Camp Outs by the Lake by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Fire

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Junior Girls Cabin 10, 1964

I used to love the evening cookouts or sleeping under the stars that we did lakeside throughout my summers as a camper at the National Music Camp (now Interlochen Arts Camp) in Interlochen, MI from 1964-1969. The girl’s side was by Lake Wabakanetta (Duck Lake) and we had a large expanse of sand with a building which housed fireplaces and equipment for fun in the sun. Here we were not competitors, vying for the best chairs in the orchestra, leads in the plays or operettas, or solos in the dance recitals; we were friends in the cabins, just kids enjoying ourselves. We built safe campfires for cookouts, then, as the sun set over the lake, sang songs, roasted marshmallows, ate s’mores. If we were sleeping out, we might tell scary stories, do “finger lifting” (“you are as light as a feather”), sing folk songs, but always end the evening with this favorite (which I just learned while writing this story is known as “Canadian Taps”; we learned slightly different lyrics):

Each campfire lights anew…
The flame of friendship true.
The joy we had in knowing you
Will last a whole life through.

And as the embers die away,
We wish that we might always stay.
But since we cannot have our way,
We’ll meet again, some other day.

This would be followed by a hushed version of Taps (Day is done, gone the sun…) as we snuggled in our sleeping bags and drifted to sleep while gazing at the stars.

The counselors ensured that the campfire was safely extinguished, trash disposed of, and all was right in our corner of the world. Camp was built (in 1928) on the edge of a pine forest, now a state park; the air was pure and delicious. Sacred memories.

A segment of Intermediate Girls Cabin 5, 1965


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
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.

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy, I know how important music camp was for you., thanx for this wonderful memory.

    I’ve also written about my happy years in camp, and I mention a childhood campfire in this week’s stories too!

  2. Betsy:
    Reading your story gives me a warm feeling of childhood happiness. It is a refreshing moment from watching today’s news without the fear of hateful or unsuspected attacks.

    I loved the Canadian song. I was surprised that there was no pledge of allegiance to the Queen at the end. (This ritual did appear before movies. So why not at the end of the day?)
    Was it more idyllic without boys? Or did you not have time to introduce theme in your story?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Richard, I am happy to learn that my pleasant childhood memories offered a respite from the awful news of today. I just learned that the song we sang was called “Canadian Taps”. There is nothing in the words that would indicate it has anything to do with Canada, much less the Monarch (be it Elizabeth, her father or son). I suspect it was just that the song was first sung by Canadian Girl Scouts. I recorded myself singing it, but couldn’t get it to work within the body of the story, which is when I looked for it on YouTube, found this version and discovered it is called “Canadian Taps”; a revelation.

      The National Music Camp (now the Interlochen Arts Camp) is a huge co-ed place. It had about 1,200 campers when I was a kid – from all 50 states and about 12 foreign countries. I’m sure that number has only grown in the intervening 60 years. The younger kids were kept fairly separate, except for classes, which are all co-ed. By High School Division, there is much more freedom to mingle (I spent the summers of 1967,’68 and ’69 as a high school camper). We were allowed up on Main Camp without a chaperone, had a much heavier course and rehearsal schedule including evenings. We paired off and dated. But we didn’t have those types of cook-outs with the boys. We had dances. Cook-outs were strictly a cabin event. I presume there is much more lenience now than there was then, as I was there before the revolutionary times of the ’60s (they were just brewing, but they hadn’t come to the northern woods of Michigan yet).

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    You capture the magic and the warmth of the campfire moments of your youth perfectly. How wonderful to have those good memories. Thanks for sharing them.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Happy to share these memories with you, Khati. They were, indeed, wonderful times. I heard from the head of Intermediate Girls Division from that era after posting the story. She said it warmed her heart that I have such fond memories.

  4. pattyv says:

    I never camped as a child, just wasn’t in my parents’ agenda. The beach was our summers with driftwood bonfires. When my boys were about 11 to 16 I had a trailer in the mountains and we cherish those camping memories. Your vivid and delightful story bought it all back to me.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      A driftwood fire, or gathered around a mountain fire with your kids serves much the same function – open air, lovely smell and peace of mind. What I described happened to be by a lake with like-minded girls of a certain age, but your family probably enjoyed it just as much (you probably didn’t sing Taps before going to sleep). Happy that I could rekindle that memory for you.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    You are so lucky to have had so many wonderful summers at Interlochen. Camp fires, complete with singalongs and s’mores, are wonderful. When our kids were small, we used to take a summer vacation at Sleepy Hollow in South Haven, MI. Those campfires on the beach with other families were a priceless memory.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Believe me Laurie, I know just how lucky I was to experience the magic of Interlochen for six whole summers (and it was an eight week program then; it cut back to six weeks years ago). But it sounds like you and your family had your own wonderful times with campfires on the beach. Nothing can compare!

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