Yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S. In fact, it was on July 4, 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was apparently signed. I say “apparently” because the date has been disputed for years and years and years and years. And years and years.
All that matters is, regardless of the day, the U.S. was no longer under British rule.
I’ve always enjoyed the celebrations. I like the patriotism. The pomp. The parades. The fireworks. The partying. The hotdogs. The beer. All of it.
From the time I was nine, I went to a summer camp in Vermont. In Poultney, Vermont to be precise. A pretty, little town, on Lake Champlain. Not far from Montreal. Maybe a couple of hours, max.
Camp Kinni Kinnic. An all-girls camp, it was owned by a judge of the juvenile court. Aunt Jeanette, as we affectionately called her. Her full name was Jeanette Brill. She had a son, Herbert, who took it over when she became too old. Herbert, and his wife, Edith. I cannot believe I remember their names. It was a loooooooooooong time ago.
Somewhere I read Joan Rivers went to the same camp. Anything’s possible. But f she did, it would have been way before my time. I went for seven summers. My last year I was fifteen.
We always celebrated July 4th and it was something we all looked forward to. Even the five or six of us who were Canadian. I remember it like it was yesterday. No matter how hot it was during the day, the evenings were really chilly. So we’d all be told to wear jeans and sweatshirts. Once it was dark, we’d head down to the waterfront, to the boating dock. They’d have rows and rows and rows of huge logs lined up, one behind the other, for us to sit on. Double rows, actually. I can still remember how bloody uncomfortable it was, but none of us cared.
There were sparklers for all of us. We had our own fireworks display. And we could also watch the displays coming from all the homes that surrounded the lake. The flag would be blowing gently in the breeze. We’d sing. It was beautiful, really. Then we’d have hot dogs and watermelon and cake and ice cream. And Coke. I remember that vividly, because it was the only time, in the two months we were there, we got soft drinks.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It was the only time on camp grounds. Once each month, each bunk would get a day off. On different days, obviously. Our bunk counsellors would drive us into the town of Rutland (woo hoo!!) for a day of goofing off. No activities. No chores. Just shopping, sightseeing, hanging out and gorging ourselves on as much junk food, soda pop and candy as we could manage in five hours.
And then there were the nights when we snuck out of camp. Don’t freak out. We thought we were sneaking out. That’s what they wanted us to believe. It was all organized and orchestrated, trust me. I’m sure it was meant to teach us something, but I’m damned if I know what. Maybe to have an independent streak. Or to know it’s okay to break the rules from time to time.
Can you figure it out?
Not that it matters. We loved it. We never knew when it would happen. We’d be fast asleep. And all of a sudden, we’d be shaken gently awake, again by our bunk counsellors. They’d put their hands over our mouths, telling us to be quiet so we didn’t wake the other campers up. Then we’d stumble around getting dressed with no lights on and make our way, tip-toeing, in the dark, through the grounds, until we got to the gate at the main entrance. Which we’d have to climb over.
They never told us where we were going. Now that I think of it, I can’t believe we just followed them blindly, like sheep going to slaughter. But we did. We trusted people in those days. Bet it wouldn’t happen nowadays.
Once we were out of earshot of anyone who could stop us — and on the road — the counsellors put their flashlights on so we could see where we were going. We walked along the deserted country roads for about twenty minutes, until we came to a diner/dive. It was about 10:00 p.m. I can’t believe they were still open. Of course, that was probably pre-arranged as well.
What’d we do? We listened to music on the juke box. Ate BLTs (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches). Drank Coke. Laughed. Yelled. Danced. Let off steam. And congratulated ourselves on our brilliant escape.
Of course we were sworn to secrecy. We couldn’t tell anyone. If we did, we’d never be allowed to break out again. It had to be our secret. All I can say is, boy were kids ever gullible in those days. Now it would be all over twitter and Facebook before we were past the entrance of the camp. It’d be a KinniLeak.
How times change, huh?
Hope your Fourth of July was as much fun as my memories of mine have been. How’d you celebrate?