Upon writing this, it was June 1st. Growing up, this was always was one of my favorite “random” days of the year so to speak.
It signified a couple of things for me personally. My birthday is June 5th so day one of June hit and my excitement grew as I knew my birthday was coming up. The second reason is it signified summer for me. Although I was usually out of school by this point, I always lumped June and July as the core summer months.
As someone who didn’t love school, summer was always my sanctuary of happiness. Nearly 3 months of care free life as a kid was the best. The only change to the schedule was that Monday – Friday was filled with Summer Camp instead of school. Weekends were status quo and spent with my best friend, Mike, who I talked about in the previous column.
For the majority of my childhood, it was Kehoe-France summer camp. There was a small gap where I attended Kidcam at St. Charles Borromeo.
I looked forward to Kehoe-France every summer. It was always a good time. The camp usually started in early June, usually right after my birthday. No matter what, summer usually kicked off with a bang.
I am going to cheat a little bit here and talk about my second run of summers at Kehoe France, which began in 2000 when I turned 9. That is when summer really became fun as hell. I will skip to 2001 when I moved up to the Braves, which is the oldest age group. Not sure how it happened, but I completely skipped one of the age groups (Seminoles). I spent my last three summers with the Braves.
The entire camp was Native American themed and each age group had a designated term. Each group was split accordingly into two camp wide groups, Chippewas and Pawnees. I was a Pawnee most years. I think I was a Chippewa my final year only.
Within our groups, we would do certain events and activities to earn points for who won that year at camp. It was a 6-week competition. Not to sound to like a bad ass or anything, but I think my group only lost once. Coincidence? Doubt it. I moved the freaking needle.
So what was a normal summer day at Kehoe-France like?
I would get up around 7am like I did for school. Unlike school days, I was usually awake and alert because I enjoyed going to camp. Both of my sisters were employed at Kehoe, so my oldest sister would drive us most days. Some mornings, I would eat something from home. Other mornings, we would stop at Tastee Donuts on the way where I would enjoy a Superman. Some giant ass donut.
Because my sisters were counselors and they had to be there by 8am, I was also there earlier than everyone else. The best part being in the Braves group was we met in the gym. Camp didn’t start until 9, with campers arriving around 8:30 am. That means I got the gym to myself for about 30 minutes or so. I would work on my broke ass jump shot.
As people would pile in, those who wanted to play basketball would run games of 21 until 9am hit.
The first hour or so of the day would consist of an activity of our choosing. There were roughly 30 kids per group if I remember correctly. There were about five or six activities to choose from. It included the gym, computer lab, arts and crafts, the BB Gun range, tennis and a few others.
Major perk of being there before everyone else was that I got first dibs. Naturally, I always chose gym. For gym, there were maybe six slots available because we shared the gym with the Seminoles (boys group below us). So six of them and six of us with one counselor from each group. That was usually Coach Matt and Coach Mitch. Cool people. Once our group started, the two coaches would pick teams for some 6v6 whiffle ball. It was freaking glorious.
Seriously, gym whiffle ball is dope.
For three straight years with the Braves, I played whiffle every single weekday (minus Friday) for the duration of camp. It never got old either. Fridays were different. Those were pow wow days. The entire camp infiltrated our gym for weekly awards, talent shows and all kinds of other stuff.
After whiffle ball, it was time for the shooting range, gym, computer lab, game room, tennis court or the field as it varied day to day. Depending on the activity, some would be for points toward our tribe. If we went to the field, tennis court or gym, we were usually doing something for points.
- The Field
The field was a football field, baseball diamond and an open space in the back. We would utilize that for flag football, tennis baseball or capture the flag. All three were fun as hell.
Our capture the flag games were legendary. We had a large area where we could hide our respective flags, switching bases each round. Each round was usually 10-15 minutes and we would play 3 rounds, unless we finished early. Then, we just kept going. If you were tagged by an opposing player while attacking their base, you had to sit for 2 minutes.
The in bounds area stretched from the field to the tennis courts to the front gates of the school. I can still remember some of the absurd spots we hid the flags. The trick was that they had to be visible, so you had to get creative.
Spoiler alert, people absolutely jumped ship sometimes. Offer someone the right candy or your snack ticket, fucking game over. Political warfare was crucial in capture the flag.
- Tennis Court
We would do singles and doubles tennis tournaments. Many times if this were being done for points, there was usually some sort of free play shit going on in the field.
We didn’t do tennis tournaments very often. I remember placing second twice in my summers there. One was a singles tournament and the other was a doubles. I lost on the doubles after a premature celebration. They had the advantage on a match point. I had a ball come to me that I thought I had no prayer in getting. I managed to blindly hit it over my shoulder and it landed in the back corner of the opposite side of the court. I started screaming “IT’S IN! IT’S IN!” I started fist pumping only for the other team to volley it back on my side and I didn’t have time to get it. We lost. I blew it.
- The Gym
We used to do many of the activities you would expect in the gym from basketball to whiffle ball to tug of war to dodgeball. Dodgeball was always a favorite of mine. I learned from the best…Patches O’Hoolihan.
- Computer Lab
I was usually bored with arts and crafts, the game room and any other indoor activity minus the computer lab. Being a video game fan, the computers were loaded with some great games. I remember playing a combination of three games anytime we went to the lab.
Gizmos and Gadgets, which was an educational science based game that dealt with mechanical engineering, energy forms and other scientific methods. The objective was to build cars, blimps and planes to race the bosses of each level basically.
A10 Attack was another great game. You were a fighter pilot and blew shit up basically. I used to spend more time getting my plane as high as possible before jumping out.
Lemmings was the other game I played a bunch. It was a puzzle type game, although I don’t remember the premise much other than digging.
Most days, we would do an outdoor activity, usually the field in the morning. Then we would head to the game room or computer lab after that.
It was always two activities before we ate lunch. Again, because we were an older group, we pretty much got to eat wherever the hell we wanted. I used to eat right outside the gym in the walkway which was shaded with benches. It was chicken nuggets or bust for me. I used to get the nuggets with a coke or root beer.
One of my favorite parts was after eating lunch, we used to get snack tickets. There was a snack room with a slushie machine and all sorts of chips and candy. I usually got a spearmint slushie with a bag of Butterfinger BBs (BRING! THEM! BACK!).
After lunch there was usually one other activity on the agenda before closing every day with swimming.
Again, a lot of privilege with being older. We no longer did lessons and had free swim the entire time, minus Tuesday and Thursday. Most of the swim period was spent doing down the river. Basically laps for the first 20-30 minutes I believe. Those used to go toward your tribe score.
After camp was over, I would go home and do all of the same things I did during the school year. I would play with my friends, play video games and do whatever the hell pleased because it was summertime damn it.
Can I do that again? That life was less stressful.