Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Time at 'Commie Camp'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Time at 'Commie Camp'

Article excerpt

As I was an only child, my parents were eager for me to learn how to share. We lived in a third-floor apartment in Brooklyn, so the decision to send me to a camp in upstate New York for two weeks seemed idyllic - to them. They chose a camp they thought would be perfect for me. I reluctantly agreed to leave my friends, my books, my life as a city mouse.

All the campers departed in a caravan of buses from midtown Manhattan. We arrived at camp a few hours later. As soon as we were settled, the counselors asked us to deposit our books, toys, games - even money - in the center of one bunk. Everything would be shared, they said. To me it felt as though I'd just received a death sentence. Sharing? With strangers?

I looked around as my campmates deposited their goodies, including dollar bills, onto the pile. We were told that we could go to the camp store once a week and use the communal money. I dropped my books, games, and money onto the pile, but I kept one item secret. I had a salami in my suitcase. I quickly pushed it under my bunk.

A few days later I realized that the salami might start to smell. I handed it over with the feeble excuse that I'd forgotten about it. Nobody questioned me. But with each day of sharing and of using communal money, I hated camp more and more.

I decided to run away. At 9 years old, I had no idea where I would go. I tried to enlist a few fellow campers in my plan. One by one, my accomplices backed out. So I ran away alone. That night, I hid in the boys' bathroom as searchers with flashlights scanned the grounds. It wasn't long before I was discovered and brought back to my bunk. I wasn't punished or yelled at. My counselor simply wanted to know why I was so unhappy. "Because you're mean!" I told her. She smiled and suggested I get ready for bed. There would be swimming and rowing in the lake the following day, she said.

During my two weeks at camp we went to the country store often for licorice sticks, gumdrops, and candy bars. We used the communal money. Meanwhile, whenever we received letters from home, the envelopes usually included a few dollars to spend. My parents sent money, too. …

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