Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How I rediscovered Camp Clark.

In a previous post I promised I would explain how I rediscovered Camp Clark. Well here it is.

I spent many summers at Camp Clark in the late 1950s early 1960s. My last summer was probably 1961 or 1962. In October 1965 I enlisted in the USAF.

Sometime during that four year enlistment I received a call and I believe a written correspondence from former Camp Clark campers via my parents. The campers were trying to save the camp from being sold to a land developer. I believe my parents and I sent money or made a pledge to send money to the committee. At that time I was a medic in the USAF and did not have direct contact with the organizers of the group trying to save the camp. I do remember at some point receiving a message that the camp had been sold.

I know my parents and I believed for many years that the camp had been sold and we imagined it was now a housing development. Over the years my mom and I often talked about Camp Clark.

After getting discharged from the Air Force in 1969 I moved back to my hometown. I got married and started a family. In 1973 my wife Donna and I had our first son Scott. Life went on. I would often think about the camp usually in the warming spring and summer months. The thoughts were joyful and depressing at the same time. The joys of remembering the great days of swimming, boating, crafts and nature walks were quickly accompanied by the depressing thoughts of a housing development sitting on the shore of Lawrence Pond.

In 1978 we moved to Wisconsin. Many times over the years I would think of Camp Clark. I'm sure I told and retold some of my favorite stories. The stories of learning to water ski and sailing a boat. The stories of the time my mom volunteered to be the camp cook after the camp cook left one morning between breakfast and lunch. Stories about Uncle Bob and DC (Dave Cowell). I know I tried to find gimp on more than one occasion so I could may a lanyard. A craft skill I learned at camp. I know I've made more than one lanyard over the years and still use one as a key chain.

For the next 30+ years life moved on. Thoughts of the camp were never far away especially during the warm summer months.

Over the years when we would return to New England for a visit we would always visit Plymouth and the Cape. Oh how I wanted to see Camp Clark just one more time. Unfortunately I never had the desire or the courage to seek out the site of the "former" Camp Clark. Instead I choose to hold on to my memories of that great place.

On one visit to home in 1997 I was "down on the cape" visiting my nephew who, at the time was living and working on the cape. Ryan was working at a local Cape Cod lumber yard in the Sandwich area. Ryan, his mother Cheryl, my wife Donna and I were out doing a little sight seeing.

At some point along the way I started to talk about Camp Clark. I'm sure over the years Ryan had heard some if not all of my stories. I'll bet he even started to roll his eyes and thought here we go again the old camp stories. But, this time something was different, this time I said something that may him pause and ask me exactly where the camp was. I said somewhere around here on a small clear water pond. I then started to describe the camp as I had remembered it. At the entrance it open to a large field on the left with a large building, the chow hall, on a small hill with a flag pole out front and the water front on the right and....he stop me and said that camp is still there unk (short for uncle).

Then we started an all to common give and take between Ryan and myself.....No it's not!....yes it is unk!....I've been there delivering lumber.....You couldn't have it was sold in the late 1960s.....unk it IS STILL THERE!....It's not!.....It is AND I'll show you!

Twenty minutes later we drove down a long sand drive that didn't look at all familiar. The drive open onto a large gravel parking lot that was not an entrance to the Camp Clark I remembered. On the right I could see water but it was to open and to treeless to be Camp Clark. Then there was a sign at the back of the parking lot that read Camp Lyndon. Nice try Ryan but this isn't.........wait STOP! On the left the chow hall, the flag pole, the field, on the right the water front, the boat house. Camp Clark oh what a feeling of being there again. I told you unk it is still here. He was right and he had a I told you so smirk on his face.

I'm sure I was getting out of the car before it stopped. I head straight toward the chow hall. The moment I walked in the front door and heard the screen door slam behind me I knew I was in the place I had remembered. It even smelled the same. Tears of joy and laughter.

For the next few hours we all wander the camp grounds while I told new stories of the nature shack and the sail boats and the early morning swims we all had to take each morning.

Then in the middle of all the joy of seeing the camp for the first time in 30+ years I suddenly had a moment or real sadness. It was 1998 my oldest son Scott was now 25 years old and he didn't get the chance to spend anytime at Camp Clark. If I had only known it was still there In April of 1973. Or the summer of 1980 or 1981 when he was 7 or 8.

Later that day we went to my parents home and picked up my mom and drove back to the camp so she could see it. Later that week we returned to the camp and stayed a couple of night in the new family camp ground built adjacent to the junior area.

A recent visit

Scott and I did get to spend a great afternoon at the camp this past February. This is the same chow hall and flag pole I remembered from my first summer at camp. I hope that we will get to spend a week at the camp. Maybe next summer.

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