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Friday, April 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Summer camp experiences last a lifetime

Memories stick with campers

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Summer camp, of course, is about fashion.

When longtime best friends Patty Johnston and Mart Wissink were heading to Camp Sweyolakan on Coeur d’Alene Lake in the summer of 1970, the 13-year-olds knew what they had to do.

“We wanted to dress identically at camp; we purchased the trendier cut-off colored denims,” the former Camp Fire Girls wrote.

“We bought identical moccasins and a variety of T-shirts at J.C. Penney’s. Oh, the excitement in the air when we planned what we would wear each day for the various camp activities!”

And when they arrived aboard the Mish-an-nock, they said, “True to the plan, we were dressed identically, ready to greet everyone at camp and our new Camp Fire friends. We looked so good!”

Sometimes, summer camp is about faith.

“Over the past 12 years or so we’ve trucked our kids, foster kids, adopted kids, and now a grandkid back and forth from (Camp) Lutherhaven each summer,” wrote Nancy and Jim Plourde of Spokane.

“With smudged, tired faces and awe-inspiring dirty clothes, the kids nevertheless have always managed to muster the energy to serenade us with camp songs all the way back to Spokane.

“The way their eyes glow as they reminisce about their experiences, their talk about how God is involved in their lives, and the camp songs they sing us home with from the back seat of the car for years and years … it seems almost magic.”

And above all, summer camp is about friends.

Peggy Lewis of Mead recalls going all by herself to Camp Sweyolakan as an almost seventh-grader in the summer of 1968, “hoping to fit in. … That’s when I met Kathy, one of my tent mates. We hit it off immediately. So well, in fact, that we arranged to meet at Sweyolakan every summer through high school. …

“We remain friends to this day. When we do get together, the years slip away, we pick up where we left off, and never have enough time to tell each other everything. I’m in touch with very few friends from high school, but my camp friends are friends for life.”

Not that camp life is one big walk in the park. Fran E. Wicht, who served as a substitute nurse at Sweyolakan in 1978, gives this account of her six-day stint:

“At the end of the week, I tallied up visits to the health cottage and found I’d treated girls with these complaints: 16 earaches, two foreign bodies in the eye, one itching eye, 23 nasal congestions, three toothaches, one with pain from a previous tooth extraction, one with sore gums, 34 with sore throats, two with chapped lips, eight with coughs, 30 with unspecified cold symptoms, two with allergies, one constipated, two with diarrhea, 16 with nausea and/or vomiting, 58 with stomach aches, six complained of the flu, 13 had cramps, six with insect bites, five burns, two blisters, 16 cuts and scrapes, two needed splinters removed, and 11 came with existing wounds that needed to be redressed.

“There were also many complaining of muscle aches, one whole body ache, one back ache, two sore wrists, three finger or toe aches, one with leg cramps, two with sore knees, two with groin pain after running into someone or something, three with sore feet, two with side aches, one said she fell and just ached, and seven complained their muscles were sore all over.”

And that doesn’t include the 67 headaches (two migraine), 21 instances of slightly elevated temperatures and countless cases of homesickness.

Still, when you factor in all the swimming, and sports, and singalongs, and s’mores … well, camp’s a no-brainer.

Inside this section, you’ll find information on a wide assortment of camp possibilities this summer – everything from arts to athletics, spirituality to special needs. See what suits you, or your kids, and start building those skills and those memories.

So, in closing … well, let’s leave the last word to Ad Brooks Johnson of Spokane: “Hi-lo- inney-minney-kaka-m-cha-cha- e-wawa, Hepta-minica-onica- sonica-boomp-de-yanna- yoohoo.”

She says all you Sweyolakan alumni will know what she means.

– Rick Bonino, features editor

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