August 10, 2006

The Lost Art of Camp Songs

I was the High Queen of summer camp in my day. And that's probably an understatement. I went to girls camp every summer from the age of 7 to 18 and then back again as a counselor after they kicked me out for being old and uncool. I loved every mosquito bitten second of it. It was at camp that I developed much of my unjustified self-esteem and obnoxious tendencies. My camp sites over the years ranged from the tent and latrine routine to legitimate cabins with mess halls. I was one of the rare breed who was disappointed when we weren't able to rough it since having everything provided to us was just another way for the adults to exercise some form of control over us. Camp wasn't about adults. It was about us. But no matter if I was sleeping on lumpy rocks or a cushy cot, one thing made it all fantastic...camp songs.

I must know over 100 camp songs. They range from the totally asinine to the questionably profound (okay, so they're mostly asinine). I try and think of them all as much as possible due to an inexplicable and irrational plaguing fear that I'll forget them. But no matter how many times I run through my mental file of songs, each year words and sometimes even entire songs are gone. It's my form of early Alzheimers and I can't bear to see it happening. No, not our sweet Hollywood, she was so young!

I eventually became the designated camp song leader at evening flag ceremony since I was one of the few girls who actually liked singing and knew more than that schmaltzy Kumbaya. Church camp was only one week long and in those few days I tried valiantly to pass on my massive wealth of songs to the incoming girls. But they usually just smiled timidly and watched me and a few of my sugar-rushed friends make fools of ourselves by blasting out songs accompanied by wild gesticulations. One year I was involved with a project to put all our precious songs down in a book to distribute to the incoming campers. It was a way to teach the younger campers some of the more difficult songs and also a way to preserve songs that are rarely sung. I was careful to save a copy of that songbook in my parents' attic. I pull it out sometimes when I go home and see how my memory is holding up. And it ain't holding up well.

Tonight when Pixie was fussing in her bed I snuck in and lay with her trying to calm her down. I tried all the standard baby songs but she wasn't satisfied so I whipped out Weenie Man, Buzzard, Liverwurst, Girls, Girls, Girls and a few other raucous camp tunes. She was instantly captivated and began shrieking with delight. I don't think I'll be able to get by with Rock a Bye Baby or Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam ever again now that she on to my secret song stash. But her fascination with my ridiculous wealth of stupid songs made me even more desperate to preserve them. Someone remind me to get that songbook from my parents' attic next time I'm in town.

So I'm resolved to sing more of my songs in the car to Pixie (or myself, depending who's looking). And maybe you all could ask me to sing you one or two of them next time we see each other. (I think you'll really like "Black Socks") I finally understand how those Native Americans feel with their vast oral tradition that is being forgotten and undervalued by time. Lousy. That's how.

For any other camp song lovers out there, here are a few lists on the web of songs if you feel the need to brush up like I do. Long live inanity!

Ultimate Camp Resource
Scout Songs
Mormon Girls Camp Songs
Nanny Cross
Banned Camp Songs (your 4th grade teacher would be shocked!)

6 comments:

a. covington said...

You never told me that the second verse of "Brown Squirrel" involves him electrocuting himself!!! That's just sick. But, hey, if it gets Penny to sleep . . .

Kaff said...

Rise and shine (the Noah song) is my absolute favorite camp song!! I made sure we sang it at least once a day. We sang it on the bus on the way home until the driver was going to ditch us unless we were quiet. What a dud! Oh well, at least you have passed it on to the younger generation, go Penny!!

Kristine said...

Way to go! These songs are altogether too fun. It would be fun to be your friend and sit around a campfire one night and just sing our hearts out.

trimama said...

Just found your site and saw that you are training for a triathlon ...I am training for one in August, but its just a sprint...Good Luck

bltm said...

yes, yes, black socks! that's the one i think of when i think of sarah benac (flake)!
ahem
mi mi mi mi
buh-laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack socks
they never get dirty
the longer you wear them
the blacker they get
soooooooome day i'll probably wash them
but something keeps telling me don't do it yet
not yet
not yet
not yet

aannggeellaa said...

more blogs, please. :)