14 years old, out of braces, in contact lenses…I had arrived! The ugly duckling had blossomed. 1967, my first summer in High School Division at the National Music Camp (now the Interlochen Arts Camp) and I thought I was BIG STUFF! I got to wear powder blue knee socks, designating HSG, no longer red socks for Intermediate Girls and with that came all sorts of freedom, including hanging out at Main Camp (with everyone) whenever I had free time. My best friends were still in Intermediate Girls, one by choice (big fish, small pond – she got leads in Operetta that summer), the other was a grade behind, so she had no choice. One new girl came to camp, I heard a lot about her and she would become one of my closest friends. We are all still friends.
That first day, after getting my uniform, I headed down to the Intermediate Division to say hi. I ran into Dude, our beloved Operetta director (for High School and Intermediate). He had known me since I was 9 years old when my older brother played Nanki-Poo in an Intermediate production of “The Mikado” in 1962. We all wanted Dude’s aprobation and admiration. He looked me over and nodded approvingly. I was on Cloud 9. I knew it would be a good summer.
We had classes on Saturdays, concerts on Sundays. Mondays were our days off (some rehearsing on Monday mornings, but cabin activities in the afternoons and fun co-ed stuff in the evenings). At the end of the first week of camp would always be “Maddy-Gras”, camp’s version of a carnival, named for the founder, Joe Maddy. The big pop song at the beginning of the summer was Scott McKenzie’s “If You’re Going to San Francisco” and the lyrics continued…”be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…summertime will be a love-in there”. I had been growing my hair for about a year, so it could honestly be called long by this point and for the carnival, I pinned crepe paper flowers in the side of my hair. We also could wear “civies”, civilian clothing, instead of our camp uniforms.
I wandered around, checking out all the sights. A handsome cello player admired my flowers. He got the allusion to the popular song and for that one night, we were a couple. His name was Bruce. I had never attracted anyone before. I was so excited that he paid attention to me. We went from booth to booth, looking at the amusing things the counselors had dreamed up for us. He took me to the Melody Freeze and bought me an ice cream cone. This was almost a real date.
There were two paths back into High School Girls Division: Shake Gate and Date Gate. Shake Gate was wide open and you passed through it if you were alone or you just wanted to say good night at the end of your date. Date Gate was more secluded. There were bushes around. You could make-out with a little privacy. I barely knew Bruce, so Date Gate wasn’t an option, but the Summer of Love got off to a lovely start for me.
Though not a Drama major, I was a fixture at the theater, doing costumes and props, hanging backstage. I became known to the teachers, so was accepted as a Drama major the following summer. I also had a great time leading the chorus in “The Mikado”. It was an out-of-body experience when, during the last class, Dude Stephenson and “Uncle” Ken Jewell, the music conductor, announced the winners of the Operetta Awards for the best leads and chorus people. I heard the name “Elizabeth Sarason” called out, but that surely wasn’t me. I was “Betsy”. Yet everyone looked at me. It seemed like minutes passed before I realized that my name had been called and I arose to claim my honor and congratulations from my respected teachers and applause from my peers in front of the audience (we had just performed “Trial by Jury”, not in costume). I felt the love.
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.
What a coming-of-age summer for you! If he bought you food, I’d consider it a date. I remember Shake Gate and Date Gate. I hope you got to the latter sometime that summer.
I think it may have been the next summer before I got to Date Gate, John. Mostly a group of us sat around on the picnic benches on Main Camp and sang folk songs. That was fun.
This story makes me regret, for the first time, that I never made it to High School Division. Sounds like fun! And I love the mental image of you wearing flowers in your hair, a la Scott McKenzie.
Suzy, didn’t mean to leave you with regrets, but I started as a JG, spent two summers in IG, and 3 in HSG and there is a huge difference between all the divisions, I can assure you. As you grow older, there is more concentration on your art form and the instruction becomes more serious, but by high school, there is more freedom as well (in those days there wasn’t as much as there is today). This was the mid-to-late 60s and we found ways to flout the most rigid rules (though kids who smoked dope were immediately sent home). I had always felt like an outsider in my regular school, so here I had a peer group and that meant everything to me. I truly did make the friendships of a lifetime, some dating back to the age of 12 or 13. One person you saw comment on my story on Facebook was the head of Intermediate Girls my first summer, in 1965. She is still up there every summer and still cares what “her girls” are doing. And I emailed this story to Dude’s wife. They loved it too. I find it remarkable that someone I’ve known since I was 9 years old remains a dear friend and force in my life. I have visited him in CA and he visited me once in MA. I hope to go back to camp next summer…I haven’t been in a very long time, but Dude will turn 90 next year and I want to see him again in his natural habitat (they bought a cottage there years ago, and go every summer, even though he is retired). The guy who played the Mikado in 1967 has already said he’ll join me. He lives in CT and just retired this year. These are tight bonds.
As for the crepe paper flowers, I think they were red (my color) and I was just pleased that someone got was I doing!
Great summer story. Hope you are
enjoying the summer.
Thanks, Joel. Nice to hear from you. We are all well. Hope your family is also enjoying their summer. See you back home before you know it! Betsy
Dear Elizabeth Sarason, thanks for this glimpse into a kind and gentle summer. You captured the beehive intricacies of summer camp and the agony and ecstasy of teenage hormones! I loved your opening line… no more braces. Oh the freedom! Other highpoints included the handsome cello player and your almost (but not Date Gate) date.
The Mikado also brought back recollections. I played the title role and can still remember much of the music.
Teenage hormones were, indeed, raging (“Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody to love?”, as the Jefferson Airplane reminded us). In an earlier comment, JZ said, if he bought me ice cream, it was a date, but the cello player didn’t ask me out initially, so I say it wasn’t a REAL date. Those were yet to come. And no kissy-face at Date Gate (there were poles up so cars couldn’t drive into the division. We scamps dubbed those “Master-Gate”!)
Glad Mikado brought back fond memories. I was in it twice as a camper, and Dude, knowing that I’d be visiting one summer, invited me and our 1967 Mikado friend to do some business on-stage as a retainer to the Mikado in 1993 or so…loads of fun.
Only insurance salespeople cold-calling me call me Elizabeth. Too formal for little ol’ me. Well, my first pediatrician called me Princess Elizabeth, but that was different.