Earlier this year, I shared this picture of me getting ready to go off to Camp Namanu, a Camp Fire Girls camp I attended one week each summer for six years. The Ford station was used to get me to the school bus which took us to camp. Riding the bus to camp was wonderful since, after all, we were on the way to camp. But also it was heavenly because we sang all the way there, about an hour’s drive.
I see kids on buses now, listening to their phones or texting whatever friend isn’t within arm’s reach. So I am sure that the concept of everyone singing together would seem very alien today. But it was a normal activity for groups of kids when I was in elementary school. Tomorrow, I will write about the ski bus and its songs, but today it is all about camp songs.
Singing on the bus was my first introduction to the songs which we would sing at camp. My first year, of course, I didn’t know any of the songs, but they were easy to pick up, and I knew them for the next year’s ride. My favorite was the one a counselor would begin when she could tell we were almost there. She would begin a loud repetitive song with the straightforward lyrics of “We’re Here Because We’re Here Because We’re Here Because We’re Here!” The link will allow you to open a rendition of the song. Beware–it may get stuck in your head.
Singing at camp after meals was one of camp’s highlights. All campers ate together in a large dining room, probably 200 people in all. After each meal someone would rap their knife on a water glass and begin a song. Then everyone would join in. There were silly songs like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”( a song which ends with everyone yelling, a perennial favorite.) There were camp specific songs sung about different camp units:”We are the Balagan bold, brave as a two year old, we cry when we get cold” but we all sang together “and in our memory dear to our hearts will be, Camp Namanu’s sure to shine all of the time.” At the very end of camp we sang a very melancholy song about leaving for home.
We rode home in silence. I think no one was very excited about getting back into what was usually a very long, boring summer vacation ahead. And most of us were not glad that “we’re here!”