Monday, July 6, 2009


Did you ever accept a job in which you had no experience or even a vague knowledge of the duties? Well I often did. I was at a crossroads being divorced, in my mid thirties and had decided to quit my job in banking to go to college. I was recently enamored with the sea and scuba diving and had decided Marine Biology was my future, not banking.

I was signed up for the fall term at PBJC but still had summer to get through. That was when I got a strange offer. I met one of the owners of a camp in Maine at a charity function. She was in the process of recruiting campers from the Palm Beach area. The camp desperately needed a head counselor as the current one had to suddenly resign due to family matters. I had mentioned my pending plans in conversation and after I had been checked out, I was approached about taking the job .

Now I had never been a counselor, never even been a camper, but I did have supervisory experience, was good with children, and I was cheap. I was told it was easy, all I had to do was stay one day ahead of the campers. The owners promised to help me learn and would make sure I had experienced counselors to help me. Sounded easy enough, I mean, how hard could a bunch of kids be? It was obviously an adventure, so I said, yes. It seemed like a good segue from banking to school.

I left my banking job of 10 years and headed to the far north. This camp catered to children from the Palm Beach and Boston areas. Two of the previous years counselors were from the Palm Beach area so at least I did slightly know someone up there. Other wise this was a totally alien experience. Often in my life I have found myself diving off into the unknown. I must thrive on uncertainty.

Camp Brywood was situated on Kezar Lake near Lovell Maine. It is a beautiful location with a gorgeous view of the White Mountains across the lake. I tripped many a time gawking into the distance while walking to the lodge. For a Florida flat lander, this was a magical setting. Below is a scene from a resort on Kezar Lake that looks for all the world like the view from my cabin porch. If you could have eliminated the deer flies, it would have been paradise. Those blood suckers adored me and would pick me out of a crowd.

The lodge where we ate and had meetings, had a breath taking, unobstructed view of the lake and mountains through a wall of windows. A huge stone fire place decorated one entire wall. The cabins were rustic but very comfortable. I shared a cabin with the swimming instructor who was an experienced counselor and turned out to be a great help with my on the job training. Supervision did not have to live in a cabin with the kids. I was a bit glad of that for I loved the kids but 24/7 would be a bit much. I love people but do require alone time.

My job was scheduling classes, events, work loads, days off, day trips and doing anything the owner asked of me. I also drove the boat for water skiing classes and helped on canoe trips. I spent a whole summer scrambling trying to stay ahead of the campers and counselors. Sometimes I did not even have the day ahead to plan that I had been promised, but maybe only an hour ahead. Rainy days brought on new sets of problems and sudden plan changes. Can honestly say I was never bored.

Some of my daily jobs included playing the wake up music in the morning over the intercom system and giving a weather report so the kids would know how to dress for the flagpole meeting before breakfast. At flagpole, we would raise the flag, I would lead the Pledge of Allegiance, briefly discuss the day's events, then we would go to breakfast.

I was given creative marks for my wake up music choices. The previous head counselor was into classical music so my rhythm and blues, soft rock, or folk selections from my own record collection were received well by the kids if not the owners who turned off their speakers in protest.

My weather reports became a source of derision however. Being a Florida girl, every darn morning in Maine as far as I was concerned was cold."Bundle up kids." Palm Beach girls were Ok with me but the Bostonians ignored me after I told them unnecessarily to bundle up every morning. They would come to flagpole in shorts while we Floridians were in sweats.

My main job at flagpole will give any one who is a regular reader pause. Patti speaking to a group of kids every morning?? The same Patti that spent much of her public speaking life unconscious or frozen with fear??? Guess what, kids don't scare me, well not as much as the larger versions anyway. In fact I got along swimmingly with the campers. Often it was hard to walk with the younger kids hanging from my arms and legs. Besides admiring their great taste in where they placed their affections , I loved those kids for all their amazing, individual personalities.

We had an eight year old from a famous hotel chain family who arrived in a sea plane piloted by her Dad. She had been so pampered that she had no idea how to dress her self when she got there. She had servants at home who did those mundane things for her. Her first morning in camp, she sat patiently on her bunk waiting for her clothes to be laid out for her. Camp was a real shock to her and her counselor. With little protest though, she made a dramatic turn around and became a really regular kid in no time.

We had a girl from Palm Beach with a partially corrected hair lip. Was she made fun of? Not at all. Every one loved her, wanted her on their team and she was renown for her fairness. She was always chosen as judge or referee.

I know many people may have had bad camp experiences but all I can say is that we had wonderful kids with very few exceptions. There was no ganging up or ostracizing. These were good kids who had managed to blossom in privileged families. Our experiences were often memorable but never something a shrink would have to straighten out later.

No cliff hanger here but this will be continued as it is way too long for one post. See ya tomorrow.


  1. Teaching is a good job. When mingling with youth you are become young. My Mom is a teacher. She always share her experience with me. Thanks for sharing..

  2. You have really had some interesting life experiences, haven't you--Patti???

    By the way, did you learn to scuba dive and did you become a Marine Biologist??? My oldest son really wanted to do that --and did it for awhile, but like so many things in his life, he moved on to something else of interest.

    Glad you had a good counselor experience. I've heard some horror stories in this area. Kids can be mean to each other---moreso these days I think.

    Keep these stories coming.
    P.S. I told George he needs to read your blog.. He said he left you a comment yesterday. (That's MY George110

  3. I am quite impressed by how you jumped into such unfamiliar territory and with such gusto. You have a pioneering spirit, patti.

  4. Wow, what an amazing experience! Children teach us so much! I look forward to Part 2.

  5. well yes you had a great were the boss...

  6. Susan,
    You are so right. Youngsters do put a spring in your step and freshen up your attitude. You mom was a lucky woman. I do admire teachers.

    To save you going to the link, I did become a scuba diver but was chased out of the water in my sophomore year by Jaws. Rats.
    Enjoyed George's visit. Left him a message and visited his blog. You did land a keeper.

    Thanks but there are so many things that I didn't do that I kick myself for. Being single for as long as I was with no obligations gave me a lot of opportunities.

    Cheffie Mom,
    It was a great experience and while children are often maligned as being cruel, I think their natural instincts are good.

    4th sister,
    Well that made me laugh. You might be right, I was the boss so I pretty much got my way.

  7. My last job (before retirement) was one that had me worrying about my lack of experience in a manufacturing setting, but after the first couple of days, I realized no one else knew what he/she was doing, either, including the managers, and they had been there for years. After that, I relaxed and taught myself my job.

  8. Accepting the position without prior camping or counselor experience took some gumption (which you seem to have an endless supply of). I guess the only real requirement was to be a kid at heart. : )

  9. Betty,
    At least you weren't alone in you lack of knowledge. Hope you all weren't making something important like shuttle parts.LOL

    That is what I thought till I realized I was actually responsible for the little darlin's well being and my inexperience could prove deadly.

  10. Patti, you really should write a book. This is a great story. I had good camp experiences, all except for the first time I went, when I was six. That was too young, I thought.

  11. kenju
    Six was younger than any of our campers. The young ones really suffered with homesickness. I'll bet you were a great camper with your creative mind.