The passing of the long-time director of Camp Storer (now Storer Camps) in Jackson, MI brought back a thousand memories. It's hard to think of another place more significant to my family. My parents met there at a church event back in the 1940s. All of my four siblings were campers there, and I was a counselor for several years. My brothers went on long canoe trips into Canada. Most of the grandchildren went there, including our three. We drove them from Pennsylvania each summer, often with friends they had invited to join them! They have many happy memories of their experiences--like the Swamp Stomp which resulted in shredded sneakers and clothes that went straight to the trash.
There was something about this place on Stoney Lake that resonated with all of us. Like all summer camps, it had its traditions. If someone did something really dumb they got the Bonehead Award, which meant wearing a cow bone on a rope around one's neck. The achievements of campers were celebrated, like swimming across or around Stoney Lake. There was singing after every meal (when I was there, many counselors played guitar and sang, including me). I remember campouts in a nearby field, cooking "cowboy dinners" over an open fire, and a couple of the older counselors riding in on horseback to serenade us.
Over the dining hall doors, there was a sign that said, "I'm Third", meaning God came first, others second and I'm third. The director, Clark Ewing, lived that philosophy each day. He was downright goofy sometimes, like stepping off the high dive attired in business suit, shoes and carrying a briefcase. The campers would howl with laughter. He often took homesick campers to see the pigs on a nearby farm. I was friends with his daughter Marcia (one of his five kids) and she invited me to come to Storer in the winter so we could paint the dining hall kitchen. Afterward, we rode horses onto frozen Stoney Lake.
When I began teaching in the Sylvania schools, we took the fifth graders to Camp Storer for a few days for an outdoor education experience. We went on nature hikes, used math skills to figure distances and played games. Now Storer Camps is open year-round, with winterized cabins that make it possible for it to host retreats for adults and families. Although we now live too far away, I wish with all my heart that my grandchildren could have the Camp Storer experience.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.