Camping out in the summer of 1948The first year of college was over, summer was coming and what to do with it was the big question. It seemed fate jumped in to solve the problem.
By: Nancy Zuehlke, Special to the Daily Globe, Worthington Daily Globe
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part column.
WORTHINGTON — The first year of college was over, summer was coming and what to do with it was the big question. It seemed fate jumped in to solve the problem. Well, at least for a short time. Someone asked if I would like to be a counselor at a Girl Scout camp. That sounded like fun — you know, sun tanning, swimming, hiking, canoeing … and on an island as well. Yeah, let’s go for it!
Never mind that I had no training as a Girl Scout or that I had never been to camp as a child. Never mind the fact that I had little experience babysitting. Never mind that there were no other younger siblings at home. The fact is I probably knew more about sun tanning than scouting. That’s what is cool about youth — confidence.
Have you ever been to camp when you were young? If not, perhaps your children or grandchildren have stories of their adventures. Why not come with me to Camp Tepeetonka, the summer of 1948. Come along as we get on the bus with a load of squirrely girls.
You will need to pack a bag and bed roll. Packing a bag for camp was a bit different for me than an excursion to Minneapolis. Mom was a big help to remind me of bug spray, calamine lotion and aspirin. Yes, everything I needed was in the bag. Don’t forget the mallows and Hershey’s!
Let us head for the South Dakota shore about 18 miles up from Big Stone City, on the west side of the lake.
We’re now getting into a boat to leave for the island. As we embark, my thoughts are exploring how this experience came to be. This trip was as new to me as it was to these girls I was in charge of. I was worried, but never fear — everything I needed was in my bag.
The cool mist of water on your face is coming from the lake water splashing against the boat as we head for the island. The island — Manhattan Island — is one of many in Big Stone Lake. Years ago, it was named Eahtonka by the Native Americans, and now, to my knowledge, is privately owned.
When we arrive at the island, there is much confusion as the Boy Scouts from Sioux Falls are nearly ready to leave on the same boats and buses that we arrived in.
It is a well-known fact that timing is a key to many facts of our lives. The right time and the right place, or the wrong time and the wrong place. Well, if door prizes were to be given that day, I would have won hands down.
In the excitement of being in charge of six eighth-grade girls, I set my bag and bed roll down in the wrong place. That place was too close to where the Boy Scouts were loading and, yes, it went off on the bus. Everything I needed was in the bag. Away went my camp clothes, my bed roll. My toiletries. Wow! Silly me, I thought all of you people could have stopped that!
It was hard enough getting used to camp and finding my way without my bags and six girls asking me what to do. Then, I found out that on one night I was supposed to take the girls on an overnight in the woods. Well, already I was worried because I thought I saw something shining in the woods and had no idea what it could be. Wednesday was our day for the open road, and I did not have a clue where to go or what to expect. I just kept looking at the woods and wondering what those twinkling lights were. Of course I knew what fireflies were, but in the daylight?
The girls were excited about this venture and talked about telling ghost stories and such. To them there was not a worry about bugs, rain or smoke, or even something concerning those flickering lights in the woods.
It’s now Wednesday, and time to do our campout. We do not have to go until after the evening meal, which was good for me because I did not know much about cooking on an open fire. In fact, I did not know much about cooking, period! The fact is I had never so much as lit a fire.
You folks all get to stay at the lodge as the girls and I tramp through the woods. As the sun gets lower, the lights flash in different directions. No noises.
Nancy Kaercher Zuelhke is a Worthington resident.