A summer “a la francaise” by
(194 Stories)

Prompted By Camp

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Fifty years ago this month, I hopped on a bus in New York City and headed, with a bunch of other 14-year-olds, to Lakeville, Connecticut, to a most unusual summer camp–one with French counselors, guitar lessons, and lots of free time.

Few boys, dreadful food, and gleepy green scum at the bottom of the lake--but the swimming, waterskiing, and guitar playing more than made up for it.

Given my strong resistance to regimentation, which had become evident during three disastrous years in day camp (where I finally went on strike after having to weave one too many potholders), I was amazed when my parents proposed Children’s Colony, a sleep-away camp. The description intrigued me–clearly a 60s vibe, with small cabins instead of large dorms, a lake, and plenty of opportunities to speak French.

Each cabin at the camp housed four people, two per room, and had its own indoor bathroom. No hiking to primitive outdoor facilities required (what were we supposed to learn from that anyway?). The three other girls in my cabin and I were in the advanced French group (I’d had French classes for four years), so we had the counselor who spoke the least English. We thought she was very elegant. Our French improved greatly.

There were some drawbacks: few boys, dreadful food, and gleepy green scum at the bottom of the lake–but the swimming, water skiing, and guitar playing made up for it. Most of all, the ambiance was relaxed. No color wars, silly competitions, or lining up. We swam across the lake and learned to water ski. I got up the first time. I read several books. It was wonderful to be able to do what I was good at and enjoyed. Well, I wasn’t good at the guitar, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Given that it was the Summer of Love, we heard a lot of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, and went on a “far-out” day trip to Provincetown on Cape Cod. But those details will have to wait for the Summer of Love prompt.

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I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. John Zussman says:

    Great memory! I’m beginning to believe that “dreadful food and gleepy green scum” are required and just strengthen the bonds among campers. (As for the “few boys,” we had a surplus at my YMCA camp that I would gladly have donated.) And I love the image of you going on strike for weaving too many potholders!

  2. Jeez, Marian… I’m guessing you got just as tired weaving lanyards out of plastic thread. You really got me with the ‘gleepy green scum.” And not enough boys? What a disaster. Really fun to read and nicely written. Thanks!

    • Marian says:

      Yes, Charles, I wove my share of lanyards and at least there was a greater variety of color in the plastic thread. Two years after the French camp I did summer theater at a nearby state college and there must have been 40 girls and 10 boys. I got used to it!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Marian, I love this image of you going on strike after potholder weaving. The image of “gleepy green scum” is superb (as everyone has mention). At my camp we got (and continue to suffer from) “swimmer’s itch” if you don’t shower immediately after swimming. But at least the lake seemed pretty. Your experience seemed lovely and quite rewarding…getting better in French is excellent!

  4. Suzy says:

    Sounds like a great camp, notwithstanding the lack of boys. Learning to water ski and play the guitar, as well as improving your French seems like a very rewarding summer. And the hint about your trip to Provincetown. . . can’t wait for that story!

  5. jwolfe1946 says:

    I attended Children’s Colony in 1958 and am very interested in getting a camp brochure. Anyone have one? Thanks/

    • Marian says:

      Now that’s a coincidence. I do remember a camp brochure but my parents had it, and it would be long gone now. I was there in 1967. Do you recall a woman named Trude Frank? I believe she owned the camp.

  6. jwolfe1946 says:

    Funny, I have just been reading about Trude Frankl today; don’t remember her but recognized her name when I started searching for info on the camp. She started the Children’s Colony International School on the upper west side, I believe, for refugee Jewish children during the War–she was a Viennese Jew in exile. The summer camp was attached to the school. My sister, turning 70 next month, also went to the camp and the brochure would make a fun gift. I came across one on some auctioneer website but one has to join and I loathe to do that.

    • Marian says:

      Thanks for the insight into Trude. That makes a lot of sense given her age at the time I went to the camp. There were a lot of Jewish kids from New York and New Jersey there. It was definitely a unique camp experience and one that I fit in with a lot better than the traditional summer camps.

  7. Peter says:

    Was this the camp with the giant lake turtles that we fed whole loaves of bread by throwing them out the dining room windows? Was here one summer, can’t remember the year, and can’t remember that my French improved one iota. Still, a memorable experience. I guess it was the turtles.

    • Marian says:

      I don’t remember any turtles, but I recall that the boys’ dorms were way across the lake, so it is possible. Now I’m relieved that on my long swims in the lake I didn’t come across any turtles who’d think my feet were bread.

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