I was the quintessential Canadian girl of the 80’s. I was a Girl Guide. Well, I had been a dutiful Brownie…and signed up for Guides each year for one reason only: a week in the summer at Doe Lake Girl Guide Camp. For that privilege I would go to as many meetings as I had to, sporting a blue dress, sash, coin purse and scarf (firmly tied in a square knot, of course). Doe Lake was only three hours from home, but for a nerdy, arthritic kid like me, it was Magic. And I am ever grateful.
Packing was part of the adventure. Eight pairs of underwear, socks, pants, sweaters and the Girl Guide camp uniforms your mother had dutifully ironed your name tag into; all packed into the giant hockey bag liberated from storage to store all your worldly possessions. Camp hat ready for new badges and crafts. Carefully water-proofed bed roll, the knots tied just so. There were rumours that the leaders would throw your bed roll into the lake if it wasn’t tied right! Back then we had just an air mattress to sleep on and had to pump the thing up with a funny little foot pump that took forever. And inevitably once or twice during the week you’d wake up on the hard platform, the mattress having lost all of its air during the night.
But, oh, those camp sites were the most beautiful thing I’d had ever seen. They had big white canvas tents on wooden platforms. The five other girls assigned to your tent would become your new best friends… for the week, anyway.
And what a week! Vying for that oh-so-coveted piece of white gimp that, when hung around your neck, meant you could swim well enough to have access to the deep part of the lake and could use the canoes. Singing campfire songs long into the night. Collecting ferns to spread over the ‘spit pit’…and then having the courage to brush your teeth there after dark. Listening to the coolest women – with even cooler camp names, like ‘Kit’ – tell you all about astronomy, from inside the dining hall using the icing off a camper’s birthday cake to illustrate the constellations on the wall when the sleep-out was rained out. Making heart-wrenching choices between badges, stuffed squirrels and chips at Tuck. Learning how to build shelters. Hearing ghost stories on that canoe trip over to the island.
Every girl should get to go to camp for a week. At least once in her life. Because it makes her a better woman, a better Canadian. And because “on my honour, I will try” is a good motto to have written on your heart.
~Sherrie “Boots” Charter (Yep, I was a Guider for many years once I grew taller (I won’t say “grew up”; not sure I’ve done that yet), taking many girls back to camp with me. I hope they had as much fun as I did (rain and shine), and that they learned at least half as much from me as I did from them.)
P.S. If you don’t currently support Girl Guides of Canada, at least go buy a coffee at Tim Horton’s on their Camp Day. Help send a kid to camp…help change the future.