Tonight it rained for our opening campfire so Megan (Program director) and I split the camp—she in the Lake area and I in the Valley—at two separate campfires. Later, I was telling her that the counselors sang one of my favorite classic camp songs, “Austrian Yodeler,” but they did it WRONG! Somehow it has morphed away from being a repeat-after-me song, and they have cut out the fun “oooohhhh, eeeee, ooooooaaaa…” part. It’s fine, it’s still fun…it’s just different.
Then I got an email from one of our country’s summercamp gurus, Gary Forster, who quoted a former camp director from NH about WHY CAMP SONGS ARE GREAT. That inspired me to tell you why I love camp songs!
When I was 12 and a camper for the first time, my counselor, Katee, was the “song queen” of camp. She knew EVERY song. Naturally, I wanted to be like her. I spent the next couple of years gathering camp songs from my friends who went to other camps, Girl Scout handbooks, and anyone else I could find. (this was pre-internet, of course… Today I could have just searched youtube!)
I typed them (yes, folks, on a typewriter!) and created a songbook for camp. By the time I was 15 and in my first year on staff, I was the “Song Queen” of Camp Ernst!
Now, as a mom, my kids have grown up with me singing fun camp songs during those car rides when toddlers get bored and whiny, and slow camp songs during the nights when they couldn’t get to sleep. Camp songs have been my friend in lonely times and have helped me celebrate successes, too. Camp songs are an endless source of inside jokes. My camp friends still send me emails on Tuesday that are signed, “Tuesday: Green Beans.”
Singing a ridiculous song with nonsense lyrics and wild hand motions in front of 700 people at a campfire really breaks down those inhibitions one might initially feel. Years and years of leading camp songs have given me the confidence to speak (or sing!) in front of any size group on just about any topic.
So this week, as our campers hike up and down Camelback Road singing “Baby Shark” and “Reese Peanut Butter Cup,” I will smile and remember that camp songs are just one more tool in the cool camp counselor’s toolkit of building kids up. Sing on!