All of my life was not built just around family, of course. One personally dramatic time came for me when I turned 13. Most of the girls at school began to wear high heeled shoes for dress occasions. Braces did not lend themselves to such fancy footwear, nor to the very popular tennis shoes! That summer just before my 13th birthday, my maternal grandmother finally had her way and I was sent to Church Camp. We were not active in church as a family, but my grandmother was very involved. She read her Bible everyday. Why she did that remained a mystery to we children, but my Dad said, “It is just something that is important to her, like the newspaper and news magazines are to me.” Grandma tried to see to it that John, Morey, and I attended Sunday School regularly, but she didn’t drive and we lived on the other side of the town. She had to rely on my Mother to get us there and that made our attendance a very spotty thing. However, this particular year as she saw me approaching the teens, she was determined that I should know more about Jesus, and she offered to pay my way to camp. Since I knew the pastor’s son and had played with him and his sister when visiting Grandma, she used the fact that he was going to encourage me . I was a little reluctant, but our family had always “camped” so I figured camp would be something like that and I would probably like it
Camp wasn’t at all what I’d expected. Only eight of us from the church in Winner attended, seven girls and Wendel. The other girls were “church” girls and they bunked in twos. I was the odd girl out so to speak. But the director moved me into their cabin, by putting the counselor in a bunk bed, that she shared with me. Rather than using the bottom bunk for her own things as all the other counsellors could do, she had an “extra” which meant she was inconvenienced, thus she wasn’t a whole lot friendlier to me than the girls were. From the beginning I had a terrific physical struggle. The camp was in the Black Hills and everything that went on was at a different level, with perpendicular paths! I could walk on crutches readily enough, but I needed a wider path to swing them. Everything here was on a trail and for me a trial. Swimming was down at the river, chapel was up on the hillside, campfire was on top of another hill, nature walks were on trails through the woods. The reality of camp for me was that I was confined to the small flat area that included our cabin and the Dining Hall. That’s it ,final!
The other girls were actually a little pleased that I was so on the fringes of camp life since I didn’t really belong to their Sunday School clique anyhow, but it worked for my good, as God knew it would. They were always talking about “the boys”, which seemed silly to me. That year there were only seven boys at camp and about 20+ girls. Wendel as the 7th boy was from a small town and was the preacher’s son, so he was an outsider too. Then there was a boy with asthma who couldn’t do too much, so the three of us hung around a lot while the others went off on current camp activities and free time. When the last evening came for the special party meal, we could eat with two camper’s of our choice, instead of with our cabin mates as we regularly did. We were all to write down the names of two people we wanted at our table. Without consultation, Wendel, Dick, and I all wrote each other’s names, so we were together. The other girls were really unhappy that I the most unpopular girl at camp should end up with two of the seven boys at my table. Somehow that got me over the hump of not wearing high heels and tennis shoes, i could see that what boys liked about me had nothing to do with how I dressed.
Once again my father explained it to me. You are used to boys, you have brothers, mostly boy cousins, and lots of uncles. You’ll always get along fine with them. I guess he was right, I started going steady my freshman year in high school (age13) and never was not promised to someone until I got married at 19. I don’t recommend that for young people, but for me it worked out just right. As to sexual activity, it had no appeal , for it was understood in our family that if you respected someone you kept your hands to yourself, and why would I want to date someone who didn’t respect me? I certainly would not be able to “love” someone who didn’t respect me, so…no thanks !!! Kissing , hugging, and holding hands were fine, but that was it.
The other outstanding memory of my High School years is of the loyal girl friends I had. A different one each year volunteered to match her class schedule to mine. She sat by me carried “our” books to each class, fought the locker rush, carried my crutches up and down stairs as necessary. Beverly, Betty, Carol, and Cathy – unsung heroines. Thank you!