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?
What wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like the perfect setting for a Young Adult novel.
Yeah, maybe. We did have a gorgeous hunk of a sailing and waterskiing counsellor 🙂
Was there a boys’ camp nearby?
Yes there was. Arrowhead. We used to have ‘socials’. But the waterskiing hunk was all ours. :). Can’t remember his full name but his given name was Don.
His name was Don, if you were there when I was. And it was Lake Saint Catherine. But otherwise, you nailed July 4th at Kinni
Yes, his name was Don. I was sure it was Lake Champlain. Thanks for clarifying — and for reading — and taking the time to comment, of course 🙂
Wonderful story! Camp is such a fabulous gift. Sounds like yours was run by brilliant people!
Thanks. It was a fabulous camp, I have to say. The owner definitely knew what she was doing.
Sounds like a really fun camp. I doubt with all the concerns about liability today, that it would happen now. Too bad.
I know. It is a shame. Thise were such carefree times. I am lucky to have been born when I was born. Today toddlers have to worry about predators. We didn’t even know what the word meant.
Hello. So I went to Kinni when I was 10 and I think started in Bunk 4. Some of the absolute best memories of my life were from our Kinni day. Thanks for sharing your memories. 🙂
Wow! I went from when I was 9 until I was 15. I agree — great memories. I wrote another blog post about my camp days — i think it was mostly about Don, the hunky boating/waterskiing counsellor/instructor. He may have been before your time. He caused quite a stir, I’ll tell you., especially as the only other man there was Uncle Herb who definitely was not a heart throb 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Fransi, Excellent article. I was there at the same time as Terry…and my memories are of a magical time. I am also Canadian from Montreal, living in Toronto. You really captured it well…and btw, we had a hunky waterski instructor named Ted Wilde. Great memories! Did you know there’s a Facebook group for Kinni Kinnic campers and staff?
So great to hear from another Kinni camper. Such fun!! The hunk I remember is Don, althoufh I know there was also another one. I live in Toronto too. We should have a reunion. I didn’t know about the FB page. Thanks for letting me know — I’m going to check it out 🙂
Also went to Kinni, but way before Don. Was there during world war II. I know Joan Rivers )Molinsky ) was there at the same time, but don’t remember her. One of my bunk mates did remember her . Still in touch with Roz Weiss ( Rothman). Would love to hear from other campers from that era
Joy Fellerman (Silverstein )
Wow! Thanks for reading my blog post and for taking the time to comment. There is a Camp Kinni Kinnic page on Facebook. Maybe you can post on there you’d like to hear from campers who were there when you were. Hope it works out for you. Keep in touch and take care.
Kinni Kinnic was on Lake St. Catherine.
Oops! Yes, thanks, someone else also pointed that out.
Just came across this article…I remember Merle Besner along with some other Canadians from Montreal, although I wasn’t from Canada. The camp was situated on Lake St Catherine in Poultney, VT. Ted was the waterski instructor, Judy Anderson was the head counselor my first year, which was 1968. I was in bunk 14, and I can remember all of the songs from camp, especially the team week songs. (Buff & Brown) It was a great experience for the 3 years I was there. Very special times! I remember Sals (Salamugundies), where we went once or twice a summer, very close to camp. I have been back, but there are houses there now. It’s all for one and one for lol and our (Buff/Brown) team!
I went to this camp as well. Loved every minute of it. Have sent my own kids to summer camp after that. Such a great experience.
Small world, huh.
Yes. I also went to the grounds where the camp was once located. All that was left was remnants of a clay court and shower building.
Oh you’re kidding. I remember tennis was a really big thing there. Uncle Herb was an avid tennis player and one summer I was there they played the Vermont State Tennis Championships at Kinni.
Your correct. I started in cabin 12. Last cabin was 22, my last year. Was there from 1963-1968. Tennis was huge as you said. Murph was over all the counselors and she worked with Sue. I have such great memories of those times. Don the ski guy, a real hunk, color war, 4th of July hotdogs, sparklers, the gravel walk to the dining room. I don’t think a girl going there would ever forget such a big part of their lives during summer.
I was there before you but I vividly remember Don. Definitely a hunk 😁. My last summer I tore the cartilage in my knee at pretty much the beginning of camp and for a large part of the summer all I could do was swim and sail. I had Don to myself most of the day everyday and it was the best!! He really taught me to sail and I got good enough that he’d let me out on the boat myself. I remember all the same things you do — and the big play. I didn’t want to act, I wanted to work on the sets, which I did. I don’t think anyone who went there would forget it either.