So much for the idea of writing about camp for a few days J … busy and stuck get in the way. I’ve had lots of inspiration this week about other things too… but they sat, because I was going to write about camp. Oh well, the week is nearly over. Don’t you love the fact that every day is a do-over from the day before?
As much as I’d like to share my thoughts about some other things, or spout off about my latest insult or discovery, I think on this quiet Saturday morning, I will write about Camp Ashford Hills. I remembered a lot about this camp experience. I was a Sunbeam and Captain Johnson arranged for me to go to camp. I remember I rode in a van. Any trip that involved my sitting in a vehicle was a big deal. We didn’t have a car. We were quintessential NY’ers. We took public transportation everywhere. It was too much expense or hassle to own a car and have to move it for street cleaning, not to mention digging it out of the snow during the winter.
I remember the wonder of arriving at the Salvation Army Corp before the sun came up and the street lights were turned on. As I walked with my mother the few blocks, she carrying my valies, my familiar world had a surreal feel to it. I was in awe as Captain Johnson turned the key and waving to my mother, we started this adventure.
Captain Johnson said good-bye. Funny, I don’t remember any of the children who were on that van with me. Cabin assignment completed, I found myself on an old army cot complete with a scratchy army blanket. This army blanket had probably seen a lot of battles. Emblazoned on the front was the familiar shield of the Salvation Army, God’s Army – soldiers of the blood and fire. I was instructed on the art of hospital corners. Inspection meant tight corners and a uniform bed.
I thought I could swim. I could stay afloat in the water, I could get where I wanted without drowning, especially in a pool. That was all my father cared about – not drowning. As long as I could do that, I could swim. Not at camp! At camp I had to pass my first swimming test. I had to tread water in the deep end for 30 seconds or I couldn’t swim. I succeeded.
It was green and lush at Ashford Hills. The food wasn’t too bad. At Salvation Army events I had already learned to tolerate bologna salad on bread. Even bologna had to be stretched. First you take the cheapest bologna you can find and chop it up. Mix with mayonnaise and pickle relish and who knows what else – spread on plain white bread. We were poor but we usually had our bologna in slices.
The morning and evening meant chapel. The morning sharpened our Bible knowledge. The evening was come to Jesus time. And of course, we had quiet time every morning. My Bible would open and I’d read a verse or two. I’d fold my hands and pray. I don’t remember coming to Jesus that year. I think the altar calls were more subdued. Yet, the Holy Spirit was at that camp too. Funny, how that is – funny how when people pray and expect the Holy Spirit to show up, He does.
For years I wondered where Ashford Hills was… I remembered the camp, the glistening pool, the clean mountain air – but where was this camp? I never forgot sitting on rocks at camp and singing:
Ashford, dati, ati, ati, ati
Ashford, dati, at, ati, ati
A, S, H, F, O, R, D YEA!
Ashford Hills is the Camp for me.
I sang that song all summer long. It the year of hand clap rhymes, like Miss Susie had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell… or Miss Mary Mack.
Ashford had no conversion experience, just Bible, clean air, and sweet memories. I always thought it would be nice to see the camp again. I used to think I knew where it was - that I'd driven right by it. I thought it was tucked away off of highway 44 in the sleepy town of Ashford CT and that it was still being run by the Lads and Lassies of the Salvation Army. But I was wrong -- I recently learned it was in Scarsdale NY.
It was one summer, one week, imprinted with the love of Jesus.
Did you go to camp?
What do you remember most?