The 4-H camp crew traveled statewide
August 10, 2010
The summer following my graduation from college, I worked on the state 4-H camp crew along with Larry Hendricks and Judy Seiler. We were former 4-H members and had attended camps in our youth, so had some idea of what was involved. What we didn’t know was that it wasn’t the same at any two camps on our schedule. We traveled all over the State of Nebraska for mostly three-day camps and often had to make things up as we went along.
A typical day began early with the morning flag-raising ceremony. We met with two or three youths ahead of time and made sure they knew how to hoist a flag correctly without letting it touch the ground. Some had speaking parts, usually a poem, and then led the assembled group in the flag salute. Immediately after it was finished, they all dashed to the mess tent to be first in line for breakfast. At some of the camps we crew members were expected to help serve meals, so we had to race over there too.
As I recall, we did a lot of such racing from place to place. County Extension Agents at each camp were assigned to be in charge of the various activities, but many of them failed in their duties and left it all up to the camp crew. At one camp in particular, none of the agents assumed responsibility for anything. I guess they just considered it a vacation time for themselves.
We led crafts, games, hikes, singing, the flag raising and lowering ceremonies, vespers in the evening, and whatever no one else covered. Some of the activities fell into sort of a pattern. We sang the same camp songs over and over: “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “You Can’t Get to Heaven in a Ford V-8” (with all its verses), “Little Rabbit Foofoo,” “On Top of Old Smoky,” “White Coral Bells,” “Kum-Ba-Ya,” and some patriotic songs among others. We grew very tired of a few of them.
For the evening vespers services, our responsibility was to oversee 4-H members doing it. I had a small devotional book, Altars Under the Skies, and that was a lifesaver for finding poems and prayers to use. I remember especially one poem we used almost to death: “The Little Tree.” By the end of the camping season I had it memorized.
Between camps we traveled from place to place, and often had a weekend on our own. On one of these we visited Judy’s family in her hometown of Spencer, Neb., and when the Fullerton camp was coming up we spent time with my family at St. Paul and my fiance Duane’s parents in Central City. Another time the camp was to be at the beautiful Ponca State Park and we spent the weekend there in one of the cabins, provided free to us. We bought groceries and did our own cooking, and explored the park before camp began. We had two or three camp sessions at the Halsey National Forest with some days in between for time to swim and just hang out. We also immensely enjoyed Chadron State Park when we were there. It’s a good thing we had these short periods to get our energy back. If the camps had followed one after another, day after day, we could easily have burned out.
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All this being said, the summer of 1957 was really fun for me, and completely different from any other job I’d ever had. It was fun getting acquainted with the kids who came to camp. And I made one life-long friendship. It was with 8-year-old Betty Schutz, the little girl with the shining big brown eyes. Afterward she and I exchanged letters and later, when both of us were married and living at Central City, we renewed our friendship.