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GIRLS AND A CAMP






From: How To Write Special Feature Articles
(Category: PART II)

(_New York Evening Post_)

NOW IT IS THAT MANY COVEYS OF STUDENTS ARE HEADED TOWARD LAKE AND
MOUNTAIN--JUST HOW IT PAYS

With the sudden plunge into a muggy heat, more suggestive of July than
of the rare June weather of poets, there has begun the exodus of summer
camp folk, those men and women who add to the slender salary of the
teaching profession the additional income made by running camps for boys
and girls during the long vacation. They stretch, these camps, in
rapidly extending area from Canada through Maine and northern New
England, into the Adirondacks and the Alleghenies, and then across
toward the Northwest and the Rockies. It is quite safe to assert that
there is not a private school of importance that does not take under its
protection and support at least one such institution, while large
numbers of teachers either own camps or assist in their management as
instructors.

One group, unmistakably the advance guard of a girls' camp, assembled at
the Grand Central Station on Wednesday. There were two alert, dignified
women, evidently the co-principals; a younger woman, who, at least so
the tired suburban shopper decided, was probably the athletic
instructor; two neat colored women, and a small girl of twelve, on
tiptoe with excitement, talking volubly about the fun she would have
when they got to the lake and when all the other girls arrived. Her
excited chatter also revealed the fact that father and mother had just
sailed for Europe, and, while she thought of them with regret, there was
only pleasure in prospect as she started northward. There was much
baggage to be attended to, and consultation over express and freight
bills, with interesting references to tents, canoes, and tennis nets.

Success is an excellent testimonial, and there is no longer any need to
point out the advantages of such camps for boys and girls. They fill a
real place for the delicate, the lazy, or the backward, who must needs
do extra work to keep up with their school grade, for those who
otherwise would be condemned to hotel life, or for the children whose
parents, because of circumstances, are compelled to spend the summer in
cities. Even the most jealously anxious of mothers are among the
converts to the movement. As one said the other day of her only son,
"Yes, David will go to Mr. D.'s camp again this summer. It will be his
third year. I thought the first time that I simply could not part with
him. I pictured him drowned or ill from poor food or severe colds.
Indeed, there wasn't a single terror I didn't imagine. But he enjoyed it
so, and came home so well and happy, that I've never worried since."

From the child's point of view, summer camps are a blessing, and, as
such, they have come to stay. But there are those who doubt their
benefits, even the financial ones, for the teachers, who mortgage their
vacations to conduct them. Unfortunately, as every one knows, almost
every teacher has to mortgage her spare time in one way or another in
order to make a more than bare living. Call the roll of those whom you
may know, and you will be surprised--no, scarcely surprised; merely
interested--to find that nine-tenths of them do some additional work. It
may be extra tutoring, hack writing, translating, the editing of school
texts or the writing of text-books, taking agencies for this, that, or
the other commodity, conducting travel parties, lecturing at educational
institutes, running women's clubs, or organizing nature classes. Some
outside vocation is necessary if the teacher is to enjoy the advantages
her training makes almost imperative, or the comforts her tired, nervous
organism demands. So, as one philosopher was heard to remark, it is
perhaps best to run a summer camp, since in the doing of it there is at
least the advantage of being in the open and of leading a wholesomely
sane existence.

Two good friends and fellow-teachers who have conducted a camp in
northern Maine for the last five years have been extremely frank in
setting forth their experiences for the benefit of those who are
standing on the brink of a similar venture. And their story is worth
while, because from every point of view they have been successful. Any
pessimistic touches in their narrative cannot be laid at the door of
failure. Indeed, in their first year they cleared expenses, and that is
rare; and their clientèle has steadily increased until now they have a
camp of forty or more girls, at the very topmost of camp prices. Again,
as there were two of them and they are both versatile, they have needed
little assistance; the mother of one has been house mother and general
camp counsellor. With all this as optimistic preamble, let us hear their
story.

Perhaps their first doubt arises with regard to the wear and tear of
camp life upon those most directly responsible for its conduct. "For
years we even refused to consider it," said the senior partner,
"although urged by friends and would-be patrons, because we realized the
unwisdom of working the year around and living continuously with school
girls--but the inevitable happened. Our income did not keep pace with
our expenses, and it was start a camp or do something less agreeable.
Just at the psychological moment one of our insistent friends found the
right spot, we concluded negotiations, and, behold, we are camp
proprietors, not altogether sure, in our most uncompromisingly frank
moments, that we have done the best thing."

That a girls' camp is a far more difficult proposition than one for boys
is evident on the face of it. Mother may shed tears over parting with
Johnny, but, after all, he's a boy, and sooner or later must depend
upon himself. But Sister Sue is another matter. Can she trust any one
else to watch over her in the matter of flannels and dry stockings? Do
these well-meaning but spinster teachers know the symptoms of
tonsilitis, the first signs of a bilious attack, or the peculiarities of
a spoiled girl's diet? And will not Sue lose, possibly, some of the
gentle manners and dainty ways inculcated at home, by close contact with
divers other ways and manners? She is inclined to be skeptical, is
mother. "And so," acknowledged the senior partner, "the first summer we
were deluged by visits long and short from anxious ladies who could not
believe on hearsay evidence that we knew how to care for their delicate
daughters. They not only came, but they stayed, and as the nearest hotel
was distant many devious miles of mountain road, we were forced to put
them up; finally the maids had to sleep in the old barn, and we were
camping on cots in the hall of the farmhouse which is our headquarters.
Naturally we had to be polite, for we were under the necessity of making
a good impression that first year, but it was most distracting, for
while they stayed they were unconsciously but selfishly demanding a
little more than a fair share of time and attention for their
daughters."

And, indeed, all this maternal anxiety is not entirely misplaced. Sue is
a good deal harder to take care of than Johnny. She needs a few more
comforts, although camp life aims at eliminating all but the essentials
of simple living. Her clothes, even at a minimum, are more elaborate,
which increases the difficulty of laundering, always a problem in
camping. She is infinitely more dependent upon her elders for direction
in the veriest A B C's of daily existence. "Even the matter of tying a
hair-ribbon or cleaning a pair of white canvas shoes is a mountain to a
good many of my girls," said the successful camp counsellor.

Homesickness is "a malady most incident to maids." Boys may suffer from
it, but they suffer alone. If tears are shed they are shed in secret,
lest the other fellows find it out. Except in the case of the very
little chaps, the masters are not disturbed. But girls have no such
reserves; and the teachers in charge of twenty-five strange girls, many
in the throes of this really distressing ailment, are not to be envied.
"Frankly speaking," went on the confession, "there isn't a moment of the
day when we can dismiss them from our thoughts. Are they swimming in
charge of the director of athletics, a most capable girl, one of us must
be there, too, because, should anything happen, we, and not she, are
directly responsible. When the lesson hour is on, we not only teach,
but must see that each girl's work is adapted to her needs, as they come
from a dozen different schools. There are disputes to settle, plans for
outings and entertainments to be made, games to direct, letters to the
home folks to be superintended, or half the girls would never write at
all, to say nothing of the marketing and housekeeping, and our own
business correspondence, that has to be tucked into the siesta hour
after luncheon. Indeed, in the nine weeks of camp last summer I never
once had an hour that I could call my very own."

"And that is only the day's anxiety," sighed her colleague reflectively.
"My specialty is prowling about at night to see that everybody is
properly covered. Not a girl among them would have sense enough to get
up and close windows in case of rain, so I sleep with one ear pricked
for the first patter on the roof. Occasionally there are two or three
who walk in their sleep, and I'm on pins and needles lest harm come to
them, so I make my rounds to see that they're safe. Oh, it is a
peacefully placid existence, I assure you, having charge of forty
darling daughters. Some of them have done nothing for themselves in
their entire lives, and what a splendid place camp is for such girls.
But while they're learning we must be looking out for their sins of
omission, such, for instance, as throwing a soaking wet bathing suit
upon a bed instead of hanging it upon the line."

These are some of the few worries that attach to the care of sensitive
and delicately brought up girls that the boys' camp never knows. But if
the financial return is adequate there will naturally be some
compensation for all these pinpricks. Here again the Senior Partner is
inclined to hem and haw. "Given a popular head of camp," says she, "who
has been fortunate enough to secure a desirable site and a paying
clientèle, and she will certainly not lose money. Her summer will be
paid for. However, that is not enough to reward her for the additional
work and worry. Camp work does not confine itself to the nine weeks of
residence. There are the hours and days spent in planning and purchasing
equipment, the getting out of circulars, the correspondence entailed and
the subsequent keeping in touch with patrons."

Her own venture has so far paid its own way, and after the first year
has left a neat margin of profit. But this profit, because of expansion,
has immediately been invested in new equipment. This year, for example,
there has been erected a bungalow for general living purposes. A dozen
new tents and four canoes were bought, and two dirt tennis courts made.
Then each year there must be a general replenishing of dishes, table and
bed linen, athletic goods, and furniture. The garden has been so
enlarged that the semi-occasional man-of-all-work has been replaced by a
permanent gardener.

Naturally, such extension does mean ultimate profit, and, given a few
more years of continued prosperity, the summer will yield a goodly
additional income. But the teacher who undertakes a camp with the idea
that such money is easily made, is mistaken. One successful woman has
cleared large sums, so large, indeed, that she has about decided to
sever her direct connection with the private school where she has taught
for years, and trust to her camp for a living. She has been so
fortunate, it is but fair to explain, because her camp is upon a
government reserve tract in Canada, and she has had to make no large
investment in land; nor does she pay taxes. Desirable locations are
harder to find nowadays and much more expensive to purchase. A fortunate
pioneer in the movement bought seven acres, with five hundred feet of
lake frontage, for three hundred dollars six years ago. That same land
is worth ten times as much to-day.

And the kind of woman who should attempt the summer camp for girls as a
means of additional income? First of all, the one who really loves
outdoor life, who can find in woods and water compensation for the wear
and tear of summering with schoolgirls. Again, she who can minimize the
petty worries of existence to the vanishing point. And, last of all, she
who has business acumen. For what does it profit a tired teacher if she
fill her camp list and have no margin of profit for her weeks of hard
labor?

* * * * *

_(Saturday Evening Post)_

Two half-tone reproductions of wash-drawings by a staff artist.





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