Cruisin’ for Burgers and Broads by
100
(207 Stories)

Prompted By Camp

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The Pioneer Counselors (minus me…I took the photo)

The summer before my senior year in college I worked as a counselor at a Jewish overnight camp near Ann Arbor, MI called Camp Tamarack. I was assigned to a cabin in the Pioneer Girls, the oldest girls at the camp. The group was situated a little away from the main camp. There was no electricity in the cabin, a covered area with a large trough for a sink on one side, a shower area on the other served for our clean-up. Toilets were private, but this was roughing it. This was also a time when Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo smelled floral and the bees kept trying to pollinate my hair.

My girls were 12 years old. Having been to overnight camp myself for years, I helped them adjust so they wouldn’t be homesick, tried to get them to be a cohesive group…no mean girl antics in any of my groups. Our cabins had our own dining hall and fridge. Though this was a kosher camp, none of our counselors were religious and we sneaked milk with meat (oh heavens!) I sang songs to my girls. “Jeremiah was a Bull Frog” was a favorite, but I also did “Hey Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity”. That got rave reviews.

I was a Theatre major in college, would be student teaching the next semester, so I was assigned to help the Drama counselor. She had the kids acting out stupid things, which drove me crazy. I wanted to challenge them. I had them acting out e. e. cummings poems. The Drama counselor and I did not get along. We did not put on a play during any of the three 20 day sessions. By the third session, I transferred to Arts & Crafts. I was much happier doing clay figures. I like to be appreciated.

Lenny was the head of the camp. He had been there for years and he appreciated me; a bit too much. He and Linda, the head of my division, had been an item the summer before but no longer were. She still wanted to be. I was already very seriously involved with Dan, the man I would marry a year later, but he was back in Boston. We wrote a lot, and called occasionally. I had ZERO interest in Lenny and assured Linda of that. Nevertheless, he persisted and paid me a lot of attention. I was polite, but did not return the interest and reminded everyone of my boyfriend back east.

At the beginning of the summer, I remained back in the division after lights out, writing to Dan. After a while, that grew dull. There wasn’t that much to write about night after night. I developed a friendship with Kitchen Mitch, the head of the kitchen. He, also, had been there forever. The cooks had seen him grow up and he was their special boy. He was now a wild-haired pot-head, utterly charming and lots of fun. He had a girlfriend back at Miami of Ohio and a Carmen Ghia. Because we became friends, the cooks gave me access to the large walk-in refrigerators (though I was trying to diet off 10 extra pounds, which I did).

Kitchen Mitch

I attained a magical status through my association with Mitch. After the kids were in bed and the kitchen was spotless, Mitch and his kitchen team would go driving in his sports car and get stoned. They called it “cruisin’ for burgers and broads”. I soon joined the pack; the only female allowed along. I toked up more that summer than I did the rest of my life, I am quite certain. I promised to duck down if they found any “broads”. That never became an issue. Cruising in Michigan is an art form, not unlike Southern California, and we just enjoyed driving along the open roads, listening to tunes.

I came back to my division one night, stoned out of my mind. I stood at the trough, washing my face. As I turned to look at the mirror on the wall behind me, a rustle caught my attention. I looked down and saw a huge, well-fed raccoon. “What the f**k do you want?” I’m sure the feeling was mutual. He lumbered off. I was too stoned to be rattled by the encounter.

We had a few Israeli boys as counselors too. During the third session, we held a camp carnival. That evening, various counselors performed acts. With one of the Israelis, I performed a dance number which we had choreographed earlier in the day. It was a mixture of Israeli folk dancing and modern dancing, ending with me hugging him tightly around the waist with my legs, while he twirled around, my body swinging loosely, my long hair flailing behind me. I had a tambourine with a scarf attached and wore one of my mother’s old dance costumes. We made quite a duo.

Some nights our pack, plus other counselors wound up in Mitch’s room, which held one of the few TVs at camp, and we whiled away the evening watching old movies. The summer wound down that way, Lenny getting nowhere, me enjoying the company of the kitchen crew, trying to keep my girls happy and counting the days until I could get back to Brandeis and my guy.

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.


Tags: Camp Tamarack, Kitchen Mitch, getting high
Characterizations: right on!

Comments

  1. John Zussman says:

    Great story, portraying what sounds like a different side of Betsy than some of your other stories. Truly a summer out of time, almost a “gap summer.” I think I could have used one like it.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It was certainly unlike anything I had experienced, John. You know I am not a “stoner”, but it was a useful way to get through the summer. Unlike my beloved Interlochen, I did not stay in touch with anyone from this camp (though I know many people who loved Tamarack, which still exists. But they were campers, so I hope they did have a good experience).

  2. Suzy says:

    I enjoyed this story about life as a counselor. And, as John says, a different side of Betsy. I’m sure your campers loved you. (Hey Big Spender is one of my favorite Broadway songs.) The image of you potentially ducking down while Mitch and the guys cruised for broads is priceless.

  3. Ha ha, the camp counselor with the boyfriend back home! Love all those bell-bottoms, and Kitchen Mitch sounds (and looks) like a hoot. Love the off-the-hop jazz tap modern Romanian gypsy tale too. The whole scene read like a spin-off from “Dirty Dancing.”

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I never made the “Dirty Dancing” connection before, though I loved the movie. This story takes place 10 years later (a year before Watergate but Nixon-hating was in the air), but I do see the similarities. You and Kitchen Mitch would have had a blast together, I suspect.

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