday campfire is a family night affair where the Scouts invite their families to see what they've been doing and get to witness the Calling Out ceremony for new Order of the Arrow candidates.  At Camp Wapello, I am part of the Calling Out ceremony. I play the part of the Mighty Chief (his actual name isn't revealed publicly to non-members) and get to arrive at the campfire in a pretty cool manner and give a big long speech before parading around selecting those Scouts who are to be inducted.

Actual card front
At Camp Wapello we commonly refer to Family Night as "Big Sister Night".  Something tells me it's been called that at least since my father's time.  Now Camp Wapello is open for three, four weeks tops, so there are not many Big Sister Nights.  In 1991, after what had to be the first or second Big Sister Night I get mail.  A lot of mail.  Mail Call for a camp of a 125ish campers and staff is usually a couple letters for campers from their mom or maybe grandma.  I get five cards from girls!

Together the cards tell a story of one "Big Sister" that has a crush on me:

"Dear Chris
     You probably don't remember me but I saw you last night during family night at camp wapello.  My brother told me your name.  This really embarassing I've never done this before.  I can't stop thinking of you.  I really loved your part in the skit.  You are so much more mature than the others.  I've told all my friends have made them write you.  I was hoping all of us could go swimming or something Sat.  You do have Sat off Please!!
Till then,

     Boy have you got Pam excited. Oh! I forgot my name is Joan.  There that's done for now the wild part.  Pam can't stop talking about you.  So Pam's folks are taking their van with us 5 to Wapello this Sat.  Pam's brother says you have a good looking bunkmate.  Could you please introduce us.  Thanks
Love ya

This is really far out.  I can't believe we are really writing to you.  When Pam told us about you I really went wild.  I remember you from History Day at Ottumwa 2 yrs ago.  I couldn't attend last year hope you did ok.
     I'm not sure about this swimming thing Sat. but I would like to talk with you.

"Dear Chris,
     Pam told me about you so some of our friends decided to write.  There is going to be 5 of us at your Camp Sat. morning.  We are going swimming could you and 4 other guys take time to go?  Please say yes.
See you Sat.

     I really don't want to do this but Pam is making us.  You can't be as great as she says but I'll be there Sat. to see.

Wow.  At 17 when you've got the full-on hormones going, a letter from an interested girl is an awesome thing to get.  My buddy/bunkmate Chuck was a bit of a horn-dog and totally intrigued by even the passing possibility that I could maybe provide a girl for him the next Saturday.  Mail for staff wasn't common, much less five cards from girls interested in staffers.  News of my score didn't have to go far to travel throughout the camp.

My father was a regular visitor to the camp, so of course he had heard about the letters.  He asked me about them.  I produced the letters and then confided in him.  Something about these letters just didn't add up.  It took me a while to figure out what was off, but then it hit me.  As you read the letters a story emerges that one girl was smitten with me and made her four friends write me a letter.  Obviously she had provided the writing material since all the notes were written on the same blank cards.  All of the letter arrived together, so it is presumable that they were mailed together.  The one glaring issue was that each envelope was addressed differently.  One card was addressed fully, another simply had my name and Camp Wapello.  The other three were somewhere in between, but no two were addressed identically.  I would think that if one girl was making the other four write out a card and they were mailed off together, odds are that either one person would have addressed the envelopes or at least read out the address to the others.

These letters were fake!

My father immediately copped to the prank.  I don't know what he had in store for me, but he plans to salvage his efforts by pulling one over on Chuck.  Chuck is told the girls can't make it that Saturday but maybe the Saturday after.  At the next Big Sister Night Chuck gets called out in front of all the assembled families and one of the other staffers makes some story loosely based on the notes before going on to say that a certain girl was waiting for Chuck in the audience.  My pre-teen sister  steps forward with a small paper bag and exclaims, "If you don't mind Mister, I brought my own candy this time."

Yes, it was pretty lame.  I've pretty much laughed this off as stupid, but it was kind of an asshat thing to do.  I was recalling this story the other day and my wife was actually pissed that he did that.  I don't know, what does the interwebs think?

1 comment:

wjt said...

Thanks for the memories, Chris, and a picture with me in it, too! Some called it that at Mitigwa, too.